Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book #41: LibraryLove October 2, 2010

Stash by David Klein

Book description~ Gwen Raine is a thirtyish stay-at-home mom in the kind of tranquil suburban community where the wives spend their days ferrying the kids to and from school and music lessons and nature camps and where the husbands work long, grueling hours at stressful white-collar jobs in order to maintain the upscale standard of living to which the whole family has become all-too-accustomed. It’s a milieu in which everything seems to be right–yet so much can go wrong. And it does–starting with a seemingly minor decision that turns Gwen’s perfect life upside down. It’s a typical Friday morning in late summer and Gwen is anticipating a long-awaited weekend away at the lake with her overworked husband, Brian, and their two small children. After dropping her daughter off at swim class, Gwen drives across town to purchase a small bag of marijuana from an old flame. She’s counting on the pot to help her unwind later that night in those precious private moments with Brian after the kids are asleep. Then, on the way home, Gwen gets into a car accident–an accident that leaves her bruised and somewhat battered but leaves the other driver (an elderly man who crossed over into her lane) dead. The local police know the accident isn’t her fault, but when they find the marijuana in Gwen’s car, they throw the book at her. There have been problems with drugs in the schools and they want to crack down on abusers, whoever and wherever they are. Before long, Gwen is in legal hot water–and the temperature keeps rising. Finally, under pressure from the police, her attorney, and her own husband, she reveals her source’s name. Meanwhile, Brian is embroiled in a moral and legal dilemma of his own when the big pharmaceutical company he works for markets an anti-anxiety drug for “off-label” use as a weight-loss aid, only to discover that it can have deadly consequences. And Gwen’s former lover Jude, a local restaurateur and the supplier of the stash of the title, has gotten in way over his head with his little side business.

First, let me thank Jennifer Robbins of Broadway Books who sent me a Galley copy of this book to read and review.

Now down to business. I started out really enjoying this book. Think American Beauty + Season 1 of Weeds + Desperate Housewives and there ya have it. In a nutshell. Granted I absolutely love American Beauty,  Showtime’s Weeds AND Desperate Housewives, but it’s nothing new. When I make time to read, I want to expand my horizons. I want to learn something new. I want to discover about a foreign land, a time period in history, or about the human condition. This book did not enlighten me at all, but rather it made me feel like I was losing brain cells by the minute. Stash could have easily been an episode or two pulled right out Weeds or DH. I was completely on board until about half way. The action starts out really gripping. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what happened after desperate housewife Gwen decided to visit an old flame for some Mary Jane before leaving for the weekend with her husband and children to their lake house. Making yet another poor decision, Gwen got behind the wheel after smoking a joint and set a series of unfortunate events in motion. Sounds interesting right? It did….until about halfway through. The introduction of too many moderately developed characters and moderately developed plot lines later, the action, chapterization and dialogue became so choppy, it was no longer enjoyable. I hoped sometime before the ending things would pick up. The author took the (attempted) ‘plot twists’ so far into left field, I found myself suffering through the last half of this novel.

Sadly, I do not recommend this novel, nor do I want to waste anymore time reviewing it.

I know I can’t love every book, yet I am always disappointed when I can’t at least recommend folks pick it up and give it a try. You’re better off watching American Beauty and Season 1 of Weeds than reading Stash.

2/5 stars

Holy smokes. This marks 41 books read leaving 11 to go! Can I do it? Stay tuned to find out…the year is almost over!

In progress- Cutting for Stone

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

 

Book #40: LibraryLove September 18, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Book description~ When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny. All children mythologize their birth… So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist. The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune, but kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

This modern-day ‘chunkster’ and piece of literary fiction is written beautifully with a Gothic-style undertone sure to transform you right along with the story AND make your heart pound! Remember how magically transformative movies like The Princess Bride and The Neverending Story were when we first watched them as kids? Remember how halfway through the movie, we’d forget the main character was reading a story? Or as adults, watching The Sixth Sense, when nothing was as it seemed?? This is exactly how I felt while reading The Thirteenth Tale (TTT). The beginning was a bit rocky; I wasn’t sure where the author was going with things. But quickly, after Margaret Lea makes a bone-chilling discovery about her past, she decides to take an offer she can’t refuse.

As the reader, I was transported right along with Margaret to the remote English countryside after accepting the offer to write the sought-after biography of notorious and dying author, Vida Winter. Less than 50 pages in, I was sending fevered texts to some of my book club babes who had already read TTT so I could share in the ride with them. I think if you’re interested in starting your own book club, or just for fun reading a book along with a friend, TTT is a great one to start with; it’s a definite conversation piece, will certainly keep your interest, and spark much conversation.

Biographer Lea couldn’t have predicted the parallels between her life and Miss Winter’s but it is quickly made clear that the adventure she embarked upon will change her on every level. And Miss Winter, although known for her ability to create vivid mockeries when asked to share about her personal life, opens up in such unlikely ways; you have to read to believe it…

“I shall start at the beginning. Though of course the beginning is never where you think it is. Our lives are so important to use that we tend to think the story of them begins with our birth. First there was nothing, then I was born…yet that is not so. Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs. Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating. Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.” – Vida Winter

Although I never would have picked up TTT on my own, I’m so glad it was chosen by one of the book club babes as the October selection.

As usual, I don’t like to reveal too much plot information in my reviews. For a synopsis, you can always read the book description up top. But I want to share some of my reactions while whetting your appetite and hopefully intrigue you enough to want to read this book. I don’t want you going into this novel with too many preconceived notions; just know you will not be disappointed!

“As I started to sleepwrite my questions, the margin seemed to expand. The paper throbbed with light. Swelling, it engulfed me, until realized with a mixture of trepidation and wonderment that I was enclosed in the grain of the paper, embedded in the white interior of the story itself. Weightless, I wandered all night long in Miss Winter’s story, plotting its landscape, measuring its contours, and on tiptoe at its borders, peering at the mysteries beyond its bounds.” – Margaret

One criticism- I wish Margaret’s character was as dimensional as Miss Winter’s character. I’m sure Setterfield did this on purpose, to draw the reader closer to Miss Winter, but I still would have liked Margaret’s character developed a bit more.

TTT was such a fantastic palette cleanser of a book. If you’re looking for a quirky, mysterious, dark and enthralling departure from the norm, I highly recommend TTT as a great way to dive into your fall reading. Special thanks to Tiffany for picking this for October.  I look forward to hearing about everyone’s thoughts.

4.5/5 stars

40 down, 12 to go!

In progress- Stash (Advanced Review Copy)

Xo♥xo,

LibraryLove

PS- sidenote….after our bookclub discussion and two of the book club babes couldn’t stop raving about how well done the audiobook was, I simply HAD to get it from the library. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I now look forward to sitting in traffic getting to re-read this amazing book again knowing what I now know! 🙂