I hate it when books don't really conclude their story, they just lead into the next in the series. This makes me grumpy, and happens way too often in...moreI hate it when books don't really conclude their story, they just lead into the next in the series. This makes me grumpy, and happens way too often in YA books.(less)
I'm quitting another book -- I feel like I've been doing a lot of that lately. I got about half way through this one and just wasn't feeling it. There...moreI'm quitting another book -- I feel like I've been doing a lot of that lately. I got about half way through this one and just wasn't feeling it. There's so much else out there that I'm moving on.(less)
This book had me at “Part Secret History, part Brideshead Revisited.” The Secret History by Donna Tartt is hands down one of my favorite books – it ha...moreThis book had me at “Part Secret History, part Brideshead Revisited.” The Secret History by Donna Tartt is hands down one of my favorite books – it has the perfect blend of academia, creepy siblings, and the elite. With that kind of review, I immediately snagged an e-galley of Bellwether Revivals, but didn’t get a chance to actually read it until it had hit the shelves of my library and the cover art caught my eye, leading me back to my Kindle.
Debut novelist Benjamin Wood sets the scene in picturesque Cambridge, moving between the spires and cobbled pathways of King’s College and the lush surrounding countryside that holds the family home of the Bellwethers. The book starts near the end of the story, an ending marked with a cold wind blowing through the grounds of the Bellwether Estate, flashing police lights, and bodies, though we don’t know whose.
And then, as if we had never been a part of that scene, we’re brought back to some previous time, when Oscar, a bookish but working class nurse’s assistant stumbles into the lives of the Bellwethers. Lulled into the college chapel by the melodies of an organ unlike any Oscar has ever heard, he meets Iris Bellwether, sister to the organist, Eden. The Bellwethers exist in a world that Oscar has only glimpsed -- one of privilege and academia and, above all, music. The siblings and their small but tight-knit group of friends are similarly intrigued by Oscar’s life in all its job-holding, bill-paying, apartment-dwelling glory.
It is music that brings them together, and music that separates the six. Eden falls deeper and deeper into his own obsessions, believing that his organ gives him the ability to perform miracles. I don’t want to spoil the ending by revealing much more, but as Eden began his downward spiral, I kept thinking back to the opening scene of the book, wondering when and where those bodies would pop back up.
The trouble started when Donald Bailey was eight. He was just a kid, and it was just an accident, but still… a two-year-old wound up dead. What does a...moreThe trouble started when Donald Bailey was eight. He was just a kid, and it was just an accident, but still… a two-year-old wound up dead. What does an eight year old know about grief, about heart break, about the fragility of life?
Eight years later, living in a different town where no one except his mother knows about the trouble, Donald now fully understands what he did. With no way to atone, he reaches out to a boy named Jake who seems vulnerable and in need of a friend. Jake is the same age that Donald was when the trouble happened, and perhaps that’s why the now teenager is drawn to him, to help him have a perfect eighth year with no trouble at all.
Donald and Jake spend every Saturday together, starting at the library, where they have a mutual love of reading (Donald: books about places that he can “vanish” to in his mind, to get away from it all, Jake: anything horror) and moving on to regularly visiting a haunted house, where Jake can get the scariest experiences out of his books of choice. Donald begins to see into Jake’s life; how his young mother leaves him alone on weekend evenings so she can visit her boyfriend, how Jake is frightened to be in the house alone at night, and how Jake needs something that Donald can offer. Friendship, protection, and love.
Until, suddenly, Jake doesn’t need any of that anymore. His best friend Harry, with whom he had previously had a falling out (leaving a entry for Donald), is back in the picture, and has tainted Jake’s mind against the intentions of his teenaged friend. And Donald finds himself once again in a position of harming someone smaller than himself, accidentally, but also irrevocably.
How the Trouble Started is beautifully written and an engaging read. Details about the trouble are slowly doled out to the reader in perfect portions, creating a more complete picture of Donald throughout the entirety of the book. This is author Williams’ second book, and makes me want to go running to the shelf to read his debut novel from 2010, Luke and Jon. (less)
Okay, yes, this is sort of a parenting book, and perhaps not the type of book that you’d generally just pick up off the shelf, but it’s a really inter...moreOkay, yes, this is sort of a parenting book, and perhaps not the type of book that you’d generally just pick up off the shelf, but it’s a really interesting read, whether or not you’re a parent. (Of course, since I am a parent, that’s easy enough for me to say – I’m game for pretty much anything that might make my kid more awesome.)
