The Expats by Chris Pavone + A Giveaway!!!

Expats-Ppbk-FINAL-189x300A book I reviewed a while back (last year) is being released in paperback!  That book is The Expats by Chris Pavone and I’ve hopped on the TLC Book Tour to help endorse this little espionage gem.  It’s a fun spy thriller that takes place in Luxembourg and other fantastic European cities.  The armchair travel was a definite high point!

I don’t want to describe the plot too much in fear of spoiling the finer aspects.  Kate Moore is a wife and mom with a secret past that’s about to come to light when her husband arrives home one afternoon with job relocation news.  The small family is picking up their less-than-perfect D.C. existence to move to Luxembourg and join the elite expat society.  All the new money promises to make their dreams come true until Kate begins to suspect something fishy in her husband’s new job and that their new friends aren’t exactly what they seem.  And that’s all you should know!

I definitely enjoyed The Expats.  I loved that the main character in this espionage thriller was female and a mom.  Reminded me a good bit of Alias at times – kind of like, Sydney Bristow, the later years!  Definitely a page turner, but not in an over-the-top way.  The action is actually held to a minimum with Pavone choosing instead to turn his pages with slowly building paranoia and the promise of answers just a few pages further.  I liked the subtlety of the plot and the web of questions and lies deftly built and sustained from beginning to end.  Just when you think you’ve figured out everything, a new web is un-spun that surprises even our narrator!

I give major props to Pavone for keeping me entertained from page one.  I finished the book within 2 days which is fairly quick for me!  His writing style is extremely readable and he alternates between telling the story in past tense with little snip-bits of present day drama you know the past is leading up to.  The end is jammed packed with information – I had to read certain parts twice just to keep up which might not be such a great thing, but didn’t detour me too much.  Also, the ending might not be plausible in real life, but was a ton of fun in the world the book created!  Sometimes, you need a little escape and The Expats was perfect for that!

Note: Book received from publisher (thanks Crown Publishing/Random House!)

Guess what! Fill out the entry form here and be eligible to win a copy of The Expats! Contest open to US and Canada residents only – ends Jan. 31st.

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This review is brought to you by the good ppl at TLC Book Tours and the views expressed above are my own honest opinion. To follow the rest of the tour hop over here! (Giveaway now closed!!)

Chris-Pavone-Author-Photo-credit-Nina-Subin-300x298About the Author:

Chris Pavone, a book editor for nearly two decades, recently returned to New York City after a sojourn to Luxembourg. The Expats is his first novel.

Visit the author’s website at www.chrispavone.com.

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Top 10 Books Read in 2012

What a fantastic reading year! I managed to complete 83 books which was a record for me and beat my 2011 total of 69 books by 14! Of course, these numbers are significantly skewed due to my lack of employment in 2012, but I’ll take it! My goals for 2013 are going to be less (52 books) since I’m a working lady again, but I still hope to leave those goals in the dust. Shooting for the moon and all.

On with the show! Picking my 10 favs wasn’t particularly difficult. In fact, I managed to choose exactly 10 the first time through my reading list. As with previous years, this list is classics heavy and doesn’t contain that many newer releases. I guess that’s why the classics are still hanging around all these years later, huh? Love them.

And now, in no particular order:

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Emma by Jane Austen: Is anyone surprised? Not only will this book always be a forever favorite, it’s also my favorite Austen novel. If you haven’t read it, shame on you.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: Adored in all the ways one can adore a book. So much fun and filled with addicting adventure and the most wonderful pop culture references. A book I’ll be rereading for the rest of my life.

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The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: The characters are top notch in this debut novel and my entire book club adored this read. Lovely writing and superb development.

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Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns: Now this is southern story telling at its best!

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Perhaps my childhood nostalgia pushed this story over the top for me, but I adored every minute spent in that damn garden.

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Jane Austen: A Life by Carol Shields: I feel like anything related to Austen will always make this list, but this biography was really fantastic. I found myself grinning like a maniac many times throughout my reading.

