Review: Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

Title: Goodbye for Now
Author: Laurie Frankel
Published by Doubleday, August 7, 2012
Hardcover, 304 pages

Sam Elling works for an internet dating company, but he still can’t get a date. So he creates an algorithm that will match you with your soul mate. Sam meets the love of his life, a coworker named Meredith, but he also gets fired when the company starts losing all their customers to Mr. and Ms. Right.

When Meredith’s grandmother, Livvie, dies suddenly, Sam uses his ample free time to create a computer program that will allow Meredith to have one last conversation with her grandmother. Mining from all her correspondence—email, Facebook, Skype, texts—Sam constructs a computer simulation of Livvie who can respond to email or video chat just as if she were still alive. It’s not supernatural, it’s computer science.

Meredith loves it, and the couple begins to wonder if this is something that could help more people through their grief. And thus, the company RePose is born. The business takes off, but for every person who just wants to say good-bye, there is someone who can’t let go.

In the meantime, Sam and Meredith’s affection for one another deepens into the kind of love that once tasted, you can’t live without. But what if one of them suddenly had to? This entertaining novel, delivers a charming and bittersweet romance as well as a lump in the throat exploration of the nature of love, loss, and life (both real and computer simulated). Maybe nothing was meant to last forever, but then again, sometimes love takes on a life of its own. (From Goodreads)

I was lucky enough to win this book through Goodreads’ First Reads giveaways.

This isn’t normally the type of book I would read, and it’s definitely not one I would’ve bought for myself after reading the description. But I figured I might as well enter, since I liked the cover. No reason not to.

Anyway, even though this isn’t the type of book I’d normally read, I still liked it a lot. The characters all felt very realistic, and the story was interesting, especially after about halfway through. The first half of the book is basically given away in the description, but once I got past that, it didn’t take me long to finish because I started liking it more.

And then there was a twist that pretty much ripped my heart out. I had to put the book down for a while because I was kind of angry. But I like that the author was able to get me to feel something for these characters, because sometimes that doesn’t happen even when you really want it to.

I definitely recommend this book if it sounds at all interesting to you. Or if it doesn’t. It was a great story and it really makes you feel for the characters.


Review: Serena by Ron Rash

Author: Ron Rash
Originally published by Ecco Press, October 7, 2008
Paperback, 371 pages

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning. (From Goodreads)

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now, since it’s being turned into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence (of Hunger Games fame) in the title role. After reading the book, I can’t WAIT for the movie to be released next year, because I think Jen will be absolutely amazing in it.

But this isn’t a post about a movie, it’s a post about a book. And this book is stunning.

I love it when a book centers around a villain. And Serena is most definitely a villain. As is her husband, Pemberton, to some extent. They will stop at nothing to get what they want, until Serena finds Pemberton’s weakness: his illegitimate son. The story not only follows the Pembertons, but also the men who work at the Pembertons’ lumber camp, and Rachel, the mother of Pemberton’s son. In several reviews on Goodreads, I’ve seen the workers called “a kind of Greek chorus,” which basically sums up their purpose in the book. They fill in the gaps for us, as well as gossip about what they think really happened. I really loved reading their parts of the book because they were just so much fun. They served as comic relief as well.

I also enjoyed hearing Rachel’s story throughout the novel. It made me sympathize with her a lot more than I would have otherwise. Most of all, though, I enjoyed the character of Serena. No matter how evil she is, her character still made me want to cheer for her most of the time. Did I mention she has a pet eagle? Yeah, she’s a total bad ass.

The way this novel is written is absolutely beautiful. Some of Rash’s descriptions are so descriptive, I feel like I’m there. The whole thing was very, very literary. I feel like it could eventually be a classic. And I hope it is, because it’s just that good.

Review: The Thing About Thugs by Tabish Khair

Title: The Thing About Thugs
Author: Tabish Khair
First US Edition published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 24, 2o12
Hardcover, 256 pages

A subversive, macabre novel of a young Indian man’s misadventures in Victorian London as the city is racked by a series of murders

In a small Bihari village, Captain William T. Meadows finds just the man to further his phrenological research back home: Amir Ali, confessed member of the infamous Thugee cult. With tales of a murderous youth redeemed, Ali gains passage to England, his villainously shaped skull there to be studied. Only Ali knows just how embroidered his story is, so when a killer begins depriving London’s underclass of their heads, suspicion naturally falls on the “thug.” With help from fellow immigrants led by a shrewd Punjabi woman, Ali journeys deep into a hostile city in an attempt to save himself and end the gruesome murders.

