Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “reviews”

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #47: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl ended up being one of the hot books of the summer. I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the book cover, or reading a blog entry about it. After reading that Reese Witherspoon had signed on to star and produce in the adaptation, and seeing that Jezebel chose it as their inaugural book club selection, I decided to take the plunge.

The book starts out with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot: wife goes missing, world suspects husband. The book is sort of told in three pieces. His side of the story, her side of the story, and the ending as it unfolds. This isn’t quite a traditional mystery, it’s a psychological thriller.

And it’s creepy. Every 50 pages, I thought I’d figured out who did it. The husband. His mistress. She’s faking it. Her creepy best friend from high school. And then 50 pages later, I would be so thrown by the sheer force of both the husband and the wife’s masterful manipulation that I’d be lost again.


Katie’s #CBR4 Review #38: Leviathan Wakes by James Corey

Title: Leviathan Wakes
Author: James Corey
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Very interesting premise, intriguing, and sometimes well written, but it didn’t really draw me in.

Typically classed as a space opera, Leviathan Wakes has a little bit of everything – action, horror, mystery, and of course science fiction. We alternate between two perspective, one a shuttle captain drawn into the mystery surrounding a deserted ship sending out a distress signal and the other a cop searching for a missing girl who we know was on the now deserted ship. This shuttle eventually leads them both to a secret some people are willing to “kill on an unfathomable scale for” – even if that means engineering a war.

Read more here…

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #36: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I’ve been tabling this review because I truly loved this book, and I’m not sure how to review it in a way that does it justice.  The Dovekeepers is a work of historical fiction that tells the tale of the Jewish resistance during the Roman’s siege of Masada in the first century.  900 Jewish men and women held out against the Romans for months, and ultimately, 2 women and 5 children survived.  Hoffman used meticulous research to weave a mystical tale of desire, family and friendship that gives a voice to the women who participated in the siege.

The book is told in four pieces.  Yael is the lion, a young girl who’s mother died in child birth who flees her home city with her assassin father and her brother’s best friend. Her illicit romance, her betrayal of her confidant, and her seeemingly magical ability to attract both humans and animals with her silence is oddly compelling.  Revka, the baker’s wife, serves partially to set up the romance of the book but also as proof of a mother’s capacity for vengeance.  Aziza is a warrior, disguising herself as a boy to defend her people and falling in love with a man everyone else thought was broken. Shirah is a “witch” of sorts, who uses her powers for good – like aiding women giving birth to illegitimate children – and her own ends – like protecting her children or ruining her lover’s wive’s life.


HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #32: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

*Although this book has now been released, I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the author.

Adriana Trigiani’s warm and inviting stories are about Italians living in or immigrating to America, and their families, lovers and friends. The Shoemaker’s Wife is the love story of Ciro and Enza, who meet as children in their small mountain Italian town and both immigrate to America – Ciro for punishment, Enza to support her family. Over the years, as Enza works her way up the seamstress ladder to become the main seamstress for a Metropolitan Opera star, and Ciro firmly establishes himself as an entrepreneurial shoemaker, they occasionally bump into each other, rekindling their childhood feelings for each other.

Enza was my favorite part of this novel.  She’s one of the truly strong, brave, hardworking female characters Trigiani is known for.  She worships her family, moving abroad to support them and earning enough money over time to build them a house.  She wants something for herself, something more than marriage, and along with her Irish best friend, she works tirelessly to get it. She’s kind, sensitive and wonderfully creative – I loved the chapters about her and her friend Laura working as seamstresses at the Met. It was both exciting, and grueling, to read about.

If you’re looking for a will-they-or-won’t-they love story rich in historical details, I highly recommend The Shoemaker’s Wife.  However, there were a few things I didn’t enjoy (potential spoilers after the jump).

Continue reading!

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #30: Spin by Catherine McKenzie

I’m in the middle of finals, thus my life is a little terrible. I’m reading  a lot, but it’s all about Evidence. And Intellectual Property. And the Law.

So, Spin was a light, happy stress reliever. Thirty-year old Kate is a struggling writer who pretends to be in grad school for the free wine and cheese nights, with no romantic prospects on the horizon.  When she lands her dream job interview, she shows up to the interview still drunk from a crazy night of partying. Needless to say, she doesn’t get the job.

What she does get is an offer to take an all-expenses-paid trip to rehab, where she’s expected to befriend a Lindsay Lohan-esque starlet seeking treatment there.  And then write a salacious expose. Kate goes to rehab, becomes best friends with the starlet and falls in love.  When rehab ends, Kate has to make a choice.  Her new friend, her sobriety, or her dream job?  Kate chooses a fun combination of the three.

As fun as the book was, it  touched on something more serious that I don’t think gets enough attention among twenty-somethings.  There are certain drinkings patterns that are totally normal and acceptable when you’re in college.  But when you graduate, at some point, those patterns become signs of alcoholism.  In your twenties, there’s a blurry, sensitive line between young, fun partying and alcoholism. Kate ostensibly goes to rehab for a job. But Kate is also in rehab because she needs it.  Kate never left her student lifestyle behind, and her slow realization that she might actually be an alcoholic rings very true.

 Let’s break down some of the classic chick lit elements found in this novel, shall we?

