Sunday, August 25, 2013

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

What can I say about this book? A lot, actually. My head is still reeling and I finished it last night. 

In the book, the main character, Pandora, finds out her brother, Edison, is down on his luck as a jazz musician in New York. She arranges for Edison to come visit her and her family in Iowa. She hasn't seen Edison in four years and is stunned to see that he is now almost four hundred pounds. She is heartbroken and doesn't understand what happened. 

Pandora is struggling with her feelings because while she is quite successful in her business ( a doll company), she feels that she has to hide her success because Edison is in a slump with his music. 

When Pandora and Edison were young, their father had a somewhat big success on a television sitcom. Edison strives for this same type of fame with his music, but he and Pandora also have a bond because of the odd type of childhood they had. They find themselves laughing over their father's obsession that he still has with the show and think about similarities between the show's characters and themselves.

Pandora's husband, Fletcher and her two stepchildren, Tanner and Cody are unnerved by Edison's size and are more than unwelcoming. Well, I retract that, Cody, the stepdaughter, is more compassionate towards Edison. 

To top it all off, Fletcher is somewhat of a health nut. Edison pretty much eats them out of house and home, leading to strife and high stress levels in the house. Side note: I found myself curious as to why the author chose the names in this book: Pandora, Fletcher, Edison, Tanner, Cody...also in the book, a Solstice and a Sigrid. 

Okay, I digress. Edison stays in the house for about two months before he plans to head back to New York, saying he has to get ready for a tour. Well, the date comes around for Edison to leave and Pandora finds out that there is no tour and now she's torn. She feels responsible for Edison and doesn't know how she is going to let him go, knowing that there really isn't anything for Edison to go back to. 

So, Pandora is torn between her brother and whatever is going on with him and her husband who is, in my opinion an obnoxious jerk, who has enough of Edison in the house and can't wait to get back to their normal life. 

Pandora tells herself she has to help her brother, but at what cost? Her husband basically tells her more than once that Edison has to go because he can't take anymore. Pandora decides to help her brother, concocting a whole plan to move out of her family home to move into an apartment with him to help him with a massive weight loss strategy. 

The book then moves into the next part showing a different relationship between Pandora and Edison. And, as you can imagine, Fletcher is livid. Pandora takes her brother to her family doctor and after a consultation a quick calculation is done, Edison and Pandora will need a year to get his weight off. Well, you see what's coming...her marriage falls apart. 

 This part of the book moves pretty quickly, detailing Pandora and Edison's journey and Pandora's struggle with being away from her family. Eventually, Edison reaches his goal weight...from 386 to 161. Quite impressive, right? 
In the book, when Edison has finally reaches his goal weight, Pandora throws a party. Everything is fine and dandy except when  that Fletcher comes to the party and it is revealed that while Pandora and Fletcher are trying to patch things up, Edison is stunned that the situation isn't going to stay status quo. In a gruesome act of defiance, he starts smashing chocolate cake into his face in front of Pandora, who leaves the apartment to go back with Fletcher right away. She then explains that as time went on, Edison got bigger and bigger destroying all their hard work. 

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

It never happened. What??? Pandora stops her narrative almost in mid stride saying that her great weight loss plan never took place. It was all made up to make her feel better--creating a alternate series of events in her mind that would have been ideal.  In "reality", Edison got on the plane when he was supposed to and went back to New York, leaving Pandora in Iowa, basically ignoring her brother's problem.  

I related this to Pandora making up her own "show" like her father had back in the day. She wanted to rewrite her brother's story into a happy ending. Although, I have no idea why in her made up version, she had Edison sabotage himself by acting out, showing jealousy over her and Fletcher's reunion. But, who cares? That part was "fake". 

I have never read Lionel Shriver, and I might be leery to do so again. First of all, NOBODY in this book was likable. I must be old fashioned, but Pandora and Fletcher let Tanner, who is seventeen, drop the f bomb like it is nothing and never say a word about how disrespectful he is. Fletcher is just completely hateful and even before the "fake" part starts, he is TERRIBLE to Edison, even calling him a "fat f***." Let me tell you something. My husband is a wonderful person, but if he called one of my siblings a fat f***, I would smash him in the face and leave him on the spot. So, in my opinion, Pandora is weak.

Edison is not likable either. He lives in some fog, overstating his achievements and talking like some old jazz musician, using words like "cat" to describe someone and "dig." 

Yet another book where NOBODY talks like these characters did. Especially Pandora. NOBODY uses words like she did, even in her thoughts. I found myself skimming pages because some of it actually read like a textbook. 

