Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone

This story centers around two best friends: Anna and Francesca. Each of them have a bad home life, but in different ways; Anna's father goes missing for days/weeks/months at a time and has run ins with law enforcement, while Francesca's father abuses her and her mother. They have grown up together and at the age of 13 (going on 14) they are exploring the power their newfound curves give them. Suddenly, they have a falling out and the girls' lives go in different directions. Anna has her first boyfriend, while Francesca becomes cold and friends with a lonely girl named Lisa, but only to bully her. They see each other around town, but neither are brave enough to reach out to the other until tragic accidents occur.

I had high hopes for this book. It's set in Italy and the premise of the story was that they were going to go to Elba (which is a ferry ride away from where they live) to leave their lives in Piombino and each pursue their dreams, but it seemed to fall flat and incorporate too much of the other characters' lives.

Also, I think I am officially waving the white flag for my creative book goals for the year, since I'm now three months behind and do not have time in the foreseeable future to read those books on top of my book club books. The motivation (and time) is just not there.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Even though this book is short, weighing in at about ~160 pages, it felt long and took me a week to read. This was another book for a different Meetup group. The book is divided into two parts and the first part centers around the main character, Tony, and his friends in college. Six pages into it, the word pretentious was flashing in my mind because just reading it and seeing these young men act like know-it-alls because they were in college was frustrating. Anyway, Tony dates this girl Veronica, who ends up to be crazy and a tease, and she dumps Tony to go out with his friend Adrian, who is the smartest out of all the friends and is practically revered by everybody. But he then abruptly commits suicide. In part two, Tony some thirty or so years later, receives notice that Veronica's mother had past and left him five hundred pounds and Adrian's diary. However, when he goes to pick up what is willed to him, they do not have the diary because Veronica has it. Tony does not know how to contact her, so he gets in touch with Veronica's brother who gives him the contact information he needs. When he does finally contact Veronica, she plays coy (still playing mind games with him) and tells him that she burned the diary, but gave him a copy of a page of it. He is perplexed and intrigued and continues to pursue contacting her and she finally reveals a long-held secret at the end of the book.

Talking about this book was more interesting than reading it. I do not consider myself a deep reader, but others in the Meetup are and said how there was so much symbolism and philosophy sprinkled throughout the text. I think I did understand it better after the Meetup, but that still did not make it an enjoyable read.

Blame by Michelle Huneven

Blame was a book for one of my Meetup groups. It's about a lady named Patsy who is a professor at a college and has a drinking problem. One day, she wakes up in jail (again) after having too much to drink (again), but this time, something's different. The police tell her that she hit and killed a woman and her daughter while pulling into her driveway. She goes on to serve four years in prison and talks about her experiences there and finding AA. After she gets out, she struggles to piece her life back together again, but meets Cal, a man many years her senior who woos her (and almost anyone) instantly. Now, the book jacket plainly alludes to the fact that it was not Patsy who killed the people in her driveway, but someone else. The whole time, the reader knows this, and it is admirable to see Patsy change her life so drastically when it is predicated on this murder, but also sad to see how much Patsy tortures herself over their (accidental) death. Overall, I did not enjoy this book and it was frustrating at times to read because Huneven never used quotations marks. Not once! So some dialogue it was hard to follow who was saying what to whom.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

Joe and Ella have been married for three years with two children from Joe's previous marriage when Joe drowns while taking pictures of the ocean. All this time, Ella thought that Joe's ex-wife, Paige, left him and the children without wanting any more to do with them, but she appears at Joe's funeral and more than one truth comes out. As Ella is dealing with Paige's new presence in her life and reclaiming a presence in her children's lives, she discovers that the store that Joe owned is less solvent than she was led to believe and is near financial ruin. Facing a war on two fronts, she leans on Joe's family to help her make sense of all this news. Along the way, she learns that the story Joe told about Paige isn't the whole truth.

If you liked when two women came together for a common goal, like in Love Anthony by Lisa Genova.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

So I never read this book in high school. I think we were supposed to when I was a sophmore or freshman, but we never got to it. The story begins with a group of 6-14 year old boys finding themselves stranded on an island without any adults surviving the plane crash. A leader emerges, Ralph, who declares that a fire must be kept burning while they are on the island so they can be rescued. Piggy, a bespectacled heavy lad, thinks it is important to take down everyone's name and to build shelter, but is extremely supportive of Ralph having a leadership role. But Jack thinks finding meat is more important than anything. Eventually, the boys split into two groups: a group with Ralph and a group with Jack. As time goes on, more and more boys defect to Jack's group because they are able to catch wild pig, and with fewer boys able to keep a fire going, eventually it goes out. This leads to a tete-a-tete between Ralph and Jack.  

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson

Robinson continues with his critique of the American education system in this book. It actually took me quite a while to read this one because I kind of lost interest in it since a lot of it seemed like a rehashing of Out of Our Minds.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This book follows Don, a geneticist, who has difficulty meeting women. To combat this, he begins The Wife Project, where he creates a questionnaire for potential mates. Questions are along the lines of when do you arrive at events and how much alcohol do you drink. Don's friend Gene sends Rosie to him after the questionnaire seems to not produce reliable results. Rosie does not know who her father is, so they begin The Father Project together. Immediately, Don decides that Rosie is not Wife Project material, so he focuses his energy on The Father Project. This takes them all the way to New York (the book is based in Australia) and slowly he begins to realize that maybe not all mates can adhere to a checklist.

If you liked the adventure of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

This book was my choice for one of the Meetup groups I am part of. The story is told from the point of view of 14 year old June and is set in 1987. Her beloved uncle Finn dies young and "unexpectedly" and there is a man at the funeral that her family avoids. June has an older sister named Greta who seems to know everything before June does, but doesn't try to explain what is going on to her. Eventually, June finds out that Finn had AIDS and the mystery man is Toby, Finn's longtime boyfriend. June finds out that not all initial perceptions of people or situations is true, and learns more about Toby as they bond together over their shared loss of Finn.

If you liked Eleanor & Park because of the 80s references.
If you liked The Death of Bees or The Silver Star because of the sisters' relationship.

Monday, March 10, 2014

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

I want to be clear: I am not a big fan of history, but I found this book really informative in a fun way. Granted, I could not read more than two chapters at a time before all the information started falling out of my ears, but it was interesting to learn what European countries settled where and how that culture still impacts America to today. I had no idea so many people died in the earliest settlements since they didn't know what they were doing (necro-canabalism anyone? digging up the dead after you have buried them for food? yum yum?). So fun facts such as that pepper the entire book. If this were required reading for a history class in college, I think it would have been really enjoyable.

Champion (Legend #3) by Marie Lu

Marie Lu finishes up her Legend trilogy with Champion. Day and June are back in the Republic, with June serving as Princeps-Elect and Day keeping to himself and keeping his brain tumor (?) to himself while he cares for his blind brother, Eden. However, a plague originally engineered in the Republic is taking over the Colonies, making the threat of war imminent. While the Republic is desperately trying to find a cure for the plague, Day has to help the Elector plan how to save the Republic against the Colonies if they do attack. I thought it was a really good ending to a series (unlike Mockingjay...huff).