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My Antonia by Willa Cather: I highlighted this book more than any other this year. Cather’s talent amazes me.

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The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht: Such a gorgeous story told creatively. I’m amazed at how young Obreht is and can’t wait to watch her grow as a writer.

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Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen: Another book club winner (at least in my own opinion!) and the imagery was the clear winner here. Africa comes alive.

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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I haven’t seen the movie, but this novel swept me away. I found it challenging in the best of ways and utterly mind-blowing.

I’m going to be lazy and not post links to my individual reviews, but you can find them all on the 2012 books read page located at the top of the blog. They are all pretty much just gush-fests.

What were your favorites? Have any recommendations for me based on the above selections? How many books did you read in 2012? Let me know!!

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

What better way to remember a beloved author than reading one of his works?  I was so saddened to hear of Bradbury’s recent death because this man literally awoke the science fiction loving monster within me.  As a freshman in high school I read The Martian Chronicles along with several short stories by Bradbury and have not stopped reading him since.  Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Dandelion Wine have all been spectacular reads over the past decade and a half.  So with his passing I thought I’d take it all the way back to the beginning with the very first story I ever read that he wrote – “The Veldt”.

What I didn’t realize (and how could I not have realized this?) was that “The Veldt” is actually the first story in a collection entitled, The Illustrated Man.  Eighteen stories are woven together seamlessly.  The illustrated man is literally that – covered in beautiful lifelike tattoos that come awake at night.  They bring warnings of the future and one even shows a man (or woman) his/her death.

There are tales of race, gluttony, materialism, consumerism, and other bleak ‘isms’ that all involve space, many Bradbury’s beloved Mars.  In one yarn, all African American people escaped Earth to colonize Mars and now, many years later, a white man is on his way to Mars for the first time – will the Martians exact revenge for the wrongs of the past or forgive this man his race’s crimes?   And then there’s the previously mentioned “The Veldt” where the children’s virtual reality playroom becomes a little less virtual and a lot more reality.  But perhaps my favorite of the collection (and one of the only positive, uplifting stories) tells the tale of the world’s best father.

Bradbury’s writing is his amazing imagination come to life.  You really almost feel like a child again as you giddily read these wondrously fashioned creations.  There’s just something so special about the vibrancy of his writing even when his subject matter is decidedly bleak.  It’s like a painting you can’t take your eyes off of.  His stories always have a message – a morale – but never feel heavy handed or indulgent.  Or perhaps the magic of his writing just overshadows anything negative.  I even forgive him his obvious flaw of writing terribly poor female characters.  Often writers can’t get away with this, but something about Bradbury’s almost innocent style allows me to chalk his sexism up to being a product of his time (1940s/1950s).  Don’t hate me for it!  Clarisse from Fahrenheit 451 proves he can build a strong female!

The Illustrated Man will forever remain on my shelves and has only further solidified my inner Bradbury geekdom.  He’s a science fiction cultural icon and deserving of every bit of praise he receives.  The world lost a truly amazing visionary this year and he will be forever missed in the literary world.  I beseech all of you to pick up some Bradbury soon and discover (or rediscover) what makes his writing so effortlessly timeless.  This collection is a great place to start and will appeal to anyone who likes science fiction, twisty-turning plots, a story with a moral purpose, or just fantastic, poetic prose.

Reading back through what I just wrote and I sound like a complete lush gushing over her new lover.  Seriously.  I guess that’s how a favorite author should make you feel.  Thanks again, Mr. Bradbury, for making me weak in the knees!

Brand New Human Being by Emily Jeanne Miller + Giveaway!

What most intrigued me about reading Brand New Human Being was the male perspective, particularly the stay-at-home dad perspective that seems incredibly almost non-existent in literature.

