Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What We Keep

I am tearing through books this summer. I go from having one post a month to having a few a week. I guess that's what working in the schools will do to you. I am only working 2 days a week right now  so I have plenty of time to read. I go back to work starting August 15 so expect fewer posts once the school year starts. I feel like I'm on a roll now, so maybe the reading will continue. This book was given to me by my friend Erin last summer. It had been sitting on my shelf for a while, so I picked it up as I headed to the pool.

This is a great read-in-one day while sitting at the pool book. Berg knows how to create characters that tug at your heart strings and make you die laughing at the same time. I give this book 3/5 stars because it is not a book that will stay with me for years to come. It was a pretty good story about two sisters (Ginny and Sharla) living seemingly normal childhoods in the 1950s who then lose their mother out of no where. The girls' mother has a midlife crisis and chooses to focus on her own life. Thirty five years later the two girl decide they are ready to face her. The book jumps back and forth from Ginny's perspective as a 12 year old girl to being in her 40s flying to see her mother 35 years later. I recommend this for people sitting at the beach or on a 3 hour plane ride. Good, but not great novel. 

Elizabeth Berg is a great author. I have read a few of her books (see one of my post from a year ago to find more Berg books.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Peyton Place

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

This book was the Fifty Shades of Grey of the 1950s. Not to say that the book was necessary erotic, but it was similar in the fact that many housewives hid the book because they felt shameful reading it. Back in the 50s this book was banned in many places throughout the country. The author was made into an infamous celebrity based upon this book which dealt with sex, rape, alcoholism, domestic violence, incest, racism, extramarital affairs, and murder. To be honest, I had not heard of this book until just over a week ago. I blame this on my age. If anyone asks their mother if they have heard of this book, I can bet you they will say "that book caused an uproar" or "it was so scandalous." I felt as if I, a fanatic of literary fiction, HAD to read this book. I mean, this book topped the charts along with Gone With The Wind (another one of my ALL TIME favorite books) in its time!

Peyton Place, a tiny New England town, thrives on gossip. Everything that the inhabitants of this town do is based upon what will be said about them. A woman lies about her child born out of wedlock so that the town will think she is a widow; a mother says her son is a war hero when he is truly was discharged for a mental disorder; and a doctor keeps his mouth shut about child abuse to keep the victim feeling "normal." The town talks and talks about its people in the nastiest ways. Rumors are spread so quickly, not unlike today's small towns (believe me, I'm from a town of under 4,000), but the second an outsider says one negative word about a neighbor the town sticks up for him/her like they were a family member. What I thought was so interesting about this book, was that it was mostly the MEN that talked about everybody, rather than the women.

This story would not be considered shocking if it were published today. It is truly a fantastic novel, but today we are too used to novels with striking themes. As I researched this book, I learned that it will be apart of American pop culture for years to come. It sparked a movie and long running TV series. (I already have the movie coming from Netflix). The only part of the book that was lacking was more in depth character development. I would have enjoyed getting to know the characters more.

Has anyone read this book??

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Right now I am reading Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James which is the third book in the Fifty Shades series. To be honest, I am SO over this series. I enjoyed the first one. It was a page turner and I read it in a few days. The second one was also worth the read up until the last 1/4 of the book. It started to get too mushy and I became bored. I am forcing myself to get through the third one. It's not THAT bad, but I am eager to get into my next book. I am learning that I am just not a trilogy or series book reader for the most past (NOT including my beloved Harry Potter series. I wish there were 15 of them). I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire, but I needed a break from the stories before I could read The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and it has been about a year and a half and I still haven't started the third. I am hoping to read it by the time the movie comes out, so I figure I have a few years. Also, The Hunger Games series had the same effect one me. I loved the first two, but by the time I read the third one I was simply craving another set of characters and plot line. So, while I am finishing up my current read, I thought that I would let my friend Erin share her review of a book that she enjoyed. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby is a book that has been on my "to read" list for many years. In one of my SLP classes in undergrad, my professor told all of us to read it. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. After reading Erin's review, I am going to put it a little higher on my list. 
Review by Erin Andreani
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
Anyone who can parallel his “last moments as a functioning earthling” with Beatles lyrics is genius. 
This is the all-too-true story is authored by a man with locked-in syndrome... all written by blinking his left eye at an alphabet board. Now, yes, I am a speech-language pathologist (and yes, I DID enjoy the chapter titled ‘Guardian Angel’, referring to his speech therapist), but this is an incredible book that should be read by the masses. It should be on high school reading lists, it should be discussed in college literature courses. The implications of your mind surviving what your body does not are just incredible. I recommend this to ... everyone.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tell the Wolves I'm home

