Tag Archives: books

Book Review 43: Furious Love by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger

24 Oct

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

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Book Review 41: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

23 Oct

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

Book Review 40: The Reckoning by Jane Casey

22 Oct
*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

Book Review 39: Persuasion by Jane Austen

22 Oct

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

Book Review 38: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

14 Aug

Beautiful Ruins is, ostensibly, about Hollywood. And how it seems to corrupt all it touches. The book alternates between two time periods.  First, the story begins in 1962, when a beautiful, blond American starlet in a moment of need happened upon an isolated Italian island, and its lonely, isolated hotel owner.  And then picks up again, in modern times, when an aging Hollywood producer legend is working with a young, ambitious woman who realizes her career is not heading in the direction she hoped.

I understand why people rave about this book.  The plot itself is intriguing – a young starlet led astray and deceived by those she trusted; an aging Hollywood tycoon who may or may not make it right; the young upstart just trying to make something of herself at her day job. There’s also something surprisingly dark about this book. To me, it felt like this book was about what happens when you give up on your dreams. Continue reading

Book Review 37: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

17 Jun

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

Book Review 36: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

17 Jun

If you love Nora Ephron, for her movies, or her advice, or her everything, you will love this book. Ephron was a wildly successful writer and director. And her personal life was fascinating as well – married to Bernstein, writing Heartburn about the dissolution of her marriage, and finding stability and an actual partner in her subsequent person.

The book is a series of short stories. They are odes to the things that Eprhon, 65 at the time she authored the book, loves, hates, and wonders about. Much of the book is very focused on New York, as Eprhon lived there most of her life, in an apartment she was deeply attached to, fostering her intense New Yorkness. New York seemed as much of a presence in her life as most of her friends, and lovers, and family, and I always find it fascinating when “place” overtakes “people” in terms of priority in someone’s live.

The title stems from her chapter about aging, and how unless surgery is involved, your neck always shows how old you are. She aged only somewhat gracefully. There was something refreshing in her frankness about how aging terrified her. Continue reading

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