Gone Girl

21480930I picked up Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn completely due to peer pressure. That and I like a good mystery/suspense novel.

My mom got me hooked on mysteries when I was in middle school. By the time I was in seventh grade, I had read all that was available to me by way of Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High and all the other series that were aimed at my age group. I needed something more challenging.  That was when my mom introduced me to Agatha Christie. It didn’t take me long to read through ALL of Christie’s novels. More than once.

By high school, I needed something else. My cousin introduced me to Mary Higgins Clark and from there I also found John Grisham. I haven’t picked up too many mystery/suspense books since then, although when a good one comes along, I try to get to it.

That being said, I wasn’t going to read Gone Girl because I don’t tend to like books with a lot of hype. But everyone hated the ending and everyone was so mad when they finished, so of course I figured, “well now I have to read it because I will probably like the ending…or at least be able to defend it,” because I am snobby and full of myself that way.

Ok so I started it and I was bored to tears. It took me forever to get through the first third of the book. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters–not enough to care about them or root for them or anything. The story is an old one: wife goes missing; husband is a suspect; reader tries to figure out if he’s guilty before the book tells you. The challenge is to keep it interesting, which it was NOT for the first part of the novel. I liked that every other chapter bounced between first person accounts from the husband and the wife–his present-day thoughts and her past-tense thoughts from her diary, but it wasn’t enough. I quit the book.

I told all this to a friend of mine who then asked, “Well what part are you up to?” When I told her she replied, “Oh stuff is about to BLOW UP. Start reading again!”

She was right. I read another chapter and then BOOM! Plot twists and turns and bombs dropped. Just when you think you know what’s going on? Nope.  So I started binge reading.

Then I got all bored again once I knew what happened to the wife.

By the time I got within a few chapters of the end of the book, I totally knew how it was going to end, but I couldn’t put it down because this book had just enough surprises that even though I thought I knew, I wasn’t sure I knew. Ya know? I ended up being mostly right about the end, but I wasn’t angry like everyone else was.

I didn’t think the ending was “fair”, but it didn’t surprise me.

In fact, I likened Gone Girl to The Great Gatsby in the following ways: it’s sort of a boring basic plot, none of the characters are likable–or trustworthy, for that matter, and the ending pretty much makes you mad because that is NOT how it’s supposed to go.

The difference is that The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels of all time particularly because I know so much about Fitzgerald’s process and his writing style/word choice make my literature nerd heart happy. Gone Girl, on the other hand has Ok writing, but it’s not enough to make me want to re-read and love to hate the characters the way I do with Tom, Nick, and Daisy.

I’m not mad that I gave in and read Gone Girl, and despite this review, I would actually recommend that if you haven’t read it, maybe you should. I do want to see the movie too.

Talk to me: have you read it? Have you seen the movie?  Thoughts?

Challenge Completed

I think every year for the past five or so years, I have done the GoodReads book challenge. You are supposed to set a goal for how many books you want to read in that year.  Almost every year I put 24 – two books per month.

When I compare my goal to many of my friends, it is low. They aim for like 50 books. If I didn’t have to work or keep my children alive, I bet I could read 50 books a year. But, alas, people need me to do things, so 24 is the goal.

I have never met this goal. I usually start out Ok, but then drop off as spring comes and I get out of control busy with end of the school year things like grading and graduation.  I pick it back up in the summer, but not usually to a point where I can recover because once school starts up again, my reading life grinds to a halt.

Some how I managed to not just meet my goal of 25 books this year, but to surpass it! As of right now, I have read 30 books this year and I am on number 31.  Currently I am reading The Liar’s Club  by Mary Karr.

I’ll be honest too, that I have always tried to right up a review of the book over under my book categories, and not having time to write it up has held me back from starting a new book. I decided I had to let that go and just enjoy books. If I get them up there, awesome, but if not, at least I am reading, right?

So tell me, what are you reading?

I have a bunch of books from my classroom library on my To Read List including Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell and all of the John Green. The problem is that they are all checked out right now…by my students!

I guess that’s not really a problem.

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Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the children’s book Stand UpContest closes at midnight!

We Are Water

I love Wally Lamb.  I fell in love with his writing in She’s Come Undone. In fact, I absolutely couldn’t believe it was a man writing that well for a female character.  Then I read I Know This Much Is True. More fabulous writing.  This is also when I realized that Lamb could weave a pretty messed up tale and talk about some truly difficult subjects, but do it so well that you want to keep reading. A about four years ago ago I picked up The Hour I First Believed.

And now I’ve picked up his latest, We Are Water.

The reviews on this one were mixed, but I knew I had to read it. While I really loved The Hour I First Believed, I felt like it was super long and maybe could have ended before it did, so I guess I expected to enjoy the book, but maybe not LOVE it.

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Orange is the New Black

I’m not sure if you noticed, but there is always a story as to how I came to reading each book that I decide on. I had Orange is the New Black on my To Read List for some time, and because I am a book nerd, I wanted to read the book before I started watching the series on Netflix.

Then I found out I get to meet Piper Kerman this summer when I go to San Jose for BlogHer.  Let’s just say the book moved right up my To Read list onto my READING list!

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Carrie

When I was a senior in high school, I went to a youth group conference called Genesis. It was a big weekend conference where we all got to stay in a hotel and attend fun session and do singing and stuff.

