Showing posts with label relationships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label relationships. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

February Minis: 3 for 3!

Hello, readers!  I know, I completely fell off the wagon with Book Blogger Appreciation Week halfway through.  MY BAD.  You know how my blogging is these days.  However, I have been busy reading, and I've got 3 new mini-reviews for you...and all 3 are books that I thoroughly enjoyed.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Penguin, 2009
borrowed from the library

This is the latest pick from my MOMS Club book club.  Right after I started reading it, my BFF Cari texted me to alert me that this is one of her top 5 books of ALL TIME!  Quite the endorsement!  And I have to say, I now completely understand why.  I loooooved this novel.  Book club is going to have a lot to discuss!

Synopsis: 29-year-old Alice wakes up on the floor of a gym after falling and hitting her head.  Which is weird, because she hates gyms.  But then she finds out that she's not 29 anymore--she's 39.  She's also not pregnant with her first child anymore (as she thought), but now has 3 kids.  And she's also not married to the love of her life anymore--she's getting a divorce.  Yes, Alice hit her head and lost 10 years of her memories.  Now she's trying to figure out what went wrong...and can she regain the person she thought she was 10 years ago?  (Does she want to?)

This is the first time I've read Moriarty's work, and it won't be the last.  The dialogue is lighthearted, but the core issues of this book are not.  The ending is perfection, and guaranteed to leave you with so much to mull over.  This novel is not even a little bit the predictable sappy love story that I feared it might be.  Can't recommend this enough!!

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
G.P. Putnam, 2015
borrowed from the library

This book was recommended by ALL THE BLOGGERS.  I saw it on a bunch of best-of lists for 2015, and finally decided to pick it up at the library.  Synopsis: Clayton Burroughs is the sheriff on Bull Mountain in the woods of north Georgia.  He also happens to be the youngest brother of the outlaw Burroughs clan, currently run by his oldest brother Halford.  But Clayton is trying to be different--he's a man of the law, and determined to keep his family's criminal ways out of his life.  And he's doing a pretty good job of it.  Until ATF agent Simon Holly shows up at his door.

I have to admit that I was skeptical of this one.  Half crime thriller/half historical fiction, I didn't know if this would be a great fit for me.  But let me tell you, I was glued from page one.  I even skipped a yoga practice to wake up early one morning and finish it!!  :)  The way Panowich makes this story unfold is absolutely brilliant.  Even if I guessed at some of the twists before they happened, I didn't care, because Panowich has such a way with words that he made them feel surprising anyway.  Complex characters, gripping conclusion--yup, this has it all.  Read it!

Hansons Half Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey with Keith & Kevin Hanson
Velo Press, 2014
borrowed from the library

Have to throw in my latest running read!  Since I am doing so many 13.1s this year, I've been enjoying reading about different training methods for the distance.  I heard amazing things about Hansons, so I had to pick this one up.  Full disclosure: when I first got the book, I immediately flipped to the training programs.  I took one look at these intense 6-day-a-week plans and said NOPE.  Not for me.  I put the book down and decided I'd save this one for a time in my life when I had more availability for such an involved program.

Then I got the notice that the book was due back to the library...and decided maybe I should at least read it first.  So I renewed it.  And I started reading.  And now I am a BELIEVER!  While I still think this is not the right time for me to follow a Hansons plan, I am 100% on board with their methodology, and I feel like I learned SO much more about the hows and whys of the training process.  Hansons plans are based in well-researched exercise science, and reading through them gave me a wealth of helpful new running information, even as I follow a different training calendar.  Absolutely a valuable read for anyone serious about the 13.1 distance, even if you're not going to use one of their plans.  I'm hoping to try one out when I have more time to dedicate to it.

What are your current reads?  Any good book club picks?  What's the last thing you read and loved because of a recommendation from a friend?

