Tuesday, September 25, 2012

book 36

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
254 pages

Seriously, I don't want to give ANYTHING away about this book.

I read it in two days because I couldn't put it down.  At work.  Every free second.  Disturbing.  Amazing.

Gillian Flynn is phenomenal.  I can't wait for Gone Girl to arrive tomorrow.  I will devour it.

You need to read Sharp Objects. NOW.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

book 35

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
337 pages

I read this book because it was recommended based on my rating of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  It was an okay read.  I wasn't too into it, but yesterday I picked it up at page 70 or so and plowed through the rest, because I'm getting really behind on my goal here.

These Things Hidden is a thriller - I guess - that centers around three women.  Allison was a perfect teenager, a star student and star athlete, well-liked by everyone.  That is, until she gets convicted of drowning her newborn baby girl in the Druid River.  When we meet her, she is being released from prison for good behavior, ready to start her life over.  Brynn is her sister, a fragile young woman with mental problems and a lot of guilt.  She lives with her grandmother and several pets, and wants nothing to do with Allison.  Charm is another young woman living in the same town the girls grew up in.  She is a nursing student, caring for her sick stepfather, Gus, who has lung cancer and is nearing death.  Finally, we have Claire, a mid-40s book store owner and adoptive mother of a 5-year-old boy named Joshua.  Claire's shop, Bookends, is the centerpiece around which the characters, except for Brynn, revolve.  Charm is a regular customer, and Allison works there after her parole.

The story is told chapter-by-chapter through each woman's eyes.  Sometimes they are disconnected, and at other times one leaves off and another picks up right there in the same moment.  I was not particularly fond of this method, since there were four women and sometimes I had to stop for a second and realize who was narrating.  The chapters are labeled, but still.  I've read many books with this method, but maybe because the chapters were so short (1-7 pages each) was what irked me.  Allison and Brynn tell the story in first person, Charm and Claire are in third person.

I wasn't very surprised by the reveal, or the ending of the story.  I would say I was a little disappointed in the ending.  It leaves a lot to be wanted, which I guess is a good sign but I just felt flat.  Nothing propelled me to keep reading.  I had little sympathy for the characters, although I think I was supposed to.  I felt for Charm, she was the most real character to me.  I did feel sympathy for her, and at times for Brynn.  I understood the characters and their choices.  I just kind of felt like I was reading chick-lit with a twist or something.  I do not think this book would appeal to men, whereas other thrillers would.

I don't know if I would recommend this book. It kept my attention well enough to read it mostly in one day.  Nothing was awful.  I wasn't bored.  I just felt like "Eh."  Therefore, I would say that it isn't one to skip, but not a top priority.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

book 34

Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin
342 pages

OK, Emily Giffin.  I get it.  Disloyalty and infidelity are, like, totally your niche.  Please leave your niche.  Now.

I put off reading this book because I was told it had the SAME THEME as all her other stuff.  And it did.  But I'm getting low on my book supply here, and I had to suck it up..  As a result, I am now two books behind on my goal.  Thanks, Emily.

I gave this book three stars because I think Giffin writes beautifully.  The alliteration in her sentences is effortless, flowing, and lovely.  Her story-telling prowess is fantastic.  Her inability to write about a theme other than infidelity is really annoying.  I think Giffen is effortlessly able to tell her tales, and she sucks you in with the inner dialogues of her characters, but is she really a one trick pony?  I'm told her latest book FINALLY diverges from her hard worn path of cheaters, but I'm still gonna wait for it to come out in paperback because I'm mad.

Love the One You're With is the story of Ellen, a young married woman living in NYC with her husband Andy.  It opens with Ellen crossing paths with an old flame in a NY crosswalk, and goes from there.  She must sort out the feelings she never resolved for Leo while moving forward in her marriage to Andy.  Giffin explores the dynamic of intense love vs. platonic love in relationships, of worry vs. comfort.  She has conflict down pat.  Again, the language is beautiful, the sentence structure perfect.  I just cannot give this any more stars because I'm so so so so sooooo tired of her hackneyed theme.  Although this story is told differently than the others (they are all different), I can't get passed that one detail..  It is not a tiny detail.

Overall, I enjoyed reaping the benefits of Emily Giffin's clear gift for writing, but could not stomach the tale.  I'm begging you, lady, just do something different.  Skip this one  if you've read her other stuff.  Nothing new to see here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

book 33

How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal
395 pages (copied from my Goodreads review - hence the references to other reviews etc)

I loved How to Bake a Perfect Life.  LOVED it.  Read it in less than 2 days.  Couldn't put it down, couldn't go to bed because I was so into it.  I've read a lot of the other reviews that say it's typical chick-lit, but I don't know what kind of chick-lit those people are reading.  This has some depth and deals with emotion and growth through generations of women.  Sure it was predictable, but whatever.  Do we read for surprises, or for the story, how it unfolds, how characters learn and grow?  Do we judge a book by the fact that it has a beginning and an end?  So what if you can tell what's going to happen - this was not a mystery novel.  There was no suspense.

As with most of the books I end up loving, I'd put off reading this after other back covers were more appealing to me.  I'm mad at myself for putting it off, though, as it turned out to be utterly fantastic.

