Friday, June 25, 2010

Week 25: One Day – David Nicholls (448 pages)

If I had any forethought at all, I would have waited 4 weeks to read this book. July 15, 1988 is the day that main characters Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet on their last day of college in Scotland. It is also the day that the author chooses to give us a snapshot (in chapter form) of Emma and Dexter over the next 20 years.

This compelling novel grasped me from page one. We find Dexter and Emma in bed and we aren’t sure whether they have or haven’t “done it”. The conversation that builds between the two of them is intense and teasing as they talk about what each of their futures will hold for them. Emma is an idealist, with FIGHT THE POWER values. Dexter is from money and has no idea what he is going to do with his life. They seem both wrong and right for each other – the yin to the other’s yang.

The author is brilliant in the way that he catches both the significant and the insignificant of each July 15th that passes. Dexter goes into “media” a job that he does not need much talent to do, but his great good looks lead him to be a success. Emma takes longer to figure out what to do with her life and shuffles from meaningless job to meaningless job before she settles on becoming a teacher. Each year the pair often meet up and oftentimes Dexter is insufferable and Emma is pathetic – they are the greatest of friends and they see the good intentions inside of each other, but since they know each other so well – they often hurt each other the most.

This book carries one along with its well-drawn characters and non-straight forward appeal. Each chapter moves us along and we see the two maintaining a friendship, but the book also shows the missed opportunities, the poor behavior, the sulking – all things that a 20 year friendship often goes through. The will they or won’t they aspect of the novel is also quite engaging. Author Nick Hornby calls it the perfect beach read for people who are normally repelled by the very idea of beach reads. To call this a beach read, or chick lit or lad lit – diminishes this novel. It is just a super book.

I am not at all sure who would hate this book; it is one of the few for this project that I was able to read in a mere 2.5 days time. I want everyone to read it, it was just that good.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 24: Spidergirl - Too Many Spiders Vol 6 - Tom DeFalco, Pat Olliffe and Ron Frenz (144 pages)

I know that this may be a surprising choice for my book this week, but when I was a child I was a huge fan of comic books (now often known as graphic novels). So - my daughter and I were out and about a couple of weeks ago and I took her to Atomic Comics where we picked up a copy of the comic version of "The Wizard of Oz". She tore through it in one sitting. I was so excited that she had taken  to the format as I had at her age. When I was her age - I read the "Archie" comics as well as the ones produced by Marvel. "Spiderman" was a huge favorite of mine and the young man at the bookstore suggested that this "Spidergirl" book and others in the series might be a good fit for my daughter. What he neglected to tell me was that I would also enjoy the story.

This is not going to be a book that many of you would choose, so I am not going to describe the story, the design, etc. What I will say is this - I love when a book can bring a family together and that is just what this book did for my daughter and I. If you have a child, find something fun that you can both read together, especially if they are older! It is a great bonding experience.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week 23: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella - Stephenie Meyer (178 pages)

It is highly likely that if you enjoyed the TWILIGHT series, then you will enjoy this book. In this novella, Meyer does something that I can't recall very many authors doing - she decides to tell the story of a very minor character from this series of books. 

Bree Tanner appears near the end of Chapter 25 in ECLIPSE in a brief but moving scene. She is a mere blip on the radar, we recognize her and she moves the story along, but once we turn the page she is almost instantly erased from memory - at least she was erased from mine. Meyer had a tougher time shaking this character from her mind. She decided to write this short story to give the reader a background and motivation for Bree and some of the other vampires in her coven. 

The TWILIGHT books focus mostly on "good" vampires, we are told that there are other 'bad" vampires around but since the TWILIGHT series is essentially BELLA SWAN's love story - we are blind to elements other than those that don't directly affect her world. What we get in this book is the tale of a young girl turned into a vampire and the subsequent manipulation of that girl. There are flashes of happiness for Bree, when she seems more like a 15-year-old girl - a crush on a boy vampire...but for the most part, MEYER lays it out in the title, it is to be a short life for Bree. 

The story is intense and it captures you right away. I found, as with most of MEYER's books, it was hard to put down. As a stand alone book - it wouldn't work, but it is a well-written companion piece about a character I didn't know I would care about.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Week 22: Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories - Aryn Kyle (240 pages)

I am a big fan of short stories. They are a fast read and you are able to get into someone's story very quickly and just as quickly get out. I was intrigued when I saw this book in the bookstore, it looked like something that I would really enjoy. Unfortunately, I did not love the book as a whole collection. There were a few outstanding stories (Nine, Captain's Club and A Lot Like Fun) while the other were fair to middling at best. 

This is the second book for author Aryn Kyle and I was hoping for better since I had heard that her highly lauded debut novel, THE GOD OF ANIMALS, was an expanded short story. Sadly, I could not see any one of these stories, even my favorites, expanded past the 10-30 pages in which they existed. 

The book tells stories of females from age 8 on up to their mid-20s. Some of the stories seemed haphazardly thrown together, while those few others were brilliantly written. I would check this book out at the library and read the stories that are most highly-rated or borrow it from a friend.