Friday, October 24, 2014

Drinking and Tweeting by Brandi Glanville

Reviewed by Meygan

We all know that the media loves celebrity gossip.  (Remember the Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt divorce? Tabloids STILL talk about their divorce nine years later!) I have been guilty of reading these magazines while waiting on my groceries to be bagged, and, as pathetic as it sounds, there are celebrities that I want to know more about. 

When a copy of Brandi Glanville’s book Drinking and Tweeting: and other Brandi Blunders made its way to me, I was somewhat inclined to read the book because her name was very familiar. I didn’t know anything about Brandi other than she was on The Real Housewives and although I had never watched the show, I had friends who ranted and raved about Brandi and her unfiltered mouth. So, I googled her and found that her ex-husband, Eddie Cibrian, left her for Leann Rimes. I’m still not sure why, but I wanted to read Brandi’s story. Also, it had been a while since I read what I call a “junk food” book (a book that you read for enjoyment only and retain nothing beneficial from it). 

Brandi and Eddie’s marriage was never perfect. He had several affairs and he wasn’t the best hands-on father to their children. Nonetheless, Brandi was wealthy and by being married to Eddie, she was able to live in sunny California, close to Los Angeles. Brandi had ignored Eddie’s first affair because she was comfortable with forgiving him due to her circumstances. (Where would she go if she ever left him? She had given up a modeling career to stay home with their two children.) 

However, thanks to Celebrity Gossip sites and magazines, Brandi caught wind that Eddie was having another affair and this time it was with country singer, Leann Rimes. With Eddie two-timing her yet again, Brandi decided that enough was enough. She was filing for divorce. 

Brandi’s Drinking and Tweeting is a somewhat humorous book that gives readers insight just how ugly a celebrity divorce can be. There were times when I felt sorry for Brandi because she was a complete wreck after the divorce. I couldn’t feel too sorry for her though because the woman “downgraded” to a Land Rover because of finances, and she also dropped thousands of dollars for a plastic surgery. (I’ll give you a hint—the surgery wasn’t for her nose.) But in spite of her vulgar name-calling language, a reader doesn’t have to be a genius to see that she loved and possibly still loves her ex-husband. Journalists don’t realize that when they capture this celebrity sleaze, they aren’t just destroying a person’s reputation—they may be destroying their life. However, if not for the tabloids and paparazzi then Brandi wouldn’t have known about Eddie’s second affair, so kudos to her for dumping him for good! 

Drinking and Tweeting isn’t on my favorite book list or my worst book list. If I had to create a list for Drinking and Tweeting, I would place it on the “not sure why I read that, but it was OK” list. I’m sure we all have checked out a book unsure why we were intrigued to read it. Drinking and Tweeting wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as I hoped, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are fan-crazy about Brandi Glanville. Her writing style and language reminds me of Chelsea Handler, so for those of you who like Chelsea Handler’s books and Brandi Glanville, then you may want to check out Drinking and Tweeting.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nevermore: McCarthy,the Seine, Good Girl, Good Luck of Right Now, and Vonnegut

Nevermore opened with another book by Cormac McCarthy.  All the Pretty Horses is the first in the Border Trilogy and begins after the death of John Grady Cole’s rancher grandfather, which means that sixteen year old Cole has to leave the only way of life he’s ever known.  He and a buddy leave Texas and head to Mexico, meeting up with an even younger sharpshooter along the way. The style is taunt and readable, and it seems obvious that McCarthy must have spent some time in the Southwest.  It’s far more than a typical “coming of age” story, and McCarthy’s writing has been compared to Faulkner’s.  Jud commented that it has “flowery language for a dry place” and that it could be used as a travel guide to living rough in Mexico. 

That segued into The Secret Life of the Seine by Mort Rosenblum, which details the life of folks living in houseboats on the Parisian river.  Some are quite well to do, which others struggle to make a living.  Rosenblum, a reporter, ended up on a boat after losing his apartment.  He became fascinated with the characters he encountered, hence the book.  It can also be used as a cautionary tale about the problems of living on a boat. 

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick tells the story of  38 year old Bartholomew Neil  whose mother’s death throws him into a bit of a panic.  He’s not quite sure how to deal on his own.  Jud describes it as “a humorous look at how [Neil} deals with life” but that readers may not know whether to laugh or cry.  Quick is also the author of Silver Linings Playbook.