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt 

Fourteen year old June, uncomfortable in her own skin does not understand the depth of her beloved Uncle Finn. Uncle Finn, a gay man, dies of aids in 1987. Before he died, he painted a portrait of June and her sister Greta titled, "Tell the Wolves I'm Home." Through the painting, Finn is able to tell his family everything that he could not say when he was alive.

June and Finn had a special relationship, but the rest of June's family cannot flush out the stigma of AIDS just as America could not in the 1980s. June was left in the dark about another very important person in Finn's life, his partner, or as Greta refers to him, Finn's murderer. June's quest to discover who her uncle really was begins when Toby contacts her. This story reminds us all what it is like to be young and naive to adult situations and adult opinions. Sometimes parents leave children in the dark as a way to "protect" them from the adults' own prejudices and familial embarrassments.
June, in her journey to uncover the mystery that was her uncle, copes with death for the first time. Not only does she miss Finn, but she is also dealing with her unconventional love for him. June is elusive, somber, embarrassed, odd, confused, and ambiguous. As I the reader tried to figure her out, June herself goes through self discovery. June doesn't like to talk or ask questions for fear of looking or feeling stupid. I found myself wanting to scream at her because she would ask questions in her head rather than out loud. She is unsure of how to interact with people or form relationships. The only person she could ever do this with was her uncle, which perhaps is why she feels as though her love for him is strange or abnormal.

Her relationship with her sister is tedious at best. June and Greta deal with becoming young women and they both grieve the end of their childhoods. Greta is mean and cruel because she is hurting inside. She wants to be friends with her sister, but the only way she knows how to interact with her is to be mean. As someone who has two sisters, I found myself relating to their relationship. The author did a phenomenal job of making their sister relationship authentic. Sister relationships are some of the most complex relationships people have in their entire lives. June and Greta despise and love each other in the same moment as many sisters do.

June's mother was the most complex character. I find it interesting when authors choose to make someone other than the narrator be very difficult to figure out. All we get are the observations and descriptions given to us, rather than first hand thoughts. I felt as if Mrs. Weiss was remorseful about something, that there was something she had chosen to hide from her past about her brother Finn. She carried around a large burden that her daughter could not know.

I have never read a book like this. The character development was perplexing and astounding. Now that I have finished the book I find myself wondering how June and her family are doing. You MUST read this book.

I highlighted many quotes in this book and I want to share my favorites:

On Greta:
"Greta's talk is like a geode. Ugly as anything on the outside and for the most part the same on the inside, but every once in a while there's something that shines through." (p. 60)

On Greta, June and the painting:
"All I could see was me and Greta shoved into that frame together. No matter what happened, the two of us would always be trapped inside those four pieces of wood." (p. 52)

June on herself:
"I thought about myself from head to toe. It was like being forced to read the most boring part of the Sears catalog. Like leafing through the bathroom accessories pages. Boring brain. Boring face. No sex appeal. Clumsy hands." (p. 194)

"I was doomed to mediocrity." (p. 215) 

"You get into habits. Ways of being with certain people." (p. 221)

"I was the girl who never understood who she was to people." (p. 236). 

