Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review # 33 Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I waited to read this book because it was on reserve at the library: that was terrible because I couldn’t wait for it after the first. I wasn’t disappointed by this one either. Collins did a great job of continuing to flush out the characters and paint a clear vision of her world. It is action-filled, exciting, and compelling. Can’t wait to read the last in the trilogy!

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #43 – Austenland by Shannon Hale

Ok, so I’m a little embarrassed about reading this book. But in my defense, it was an airport purchase, and kept me entertained from Tampa to New York. The flight is less than three hours, and I was just about done when we landed. It’s pretty short, but it’s also a breezy read, which makes sense. This isn’t deep stuff, folks; but it is fairly cute-ish. Plus, I adore Keri Russell and Bret Mackenzie, so I’ll likely be seeing the movie when it comes to pay-per-view. Not in the theater, though.

Anyway, Jane Hayes is your typical New York neurotic artsy type underemployed at a magazine of some sort, and obsessed with Mr. Darcy of Pride & Prejudice. Not just Mr. Darcy, but Colin Firth’s Darcy from the BBC miniseries (yes, of course I own a copy on DVD). So her relationships with men aren’t satisfying. She has an elderly aunt who finds out about this, dies, and leaves Jane a trip to an estate in England catering to Austen fanatics. The estate provides a total Austen immersion, apparently at different pricing levels for different sorts of experiences. Jane has the budget trip, of course.

The female visitors to the estate are the paying customers, and it looks like most of the people who interact with the visitors are actors. The question is: is everyone else there aside from Jane and the two other ladies an actor, or are there real people working there too? Jane meets a couple of different men, meets cute (of course), and hijinks ensue. There are also asides between chapters, describing Jane’s love life up to the point where she enters Austenland. I haven’t decided if I liked that part or not, I’m leaning toward thinking it was annoying. Also annoying was a lot of the language – a bit too colloquial and diary-like for my tastes.

But, overall, it’s a fun and quick read, brainless and entertaining. Perfect for an airplane. I’m guessing the movie will be much the same.

Mrs Smith Reads Savage Grace by Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson, #CBR5, Review #14


Everybody’s parents screw up. In Antony Baekeland’s case, it seems he never even had a chance against the completely off the scale fucked-up-edness of his parents and their raising of him. Savage Grace documents, through interviews, letters and remembrances, as well as medical and police reports, the long strange trip it was, growing up and becoming the poor little rich boy who murdered his mother.

Mrs Smith Reads Savage Grace by Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson

ABR’s #CBR5 Review #4: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

virgin-suicidesYears ago, when I saw the movie The Virgin Suicides, I didn’t know it was based on a book. It was only when I read Jeffrey Eugenides’ second novel, Middlesex, that I realized his first book was
the basis for the movie. I didn’t like Middlesex, but I have to say, The Virgin Suicides is nearly perfect. It’s strange, sad, funny, engrossing, and even though it was written in 1993, timely.

If you were a fan of the movie, you’ll enjoy the book. It’s one of those rare instances when the movie and book are complementary and enhancive. Entire passages of dialogue and narration are
used to great effect in the movie, and fleeting details like hand gestures, physical descriptions and songs are made significant, translated from page to screen perfectly.

The book opens with a spoiler, of sorts. The narrator, a young neighbor and one of the many boys who is obsessed with the Lisbon family, is recounting the suicide of Cecilia, the youngest daughter. Over the next 13 months, as the parents increasingly isolate the remaining four daughters, the mystique surrounding the family grows, as does the boys’ obsession. They catalog their comings and goings, speculate on their lives based on the contents of their garbage, and spy on the girls from a bedroom window across the street. There is virtually no interaction between the boys and the Lisbon daughters until the boys are permitted to take the girls to prom, an eventful night that ultimately sets the direction for the end of the novel.

The Virgin Suicides could be called a horror story. There are certainly plenty of chilling passages and shocking events. At the same time it is a coming of age story that perfectly captures the insecurities and imaginations of young girls and the urges of young men. It is also a cautionary tale of sex and lust, and a study of the somewhat hypocritical community that initially rallies around the family but ultimately gossips and whispers and moves on to the next tragedy.