Weird Sisters

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown was a fun book for me.  First of all, as one of three sisters, it is always interesting to read books or stories with three sisters.  In many ways – although these sisters did not remotely resemble me or my sisters – Brown nailed the dynamic of the sisters.  It was awesome.

The other reason i loved this book is because I love Shakespeare and having a family life that revolves entirely around Shakespeare was tons of fun to read about.  I even loved that each of the sisters had a difficult time living up to their names – Rosalind, first born from As You Like It; Bianca, second born from Taming of the Shrew; Cordelia, third born from King Lear.

This book is mainly a character study, or the study of a family, so there is not much in the way of action.  Much of it is introspection and family dynamic.  As someone who really enjoys characters and watching them grow, I enjoyed the books pace, but I’ve read reviews on Goodreads just trashing this book.  I loved it to pieces, so I found the vitriol against somewhat surprising, but again, I was into this book for the Shakespeare and the sisterly dynamic, so I was just fine with the pacing.

One of the things about this book that took me a little bit of time to figure out was the narration.  The narration came in the form of “we” and “our” and “us” and I was stumped for the first few chapters as to what in the world was going on.  Then I realized that the narration was the chorus, and more than likely the chorus of the Scottish play’s witches, from which the title of the book generates.

There is word play, Shakespeare, sisters, and humor in this book as each sister returns home for various reasons while their mother goes through treatments and an operation for breast cancer.  You’d think that each sister returned home simply to be there for their mother but each of them seem to have mental and emotional issues that they need to work out.  The sisters were not always very likable, and sometimes I wanted to shake them for idiocy.  That said, they each grow and learn throughout the novel so in my mind, growth is good.  It is much better than having static characters like some of the other books I have read.

If you are not into Shakespeare or character studies, then this is not going to be a book you will like.  For me, it was the right book at the right time.

The Interestings

This is a review for The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer, a book Entertainment Weekly rated as one of the the top books of 2013.  My faith in their reviewers is now utterly crushed because this book was not good.

** spoiler alert **

Spoilers and profanity in this review – you’ve been warned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a well written novel. There were so many little things – like Ethan taking care of Mo Templeton as Mo is dying and remembering the sound of the straw – then in his cartoon Figland, he makes a big deal out of the straw sound.  This lead to his viewers, particularly stoners, taking the straw sound and laughing, mimicking it, and buying lots of straws simply because it was funny. Taking the tragedy of someone dying horribly and turning it into a joke was just an example of some of the good writing. I also feel like the author knew that her characters were assholes. I simply don’t think she could have kept talking about Ash’s plays as being feminist while at the same time Ash is busy covering for her rapist brother without her setting up that dichotomy on purpose. It made Ash a fairly detestable character for me. I don’t think Wolitzer wants us to like these people.

I hated Jules. Never once did they show me that she was funny. She never cracked a joke I laughed at and honestly, I thought she was pretentious, stuck up, and superficial in the extreme. She and Ethan are “soul mates” except she is disgusted by his looks? She is hot for the RAPIST Goodman until he shows up with toe fungus and a gold tooth and because he is now old and ugly she is done with him? Really? THIS is our protagonist?

Page 154 was hard to read, but I LOVED that Cathy nailed Jules to the wall about her bullshit. Also, I think Cathy was a pretty strong character and I have to say that every time they talked about her rape by saying that Goodman was spoiled and Cathy was “needy” and that this somehow caused the rape to happen I wanted to kill them all. Who the fuck cares if Cathy was needy? I’ve met lots of needy women who were never raped. These two issues have nothing to do with each other and the fact that they kept trying and trying to make it Cathy’s fault that this spoiled ASSHOLE FUCKWAD raped her made me ill. Made me hate them.

Jules never grew up. She never improved. She was a static character of envy and bitchiness. Since most of the story is from her point of view that really sucks.  We first meet her in her teens, follow her through marriage, having kids, and then through empty nest and she still acts like a spoiled, bratty 15 year old.

All of that said I read the whole book. I liked Ethan and I would say that I loved Ethan but his absolute insane love for Jules knocked him down to like. Kind of like how you have that friend you really like, then you find out that they are in love with a stupid jerk and so it lowers your opinion of them? That is how I felt about Ethan.

So much about this book made me really dislike the characters every step of the way. So, it was well written but I would never recommend it nor will I ever ever read it again.  It is safe to say that I hated it.

Most of my book club felt the same way.  I had a few people apologize and say that they hated the characters too much to continue reading the book.  They were that awful – completely selfish people with no redeeming qualities.

