*I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book from the Author.*
I have a special place in my heart for Adriana Trigiani’s books. They’re warm, welcoming, family oriented and they simply make you feel good. A little romance, a little over-the-top Italian family drama, some anachronistic professions that feel quaint in the modern world – they’re simple.
This particular book is about Valentine, a shoemaker, who falls in love with Gianluca, her much older leather supplier. It’s a nice enough story, but it felt a little artificial. Valentine is constantly worrying – about his age, about whether they should have kids, about her ex who is still present in her life, about where to live. On the one hand, these are issues that need to be worked out before marriage. Continue reading
This book is great and thought provoking on it’s own, but after reading it, I immediately started compulsively reading about Laura Bush. Very, very loosely based on Laura Bush’s life, American Wife is the story of a young mid-western teacher who happened to marry a rising politician who would go on to become one of the most publicly reviled presidents in history.
The first lady always feels far more like an “icon” than a person. You get to know the president through their speeches, their actions, what they believe in and what they back down on. The first lady is more mysterious. Michelle Obama has bridged a little of that gap, by making herself seem more human and less perfect. I know about her, personally, and not just her role as wife and mother.
Laura Bush was a bit more mysterious. She was reserved, behind the scenes, more of a figurehead than a person. She was like the last bastion of the old first lady – before the internet and instant communication has made the first lady more accessible. This is a book about that kind of first lady.
And it’s fascinating. Continue reading
Glorious. I am a celebrity gossip enthusiast (to put it mildly). I think there’s a social value to gossip that is under appreciated, and I think that particularly holds true for historical gossip. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s passionate, sordid marriages and affairs jump started the celebrity gossip industry as we know it today. Those iconic photos of them, frolicking on a yacht in Rome, clearly ignoring their marital vows, sparked an entire tabloid industry [pictured]. They lived their lives entirely in the public eye, and the public ate it up. The ups, the downs, the divorce, the remarriage – it was like a real life movie.
And the fascinating thing is that it was real. What you take away from this book is how powerful their connection was. Liz Taylor married many men, and married many men after Burton, but he was it. They were It for each other. They both had their demons – alcohol, food, other women, other men, and ultimately that was what made it impossible for them to be each other.
But days before Burton’s death, he wrote Taylor another love letter. Continue reading
I wish I had reviewed this book early because I found it fascinating. Jules, Jonah, Ethan and Ash meet at a summer camp for the creative arts. And they form a group, centered around the fact that they feel that they are the MOST. The most interesting, the most creative, the most unique of the campers.
And as time goes on, they are interesting. Ethan and Ash end up married, and wildly successful, leaving Jules behind. Jules, working as a social worker, giving up on her actress dreams, finds herself jealous of Ethan and Ash. Jonah is a successful engineer, giving up on his musical dreams.
There’s a lot of resentment among friends. As I get into my late twenties, your oldest friends change. They get married, have kids, find astonishing success, or find an astonishing lack of success. There are gaps and cracks in friendship that appear. People judge each other because they feel defensive about their own choices, or honestly jealous of others. It puts a strain on friendships that no one talks about. Who wants to admit that they’ve outgrown their oldest friend? Or that they’ve changed so substantially that their friendship is no longer meaningful, or special?
No one. Continue reading
*I received this book for free as part of a Goodreads giveaway*
I’ve been sitting on this book for over a year. I received it in May 2012 and didn’t get around to reading it until July 2013. The premise is interesting. There’s a serial killer operating in an Irish town, but he’s only killing pedophiles and suspected pedophiles. Maeve is the detective assigned to the case and she has a fierce sense of justice.
The book is kind of asking the question that Dexter asks. If a serial killer is killing victims who society abhors, do we care? Is it still a crime? Maeve thinks it is, but her colleagues disagree. I’m in the Maeve camp. Just because someone is targeting “undesirable” victims, doesn’t make it less of a crime.
There are sufficient twists and turns, including a mafia connection. It was mildly entertaining, but there was a distracting plot about Maeve’s personal life that was simply not compelling. Continue reading
I don’t think I’m a Jane Austen person, and it’s unfortunate. These are the kinds of books I should like. They’re usually quiet, family dramas with excellent character development and classic themes.
I guess when I read a book that’s ultimately a romance, here between Anne Elliot and Captain Wenthworth, I want to feel more invested in the characters. I just wasn’t here. Anne and Capitain Wentworth barely knew each other, and they both recognized that by the standards of the time, they weren’t a “suitable” match. I’m not a “love at first sight” person, so I suppose I can’t empathize with the predicament. Continue reading
This book was delightful in many ways, and disappointing in others. My issue with this book is more an issue with the back cover summary, which induced me to pick it up. The back cover implied that this was going to be “Real World: London,” where 12 or so gods move into a London townhouse, “stop being polite, and start getting real.” I was expecting trashy reality television, with Greek gods.
