Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Weight of Silence

The Weight of Silence, by Heather Gudenkauf.

When Antonia laughed, those around here did too, except for Calli. Calli hadn't laughed for a long time. She smiled her sweet, close-lipped grin, but an actual giggle, which once was emitted freely and sounded of chimes, never came, though she knew her mother waited expectantly.

This novel was excellent, and I hope that it's turned into a movie some day. Petra and Calli are best friends, but Calli hasn't talked since she was four years old. One day, both girls go missing, and the girls' families are stricken with grief; what they don't know, however, is that the two disappearances are not related. Griff, Calli's father, has dragged her into the forest in a drunken stupor and a jealous rage, whereas Petra is in real danger.

The novel was told in 3rd person throughout but each chapter was told from a different character's point of view. Petra only received one chapter, but Calli, Ben (Calli's brother), Antonia (Calli's mother), Griff, and Deputy Sheriff Louis, a former boyfriend of Antonia's, all have their own chapters, which helps to make the novel as strong as it is.

I am looking forward to Ms. Gudenkauf's next novel, which, according to her Twitter, will be entitled The Bitter Season.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fixing Delilah

Fixing Delilah, by Sarah Ockler.

The maples near the porch shake their rustling green heads in the breeze, but Mom and Aunt Rachel don't notice. They just stare at each other, standing here in the middle of things with their arms dangling and the screen door half-open, the same blood flowing through their veins and a thousand pounds of unspoken words keeping them apart.

Delilah remembers staying at her grandparents' house in Red Falls, Vermont, when she was younger, and then after her grandfather's funeral her mom and she never went back. When her grandmother dies, however, they must go to fix up the house and sell it, and in the process they meet up with her mom's sister, Delilah's Aunt Rachel, and a childhood friend of Delilah's, Patrick. Originally they are resistant at leaving the city for the summer, but as time goes on, Delilah finds that perhaps everything she needs is right there in Red Falls.

I liked this novel a lot and the protagonist, Delilah, is very believable/relatable. There are a lot of secrets in her family, starting with her Aunt Stephanie, who died at age 19, and over the course of the summer, Delilah starts to find out some of these secrets in unusual ways. Then there's Patrick, who was inseparable with Delilah when they were little, and who has grown up and become very cute ... and a new friend she meets, Emily, whose family owns a coffee shop in the town. Red Falls makes Delilah realize that maybe her "city" life wasn't ideal after all, and that sometimes "home" can be the place you least expect it to be.

4 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Delirium, by Lauren Oliver.

I comfort myself by thinking that in less than two months this will seem like nothing to me. All of it will fall away and I'll rise up new and free, like a bird winging up into air.

That's what Hana doesn't understand, has never understood. For some of us it's about more than the
deliria. Some of us, the lucky ones, will get the chance to be reborn: newer, fresher, better. Healed and whole and perfect again, like a misshapen slab of iron that comes out of the fire glowing, glittering, razor sharp.

That's all I want - all I have ever wanted. That is the promise of the cure.

This is one of the best dystopian novels I have read in quite a while, and the good news is that it's actually going to be a trilogy, with the second installment coming out in March 2012.

At first glance, Lena's life seems pretty normal. She lives in Portland, Maine, with her aunt and uncle and cousins, and she is eager to graduate high school and go on to college, provided she passes her "entry" exams of sorts. But she's also counting down to something else: the day she receives the cure, and no longer has to worry about being infected with amor deliria nervosa, or love. Once you get the cure, you are not as emotional, and you don't have to worry about little things. You get matched with someone who you will spend the rest of your life with - after the cure started, the divorce rates became very, very low - and you will have children with that person, the amount of which will be determined by the government.

Her friend Hana, however, sees the world a bit differently, and the night that Lena meets her at a illegal party changes everything for Lena.

Lena's mother had committed suicide, and she had been given the cure three times but had never been fully cured. Lena's worst fear is that she will end up like her, but at the same time, a part of her knows that her mother loved her very much, and that type of love is rare for an older person, once who is supposed to have been cured.

This book was fantastic and in a weird way, very realistic. It takes place in the future, as most dystopian novels do, but it doesn't say when, although a brief timeline of sorts is given: about 60 years ago, the United States put up borders, to keep its residents "safe"; Lena is just now realizing that although it may do that, it's also keeping them fenced in. The Invalids live in the Wilds, though some people tell her that they are just a rumor, and the Wilds are beyond Portland's borders. When Alex, a supposedly cured boy she meets, takes her there one time, she sees just how different (and better) the Wilds are then the "civilized" areas of Portland, and she begins to see that the government may have been lying to them all this time about the cure.

The "cure" makes people not feel emotions (sadness, or love - amor deliria nervosa); the only thing I can really compare it to is a lobotomy, though most of the people who have it are mentally fine afterwards (a small number die or become mentally unstable, though). Her aunt Carol behaves like a good parent should but never shows any love towards Lena, because she is cured - she makes sure she has a roof over her head and hot meals on the table but that's about it.

