Monday, November 15, 2010

The Department of Lost and Found

The Department of Lost and Found, by Allison Winn Scotch.

There is a moment in every relationship when one of the parties senses its imminent demise. There's a moment of incredible clarity, when your stomach drops with a heavy sense of dread, and you feel like control is slipping through your fingertips even as you try to hold on. The night I bought our tickets to go to Sally's wedding and the one when Jake was dying for moo shu - that was the night I had that moment.

Natalie Miller is 30 years old and in perfect health - until she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her slimeball boyfriend breaks up with her the same day because he is having an affair, and she must rely on her friends and family to help her through it. She kinda/sorta has a crush on her OB GYN, Zach, but she doesn't want to be in a relationship while she has cancer. Meanwhile, her old boyfriend, Jake, hears about her diagnosis, and comes back to visit, and they end up embarking on a pseudo-relationship. Natalie also works for a senator and has been a workaholic for the past five years; to not work while she is out sick, then, is not helping.

The narrator (Natalie) sometimes came off as a little annoying, but overall I liked her. I also really liked the ending of the novel, although it was a bit predictable.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Before I Fall

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver.

I think of all the years that Lindsay's been holding on to this secret knowledge, this secret self who cried every night and scrubbed pillows clean of pee - the scariest secret of all, the past we're trying to forget.

And I think of all the times I sat in squirming silence, terrified I would say or do the wrong thing, terrified the dorky, lanky, horseback-riding loser inside me would rise up and swallow the new me, like a snake feasting on something. How I cleared the shelves of my trophies and dumped my beanbag chair and learned how to dress and never ate the hot lunch, and, above all, learned to stay away from the people who would drag me down, and carry me back to that place.

This book was kind of like the movie "Groundhog Day" except that instead of just repeating a day over and over, Samantha had to repeat the day of her death over and over. She decides to take more and more risks, since she figures it won't matter what she does, but later she decides to try to help people instead. The novel was really interesting because although the same scenarios repeated themselves over and over, she always did something different in each situation. The ending was kind of sad though - it was not what I expected it to be.

According to the author's website, this novel has been optioned for a feature film. It would definitely play out well on the big screen, in my opinion.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook - A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, by Ben Mezrich

Sitting on the plane, waiting for the engines to come on, Eduardo still couldn't believe it all. He'd eaten koala on a yacht. He'd gotten drunk in some of the poshest places in Northern California. And he'd been whispered numbers that would make him and Mark rich, really rich.

Whatever the numbers were, though, Eduardo knew that they weren't going to sell thefacebook. In his mind, it was way too early for that.

I wanted to read this novel because I had seen the movie "The Social Network" recently (click here for my review of it) and the movie was based on this book, which in turn was based on the real events that had led to the founding of Facebook. I had no idea so much controversy had surrounded its beginnings before I saw the movie, or that Mark Zuckerberg had essentially screwed over some of his friends, and as an avid Facebook user, I was intrigued by all of it. The novel ended up being mostly the same as the movie, with the exception of a few scenes here and there, and I liked it a lot because it was written in narrative format, rather than a dry biography-type form. The author, Ben Mezrich, went to Harvard as well, which was interesting (Zuckerberg and the former CEO of Facebook, Edwardo Saverin, had been Harvard students before starting Facebook - Saverin and not Zuckerberg went on to get his degree there). The book covers all the major events leading up to the creation of Facebook, and the events that happened after, which led to two major lawsuits being leveled against Mark Zuckerberg, both of which he lost.

4 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Stiltsville, by Susanna Daniel

Margo drives up for a long weekend every couple of months. She talks about moving to be closer to me, but though I am lonely for her, I don't encourage it - she needs to become steadier in her own life. I hope that one day she will have a baby. If this happens, though, I'll have to consider moving back, which is right now is unfathomable to me. When I think about Miami, it is as if all I loved about the place no longer exists. It is as if every regret I've ever had lives there. But I miss my daughter, and I would like our family to continue.

The mountains and changing seasons here remind me of my childhood. I miss the ocean, of course, but I do not care to live near it again.

This novel was one of the best I've read in a really long time, and it's actually the author's first book (the author, incidentally, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop). There actually is a place called Stiltsville in Florida, but after a hurricane in 1993 most of the houses were washed away, and the author's family had a house there.

The novel follows Francis through her life and marriage, and spans from the late 1960's to the 1990s. The ending is bittersweet but, interestingly enough, fits the book completely. We follow Francis from when she is a young woman of 26, to when she meets and marries her husband, Dennis; when she raises her only child, Margo; and when she has to struggle to deal with Dennis's illness later in life.

(First time ever, I think) 5 stars out of 5.

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