Jul 7, 2015

Book 76: The Impossible lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

Greta Wells lives in 1985 and is having a terrible time dealing with the death of her win brother.  She undergoes a treatment to help with her depression and finds herself cycling through the lives of other Gretas in other times.  There is the 1918 version and a 1941 version as well as her own time 1985.

In all of these times the same people are there and each of the Gretas try to fix what they believe is wrong in each era.

I love the concept of this book and the idea to use the cycling time travel as a device to explore issues.  But one main factor felt wrong to me and the whole book rang a bit hollow to me.  In the book I am suppose to believe that Greta and Nathan in 1985 are so very much in love.  I never bought into that and I think it made me miss the emotion the author was trying to evoke.  Also I struggled with the need for Greta to out her brother in his past lives, that if he was just able to be with his 1985 soul mate he would be freed and happy.  Even if she felt this way, I think she was destructive and short-sided on history.  It is not that easy to erase the struggle of homosexuals in the past.  Should they have had to of lived a closeted a fearful life?  Absolutely not, but I can't go back and change it.  Even in her time, 1985, it was not easy to be gay....easier, but no picnic.

So in the end, yes I was engaged in the reading of the book and wanted to see where it went, but ultimately I wanted it ti go somewhere else and that dissapointed me a bit.  I thought I had found a new author who likes to play with time and its effects (He also wrote Max Tivoli) but in the end he does not hit my emotional sweet spot.  I am a bit let down.

Book 75: Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

I selected this book for a Mother-Daughter book club selection.  I think it is a good book for such a read.

Zebra Forest is about a sister and brother who know next to nothing about their parents.  They only know that Mom abandoned them and that Dad was dead.  Gran has moved them to a new area and is acting strange and using a different name.  One day an escapee from the neighboring prison finds his way into the home and family secrets are revealed.

This is not a light book.  Like To Kill a Mockingbird, Zebra Forest does not shy away from larger uglier parts of life.  The book does not talk down to children.  Audrey has not yet read this, so I can't say how she is going to respond, but it is a book that I very much got into reading.  I do recommend this book.

Abandoned Book 6: MWF seeking BFF.......By Rachel Bertsche

I was super excited to read this one.  A story about a girl who moves to a new town and is on a mission to find new friends.  This book is more of a memoir than fiction.  I got about half way through and realized the book was getting into a pattern and that I just couldn't care about the authors problems.  We are just different types of people.

Jul 6, 2015

Book 74: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

After having such a bang up start in the beginning of the year on the amount I reading, I seem to have hit a lull.  I would start books, and not finish them, but decided that eventually I will go back to them.  I just didn't seem to be able to get into meatier books.  I also was reading a lot more on the internet on MBTI and getting comfortable with it.  So considering all of that I decided to pick up something that probably wasn't going to blow me away and be more plot based and see how I did with it.  That is how I started reading The Fire Sermon.

The Fire Sermon is a book set 400 years in the future after a blast had wiped out much of Earth (So I assume it was Earth, it could have been another planet?).  In this future a mutation has occured and all births are born as twins, with a perfect twin (the alpha) and the deformed lesser twin (the omega).  This book is just part one of the Triolgy, so there was a lot of world building going on.  Truthfully (I am sure I have said this before) I am not a fan of the modern dystopian trilogy.  I find them stretch thin, so they can fill 3 books.  I think the concepts would be more impactful if they were written in one shorter book.  Anyways.  The Fire Sermon fits in with the YA, dystopian novels that are out there.  It is no better or no worse than the others.  I am waiting to see what the second book brings before I can say more.

On a more personal level...It did seem to get me out of my reading rut.  I have already completed 2 more books and looking forward to getting started on another.

Jul 4, 2015

Book 73: Wonder by R J Palacio

Wonder by RJ Palacio. 

My daughter's 5th grade class was assigned this book, and it is a book I have been seeing around and I was interested.  Wonder is the story of a boy with a facial deformity who is attending public school for the first time (middle school).  The story is told from the perspectives of his family and classmates which gives an extra dimension to how the story is told.  At times the story can be hard to read, it broke my heart.  I also found the author was trying to be as true to teens and how they would react as best he could. 

Definitely a book that should be read, and I am glad my daughters class had this assignment.

Jul 2, 2015

Book 72: The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Green

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Green is a story of a man who is born in the body of an old man and ages backwards towards his infancy and death.

Ok, I am sure I cannot hide that fact that this book is similar in concept to Benjamin Button.  And I am sure you are guessing that is the reason I picked up this title, and you would be right.  I hate to say I did keep comparing the tales, and that is not fair.  They are books written in different formats (short story vs. novel) written in different centuries (1920's vs. 2010's) and written to explore different relationships (father-sons vs. love) and I try to keep them separate.

