HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Reviews 38 – 53

If you were going to read one of these books, absolutely read Furious Love (Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burtion’s love story, as pictured). If you were going to read two, I’d recommend Lost Girls.

I have been shamefully delinquent in writing my reviews. I actually finished my Cannonball in September, and I have been playing catch up on writing reviews. I just finished my 53rd book, and 53rd review, and I’m just going to link to all of my reviews below.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #37: Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

This book was delightful in many ways, and disappointing in others. My issue with this book is more an issue with the back cover summary, which induced me to pick it up. The back cover implied that this was going to be “Real World: London,” where 12 or so gods move into a London townhouse, “stop being polite, and start getting real.” I was expecting trashy reality television, with Greek gods.

This book is not that. I took Latin when I was younger, and most of our class was spent learning about the analogous Roman gods and learning very little about actual Latin. The stories are fascinating. This felt like a modern update of a classic story.

Aphrodite and Apollo are engaged in an epic battle of wills. Thousands of years of living among mortals has induced incredible boredom in most of the gods. Their powers are waning as people’s belief in the gods falls. The infighting between Aphrodite and Apollo eventually draws two innocent humans, Neil and Alice, into the world of the gods.

What I didn’t like was the fairly standard “innocent girl dragged into conflict, heroic man rescues her” plot line of Neil and Alice. It was boring in a book that had an otherwise interesting premise and set of characters.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #36: I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

If you love Nora Ephron, for her movies, or her advice, or her everything, you will love this book. Ephron was a wildly successful writer and director. And her personal life was fascinating as well – married to Bernstein, writing Heartburn about the dissolution of her marriage, and finding stability and an actual partner in her subsequent person.

The book is a series of short stories. They are odes to the things that Eprhon, 65 at the time she authored the book, loves, hates, and wonders about. Much of the book is very focused on New York, as Eprhon lived there most of her life, in an apartment she was deeply attached to, fostering her intense New Yorkness. New York seemed as much of a presence in her life as most of her friends, and lovers, and family, and I always find it fascinating when “place” overtakes “people” in terms of priority in someone’s live.

More…

HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #35: The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Another quick, easy cry fest. The Orphan Train tells the story of two women.  Vivian, in her 90s, lost her parents in a fire when she was just a girl and traveled out west on the so-called “orphan train” where was she taken in by a series of families, and suffered a series of traumas, before finding a family that provided her with a stable, if not loving, environment.  Molly Ayer,  a de facto orphan living with resentful foster parents, helps Vivian clean out her attic as part of her community service.

The book is told in present day, exploring the parallels between Molly’s experience and Vivian’s own, as Molly uses technology to help Vivian reconnect with and understand her past. And Molly develops over the course of the story, maturing a little as she realizes she is not actually as alone as she feels.  The book also uses flashbacks to tell Vivian’s story, when Vivian was young.

I loved the Vivian flashbacks.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #34: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I just graduated from law school, and I had a week off before studying for the bar. I wanted to fill that week with easy to read, fun, fantasy chick lit and my mom lent me her copy of Me Before You. She loved this book, her book club loved this book, and I enjoyed this book…up until the ending.

This book is the story of Louisa Clark, a young woman in her mid-twenties who just lost her job at the small cafe and bakery where she works. Lou is trapped in her small town life, she rarely leaves her hometown, she’s unwilling to explore her passions and she’s basically just…stuck, as many twenty-somethings are. The unemployment office finds her a job as a companion to a young quadriplegic man.

It’s hard to know how much of the plot to describe without veering into spoiler territory. Lou has a long term, exercise obsessed boyfriend. And her employer, the enigmatic Will, lived a life of adventure and action before an accident rendered him quadriplegic.  There are two parallel stories here.  One is Lou’s personal story, as she struggles to support her family during the recession and works through her personal traumas in her past in an attempt to find a life that is her own. And the other is Lou’s romantic story, as she struggles with her growing feelings towards her employer and her waning feelings towards her boyfriend.

What I liked best about this book is that it didn’t sacrifice Lou’s person struggles with her family and past to focus on her romantic life. 

HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #33: This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

I immediately reserved this book at the library after I read about the cast for the upcoming movie edition. The cast is basically a who’s who of people Pajibans (and America) loves. I was lukewarm towards the book, but I can’t help but feel that a cast with great chemistry could make me love a movie adaptation. It’s a family dramedy, which is normally right up my alley.  When the Foxman patriarch dies, his four adult children and an assortment of their friends and lovers gather to sit Shiva, although they were not even remotely religious growing up.

The middle son (Jason Bateman), going through a painful divorce with his soon to be ex-wife (Abigail Spencer), anchors the story, attempting to hold both himself and his family together while reconnecting with his high school flame (Rose Byrne).  His younger brother (Adam Driver) is irresponsible, wasteful and free spirited the way youngest siblings often are, and he comes home with his much older, life coach girlfriend (Connie Britton!!) only to fuck things up for his family and his relationship.

One of the most compelling dramatic tensions in the story was the tension between the oldest brother (Corey Stoll) and the middle brother. A traumatic event in their youth dramatically altered the course of the oldest brother’s life, and neither brother has ever addressed the underlying jealousy and resentment that event caused. Watching them work through their past was satisfying.

The biggest drawback for me is that the only sister in the family (played by Tina Fey) gets the short shift.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR5 Review #32: The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

Similar to Life After Life, The Post Birthday World also looks at alternate timelines of the protagonist’s life.  Irina McGovern takes family friend Ramsey Acton to dinner for his birthday one evening while her husband is traveling. And her choice that night sets off two alternate timelines.  In the first, she begins a torrid affair with alcoholic, reckless but passionate Ramsey.  In the second, she opts out of pursuing an affair and stays with her stable, long term partner Lawrence who shares her interests, challenges her intellectually and shares her home.

Much of what I enjoyed about this book is what I found so beautiful in Life After Life. I think everyone imagines what their life would look like if they’d made a different decision, chosen a different career,  married their first love, run off with the handsome man they met at a bar one night, never had children, etc. But when we fantasize about those things, we imagine a life infinitely better than our own. In our imaginations, when we make the other choice – the sun always shines, we never fight, we love our boss, our work is fulfilling and we never work weekends, our children with our hypothetical partner are well behaved and darling, etc. What daydreaming about the “what ifs” of life you never think about the hard times.

And there are hard times.