Book Reviews

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

by Michelle Huneven

Patsy wakes up in a jail cell to find out she's killed two people while driving drunk. After serving time in jail, Patsy must adjust to life after such a horrible experience and the guilt she feels.

One of my biggest problems with this book is the fact that it tells you there's a "huge twist" on the dust jacket. Once you start reading it you are just waiting for the twist, which is obvious from the start, but doesn't happen until almost the end of the book. I was incredibly disappointed that the publishers had decided to market the book this way.

Other than that it was good. To me it really wasn't the book I was expecting though, because it deals with so many issues at once. Alcoholism, AIDS, adultery, prison, homosexuality, psychiatry, blended families, treatment of prisoners and their reintegration into society and more. It's a lot to take in, but it's a quick read and there are some great characters. I particularly loved Patsy's friend Gilles. There aren't any "good" or "bad" characters, instead there are flawed people who have all made mistakes. I liked this book, and it definitely made me think, but I had too many problems with it to rate it any higher.

Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
by Barbara Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich's painful battle with breast cancer leads her to take a harsh look at America's optimism in this nonfiction book. It was sad to read anecdotes about people with cancer believing that their negative thoughts were making their cancer get worse. I absolutely identified with her cynicism. People thinking good thoughts to heal themselves has never been in my believable category.

Ehrenreich's point is that choosing positive thinking over realism can have a negative impact on everything from personal health to the economy. People can delude themselves into thinking anything they want, but that doesn't make it real. For example, a woman can say she "manifested" an expensive purse for herself, but in the end she still has to pay the huge credit card bill.

I think some people just use "positive thinking" to justify materialism or laziness or a myriad of other things. The cynic in me liked her sarcastic look at these "suckers," but another, sappier side of me wanted her to leave people and their happy thoughts alone. In the end the book felt more like a rant than a logical argument.

Eloise in Paris
by Kay Thompson
The mischievous Eloise is back in action, this time in Paris. Knight's wonderful illustrations are filled with a lovely shade of blue in this book. The original worked with a palette of red, white, black and pink, so I love that Paris received it's own color. I liked this one just as much as the first and I can't wait to read it to my own mischievous niece.

by Jonathan Larson

Larson's Pulitzer-Prize-winning musical remake of the opera La Boheme has long been one of my favorites, but I'd never read the book until now. I loved seeing the dialogue and lyrics all written. The show moves fast and there are frequently multiple conversations going on at the same time, so it's easy to miss things. It was especially fun to read the lyric-heavy La Vie Boheme. There are so many clever references that I had to read it through multiple times just to appreciate it all.

This version also has some photos of the original stage production and some extra info about the author (who died before the show became a success). I loved having a chance to learn more about the real life events that inspired Larson to write the show.

What I really love about this story is the fact that it stresses accepting people as they are. It encourages us to dive in and live our lives, even though you might get hurt. One of the best lines comes from Mark, "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation!"

Photo by moi.


Jeanne said...

I hadn't even realized that Rent was a version of La Boheme. Since Opera audiences are predominantly older people, perhaps it's not too late to further my cultural education in opera!

Jenners said...

What a diverse bunch of reviews. It makes me want to both see and read "Rent."

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I've seen both Rent and La Boheme and it's fascinating to see such a classic piece of opera turned into a very modern story. It reminds me that art that is truly wonderful is always relevant.