I immediately logged onto today to find out what people said about this book. To tell you the truth, I was kind of mad I wasted the days I did on it. I usually read pretty quickly, but this took me from August 14-August 24. I wanted to find out what happened so I slogged through it. Some parts were good, but again, everyone was unlikable and they were even more so by the end. Would love to hear your comments! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I must be the last person on Earth to read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. (lol) I am behind the times, I know. And no, I have never seen the movie either.  

Suzie Salmon is fourteen years old, a student, a sister, a daughter and friend. Right from the start, though, you learn she has been murdered. This book is written from Suzie's point of view after death, in her heaven. I say "her" heaven because that is exactly how the author portrays it. Everyone's heaven is different. 

All through the book, you wonder if Suzie's killer will be caught. However, while you is waiting to see if justice will be done, you will also see how Suzie is adjusting to her place in Heaven as well as her thoughts and feelings on watching her family here on Earth. 

The reader also gets to experience how Suzie's family copes with this tragedy. Her mother, father, sister, brother and grandmother all deal with Suzie's death in very different ways. They attempt to function individually and as a family. 

Certain things occur in this book...things that challenge this family and not only Susie's death. A book, not only about loss, but about family dynamics as well, and what roles we are assigned to in the family unit. 

Did I like this book? Yes, it absolutely kept my interest and I thought the premise was original and intelligent. There was ONE part towards the end that thought was unnecessary and a little silly, but to prevent spoilers, I will just say that it was the thing that happened involving Ruth, Ray and Susie. 

If you read this and feel like leaving a comment, please do. If you have seen the movie, let me know if you think I should watch it after reading the book. Thank you for any feedback and thank you for reading.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Summer Secret by Kathleen Fuller

Mary Beth is a young Amish girl who works very hard at helping her family with chores and also at babysitting her two younger brothers, Caleb and Micah. Her twin brother, Johnny, torments her by teasing a little too much and sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming.

Mary Beth craves a little peace and quiet. So, she takes refuge in spending the little free time she has in a nearby barn that has been abandoned. She enjoys sketching and writing in her journal. But one day, she notices that some of her things that she brings to the barn is disturbed and she soon finds out that someone may be visiting the place that she called her own. 

Along with her twin, they set out to find who is using the barn, and maybe putting themselves in danger. Furthermore, they face the potential disappointment from their parents for sneaking out of the house while conducting their investigation. 

So, who is in the barn and why? Hence the "Mysteries of Middlefield" series title. This is the first in the series and while I won't tell you who is visiting the barn or why, I will tell you that the "mystery" is solved in this segment. 

So, I made a mistake. I didn't realize that this was a young adult book (lol). I love Amish stories so I was excited to read this. Don't get me wrong, it is a good story, but the longer I read, the more I realized this was geared towards a younger crowd. And while I enjoyed the story, it was predictable but uplifting. 

I finished this in a few days and have already started my next book. The next one I will be writing about is The Lovely Bones. 

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh

I had the chance to read this book courtesy of Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

I read all kinds of things, but sometimes what I need is a nice Christian fiction story. I also read Amish fiction, and you will see that with my next review. 

Faking Grace is about a girl, Maizy Grace Stewart (get it, Amazing Grace?) who has had her share of trouble.  She loses her dream job as an investigative reporter due to some unfortunate circumstances (you have to read!) and tries to restructure her life in another town. 

While waiting for her new job at the paper to become full time, she takes a part time job at Steeple Side Christian Resources to supplement her income. Thinking it won't be long until she can leave Steeple Side, she halfheartedly starts writing stories at her full time job for events like Mule Day, just biding her time.

The thing about Steeple Side though, is that they expect their employees to not only work, but live the Christian life as well. Maizy, who drops her first name just to go by Grace, while at Steeple Side (Grace looks better at a Christian company, right?) attempts to make herself look very much like a faithful Christian. 

Grace's patience pays off and her other employer at the paper finally offers her a full time position as investigative reporter. But, it comes as a price. They want her to dig deeper into Steeple Side's practices and see what kind of "dirt" she can come up with. 

Problem: Grace has started to like her co workers and expand her walk with God.  Is it right to act like she is only at Steeple Side working when she really is trying to do something more underhanded? 

Part touching, part humorous, Grace, along with her dog Woofer (too cute!) deals with the conflict of the struggle between right and wrong. 

My two cents: I almost gave this book up in the beginning. I had read about 70 pages and found it to be slow. HOWEVER, I am glad I stuck with it. It got better as it went along and I found myself finally caring about what happened to Grace.  So, if you like Christian fiction, I DO recommend this book. 

Visit the author's website at

Visit the publisher's website and read an excerpt!  (thank you for the copy, Multnomah!) 

Author spotlight:

Thank you for reading. Check out my other reviews, too!