Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard so many great things about this book before I even read it. First I saw it recommended on GR, then I saw it recommended on Jezebel, and then I heard from a friend it was one of their favorite period mysteries. So I gave it a try and loved it! This is a genre I need to read more of- Gothic, romance, mystery! I loved the time period and the setting. It had a Gosford Park feel to me that I love, also a [b:The Thirteenth Tale|40440|The Thirteenth Tale|Diane Setterfield|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1290715469s/40440.jpg|849453] feel as well.

First off this book was very predictable, all the mind games I guessed right away, I always knew what was coming, but I found myself wanting to read it more and more because I wanted to make sure I was right. We never learn the protagonist's name and I loved it, it made her less of a character and living in a shadow, even though the whole thing is about her. I love that Rebecca isn't even alive, but she's a part of the story- a huge part.

Max the male lead is a bit unhinged, so it's kinda hard to see where his character is going, but all the while it's very believable the way he reacts to things. All of his staff are great and Mrs. Danvers may be the most creepy and horrifying character I've read in a while.

I hope I can find more books like this cause I truly enjoyed it. The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars is cause it was really predictable and I wanted it to be longer.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Music for Torching

Music for Torching
Music for Torching by A.M. Homes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall this is a very good book. I like the way it's written. Another book about dysfunctional marriages- I'm in a dysfunctional marriage-book rut. A suburban couple with two kids live in a very close knit community- all the neighbors rotate and have all the couples over for dinner every week, all the kids friends are in the same neighborhood and all the husband seems to work in NY. Most of the married couples are perfect and our main characters are far from it. Paul and Elaine feel trapped, their in a rut and decide burning their house down will be the best way out of it. This backfires - well actually there's a lack of fire and the house instead just gets minimally damaged, the rest of the book finds them staying with the perfect couple in the neighborhood and their kids staying with their best friends.

While the fire is the main plot point that drives the book, everything that follows it is so minor. Sure the spouses are cheating, but they don't have guilt about it, sure their kids are kinda little shits, but no one really calls them on it. It's a very interesting look at suburban life that makes you feel like you're intruding on your friends uncomfortable fight. Like a burning house, you can't look away cause you don't know what's going to happen next, will the fire be contained or will it move on to the next house and devour another family.

Elaine is the more screwed up character although both have serious issues and probably shouldn't be allowed to be parents. But Elaine is so desperate for change that she tries anything she can to get out of her normal shell. Paul's affair seems pretty real and typical, nothing too exciting there. But overall you feel like this is just a simple story of two people experiencing a midlife crisis at the same time- both are scared that their life is stale, but luckily they also both agree to try to fix it.

The last section of the book takes a huge step in another direction and I was pretty shocked by the action, then the end leaves you totally high and dry and you're left to wonder what the resolution is. Overall a really good book where very little actually happens.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: The Magician King: A Novel

The Magician King: A Novel
The Magician King: A Novel by Lev Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won this book on GR give-away but hadn't read the first book yet so I had to go back and read that one first. And by read I mean listen to the audiobook on my 900 hour drive to North Texas a few weeks ago. So then I set in for this book.

I liked this book a lot more than the first book [b:The Magicians|6101718|The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)|Lev Grossman|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1313772941s/6101718.jpg|6278977], I feel like this book had so much more original content which was kinda my biggest complaint about the first book. I liked that the majority of this book was spent in Fillory and that it brought in some new characters and went back to some of the old as well. The ending was super depressing, but I think I would have felt cheated if it had been a happy ever after fairy tail since nothing else in these books every happened that way.

The main character Quentin is so hard to like, all he does is complain and nothing is ever good enough for him. At some time I felt like the author was trying to make his an unlikeable character and goodness he succeeded. He always thought he deserved more than he did. It's funny to have a main character that it's impossible to root for, but here one was. I feel like all the supporting characters except the ones who died were such better and more likable people.

But even still I really enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed going back and forth between the Quentin story and Julia's backstory, I would have loved to hear how Julia hooked up with the old gang from the first book, cause her story was actually very interesting. Like happened a lot in the first book it did seem to skip over some very important parts, but that's okay cause you could mostly fill in the gaps. Also like the first book the brutality of some of the scenes was intense- maybe I haven't read enough fantasy books but there are some brutal murders and sexual experiences that are just not right. But again it definitely separates itself from Harry Potter and the Narnia books.