"Sometimes I go around pretending I'm a medieval kid dropped into our time so that everything around me looks strange and fresh and ridiculous. Okay? Now that you know just how weird I am, you're free to laugh or tell all your friends or whatever..." (p 169) 

"Maybe all I wanted was for Toby to hear the wolves that lived in the dark forest of my heart. And maybe that's what it meant. Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Maybe Finn understood everything, as usual. You may as well tell them where you live, because they'll find you anyway. They always do." (p. 346)

On June's mother:
"How could someone act so strong and normal and under it all be so desperate and sad." (p. 234) 

"I needed to know that my mother understood that her hand was in this too. That all the jealousy and envy and shame we carried was our own kind of sickness. As much a disease as Toby and Finn's AIDS." (p. 370)

Below is Erin's review of the book:  

My only disappointment with this novel was that I bought the iBook version; I needed this book to be tangible. I needed to hold this book the way it held me. "Wolves"  had so many deeply haunting themes, that I'm not sure I could touch on them all at once. This is a book I need to keep coming back to, time and again. 

I have always loved period pieces- WWII, the 20’s, basically any story that can take me back to another time, I enjoy. The setting of this novel, in the height of the 1980‘s at the US’s first real awareness of AIDS, was no exception. Off that bat, one might not consider this  “period novel”. It was, after all, not that long ago, chronologically speaking. But socially, it was ages ago. It’s interesting to be thrust into that time when AIDS was just emerging and there was so much confusion and uncertainty. 
In addition to the setting, the characters are all phenomenal and very well developed. This is something I base most of my “favorites” on- character development. I loved how each of June’s family members has their own personality that unfolds throughout the story. While June is ultimately the main character, she serves as a vehicle for the others to move and grow along with the story. Through her voice and observations, we learn of her mother’s regret, her father’s sadness, and her sister’s loneliness. It is through June’s keen, wise-beyond-her-years observations that we learn of the details that make up each member of her family and ultimately how they all function together as a “normal” family, despite underlying feelings of sadness and remorse. Similarly, it is through Toby’s character that we really get to know the dead Finn. I loved this piece of writing- Finn is still a main character throughout the novel, fully developing along with the rest of the family, although he dies quite early on.
The point that the author made to make the family fairly normal and functioning, despite it’s controversy, was something I really took away from this book. My initial instinct was to paint this family as dysfunctional, to give a reason behind June’s eccentricities and her sister, Greta’s loneliness. But that was not the case. They were a typical American family made up of busy accountants and scared teenagers. The main story line -June’s “wrong” love for her AIDS ridden Uncle Finn- is a provocative subject that paved the way for more typical traits of the American family: loving parents, busy and just slightly too absent to keep close enough tabs on the kids, a sad teenager putting on a brave face, and a quirky girl muddling through adolescence.  I found myself identifying with both sisters’ feelings of growing up faster than they were ready. (This was another interesting thread: both sisters ultimately in similar turmoil, but showing it in different ways.)
In the end, I was never quite sure whether or not June actually was “in love” with her uncle, in the “wrong” way, or if she just deeply loved him for the person he was and the person he made her feel she was. Ultimately, despite this being the main story line, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that a loved family member was gone and the remaining were left to move through life without him, each person changed by Finn in some way. 
This is the book I have been waiting for all year. I recommend it to all. Again, I wish I had the hard-back so I could share with fellow readers. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Book Loft

Today I want to share with everyone who lives around Columbus about the best book store EVER. It is called The Book Loft and I can't believe I have not been to it until recently. I mostly get my books from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Half Price Books. The Book Loft is a indepdently owned book store in German Village that has not one, not two, but 32 rooms of books! Each room is separated by genre. The entire building is practically a maze. I literally got lost in there and it took me a few minutes to find my way out. Every inch of the store is fully covered in books. Another great thing about it is that they have awesome online coupons which I plan to take advantage of soon. The website is: thebookloft.com. You have got to check it out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Piano Teacher

This book was recommended to me by, can you guess? yes, Erin. She gave me quite a few books and I read some of them and others sat on my shelf. This was one of the books that sat on my shelf for a while. To be honest, I was not thrilled with the cover of the book. I judged it and thought that it was going to be cheesy, so it was not on my priority list of books. I brought it with me to Montana as a back up in case I got through the books I had planned to read. I finished my other books so I decided to read it, and I am so glad that I did.