The moving factor in Max Tivoli is the relationship Max has with Alice.  He first meets her when she is a young girl and he seemingly is an old man, even though he is her age.  This connection he has is the his main life string.  He crosses her path again when they seem to be the same age, and then again when she is older and he is a child.  It is a fascinating concept and one that I think can be perfected.

I struggle with being able to say what didn't work for me.   Not that the book was a stinker, I was just looking for more emotion to be pulled from me, which is such a crappy thing to say, because it is subjective.  I would recommend this book, and be interested to know how others felt after reading it.  Then I would have them read Benjamin Button (not the movie).

Jul 1, 2015

Book 71: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a Newbury Award winner,  is a book written by a Chinese American and honors the Chinese fable style of story telling.  It is a tale of a young girl who sets off on a journey to lessen the hardships of her parents.  On the journey she learns many lessons, lessons she did not know she needed.  In some ways it reminds me of the Wizard of Oz.  

It is a great book for sharing with your children.  I enjoyed that it is multi-cultural, positive and creative in its telling of a story.  The book also has some questions for discussion already in the back of the book to help prompt dialog.

Apr 11, 2015

Book 70: Us by David Nicholls

"Us" is the story of a man who suddenly finds himself in a failing marriage.  He was not aware that it was failing and suddenly finds himself trying to figure out what went wrong.  Not only does his wife want to leave, his only son leaves in the fall for college.  He know realizes that the summer trip through Europe could very well be the last trip his family takes together.

Hmm. for me this story was not as profound as I would have liked.  It wasn't bad, it was a comfortable read and I enjoyed it, it just did not move me and I am sure this is a book that will fade from me sooner than later.  For a book that takes a harder look inside a struggling marriage I would recommend "Everything I Never Told You".

Apr 10, 2015

Book 69: The Buried Giant by Kazou Ishiguro

What fortunate timing I had in discovering Ishiguro when I did.  After falling in love with his writing I soon discovered his latest book was soon to be available.  It has been 10 years since he published his last book Never Let Me Go (the start of it all for me).  So I was super excited to finally get my hands on the book and dive in.

The Buried Giant takes place in the unrecorded history of England just after the time of King Arthur and his knights.  A mysterious mist has settled over the land and the inhabitants have difficulty remembering anything that is hours old, they are always living in the present.  An old couple decide to take a journey to visit their son who lives in another village.  On this journey they meet a knight of the round table, a warrior, and a dragon, and try to remember parts of their past.  Is it better to be blissfully unencumbered by the past or filled with memories that may cause pain?

I very much like the book, but I was not sure what I was thinking as I was reading it.  To start with, it did not "suck" me into the story as some of his other works, I struggled to find my footing.  Most of this, I think, is due to his choice of voice.  The characters speak in a stilted manner, one I found hard to follow. The dialogue just did not flow as nicely as some of his other work ( I have found out since that was deliberate).  And even when I came to the books end I was a bit unsure.  But it did not take long for the book to percolate down and become more meaningful for me.  The more I tried to describe it to friends or my husband, I found how much I enjoyed the topic Ishiguro was commenting on.  Memory.  Memory within an individuals life, in a marriage and also in a community and how the loss of memory may be a good thing or at the very least how the loss of memory can change how we live.

I recommend this book, with one caveat.  If you are not familiar with Ishiguro's other works I would start somewhere else and then come to The Buried Giant, but definitely come.

Mar 2, 2015

Book 68: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Admittedly I am not the target market for this book.  But having a daughter who is reading YA I will read them as well.

The story is about a geeky boy who seems to fall in love over and over again with girls who have the name Katherine.  After the breakup with the latest Katherine he goes on a road trip with his best friend and all sorts of learning happens.  Mainly, he can let go of Katherines and fall in love with a Lindsay.

Very readable, but I just did not find it fresh, you could see what was coming.  Of course I am comparing it to his other work Fault in our Stars which is a much more mature work.

Book 67: Everthing I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This is a book that kept popping up as a recommendation, but I was hesitant to read it as it has to do with a suicide.  I am not sure why suicide is the thing that makes me reluctant, but it is.  In the end I am glad I read this one.

the story does revolve around the suicide of a families favorite daughter.  We learn about hopes and dreams and what happens when they are not fulfilled.  We learn about how parental pressure effects children or what the lack of parental attentiveness does. 

This is a very well defined family and each of the family members seem real and complex.  Neither good nor bad, but a mix and really just trying to figure out their place.

A very good book, I so recommend this one.

Book 66: Maude by Donna Mabry

How much bad luck can one woman have over the course of her life?  Well, Maude can tell you...quite a bit.

This book is written by Mabry about her Grandmother.  She is retelling the stories her Grandmother imparted to her about her life.  Maude started life in the 1890's and lived into the 1960's.  She saw many changes and had many tragedies befall her.