My roommates were two of my best friends, and since there were three of us, they gave us a room with one king-sized bed. To be honest, I don’t think any of us had ever seen a king-sized bed before because we kept giggling that this hotel was so weird; it had rooms with a three-person bed in them!  SO WEIRD!

Anyway, I remember one of the nights–probably the first night–my friends fell asleep first while we were watching TV. I suck at falling asleep in a new place with people around me, so I was wide awake watching whatever was on TV. I was not in the middle of the bed (nowhere to turn away from a person…eek!), so I kept the remote on the floor and just kept flipping channels. That is when I found Carrie. I watched it from beginning to end wishing I wasn’t watching it at all.

I hate horror films, but this wasn’t a horror film like I was used to. It didn’t have some freak like Freddy Kruger or Jason ripping up all the people and having no plot line to speak of.  This movie screwed with my mind. It was troubling and awful and just so good.

But I was horrified and I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even kick a foot out of the sheets like I normally do. I was too afraid of that hand coming to grab me.

I was seventeen then. I’m thirty-six now.  I just read the book this winter.

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The Paris Wife

This summer I am all about reading. I say that every summer, but I let other things get in my way. This summer I have almost no other projects on tap which means if there is down time, I am reading!

The first book I read this summer is The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I happened upon it when I was browsing the tables at Barnes and Noble. I’m sort of a nut for the 1920’s and the ex pat writers, so a fictional novel told from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, about their time in Paris as ex pats when Hemingway was just getting his footing as a writer hooked me immediately.

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Hannah, Delivered {book review}

I am the last person you would think to find reading a book about natural home births and becoming a midwife.

In fact, part of the excitement about getting pregnant again is that I will get to go to the hospital and stay for three days and be waited on. I was in love with the epidural from my first birth. I have had two C-sections. Basically I am the poster child for hospital births.

Yet Hannah, Delivered  by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew completely fascinated me.

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Hannah, Delivered is the story of Hannah, a receptionist in a St. Paul hospital who happens to help the hospital midwife one night. After assisting that birth, she develops a fierce desire to help babies with the work of being born.  She travels to New Mexico where she does her midwife apprenticeship and meets many unconventional people and questions what she is doing to her life. Eventually she moves back to Minnesota to practice midwifery in her own illicit practice.

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The Chaperone {a book review}

I have been teaching American Literature (11th grade English) for over a decade, and my favorite part is teaching The Great Gatsby.

Part of that love comes from the amazing conversations, thoughts, and questions that come up as we tackle a reading that is pretty difficult for most of my students.  It’s also one that, on the surface, is hard to relate to for them.  I mean, what does a book about a bunch of rich white people and their problems have to do with them?

But the rest of my love comes from my obsession with the Moderns.  The authors of the 1920’s. America in the 1920’s and 30’s.  It is by far my favorite time period to read about/study.

I am that book nerd who reads everything by Fitzgerald and Hemingway and others just to be able to put my mind and imagination into The Jazz age and out of my reality for a little bit.

So when I saw that BlogHer was going to be doing The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty for one of its summer book club reads, I was super excited and couldn’t sign up fast enough.

As soon as I saw that it was an historical fiction about Louise Brooks I got very excited. In all of my reading about the 1920’s, Louise was one of the stars that stands out in my mind as being fascinating.  I use her and Zelda Fitzgerald as examples in my classroom, so to find a novel fictionalizing her first trip to New York was beyond thrilling for me.

The Chaperone isn’t only about Louise though.  It really centers around her fictionalized chaperone, Cora Carlisle, whom her parents hire to accompany Louise one summer to NYC as she attempts to win a coveted spot on the prestigious Denishawn dance troupe. Louise is Cora’s reason for going to NYC to search for something from her past.  Something she is sure will bring her the happiness that she feels is lacking from her life.

Of course, it is evident right from the beginning that Louis is not just going to be a simple charge for Cora.  She is rebellious and “difficult”.  In fact, it almost seems that Cora is not just being hired to take Louise for a chance of a lifetime, but to get her off her parents’–mainly her mother, Myra’s–hands.

The novel is a quick read.  At least it was for me.  Some have said the first chapter drags, but I found it to be one of the most delightful to read; it was rich with description of Cora’s surroundings in Wichita, which I found to be a necessary contrast for the later description of the fast-paced New York City.

I enjoyed how the novels chapters in the beginning alternated between the present (1922) and Cora’s childhood.  Once caught up, they alternated between Cora’s home life and her current situation and escapes with Louise in the city.

Up until Cora returned from New York, I was enjoying the full description, the interesting dialogue, and the movement of the plot. The last third of the novel, while interesting, was less “showing” and more “telling” to me.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and knowing what became of Cora, but I felt like the end was just a recitation of events that was crammed together so we could get her full life in the book rather than developed out.  True, the novel would have been incredibly long, but after such detail in the first two-thirds of the novel and the back and forth structure of the chapters, the final five chapters seemed like a biography of a fictional character.

Overall, I really liked the book and would totally recommend it as a great summer read.

Want to know what others thought?  Head on over to the BlogHer Book Club for more discussion about The Chaperone!

The Legal Stuff: I was compensated for this book review by BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions are all my own. 

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