Logan Pyle is in his thirties and a dissertation shy of his doctorate.  With grad school on the back burner, he finds himself in the midst of a struggling marriage to a distant wife, father to a regressing four-year-old, and son to a recently deceased father.  When he stumbles upon his wife in a precarious situation with another man, he channels his inner cray cray, grabs his son, and sets off into the sunset on a journey back to himself and ultimately, his family.

Like I said earlier, the dad perspective was a welcome change of pace.  Logan is a deeply flawed individual struggling to make sense out of his life and come to terms with his role as a father and his loss as a son.  I thought Miller’s debut novel really excelled at showing the tough realities of family, marriage, and the crap life hands you out of nowhere.  Plus, it was just nice to see a man struggling with depression and emotions because I was beginning to think they didn’t exist.  Miller impressed me with her ability to write from a male perspective believably.  I wonder if male readers would agree?

I also really appreciated the levity of the novel’s tone.  The story really sat heavily on my conscious during my reading and gave me a lot to ponder because the situations raised and questions asked don’t have easy answers.  For a while I worried that Miller would ruin the ambiguity of Logan’s problems with a storybook ending, but my fear was misplaced.  The ending was left open-ended and fit perfectly within the realities of life.

What didn’t impress me so much was the pacing.  I kept wondering when the big event was going to happen with Julie, Logan’s wife, since this event promised to be the climatic game changer.  Half way in I was beginning to have my doubts and felt the novel was floundering a bit in Logan’s self-pity, but thankfully, just as I was really getting frustrated, Miller’s plotting picked up and the second half of the novel flowed well.

Character development was also hit and miss.  Logan evolves beautifully, but no other character seemed to follow suit.  Julie was the same terrible wife she was at the beginning and never seemed to take responsibility for her part in the shabby state of their marriage.  I disliked her something fierce.  I wasn’t sure if Miller meant us to think her a sympathetic character or just not super important.  With a little something extra from her, Brand New Human Being would have been a near perfect debut.

Overall, the book was enjoyable and anyone who appreciates books about the struggles of family, marriage, and mid-life identity crisis will find something wonderful in Brand New Human Being.  I can see great book club discussions being born from Miller’s pages.  I’d recommend it to parents as well because I suspect Logan’s hang ups – failures and successes as a father – will resonate with readers who have similar experiences.

And guess what!  I get to give away a copy thanks to the lovely people at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!  Just click the link below to enter.  Winner will be selected on June 27, notified by email, and given 48 hours to respond!  US and Canadian residents only and no P.O. boxes.  Good Luck!

Click here to enter!

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EMILY JEANNE MILLER has an MS from the environmental studies program at the University of Montana and an MFA from the University of Florida in Gainesville. She lives, writes, and teaches in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to the lovely people at TLC Book Tours for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review! Check out the other tour dates here! (Now closed!)  Congrats to Allison on winning her own copy!

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Loved it.  It’s been a while since I read two phenomenal books back-t0-back, but what a joy to follow up Out of Africa with My Antonia.  My first Cather novel and definitely not my last.  I have now dedicated myself to reading all of her work.

So what’s it about?  Well…Antonia!  Ha!  Did you see that one coming?  It’s the story of Antonia as told from childhood friend, Jim Burden.  Antonia and Jim first meet on a wagon taking them from the train station to the Nebraska countryside that both children will now call home.  Jim’s parents have died and he’s traveled from Virginia to live with his grandparents on their farm.  Antonia’s family has immigrated to the United States from Bohemia (Czech Republic) at the bequest of Antonia’s mother to make a better life for her children.

I know it doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but how wrong you would be!  For non-classics readers out there, this story is one I highly suggest.  Very readable, has a quicker pace and a slightly episodic feel.  Humor is also abundant, in particular a scene with Tony’s mom and a cow – hilarious.  And really, this is just a very human story told simply and sweetly without being sentimental.  Tony’s story is not one of great fortune or misfortune and I loved how very true she stays to herself despite all the expectations her family, friends, and Jim are constantly thrusting upon her.  The final scene where Jim goes to visit her in mid-life was endearing, wonderful, and filled with a gleeful happiness despite Jim’s worries about her being an old, hardened woman who didn’t live up to her potential.  Tony is in love with her life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with no regrets and that just felt so refreshing.

