Review: The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Friday, March 6, 2015

Title: The Aviator's Wife
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Pages: 401 (including author's note)
Genre: Fiction, historical
Publisher: Bantam Dell (Random House)
Pub. Date: January 15, 2013

In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Overall I enjoyed this book about the life of Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, well enough. But if it hadn't been for this being a book club pick, I probably wouldn't have read past the first 50-75 pages. The writing was fine, but I had expected it to be more literary. And in parts, especially earlier on when describing the blossoming love between Charles and Anne, it reminded me of a romance novel. For example:
"And in that moment, that first moment of flight, of my breaking of the rules of gravity -- I broke the rules of my heart, as well. For I had strictly governed it until this moment; this moment when I gave it, literally and figuratively, to the man seated behind me" (pg. 40 of nook)
(Not to mention the misuse of the term, literally... I suppose that was supposed to be the way the character spoke).

And another example:
"'You're up late,' he said, his piercing blue gaze sweeping over me, taking me all in; the robe was not cinched tightly around my waist, causing it to gape at the top of my thighs. I clutched the worn fabric, but Charles flushed anyway." (pg. 77 of nook).
But then the story moved on after that, considering that in 400 pages it covered almost 50 years. I really didn't know anything about Charles Lindbergh except that he was an aviator and his baby was kidnapped. (I had even been under the mistaken belief, for some reason, that the kidnapping was never solved). I learned a ton about this couple and, really, I found them both so unlikeable! Charles did seem sort of a caricature throughout, but, regardless, he was not a likeable man at all. And while I do understand Anne's thought process at the time for the era she was in, she gave him a lot of control over her. I also found some inconsistencies in the narrative. For instance, when I read this (below) I thought to my self... "B.S.!":
"I despised myself for letting him talk to me like this, and I never would have, before the baby was taken from me" (pg. 196 of nook).
That's actually not true. He spoke to you and treated you like that almost from the beginning. But okay.

So all that out of the way, I did enjoy the rest. We had some good discussions in the book club. I will leave you with a couple other quotes I did like from this book.

"I tried to recapture my passion for language, for playing with words almost as if they were floweres to be constantly rearranged into beautiful bouquets" (pg. 193 of nook)

"Jealousy is a terrible thing. It keeps you up at night, it demands tremendous energy in order to remain alive, and so you have to want to feed it, nurture it -- and by so wanting, you have to acknowledge that you are a bitter, petty person. It changes you. It changes the way you view the world; minor irritations become major catastrophes; celebrations become trials" (pg. 268 of nook)

Review: Stiff by Mary Roach

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Title: Stiff
Subtitle: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Author: Mary Roach
Pages: 304
Genre: Non-Fiction; Science
Publisher: W. W. Norton and Co.
Pub. Date: January 28, 2003
Audio Publisher: Tantor Media
Audio Narrator: Shelly Frasier
Audio Time: 7 hours, 59 minutes

The only other book I've read by Mary Roach I enjoyed but didn't actually finish. My reaction to what I had read was interesting, interesting, I never thought there could be so much to discuss about this topic or that I would be interested in it, but I am, okay now I feel a little bored, wait now it's interesting again. So, that was pretty much my exact reaction to this one!

Stiff is all about the things that human cadavers are used for. You'd never know there is actually enough material to fill an entire book! (ack, no pun intended!) I listened to this book on audio after reading a recommendation from another blogger and because I was able to get it through my library. Plus, I had seen Mary Roach talk in person at BEA in 2010 and I knew I liked her. She's funny, and I like the way she thinks. Well, I almost turned this audio off for good after I first started listening because I didn't think I could stomach it. It was gross. The first chapter talks about the use of practicing medicine on human heads. .  .  .

But I continued listening and was amazed. I had never even considered that human corpses were used in science at all. But apparently that is a common thing done in medical school. Seriously!? (Actually I read a medical book not long after this where the author mentioned it as well). I seriously had no idea and also didn't know that was a thing that people can choose to donate their bodies to after death. It was interesting to read about the students' reactions to dealing with this. Another interesting concept was the crimes of body snatching and digging up graves back in the day before these things were regulated and people did this to give the bodies to science and make money. Another thing I had never considered was the use of human bodies as crash test dummies. An actual dummy can only reflect so much what actually happens to someone in a crash because of the make up of an actual human body.