I hope he writes another book about this, although I don't know if it should be about Quentin- I'd like to see what Bingle and Julia end up doing, or more about the FTB peeps.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Gone Girl- Ten Months of Puppy Parenting

This post has nothing to do with the amazing book Gone Girl I just read and reviewed below.  But I liked the name and felt like it was appropriate to describe my weekend.  Last September Bruce and I adopted two puppies- Hera and Helia.  We were so excited to bring them into our lives and love them and train them.  However somewhere along the way we got lost and couldn't figure out how to fit them in our lives anymore.  We didn't have the time to dedicate to their training, we were never home, their 8 lbs of puppy turned into 40+ lbs of dog each!  Life got in the way, our lives no longer could revolve around them and they became more of a burden for us.  So in April we decided that after months of trying to figure it out we'd have to give them back to the rescue we got them from.

When we adopted them from Give A Dog a Home- San Antonio we did so with the understanding that if we ever had to give them up, move and couldn't take them, or something else prevented us from keeping them, then they would go back to the rescue and not to a shelter.  So we waited 3 months in order to keep that agreement, the rescue wasn't able to take them at first and it was frustrating for us because we had made the very hard decision to give them up and seeing them everyday after that decision was made kept making me rethink if we were doing the right thing.

In mid-May my mom suggested maybe she and my grandma take in the little red one, Helia, she was our special-needs puppy and had some serious learning deficits, but was overall the calmer of the two and the younger.  Bruce took her over to my mom's where she started acting like the wonderful dog we knew she could be.  She has lots of other puppy friends there to play with and doesn't stay cooped up in puppy jail or outside all day, she's a lounger and now gets to lounge inside in the Air Conditioning.

This past Saturday Give a Dog A Home was finally able to take Hera back and I was dreading it all week.  I knew it was coming but was not prepared for how it was going to make me feel.  All day Saturday I had a horrible feeling in my tummy and would all of the sudden break out crying about her leaving! Around 3 that afternoon I met two girls who were going to take her to the rescue and I'm pretty sure they think I'm a basket case cause I couldn't stop crying.  I still feel completely terrible and awful about the whole situation and can only hope she finds a good home quickly- since I know Helia already has one.

I don't think we were the worst puppy parents by any means, but their life didn't consist of enough human interaction, they mostly kept each other company. Outside playing, and escaping frequently, or inside in their puppy jail- an area I blocked off in the entrance of our house.  I knew they could get more attention from people who didn't work weird hours, till 2 AM some days and who were gone all weekend- most weekends.

So now Hera is gone, I get sad whenever I look outside and don't see her anxious face waiting to come in, or when I woke up this morning for work and didn't have to let her outside and feed her.  Sookie the Viking Kitty is of course thrilled to have her house back and we'll hopefully be adopting another kitty soon.  Cats we can do, they take care of themselves and don't require as much parenting.

I know we did the right thing for Hera, but I'm still so disappointed it didn't work out, I feel like a puppy mom failure and now promise to never ever get a puppy again.  I hope she finds a fabulous family who loves her.

Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was torn between 4 and 5 stars- which is super unusual for me, but after review my other 5 star choices it just didn't have that extra thing to push it over.

I greatly enjoyed this book, was appalled by it, confused by it and angry at it. There are two narrators husband and wife Amy and Nick, switching POV every other chapter. Nick is the first narrator we hear from his story starts with the day of his and Amy's 5 year anniversary where she goes missing. Then we hear from Amy, a diary entry from 7 years earlier about her first meeting with Nick, her impressions and excitement about their relationship. The book continues this way until Amy's diary story catches up with Nick's initial starting point on the day she goes missing. Along the way they both lie becoming unreliable narrators, leaving the reader not knowing who to believe.

At the beginning you believe Nick is a good guy, maybe a little neglectful but a good husbad and he couldn't have had anything to do with his wife being missing. Then he does something that makes us loose faith in him, chapters into the story we learn he's cheating on Amy for over a year! This makes him seem much more a likely candidate to have killed his wife. Amy's diary entries make her seem like the Ultimate Cool Girl, but then we find out she completely faked her abduction and murder to get back at Nick and we learn that she is a sociopath and scary as hell. The final part of the book is a crazy story of mind games upon mind games between Nick and Amy.

