Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Widower's Tale

Book 19 of my 2014 Reading Challenge


The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass



Summary (via Goodreads)

In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement; reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond.  His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn.  As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife.  No longer can he remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love.
One relationship Percy treasures is the bond with his oldest grandchild, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Robert has long assumed he will follow in the footsteps of his mother, a prominent physician, but he begins to question his ambitions when confronted by a charismatic roommate who preaches - and begins to practice - an extreme form of ecological activism, targeting Boston's most affluent suburbs.
Meanwhile, two other men become fatefully involved with Percy and Robert: Ira, a gay teacher at the preschool, and Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener who works for Percy's neighbor, each one striving to overcome a sense of personal exile.  Choices made by all four men, as well as by the women around them, collide forcefully on one spring evening, upending everyone's lives, but none more radically than Percy's.

My Opinion
The first few chapters were very slow and I had to force myself to continue (both because this was our book club selection and because I always finish the books I start).  I was pleasantly surprised when the story picked up steam and became a quick, enjoyable read.
I didn't have any trouble distinguishing between the voices of the four men and the transitions were seamless; it was nice to have the chapters build on each other with new situations instead of repeating the same interactions as four different people saw them.  
I thought Percy and Celestino, as well as the supporting characters, were well-written.  Ira was the main character we got to know the least, and although a lot of writing was dedicated to Robert, I didn't think his connection to Turo was shown throughout the book (I was very surprised by Robert's reaction to everything at the end because I didn't know he had been as suckered in as he was).
Overall, it was uneven but there was definitely more to like than dislike about this book and I would read this author again.  

Quote from the Book
"This he had learned from Isabelle, to know when you deserve someone's anger, even if you cannot choose to be any different."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Insurgent

Book 18 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Book 2 of the Divergent series

Summary (via the book jacket)
One choice can transform you - or it can destroy you.  But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves - and herself - while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.
Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors.  War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows.  And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable - and even more powerful.  Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

My Opinion
As I read a book, I jot down notes that I can refer to when writing my review.  This is the very first book that I have zero notes on...nothing happened, positive or negative, that I found noteworthy.  I'm perfectly neutral; it didn't live up to the first book but it wasn't horrible either.  I'm curious but not overly anxious to read the last book and see how everything works out. 

Quote from the Book
"Tonight I will be honest, and selfless, and brave.  Divergent."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Confessions of a Scary Mommy

Book 17 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

Confessions of a Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler

Summary
A combination of anonymous confessions from Jill's website, scarymommy.com, and new essays by Jill on various parenting topics.

My Opinion
I was unfamiliar with the website but this book caught my eye at the library.  It was a quick, light read, the kind I keep in my van for stolen reading moments while shuttling kids around.
I'm perfectly neutral about it.  I liked the format and it was entertaining but I'm not going to run to her site and read everything she's written.

Quote from the Book
"That's the kind of mother I was supposed to be, at least.  The one I am in some parallel, opposite-day universe where I'm also not caffeine dependent and enjoy push-ups and get in daily showers."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Four Ms. Bradwells

Book 16 of my 2014 Reading Challenge.

The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton

Summary (via the book jacket)
Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court.  Nicknamed "the Ms. Bradwells" during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979 - when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the court - the four have supported one another through life's challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small.  Betts was, and still is, the Funny One.  Ginger, the Rebel.  Laney, the Good Girl.  And Mia, the Savant.
But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends' collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past - one that stirs up secrets they've kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

My Opinion

I dislike writing negative reviews so this will be brief.
I felt the style was hard to follow.  It was difficult to tell the present from the past; each chapter started with the date but the date was always the present and then it would turn into a flashback with no transition. 
For most of the book, I wasn't really invested but wanted to see how things shook out.  Then I read the last few chapters and found the ending to be a ridiculous, unfulfilling letdown.    

Quote from the Book 

"That was one of the things we Ms. Bradwells had in common pretty much from the start: we might laugh at ourselves or at our own chances, but even when we didn't know each other very well yet...we never did laugh at each other's dreams."