Showing posts with label marisha pessl. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marisha pessl. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August 2014 in Review

Ah, September.  That means 2 things:

1. Summer is nearly over, but that's okay because
2. September is my birthday and our wedding anniversary.  Woohoo!

Yes indeed, September is one of my very favorite months.  Not only for the two reasons listed above, but because I do love the onset of fall.  Cuz let's face it: warm weather is awesome, but sometimes it's nice when the weather gets cooler, you can wear jeans, and you don't have to shave your legs every five seconds. #realtalk

This summer has been pretty great though.  We went to our friends' camp in the Adirondacks a couple weeks ago with the kids, and it was a blast.  Bonfires, smores, kayaking, fishing, boat rides on the lake...YES PLEASE.  It was an awesome way to cap off a summer full of outdoorsy goodness.
Kayaking with mah boy
Plus, I somehow managed to be more present on the blog!  Let's recap August...

In August I read 3 books:
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I also talked about books that I kinda sorta don't want to read, and celebrated my 2 year blogoversary.  WOOP.

September will be crazy, because Small Fry is starting preschool (somebody get me my fainting couch), I have the two super-fun "holidays" that I mentioned above, and I'm running my half marathon.  (Related: if there are no posts here after September 21st, please begin a search for my sore, creaky-kneed body somewhere on the half marathon race course.)  All joking aside though, I'm pretty stoked for it.  Stay tuned for a race report!

Bookishly, I'm planning to read my next TBR Book Baggie pick (Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen), and...I have no idea what else.  Isn't that lovely??  Perhaps I'll attack something on my 30 before 35's in need of some attention.

How was your summer, friends?  What's up next on your reading list?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Title: Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Author: Marisha Pessl
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: August 3, 2006
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Marisha Pessl's mesmerizing debut has critics raving and heralds the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of this "cracking good read" is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge. But she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway school, she finds some--a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery. Nabokov meets Donna Tartt (then invites the rest of the Western Canon to the party) in this novel-with "visual aids" drawn by the author-that has won over readers of all ages.

My Review:

In case you haven't noticed, it's become a bit of a pet project of mine to read through the books listed in this article that I mentioned a few weeks ago: 'We Were Liars' and 8 Other Books You'll Love if you Were Shocked By The Twist in 'Gone Girl'.  Because who wasn't shocked by the twist in Gone Girl?  I've had more than my share of "blah" reads this year, and I figured this list would be a good pick-me-up.  So far, I've not been disappointed.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a one-of-a-kind read.  The novel opens with our protagonist, Blue Van Meer, informing us of her teacher's suicide.  Blue formats her narrative like a college syllabus for an English class, largely due to the influence of her father (a professor).  As we go through each literature-inspired chapter, Blue attempts to discover the truth behind her teacher's suicide, but ends up with much more than she bargained for.

There's so much that I love about this novel, but I feel like each stellar point comes with a caveat.  For example: I loved Blue's character.  She has a great way with words, a nearly photographic memory, and is hilarious (often without meaning to be).  She's wise beyond her years, but still struggles with a typical high school need to fit in.  However, despite my love of Blue, I continually felt annoyed by the verbosity of her narrative.  She uses 10 words (or 10 paragraphs from a classic novel) when one would do.  But I TOTALLY GET why she is so wordy.  She's brilliant, she's memorized nearly every book she's ever read, and the writing style reflects that.  If it didn't, you'd have a completely different character.  But even though I completely understand why that was necessary, it was just too much at times, as I felt myself going cross-eyed at her long-winded explanations.  Appreciating it doesn't mean that I always enjoyed it, I suppose.

Similarly, we have the central mystery of the story.  In the end, I was astounded with how well everything came together.  This book is CHOCK FULL of details...really, really minute details (see above paragraph).  Given that, it is impressive how cohesively Pessl was able to wrap them up at the end of the book.  (There is even a "Final Exam" in the last chapter that leaves you with a few interesting points to ponder.)

However, despite the awesomeness of how the ending was crafted, I was a little bit annoyed with the specifics of the conclusion.  The background of the big "reveal" is something that is not alluded to at all earlier in the book, so much so that Blue spends many pages filling us in on historical details late in the novel that are relevant to this game changer.  I get a tad irked when a mystery novel takes such a drastic turn that it starts to feel like something got unnecessarily dropped on me out of left field.  Twists are a good thing, but completely out-of-the-blue plot details that require enormous explanations towards the end of the book?  The story starts to lose its seamless feel when that happens.

Apparently I shouldn't complain about Blue being too wordy, because I'm fairly guilty of that myself in this review.  But my final verdict is this: Special Topics in Calamity Physics is immersive.  Blue's tendency to ramble may make you leery in the first chapter or two, but push through that introduction, and I promise you'll be in for quite the ride.  Despite my misgivings about the direction the novel took in the last 150-ish pages, there are some great twists here, and it will most definitely keep you up til the wee hours wanting to see how it ends.

What was the last good mystery you enjoyed, friends?
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