Friday, April 29, 2011

The Stormchasers

The Stormchasers, by Jenna Blum.

But even more Karena is crying for herself. She cries because of her cowardice, because she told Charles she would come back and never did. She cries because of her selfishness, because she has turned him in not just so he could get help but so she would be free to go. She cries because of these things she has discovered in her own cold heart, and most of all she cries because there are so many things she will never be able to tell anyone, not even her best friend; because her whole life long, there will be so much nobody will ever know.

I really enjoyed this book, the second by author Jenna Blum. I wasn't sure at first if I would or not, because I don't know anything about stormchasing, but Blum creates her scenes and character very vividly, that one can't help but be pulled into the story, which follows Karena as she searches for her twin brother, Charles, whom she hasn't seen in 20 years. She decides the best way to do this is to follow the storms that he does, with a stormchasing company, and eventually she finds him; when she does, the book takes us 20 years into the past, to show how they became estranged in the first place, which I also really liked because we get to see why they lost touch.

Blum's first novel is entitled Those Who Save Us, and I will soon be adding that to my list of books to read.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review. The opinions listed, however, are my own.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.

I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.

When you're five, you know your age down to the month.

Even in your twenties you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm - you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it.

Water for Elephants will be in theaters next Friday (April 22), starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in two of the lead roles, and so I thought I would read the novel first. I'm glad I did, as it was very good.

The novel follows Jacob (Pattinson, in his younger incarnation), who is now 93 years old and living in a nursing home. A circus has come to town and has got the nursing home residents all atwitter, and he is remembering how, when he was twenty-four, he used to work in the circus. The story is told in flashbacks to this time, and it's interesting to see how the past events have helped shaped whom he is in present-day.

Jacob falls in love with Marlena, one of the horse performers, but there's one problem: she's already married, to August, one of the leaders of the circus, who is also a paranoid schizophrenic. She married him when she was 17, to escape her parents in Boston, who wanted to marry her off to the richest man they could find, regardless of his age and looks, and the circus and August, a handsome man, seemed like the ideal choice at the time. Jacob was studying to be a vet at Cornell when he finds out that his parents have died in a car crash, and he jumped on the first train he found, which happened to be that of the Benzini Brothers', a traveling circus act.

The book was fantastic and I am very excited to see its movie adaptation, hopefully next week sometime.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Murderer's Daughters

The Murderers Daughters, by Randy Susan Meyers.

For one mean minute, I thought about what life would be like without my sister leaning on me, the end of constant responsibility for her body and soul, but before the idea could settle in, I slapped the thought out of my head.

We were here because I'd let my father into our house. Merry had her scar because I'd opened the door. That's why we were at Duffy. Visions of my mother's body floated up from where I'd buried them. I'd let my father into our house. I'd let him hurt everyone.

This novel was excellent. It follows two girls, Lulu and Merry, as they grow up as orphans, because of an incident when Lulu was 10 and Merry was 5 and their father killed their mother, as well as stabbing Merry. Their mother told Lulu to run for help, and she did, but not before their father had wielded his knife upon Merry and their mother. The father gets sent to prison and the girls live with their grandmother - his mother - for a while, but soon she dies and they are sent to an orphanage, as no one from their mother's side of the family wants to deal with them anymore. Eventually, one of the ladies who works at the orphanage adopts them, but there are issues there as well, and the girls never feel truly satisfied with their home life.

The book follows them from the 1970s until the 2000s, and we see both Lulu and Merry grow up and how this incident, which took place so early in their lives, affects them throughout.

4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to review. However, the opinions listed are my own.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, by David Sedaris.

From the short story "The Grieving Owl":

My next stop was the city zoo. I've heard there are some that house the animals in actual landscapes, fields and jungles and the like. Ours, I discovered, is more old-fashioned, geared towards the viewer rather than the viewed.
I don't know how much territory a hippo might require in the wild ... There's a pool for her to submerge herself in, and the ground around it is paved in cement. A sign in front of her display reads, LOIS, but that, she explained, was just her slave name. "I don't go by anything, not now, not ever," she told me. "It's just not the hippo way."

What struck me right off was her warmth and accessibility. You expect this with miniature goats, but hippos, I'd heard, were notoriously grumpy.

When I heard that David Sedaris had a new book out, I was very excited, as I LOVE most of his books, which up until now were memoirs. With this short story collection, he gives human characteristics to animals, but while still incorporating his trademark humor. I liked the collection, but I have to say that I like his memoirs more, and I hope that for his next novel he goes back to that genre.

There are sixteen short stories contained in this collection, and I definitely had a few favorites, although all of them are funny. "The Grieving Owl" (see excerpt above) was interesting, as was the first story, "The Cat and the Baboon," among others.

3.5 stars out of 5.

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