Friday, May 28, 2010

Music Mix Friday...The Avett Brothers "Kick Drum Heart"

I've been bad about posting lately. Sorry. Hopefully this song will make up for that. It's possible this might be my new favorite band.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Belong to Me - Marisa de los Santos

belong to me
marisa de los santos
c. 2008
388 pages
completed 5/23/2010

read for: before i die challenge

*may contain spoilers*

My fall from suburban grace, or, more accurately, my failure to achieve the merest molehill of suburban grace from which to fall, began with a dinner party and a perfectly innocent, modestly clever, and only faintly quirky remark about Armand Assante.

Belong to Me follows the story of three completely different individuals, Cornelia, Piper, and Dev. Cornelia is newly moved to the suburbs with her husband, but is an outcast due to her city ways. Piper, the queen bee of the suburban ladies, is dealing with her best friend's cancer and growing problems within her marriage. And Dev has just been dragged across the country by his mother, skipped two grades, and is beginning to question the whereabouts of his absent father. All three cross paths in a small suburb in Philadelphia, and while there may be nothing to initially bond them together their lives soon begin to intertwine.

I keep getting books that I put on my TBR list years ago and cannot for the life of me remember what would have induced me to want to read them. This book is no exception. I don't read a lot of "women's fiction" or anything set in a contemporary America. And (just like my last review, I might be a little bit crass here) I'm really not into "cancer books." Cancer really sucks, I know, but I don't want to read a whole book about how much it sucks. So I was extremely wary going in and was convinced that this book was going to be consumed by its cancer plot. Thankfully it was not. Yes, Piper's best friend Elizabeth had cancer, but her's was not the story being told. Instead Elizabeth's problems were just another part of Piper's life.

Each chapter in this book is told from the point of view of one of the three main characters. Cornelia is the only one who actually narrates which I thought was a little odd, but the other two are just as insightful into their respective characters. I was really surprised by how much I liked this book. It was funny and heartfelt, and I really enjoyed most of the characters. I never could quite get behind Lake. I was pretty put off by her even before the secret came out. I absolutely LOVED her son Dev, however. It was the third chapter when he was introduced, and it was this chapter where I began to be sure that I would enjoy this book. Really, I think it was just Dev's mention of Green Day. How could I not like a book where the main kid is introduced listening to Green Day as he is dragged across the country?

To be honest, I was least interested in Piper's storyline. I'm torn though because, while I could have done without her story, I loved HER. She starts out as just this horrible person that I would love to hate, but ended up being pretty okay. But her inner monologue was just hysterical, thinking about how short people try too hard or how she likened dealing with a friend who'd joined the world of runners with living with a friend who'd joined a cult or gained a recreational drug habit. Probably her best rant was against all things New Age "a heading under which she corralled crystals, chiropractors, ESP, yoga, Dr. Andrew Weil/Deepak Chopra, aromatic candles - excepting cinnamon and vanilla holiday candles - echinacea, singer/songwriter music, and the entire country of India." She kind of reminded me of myself in some ways. Not the way she acted or her specific likes and dislikes, but just the way her inner monologue sometimes went. I don't know...I don't think I can explain it. Anyway, surprisingly enough, I liked this book quite a bit.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Gathering - Anne Enright

the gathering
anne enright
c. 2007
261 pages
completed 5/15/2010

read for: tbr challenge, 1001 books

*may contain spoilers*

I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother's house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen.

After the death of their brother Liam, the remaining nine Hegarty siblings gather together at their childhood home for his wake and funeral. Veronica, Liam's closest sibling, thinks back on their lives, and the lives of their grandparents, in order to understand what has led to this event.

Okay, this may be a little bit of a crass description, but I don't really enjoy "grief books." I can't remember where I heard about this book or why it was added to my list, but I think I was under the impression that the death of Liam and his subsequent wake and funeral was just a stepping off point and really the book was more about a deep dark family secret. I like deep dark family secrets. However, the secret wasn't even really mentioned (other than the very first sentence) until about two thirds of the way through the book. And even then it was kind of skirted around and contradicted. We had a somewhat unreliable narrator (she kept admitting that some of her memories were stolen from her sister). So instead of focusing on the deep dark family secret, we had Veronica dealing with her grief. And that was something I was not interested in. I feel I should clarify a bit...I don't mind when there is grief within a book, but I don't like "grief books" where the sole point of the book is to witness people deal with grief. For me, I need there to be more. And sadly for me, that was not the point of this book.