The novel ended rather suddenly so I was hoping there would be more to come. I will definitely be checking out the next book in the trilogy in March of next year.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Don't Know How She Does It

I Don't Know How She Does It, by Allison Pearson.

Monday, 1:37 A.M. How did I get here? Can someone please tell me that? Not in this kitchen, I mean in this life. It is the morning of the school carol concert and I am hitting mince pies. No, let us be quite clear about this, I am distressing mince pies, an altogether more demanding and subtle process.

Discarding the Sainsbury luxury packaging, I winkle the pies out of their pleated foil cups, place them on a chopping board, and bring down a rolling pin on their blameless floury faces. This is not as easy as it sounds, believe me.
And homemade is what I'm after here. Home is where the heart is. Home is where the good mother is, baking for her children.

Kate Reddy works full-time - more than full-time, really - as a hedge-fund manager, all while taking care of her two children (with the help of her husband and a nanny, of course) and trying to be a good wife. Her husband, Richard, works full-time as well, as an architect, and Kate often works until 7pm or later. She tries to juggle all of her responsibilities, but inevitably it ends up taking a toll on her, her husband, and her kids, and when this happens she has to figure out which is more important to her: her job or her home life?

I wanted to read this novel because the movie adaptation of it, with Sarah Jessica Parker, is coming out next week, and the novel was frequently hilarious. It's set in England, and I think for the movie they've Americanized it, but I can see the movie being great if it sticks to the novel. SJP is the main character, Kate Reddy, and Greg Kinnear will be playing her husband, Rich, while Pierce Brosnan plays Jack, the man she has an "email affair" of sorts with ... which I found to be a bit ironic because in the novel it is mentioned that he looks like George Clooney.

(George, too busy to be in this movie?)

The stay-at-home "mums" in the novel frequently tell Kate that "they don't know how she does it" (hence the book title) and frankly, Kate doesn't know how she does it either. All too frequently she must make choices like staying home to tend to a sick child, or hopping on the plane to New York for a business trip, and near the end of the novel events occur that make her question if two incomes are really worth it, or if they could maybe get by with just one.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness

Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness, by Dominique Browning.

At the start of this journey, all I could think about was loss: lost work, my children who had left home; my house slipping from my grasp; my parents slipping into their last years. Lost love, on top of it all, because I was finally forced to confront the failure of a relationship that had preoccupied me for seven years. Attachment, abandonment, misery - I was plagued, until, mysteriously, something in my brain shifted into a new gear, and I was no longer experiencing all the changes I was going through at the loss of everything I loved. Instead, I began feeling the value of change and ... experience, events - yes, some of them calamitous - that have unexpectedly come to enhance the quality of my days.

In other words, life.

It never gets easier. But if we're paying attention, it can get simpler.

I recently read Slow Love for the BlogHer Book Club and it was decent but not great. It almost read like “stream of consciousness” writing, although the author presents complete sentences and grammar. Browning’s story is interesting, and one that we can all relate to, but I frequently found myself bored, save for quick snatches of humor sprinkled throughout: “The table in my date’s kitchen was beautifully set; clearly we were to eat alone, while the children were led to a trough somewhere.”

Characters are introduced and then never spoken of again, save for the infamous “Stroller,” the married-but-separated man with whom she has been having an “affair,” and her two sons, though she is now divorced. She reveals some delicious gossip about Conde Nast, such as how she was actually scolded one time for not wearing enough designer clothing to work, yet she is lost after the magazine she works for closes its doors, as she has worked there for 13 years.

She finally decides to sell her New York house where she raised her children, and move to her vacation home in Rhode Island, away from Stroller, and it is here where she finds happiness. She also rebuilds the house since the foundation is sagging – must be nice to have the money to do this while unemployed. Browning’s musings are sometimes right on the mark, but unfortunately often reads like that one annoying friend (everyone has one) droning on about their entire life story.

2.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sisterhood Everlasting

Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brashares.

Once upon a time there were four pregnant women who met in an aerobics gym. I'm not joking; that's how this story begins. These large, fit, sweatband-sporting women bore four daughters, all born in and around the month of September. These girls started out as babies together and grew to be girls and then women. A sisterhood, if you will.

As I look back on them - on us - I realize that though we aren't related by blood, we are like four siblings.

This is the culmination to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and it checks in on the four girls when they are 29. Carmen is engaged to Jones and is getting to be a well-known actress. Tibby has moved to Australia with her boyfriend Brian, and Bee lives in California with her boyfriend, Eric, as well. Lena lives in Providence and has an on-again, off-again relationship with a man who works at a sandwich shop. They all keep in touch but they haven't seen each other in a while, until Tibby sends them all airplane tickets to Santorini (Greece), where they met up over ten years ago.

Something sad and shocking happens after about the first third of the book, and at first I was angry at the author for putting in this twist, but gradually I grew to accept it, and it defined the rest of the novel. I enjoyed the other Pants books, as well as the two movies based on them, and this provides a fitting ending to their story, although I actually wouldn't mind seeing even more stories about them in the future.

4 stars out of 5.

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