What My Antonia also does well is pay gorgeous tribute to the mid-western countryside and small towns, the early farmers and settlers who established the towns and worked the lands.  Without being overly flowery, Cather’s prose puts you in the heart of corn-country and in the hearts of the many immigrants who helped build the heartland of America.

Cather also does a superb job of recognizing perspective and honoring each individual human experience.  Some characters love their new found American home while others long for their old country.  Marriage is both rough for some and sweetly moving for others.  There are the city lovers and the country lovers and those who love both.  Cather has quite a talent for seeing and showing all range of human emotion equivocally and harmoniously which I appreciated tremendously as a reader.

And finally, the prose…what can I even say?  I lingered on every sentence and never wanted the story to end.  My Antonia has forever earned a place on my permanent shelves.  I’d like to take a moment and share my favorite passage (it’s long, I apologize!):

As we walked homeward across the fields, the sun dropped and lay like a great golden globe in the low west.  While it hung there, the moon rose in the east, as big as a cart-wheel, pale silver and streaked with rose colour, thin as a bubble or a ghost-moon.  For five, perhaps ten minutes, the two luminaries confronted each other across the level land, resting on opposite edges of  the world.

In that singular light every little tree and shock of wheat, every sunflower stalk and clump of snow-on-the-mountain, drew itself up high and pointed; the very clods and furrows in the fields seemed to stand up sharply.  I felt the old pull of the earth, the solemn magic that comes out of those fields at nightfall.  I wished I could be a little boy again, and that my way could end there.

We reached the edge of the field, where our ways parted.  I took her hands and held them against my breast, feeling once more how strong and warm and good they were, those brown hands, and remembering how many kind things they had done for me.  I held them now a long while, over my heart.  About us it was growing darker and darker, and I had to look hard to see her face, which I meant always to carry with me; the closest, realest face, under all the shadows of women’s faces, at the very bottom of my memory.

‘I’ll come back,’ I said earnestly, through the soft, intrusive darkness.

‘Perhaps you will’ – I felt rather than saw her smile.  ‘But even if you don’t, you’re here, like my father.  So I won’t be lonesome.’

As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass.

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)

I’ve been thinking for a couple of days about this ‘review’ and how to approach gushing about this novel while also taking the negative aspects of colonialism seriously.  Normally, I wouldn’t write about a book club selection until after our meeting (which is this Sunday), but this time I really wanted to gather my thoughts before the discussion.

Karen Blixen under the pen name Isak Dinesen wrote Out of Africa about her nearly two decades in Africa, specifically Kenya.  She first traveled to Kenya with her husband/second cousin to operate their coffee plantation near the capital of Nairobi.  During the next several years, she divorced her husband, took over the plantation’s management, entered a long-term affair with game hunter Denys Finch Hatton, struggled with illness, and, eventually, the financial loss of her farm – leaving Africa behind for her native Denmark.

Within the pages of Out of Africa, you get much of her relationship and bond with Africa itself and its many peoples, but very little about her personal life – so I’d be wary to call this a memoir.  A lot of criticism for Dinesen’s novel revolves around how little she’s willing to share of herself which limits the reader’s understanding of her as a person and how she relates to everything around her.  There can be no character development when there is no real character discussed in any depth.  Dinesen, instead, chooses to focus solely on the running of her plantation, the African natives who inhabit and work ‘her’ lands, the friends who come and go on visits, and the extraordinary landscapes and wildlife surrounding her.  And she does this splendidly with the kind of prose that puts a giddy smile on my face and reminds with every page why I love reading so incredibly much.