The internet would not let me copy and paste a picture in my blog, so here is a link to a New York Times book review. Also, here is the author's website. Below is my review:

Will Truesdale, a life loving, easy going British man moves to Hong Kong and falls madly in love with exotic and outgoing Trudy Liang. She is a beautiful Eurasian (half Chinese, half Portuguese) socialite. The two of them go to parties, social events, and the beach constantly. Life could not be any better for these two. Their relationship is threatened when World War II starts and Japan invades Hong Kong. Anyone who is not Chinese is forced to go to POW camps which are separated by nationality. People on the inside of the POW camps are treated like criminals and people on the outside are witnesses to terrible crimes committed by the Japanese; lynching, rapes, and looting. Can their relationship survive the war?

Ten years later, Will is still in Hong Kong. Something happened to Trudy and Will will never be the same. He is no longer the man who loved life. He works as a driver for Trudy's cousin as opposed to running around in the same social crowd. He lives his life remorseful, regretful, and completely full of sorrow until he meets Claire Pentleton who also works for Trudy's cousin. Claire moved to Hong Kong from England with her husband that she did not marry for love. She is a young girl who is dying for opportunities and wants nothing more than to be "someone."  They begin an illicit affair and Will begins to show some small signs of happiness again, although he mostly remains miserable. Throughout their affair, Will begins to bring up the past and what happened during the war. Secrets are revealed and pain is brought back to the surface. 

I enjoyed this book because I am a fan of historical fiction. The story was also deeply layered. The author intricately revealed information at just the right time to make the entire story come together in the end to reveal a breath taking and shocking secret. My only negative about the book is that I did not truly understand Claire, the piano teacher's role. She was important in the fact that many people chose to tell her information about the past because she was close to Will. If people told Claire things then they hoped that she would tell Will. Claire was a pawn in the story where Will was the main character. Overall it was a good book. On a scale of 1-10 I would give it an 8. It was a New York Times Bestseller and was worth the read! 


PS I am super excited about the next few books that I am going to post about. Stay tuned for some great summer reading!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Joy Fielding

 Normally I am not the novel reader who picks up the books with the AUTHOR'S NAME in large print. Do you know what I'm talking about?? The James Patterson style of books are not my thing (but I have vowed to read a couple so I can have a better opinion rather than just judge a book by its cover... ha). I picked this book up when I was vacationing in Montana. My friend's mom had huge bins full of books. Most of them were the thriller murder mystery with the large print on the front, so I wasn't too thrilled. I did, however, find this book called Charley's Web by Joy Fielding.


I had read a Joy Fielding book before called Still Life which was AWESOME. It's about a woman who is struck by a car and goes into a coma. When she "comes to" she has locked in syndrome which is where she is basically in a comatose state, except her brain is not. She can hear and comprehend everything around her. She soon finds out that the people she thought loved her unconditionally may have had something to do with her accident. Ok, well I'm off on a tangent on another book, but it was really good. Here's the cover:

Anyway, back to Charley's Web. This book is about a successful journalist who writes a weekly column in the local newspaper. She has two children from two different men whom she never married, has estranged relationships with her family, and is more or less seen as a bitch by coworkers and neighbors. When a convicted murderer named Jill contacts her to write a "tell all" book about the brutal murders of 3 young children, Charley thinks that it could be her way to fame. There were always rumors that Jill had not acted alone in the crimes, and Charley thinks she will be able to identify her accomplice. As she begins to learn more about Jill's background, Charley starts to reevaluate her life. She begins to date rather than just make babies with men, makes an effort to mend the relationships in her family, and starts being friendly with her neighbors. One day, Charley begins to get threats from an unknown source who is targeting her children. The mystery to who is targeting her children may or may not be directly related to her new book deal. This story is very fast paced entertaining book. I read it in about 2 days. For anyone who enjoys fast paced thrillers, this would be a great summer read.

