Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Finally Finished a Book!

Okay! Forget fancy challenges with specific orders. It has taken me seven months but I have finished a book (I have about twelve that are in some stage or another of reading. A terrible habit, I know!). It would seem that at this stage of my life, simply completing a book is challenge enough. So after a lovely and relaxing week at the beach, I actually read the final page of not one but two books!!! Yay! Yay! Yay!

So here we go. The first book I finished for the year of 2010 was Running Into Trouble by Elizabeth A. M. Keel. Haven't heard of it? Well, neither had I but a good friend recommended it to me and I am so glad that she did.

Here is what the back cover says:
A Tale of Captains, Conquerors, and Warlords

Trouble accorded him a small bow, somehow hinting he didn't deserve a
larger one. "Greetings, Captain Buddy. I am new to these waters, but I gave you
the blast of greeting!"

She nodded to me, and I obliged, hurling one of our cannons in front of his
feet, where it exploded.

Buddy stared at her for a moment, then glanced at me like he wasn't quite
sure what he was seeing. For a second, I saw ourselves through his twelve year
old eyes: a proud, demented girl in a filthy jumper, and a thin boy he knew from
school, hovering behind her, clearly not in charge. I swallowed.

"Duly noted," he replied, his older voice scarcely cracking.

"Trouble!" she supplied. "And you already know Warrick, the Warlord!"

The novel follows a set of friends through their youth and beyond. It examines the people that we invite into our lives, those that enter without invitation, and how they shape who we become. It is at times funny, heart-breaking, and reassuring. It is written in a classic Southern style wherein time is a loose devise with only sparely given clues indicating the friends aging through the years. I was engrossed in the story and engaged by the characters. I will definitely be recommending this little book to my friends. And therefore, my friends, I recommend it to you.

On to the second book, The Guy Not Taken, by Jennifer Weiner. Its cover reads:

Jennifer Weiner's talent shines like never before in this collection of
short stories, following the tender, often hilarious, progress of love and
relationships over the course of a lifetime.

We meet Larlie Davidow, home alone with her new baby late one night, when
she wanders onto her ex's online wedding registry and wonders what if she had
wound up with the guy not taken. We find Jessica Norton listing her beloved
river-view apartment in the hope of of winning her broker's heart. And we follow
an unlikely friendship between two very different new mothers, and the choices
that bring them together -- and pull them apart.

The Guy Not Taken demonstrates Weiner's amazing ability to create
characters who "feel like they could be your best friend" (Janet Maslin) and to
find hope and humor, longing and love in the hidden corners of our common

I have been a fan of Jennifer Weiner having read Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and Goodnight, Nobody (my personal favorite). She has a distinctive voice and a definite outlook on life and love. That voice is present if uneven in this collection. Some of the stories I loved and some not so much. Weiner has a sense for those whose lives do not pan out as planned. Their is a lot of resignation and compromise in these stories. Sometimes she finds hope in accepting one's decisions but often (to me, all too often) there is an incredible longing in these left behind people. In some ways, Weiner has written the same characters over and over in her novels. But in the course of a full-length book, there has been a sense of optimism. To this reader, that optimism is lacking in these shorter snapshots of life. And personally I missed it.

I would give this book a marginal recommendation. Weiner is a solid writer and I did enjoy much of what I read. I just didn't LOVE it and I so wanted to. I really did.

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