A rolling stone gathers no moss…

I’m the kind of reader that gets completely lost in a story. I don’t here what’s going on around me, don’t notice things happening in the room and you’ll have to call my name more than once to snap me out of my book. And I’m still going to finish my sentence/paragraph/page before giving you my full attention. That said, this book did not capture my attention at all, and it’s my first unfinished book on this blog. Let’s call this first attempt at Book#10

Signature The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert

Rating: 1- I didn’t finish…

Synopsis: Part one tells of Henry Whitaker who comes from nothing; a poor gardener’s youngest son. He keenly observes the workings of the immaculate English  gardens where his father works, learning all the exotic plants. He then starts a lucrative smuggling ring and when he is caught, he is sent out to explore far corners of the New World to discover and acquire new species for the gardens. This venture leads him to discover a tree bark with medicinal properties and Henry begins to build his empire. He starts and sells a company, takes a wife, moves to Philadelphia and has a daughter, Alma.

Part two tells about Alma first as a bright, precocious girl interested in botany and many other subjects. Then as a young lady, envious of her beautiful adopted sister, nervous to disappoint  her strict mother and eager to please her absent father. When her mother dies, Alma takes over the household and oversees the Whitaker Company; missing out on marriage and losing the companionship of her sister and friend when they marry. Alma earns a small amount of notoriety for her work in botany, and decides to carve out her niche in the world of plants. Looking for a field that she can study as her own, Alma explores moss, finding it abundant around her home and easy to study samples from around the world.  She again finds acclaim for her work with the help of her friend George, a publisher.

That’s the first 35% of the book. The rest remains unknown to me.

My Impressions: Well I clearly did not get lost in this book. There is a lot of detail in the history and botany parts of the story, but not enough story progression for me remain interested. There’s character interaction, but its so limited that it’s hard to care what happens to them next or begin to anticipate their stories. After reading as much as I did, I felt like, no matter what happens to this girl it will not be interesting enough to fill the remaining 65% of this book. The proverbial last straw for me was the moss. Pages and pages of moss. Three kinds of moss on the same stone. Some moss dies and some can look dead until you water it and then it comes back to life. Everywhere you look is moss. And here’s 2 pages about moss under a microscope. To be fair to the author, I may have been reading the same pages over and over making it feel like more moss than there was, but then again, that’s not really saying much about the interest level of the story.

Why you should read it:  Convince me to read it: This is the part where I usually sell my recommendation, but since I can’t, I’d like you to sell me on finishing the book. I’ve never read any of Gilbert’s other fiction so I can’t compare, but I loved her writing in Eat, Pray, Love. That felt very natural, this felt very forced. So if you read the book and enjoyed it, please, change my mind!

Book# 10- take 2

“I need to experience books, not just read them.” ― Lauren Morrill, Meant to Be

Do not go gentle into that good night

When choosing my books, I try not to read any reviews ahead of time. I read the book blurb, the author and press endorsements, maybe a short commentary in an article or book list. But I genuinely avoid reading online reviews (ie. Amazon and Goodreads) before I read the book or write my own review. Because I don’t want my opinion to be clouded by something else that I’ve read. When I chose this book, it was because there was a lot of buzz about it. I started listening to  the audio-book just before Halloween and thought it would be great to read a horror/thriller in keeping with the season. Well, one month and 24 hours of audio later, I’m over the theme, over the buzz and frankly, glad the book is over

.night-film Book # 9– Night Film, Marisha Pessl. Narrator: Jake Weber

Rating: 2- Not my fav!

Synopsis: On a foggy fall night, Scott McGrath is walking near the reservoir in New York City when he gets the odd feeling he is being followed. He hears foot steps, sees movement in the shadows, catches the flash of a red coat and follows it into the subway. Only to stair into the eyes of Ashley Cordova, the daughter of the man who ruined McGrath’s career; famed horror film director Stanislas Cordova. He is further shaken when he learns that Ashley’s body was found in an abandoned warehouse, apparently after committing suicide. McGrath, an seasoned investigative journalist, isn’t convinced that her death was a suicide and takes off on an hunt for truth to clear his name and unearth the mystery of Cordova and the methods behind his night films.

