Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book 36 of 52: The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch

Allison Winn Scotch is a familiar name to long time readers of the blog. I've reviewed or written about all four of her previous novels - whether here or somewhere else.

I haven't landed an assignment about The Theory of Opposites quite yet, but I hope I do soon, especially since she's taking a slightly different path on the business end of this book. But let's save that discussion to a later time.

As for the book! It's typical, excellent work. The Theory of Opposites is about Willa Chandler-Golden trying to get out of the thumb of inertia, which comes from both her famous philosopher father and a husband who has mapped out their lives together. When said husband chucks the map out the window (not giving away too much by saying in a less than wonderful way), Willia is forced to try something new, which involves not standing still, and writing a book surrounding the (faux) reality show Dare You!

I was a little concerned at first when Willa's ex-boyfriend popped into the picture, as she'd covered this topic before in Time of My Life when the heroine goes back to see what life would have been like with the other guy - literally.

But The Theory of Opposites is so very different, with more of the focus on Willia's quest here, that that concern was brushed off quickly. The book was a shade slow at the start, but I put my butt on the couch and didn't move for two hours this afternoon because I wanted to know how it ended.

Sadly for you guys, the book doesn't come out until November - but that's what pre-orders are for!

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book 35 of 52: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squadby Jennifer Egan - well this is one book where I don't think I can offer more to what's already been said about it. It won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critic Circle Award, and was a book of the year in a slew of magazines and newspapers.

But I'll try, briefly: to me, this read as a book about aging. The story slides in time around a handful of characters who are loosely connected, and we see them at different stages of their lives. For most, the last time we see them, they are drawn in a state of melancholy and also living the consequences of previous actions, for good or for bad. No one we meet more than once seems to have lived up to his or her potential. The older adult versions of themselves are flat where the younger versions - no matter how much wrong they were doing - were full of promise and life.

Downer, right? Maybe I feel this way because I'm starting to think about aging. I turned 33 this summer, so my 20s are far behind me and I'm moving into the middle 30s where I have to make some decisions about my life (i.e. do I want a family, etc.) Maybe I'll see something different if I read it in 10 more years, or if I'd read it when it first came out in 2010. But that's the beauty of books - you can revisit them when you're older and have lived more and have a different perspective on things. It's like writing about a bad breakup five years after it happened as opposed to five months. You might have better clarity.

Side note: this is probably the most beat up book I've received from half.com. I only paid a $1, so I'm not surprised. I also took it camping, and it now smells like campfire (from reading it by a campfire) and salsa (from salsa that leaked on my bag), so I'm glad I took this rather than, say, a brand new hardcover with me.

Another side note: I was a member of the National Book Critics Circle when A Visit from the Goon Squad won, yet I still thought this was about gangster before I started reading. I need to pay better attention.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Book 34 of 52: The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

Half way through Catherine Bailey's 
 I emailed my editor at an inflight magazine and said "I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS BOOK YOU NEED TO LET ME REVIEW IT."

That might a slight exaggeration, but all caps were used in a portion of the email.

She obliged, which is why I can't write too much about the book here - I have to save it for the review, which will run in January, the same month the book is published in the U.S. It has already been published in the U.K. and was a smashing success.

Bailey is a historian who started going through documents of the 9th Duke of Rutland because she was working on a book about the estate's "Lost Generation" - the young men who worked there and died in WW I. While at the estate, though, she stumbled upon big family mysteries that the Duke had apparently been trying to cover up while he was dying. Correspondence for specific chunks of his life were gone, and he died in the same rooms where the records was kept.

From there, Bailey changes the focus of her book and works unravels the mystery. It's thrilling. I had to keep checking to make sure it was a true story and not fiction.

Put it on your to-read list, especially if you're a Downton Abbey fan since it involves the same time period, and I'll link to the final review once it's published.

Another funny thing: I almost passed over this book entirely. I'm sent galleys for a lot of mystery and sci fi books, and I assumed this was one of those, too. But I found myself without a book to read, and The Secret Rooms was on the top of discard pile. I'm glad I took another look.

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