Dinesen’s imagery is the kind of writing that makes film almost obsolete.  I can’t imagine a picture or movie doing her descriptions justice.  After 400 pages of such layered detail, the fact that I can still envision singular images from the first 20 pages is amazing – the lion with his head covered in blood from nose to ears, the pack of elephants described as resembling a Persian rug – really beautiful stuff.  And so, for me, Out of Africa becomes a sort of portal to a different world – the African bush of the early 20th century.  My senses are on fire with the visceral nature of Dinesen’s writing and I completely forgive her for leaving out her personal life – there are other books for that.  Think of Out of Africa as a travel log rather than a memoir.

As for the colonialism aspect of the novel, yes – this book is written from the European perspective and as such will sometimes make contemporary readers squirm.  Dinesen often expresses a parental condescension towards the native men, women, and children who live and work on the plantation.  She also thinks thoughts and behaves in ways we could easily label as racist and ignorant.  And those ideas and behaviors are wrong – we all know this (hopefully, we all know this), but her actions and the recording of them are honest and real and allow us to learn.  Out of Africa lets the reader get inside the mind of a well-meaning colonist, to understand where she is coming from, to know that she means nothing malicious, but that well-intentioned racism is still racism.  So, my suggestion to readers who are wary of the negativity of colonialism – supplement your reading with all the varying perspectives – those pro and against colonialism – African and European.  History should be viewed from all viewpoints – not just the ones we’ve determined to be correct.

I loved every moment I spent reading Out of Africa.  Upon completion, I immediately googled Dinesen, Kenya, and many other regions of Africa – desperate to spend more time there.  I even did some research on a Kenyan vacation and discovered that Dinesen’s house is now a museum!  If only I had massive quantities of disposable income!  The movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford is high on my must-watch list.  Anyway, if you haven’t read this book yet you are doing yourself a disservice.  Go forth and read!  I’ll do a quick follow up post after our book club discussion Sunday afternoon to share everyone else’s opinions.  Really looking forward to this discussion!

Next up, I’m currently reading Brand New Human Being by Emily Jeanne Miller for the TLC tour and hope to start My Antonia by Willa Cather this week.  And I’m going to tentatively promise to finish A Clash of Kings this month as well.  We shall see!

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So what did the group think?  Very mixed bag – a very polarizing novel.  Those who loved the story same as me were enchanted by the African bush, saw Dinesen as a brave explorer, and loved reveling in the luscious prose.  Several members talked about how this is a book meant to be read oh-so-slowly so that you can really soak up the experience.

Those ladies who weren’t a fan tended to dislike Dinesen’s voice.  She wasn’t someone they cared about or wanted to get to know better.  Some even thought her despicable.

Most everyone loved the movie, however, no matter their feelings on the book.  And pretty much everyone agreed that Africa is a must-see destination at some point in life.

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

Meet Naomi Feinstein.  She’s an uncommonly intelligent, quiet, stand-offish little girl who experiences several life-defining events as a young child.  Her mother hides in her bedroom suffering from a deep depression, her father has a massive heart attack, and she loses her one true friend, Teddy, quite suddenly.  These events set her determination to become a cardiologist and save everyone in her life.  Her first goal?  Attend Wellesley and everything else will just fall into place.  But once she joins the Shakespeare Society – things start to change.

This review really has me at a loss for words.  And not because I didn’t like Percer’s debut novel – I did, tremendously.  Home girl can write.  Honestly, her writing outshines every other aspect of the plot and characterization.  Percer could write a how-to manual on ship building and I’d be all over it.  I often thought that her writing talents made the story, especially character growth and development, seem weak in comparison.  Does that make sense?

Many readers have commented that the first half of the story were slow and a bit hard to get through.  Most preferred her college years as they seemed more lively and had more action.  I’m the opposite.  I loved getting to know the younger Naomi and thought her development was so beautifully realized during the first third of the novel.  When she finally arrives at Wellesley, I started to lose her a bit, but maybe this distance was done on purpose as Naomi’s really grappling with coming into her own personhood which differs from her girlish ideals.  Once she leaves Wellesley and we learn more about her adult life, I was right back in the story – enjoying every second.