McGrath’s investigation follows Ashley’s movements across New York in her last days; leading him through a maze of strange people and dark magic. In order to dig deeper, he must interview those who have orbited Cordova in the past. He finds himself wandering through Cordova’s compound and into the set of each of his past films, blurring fantasy and reality before discovering a critical link in the stories he has been told. In order to wrap-up the investigation, McGrath has to tug at a few more stray threads and finds himself plunged into Cordova’s world one final time to receive the answers he seeks.

My Impressions: I did not care for this book. (My boyfriend tells me that is my attempt at politely saying that I hated it).  It was a very long and very detailed book. To the authors credit, she wrote an incredibly complex and interwoven story with extensive detail. However for me, it was too complex, too detailed, and impossible to keep track of all of the nuances. The writing style jumps between citations and web search results mixed with first-person narrative. I was so distracted by names, dates and sources that I could hardly focus on the details being delivered. And I really could not keep track at all of referenced characters who never actually make an appearance, some of whom exist to play a large role in revealing the mysteries of the major characters. There is so much to try to remember about Cordova, his life and his films, as told by the orbiting players, I really couldn’t not keep up, and I found I really didn’t care. I did not find the book suspenseful in the least.

I really broke my own rules by finishing a book that I didn’t like. Ultimately, it was the slowly unfolding story of Ashley that kept me going. I stuck with it out of curiosity for the ending, really. I kept waiting for the moment when all of the strange bits and pieces would form together and make sense of her behavior and her death, but I was never really given that satisfaction. Since I listened to the book, I think the narrator really played a large part in my continuing with the book. His voice was really well selected for this story; slightly haunting, a good balance of characterization and added to the audio-book experience. Had I been reading the book, I’d be asking you how it ended.

Why you should read it: If you read Special Topics in Calamity Physics, you’ll probably like Pessl’s follow up novel. I didn’t finish that one; it should have been a clue for me. Also if you like heavily detailed stories and tend to be a fan of cult horror films, you’ll probably like this book. If you tend to read the latest buzz-worthy book, jump in! But for me, I can’t say I’ll be recommending this one. And if anyone asks me, I will probably give them another title to enjoy instead.

Book #9 in the bag!

“Books pull you to other worlds … let them, and enjoy the adventure.” ― H.B. Bolton

Thank You for Being a Friend

Sometimes you just stumble across a great book! I’m not sure how this one landed in my lap. I think it may have been a “Recommended for You” find. But I bought it so I could have a book in the queue when I was finished Bridget Jones and I wanted to try something different. I’m so glad I did and I can’t wait to share this book with everyone who asks me what they should read next!

Book # 8- Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Matthew Dicks

Memoirs Rating: 5- I’d read it again!

Synopsis: Budo is an imaginary friend. He was imagined by Max 5 years ago and unlike other imaginary friends, Budo looks very much like a normal person. Budo can talk to Max and Max to Budo. Budo can hear everything that everyone says, but only Max can hear what Budo says. Budo can pass through doors and run and ride the bus and learn new things. Budo can do anything that Max imagined possible for him. He does not sleep and he cannot move or manipulate things in the physical world.  Budo can see and communicate with other imaginary friends.

Max imagined Budo to be is friend because Max doesn’t like other people. Max doesn’t understand their questions or their sarcasm. He struggles to make choices even between the simplest things. He is very particular about when and how he does things. He doesn’t care for affection, even from his parents. Budo helps Max navigate through the world. When something upsets Max, Budo tries to help him calm down so he wont get “stuck;” an episode of  screaming, rocking and eventually blank staring that Max will not remember.  When Max gets stuck on Halloween Budo walks to the nearby gas station and witnesses something horrible. That sets into motion a series of events that causes Budo to question whether he is trying to protect Max or make Max continue to believe in imaginary friends so Budo will continue to exist. Budo’s biggest fear is that Max will stop thinking about him and he will fade away.

My Impressions: I truly loved this book. The voice given to Budo was a perfect combination of worldly and naive. He explained complicated topics that were beyond Max’s understanding but also reasoned through new ideas (like a coma) to arrive at his own conclusions, much in the way that children do.  When reading a fantasy story, I have only one requirement; that the fantasy concepts adhere to the established rules. You can’t change the rules in the middle to help the plot! The rules to this story are that Budo can do what Max imagined for him and he exists as long as Max believes that he does. There was never a time that I was distracted from the story because something didn’t quite fit into the rules. The other thing I loved about this story was Budo’s genuine love for Max and his loyalty to protect him from anything that might hurt him. If only all kids had that kind of omnipresent protection.

