Wednesday, October 23, 2013

War Brides (4)

Alice Osbourne, Evangeline Fountaine, Elsie Pigeon, Tanni Zaymen, and Frances Falconleigh are five women from very different backgrounds who end up in the small town of Crowmarsh Priors and become life long friends.
            I enjoyed the story, but I felt that the beginning and the end were unnecessary. The novel starts with Tanni Zaymen carting her two grandchildren back to England. Or something? It’s weird and gives this very strange oh no what is she hiding feeling that then got really confusing when it switched to the past.
            “The past” happens in the 1930s, at the beginning of World War II and through most of the war. We are introduced to each of the women one by one. My favorite is Tanni Zaymen, a young Jewish woman living in Germany with her mother, father, and two little twin sisters. Tanni’s parents have realized that Germany is getting to be very unsafe for Jews, and without telling Tanni, constructs a plan to get her out of the country. The twins will follow on the Kindertransport, and hopefully they would follow later. As a mob comes down on their street, Tanni’s family throws her a wedding to a family friend so that she can get out of the country safely.
            I have to say, I have this weird fascination with WWII. Jewish internment camps and all the creepy scientific experiments they did just feel like something straight out of a horror movie, it amazes and disgusts me that that is a real part of world history.
And the end rips you out of the story just when everything is finally really interesting and gives all the reveals a less-exciting tone.
            How can I say it without spoiling the book? Let’s use Harry Potter! What if, at the end of book 7 we think Harry’s dead and then we go straight to the epilogue? And in the epilogue Harry, Hermione, and Ron get together and explain to each other why Harry didn’t actually die and we find out Fred and Tonks and Lupin and everyone died and oh yeah Voldemort has Horcruxes and once we find the last one we can FINALLY kill him! Why would that take you 50 years to figure out?

            So is it my new favorite book? Probably not. Was it bad? Not really. I’d read Atonement instead, but if you already read that then War Brides is ok I guess. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Someday, Someday Maybe (5)

Why do we read books? Is it to learn something? Is it to go on an adventure? Is it to get to know somebody who may not be real but to you are more real than anyone on earth? Or is it something else?
Someday, Someday, Maybe is a new novel by actress Lauren Graham, best known for her roles as Lorelai Gilmore in Gilmore Girls and Sarah Braverman in Parenthood, the first of which is my favorite show that has ever been made in the entire world. Seriously, Freshman year of college I was basically like “this is what you need to know about me: I love coffee, the color pink, Harry Potter, and Gilmore Girls,” that was the sum of my personality in four items. Later it became clear that there was one thing that far surpassed my love of any of these four things...acting. What is this book about? A young actress trying to make it in New York City.

Now there are two ways that me reading this book can go: either it’s amazing, and so inspirational I immediately want to move to New York OR I want to quit acting forever because she gets something that I don’t. In reality, Lauren Graham peered into my soul and wrote a book about all my insecurities and why they are ridiculous.
Franny Banks is a struggling actress trying to make it in New York City in the 90s. She gave herself three years to move to New York and make it as an actress before she would give up and return home…to face the fact that she has no actual skills to enter the job force. We follow her on the adventures and misadventures of trying to balance a job, class, and the bloodthirsty world of auditions.

My favorite parts are when something good happens to Franny and it sends her into a pit of despair because that one good thing is still not the thing that was needed so that she could become a working actress. Yes, it moved her in the right direction, but that can get lost in the shuffle when you’re concerned about your audition and the shoot you wrapped and if you’re ever going to get cast in anything ever again because, face it, your agent probably already forgot about you. And of course, by favorite I mean I think I was actually worrying about Franny’s plight when I left home.

Don’t worry, there’s also a love story. It’s pretty satisfying.
I hated the ending because it meant the book was over. I actually had a hard time starting the next one because I was so involved in Franny’s world
maybe someday I'll end up on a wall like this

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Brilliance (4.5)

I don’t know why everyone isn’t reading this book. Brilliance is basically the book that Michael Crichton would write about the X-men. Several of the reviews I read were like “blah blah blah, it’s basically about the X-men, blah blah blah not creative,” if that’s your criteria, technically Harry Potter wasn’t that groundbreaking. Technically, it’s just a book about a wizard, coming of age, and going on a hero’s journey. Technically that stories been told.

Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey takes place in the modern day of an alternate future, where 1% of people born since 1980 are ‘brilliants.’ Brilliants don’t shoot lasers out of their eyes or control the weather or anything super cool, they’re just really, really smart. And that manifests itself into minor powers. A little girl who can always tell if someone’s lying, a man who can sense patterns in the stock market,  a woman who can go invisible by being where no one is looking, and Nick Cooper (our hero) who can read what people are going to do by the tiniest movement of their muscles. Ok, maybe this isn’t Crichton-level science fiction, but it definitely makes sense.
not that I'm knocking these guys
Nick Cooper is a brilliant working for the government to find and track brilliants, namely John Smith, a terrorist who has killed hundreds already and is working on something even worse…

What I loved about this novel was the social commentary that came along with the action-packed plot. There were news articles, copies of speeches, and even advertisements in between some chapters. Not so many that it distracted from the story, but just enough to create a fully realized world.

It started a bit slow, so don’t let that fool you. I was reading it at the same time as Atonement, which complimented it well since Atonement is all about characters with some action and Brilliance is all about action with some character development. I also finished it in the middle of a thunderstorm so I LITERALLY jumped out of my seat a few times. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Atonement (5)

          I mentioned before that I have a hoarding problem, with my stacks of books everywhere, some cracked open, others half-finished, some laying there for years, possibly forever because I bought it on a whim thinking the subject was interesting. I read it eagerly for 10 pages and then went back to Harry Potter.
Once I have heard of a book and “mean” to read it, it probably goes on a list somewhere (thank God for Goodreads). One of these books is Atonement, which has been on my to-read list since the movie came out in 2007. I am not the biggest fan of Kiera Knightly so casting her in Atonement was basically a death sentence to the book for me, but I heard it was amazing and if that were the case then I could just read the book and I wouldn’t have to bother with Kiera at all!
But I didn’t get it right away, and the longer a book is on my list, the less likely I am to read it. There’s always something new and shiny to catch my attention, and the book grows stale on my shelf. The only way for it to re-gain my attention is if someone mentions it. Fortunately for me, Atonement is one of my friend’s favorite books. So I finally read it.  
            Atonement is simply a work of art. It starts on a summer day in 1934 as we follow 13-year-old Briony Tallis worry about her cousins coming to stay, her newest play, and what exactly her sister is doing in the garden with the servant’s son.
mostly moping
            Briony’s descriptions of everything are fabulous. McEwan crafts a brilliant story around this very young girl and whose misunderstanding of the adult world leads to disaster. After the first half, we see a first-hand view of World War II first through the eyes of a soldier, then a nurse. McEwan moves from a slow summer’s day into the middle of a retreating army and into a busy wartime hospital with effortless prose. Each could be a story unto itself. But altogether, the finished piece is perfect. I don’t know what to tell you except if you haven’t read it yet you should.
Ah, Briony. I love you. I hate you. I want to be you.