The secondary characters and the entire Shakespeare Society sub-plot wasn’t fleshed out enough in my opinion.  Hardly any of the other girls in Shakes were fully developed.  I had a hard time keeping them straight as individuals which was always disappointing because they had so much potential.  Jun was the only character besides Naomi that I ever cared about and at times I cared about her the most.  I’d love to read a book about Jun and what happened to her after she moved back to Tokyo.  I found her so fascinating.  As for the Society, it wasn’t very exciting.  They just performed plays and held meetings.  I think I had it in my head that this was going to be some creepy, super-secret, dangerous society like The Skulls.  Not so much.  I can’t really fault Percer for this – just a disconnect between my own made-up expectations and the truth.

All that criticism aside (don’t be discouraged), An Uncommon Education was a tremendously accessible read and gorgeously written.  I particularly loved Percer’s thematic quest through the search for identity from childhood, through college, and into adulthood.  How many times we reinvent ourselves during these formative years and how far off the mark we often end up from our earliest aspirations is well-conceived in Naomi’s story.  At many times, I found myself in Naomi and know that many other readers and bookish women will find themselves too.

The things I didn’t like about the novel only stem from the fact that I wanted everything to be perfect because this story was something I clung to from the very first page.  Having read many similar tales of all-female prep schools and colleges, An Uncommon Education was hands-down my absolute favorite – far and above any similar plot-line I’ve ever read.  Definitely worth a read!  But don’t just take my word for it!  Percer’s debut was named one of Amazon’s Top 10 books in May and many others on TLC’s book tour have wonderful things to say as well.

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Elizabeth Percer is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and has twice been honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation. She received a BA in English from Wellesley and a PhD in arts education from Stanford University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at UC Berkeley. She lives in California with her husband and three children. An Uncommon Education is her first novel.

Thanks so much to Harper and TLC Book Tours for the generous copy of An Uncommon Education in return for my honest review!  Check out the rest of the tour at TLC Book Tours.

The Creation of Eve and an Update!

Okay.  So I’ve been missing again and have returned with yet another excuse.  This time I contracted the most intense illness I’ve had in years.  I seriously thought I was patient zero in the new pandemic that would destroy the world.  Thankfully, I’m feeling relatively back to normally which just means I was able to gorge myself on food again tonight.  I’ve lost 5 lbs. in 5 days so the calories were definitely welcome.

Right before the death disease kicked in, I hosted book club on Sunday and we discussed The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen (a local Atlanta author).  Eve tells the story of Sofonisba Anguissola (just call her Sofi), the first world renowned female painter of the Renaissance.  She is “hired” (more like bought) by King Felipe II of Spain (concurrent to Elizabeth’s rule in England during the 16th Century) to become one of his new child bride’s ladies and painting instructor.  Wackiness of the historical fiction variety then ensues.

I always feel like a fraud writing anything remotely critical about historical fiction as it’s not a genre I read often.  Several ladies in the Litwits adore historical fictional and they assured me this novel is of the highest class.  Our discussion was intense, lengthy, entertaining, smart, and stayed on topic the ENTIRE TIME.  For those in book clubs, I know you know how much of a feat that tends to be.  What really works with Cullen’s novel is the intricacies of the plot – the deceptions, gender roles, cattiness, historical fact/fiction, power/war, and so much more.  There are things that happen that aren’t fully left explained – as the reader you are allowed your own interpretation as to whether this particular character actually did this or didn’t do that which leads to great discussion and lots of theories.  Just a ton of fun for any discussion group.

The ladies and I talked for ages about women’s place in society and how their lives were never their own.  But we then had to admit that even men had their roles and places decided for them so no gender was actually free.  We also discussed at length how far medicine and sanitation had come in the past few hundred years.  This is a novel that will make you thankful everyday for your local pharmacy and indoor plumbing.