Ranging from skull-lined mansions to underground tunnels a ghostly people call home, The Thing about Thugs is a feat of imagination to rival Wilkie Collins or Michael Chabon. Short-listed for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, this sly Victorian role reversal marks the arrival of a compelling new Indian novelist to North America. (From Goodreads)

I was fortunate enough to receive this book from one of Goodread’s First Reads giveaways.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was different to what I was expecting, though. By the description, I was thinking The Thing About Thugs was going to be a murder mystery. It wasn’t. Within the first few chapters, the reader is told who is doing the murdering and why they’re doing it. If you’re looking for a good mystery, this is probably not the book for you.

If you enjoy historical fiction, however, you will most likely like this book. The writing is fantastic, and the story is mostly entertaining. There were bits that kind of pulled me out of the story being told, though, when the narrator would talk about finding Amir Ali’s letters in his grandfather’s home and say that he imagined things in certain ways. I know those were put in to make it feel more “literary,” but they kind of made me want to just hurry past them and get back to the real story being told.

I love that the story unfolds in different narratives. You have the chapters that are Amir’s letters (which are written in a script font that some may find hard to read, though I didn’t), others which are his stories told aloud to the Captain, and then the chapters which follow other characters such as the murderers and Amir’s friends. The story moves kind of slowly, but by the end I was really interested to see what was going to happen to Amir and his friends, although we aren’t given a definite answer.

I really liked this book a lot. It wasn’t something that I would have normally chosen to read on my own, but I’m glad that I did. It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you’re into historical fiction.

Review: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

 Title: The Snow Child
Author: Eowyn Ivey
Published by Little, Brown and Company, Feb 1, 2012
Hardcover, 389 pages

Starting this review, I’m honestly having trouble putting my thoughts into words. There’s nothing I can say about The Snow Child that even begins to describe how I felt while reading it. It was truly a stunning book.

The Snow Child is about a couple, Mabel and Jack, who married late and unsuccessfully tried to have a child. A few years down the road in 1920, they decide to move to Alaska to build a homestead, to escape their family, which to them is only a reminder of the fact that they couldn’t have children while everyone else could. After they move to Alaska, they start to grow apart, but with the first snow of the season, their love rekindles. They build a little girl out of snow. When they wake up the next morning, their creation is gone, with child-sized footsteps leading away from it and the mittens and scarf that were on the snow child gone. They start to see a little girl running through the woods every now and then. The girl, named Faina, eventually becomes like a daughter to the couple. But is Faina a real person or a magical being?

Loosely based on the Russian fairy tale “Snegurachka” (The Snow Maiden), The Snow Child is absolutely breathtaking. It was one of those books that I just didn’t want to end. Ivey’s descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness, though sometimes brutal, left me chilled throughout the novel. The story is very heartwarming, though, which is quite the opposite of the setting.

I know this is a super short review, but there really isn’t much for me to say about this novel without spoiling the entire thing. So just read it! It’s definitely worth your time!

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Published by Doubleday, Sept 13, 2011
Hardcover, 387 pages

Since I’m just beginning this book blogging thing, I figured I might as well start off reviewing the last thing I read, The Night Circus. I don’t have any just-published or soon-to-be published books to review since I just started, but I hope that you enjoy my blog anyway!

I know this book has been out for a while, and so a lot of you have probably already read it. I also read that there was a lot of hype around its release, but, alas, I’m late to the party, as always!

While walking through Barnes & Noble a few months ago, the cover instantly caught my attention. I’m a graphic design major in college, and I thought, “If this book is anywhere near as good as its cover, it may just become my new favorite.” When I started it way back in January, I wasn’t so sure.

By just reading the inside flap, I was expecting lots of action packed scenes, a la The Hunger Games mixed with a setting somewhat like Water for Elephants. After about a hundred pages, I figured out that there weren’t any action packed scenes to speak of. Not to say it wasn’t good, but it just was totally different from what I expected. I put it down and didn’t pick it back up until four days ago.