Maude is both likeable and unlikeable.  I felt for her, but hated some of the things she felt about her children.  But it was an book that had me turning the pages and wanting to know more.  Through out the book, I never got the impression that Mabry's Grandmother felt sorry for herself, instead she was stoic and just put one foot in front of the other until one day she stopped.

Book 65: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Another new release book I stumbled on.  I only mention this because I am usually decades behind book releases.

Can I just start out by saying I was dissapointed in this book.  I have only read one Hornby book and that was years ( 10+) ago (How to be Good), but I had high hopes because I loved the adaptations of High Fidelity and About a Boy (one day I will get around to reading them).  But Funny Girl really never got rolling.

Barbara is obsessed with Lucille Ball and dreams of getting out of her small town and being famous for making people laugh.  She stumbles into TV and becomes a success.  That is the premise of the story.  We follow her and the writing gang as the show progresses.

Barbara/Sophie (which I never felt suited her) is a very flat character.  Other than being told she wants to be funny there is very little to understand her choices.  Hornby did not get the girl right in this book.  The rest of the characters are all men.  I found I cared about the writing duo, but had a hard time keeping their names straight.  Would have liked more about their shared trouble and how each dealt with it.

The book was easy to read, but not very interesting.  I would not recommend it.

Book 64: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Have I mentioned I have a soft spot for grumpy old men?  Well I do and Ove is a great example.

Ove lives in Sweden and wakes up each morning with the plan to commit suicide.  Every day he is thwarted by insufferable neighbors.  Throughout the book we understand what has made Ove so grumpy and why he wants to end his life, we also see Ove coming back to life and learning to live and let go.

A very accessible book, and one that I jumped right into.

Book 63: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This is a simple little book that I very much enjoyed.

The book starts out with a grumpy curmudgeon, but really he is not old enough to be so miserable.  AJ is a book owner on a small remote island, the island that his now dead wife grew up on.  He is alone and grieving.  The island is filled with quirky residents, like all small islands are, but that is where much of the joy comes from in this book.

I love AJ and wish I was on the island and was able to visit the book store.  Obviously, I was drawn into this book  but it is also one of those that is a quick read.   Good for airplane trips or a beach read...or in bed sick like I read it.

Book 62: How to be Both by Ali Smith

This book was short listed for the Man Booker award, and I have been waiting for it to be available for a while.  I was intrigued by the concept and the cover.

If you are not familiar with the book, it is actually 2 books in one that cover the same events, one story (camera) is about a girl in the present and one story (eyes) is told from the view of a man from the 1400's.  The stories play off each other and can be read in either order.  I happened to read Camera first.

I enjoyed the book, but was not blown away.  I am not exactly sure why, but I have a couple of guesses, and I don't think it was the authors fault.
1.  I had been waiting for the book and I anticipated something more than it was.
2. I was sick and not really well enough to take in the book.
I think it was a combination of both ( I was sick for 2 1/2 weeks and read a lot of books between sleeping).

I am giving the book some space and I hope to go back to it and read it the other way around, eyes than camera.  Also I knew there was a connection between stories and as I read the first one I was always trying to figure out how they connected.  Don't do that.

Book 61: West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan

I stumbled upon this book by chance and saw that it was a novel on F Scott Fitzgerald, then I noticed it has just been released.  So this time I am on the front edge of a book, and it happens to be on a topic I enjoy.

West of Sunset is a fictionalization of the last years of Fitzgerald's life, his final time in Hollywood and also covers Zelda's institutional situation at the time.

I found it to be a fair treatment of the events of the time.  The author takes a more gentle approach to both Scott and Zelda.  He tries to give them both the benefit of the doubt and neither of them comes out the villian of the relationship (which is probably an accurate stance).  It is not an in depth look at any specific event, but that can be found in other novels like:
The Disenchanted
Beautiful Fools
Beloved Infidel

I do wonder if I am too close to the subject matter.  I am very curious to see how people who are not as familiar with the topic find the book.

I wouldn't say the book is a fast paced book and not one I found lost in.

Book 60: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This is one of those books that everyone was really talking about years ago when the book and movie came out.  I was curious, but skeptical on the book, and at that time I was exclusively reading the classics.  To be honest, I had completely forgot about this book until I caught the movie on TV and that is what prompted me to read it at this time.  And I am happy to say this is one of the books that live up to its hype (as well as the movie).

As simply as I can put it, the book is a look into the lives of black servants in 1960's Mississippi at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.  It highlights the hypocrisy of the system that has black women raising white children who grow up to look down on the same women who nurtured them.

It is a book I think I would put on a list for my kids to read when they get a little older.

Regarding the movie adaptation....Good job with the material, of course the book is always better, but this is one of the better ones.

