Review: The Goldfinch


The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316055437,  October 2013, 784pp.)

The Short of It:

Memory, in and of itself, has the ability to restore and destroy.

The Rest of It:

While visiting a New York art museum, Theodore Decker, thirteen, is separated from his mother in an explosion that leaves him dazed and confused. In the immediate moments after the blast, Theo sees, and takes, a valuable painting for safekeeping. Not fully understanding what has happened or why, he stumbles out of the rubble but his life is forever frozen in time. When he realizes he has lost his dear mother, he finds himself floating through life, encountering many obstacles along the way and revisiting those final moments in the museum over and over again.

This is one hell of a book.

It’s long and I know some readers who won’t even touch it because of its length but they are really doing themselves a disservice because it is really a fine piece of work. I had planned to read it “someday” but when it was chosen for book club, I was pushed encouraged to read it a little bit sooner than I had planned and then it was awarded the Pulitzer which piqued my interest even more.

The Goldfinch  is an adventure. It meanders, there is action but not that much of it and it’s repetitive when it comes to behaviors like the excessive drinking and drug use that riddle its pages. But even with all of this going on, it’s incredibly heartbreaking and yes, beautiful. At first glance, Theo seems to be handling his loss quite well, but with each page, his pain and devastation become more real, more tangible and he becomes more reliant on the actions of others to save him. Not to mention the painting and the significance behind him taking it in the first place. Its purpose, so it seems, is to remind him of that fateful day but as it certainly does just that, it’s also a constant reminder of what he needs to do to keep it safe.

This is a book with some memorable characters too. Boris, the Ukrainian kid Theo hooks up with, is part hoodlum, part philosopher but more than anything, Theo’s best friend. Think “The Artful Dodger”. Popper, a mutt that Theo takes pity on, ends up being a loyal companion to Theo and one cannot forget Hobie, the lovable furniture maker who takes Theo in when he has nowhere else to go. These unlikely characters come together to essentially save Theo from himself, but it’s not always evident that that is what is happening. There are lots of pitfalls along the way and the journey can be tedious, but in the end, I found myself loving the story, wishing I had taken more time with the last few pages. It’s about love and trust and redemption and what’s not to like with its art world setting?

Talking about it here, I realize just how much I miss the characters. So, even though it’s long and intimidating to some, I urge you to pick it up because it’s really a book to experience first-hand.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Mr. Mercedes


Mr. Mercedes
Mr. Mercedes (book #1 of 3)
By Stephen King
(Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781476754451, 437pp.)

The Short of It:

The Girl (my daughter) asked, “Why is there a bloody umbrella and a tiny happy face on this cover?”

“Because it’s Stephen King,” I said.

But of course.

The Rest of It:

Mr. Mercedes is a departure from what we’ve come to expect from King. Kind of. Sort of. Okay, maybe not. Stephen King himself is calling it his first hard-boiled detective story. It is that, but it’s got his signature KING stamp all over it and if you handed it to me without a name attached to it, I’d still be able to tell it’s King’s writing. For this, I am glad because I’ve really come to love King’s writing and his deft handling of the characters he develops.

The book opens with a Mercedes plowing into a crowd of people at a job fair. Eight people are killed and fifteen injured. The killer is never caught. Bill Hodges, the cop who tried to solve the case has since retired. He spends his days sacked out in his recliner, watching Jerry Springer. When he gets a letter from Mr. Mercedes himself, his first reaction is doubt but as the communication continues, he realizes that this is his chance to catch the one that got away. But he’s not in shape and he’s technically not a cop anymore which makes him the underdog. An adorable, lovable underdog who you can’t help cheering for.

King tells us who the killer is very early on. This is no secret and is shared in every blurb you’ll read, but what I love about giving us this info so early is that we get to spend time with  a true, twisted individual. Brady Hartsfield wears many hats. He’s a computer geek by day, going out on service calls to “fix” the computers that others have f’d up in some way but he’s also the Mr. Tastey ice cream guy, driving around the neighborhood handing you a cold one while thinking terrible thoughts about you. He has a super-special relationship with his mother which is classic King in my opinion. I’ll let you ponder that one.