Another reviewer read and recommended Good Girl by Mary Kubica. Mia is a free spirited art teacher, daughter of a prominent Chicago family, when she is taken hostage and held for ransom.  The novel deals with Stockholm Syndrome, but it so much more than that.  “Excellent, excellent book, reads well,” said our reviewer.  “This is a wonderful book.”

Finally, Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan continued to entertain another member who wanted everyone to know that while it is science fiction, it has real meaning.  It pokes fun at some aspects of our culture and ridicules our policies.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Reviewed by Meygan Cox

Nick and Amy Dunne appear to have the perfect marriage. Both are writers living in New York City, and Amy has quite the trust fund set back for her and Nick’s future. However, their perfect marriage begins to crumble when they both lose their jobs, Amy gives most of her savings to keep her parents from going bankrupt, and Nick is asked to move back to his home state Missouri so he can take care of his ill mother. I believe anyone would agree that all of these reasons would take a toll on almost any marriage. Nick and Amy begin to argue a lot, using both words and silence to state their case, and although they are both miserable, neither one of them wants to make the first step to getting a divorce.

On their five year wedding anniversary, Nick receives a phone call from his neighbor telling him that Nick’s front door is wide open. Nick finds this unusual, so he goes home. There he finds messed up furniture and broken glass—the indication of a struggle. Nick calls the police and the police file a missing person report. Where has Amy Dunne gone? 

I couldn’t set this book down without feeling I was betraying the author. I just knew that the story would be more engrossing, more enticing with each chapter I read. I read this book before I went to bed, on my lunch breaks, and every other second of time I was given to spare. I found myself waking up thinking about the book. Where DID Amy go? Who took her? Did Nick kill her? They HAD been arguing right before she disappeared… 

The last few chapters were mind blowing. I finished Gone Girl a couple of days ago and I am still thinking about what I read. To me, that is what makes a good book a good book—you think about the story long after reading it.  I craved more Gone Girl and I knew that I just had to see the movie.
With a movie adaptation, you never know what to expect. Will the writers of the movie stick to the novel? Will the movie be a completely different story and the only thing in common is the title? I was nervous. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I am happy to say that although there were a few changes in the movie, most of the changes was minor. The ending was changed just a bit, and I found the movie ending less thrilling.  Still, the people I was with hadn’t read Gone Girl and they liked the ending, even though they found it confusing. (I had to explain a part to them because the movie didn’t elaborate on a certain point as much as the book did, causing it to be easily missed in the movie.) The actors and actresses were cast to a tee. I was a bit surprised at first to find that Ben Affleck would be playing Nick (I’m not exactly his biggest fan), but he did a great job. I sympathized with movie Nick more than I did book Nick, I will say that, but Ben did a good job nonetheless. 

The ending of the book provokes more questions, but I believe it answers more questions than the movie did. My husband, who does read sometimes but said no thanks to reading Gone Girl told me that he wished he had read the novel before seeing the movie. You are truly missing out if you don’t read the book before you see the movie. If you see the movie without reading Gone Girl, well, I’m not sure if you will truly understand Nick and Amy Dunne.

 There are already rumors floating around that there will be a Gone Girl 2. What do you all think?  

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Reviewed by  Meygan

From my own reading experience, I would say that there are two types of “good” books. The first category consists of books that you take your time reading because you want the story to last forever. Then there’s the second category. This category is comprised of books that you read within 24 hours, taking the risk of falling asleep at work or school the next day because your love for the book has become almost an addiction and you can’t function without knowing what happen next. This, my friends, is the category where the YA novel The Maze Runner by James Dashner belongs. I was hooked within the first two chapters. By the time I reached the half point of the book, I realized that World War III could have happened outside and it still wouldn’t have pulled my attention away from The Maze Runner

As the book opens, a young man named Thomas wakes up alone in a crate. He is startled, to say the least.  He also realizes that his memory has been erased. He is lifted up through a concrete-looking tunnel, only to be greeted by the sun and a group of guys he does not know peeking down at him. The guys poke fun at Thomas, calling him “Greenie” (a term for the “new guy on the block”), but they do at least help him out of the crate. When lifted out of the crate, Thomas notices something is peculiar about the forest setting he stands in—the entire area is surrounded by stone-like walls. When he questions what the walls are for, one of the guys inform Thomas that the walls are a maze which open and close. They go on to explain that during the day, the walls to the maze open, allowing enough time for the “runners” (a group of the fastest runners that are voted in by the others) to try and find a way to escape the maze. Thomas is full of question: why are they in the maze? Who put them there? How can they escape? 

