Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bird Walked In

Love Walked In
By Marisa De Los Santos

Cornelia, a twenty-something sucker for old films and charming men, spends her time working as a manager in a coffee shop in Philadelphia wondering what to do next with her life. Clare, on the other hand, is an eleven year-old girl trying desperately to maintain her normal life while her single mother slowly goes off the deep end. The two have very little in common except for Martin, Clare's emotionally distant father who happens to be Cornelia's dashing, Cary Grant look-alike boyfriend. Through him, the girls meet and instantly connect. They then find themselves helping each other through several disasters as well as sharing many simple, happy moments. Through these times, the girls guide each other towards what they are looking for in life.

I would describe this book as "rambling". The plot is great, don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed the story as a whole. At first, though, you really have to get used to the author's tendency to meander off on to different tangents while trying to narrate (my sixth grade teacher called this "birdwalking") . She does write beautifully with lots of witty descriptions and creative metaphors. The problem is that there are A LOT of them. It makes you want to scream "GET ON WITH IT!!". But please don't let that deter you from reading on. She seems to tame these down a bit as you go on. The characters are also marvelous. Teo , an old friend of Cornelia's, is a man I love to meet and and see for that matter. It is a very sweet story and I'd recommend it for a weekend read.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Amish Paradise

Plain Truth
By Jodi Piccoult
Pocket Books, 1999.

Early one morning, a peaceful Amish farmer finds a dead newborn infant hidden in his barn. Immediately, the once serene property is swarming with police and reporters who quickly suspect the farmer's eighteen year-old daughter of giving birth and killing her own child. Despite the obvious medical evidence against her, Katie stubbornly denies that she was even pregnant let alone able to kill a child. Enter Elli; a distant relative of Katie's who also happens to be an extremely successful attorney from Philadelphia. Ellie quickly moves into Katie's family's home and works to solve the case and clear her client's name. While immersing herself in a culture completely foreign to her, Ellie manages to connect not only with a simpler way of living but also with herself and her past. Ellie and Katie form a close relationship where each woman is helping the other through troubles in their personal lives while fighting towards the common goal of proving Katie's innocence. Both learn a great deal about themselves through their relationship with each other.

I read Plain Truth for my library book club. It grabbed my attention immediately and I had difficulty putting it down when my lunch break ended. The story moves very quickly from the discovery of the body to Katie's hearing and through all of Ellie's research to the dynamic trial and twist ending. It is very interesting to read about the Pennsylvania Dutch and their way of life. I know the author did some very thorough research when writing this novel and I really think (though, my knowledge of the Amish is pretty limited) that she did a great job of portraying their way of thinking and how their views really affected Katie and how she handled her situation. The constant conflicts between Katie and Ellie's feelings about how they should proceed with the trial and life in general are very abundant, almost to the point where it seems a bit repetitive. It seems like every chapter begins with one of the girls deeply hurting the other through misunderstanding and ends with the resolution to their conflict and the conclusion that they are two completely different people. But for the most part its a pretty interesting story that sheds some light on a culture that I, myself am not too familiar with.

Among the people who read this with me, I'd say that it was pretty split as far as how people felt about the ending. Some people thought it was a great way to tie everything up and others were a bit disappointed. I am in the second group. I felt that, even though there was a twist, it was somewhat too late in the story, and I felt that it wasn't as exciting as the rest of the novel had built it up to be. But you'll have to decide that for yourself.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Punk Love

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

It's not necessary for you to care about punk music or identify with teen logic in order to enjoy this book (granted, being familiar with either may make the book more lovable, but they're not required). Nick and Norah's story is one of insane and lusty passion that only 18 year-olds can muster. Their story begins at one of Nick's shows (he's a bassist and master lyricist before even getting to college) and schleps the reader around Manhattan and New Jersey for a packed evening of worrying giddiness, spontaneous frivolity, life-altering decisions, ex-SO encounters, and music only the truly dedicated punk could appreciate. One should note, though, that knowing the music doesn't matter, as the description and emotion behind it is so well transferred to the reader that my great grandmother could get behind its meaning. Playing on all the emotions that plague unsure teenagers that flit from knowing everything to not understanding anything, the tale is a cross-section of life on the verge of independence.

