Monday, March 26, 2012

Heart of the Matter - Emily Giffin


Goodreads:  Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon.  Despite her own mother's warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life. 

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie--a boy who has never known his father.  After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance--and even to some degree, friendships--believing that it is always safer not to expect too much. 

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children.  But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.  

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most. 


I will say what the synopsis leaves out as it is rather vague - this is a novel about an affair.  This was an excellent novel that really explores sense of morality.  Giffin plays this up by choosing to have Val and Tessa narrate, so it is difficult to really dislike any of her characters and you feel their pain as well as the pain they inflict on the other characters equally.  She explores how affairs happen in a way that really makes everyone seem blameless - but does this in a way that does not detract from the impact it has and the tragedy it brings.  Giffin has a way of writing that explores every situation from multiple sides - the affair, the incident that led to Charlie's burn, relationships - really any incident mentioned is very well rounded.  I make this sound like some didactic lesson in morality, but it really is very well written. Giffin writes beautifully, allowing us to love all her characters, and writing them in a very realistic situation.  This plot can (and has) often become too soap opera-ish.  Giffin knows exactly where to play up and play down the situation so that it is not undersold, but does not become overly dramatic.  Overall this was one of the best books I read last year.  But be forewarned - any book that dives into the human psyche this deeply will not always be a comfortable journey.

Character development - excellent
Plot - excellent
Prose - well written


Heavy chick lit readers; readers who enjoy reading about moral dilemmas; heavy realistic fiction readers

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides


First published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides announced the arrival of a major new American novelist. In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters—beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys—commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family's fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. Adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola, The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.
(from Barnes and Noble)

I hated this.  I honestly could find no redeeming qualities to this novel.  It's told from a collective neighborhood boys' point of view.  Which I guess is cool, but it's so removed from what the girls are feeling that I don't get it.  The girls just seem crazy.  They don't have personalities, really.  They just find creative ways to kill themselves - just to do it as far as I can tell.  It's like they didn't have a reason.  I get that the parents are kind of crazy, but that doesn't seem to be the reason why they committed suicide.  The boys spend the entire book trying to solve a mystery that is never really posed or solved.  It's been a while since I read this - like a year so I don't have a lot of ready examples.  The entire book just had this disconnected mood, like everything was kind of pointless.  I think this is one of those books that tries to be intellectual at the expense of...well pretty much everything.

Prose - not bad, but not very interesting
Characters - not developed, not easy to connect with
Plot - is there one at all?


No one.  Unless (like me) you are interested in seeing what all the hype was about.  Maybe you'll find something in it I couldn't.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Firefly Lane - Kristin Hannah


In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the "coolest girl in the world" moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.
For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart…and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test. 

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.


This was an emotionally charged novel with a very compelling narrator.  Beginning at the awkward age of fourteen and closing at the end of a lifetime, this journey documents a relistic telling of live and love, but especially of the kind of friendship that lasts into death.

I am very critical of character development, and a story like this hangs entirely on how well the author paces character development and how realistically she does so.  I find that authors who write in first person are often less successful with character development, or is only able to do so with one character.  Kristin Hannah was able to show the growth of the narrator from girl to woman as well as that of her best friend.  These two characters are foils of each other, and I think it is often hard to like both characters when they are too different.  I found that at times I didn't like Tully, but overall Kristin Hannah was able to show why they stayed so close throughout the story and still keep them well-rounded characters, both with believable strenghts and flaws.  It is also difficult to keep the character's voices true over such a wide span of life - people change drastically from their teens to twenties to thirties.  I was impressed at how genuinely both of these characters stayed despite their transformations.  They didn't become unrecognizable, but there was true growth from both ends

Prose - well-written but nothing special
Plot - very, very good.  Events happen realistically,
Character development - excellent


Chick lit readers, anyone looking for a good literature book.  NOT recommended for someone who isn't interested in crying.

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The Princess Bride - William Goldman


Bookrags: The cover of The Princess Bride states the the book is "S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure." Indeed The Princess Bride does contain a great deal of true love and action adventure, but not necessarily in the way most readers will be expecting. Buttercup and Westley are lovers destined to be together, but circumstances beyond their control separate them for many years. Inigo is embroiled in a quest to avenge his father's murder, and Fezzik is looking for a true friend who enjoys rhymes. In addition to these characters there is a Prince who is averse to marriage but in love with hunting and a Count who enjoys researching pain. Along with a bumbling King, a fired Miracle Man, an albino, and the Zoo of Death the reader is treated to a tale of great skill; from both the characters and the author.


This was a really quirky read. I thought it was really funny in that off the wall way Hitchhiker's is, but with much less relevance to the story line. I only found out that there ISN'T an unabridged version a year or two after reading the book. Or a sequel. The whole book is based on a nonexistent book. I found while overall the book was as humorous as the movie, it went off on these really weird tangents about geography or history (to show that it's an abridged version of a serious text). I get why he wrote it, but I tend to like my stories a little more straight forward. I like the movie better...this one is a bit ADHD for me


Adventure, Humour, if you liked Hitchiker's guide and like historical fiction this would probably be a good read for you.

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Book Critiques Rebooted

I'm back! And I'm going to motivate myself to post a least twice a month. I'd say once a week, but with auditions it probably won't happen. Another new goal? Don't write so much! It's as tiring to write them as it is to read them haha, so I'm going to try and keep it simple!