All in all, this was a book presented fascinating information about a topic I never knew to think about or that I would have thought would be interesting. The author is witty as I guess you'd have to be to make this topic interesting. I laughed out loud at some of the little, subtle things she said such as her interactions with the doctors who teach using human corpses. However, I don't think it would have ultimately kept my interest if I hadn't listened on audio. (It just seems to take more work to focus on a book than play an audio while you're driving).

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Monday, February 16, 2015

Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng
Pages: 292
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: The Penguin Press (Penguin Random House)
Pub. Date: June 26, 2014

Everything I Never Told You tells about the Lee family after the middle, favored, daughter, Lydia, dies. It goes back and forth a little with what happens to the family afterward and back to things that happened in the past including what led up to the day of Lydia's death. There are also things the the Lee family struggle with, as the family consists of a Chinese father and Caucasian mother with three biracial children in 1970's Ohio.

Some of my thoughts:

*I really related to the struggle felt by some of the characters of not fitting in due to their ethnicity or where even the kids who were half-Asian were looked at differently. I hated that they kept being referred to as "oriental", but that was the time they were living in.

*The author did a great job of showing the pressure the daughter experienced when each parent tried to mold her into a person based on their unrealized wishes for themselves. It was a good study of family psychology and the subtle dysfunctions they perpetuate.

*It was also a good study on the dynamics of marriage and how things were easily misconstrued and acted upon because of a very simple lack of communication.

*This is one of those books that is sad, but not the completely break your heart and have a good cry kind that ironically makes me love a book because now I feel so emotionally wrapped up in it. This doesn't necessarily leave you with any hope either. So, while a good story and greatly written, I felt very down while reading this. This could be because it was Christmas time when I read it and I should have picked something a little more cheery.

*Despite that, I really loved Ng's writing, and it kept me turning the pages. 

*There is sort of a mystery as to how exactly Lynda dies... I guess that part was sort of heart wrenching now that I think about it, in what happened and what it signified. 

*I have waffled between three and four stars for this one. When I analyze the things the author did well with this book, I lean towards four; but in terms of reading entertainment alone I am leaning towards 3. It could just be, though, that it was the wrong time of year for me to read this.

The Duff Book Giveaway Winners

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Okay, the drawing was done a little later than planned because of a last minute appointment yesterday.

The two winners are Sophia and Lindsay! E-mails have been sent. If I do not receive a response from them I will choose new winners.

The movie tie-in cover is super cute!

The Duff by Kody Keplinger: Book Giveaway AND Free Advance Movie Screening Tickets!!!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Hi Everyone! I have exciting news! But first a funny story.

So, almost five years ago, I was able to attend BEA in New York City (Book Expo America, the biggest publishing event held every year). I got tons of advanced copies of books that came out that year and the next, but there were just TWO that I was the most excited about. I've mentioned it before here, but the young adult book that I was so excited to read was The Duff by Kody Keplinger. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never did read it and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since, saved there every time I purged through my books for donations. Anyway, I recently saw that the movie was coming out and again thought "I need to read that!!" (I am still determined to do so before I see the movie!) Anyway, The movie looks fun, and I really like Mae Whitman who plays "The DUFF". (She was Michael's girlfriend in Arrested Development and Amber on Parenthood).

So I am super excited to have a giveaway of TWO copies of The Duff as well as TEN admit-two complimentary tickets to the advanced screening of the movie which will be held at Regal Cinemas at Winter Park Village on February 17, 2015 @ 7:00 pm!! The movie is officially released on February 20th. Here is a trailer for the movie below:

Now, to grab one of the TEN admit-two tickets go here:

Leave me a comment to let me know you got your tickets, and of course, let me know if there are any problems. Also, the screening is first come first served once you have tickets, so make sure to get there early for good seats. :)

To enter for a copy of the BOOK, fill out the form below.
I will randomize all the entries on Friday, February 13, 2015 @ 2:00 pm and then e-mail winners for their address.