Jan 20, 2015

Book 59: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazou Ishiguro

This is the second novel Ishiguro published, and it is very similar to "Remains of the Days"  The theme of reminiscing past work career and how you are remembered is touched.  Now that I have finished the book I am seeing how it is staying with me, unlike "The Unconsoled" but I did have trouble when I was reading the book on keeping the Japanese characters straight and remembering who they were in relation to Ono.  That is frustrating for me to say, because it should not be that way...ugh.  But with that the main theme of thinking your past was more dishonorable than it was.   I moved by the story and wondered how Ono's life would have been different if he released the guilt he carried around.  The reality is most people don't think that much about you and the decision you made.

Book 58: The Perfect Hour: The Romance of F Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King by James L West III

This is the second time I have read this book, and I still love it.  I think it is one of the books Zelda lovers need to read as well.  Yes, Zelda influenced his "girls" but so did Ginevra, I argue maybe even a bit more (hush).  But she is the origin of the rich girl poor boy story that he tells over and over again, ant the stories I am most drawn to.  I am always amazed by  the fact he never got his kiss from his first love.  Tragic.

At the end of the book the short stories "Babes in the Woods" and "Winter Dreams" can be found, maybe 2 of his best shorts.  This book is well worth the read.

Book 57: Short Stories by Fitzgerald

After I had finished with reading Fitzgerald's short stories, I had wanted to put together my own reading lists, but since it took me forever to get through the list and my retention is horrendous I have to reread and make some better notes.  I am hoping this will be better as I have already read the stories and know what I am looking for.

Right now I am hoping to follow up on stories that would have been written around the time of This Side of Paradise. I recently finished:
The Ordeal
The Debutante
The Spire and The Gargoyle
Sentiment and the Use of Rouge
The Pierian Spring and the Last Straw
Babes in the woods
These were all written before TSOP and is considered his apprentice fiction.  I want to pull out The Debutante, Sentiment and Rouge, Pierian Spring and Babes in the Woods as stories I want to categorize and collect.

What exactly am I trying to collect?  I want to pull out the stories of new, young love and its journey, I also want to pull out stories I particularly like.  Of the ones I pulled out Sentiment does not really fit in the first category, but I like it because it is very insightful and interesting on the discussion and views of how morals loosened due to the war.

 I also like The Ordeal which deals with Catholicism and Spire and Gargoyle which is a Princeton story, but they do not fit as neatly in what I am looking for.

From here I think I want to reread The Perfect Hour which deals with Ginevra King and how she influenced Scotts writing.

Book 56. Nocturnes by Kazou Ishiguro

As much as I like Fitzgerald's short stories, I was reluctant to read this collection.  And I should not have been, it is a great collection of stories that read more like a book.  All of the stories seem to weave together and play off each other.  When I finally saw the pattern I went -ohhh.

At this time it is no secret I am falling in love with the writing of Ishiguro.  I still want to read "When we were Orphans" before his new book comes out.

Jan 11, 2015

Book 55: This Side of Paradise by F Scott Fitzgerald

This is not my first reading of This Side of Paradise, and I am sure it won't be my last.  However, of the 5 books Fitzgerald wrote (or started to write) this is my least favorite.  My favorite part is Babes In The Woods, but I like it better as a Short story read on its own.  Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad book, but just does not live up to my expectations of his work.

It is the book that made his famous.  It is the book that won the hand of Zelda.  It is a book that is semi-autobiographical.  And for those reasons it is worth reading.

Jan 1, 2015

Book 54: What She Saw by Lucinda Rosenfeld

"What She Saw" by Lucinda Rosenfeld is a book that chronicles the sexual journey of a young girl named Phoebe coming of age.  It starts from he awareness of boys and travels though her awkward teen age years where she fumbles around until she comes into her own and discovers how to use her beauty to her advantage.  But ultimately the story is sad, as Phoebe knows how to manipulate her looks, but never really knows what she is looking for and how to find it.  She has a series of messed up relationships and feels hollow and lonely.

As I was reading, I could not help but see myself in Phoebe and how I was lost and looking for validation in sex and men.  I would guess there are many women who will see themselves in this book.  I noted that on Goodreads this book was categorized as a book for women in their 20's to read, I would not say it should be limited to that age group.  Women in their 40's will find this book nostalgic, as Phoebe's journey is mostly through the 90's and is a look back on her youth.  Hindsight is a good lens to read this book through.

I rated this book as a 3- The story was good, but I felt it could have been tighter.  Also, and this is just nit-picky, but it stood out to me and bugged me...The character name Phoebe does not seem like a real name for this character.  Why?  Who knows, but the name felt wrong to me.  Also the author like to put in big words, words that if you looked them up fit the sentence, but there are other words that could have been used that didn't sound as pretentious (again this is just something that stood out to me, I can look over it, but it did effect my rating of the book.)