This book is not that. I took Latin when I was younger, and most of our class was spent learning about the analogous Roman gods and learning very little about actual Latin. The stories are fascinating. This felt like a modern update of a classic story.
Aphrodite and Apollo are engaged in an epic battle of wills. Thousands of years of living among mortals has induced incredible boredom in most of the gods. Their powers are waning as people’s belief in the gods falls. The infighting between Aphrodite and Apollo eventually draws two innocent humans, Neil and Alice, into the world of the gods.
What I didn’t like was the fairly standard “innocent girl dragged into conflict, heroic man rescues her” plot line of Neil and Alice. It was boring in a book that had an otherwise interesting premise and set of characters. While Neil is a reluctant, nerdy hero, he’s still a hero nonetheless. His journey to rescue Alice is fun, and interesting, but it’s still such a cliche and I’ve read a thousand books and seen a thousand movies about these kinds of rescues. It’s not that I wanted Alice to rescue him, necessarily.It just that their plot line was boring. Continue reading
I just graduated from law school, and I had a week off before studying for the bar. I wanted to fill that week with easy to read, fun, fantasy chick lit and my mom lent me her copy of Me Before You. She loved this book, her book club loved this book, and I enjoyed this book…up until the ending.
This book is the story of Louisa Clark, a young woman in her mid-twenties who just lost her job at the small cafe and bakery where she works. Lou is trapped in her small town life, she rarely leaves her hometown, she’s unwilling to explore her passions and she’s basically just…stuck, as many twenty-somethings are. The unemployment office finds her a job as a companion to a young quadriplegic man.
It’s hard to know how much of the plot to describe without veering into spoiler territory. Lou has a long term, exercise obsessed boyfriend. And her employer, the enigmatic Will, lived a life of adventure and action before an accident rendered him quadriplegic. There are two parallel stories here. One is Lou’s personal story, as she struggles to support her family during the recession and works through her personal traumas in her past in an attempt to find a life that is her own. And the other is Lou’s romantic story, as she struggles with her growing feelings towards her employer and her waning feelings towards her boyfriend.
What I liked best about this book is that it didn’t sacrifice Lou’s person struggles with her family and past to focus on her romantic life. Continue reading
I immediately reserved this book at the library after I read about the cast for the upcoming movie edition. The cast is basically a who’s who of people Pajibans (and America) loves. I was lukewarm towards the book, but I can’t help but feel that a cast with great chemistry could make me love a movie adaptation. It’s a family dramedy, which is normally right up my alley. When the Foxman patriarch dies, his four adult children and an assortment of their friends and lovers gather to sit Shiva, although they were not even remotely religious growing up.
The middle son (Jason Bateman), going through a painful divorce with his soon to be ex-wife (Abigail Spencer), anchors the story, attempting to hold both himself and his family together while reconnecting with his high school flame (Rose Byrne). His younger brother (Adam Driver) is irresponsible, wasteful and free spirited the way youngest siblings often are, and he comes home with his much older, life coach girlfriend (Connie Britton!!) only to fuck things up for his family and his relationship.
One of the most compelling dramatic tensions in the story was the tension between the oldest brother (Corey Stoll) and the middle brother. A traumatic event in their youth dramatically altered the course of the oldest brother’s life, and neither brother has ever addressed the underlying jealousy and resentment that event caused. Watching them work through their past was satisfying.
The biggest drawback for me is that the only sister in the family (played by Tina Fey) gets the short shift. Continue reading
Similar to Life After Life, The Post Birthday World also looks at alternate timelines of the protagonist’s life. Irina McGovern takes family friend Ramsey Acton to dinner for his birthday one evening while her husband is traveling. And her choice that night sets off two alternate timelines. In the first, she begins a torrid affair with alcoholic, reckless but passionate Ramsey. In the second, she opts out of pursuing an affair and stays with her stable, long term partner Lawrence who shares her interests, challenges her intellectually and shares her home.
Much of what I enjoyed about this book is what I found so beautiful in Life After Life. I think everyone imagines what their life would look like if they’d made a different decision, chosen a different career, married their first love, run off with the handsome man they met at a bar one night, never had children, etc. But when we fantasize about those things, we imagine a life infinitely better than our own. In our imaginations, when we make the other choice – the sun always shines, we never fight, we love our boss, our work is fulfilling and we never work weekends, our children with our hypothetical partner are well behaved and darling, etc. What daydreaming about the “what ifs” of life you never think about the hard times.
And there are hard times. The Post Birthday World is such an honest depiction of how the timelines would play out for Irina, including all the gritty day to day details and sadness we forget in our own imaginations, that it can be a little painful to read at times. Continue reading