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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Single Wife by Nina Solomon~★★

Author: Nina Solomon
Title: Single Wife
Release Date: June 12, 2003
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "Grace Brookman is in a most unusual marital crisis. Her husband of five years, Laz, is prone to disappearing for days at a time. It's just the way he is. And Grace has always dealt with it silently and in stride. But when he doesn't return for several weeks, she begins to wonder if he'll ever come back. Her solution? She decides to pretend that he's still around---to convince everyone that Laz is still home and her marriage is still intact, it seems easier than explaining. 
Grace quickly realizes that fabricating a husband is all in the details---the things left out, half-done, out of order; each morning, a pair of his socks in the hamper, a toilet seat up in the bathroom, cabinet doors open, crumbs on the kitchen counter. All the little signs that show a husband is around. She learns that the pretense of a marriage can be reduced to a few timely excuses and well-placed props---a presence conjured by smoke and mirrors. 
But as Grace masters the art of deception, she finds herself the one most deceived. She begins to realize that perhaps her marriage---and her husband---were not what she'd believed them to be. 
Meanwhile, taking on the role of a single wife becomes excessively complicated when Grace's own life starts to spin out of control. She discovers that she's being stalked by a Russian detective, and people from Laz's past appear on her doorstep. She can't get her kvetching parents to stop running her life. Her favorite shade of lipstick has been discontinued. And she can't figure out why she's angry at Laz's best friend for being in love. Grace's life is a New York mess."

Taryn's Review: It took 300 pages in this book to reveal the outcome of the story it told. To say the story dragged is a colossal understatement. There were so many little details in this book that ultimately failed to tie into the bigger picture of the story and those details left me scratching my head in confusion. 

Grace was either blinded by love or totally dense. The book doesn't really explain why Grace kept the charade of Laz's presence going for such a long time or why she felt the need to lie to her family and friends. Previously, Grace also apparently never questioned why her husband would need to abandon her for days at a time without contact.

I'm not sure if the ending of the book was supposed to lead me to believe that Grace had some sort of self-awakening while Laz was gone. Nothing she did while he was missing made me think she was becoming wiser. In fact, I'd say the way the story ended was due to secrets which were revealed because of convenience, not because Grace searched for answers.

I was really bored while reading this story and admit to skipping pages because I was sick of the limbo I was trapped in while reading the book. This limbo has worked for other books, but the "suspense" of this story was not pleasing. I really disliked this book and didn't find the author's writing style particularly unique or fantastic. I'm not sure if I'd try another book by this author; the book would have to already have rave reviews for me to consider spending time on another Soloman book.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Speed Shrinking by Susan Shapiro~★★1/2

Author: Susan Shapiro
Title: Speed Shrinking
Release Date: August 4, 2009
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "In Susan Shapiro's laugh-out-loud funny fictional debut, Speed Shrinking, Manhattan self-help author Julia Goodman thinks she's got her addictive personality under control. Then her beloved psychoanalyst moves away at the same time her husband takes off to L.A. and her best friend gets married and moves to Ohio.
Feeling lonely and left out, Julia fills the void with food, becomes a cupcake addict, and blimps out. This is a huge problem---especially since she's about to go on national television to plug her hot new self-help book about how she conquered her sugar addiction. 
Navigating her insurance network, Julia desperately sees eight shrinks in eight days, speed-dating for Dr. Replacement---or any other new guru---to help shrink back her body and anxiety in time for her close up." 

Taryn's Review: Disappointingly, this book was not really about "speed shrinking" as the book jacket described. Julia's eight-shrinks-in-eight-days was covered in a few brief pages in this nearly 300-page book. I didn't laugh once while reading this book, either, like the jacket said I would.

The book focused on Julia's coping mechanism after the loss of her "three pillars of support." Her coping mechanism was sugar in any form (not just cupcakes), and she indulged at every opportunity and gained roughly 35 pounds. Julia also began seeing a new therapist, who she called Dr. Cigar, while still seeing her old therapist via iChat and emails.

There were annoyances in the book that pushed the storyline too obviously. Julia's best friend since childhood, Sarah, tells Julia she's moving to Ohio with her soon-to-be-husband because he won a contract for the Cleveland Museum. At brunch the day after the wedding, Sarah's husband tells Julia he hates the city and is a Midwestern boy at heart. I have a hard time believing that during Sarah's courtship with him that he never once would have mentioned this preference. Julia even touted before this point in the book that she was the one who helped Sarah see what a great guy he was, yet she had no clue he wanted to move back home? Sarah also quickly became stereotyped in her marriage, making her exit in Julia's life quite easy. The complexity of a lifelong friendship fizzled out rather smoothly, yet Julia's relationship with her therapist seemed to be at the core of her worries.

By the last third of the book, it had taken turns that really hurt the overall enjoyment of the story. The ending was not good. I really don't understand what exactly I was supposed to take away from it other than noting that Julia was still neurotic and self-centered about her weight. Julia wasn't always a likeable character; I'm not really sure that Julia suffered from an illness in the way she so desperately wanted to suffer. Ironically, after reading about Julia, she would be the last person I'd want to write a self-help book. Julia is obnoxious, noisy, dramatic, and selfish, but she's a great publish speaker, confident, charming, and expressive, which made her a hit with the public. Julia is hard to empathize with, and it only gets harder to do by the end of the book.

Shapiro showed promise in this book, but the story was flat and missing that pull that makes you fall in love. Shapiro has written other books from what I can tell; I wouldn't seek them out necessarily, but I wouldn't turn my nose at one, either.  A great book about someone dealing with an addiction and the plight to overcome and accept such issues is Toni Jordan's Addiction. Ultimately, Shapiro's first attempt at fiction was not a favorite for me and the story was too long, too bland, and the main character was too unlikeable.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Atonement by Ian McEwan~★★★

Author: Atonement
Title: Ian McEwan
Release Date: First published in 2001; this edition published in 2007
Publisher: Seal Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment's flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony's incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives., a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century."

Taryn's Review: One book review in April?! Oops! I'm already doing better in May by kicking off with a book! More is to come thanks to a trip to the library.

Now to Atonement. I wanted to love this book; I tried to love this book. Ultimately, I struggled to get through this book. I was really surprised at my distaste for the author because a friend highly recommended this book. Normally we have similar tastes in books, but I could not get into McEwan's style of writing. He was very descriptive, but to me, it wasn't pleasant in the same way Hemingway's descriptions were. Normally I can read a few chapters of a book nightly, but after each chapter of Atonement, I wanted to quit.

The story that McEwan told was thought-provoking. In an off-beat way, it reminded me of the Salem Witch Trials of 1492. At the center of each drama, a young teen's testimony determined the fate of an adult's livelihood. The teens believed what they were saying, swore under oath what they said was true, and their words ruined the lives of others.

Justice played a strong theme in the book and it was interesting to read Briony's take on what happened at the end of the tale. After reading the work, I thought about justice again, contemplated what exactly justice is, and if it is really ever "served."

I probably will avoid McEwan's books in the future because I really disliked his writing style. He was overly descriptive which caused my attention to wane repeatedly. Skipping pages was all I could think about at points because I so desperately wanted some movement in the book. I think the actual tale is rather good, but not good enough to persuade me to try another book of the author's writing.