Monday, August 29, 2016
Published by Crown, 2016. Hardcover, 342 pgs
It's been several days since I read this, and each day I remember more details I loved about the story. I wouldn't have written any of the scenes differently, and it was simultaneously fun and terrifying. As soon as I felt like I had my footing, Crouch masterfully drove the action in another direction. Consistently disturbing, there are no lulls- managing to be suspenseful and puzzling from beginning to end.
I like the exploration of the "path not taken" idea, especially coupled with the complex science fiction element of multiverses. It's human nature to get so caught up in the mundane day-to-days that we take for granted our simplest, but most important, blessings. "No one tells you it's all about to change, to be taken away. There's no proximity alert, no indication that you're standing on the precipice. And maybe that's what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you're least expecting it. No time to flinch or brace." (pg 1 of my ARC). Crouch also looks at what would happen if versions of ourselves existed in different circumstances.
The relationship was spectacular. My investment in the outcome was rooted in Jason's sweet relationship with Daniela, and the trust and respect they had for each other. It managed to be heartwarming without the cheese factor. I got chills imagining the imagery in the art installation scene. I related to Jason's weird parental paradox when discussing his son- sometimes the older you get, the less you feel you understand. Crouch stayed true to his character's personalities, and I also appreciated how side characters were handled- one in particular (Hint: Amanda Lucas).
Crouch has written a book that is already receiving high praise from early readers, and I predict it will be a bestseller this year! This will work for readers who love Thrillers, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Romance, etc. There is something for everyone to enjoy, and that's a mark of a compelling story. I will join the bandwagon of other reviewers who believe this would make an excellent movie!
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Expected Publication: October 4, 2016. Hardcover, 272 pages
Three things struck me within the first page of this book. 1) The paper list maker part of me related to the daily tasks Eleanor assigns herself. 2) I imagine Eleanor acting similarly to how Renee Zellweger portrays Bridget Jones- well-intentioned but always finding herself in a pickle. 3) Semple's signature wit and humor from my beloved Where'd You Go Bernadette novel is back. Therefore, this review will be positive! Hurray!
Quite simply, if you enjoyed Where'd You Go Bernadette, the tone feels extremely similar. On the flip side, if that book wasn't your cup of tea, this might not be either. Eleanor has quite a bit in common with the the Bernadette protagonist. Both are quirky, artistically-frustrated, Seattle-based women with a school-aged child and a successful husband. These ladies are experiencing a multitude of life crisis's that affects their sanity and that of their family.
I enjoy reading about adult behavior in extremes, especially relating to parenthood or the workplace. For the same reason the movie Bad Moms is appealing, it's cathartic to vicariously laugh through these circumstances (and in many cases, uncomfortably realize how close you are to actually doing this stuff yourself.....eek!) In one instance, Eleanor finds herself laying on the ground. As people are concerned that she might be paralyzed because of her continual non-movement, she simply states that she's choosing not to get up at the moment. One of my favorite pages in the book (and it's hard to choose!) essentially has Eleanor stalking into the school nurse's office and loudly calling BS on her son Timby's "sickness". Who hasn't daydreamed of going postal in public from time to time?
Petty jealousy abounds in the snobby prep school environment. While this trope seems common, it usually works for me. The truth is that these settings often drive women crazy, and it's hilarious and relatable no matter what type of school your child attends. Incessant activities and trivialities test the will of any lady.
Semple has created another eccentric story with a family disappearance. As in her other work, there is a surprising reason for said disappearance, but the journey to the conclusion is consistently filled with more laugh out loud moments than in any book I've read. If you enjoy outrageous, ridiculous, unrelentingly funny dialogue-with a dash of heartfelt sentiment- I urge you to try Semple's books. Whether or not they're for you, they have a truly unique flair. She's firmly one of my favorites, and one I can always count on for a big belly laugh.
REVIEW: ANATOMY OF LOVE- A NATURAL HISTORY OF MATING, MARRIAGE, AND WHY WE STRAY BY HELEN FISHER, PHD
I picked this up on the recommendation of Rebecca Schinsky from Book Riot. As a psychology major, she always seeks out smart nonfiction titles. Fisher originally published this in 1992, and while I had wanted to read that edition for some time, the online dating and texting environment of modern times has made many parts obsolete. In the prologue, Fisher admits that most of this book is new.
