Saturday, September 25, 2010

Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand Tour

Everything Is Going to Be Great: An Underfunded and Overexposed European Grand TourEverything Is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert
review copy provided by Harper Perennial
Summary from Goodreads:
When she lands a coveted nonpaying, nonspeaking role in a play going on a European tour, Rachel Shukert—with a brand-new degree in acting from NYU and no money—finally scores her big break. And, after a fluke at customs in Vienna, she gets her golden ticket: an unstamped passport, giving her free rein to “find herself” on a grand tour of Europe. Traveling from Vienna to Zurich to Amsterdam, Rachel bounces through complicated relationships, drunken mishaps, miscommunication, and the reality-adjusting culture shock that every twentysomething faces when sent off to negotiate "the real world"—whatever that may be.

My Take:
First of all, I have to state right off that this book is not for everyone. It's racy and raunchy and so very funny! So, if you are squeamish, easily offended or just a stick-in-the-mud, don't bother reading it. On the other hand, if you have any sense of humor at all and aren't too easily upset by wacky situations, this book is most definitely worth reading!

I wasn't sure after the first chapter, to be honest, but after that chapter I started putting those little post-it flags on every page where I laughed out loud and now my book is riddled with little blue flags.  The "How to use this book" and "Preparing the Preparations" sections are just a taste of the fun that follows.  The first chapter titled "I am not even washing the underpants of me", describes her adventure in Paris the summer before her junior year of college. And it had me worried about what might follow, but the descriptions of Rachel's sudden and increasing fluency in French as she drinks more and more wine was just so funny, I had to continue.

I hate to give away too many of the funny bits in this book because everyone should discover Shukert for themselves, but I will say that I will never be able to listen to Phil Collins in quite the same way again! This is a fun, wild, crazy, but honest look at Rachel Shukert's adventures in Europe, but mostly in Amsterdam.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Blogger Hop and Follow Friday! (4)



















It's Friday, so it's time for Follow Friday hosted at Parajunkee's View . It's also time for another Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jenn at Crazy For Books.




This week's question for Book Blogger Hop is: When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book? My Answer: I don't write my review as I read, but I do take notes and make note of passages that I might want to refer to or that I think may be important later. I write the  review after finishing the book and usually after taking a little bit of time to think about the book.
 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Award!


A big thank you goes out to Greyz at Cladestine Sanctuary for the One Lovely Blog Award! Stop by her lovely blog and say Hi.

The rules are:

1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.


2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.

3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they've been chosen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Barracks

The BarracksThe Barracks by John McGahern
purchased from Kennys Bookshop
Summary from Goodreads:
One of the preeminent Irish writers of our time, John McGahern has captivated readers with such poignant and heart-wrenching novels as Amongst Women and The Dark. Moving between tragedy and savage comedy, desperation and joy, McGahern's first novel, The Barracks, is one of haunting power. Elizabeth Reegan, after years of freedom—and loneliness—marries into the enclosed Irish village of her upbringing. The children are not her own; her husband is straining to break free from the servile security of the police force; and her own life, threatened by illness, seems to be losing the last vestiges of its purpose.

My Take:
Well, I have to say that the only book I have ever read that was more depressing than this one was Famine by Liam O'Flaherty. From the first page,it seemed that the characters, Elizabeth Reegan especially, felt a  certain detachment from their lives. Mrs. Reegan seems to be just barely getting through each day of the monotony of her life. There are the small joys of certain tasks performed well and the small praise she may receive, but they are small and the fear for her health is ever present. In every character except perhaps the children, there is evidence of bitterness and dissatisfaction with life. 

Almost the entire novel is told from Elizabeth Reegan's point of view - all except that last several pages. Elizabeth had been a nurse before she married Reegan and she reflects on her past job and relationship with Halliday, a doctor in London. Because of her former nursing career, she is aware of what her symptoms may indicate and the fear causes her to delay seeing a doctor for months. Most of the book deals with her illness and how she and Reegan, her husband, deal with it. There is so little happiness in their lives and her illness only adds to their troubles. Reegan feels his job as police officer to be too restraining despite the security of a steady job.

It was a struggle for me to finish the book because it was just so very sad - not just Elizabeth's inevitable death, but also the constraints of their lives and the futility they seemed to feel. I thought the author did a good job of describing every day life in a small town in 1950's  Ireland, so I did finish reading it. I think I will try McGahern's Amongst Women next.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading?
Hosted by Book Journey.

Reviews written last week:
Fallen by Lauren Kate
A Drama in Muslin by George Moore
Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis

Books I am reading this week:
The BarracksThe Barracks by John McGahern (just finished reading this morning)

The Woman in White (Oxford World's Classics)The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (for R.I.P. V)

The CorrectionsThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

What are you reading this week?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vanishing and Other Stories

Vanishing and Other Stories (P.S.)Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis
review copy courtesy of Harper Perennial
Summary from Goodreads:
Vanishing and Other Stories explores emotional and physical absences, the ways in which people leave, are left, and whether or not it's ever possible to move on. Readers will encounter a skinny ice-cream scooper named Nina Simone, a vanishing visionary of social utopia, a French teacher who collects fiancés, and a fortune-telling mother who fails to predict the heartbreak of her own daughter. The characters in this collection will linger in the imagination, proving that nothing is ever truly forgotten.

