Bookworm — May 2013

I haven’t blogged about the books I’ve read for a really long time. Here’s some that I read from March until now.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, scientific miracles, and spiritual transformations, State of Wonder presents a world of stunning surprise and danger, rich in emotional resonance and moral complexity.

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared while working on a valuable new drug, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness. Stirring and luminous, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlikely beauty stands beside unimaginable loss beneath the rain forest’s jeweled canopy.


Doesn’t the description of the novel sound intriguing? I thought it sounded like a recipe for a big adventure just from that first paragraph. Once you actually start reading the novel though, it was a whole different story. After reading the book, it made feel like there should’ve been a lot more to the story than there really was.

I found that there were a lot of descriptions for things that I didn’t really care about, while the things I want to know more about were lacking an explanation. We spend three quarters of the book reading about Marina debating whether she should go to the jungle to find Dr. Swenson. And once in Brazil we read about how she wastes time trying to get an audience with Annick. There wasn’t enough on her stay in the jungle.

The drugs that the team of scientists found left many big questions that we never get an answer to. Perhaps it’s because there’s no way we could solve the questions that the drugs may bring forth, but it just seemed so random. Which brings up another point.. Patchett made a very messy ending for this story. At the last minute she throws in some pretty big problems and then she just sweeps it under the rug, throw a bow on top, and call it an ending.

It was a lackluster book, to say the least. I don’t even know how the novel got 3.82 stars out of 5 on Goodreads.

1/5


The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

An instant national bestseller, this stunningly evocative, beautifully rendered story told in the voice of Ernest Hemingway”s first wife, Hadley, has the same power and historical richness that made Loving Frank a bestseller.

No twentieth-century American writer has captured the popular imagination as much as Ernest Hemingway. This novel tells his story from a unique point of view – that of his first wife, Hadley. Through her eyes and voice, we experience Paris of the Lost Generation and meet fascinating characters such as Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. The city and its inhabitants provide a vivid backdrop to this engrossing and wrenching story of love and betrayal that is made all the more poignant knowing that, in the end, Hemingway would write of his first wife, “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.”


I remember reading Ernest Hemingway in high school. My class and I went over his short story ‘Hills Like White Elephants’. Such a short story, but each sentence was jam packed with hidden messages. In the Paris Wife I think it showed how hard Hemingway worked and how much thought he had to put into each sentence to convey exactly what he wants. Honestly, it wasn’t until I checked this book out that I realized his personal life was so.. under the spotlight back then. I’ve always just known he was a respected writer that most people know about.

I read this book without reading the Wikipedia page on him so I didn’t know what to expect. Since the story is narrated by Hadley we, as the reader, were able to experience the change in Ernest and the fall of their marriage together with her. He went from this charming, young man that lit up her whole world to this selfish man who was suddenly caught up in all the wrong things.

Hadley was almost like this all-giving wife that got swept along for the ride. As the story went on I was more and more appalled by Ernest’s behavior. But more than that, was my frustration with Hadley. She could barely stand up for herself when it came to him. By the end, I wanted to slap her to get her to wake up. Why stay and swallow your pride? Why let the others walk all over you like that? I felt horrible just reading it. Of course, I guess Hemingway did get what was coming to him and he showed that by saying he wished that he’d die before loving anyone but Hadley.

3.5/5


Room by Emma Donoghue

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.


I had this book on my ‘plan to read’ list for quite a long time. I removed it after a while because the topic of the book didn’t sit right with me. It kind of scared me to think about all the things that occur in those situations. I could barely stomach reading things like this on online news sites. The book kept popping up everywhere though, so in the end I thought.. okay I’ll just give it a try.

I still don’t quite know how I feel about the book. I didn’t love the book and I don’t completely hate it. It became annoying at times because the story is narrated by a five year old boy. We were also never able to delve deeper into the feelings and thoughts of the girl who was kidnapped because the story is told through her son’s voice. It felt like it was lacking something since the readers are not able to connect with the character.

I really wanted to know how things turned out for the two of them afterwards too, but I guess the author wanted us to just use our imagination.

//SPOILER//
I wanted to know how her father dealt with Jack! He made occasional appearances and every time he did show up, he was disgusted at Jack. It didn’t feel like he even made any sort of effort to realize how much his behavior was affecting his daughter and Jack. It’s like he didn’t understand that Jack is her son, instead he just views him as a product of a monster.

It also surprised me when she suddenly decided to overdose on pills. She worked so hard to get them out and then she pulls that stunt?? What was the point then??
//END SPOILER//

3/5


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?


Gone Girl was actually pretty enjoyable for me, which was surprising because I felt like I haven’t connected with any of the books I’ve read lately. This was the only one that made me feel like staying up at night to try and finish it. Apparently it was #1 for 8 weeks on New York Times’ list of hardcover fiction. It was up against 50 Shades of Grey LOL. You have to give it some credit for that, right? America was crazy about 50 Shades and Gone Girl managed to top the list. It broke through the sea of crazies LOL. In fact, the rights to a film adaption of Gone Girl have already been sold.

The chapters rotate between Nick and Amy narrating the story. In the first part of the book Nick narrates the present situation while Amy’s chapters were taken from her diary as she’s missing. Her diary entries provide us with the background information of the characters, the story of how their relationship came out, and how it was close to the day she suddenly disappeared.

It’s one of those stories where you never end up liking either of the characters much. They have some redeeming qualities, but it just wasn’t enough to really get you to love either one of them. That’s fine with me as I do not believe we have to love the characters to enjoy the story.

What I did not enjoy was the ending. I’ve said time and time again that a bad ending just ruins the book for me. This one I just wanted to throw my hands up along with the book and be like, “WTF!” I just couldn’t believe that that was the ending the author chose. Is there a sequel to this novel or something?! Nope. I went online and read an interview that Flynn did, which questioned her choice on how to end the novel. She said that that was the only way it could end and that she received a really big reaction from her readers because most of them had a problem with it. Hell yeah you did, I still can’t believe it ended that way!

3.5/5 – would’ve been 4 if not for the weird ending.

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