Of course, this novel isn’t perfect.  Several members had problems with how much Cullen downplayed the Spanish Inquisition.  For such a hugely terrible event, the Inquisition was hardly even mentioned.  Others thought King Felipe II was also portrayed a little lightly.  The novel makes you question whether he’s a good decent man or subtlety cruel when apparently it’s common knowledge he was a douche.  Personally, I hated that the book jacket professed the novel to be about Sofi, when really the story focused on the King, Queen, and the Court – Sofi barely even paints.  Yes, the novel is told from the first person perspective of Sofi through diary like entries, but they focus almost entirely on the Queen.  I wanted more Sofi.

So The Creation of Eve gets the Litwits seal of approval and our highest recommendations for fellow book clubs!  It has a fantastic afterword (might have been my favorite part) where Lynn Cullen goes into detail about what was fiction and what was fact.  She also details out what happened to the characters after her novel ends which was fun to read.  You’ll want to google Sofi’s paintings and other Renaissance art during the reading process – or just visit Italy!

Also, below I’ve posted the trailer for The Great Gatsby being released late this year.  It’s caused quite a stir!  What do you think?

Another Movie: Triangle

If you are at all interested in psychological thrillers with twisty endings that make you think – Watch this movie immediately!  You’ll want to watch it over and over to try and figure out how everything fits together and theories as to what is actually going on.

Triangle is a little indie Australian/British flick that is often promoted as a horror slasher film which is just dead wrong.  There is a little bit of gore, but much tamer than the slew of gorefests that are made these days.  Melissa George does a great job in her role which is important because the movie is told through her POV and we never leave her side.  And if you’re a Liam Hemsworth fan – he’s in the film far more than he was in The Hunger Games, though his character is still pretty devoid of depth.

I really don’t want to get into the plot much since this movie is best viewed cold.  In very slight terms, Melissa George goes sailing with some friends, they get capsized, and then find themselves ‘rescued’ by a cruise liner where things start to go really crazy.

The movie is free for those who have Amazon Prime memberships – not sure if it’s on Netflix streaming or not.  But very, very good stuff!

Hello Monday!

So I’ve been AWOL again from the blog.  The Hubs has begun his intense traveling season at work so we only get to see each other on Saturday and Sunday for the foreseeable future.  Since the weekends are normally my writing days, I’m going to have to figure out a better schedule.  I’m not reading as much either for the same reason.  But I do have some book club reads and TLC book tour reads to tell y’all about soon!  What I have been doing is watching movies and getting into the idea of reinvesting in my movie collection.  The Hubs is a huge movie buff and the collecting and watching is something we really bond over.  It has been put on the back shelf with the craziness of work and real life.  This weekend, however, we watched a ton of films and had an absolute blast.

We hit up Redbox Saturday night and rented Rise of Planet of the Apes.  I was wary coming off the last ‘remake’ in this series and James Franco bothers me.  My worries were for naught because this film was fantastically entertaining, emotionally smart, and a great prequel to the franchise.  Franco does a superb job as an emotionally invested scientist and his relationship with his father, played by John Lithgow, was very well developed.  And Caesar, the Ape lead, was superbly written and created.  The film’s special effects were mostly amazing baring some obviously fake shower steam which made the Hubs and I giggle.  Overall a great story, beautifully shot, and a well-crafted film all around.  Plus, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is back to his old evil ways!

Another thing Rise does well is play homage to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film.  The original was one of my favorite films to watch when I was home sick as a kid so I’m extremely partial to it.  I think the best viewing experience  of either Rise or the original Planet is to now watch them back-to-back.  So many references and shout-outs tying the two films together – really just delightful.  And the intense shift from humans being the developed, civilized species to the apes replacing us in the future will get you thinking and garner some great discussion/debate.

This Wednesday I’m hosting a movie night for the Litwits and we’ll be viewing the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley.  Obviously, I’ve seen the film a million times, but it will be interesting to discuss with others so that recap will be up sometime later in the week.

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend and a Happy Mother’s Day!