As with most King books, included are a host of characters that you end up loving in some way. There’s plenty of action, especially towards the end and now that I know this is book one of a trilogy, the ending makes a little more sense. Overall, I really loved it but while talking to others, we all agreed that the ending was a little too easy and for that, I might shy away from giving it a perfect five stars but as a King fan, I felt like it had all of the required elements to satisfy me and it was fun to read. Especially fun to read with others.

This would be a good book for someone brand new to King. There’s no “woo woo” supernatural stuff going on. No clowns in sewers. Just good storytelling. I encourage you to pick up a copy and I cannot wait for book two, Finders Keepers to hit shelves early next year.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review & Giveaway: Under a Summer Sky


Under a Summer Sky
Under a Summer Sky
By Nan Rossiter
(Kensington Publishing Corporation, Paperback, 9780758283917, April 2014, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Faith, love and family in a gorgeous Cape Cod setting.

The Rest of It:

Laney Coleman and her minister husband Noah live in an old, beloved Cape Cod house with their five rambunctious boys. Their lives are full, but happy. With the two oldest boys heading out to college, this particular summer seems bittersweet. Her boys are growing up and when her youngest son is bullied, their lives take on a complexity that threatens to mar this perfect time. But as with most situations, faith and patience is what pulls Laney through and when she finds herself hosting her brother-in-law’s wedding, she decides to embrace the chaos.

If you haven’t read Rossiter’s books before, you are in for a real treat. This book can be read as a stand-alone novel but it builds on the characters introduced in her previous books. It’s really a culmination of all of her novels. It was nice to visit these characters again, given the heartache that some of them endured in the past.

This is one of those books that you reach for and then smile while reading. It’s a feel-good book. You know the type I am talking about. It contains characters that you care about, a gorgeous setting, food talk (think chowder and peach cobbler), and I can’t forget the furry, four-legged members of the family because Rossiter manages to work them into every book. But as pleasant as it is to read Rossiter’s books, I am always surprised as how she manages to weave in the heavier topics. Aging, health concerns, bullying and characters who question their faith are all included here and it’s what makes this family so real.

This is the perfect summer read because it offers up a lot more than just a sunny locale. It’s filled with feel-good moments but at the same time, really makes you think about the issues presented. Rossiter never fails to impress me. I don’t know how she does it! Her books are always a hit with me and I love how she writes about what she loves. She makes it all look so effortless. The inclusion of the some of the recipes featured is a big plus. I have already made the pasta sauce once and it’s about to be made again later this week.

I have suggested Rossiter’s books to more people than I can count so when she offered a copy for me to give away, well… I jumped at the opportunity. If you’d like a chance to win your own copy, check out the details below.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

This giveaway is for one copy of Under a Summer Sky and is open to the US and Canada. One winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the author. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on June 6, 2014 (pacific). I will contact the winners for his/her mailing address.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! (now closed)

Source: Sent to me by the author.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Me Before You

Me Before You
Me Before You
By Jojo Moyes
(Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780143124542, July 2013, 400pp.)

The Short of It:

Smart, funny, heartwarming and yes, a bit gut-wrenching. I was warned to not read it in public due to its sob-inducing content but it doesn’t really matter where you read it, as long as you read it!

The Rest of It:

It’s difficult for 35-year-old Will Traynor to accept his quadriplegic status. Prior to being struck by a motorcycle, he traveled all over the world living life to the fullest. But his days and nights are now spent reliant on others. Nathan, his primary caregiver, takes care of his medical needs, but when his family sees how despondent he is about his current condition and the fact that’s he’s attempted to kill himself once already, they intervene by hiring a secondary caregiver by the name of Louisa Clark.

Louisa (Lou) is a struggling 26-year-old. Having just lost her job, her prospects are slim and having to support her father, mother and sister forces her to consider jobs that she normally would not give a second thought to. When she’s sent to interview for a caregiver position, she gives it a go, not realizing what her true purpose will be, which is essentially to give Will a reason to live again.