My Take:
The brief description from Goodreads, while intriguing, really doesn't do this book justice. I don't usually go in for short stories, but these were just so good -- and they stay with you. It took me a while to read the book - not because it was boring or I didn't like it --- but because I found that I really wanted to just read a couple of the stories and then savor them, mull them over in my mind. The writing is beautiful throughout.

It would be impossible to review each story, but I'll just mention a few of the stories that really stuck with me.  "Vanishing", the first story sets the tone for the rest of the book. It was such an intriguing tale. And sad. I thought it illustrated the long term effects of loss and the search to understand. "Traces" is a wonderful story about a woman whose husband is having an affair and she gathers information about his mistress through the traces that the woman leaves. The twist at the end is a surprise that works. "This Other Us" was a disturbing but captivating story about three friends that really stuck in my mind long after reading it. In this story, as in the others, the style is minimalist and I found myself pondering the characters and stories long after I finished reading. Actually, I think there is something memorable about almost every story in this collection.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Drama in Muslin



A Drama in Muslin by George Moore
bought from Kennys Bookshop
Summary from Goodreads:
A reprint of the first edition written in the 1880s, this is generally considered to be the best version of one of Moore's greatest books. Set in Ireland in the 1880s against a backdrop of Land League troubles in Co. Mayo, and in Dublin, where the social life revolves around the Vice-Regal court in Dublin Castle, this depicts the efforts of a mother trying to catch socially suitable husbands for her daughters, and chronicles the results.

My Take:
This was an interesting book for a number of reasons. I like Irish history and the book takes place in the 1880's in western Ireland during the activities of the Land League, so there is the historical aspect to it. But the most interesting thing was the picture it painted of the lives of five girls born into the gentry of the West of Ireland.  They had been sent to a girls school for much of their lives and when they were of age, they had to join society and begin their quest to find husbands.  The mothers of the girls were quite interesting and for the most part, not very sympathetic characters. Mrs. Barton, the mother of Olive and Alice, the two main girls, is a beautiful, mostly empty-headed woman whose main goal is to get Olive married to an important man. Because Olive is the "beauty" of the family, she is the main focus of her mother's plans. Alice, the older, quiet, plain daughter is not really part of her mother's plans. All focus is on Olive. This sets the stage for the dramatic differences between the girls' lives for much of the book. The book paints a stark picture of the realities for young women at the time -- either marry (and hopefully to a wealty man) or face spending your life alone, whispered about and with no real purpose. In fact, the search for a husband was so important that there are several instances where it is referred to in military terms and the mothers are compared to real military leaders in their style of going after a husband for the daughter.

There are some glimpses of the peasants and their plight. But the main focus is on the landowners and their daughters. The view presented of the Land League and their activites is from the landowners' side of the issue. For the most part it shows that they had little understanding of the actual situation of the tenants of their land. They were only concerned about how much of the rents they would be able to collect. The reader gets glimpses of the poverty, but then the story goes straight back into the dances and parties and in this way shows the complete lack of concern and awareness on the part of the daughters and mothers.

From a historical and societal perspective, I thought the book was excellent. I did have a bit of a problem with some of the dialogue.  In several places, the girls' dialogue seemed overwrought -- such high emotion that sometimes it seemed unreal.  But then again, if your life was so constricted these fits of emotional ranting might be the only way to break out of the norm. I was quite pleased that Alice ended up with the happy marriage because she was considered plain, too smart, and basically unmarriageable at the beginning of the book. She proved to be a true friend, a wise person, a good sister and daughter and learned to be uncompromising when it came to decisions about her own life. She was the exception in the story. So, overall, I did enjoy the book although it took me awhile to get into the story at first.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fallen

FallenFallen by Lauren Kate
borrowed from the library
Summary from Goodreads:
There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.
Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.

My take:
There are very mixed reviews for this book. I decided to read it so I could decide for myself. I find myself torn on this one. I thought the idea was great and I felt the use of the fallen angel motif was done better than in Hush, hush. I did have an issue with Luce -- I felt for her and all her troubles, but honestly, I couldn't quite figure out what the big deal was with her. The prologue and epilogue help with some explanation, but in the story itself, I had a hard time grasping what was supposed to be so special about her. She seems a bit dumber than I would have liked for a heroine.  I liked Daniel and I figured out early on that Cam was probably going to be trouble.  But despite my complaints, I am still intrigued with where this story is going. I really liked the way things were revealed slowly throughout the book. I just hope that there is much more explanation in the next book. I want to know more about Gabbe and Arriane as well as what the deal is between Daniel and Cam.  I will read the next book because the overall story line and the whole idea appeals to me. I just hope that Luce develops into a smarter heroine.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Blogger Hop and Follow Friday! (3)


















It's Friday, so it's time for Follow Friday hosted at Parajunkee's View . It's also time for another Book Blogger Hop hosted by Jenn at Crazy For Books.

This week's question for Book Blogger Hop is:   Do you judge a book by it's cover?
I have to admit that sometimes I do. I try not to, and usually I say that I don't, but sometimes the cover can make all the difference. That's not to say that I don't read the back cover and usually the first page of the book as well, but the cover does matter.