Quick note: Don't let the length of this text put you off. It's technically only 320 pages, with the last 130 pages devoted to Appendices, Notes, Bibliography, and a couple fun quizzes if you're interested. All par for the course when science is involved, man!
Fisher's prominence as a biological anthropologist allows her to give in-depth detail on the mating habits and courtship of early hominins millions of years ago, as well as comparisons to loving behaviors of wide-ranging species.The cultural experiences that affect romance- determining whom you love, where, and when- were quite fascinating, as well as the reasons that the Seven Year Itch phenomenon is biologically more like the 3-4 year itch. This book will give you a case of the "Did you knows?" One more neat (and kind of annoying fact)....did you know that going from traveling on all fours to bipedalism in the jungle made carrying infants more difficult, thus forcing females to become more reliant on men for food procurement while they "stayed home" with their young? Way to reduce an even hunting partnership! Walking on two feet instead of all fours had many benefits though, so I'm mostly okay with it...ha.
The informative ways in which she discusses humanity's evolution from four broad, basic styles of thinking (each associated with one of four brain systems: dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen) provided explanation to all the "chemical" talk you hear thrown around concerning infatuation and love.
There is a lot of repetition, but that worked for me since science isn't my strong point, and hearing details multiple times helped the absorption of material. There were sections I found tedious and skimmed only briefly. While some of the info isn't surprising, I did find the positive outlook she has on the future of dating (with the prevalence of I-phones and dating apps) surprising. This made me breathe a bit easier as I have girls who will be navigating this territory in the upcoming years. I would recommend to anyone who has a strong interest in this subject, but might pick up a more anecdotal book if not.
"In small towns the public library may be the only noncommercial and nonreligious space where people can gather to meet neighbors and sustain the ties that create a sense of community." (Pg 83).
The library's ability to create diverse collections is astounding. For example, "The Queens library has the largest circulation of any in the United States. The borough has one of the largest immigrant populations in the US....and is one of the most ethnically diverse places on earth. The librarians speak Russian, Hindi, Chinese, Korean, Gujarati, and Spanish. If the New York Public Library, the Queens Library, and the Brooklyn Public Library were considered one institution, it would be the largest public library in the world in terms of both collection size and circulation." (page 68). These facts made my happy juices flow! Imagine the much-needed learning and understanding this cultivates. It puts into perspective the importance of funding these incredible places.
The anecdotes from Ann Patchett and and Barbara Kingsolver were my favorites, as I've enjoyed their novels immensely. My favorite Patchett lines:
"We may never have full equality in our legal system, our schools, or our healthcare, but in our libraries there is parity: all are welcome, all books are free, and, if you can wait a little while, all books are available."
I will end this review (I suppose more of a synopsis of my favorite parts) with Patchett's simple and perfect advice: "so know this- if you love your library, use your library." This is worth your time, plus it's gorgeous.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
My four star rash of reviews continues! Once again, my Book of the Month selection did not disappoint. I enjoyed this fast read immensely, and it was the epitome of a page turner. I predict a movie will come of this, if production can figure out a way to translate all of Lo's inner monologues to screen in some inventive way.
I've seen some negative reviews, and will concede that the end could be predictable to a few (like any mystery), and "the unreliable narrator reporting a crime" is getting a bit overused in novels lately (yes, a la Girl on the Train.) Side note: While I enjoyed that book, I think the movie trailer looks 100 times better!
The claustrophobic nature of the ship setting added to my general unease as I was nervously reading, and heightened my investment in the outcome. This was important- as this book doesn't evoke empathy through character study, rather a laying out of general facts on each person. For example, we know there is an extreme travel writer with a shady past who creeps around. However, we aren't in his head, and we only get these facts mixed with basic interactions in the public areas of the ship.
Any fans of Agatha Christie will appreciate the style. I also liked the insertion of newspaper articles, e-mails, and chat room forum snippets between the chapters. It added extra confusion and spiciness to the mix. I enjoyed being forced to doubt my interpretation of the facts. This is a fun, perfect book for summer.... and if you're extra daring- read on a cruise ship! :-)