Pamela Druckerman was an American journalist living in Paris when she and her British husband started their family. Druckerman was immediately struck by the differences she saw between American and French parenting, and the resulting kids from each of those styles. French kids seemed, in general, to be calmer, less prone to tantrums, and to eat the same meals as everyone else (the concept of the “kids meal” being practically non-existent there.) American kids, on the other hand, are often more outspoken and confident in school, and… um, that might have been the only plus about American kids.
The book really isn’t anti the way we raise our kids in America, however. It shows both the pros and the cons of the French styles, and lets the reader make their own decision about what we might deem “good” or “bad”. Some things I’d steal from the French in a heartbeat (wine list in my hospital room? Well, hello!) and others I’m less inclined to take part in, like what Druckerman refers to as “The Pause,” where French parents wait for up to 15 minutes before tending to their crying infants, to try to understand what they need.
All in all, this was an interesting read, and I learned not only some new techniques I might try when my little one gets older, but also cultural differences between French and American adults that stem from the way we as a society raise our children. (less)
People have been recommending this book to me for the last three years and I have been completely resistant to its charms, mostly because of how it ha...morePeople have been recommending this book to me for the last three years and I have been completely resistant to its charms, mostly because of how it has been described to me – something along the lines of “it’s about a hostage situation, but also about opera.” Bo-ring. Or so I thought.
After having any book recommended to me often enough, I’ll eventually try it, which is how I wound up with a copy of Bel Canto on my nightstand, waiting to be read. The story is loosely based on the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis that occurred in Lima, Peru in 1996 when the terrorist group the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement took hundreds of government officials hostage, some for as long as 126 days. In Patchett’s fictionalized retelling, a Japanese businessman, Mr. Hosokawa, visits an undisclosed location in South America for a party honoring his birthday. Although invited in the hopes that he would bring business to the area, Hosokawa’s sole reason for attending is the evening’s entertainment – opera singer Roxane Coss. An avid opera-goer, Hosokawa is enchanted by her voice and jumps at the chance for a semi-private performance.
As Roxane and her accompanist finish their recital, armed terrorists descend upon the party in an attempt to make demands of the President, who was presumed to be in attendance (though was in fact at home, watching his soap opera.) What follows is the story of a group of disparate people from different cultures, speaking different languages, and how they help each other survive, hostages and terrorists alike. Some people might say that music becomes the common language for the characters in this book, but I don’t really think that’s true – it gives people something to do with their days, and something to occupy their minds, but the common language is perhaps time; how much of it they have left, and how to best spend what they do have.
The narrative weaves together different characters’ stories and shows how they build a life together over the several months that the hostage situation lasts. The book ends in much the same way that the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis did (so, sorry if I just ruined it for you) and a brief epilogue gives the reader a glimpse into what life after the event looks like for two couples.
This was my first Ann Patchett novel, and I’ll definitely come back for more. (less)
Beatrice was always kind of the lesser sister; less beautiful, less impulsive, less engaged in her life. Tess, at only 21, lived hers to the fullest....moreBeatrice was always kind of the lesser sister; less beautiful, less impulsive, less engaged in her life. Tess, at only 21, lived hers to the fullest. Bee’s dull, corporate job paled in comparison to Tess’s artistic passions, flinging bright paints onto large canvasses to make people feel something. And then Tess is found, dead, in an abandoned rest room, alone, cold, and presumed to have committed suicide after giving birth to a stillborn child.
The story of each sister’s lives unfolds through Bee’s narrative. Whereas Bee had always scoffed at Tess’s tiny apartment and job waitressing, she now lives in the apartment and picks up her sister’s shifts. She befriends her sister’s friends; the elderly landlord who Tess ate dinner with once a week, the Polish immigrant who Tess bonded during their pregnancies, even the mangy cat that Tess adopted. Bee, who never understood these relationships before, now leans on them heavily, and allows them to lean on her.
Bee becomes closer to her sister than ever before, but also begins to question whether or not she had really known her. As she learns more and more about Tess’s life, she also begins to unravel the mystery surrounding her death. Bee clings adamantly to the fact that her sister valued life too highly to have taken her own. This belief gives her the strength to search for her sister’s killer, despite losing her job, fiancé, and life in New York City in the process.
Lupton’s debut novel is filled with twists and turns, and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page. (less)