The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – Mark Haddon

I read this little story while traveling for a conference in Vermont a month ago and simply forgot to recount it in my little blog! I had just finished reading a book for work…Web Content Strategy (stimulating as you might imagine), and I was delighted to pick up something that seemed fictional and whimsical.

I borrowed this book from a co-worker and learned that the author, Mark Haddon, is a British writer who has written many children’s books. With that in mind, it was most fitting that the tale would be told from the perspective of a child. While you never know explicitly what kind of developmental issue the boy has, he seems to show characteristics of autism, from what I know about it.

The boy is telling the story and takes the approach of solving the mystery of a murder of a neighbor’s dog. With everything told according to his perspective, you must fill in the gaps of why things are the way they are. He shares about his hatred of certain colors and how their presence in daily life sometimes prevents him from moving forward. You learn about his father’s frustration with these quirks from the boy’s perspective, and it is both heartbreaking and enlightening.

The story turns dark when you learn about the complex relationships of the people around him, and I found myself cringing multiple times with pain for the boy and also sympathy for his father at times. I found myself wondering how I would respond as his father or mother, and how hard it must be to not be able to convey your thoughts in a way that others understand.

Ultimately, this was a very interesting read and thought-compelling. It reads quickly and offers a great deal of fodder for thought, particularly if you are someone who is interested in developmental disorders like autism and aspergers.

Safe Haven – Nicholas Sparks

ImageBefore I talk about my most recent book, I just wanted to briefly say that I read “Fifty Shades of Grey” and let’s just say — curiosity killed the cat. Read if you dare but do heed the warnings on the back cover. They are not kidding…

Anyway, after finishing 50 Shades, I listened to Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks while traveling recently. I was a devotee to Nicholas Sparks in my younger years, mainly because I was a young adolescent interested in love stories and also because the settings of many of his books took place in the regions of North Carolina where I had spent much of my childhood. I adored reading about two characters who were falling in love and taking walks on the pier where I grew up taking walks and learning how to fish.

However, as I got older I realized his books all followed a basic formula and that it wasn’t necessary the “quality” writing that a future English major might pursue. But, the fact remains that a good love story soothes the soul — and when you are a hormone-laden female that is always the case.

This story was particularly interesting because it was less about the Notebook-style romance and passion — and more about the reality/fear of abuse combined with loss and an examination of the resilient human spirit. I was honestly impressed with Sparks’ development as a writer and really enjoyed this story. I even found myself sitting in front of my house waiting for moments of suspense to be settled.

All in all, this was a good, quick read. It was an interesting story that was empowering for women and ended in a way that was a little weird, but also endearing.

Something Blue – Emily Giffin

If you are a regular follower on my blog for any reason, you know I read Something Borrowed and Love the One You’re With — both by Emily Giffin. I noted in both that Giffin seems to have an affinity for writing about stories involving cheating. Which immediately elicits images of Dolly Parton belting out Jolene…and makes me very angry…

Anyway, I didn’t even want to read Something Blue — the sequel to Something Borrowed — because I am so bothered by the affair route as a means to finding love. But, I finally decided to give it a try and breezed through it pretty quickly. Friends who have read the book told me I would change my mind about the main offender — Darcy.

If you have seen the movie adaptation of Something Borrowed, Darcy is played by Kate Hudson and the very thought of how she is portrayed makes my skin crawl. Selfish, shallow, completely egotistic — everything you could possibly hate in a girlfriend.

Something Borrowed is written from the perspective of Rachel, the beloved character who falls in love with Darcy’s fiance, Dexter. Something Blue is told from Darcy’s perspective and though I gritted my teeth and rolled my eyes enough to have a headache the next morning when her early exploits and justifications are described in the book…turns out my friends were right. But only because Darcy has a transformation.

The book was interesting for sure — and I won’t lie in saying that the description of Darcy’s misfortunes didn’t gave me pleasure for a while, because they certainly did. The story ready like watching a movie very slowly, and that kind of mindless reading is always fun.

All in all, the story was a decent chick lit read and I’ll probably even give Babyproof a try…

The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson

ImageI just finished reading The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson — perhaps best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This book was recommended to me by Dixon and I jumped into it with little knowledge of Thompson’s style, and the fact that Johnny Depp’s mug is on the cover since he starred in the feature film was also a timely encourager.

Overall, this book was a shattered illusion most of all. When I talked to Dixon about the book after I finished it, one thing that we both came to separately is that the book takes your idea of a perfect vacation (drink in hand, toes in the sand…you get the picture) and carries it out in a way that it becomes the normal. And the days blended into nights of drunken debauchery lead to serious consequences, one more frightening and life-shattering than the next.

The book chronicles a New York City transplant’s journalistic foray into writing for an island news source in Puerto Rico. My research tells me it was actually written in 1950 but not published until 1998 — which explains why my shock over just hopping on a Pan Am flight without so much as a real ticket wasn’t unfounded. Said journalist (Paul Kemp) fumbles into the island lifestyle maniacally, alcoholicly (I made that word up), and violently.