Tall order, huh?

At first, Lou has no idea what her job is. She’s there to be a companion to Will and to watch him when Nathan is not around. Although she feels awkward around Will. she quickly realizes what she’s been tasked with and after a minor freak-out, she embraces it. Albeit, not all that confidently at first, but after getting to know Will and what he’s all about, she feels sure that she can sway his position on life in general.

I think the success of this book, has a lot to do with Lou as a character. She’s efficient but in a bumbling sort of way. Not perfect, but her flaws make for some entertaining reading. Her too tight skirts and odd sense of style are endearing but her genuine concern over Will is what makes this entire situation a bitter pill to swallow. Her dedication to him and yes, her eventual love for him prove to be very challenging obstacles, but ones that she is willing to push through in order to get the result she wants.

What makes this story even more special, is that it’s as much about Lou, as it is about Will. From the moment Will sees Lou, he knows why she’s there. Even though he’s chair bound, he realizes he’s in the perfect position to see that Lou (he calls her Clark) lives the life that he cannot. Through new experiences, some they make together and some Lou manages on her own, the two manage to add a little bit of adventure to their day-to-day existence.

Through it all, you can’t help but be reminded of Will’s precarious health. His inability to regulate his body temperature, his increased risk for infection and his drastic mood swings are all reminders of what they are up against. In the middle of happiness, comes heartache and it’s so incredibly difficult to understand how a life can change so drastically in such a short amount of time. The unfairness of it all will leave you shaking your head and if you’re the type to cry while reading, you will definitely well-up with this one.

This is the type of read that will take you through all of the emotions. I was happy, sad, disappointed and mad. There were times when I wanted nothing else but to curse Will’s mother or shake some common sense into Will, but all in all, the experience of reading this book was like spending time with dear friends. It took me forever to pick it up because I really considered it to be straight-up romance and it’s really, so much more than that.

If you haven’t picked it up yet, you must! The cost of care and the use and availability of assisted-suicide are some of the weightier issues included in this novel. Will is rich, so the cost of his care is not really an issue but I imagine it would be for a lot of folks in the same situation. My book club chose not to read Me Before You but I think we missed out on a good discussion opportunity because there is plenty to discuss with this one.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via a blog giveaway. Thanks Jean!
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Dept. of Speculation

Dept of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation
By Jenny Offill
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385350815, January 2014, 192pp.)

The Short of It:

Dept. of Speculation is a glittery, moving entity that grabs the reader quickly with its sharp and lovely prose.

The Rest of It:

This novel is quite different from anything I’ve read before. Reading it, was like gazing into a prism. It dazzled me with its simplicity and had me rereading passages every time I turned a page.

The story is told by the Narrator, who later becomes The Wife. She marries, has a child and then when the marriage begins to fall apart, she quietly observes the destruction almost as if she is a stranger on the outside, looking in. Infidelity plays a large role, as does the exhaustion that comes with raising a child. But in the midst of the not-so-good, is the good. The smell of her baby’s head, the way her husband used to look at her, the fact that they’ve come this far, even with all of the angst. There is something to be said for working through your problems, and that is what The Wife does, in her own head, as she carefully weighs what’s important to her.

Before getting married, we possess a sense of self. We know who we are and most often, what we hope to be. But once married, that plan or that sense of self often doesn’t pan out or changes into something else. That is the case here. With marriage, comes experience and life lessons and when we have children, we learn from that experience as well and it changes us. It would be impossible for it not to.

This book captures that moment of when Me, becomes We and then back again. Don’t let the book’s length fool you either. It’s short but packed with meaning. There’s plenty to reflect on here and although it certainly deals with the struggle that lots of married couples experience, it’s hopeful and tinged with the promise of something better.

Dept. of Speculation is a lovely read. I highly recommend it. Oh, and if you don’t read it, I may have to stop talking to you. I just threw that in to see who’s paying attention.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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