The ending was nothing what I would have expected 200 pages in, but it was so fitting for what happened, but I cannot remember a book that played on my emotions for a character so much. I like that it came around full circle, cause I initially wanted to be on Nick's side and luckily I ended on his side as well, but it's amazing the author was able to make me constantly judge how I really felt about these characters and what they were doing to one another. There's one quote that completely gives me chills now, but also very nicely sums up both character's motivation and fears.

The question I've asked more often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I supposed these questions stormcloud over every marriage: What are you thinking how are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: An Object of Beauty: A Novel

An Object of Beauty: A Novel
An Object of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was great. I love Steve Martin's writing style and always get very into his stories. One thing I can say against them is that they're always too short and don't let me live in his world long enough, but that being said they're still all great and this one was no exception.

An Object of Beauty is written from the point of view of an observer to the main character's life. Lacey is the subject and one of her close guy friend's whom she had a one night tryst with once upon a time is her storyteller. He is an art writer and she is an aspiring art dealer working her way up from the very bottom. Her story is about the rise, the amazing rise she took to do exactly what she wanted to do. She uses dishonesty, bargaining, bluffing, sex, and scavenging, as well as humor, knowledge, and experience. She is an amazing character who you never actually sympathize for and you know exactly what is coming to try to knock her down a few pegs.

The art in the book is probably what turns a lot of people off it. If you don't care about art, appreciate art or know even basic artist names, then a lot of this book is going to bore you and seem like "too much art talk". If you took an art history class in college or enjoy going to museums or know people who own fine art, then this is a really neat look into a world that you may not have known actually exists. The fact that the story takes place in our very recent US history also makes it intriguing, as we see the immediate repercussions of things that happened in the early millennium.

The characters are new and interesting, art dealers and brokers, private collectors and European's with more money than should be allowed. The extravagance could get annoying if you don't know what's coming. Lacey is an unsympathetic character, she's not a monster, but you never really feel like she deserves her successes, but in the end if she fails you'd still feel regret for her. Our unreliable narrator is not a fully fleshed out character because his story isn't the one being told, we really only deal with him when he's actually interacting with Lacey. He says up front that a lot of the stuff can't be fact because he wasn't there, but he fills in the gaps with what he thinks may have happened based on Lacey's recounts to him. The small characters are great, her art dealer mentor Talley is awesome, her European boyfriend Patrice is delightful. But at the end there are a few characters thrown in that don't really get their fair time in the spot light.

Overall I really loved this book and will totally read it again someday.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: The Magicians

The Magicians
The Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to give this book 3.5 stars. I really liked if, but there wasn't really anything new here. Yes it's adult Harry Potter and yes it combines with adult Chronicles of Narnia too. This is the story of a boy who doesn't find out he's magical till he's about ready to go to college, he actually starts this magical college before his Senior years of HS is even over. There he learns all about magic, he's actually so good at it he gets advanced a whole extra year ahead. His Magical schooling only takes 5 years and it's dangerous and hard. After graduation he (and his friends) find out that a children's book about "Fillory" is actually real and a place he can travel to.

So I really enjoyed the story, even though little of the concept is original. I liked how magic school was sort of breezed through, it didn't take 5 books to go through all 5 years of his schooling. I liked that it never even really explored the magic they were learning, we didn't have to be pulling into different languages or spells, we only hear about them theoretically- very much like how the characters learn about them. The relationships are more adult, but still pretty juvenile. Yes, there's sex at this magic school, it's almost encouraged- at least in their final year. There's so much more acceptance of darker magic at this school, they teach it but don't necessarily practice it. Then once their time is up they graduate and find out that a childhood fantasy book is actually real. I enjoyed the battles, I enjoyed the relationships and the ending was okay with me.

Everything in "Fillory" reminded me Chronicles of Narnia. I feel like he was almost hitting us over the head with how much "Fillory" was like Narnia. The students entire journey in "Fillory" could have almost been another Narnia story- yah it was much bloodier and gorier but if the characters in Narnia had been adults you could see this happening. I think what made me give it half a star less was that it just lacked so much originality, I think it would have been better if I couldn't draw so many parallels to other fantasy works before this one. I know that's a lot to ask, but I was hoping for something different.

That being said, I really did like it and found the resolutions satisfying. I'll probably read the sequel, mostly because I already won a copy of it, but this probably isn't a world I'd want to follow for a whole series, one or two books yes, but I'm not in love with it like the world was in love with the Harry Potter books or that children love the Narnia stories.

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