Overall, the tale is a string of drunken remembrances, impotent desires, and an insatiable lust that no manner of sex or drink can appease. After I finished it, I felt unsettled. Unsettled is perhaps the perfect lingering feeling that Thompson leaves on the final page but that did not make me dislike the tale. It was just a different style, a not so neatly wrapped package of a story, and one that made me wonder if the illusion and lure of the island life and all that would encompass that vision truly does lose its shimmer after time. Of course, the answer is yes. And that is a sad thought…

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

It has been a while since I picked up a piece of fiction-fiction. Meaning, a book filled with wonder and possibility — where reality doesn’t really matter. I think the last fiction adventure I had like this was Hunger Games, and I read the series nearly a year ago. At any rate, I have had Life of Pi for a few months and decided to pick it up while I was getting over being sick.

Wow, I was in for such a surprise and delight. I love picking up a book and beginning to read it without a clue as to what it is about. Such was the case for Life of Pi. I was immediately entranced by the telling of a tale, the stories of animals, and the journey of a castaway at sea. It was absolutely fascinating and I read it in three sittings.

The book also surprisingly deals heavily with religion and is thought provoking, to say the least. I believe Life of Pi is often used by book clubs and maybe even in schools because it offers so many opportunities for further discussion and the exploration of many high-minded topics.

And at the end, you are left with a choice as to what you think is the truth. (Read it and you will know exactly what I mean). This opportunity for imagination to flourish is rare and I valued it immensely as I finished this book. My only complaint? The book is quite graphic at times and I had a few unwanted nightmares. But that is just par for the course when you are reading such wonderful stories that expand your imagination so.

I would wholeheartedly recommend reading this book, but do so with an open mind and with the expectation that it won’t necessarily make sense or appeal to your rational senses. ┬áThat will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe

I started this book in August and it has been a fabulous read. I knew it would be a big book to tackle, but it was absolutely worth it. Tom Wolfe is the ultimate scribe of American life, and in this book he pegs the fall of a Wall Street tycoon with such accuracy that, as a reader, you cannot help but feel the pain yourself as his life falls apart.

The book takes place during the stock market boom of the late 80s — I am not really sure — but it has a timeless quality to the story. As a reader, we follow the journey of Sherman McCoy, a wall street investment banker who has made it big — so big that he is consumed by his own vanity. An affair with another woman takes an unfortunate turn of events when the couple get lost in the Bronx in Sherman’s expensive Mercedes. Through a chain reaction, the car strikes a young black man and the two flee the scene — and thus the downfall is born.

I don’t want to give too much away as usual, but the title itself signals the idea that our protagonist will have a major downfall. I must say, even though Sherman’s character is depicted such that you are supposed to hate him, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for his plight. I think Wolfe balances this conflict so well, and the writing is just brilliant.

My favorite scene occurred when Sherman is arrested and taken through the process of being booked and submitted before he posts bail. It is the most painfully descriptive segment and I found myself literally cringing while I read the painful words. I think that was the moment of the Bonfire from which the book gets its name, and Sherman even refers to the ordeal as a death of sort.

Anyway, this is a wonderful, wonderful book. The writing is truly masterful, the story alluring, and the end iconically Wolfe. There are elements of racial tension, the corruption of the justice system, mastery of the personality of Wall Street bankers, millionaire housewives, and upper echelon living. I always feel when I read Wolfe’s books that he describes characters so perfectly, as if he were pulling the very descriptions out of my own mind. For example, he calls the millionaire housewives that have dieted and exercised their way into the required physical size “x-rays” — this is so true and dead on.

I still maintain that I am Charlotte Simmons is my favorite Wolfe book, but I do think this one runs a close second. I would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Something Borrowed – Le Book by Emily Giffin

It being the Tuesday after the Fourth of July holiday, it seemed appropriate to write a review of Something Borrowed even though I finished it a couple of weeks ago. If you have read the story, you know that a portion of the plot takes place over the holiday weekend. But, if you also know me…you know that stories about infidelity just do not fly. I may have mentioned it before on this blog, but when I first saw the musical Camelot, I was furious about the affair between Lancelot and Gwenevere, even at the young age of 10.

All of that being said, when I saw the previews for the film adaptation of the story that included John Krasinski as one of the lead characters, I was curious to read the book and see what all the fuss was about. I don’t feel bad telling you that the plot revolves around an affair…well, multiple affairs…because it takes approximately 15 pages for that revelation to occur.

However, the thing that bugged me and made me so furious that I had to read something else in order to sleep at times, is that as readers we are supposed to feel sorry for the “other woman” sleeping with her best friend’s fiance. We are supposed to hear the saga of how the best friend (Darcy) has wronged our heroine since they were children and agree that she “deserves” the catch of the story, even if he is taken. And that just did not sit well with me. Even when the character of Darcy is impugned towards the end. Even when it all seems neatly wrapped up and tied with a perfect bow…

I do not buy it and I don’t like it. It teaches the young girls — because it is 13-16 year olds that are reading — that cheating is okay and sometimes it works out in your favor. It devalues integrity and loyalty and honesty for relationships. Now, I am not arguing that stories should teach a lesson by any means, but I was just annoyed that the popular chick lit of the day features characters wrapped up in affairs as the symbol and model of “good” love.

Now, I have heard that Something Blue (le sequel) is actually the side of the story from Darcy’s perspective and though I have it on my shelf, I am not sure if I can take going through the story again. However, I might need to let Darcy vet her arguments since I am an objective reader, after all…

So onto my recommendations…the story is well written, the pages turn quickly, but the plot is just not my cup of tea for a good chick lit read. I think Emily Giffin may like love stories that include affairs/temptation because one of the other books I reviewed on my blog, Love the One You’re With, included these themes as well. Maybe Emily Giffin is just not the author for me.