Friday, January 24, 2014

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Book 5 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

Summary (via the book jacket)

Nate Piven is a rising star in Brooklyn's literary scene.  After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisha, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, "almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice" and who holds her own in conversation with his friends.  But when one relationship grows more serious, Nate is forced to consider what it is he really wants.
In this twenty-first-century literary world, wit and conversation are not at all dead.  Is romance?  Novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of a modern man - who thinks of himself as beyond superficial judgement, yet constantly struggles with his own status anxiety; who is drawn to women, yet has a habit of letting them down.  With tough-minded intelligence and wry good humor The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is an absorbing tale of one young man's search for happiness - and an inside look at how he really thinks about women, sex, and love. 

My Opinion

I can handle unlikable characters and I can handle messy not-really-the-end endings, but there still has to be something that makes the book readable.  Unfortunately, this book didn't hold my interest and I can't put my finger on why exactly. 
 Maybe it's because Nate wasn't only unlikable, he was also pretentious and boring.  Maybe it's because Nate was the only character focused on; the other characters had no depth and were only there to give Nate something to react to/play off of, depriving us of the chance to see why they would choose to date/be friends with Nate at all.  Maybe it's no reflection of the author at all and I'm merely reacting to the knowledge that there are plenty of real-life Nates that treat plenty of real-life Hannahs poorly and it makes me sad.  
Whatever the reason, this book just wasn't for me and I'm ready to move on.

Quote from the Book

"Contrary to what these women seemed to think, he was not indifferent to their unhappiness.  And yet he seemed, in spite of himself, to provoke it."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Gone Girl

Book 4 of my 2014 Reading Challenge.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Summary (via Goodreads)

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary.  Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River.  Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge.  Under mounting pressure from the police and media - as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents - the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits and inappropriate behavior.  Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter - but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one they love.  With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence.  Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife?  And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

My Opinion

Despite the fact that I'm one of the last people to read this book (as usual), all I knew about this book before reading it was that it would be dark and everyone I knew loved it.  Most of the time I don't worry too much about spoilers but for this book I managed to avoid all reviews and discussions so I could read it fresh and take the ride everyone else did.
Surprisingly, this book completely lived up to the hype.  It was a complete mindf**k and I couldn't put it down.  I was guessing as I was reading, and I had and discarded two incorrect theories before the big reveal.  I didn't like anyone and the ending was crazy, but I loved this book.

Quote from the Book

"I'm a big fan of the lie of omission."

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Girls

Book 3 of my 2014 Reading Challenge.


The Girls by Lori Lansens


Summary (excerpted from the book jacket)
The Girls celebrates life's fundamental joys and trials as it presents Rose and Ruby, sisters destined to live inseparably but blessed with distinct sensibilities that enrich and complicate their shared experiences - of growing up, of finding their way in the world, of saying goodbye.  


My Opinion
I enjoyed parts of this book very much but it was too uneven for me to say I completely loved it.  I think it was because I liked Ruby's voice more than Rose's so the middle section of the book where there was a lot of alternating between the two was easier for me to read than the beginning and end when it was mostly Rose writing. 
It's always interesting to see how different people remember the same event and this book took that point a step further because Rose and Ruby could not be any closer (literally) and they still had completely different personalities and emotional reactions.
One tiny loose thread...unless I missed it, we never found out why Nick had been in jail.  It didn't matter to the story but I expected the girls to eventually learn why since they had mentioned their curiosity a few times.

Quote from the Book
"I love my sister as I love myself.  I hate her that way too."








Monday, January 6, 2014

The Generation Game

Book 2 of my 2014 Reading Challenge.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Legend Press for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book.

The Generation Game by Sophie Duffy

Summary (via NetGalley)
Philippa Smith is in her forties and has a beautiful newborn baby girl.  She also has no husband, and nowhere to turn.  So she turns to the only place she knows: the beginning.
Retracing her life, she confronts the daily obstacles that shaped her very existence.  From the tragic events of her childhood abandonment, to the astonishing accomplishments of those close to her, Philippa learns of the sacrifices others chose to make, and the outcome of buried secrets.
Philippa discovers a celebration of life, love, and the Golden era of television.  A reflection of everyday people, in not so everyday situations.

My Opinion
This book is written in first person, narrated by Philippa, and she is very matter-of-fact.  At first I thought she was detached, which made me sad when reading her flashbacks because it showed a world weariness no young child should have; she had already faced adult issues (death, abandonment, etc.) and accepted them as life.  But as I read further and realized this is a British novel, I wonder if Philippa just had the stereotypical "stiff upper lip".  Either way, there was a lack of emotion that made it seem as if she was telling a story instead of remembering her life.
As I mentioned, this is a British book.  There were two references that came up frequently that I had to look up because I had never heard of them before. The first was the Cavalier; it wasn't an essential part of the story but Philippa mentions it in passing in almost every chapter.  The second was The Generation Game; it's the title of the book and a major theme, and I had no idea it was a real show.  It wasn't a big deal to look them up and I would recommend doing so before reading the book if you aren't familiar with them either.
Overall, the book held my interest but didn't affect me one way or the other.  I didn't expect the ending and thought it was a nice (if unrealistic) resolution.

Quote of the Blog
*Since I read an ARC of this book, I can't quote directly from it as I normally would.  Instead, I've found another quote that seems fitting.
"Life is the name of the game." ~ Bruce Forsyth

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Divergent

Book 1 of my 2014 Reading Challenge.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Book 1 of the Divergent trilogy

Summary (via Goodreads)
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue - Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).  On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives.  For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is - she can't have both.  So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made.  Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences.  As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are - and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen.  But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death.  And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns her secret might help her save the ones she loves...or it might destroy her.

My Opinion
Well-written dystopian novels always impress me because the concepts are so original but there has to be some attachment to reality, or at least the reality that the author has created, for the book to stay readable.  Veronica Roth has done it right - original concept, authentic characters, and action action action.  It's also great to have a teenage female that isn't involved in a love triangle (so far, at least) and I enjoyed watching her little romance bloom.
Don't get attached to any of the characters.  Usually in the first book of a series, the majority of named people are safe (other than the occasional "shocking" death of one main character)...that is NOT the case here.  I couldn't avoid one major spoiler of the trilogy so I'm aware this trend will continue over the next two books.
I can't wait to get the next book and see what happens next!    

Quote from the Book
"I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another."