Enjoy. Has anyone else read any good Joy Fielding books?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

When She Woke

How many of you read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne in high school? Remember, the story about Hester Pryne? She was the woman who had a child out of wedlock and was forced to sew a red 'A' onto her clothing so the community would know she was an adulteress. She never revealed her child's father, Rev. Arther Dimmesdale, as he was viewed as a saint in the community. 

When She Woke by Hilary Jordan is a futuristic version of The Scarlet Letter. The story is based sometime in distant future, although the book never reveals the actual year. The United States, now run primarily by fundamentalist Christians, has gone through a terrible outbreak of STDs called the "scourge" in which men are carriers and women are left sterile. As a result, birthrates went way down and the world's population was in jeopardy. Roe v. Wade was overturned and abortions were seen as murder.

When Hannah Payne (re: Hester Pryne) finds her self pregnant with Rev. Aiden Dale's (re: Arther Dimmesdale) child and she believes that she must get an abortion. Aiden is a married man who is seen as the definition of Christianity throughout Texas and across the county. She knows that it would ruin him if she has his baby out of wedlock. Hannah has an abortion, is caught, and is put on trial for murder. Hannah is found guilty by the state of Texas and is sentenced to 16 years as a red.  Hannah is injected with a virus which makes her sterile and also dyes her skin a deep scarlet color. Reds are murderers, blues are child molesters, yellows have various misdemeanors, and greens and purples have committed other crimes. Hannah, who has lived a very sheltered life living with her parents in a very Christian household, must now life her life as a criminal.

Throughout the book I found myself wishing that the author had gone into more detail about how the county's government had made such a profound change from present day. I felt as if I was left to make assumptions based on vague bits of information. The story was enthralling and a definite page turner, but I craved more background information. Who is the president? How did he/she get elected? What happened to cause Roe v. Wade to be overturned? Is there a large majority of the population that thinks it is cruel and unusual to inject criminals with a virus to color their skin? I felt as if the novel was only a snipit of a what could have been more in depth book. 

This book is a perfect book club book as it raises many questions, could lead to serious debates, and leaves the reader wanting more.

My fellow book club member, Erin, also read the book. Below is her review. I love reading her reviews because we often see the same book in two different lights.

This novel tells the futuristic story of Hanna’s journey after her skin is turned read to label her as having had an abortion, which is considered second degree murder in the (all-too-near) future.  (Think: 21st century Scarlet Letter.) It interested me that throughout the book, the author refers to technological devices by abbreviation and acronym, never defining them, but eerily not needing to. It was obvious what a vid, a nav or a port was, which proved a point that maybe we aren’t as far away from this future as one would hope. With the separation of church and state at the forefront of society right now, this novel was relevant and thought provoking. It had me reading every chance I could for 3 days until I finished.... however, I was left with mixed feelings about the story.
While I found myself enthralled in Hannah’s journey, it became too much just that: a physical journey. I understand that this was a metaphor for her spiritual journey, but I was left wanting more about her life as a Red in society. I wanted to see more of her family relations and how her new self might change their ideals through the love they have for her as a daughter and sister. Also, I never fully understood her devotion to Aidan, the baby’s father, someone with whom she was never able to have a real relationship- before or after the “procedure”. He seemed shallow and beneath Hannah. 
Another point of contention that I had with the story was the experiment into lesbianism that Hannah had. I can grasp that it helped serve as a little bit of a bathos for Hannah’s personal story, but it was a too unconnected to the story line for me to appreciate. 
Finally, despite the mature subject matter, I couldn’t shake the feeling of reading a young-adult novel. Maybe it was the many similarities to the also dystopian Hunger Games Trilogy, but from the first page, I felt I was reading a narrative written to the younger reader (again, subject matter aside). I immediately wished that story had been written in first person to get away from this young-adult feeling as well as to better connect with Hannah’s plight.