Night Circus

** spoiler alert ** My final thoughts on Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – possible spoilers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think on a scale of 1-10, I give Night Circus around a 4 or 5. There was much that I found annoying about the book, but a lot of that diminished when I switched over to the audiobook.  Possibly because with an audiobook I sometimes tune out.

The author herself was clearly in love with the setting she created. That is why she describes it endlessly. ENDLESSLY! I had a couple of moments where I yelled at the recording, “We GET IT!! It is black and white and magical! The fanboys/girls wear a bit of red. Move the &^%$ on, already!”

When trying to listen to the audiobook, I was not able to listen with my husband in the car as the descriptions and endless frothing of the mouth over the setting was too much for him. He heard maybe 5 minutes of the audiobook but could describe the circus perfectly because the circus is described over and over and over and over and over…..  He actually has more patience than I do with this sort of nonsense most of the time, but even when he was asleep in the car I had to listen to something other than this book.  He found it THAT annoying.

Furthermore, in one or two of the second person intros (vignettes? whatever), the author uses them to good effect. In the rest it doesn’t work well – this was not a choose your own adventure book and if it is not a CYOA book, than saying “You do this thing that you would never do” or “You are here” just makes me aware that I am reading a book as I would clearly never do any of those things. Trying to tell me what I am doing, saying, thinking, or feeling doesn’t work, which is why second person is tricky at best and god awful annoying at worst. She pulls off tricky twice, the rest of the time it was god awful annoying. And again, it seemed to me like she uses the second person narrative to put you into the setting of the circus, which she clearly loved, so she felt the need to shove you there, too.  Whether you liked it or not.

I love the tarot readings and the use of the fortune teller Isobel in the book. I found her much more likable than Marco, the dolt she pines for. I like quite a lot of the secondary characters, and I really like the Circus’ clock – that was one area of description that I truly enjoyed as it was really cool to think about.

Celia was easy to like, but Marco was not because he was obsessive. About everything. All the time. Even his love for Celia. I also felt like the despicable way he treated Isobel was fairly distasteful and suggested that he might be just as bad as the two men who created the whole duel in the first place.

I felt that the descriptions of magic and its consequences were very cool. I also liked the secondary characters of Bailey, Poppy, and Widget. Reading about them was very cool and enjoyable.

I think if I had tried to stick with the print version I would never have made my way through this book. Long trips in the car by myself made completion possible and the latter half of the book does pick up the pace – not much more than description and mystery happens in the first half of the book and that type of thing is hard to slog through. Just say, “The mountains are pretty!” and let’s move on with our day!

This is not a book I would read again, and will more than likely forget about except that I will remember it was annoying, overly descriptive, and the author was way too much in love with the world she created and thus, could not tell a decent story.

Eleanor and Park

** spoiler alert **

Beware!!

Spoilers!!! 

Also, this is a bit of a disjointed and gushing review.  If you are looking for a synopsis, this is not the review for you.

 

 

 

So many thoughts!!  First, off Eleanor is a girl in the 1980’s who comes from a very poverty stricken home, with a drunken and abusive step father named Richie.  Park is more of a middle class kid, into comics and music.  This story is the story of their high school romance, spanning the course of one year.

First off, I loved, loved, LOVED Park’s parents. Maybe because I had a father that was similar (no license until you can drive a stick) but I really liked his dad. I liked that his dad knew Richie, so already knew kind of where Eleanor was coming from and he wanted to help, but had no idea how, other than giving her a place to be and food.

I loved Park’s mom, especially after Christmas, when she sees Eleanor’s family at the grocery store and she understands the poverty they are living in. I also liked that scene because you have this image of Eleanor’s mom as a beauty from Eleanor’s description of her, but to Park, her mom looks like someone who might have been as beautiful as Eleanor once, but it kind of faded.

I love that Park kicked Steve in the face. Ahh, the days before zero tolerance. That scene was really well done, especially with Steve saying that he had no idea that Eleanor was Park’s girlfriend. Park saying it shouldn’t matter (you shouldn’t tease anyone that way) and Steve missing the point entirely and saying that of course it matters because they are friends. I loved this scene because Park couldn’t help kicking him in the face and also because later, when Park starts wearing eye liner to school it is considered “cool”, like Ozzie Osbourne, simply because a) people like Park b) he can and will kick your ass. I also like that his father tries really hard not to be proud of him, but you can tell, he totally is.

I love that comics brought them together. I never really read comics before my husband, so this really resonated with me because after meeting him I read Sandman, then through a class at school, I read Maus, and the Dark Knight. Later, I read Watchmen and V for Vendetta. Books and comics (which are like books with art) are a great thing to bond over, because if there is a lull in conversation, you can always talk about them.