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #29: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Peyton Place is a classic soap opera set in an uptight New England town. It’s closely tied to Valley of the Dolls in my mind – both were groundbreaking, trashy novels about the scandalous realities of a community.  This book infuriated New England because one of their own, Metalious, born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, dared to write about the imperfections and scandals brewing beneath New England’s perfect surface. This book has become an enduring part of pop culture through both film and television adaptations.

There has long been speculation about how true this book actually is. There are many similarities between Metalious and the protagonist Allison – both grow up in New England, both end up writing about their pasts, etc. All I know is, when the screenwriter for the movie asked Metalious if the book was based on her own life, she asked him to repeat the question. And when he did, she threw her drink at him.  I’m going to take that as a definitive no.

I can’t put my finger on what’s so satisfying about this book. There’s something  stereotypically “New England” about it – characters are supposed to hide their ambition, never flaunt what they’ve earned, and lead a simple, moral life. It’s frustrating, because almost all of the tragedies could have been avoided if someone did something. Did anything. But the characters staunchly refuse to interfere in each others lives, preferring to whisper behind each others backs. And by refusing to meddle – they are refusing to save each other.

Plot details and the wonderfully soapy television series trailer after the jump….

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #27: The Next Right Thing by Dan Barden

The book jacket bills this as a mystery starring Randy Chalmers, who investigates the shady circumstances surrounding his AA sponsor Terry’s death and uncovers a ring of pot dealers, shady recovery houses, pornography and love children. Sounds like a standard fun mystery/thriller about an ex-cop seeking justice, right? Only sort of. This book was not quite as advertised – it reads like a story primarily about recovery, with a mystery B plot.

Randy works his network of friends and acquaintances (and enemies) made through AA to slowly figure out the truth about Terry’s life, and death.  By using AA as Randy’s exclusive support network, Barden tells some really affecting stories about the recovery process. Each person in Randy’s network recovered (or didn’t) in their own way.  New member Troy, son of a famous mobster, needs constant watching and guidance while Emma, the former reality TV star, needs to work through her issues on her own – with someone there to protect her as needed. Some people turned their recovery into a new, profitable line of business; while others found that recovery could only do so much in salvaging their sad lives.

Additional thoughts after the jump!

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #26: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

In Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, the depiction of a certain aspect of college, that nagging fear that you cannot possibly exist in a world outside the small fishbowl of your university, is beautifully rendered.  The characters in this book absolutely cannot exist without their alma mater. The fear of graduating, and losing their familiar world, is crippling. Henry Skrimshander, Mike Schwartz and Guert Affenlight are like my worst fears come to life: they are what happens if you don’t force yourself to move on after university.

This is the story of Henry Skrimshander, whom Mike Schwartz discovers and recruits to play baseball at Westish College, and his friends and associates. The baseball is a powerful force throughout the book.  The book is a stream of descriptions of the rhythm of the game, the reliance on your teammates, and the excruciating struggle to push your body beyond it’s limits. The characters melt downs are reflected in their bodies; and the author has a scientific, but kind of poetic way, of describing the body.

Read more…

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #25: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Two things make love triangles so damn appealing – they often occur in real life, and they feed our fantasies about being desirable.   There’s no irritating cliche here, where it’s obvious who the protagonist will choose, and the third party is there to solely create artificial hardship.  The Marriage Plot is about real, raw love for two people and Madeline’s frustrating inability to choose.  Life is messy, and The Marriage Plot accurately reflects the recklessness of youth, the paralysis of college graduation, and what it means to find yourself in your twenties.

Madeline is an upper middle class, Victorian romance-obsessed English major desperate for her own Mr. Darcy. For Leonard, facing a grueling life long battle with bipolar disorder, Madeline is an anchor, a life raft saving him from his illness. For Mitchell, a religious studies major struggling with what he believes, Madeline is his spiritual ideal,  his destiny.

Madeline loves Leonard, partially for his illness. She is graduating from college, with no job, no idea of to do – and she wants to be needed. So she sets up house with Leonard. Mitchell, despite her protests, is “the one who got away” – the one without the stigma of mental illness, the one who reminds her of her youth, the one who was always there, flattering her with his desire.

Possible spoilers after the jump…

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #24: Savages by Don Winslow

Savages is part prose, part poetry and a smorgasbord of drugs, blood, guns, sex, youth, race, money and power.  It’s a quick, bloody Game of Thrones style power struggle and, much like in Game of Thrones, there are no guarantees main characters won’t be slaughtered along the way.  Basically, the Walmart of cartels tries to take over Ben & Chon’s wildly successful mom & pop hydroponic pot growing business and when they’re rebuked, the cartel kidnaps Ben & Chon’s shared lover Ophelia.  Chaos and savagery ensue as Ben & Chon mount an elaborate multiphase plan to recover their lover.

The book holds your interest, if only because the players are trainwrecks you can’t tear your eyes from.  You never know who the smartest guy in the room is, and every player makes both brilliant moves and excruciating miscalculations during the course of the story.  Certain characters capture your attention more than others.Like Ben, the Berkley pihlanthropist/businessman/botanist who prides himself on his peaceful business and superior intelligence analysis who sinks into violence over the course of the novel. Or Ophelia, the bored little rich girl who half-heartedly wants to escape her shallow, bohemian existance for the sake of notoriety.  And La Reina, Queen of the cartel, seems more focused on proving her power than wielding it.

More, including the movie trailer and casting breakdown…

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