Unfortunately, no one has the answers to those questions However, Thomas is warned to never walk outside of the maze’s walls. Only the runners are allowed to leave during the day, and if they aren’t back by a night then the walls will close, leaving them to face the “grievers” (a semi-mechanical monster) that lurk the walls of the maze. Thomas is told that no one has ever stayed a night outside of the maze and survived. 

Do the anyone survive the maze? If so, how? If not, who will pick up the pieces and try to find a way out of the maze? Also, even though everyone’s memory has been erased, some of the guys do have recollections of their past. One boy in particular recalls that his life before the maze isn’t something he wishes to return to, leaving him to wonder if he should leave with the others or stay in the maze. There is a catch to remaining in the maze though—eventually the grievers will pick the boys off one by one if they stay. Do any of the guys choose to remain in the maze and take their chances with the grievers? Or will they fight the grievers and escape? Is escape even possible? Who has put them there and why? All these questions should keep you turning pages. 

I cannot finish a book if I don’t like or can’t relate to any of the characters. I’m sure I have passed on great reading opportunities because I just couldn’t set aside my hatred for the characters. Luckily I did not have this experience while reading The Maze Runner. Thomas, the main character, is very likeable and there were parts where I literally cheered for him. For example, Thomas forgets the rule of not leaving the maze when two of the guys are on the outside of the maze—one limping from an injury and the other trying to carry his partner. The boys know they will never get through the walls in time, but the one guy refuses to leave his injured friend’s side.  Thomas, despite the boys’ pleading, begins to run, barely making it through the maze in time. (This is the part where I cheered out loud while sitting, thankfully alone, in the staff lounge, shouting cries of, “Yes!”, “Hurry! Run!” and other words that I do not wish to mention.) Although Thomas isn’t the “leader” per se, I would have to say that he certainly becomes the leader when the others give up. 

What I enjoyed the most about this book was the characters. The setting was cool, too. I couldn’t help but to think of The Maze Runner as being a modern version of The Lord of the Flies. If I had three thumbs, I would give The Maze Runner three thumbs up. I hope to finish the complete series in the near future. Maybe then all my questions will be answered as well!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nevermore: Capital, Bonapartes, We Are Not Ourselves, and Hidden Child

Nevermore started out with a heavy-weight book first:  Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty.   The book is just a tad intimidating:  it’s a 685 page treatise on economics translated from the original French.  As if a 600+ page book with a long range view of economics (and by “long range,” think centuries) wasn’t intimidating enough, this book is a translation from the original French.  Jud said the book was surprisingly easy reading, both informative and entertaining, so the translator must really be a gifted person.  Piketty tries to present both recent and historical data from a variety of countries in his survey, though admittedly data on person income in, say, the 1700s is a bit sketchy.  He finds that, as population expansion slows in developed countries, wealth is concentrated into small groups and that much of this wealth is inherited.  Piketty has said that his goal was to write a book for non-specialists and he seems to have succeeded, as Jud said that the book reads “surprisingly well for a book about economics.”

France also figured in the next book, or rather a family connected with France did.  The Bonapartes  by  David Stacton tells the story of some of Napoleon’s less illustrious family members who tended to be, well, screw-ups—at least according to this book. For example,   Napoleon liked to appoint relatives to kingships.   Joseph Bonaparte was made King of Spain where he was so disliked that he suggested his own abdication.  He then spent time in the United States where he added another mistress and more illegitimate children in addition to the ones acquired in Europe. Our reader is finding this book to be both enlightening and entertaining, praising it for its “wonderful, witty style.”  She loved the way the author writes, but says the names can be a bit confusing.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas is the story of Eileen Tumulty, the only child of alcoholic parents who is determined to better herself.  She marries Ed, a neuroscientist, in hopes that this will lead to a more upscale life.  Unfortunately for her, Ed is more interested in research than in material gain, so Eileen sets out to on a career of her own in order to give their son a better place in life.  Our reader found it well done, showing Eileen’s determination and strength of character.  He also praised the cover, which is quite ingenious and reflects some of the novel’s themes.

Finally, Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg was recommended by another member as a strong entry in the “Nordic Noir” category.  Swedish detective Patrik Hedstrom is on paternity leave when he is drawn into a case of murder whose origins may stretch back to World War II.  Our reader enjoyed it.