Why you should read it: This book draws you in quickly and has you turning pages for more. It’s a really touching story about friendship with a great deal of fantasy and suspense. There is a lot left to the reader to fill in given the perspective of the narrator, but it’s easy to imagine the sides of the story that aren’t on the page. If you ever had an imaginary friend, or your children have, you’ll definitely relate to Budo and Max.

Book #8 in the bag!

“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” ― Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader

How Bridget Got Her Groove Back

Finally reading a much anticipated sequel is like putting on your favorite sweater on the first chilly day of fall. It’s cozy and comfortable, it brings back fond memories but it’s ready to make new ones too. That’s how I felt finally cracking open Mad About the Boy!  This sweater didn’t fit quite like I remembered it, but once I broke it in, stretched it out and loosened it up and little, it felt good again!

Book # 7 Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding

bridget-jones-mad-about-the-boyRating: 4- Would Recommend to a Friend

Synopsis: If you didn’t fall in love with Bridget from her previous diaries (or the film versions), you can stop reading now. If you fell in love with the quirky, flighty, not-quite-together girl who just wanted to be loved for who she is, please keep reading and buy this book ASAP (before more spoilers get leaked!). It’s now nearly 20 years later and Bridget is a mum. She is still keeping track of weight, calories, alcohol units and cock-ups. She has married Mark Darcy and given birth to Billy and Mabel, who are school aged. SMALL SPOILER ALERT: Part of Bridget’s current struggles are about being a single mother after being widowed 4 years ago. (I realize this sounds major, but you learn this pretty early on, and if you’ve heard anything at all about the book, it’s probably this). Bridget decides she is ready to start dating again and with the help of some old familiar friends, Tom and Jude (sadly no f-ing Shazer), she learns how to put herself out there again. Of course their advice is wise as ever (this is where sarcasm needs it’s own punctuation). And perhaps the best part of Bridget’s modern antics is the advent of social media. Bridget becomes obsessed with Twitter and meets Roxter, a 29 year-old  too-good-to-be true “toy boy” who welcomes Bridget to Cougartown. Bridget and Roxter engage in flirtatious tweeting and texting that leads to dating and well, you know… So Bridget is trying to juggle her kids, her new relationship, a budding career as a screen writer and her crazy mother, all in traditional Bridget Jones style; messy! Billy even writes a paper for school about how strange he finds his Mum, embarrassing her in front of the hot new teacher that all the moms are crushing on, Mr Wallaker. In fact Mr Wallaker seems to show up just in time for all of Bridget’s most embarrassing moments around town- condom buying, unsuccessful tree-climbing, and see-through clothing. She can pretty much count on a judgy look or a snarky comment each time he pops up… Sound like someone we know?

My Impressions:  It took me a few chapters to warm up to the book. First I had to get used to the diary entry set up again and acclimate to Bridget’s succinct, notation-style narrative. Then I had to get over the loss of Mr Darcy.                    (Long pause required!) I mean, really, after all they have been through. After the blue food and the scary large undies and the reindeer jumpers and verbal diarrhea. After Daniel Cleaver. Bridget finally gets her happily-ever-after, and it turns out to be temporary. And heartbreaking. And damn it, probably the most real life thing that would happen to someone like Bridget, so okay, I get it. You, as the reader get plenty of chances to grieve with her, so I forgive Ms Fielding for not giving me the fairy tale I would prefer from my “chick lit” and providing instead a more true-to-life diary.  Then there’s the children. The very down to business Billy, and the ever anxious Mabel. They are a great grounding for Bridget, even if they can’t always manage to pull her head out of the clouds.

This is basically a story about Bridget reinventing herself after she becomes a widow. She is trying hard to be a better, more present mother, she is trying to jump-start a career as a screen writer. She is putting herself back out in the dating world and once again choosing wildly inappropriate men! But she still the same Bridget that we love! A bit of a mess, a little nuts, and just looking for her slice of happiness in the world.

Why you should read it: Well first of all this is just some feel good chick-lit! A rom-com worthy, “we met on Twitter”, warm fuzzy love story. If you loved Bridget from her first two books (or the movies) then go! Get your favorite sweater out of storage and curl up for a cozy read!

Book # 7 in the bag!

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.” ― Henry David Thoreau