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (Cohn writing to voice Norah and Levithan writing for Nick) have crafted a story that weaves the lives of young adults perfectly with what is an insane passion for many of the emotional rollercoaster bunch. If you aren't living it in this very moment, anyone can recall the time in which music said everything you wanted it to and the mixed CD (or tape or iTunes playlist as the case may be) was the ultimate expression of emotion. In changing back and forth between the first person views of Nick and Norah, the reader gets both sides of the story, and really gets a glimpse at the warped ways in which two people can view the exact same event. Fun and entertaining from so many perspectives, the authors manage to throw a little psychological game into their writing style. All in all, the book is a raucous and honest (and thoroughly entertaining) display on adolescent love and its constant fluctuation (and, of course, there's some healthy angst thrown in there too).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happy Cruelty Day!: Daily Celebrations of Quiet Desperation

By Bob Powers
Thomas Dunne Books

Sometimes, we need things to celebrate. Sometimes, we need things to do. Sometimes, we need a specific day to lie to our cats about the crucifixion of Jesus (it's February 15th, just in case you were curious). For all of these things, I highly recommend this book.

The genre of books that also serve as a calendar of sorts is in no way a new entrant into the market. Most are flowery and inspirational. Some are funny...sort of. Happy Cruelty Day! is something completely different. Its more a collection of bizarre, completely twisted stories than a calendar telling you how you should spend your day. Sure, everyone will want to participate in "Backrub Train Day" (October 4th) or "Outlet Shopping Day" (March 15th) or even "Be a Hero Day" (September 22), but who really wants to participate in "The Girl of Your Dreams has been Kidnapped Day" (July 14th) or "Indadvertantly Steal from a Drug Kingpin Day" (March 5)? You may not want to do these things, but reading about them is a great way to pass some time. The stories are well written and creative to the point of absurd, but it will definitely serve to put a smile (or possibly a grimace) on your face if you are having a bad day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Memory of Running

The Memory of Running
By Ron McLarty

Smithy Ide, overweight, middle-aged and bordering on alcoholism lives his life from day to day in a dead end job. While coping with a sudden family tragedy, Smithy uncovers his beloved childhood bicycle and finds himself embarking on a "quest" riding across the country from New Jersey to California. Along the way, he meets many different people who help him deal with issues from his past and guide him towards a new outlook for his future.

From the beginning, it is very easy to root for Smithy. You learn about his tragedies through the setup of the book which tidily alternates between his ride across America and his journey through adolescence. The story is dark, initially involving a lot of sadness and regret, but because of Smithy's wonderful personality and outlook, you end up feeling hopeful and content. I'd say that overall this book is a pretty fast and easy read. The descriptions of the landscape are picturesque but not overly wordy and the characters are all lovable in their own way. It was a good way to split up the multiple nonfiction books I find myself reading these days.

P.S. Look out for Smithy's stop in Mascoutah, Illinois. My hometown. YIPPEE!!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Reviewers do it with commentary.

I was looking back at the archives of our fine blog and I realized something didn't make sense. The blog was originally meant to be written by one person (that'd be me, MuzikMakers). There are now three people writing reviews. Basically, the first couple of entries don't clue anyone into that and so I thought I'd let everyone know what the big to do is.

SoothSays116 has been around for a little while now and has made some contributions. I did not give her a proper introduction, but I don't know that she'd want one (she tends to keep her Internet life rather anonymous). Being just as busy as I am, she hasn't had the chance to post much, but we love her contributions of wit and wisdom when she has the time.

I am proud to now announce that GypsyRose will be joining us as well. She has decided to make her first attempt at writing some bookish stuff and we are pleased to have her. She's an avid reader and will surely add to the overall reading pleasure of us all. Her first review will appear soon. Thanks for reading our blog and thanks for the comments. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Everything (Randy Shilts thinks) you need to know about the history of AIDS from 1980-1985.

And the Band Played On
By Randy Shilts
St. Martin's Press

Documenting the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On is an extensive collection of personal accounts, scientific reports, community history, and political movements. Shilts was a journalist in San Francisco when the AIDS epidemic began and used much of his research for the San Francisco Chronicle for the material of this book. Weaving the personal emotions of gay and lesbian activists with the hard-nosed facts of scientists (which so often seem to be tainted by personal agendas and ambitions), this work of nonfiction is a startling revelation of the individual struggles, group clashes, government bungling, and management disasters of possibly the most disastrous health crisis in American history.

Though effective and convincing, Shilts’ work is incredibly long. Detailing the lives and events of many individuals, Shilts makes many of the same points over and over again. Perhaps he goes to such great lengths because the AIDS epidemic was ignored by so many government officials and members of society for so long, but at 600 pages plus, it is an extensive work that is difficult to trudge through at times. On the other hand, in hundreds of interviews and through research with many groups, Shilts reveals a nearly comprehensive story of how the AIDS virus came to be discovered and the horrible ways in which its most vulnerable victims were marginalized by the Regean administration, funding for research was withheld, and the suffering and indignity that accompanied such a massive loss of life across the globe.