Monday, February 16, 2015

GIVEAWAY! The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli


Title: The Last Good Paradise
Author: Tatjana Soli
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On a small, unnamed coral atoll in the South Pacific, a group of troubled dreamers must face the possibility that the hopes they’ve labored after so single-mindedly might not lead them to the happiness they feel they were promised.

Ann and Richard, an aspiring, Los Angeles power couple, are already sensing the cracks in their version of the American dream when their life unexpectedly implodes, leading them to brashly run away from home to a Robinson Crusoe idyll.

Dex Cooper, lead singer of the rock band, Prospero, is facing his own slide from greatness, experimenting with artistic asceticism while accompanied by his sexy, young, and increasingly entrepreneurial muse, Wende.

Loren, the French owner of the resort sauvage, has made his own Gauguin-like retreat from the world years before, only to find that the modern world has become impossible to disconnect from.

Titi, descendent of Tahitian royalty, worker, and eventual inheritor of the resort, must fashion a vision of the island’s future that includes its indigenous people, while her partner, Cooked, is torn between anarchy and lust.

By turns funny and tragic, The Last Good Paradise explores our modern, complex and often, self-contradictory discontents, crafting an exhilarating story about our need to connect in an increasingly networked but isolating world.


My Review:

First things first: how can you pass up a book with such a beautiful cover?

The Last Good Paradise is a unique read.  I initially wanted to try it because it seemed to bring together many of my reading interests: complicated family relationships!  Travel!  Food!  Yup, can't go wrong with that.  I got all of those things in spades throughout the book.  But that makes this novel sound rather simplistic, and simplistic it is not.

Soli has taken some risks in terms of the narrative style.  As the description implies, there are 7 different protagonists, and the storyline moves quickly between them throughout the book.  The POV is always third person, but the focus changes from one character to the next quite often (and rather quickly at times).  Those shifts in focus are not signified by a change in chapter (as I often see in other multiple-perspective novels).  When I first noticed this, I was afraid that it would quickly become confusing and muddle the story.  However, despite having so many primary characters, it came together surprisingly well.  Probably not my favorite POV choice for a fiction novel, but Soli made it work.

I did enjoy the touches of wanderlust in this book.  You can't go wrong with a story set in a beachy paradise.  Plus, the many references to Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, Mutiny on the Bounty, etc. added a nice literary element that played up the setting (though I will admit they got a little much sometimes--if you are unfamiliar with any of those texts (and Shakespeare, for that matter), you're sure to miss a lot of the literary allusions that Soli goes for).  All of the characters are ultimately trying to find their version of happiness, and despite the idyllic setting, they all come to realize that the happiness of their dreams might not be exactly what they want (or need).

The narration, the setting, the quests for happiness--all good things.  But the characters themselves?  That's one part of the book that I didn't roll with.  I had a hard time finding any of them likeable, even though I'm pretty sure I was supposed to, as I was privy to their inner struggles to find peace and love.  I'll admit that part of it was likely because they all regarded infidelity with such a ho-hum attitude.  So many of the couples cheat on each other in this book, with the expectation that forgiveness is right around the corner.  I didn't find this realistic or sympathy-inducing in the least.

The other character issue for me was that they all made very abrupt changes in personality and decision-making throughout the book.  One minute Wende is Dex's mindless hottie, the next she's a politically-minded revolutionary who wants to leave Dex for film school.  And that's only one example of many.  It was enough to make my head spin.  I appreciate that these people were all going on a bit of an emotional journey, but at times their sudden metamorphoses were rather hard to process.

