It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11.0

Happy Monday everyone! This week I am participating in the “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last week I finished:

waterforelephants

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out—orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive “ship of fools.” It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act—in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

I really, really wanted to love this novel after all the reviews I read about it and everything I had heard from friends…but I really didn’t. I liked it to be sure, but I certainly didn’t love it. Is this book a casualty of over-hyping or was I just destined to not love it as much as everyone else? I’m not sure, but I think it’s likely the latter and not the former.

Jacob as a character just never really rang true for me. He was an Ivy league educated almost-veterinarian and yet he was shockingly naive at times. I also felt like the love story between Jacob and Marlena lacked the the heat and passion that the older Jacob recalls. The book rushes through these scenes (and really every scene) with the speed and frenzy of the train on which the circus resides, and I think the book would have benefited greatly if more time would have been devoted to character development. But maybe that’s just me.

My favorite part of the book by far was Rosie the elephant. I also appreciated all the other weird and wacky circus anecdotes Gruen included. Overall, (as I mentioned above) I liked but sadly did not love this book. 2.5/5 stars.

 

enchantedlifeofadamhope

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope is an unconventional and passionately romantic love story that is as breathtaking and wondrous as The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

During WWII, teenager Evelyn Roe is sent to manage the family farm in rural North Carolina, where she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier on their property. She rescues him, and it quickly becomes clear he is not a man…and not one of us. The rescued body recovers at an unnatural speed, and just as fast, Evelyn and Adam fall deeply in love. In The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope, Rhonda Riley reveals the exhilarating, terrifying mystery inherent in all relationships: No matter how deeply we love someone, and no matter how much we will sacrifice for them, we can only know them so well…

Wow! What a unique book! I really enjoyed how Riley managed to place such extraordinary characters in such ordinary circumstances. The story was strange and fantastical, yet you could also picture living next door to these people.

I think my favorite part of the book was Riley’s vivid descriptions of the land. I would say the land itself is arguably a character in this novel–especially since it is from where Adam comes and presumably where he returns. I’ve heard many people compare this book to things like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for its description of the natural world, and having read both I’d say Riley does it better. I also like the explorations of the nature of love and the things we will do for those whom we love. Love grows and changes over the years, and I think Riley does a nice job of illustrating how we sometimes have to change together and/or make sacrifices for those we love.

I appreciated Riley’s exploration of gender and identity (although I know this part of the novel made many readers uncomfortable), but I do think she raises more questions than she answers. I realize a deep discussion of these issues was probably out of the scope of the novel, but I would have appreciated at least some discussion. Also on an unrelated note: I think the 60’s-70’s portion of the novel really drags and could have used a bit more editing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It made me think about family and life in general, and has stuck with me even as some time as passed since I finished it. 3.5/5 stars.

This week I am reading:

the-house-of-mirth

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

First published in 1905, The House of Mirth shocked the New York society it so deftly chronicles, portraying the moral, social, and economic restraints on a woman who dared to claim the privileges of marriage without assuming the responsibilities. Lily Bart, beautiful, witty, and sophisticated, is accepted by “old money” and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. But as she nears 30, her foothold becomes precarious; a poor girl with expensive tastes, she needs a husband to preserve her social standing and to maintain her life in the luxury she has come to expect. While many have sought her, something—fastidiousness or integrity—prevents her from making a “suitable” match.

I have barely cracked the cover on this one, but I loved The Age of Innocence and am sure I will love this too!

This week I am listening to:

The Interestings

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.

I’m about midway through this one and am enjoying it. Thus far I’m not overly fond of the main character, Jules, but I do think Wolitzer has done a great job of creating very real and complex characters.

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rita (My Home of Books)
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 10:25:59

    I also thought Water for Elephants didn’t live up to all the hype, though I tend to read books I enjoy and not follow the crowd. I haven’t finished The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope yet. I started it and put it aside for some others. I guess I should finish it up because you seemed to think it was worth it. Thanks for sharing; enjoy your week of reading.

    Reply

    • exlibrisheather
      Aug 19, 2013 @ 12:46:41

      It’s nice to hear I wasn’t the only one! I hope you enjoy the rest of The Enchanted Life! I thought it was great, but realize it might not be for everyone. I hope you have a great week of reading too!

      Reply

  2. Lindsey
    Aug 19, 2013 @ 21:07:48

    I enjoyed The Interestings. I still haven’t written that review yet though! Sigh…

    Have an awesome week!

    Reply

  3. Geoff W
    Aug 21, 2013 @ 08:56:39

    I’m so glad you’ve liked those two Edith Wharton novels. They are two that I’ve bought after a Boston Book Festival panel last year and I’ve only read negative/lack-luster reviews of them recently.

    Reply

    • exlibrisheather
      Aug 22, 2013 @ 12:13:08

      I loved age of innocence and I’m liking house of mirth so far! I guess I haven’t seen the lackluster reviews you are talking but ill have to look around to see what is being said

      Reply

  4. Trackback: My 2013 Reading Challenges: How Did I Do? | Ex Libris
  5. Trackback: Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children | Ex Libris

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