I love that they also bonded over music, and OH MY GOD I so remember mixed tapes. I made mixed tapes well into my 20’s, and will still make CD’s, albeit not with the same frequency. And the Smiths!! I loved them so much in high school and still do to this day. The album Louder Than Bombs was constantly in my tape deck in my car and my husband now knows most of their songs too (he gave me comics, I gave him the Smiths), simply through being around me. The song they are talking about that he first plays for her the lyrics are “I am the son, I am the Heir” and I love that she misinterprets it as “I am the sun, I am the air” because without having liner notes, how else would you know?

I think that this story really sucked me in at first simply through nostalgia for that time period because I remember it. I remember mixed tapes being a kind of friend currency – it wasn’t just wooing a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, we would share mixed tapes between friends, the “Oh my God you have to listen to this song!” When I think of high school, I more often than not think of the music, because it was such an important and vital part of the high school experience, high school survival for me.

This book had tons of little details that made me like it – like Eleanor talking about how Shakespeare is making fun of Romeo and Juliet, otherwise why mention Rosalind?

Going back to an earlier book I read for book club, “Summer Sisters”, I found the similarity in jealousy of siblings to be interesting. In this book her sister Maisie is jealous and pissy because Eleanor gets to leave and has somewhere else better to go. I was talking to my husband about how it seems that children in abusive homes don’t have the bond other siblings do simply because there is too much jealousy over petty shit. He equated it to prisoners not really wanting other prisoners to be allowed an escape.  He told me that crabs in a boiling pot will pull escaping crabs down into the pot to die with them – mental imagery I did not particularly want, but shared anyway.  You’re welcome.

I love that Eleanor is smart enough at the end of the book to just leave and run away. I also love that Tina, who has been giving her such a hard time at school, recognizes at least a little bit that Eleanor is in deep shit and offers to help her. I thought that was a brilliant bit where Steve talks about killing Tina’s stepdad, so he could kill Eleanor’s too, if she wanted. It lets you know WHY Tina is being helpful and a little bit about why she is kind of a bitch.

I never really totally warmed to Eleanor. I understood where she was coming from, I understood that she was terribly damaged, but she never really became likable to me. Park was absolutely likable and honestly the best thing about Eleanor is she liked Park, but I think that she is just so damaged at this point that it is part of why I didn’t like her. I don’t mind damaged, but she seemed so shut down, and she never shared very much, and she freaks out the first time she is at Park’s house.  She doesn’t like Batman. I mean, come on.  Then after she moves away, she not only doesn’t call him, she doesn’t write to him, doesn’t read what he has sent her. I just wanted to smack her.

Which leads me to the ending – I was not quite satisfied. What were the three words on the postcard she sent Park? I love you – which she never said or I miss you – which they both said tons? What happened to the rest of her family? Did they move up north, too? I am sick of Lady vs. Tiger being every author’s cop out ending – the Stephen King book I just read ended much the same way – and that while I know that life isn’t nice and neat and tidy, a few more details would not have killed anyone. Did her uncle take in all 5 kids? Did her mother go too? WTF happened?  If you are going to have be invested in your character, tell us what happens.  Two lines could have covered it.

And speaking of the mother, hated her. I have zero respect for women who put abusive, asshole, drunkard husbands before the welfare of their kids. When Eleanor gave her the $50 for Christmas so they could buy food, she didn’t even say thank you. Her mom put them in this position and then doesn’t even have the decency to say thanks. What a bitch.

Even though I was not happy with the ending, there was so much greatness in this book that I love it anyway. I loved that Park’s dad woke up or was awake when he is sneaking out to take Eleanor to Minnesota. I love that he knows exactly why she has to run away, and that he says if the uncle doesn’t take her in to bring her back and they will figure out something. His dad was a stand up man. Also, I love that he says that Park can take her to Minnesota, but only if he drives the truck with a stick shift. Hardass. But he knows how to motivate his son.

It was kind of like when Park’s younger brother asked to have his girlfriend over and his dad says he can if he gives up Nintendo. His brother doesn’t like the girlfriend enough to give up Nintendo, but Park was like “Sure, I can give up Nintendo” and his dad said he didn’t have to. The younger brother missed the point of the exchange, but he was basically saying if the girl isn’t worth giving up Nintendo, then you aren’t really that into her. Park loved Eleanor enough to drive a stickshift, even while his dad was watching. Just full of win. Loved it.

Ok. I think I am done. This is the kind of book where for a few days after reading it, I couldn’t read anything else. It just stays with you.

I give it 4.5 out of 5 and it would have been a perfect 5 if the ending hadn’t been a little bit of a cop out.