Ultimately, The Last Good Paradise is a very ambitious novel.  If you're like me, and want a solid piece of contemporary fiction that delves into some intriguing relationship issues, you're sure to get a lot of that!  And the atmosphere of this book can't be beat--that is probably what will stick with me the most.  However, I had a tough time building sympathy for the characters, and that makes me hesitant to rave about it too hard.  Even so, an enjoyable read that gave me a lot more than what I initially bargained for...and I do enjoy surprises.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Tatjana Soli on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY TIME!
I have two copies to give away to 2 lucky readers!  One is a new copy (delivered to you from TLC Book Tours) and the other is my gently-used ARC copy (delivered by me).  Winner #1 will get the new copy, Winner #2 gets the used ARC from me.  Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter!  US/Canada only.  Ends 2/23.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed


Title: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: July 10, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice. 
Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar in one place and includes never-before-published columns and a new introduction by Steve Almond.  Rich with humor, insight, compassion—and absolute honesty—this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.


My Review:

The raves that I heard about this book.  THE RAVES.  Shannon @ River City Reading was the ringleader, but Leah @ Books Speak Volumes was in on it, as well as several other of my book blogger friends...hard to remember them all because THE RAVES all started to smoosh together after a while.  :)  I knew this was a must for Nonfiction November.

Honestly, I was unsure about how I would like this at first.  Excerpts from an advice column?  Can't I get the same thing by perusing Dear Abby?

Answer: no.  Dear Sugar (aka Cheryl Strayed) is not one lick like Dear Abby.

The big difference in Sugar's responses is how she adds (very) personal experience to them.  Most advice columnists give suggestions based on seemingly objective, well-rounded perspectives.  Sugar, however, often gives advice by relating it to specific events in her own past.  This includes her experience with everything from divorce, to child molestation, to affairs, to grieving a loved one, and beyond.  This, paired with her unique tone (best described, I'd say, as "snarky and smart, yet loveable"...she calls everyone "sweet pea," how adorable is that?) gives her columns a flavor the likes of which I've never seen before.  Sugar tells it like it is, moreso than any other advice columnist that I've encountered.

While not every piece in this book will relate to your own life, I'm quite sure that any adult reader will find at least one story here that pulls quite harshly on their heartstrings.  Many of the letter writers are looking for advice on love and marriage, but others are worried about work, friends, children, relationships with their parents, grief after a death, etc.  Every age from high schoolers to 60+ are represented, so you'll find a wide range of perspectives.

While I did fall for this book by the time it was finished, I have to be honest--I was pretty lukewarm about it at first.  I think Sugar's tendency to share so much from her own past was off-putting for me.  I kept thinking, "Is this a tell-all memoir, or an advice column?"  As I mentioned above, many of her personal revelations can be quite shocking, and I think that made me feel like it was teetering beyond what is appropriate in trying to counsel these anonymous letter-writers...it took the focus off of the letter-writer, and put it more on her.  When she gives advice (even without any personal narrative), it is beautiful, eloquent, and tear-inducing, and I often felt that the stories of her past were unnecessary to get her points across.

However, as the book went on, I did become more comfortable with Sugar's level of "oversharing," so to speak.  Her stories illustrate some rather poignant life lessons, and for that, you've got to commend her honesty.  I think once I saw the stories paired with her tone, it all started to flow a bit better, and I fell into the rhythm of her conversations with these help-seekers.

My thoughts on this book are rather complicated, as you may be able to tell (though given the subject matter, I'd say that's rather appropriate).  My overall feeling is that I did enjoy it--Sugar has a way of getting to the heart of the matter that exceeds the abilities of any of her contemporaries, and her advice is truly amazing.  Plus, the book is perfect if you're looking for something that's easy to pick up and put down at will, as each letter is only a few pages in length.  However, sometimes I wished Sugar's guidance was allowed to stand on its own, without the addition of her personal experiences.  I commend her for sharing them, but I didn't always think they were appropriate tools for giving counsel, as they sometimes took the focus away from the contributor's concerns.

I fully expect to be lacerated for this review, but there it is.  :)  I will say that I'm curious about Cheryl Strayed's other work now, though!  And I look forward to getting to know her through her more biographical works.

Have you read Tiny Beautiful Things?  Do you think it's helpful for an advice columnist to add in their personal stories and life lessons, or are they better left at home?
 
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