Here is a breakdown of the plot without any spoilers:
Ramona is a 40-year-old small business owner.  She owns a bakery, or rather a boulangerie, on the first floor of her old Victorian home in Colorado Springs.  She is struggling to keep the business afloat when we meet her, as she had not expected the heavy costs associated with the upkeep of a very old home.  Ramona got pregnant when she was 15, and has a 25-year-old daughter, Sofia.  Sofia is married to a career soldier, deployed in Afghanistan.  When we meet these women, they are in Ramona's kitchen when the phone rings.  Of course it's the military, reporting that Sofia's husband, Oscar, has been badly wounded in an attack.  8-months pregnant, she rushes to Germany to be by his side, leaving Ramona to care for 13-year-old Katie, Oscars daughter from a previous marriage.  Katie's mom is meth addict in rehab, and was due to arrive to live with Sofia for the foreseeable future.

We learn about Ramona at 15, her summer with her aunt Poppy, and her life-changing friendship with a record store clerk named Jonah.  Ramona's story is told in first person, Sofia's through journal entries, and Katie's in short third-person chapters.  Mainly it is Ramona's story, but the other women have their own sides of what goes on.  The women in the story have real feelings and deal with real problems.  Don't get me wrong, if you look at my shelves I clearly have NO PROBLEM reading about women who have problems like whether they should purchase the new Prada bag or the new Tori Burch jeans - but those aren't real problems, are they?  No, those are CHICK-LIT problems.  Grappling with trust issues, learning to love, facing the unexpected - these are real life issues that I wouldn't dare call chick lit.

Do not miss How to Bake a Perfect life!  It is gripping and exceedingly well written.  Just don't expect a suspense story out of women's fiction.

Friday, August 31, 2012

book 32

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
345 pages

I have zero complaints about this book, not even one little nagging complaint. None.

Dark Places was an amazing read.  I could not put it down, and I was mad at bedtime when I literally HAD TO.  This morning I awoke thinking I would finish it and, though it took me the greater part of the day, I did.

As I was reading, I was always trying to scan ahead to the next paragraph, desperate to know what was happening.  This obviously made it take longer than necessary to read.  Although I have a habit of trying to read the end of books first (I'm SO impatient!), and I did here, I was STILL surprised and had to go back and re-read sections to see how I missed that - only to find there was no way to have known.  The plot was intricate but not in a way that was forced.  No suspension of disbelief needed for even one second.  The characters were extremely real, the prose was fantastic, and it is no surprise that this was a bestseller.

As a connoisseur of chick-lit I occasionally tried to shove love into the plot but it wasn't a chick-lit book.  That was refreshing to me.  Don't get me wrong, I love chick-lit more than any other genre in the world, but I guess maybe I need to broaden my horizons a bit.  In fact, I went onto Amazon this morning and ordered Flynn's debut as well.. Her most recent work is not available in paperback, so I'll wait a little to see if it is released in that format before I cave an order it in hardcover.

I highly recommend Dark Places.  It's a twisted mystery/suspense novel that would appeal to any gender, race or class.  READ IT NOW.

Monday, August 27, 2012

movie 18

The Devil Wears Prada

Ok.  So I obviously just finished the book and I thought I could watch the movie right away on demand.  I was excited. I'm like 30 minutes into the movie right now and I'm already disappointed.  I know, that's how the movie always goes.. but seriously.  Emily is a huge bitch, which in the book she was bitchy but somewhat sympathetic.  Here she is British and very mean.  Miranda actually TALKS to Andy, which would never happen in the book.  Alex and Andy live together and there hasn't been anything about his job or the fact that they never see each other.  Lily is practically non-existant.  Andy is mousy and sad instead of being sarcastic and biting.  The current scene is one in which Andy and her people are gathered at a bar and she's actually extolling the virtues of Runway.  NO.

Where is Jeffy?  Why does Nigel have a significant role?  Why does Christian have a different last name?

Wait, Alex (is that EVEN his name? Because it's not been said yet) is a chef? Really?  No, he's a teacher.  UGH. His name is Nate?  What was wrong with Alex?

Why is Andy getting things right?  That's not supposed to happen - the Harry Potter thing is all wrong.

And now Miranda CHOSE to bring Andy to Paris? Wait.  No, Emily gets mono.  This makes me mad. It doesn't really capture the essence of the book AT ALL.

None of this is right.  Read the book.  Skip the movie.

book 31

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
360 pages

Funnily enough, although this was Lauren Weisberger's debut novel, it is the las by her that I read.  I've now completed her entire line of novels and I'd started with her most recent (at the time).  The last time I reviewed a novel by Weisberger, I'd complained it was too much like another I'd read, so I was a little reluctant to read The Devil Wears Prada.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised by TDWP and have the movie all set On Demand to start as soon as I finish this review.

Andrea (Andy) Sachs is a bright-eyed recent college-grad looking to get a job in the magazine industry.  Her dream is to work for The New Yorker, but she wanders into a job at Runway, the most "it" fashion magazine around.  She ends up as the junior assistant to the editor, an insanely demanding woman named Miranda Priestly.  The novel reads like a memoir with little flashbacks and changes in time, but mostly follows along chronologically.  Andy has a best friend, Lily, who has a drinking problem, a do-gooder boyfriend, and, of course, an extremely challenging boss and a life-consuming job.

The story is told with wit and humor, and I was always eager to find out what was going to happen next.  I wanted to see how long Andy would be able to ut up with Miranda, whether she would eventually come around to the fashion world insanity, or if Miranda would ever soften.  The progression was satisfying and not as predictable (although not unbelievable at all) as I would have expected.  I truly enjoyed reading this book and, as I've literally JUST finished the book, I'm a little sad that it's over.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone at any time.  It isn't pigeon-holed into summer beach read or anything, and I think it would appeal to many ages.  Although, as it spend forever on the NYT best-seller list, I'm sure most literate people have already read it!  But if you haven't, you should!