I'm also not a big fan of books that aren't linear. I think I've mentioned this before on multiple occasions. I mean, there are exceptions, but this was all over the place chronologically. Sometimes we were with the grandmother before she was married, sometimes we were with Veronica picking up the body for the funeral, sometimes we were with Veronica and Liam in college, sometimes we were after the funeral...and it was just too much. I'm a fan of chronological order. Some people are great with nonlinear things, but it's just not for me.

I kind of feel bad that I'm just dissing this book. I think it's obviously a "good" book, and other people who enjoy the things that I do not would get a lot out of it. It was just not for me.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt

angela's ashes
frank mccourt
c. 1996
362 pages
completed 5/8/2010

read for: reading western europe challenge, EW new classics

*may contain spoilers*

My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born.

Frank McCourt's memoir of his early life. Born in New York at the beginning of the Great Depression, McCourt's family moved to Ireland when he was four. McCourt's memoir begins before his birth and continues through years of abject poverty until he turns nineteen.

I feel a little weird reviewing memoirs, like it's not my place to dislike it because this was actually the author's life. So this review will probably be short.

To be honest, I thought very seriously on several occasions about abandoning this book. I didn't, mostly because that would have been the third book in little more than a month that I had abandoned and I was not down with that, so I stuck it out. I have problems with people who take artistic license with punctuation. I know I've said this before, but I really do believe we have rules on punctuation for a reason. It seems to happen a lot in memoirs especially that people just decide that they have no need for quotation marks. I have a need for quotation marks.

The story (should I call it that in a memoir?) is what I really have trouble critiquing because how can one critique what actually happened? As such I will just say that there was only so much detail on such abject poverty that I could take before I began to get irritated with certain people. And then I felt bad that I felt irritated, but I couldn't stop feeling irritated. I think this book was invoking emotions in me that it wasn't supposed to. There were parts of the book I liked. I thought it was really funny and touching in some places, mostly concerning Frank and his brothers. I did really like Frank. Not so much Angela. She was the one I really got irritated with. And then felt bad about. I'm glad I managed to finish this, but I don't think it's going to stick with me.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Music Mix Friday...Greg Laswell "Girl Just Wanna Have Fun"

I know I posted the original a little while back, but I like this guy's version, too. Saw him in concert in San Diego in '08 and fell in love.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

By the end of May...

Things are getting a little out of hand here. I like to have everything planned out WAY in advance, but the library is making me have to do a lot rescheduling. Get it together library!

To Be Read by the End of May
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
The Gathering - Anne Enright
Belong to Me - Marisa de los Santos
The Coffee Trader - David Liss
Like Mayflies in the Stream - Shauna Roberts

To be read...

The Queen's Pawn - Christy English
The Highest Stakes - Emery Lee
The Lady Tree - Christie Dickason
The Far Cry - Emma Smith
The Long Song - Andrea Levy
Pearl of China - Anchee Min
The Great Perhaps - Joe Meno
Lark and Termite - Jayne Anne Phillips
The Swimming Pool - Holly Lecraw
The Last Stand - Nathaniel Philbrick
Red Hook Road - Ayelet Waldman
I Curse the River of Time - Per Petterson
I Do Not Come to You by Chance - Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
The Rehearsal - Eleanor Catton
Watermark - Vanitha Sankaren
Claude and Camille - Stephanie Cowell
Cool Water - Dianne Warren
Sounding Line - Anne Degrace
Beatrice and Virgil - Yann Martel
The Hundred and Ninety Nine Steps and the Courage Consort - Michel Faber (2 novellas)
Looking for Bapu - Anjali Banejee
Maps and Legends - Michael Cabon
Darling Jim - Christian Moerk
The Handbook for Lightening Strike Survivors - Michele Young-Stone
Dark Remedy - Trent Stevens and Rock Brynner
One Night of Madness - Stokes McMillan
Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green and David Leviathan
Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese
Paths of Exile - Carla Nayland
My Wife's Affair - Nancy Woodruff
Under the Skin - Michel Faber
Puppet Master - Joanne Owen

32 new books. I thought I asked everyone to quit reading this month...