Book Review: Commonwealth

Book Review: Commonwealth

“Isn’t that what everyone wants, just for a moment to be unencumbered?”

As I mentioned in my August Favorites blog post, I recently finished reading Ann Patchett‘s novel Commonwealth, and thoroughly enjoyed the read. Today I am going to give you all a glance at what the story is about, and what I liked about it.

In a nutshell, Commonwealth is the story of an unconventional blended family, including six step siblings who form a lasting bond with each other through shared summer vacations spent at their parents and step parents’ homes, and their shared resentment towards their often negligent parents. For a book that follows the lives of so many characters (the six children, four parents, and other family members and significant others that appear throughout the story), each character is surprisingly well-developed. The more you read, the more you get to know each of these people and understand who they are and where they’ve been.

The story spans a total of five decades of time, jumping between the present and the past with each chapter, sometimes jumping within a single chapter. For some, these jumps in time may be a bit too much. I will admit I was confused at times, and it was difficult to keep each character and storyline straight in my mind. (“Wait, whose parent is this again? Who is this person married to?”) However, for me this made the story more interesting, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping track of everything in my head. It was also fun to read about the characters as children, and then find out where their life went as an adult.

Commonwealth really picks up pace when one of the daughters, Franny, begins an affair with a well-known author, and tells him the stories from her childhood, which he proceeds to use as the inspiration for his newest bestselling novel which he names “Commonwealth.” Though he always claims the story is not based on Franny’s life, it’s clear it is, and the book has a negative impact on her siblings, mainly her youngest step brother, Albie, who learns painful things about his childhood through reading the novel.

Overall I thought Patchett’s book was a sharp and realistic portrayal of family ties and the struggles people face throughout life. Though the story is fairly realistic, it still has the level of drama and slight exaggeration needed to make an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys strong character development and intriguing life stories, as well as books that span multiple decades of time.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, or any of Ann Patchett’s other novels. If not, what was the last book you read and loved?

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

“I find that the thoughts spoken between the lines are the most important parts of a poem or story.”

Welcome to my latest book review. Today I will be talking about a novel called Mrs. Poe, by Lynn Cullen. As always, I like to recommend another book review for you all to read in case you want to get another opinion on the novel. Book Riot wrote a good one, which you can check out here. But first, read on for my take on the book below.

One of the quotes on the cover reads “Vivid…Atmospheric….Don’t miss it.” I think those first two words are the perfect description of the book. Lynn Cullen does a great job of writing in a way that lets us imagine the places and people in the story, as if we are there ourselves. Set in New York City in the 1840’s, there are plenty of beautiful dresses and lavish dinner parties filling the pages, which I think would make this story into a great play or movie.

Mrs. Poe follows the life of Frances Osgood, a poet trying to make a name for herself, and her forbidden romance with one Edgar Allen Poe (maybe you’ve heard of him?) Throughout the novel you hear about other well-known writers from that era, as well as fun facts about them which was interesting to read. I felt like I learned a lot while still enjoying the story, which is difficult to accomplish in a work of fiction.

While it took some time to pick up, the plot definitely thickens towards the middle of the book when suspense and intrigue starts to build due to Poe’s wife, who appears to have caught on to the affair between Poe and Osgood. Without giving anything away, small details and coincidences start to appear which makes the reader wonder if Mrs. Poe is plotting something terrible, or just a crazy, jealous wife.

Lynn Cullen clearly did a lot of research to make sure everything that happens in this fictional story could have happened in real life, even if we have no way of knowing if any of it actually did. She combed through all of the letters and poems written by Poe and Osgood, and about them, to get inspiration and find historical facts she could use for her book. I think all of this hard work paid off, as the story feels extremely realistic while still giving us the excitement that is often lacking in true stories.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys period pieces, as well as stories that offer a lot of detail and descriptions with which to let your imagination run wild. I would also recommend it to any literary enthusiasts out there, as you will likely learn a thing or two about some of your favorite writers from that time.

Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, or what the last book you read was. I am always on the lookout for something to add to my must-read list!

 

 

 

Book Review: Before The Fall

Book Review: Before The Fall

“To try to predict the places we’ll go and the people we’ll meet would be pointless.”

Reading has become a big part of my life, and I’m so happy I get to share my thoughts on the books I read with all of you! As I write this I am almost finished with another book, so expect yet another book review sometime in the next month.

Today’s review is on Noah Hawley’s suspense novel Before The FallIf you haven’t noticed already, my book reviews tend to be less plot-focused and more general thoughts about the book. So if you’re looking to learn more about the plot, I found this New York Times review by Janet Maslin which I would recommend reading (before or after coming back to my review, of course).

Not only is Hawley an author, but he is also a TV producer/writer (best known for creating the award-winning show Fargo). As I read this book, I could definitely see elements of a TV script in his writing. He added a lot of details and descriptions of the characters, which helped them come to life on the page the way I’m sure he has to do when creating characters for the screen. I’m a sucker for good character development, so this caught my attention right away.

Another element of the novel that I liked was that each chapter switched perspective, giving you a look inside the mind of all of the main characters, similar to the way Paula Hawkins wrote The Girl On The Train. I always enjoy novels that are set up like this, because I like to get to know all of the characters instead of being stuck hearing the story from only one point of view. I also think it works well with mystery/suspense stories, unveiling pieces of the puzzle from different angles.

The one part of the novel that was a bit disappointing to me was the ending. It felt rushed and abrupt, and I didn’t feel satisfied the way I did at the end of The Girl On The Train. Like I said, Hawley adds a lot of details into the novel, and when I reached the end I realized many of the details hadn’t been relevant to the conclusion. I know this is a typical ploy to throw off the reader and ensure the ending can’t be easily guessed, but I was left wishing there had been more essential details to explain the ending.

Overall this was a well written and entertaining read, and it kept my interest the whole way through. If you like stories that include a lot of character detail and plenty of mystery, you will enjoy this book! Like I said, the ending wasn’t my favorite, but it is still well worth the read.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, and if you agree or disagree about the ending. Have you read any of Hawley’s other novels? If not, what is the last book you read?

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

It’s been a while since my last book review because unfortunately I haven’t had much time for reading lately. But the past few weekends I was able to pick up this book again and finish it, so I wanted to take the time to write a quick review for you all!

An Abundance of Katherine is one of John Green’s books (the author of The Fault in our Stars, Looking for Alaska and Paper Town) and to be honest, I didn’t like it quite as much as those three. It’s not that I disliked it, I just didn’t find myself quite as captivated as I was with his other novels. Because of that, I thought it would be fun to write a pros and cons list about the book, so you can get a feel for what I did and didn’t enjoy about it.

Pros:
  1. The characters are very detailed, vivid and well thought-out. I could picture all of them clearly, and they each had their own unique style of dialogue. I definitely think that is something that John Green excels at: building strong characters that we can relate to and feel like we know personally.
  2. The book had a very unique element to it, which was that the main character was a “genius” or “child prodigy”. He had an obsession with being important and being well-known for something in life. He essentially wanted to become famous for inventing a theorem to predict the outcome of a romantic relationship. So the book had a lot of math and science in it, which I surprisingly enjoyed despite the fact that I was terrible at both of those subjects in school.
Cons:
  1. Not much happened in the plot. Now, I’m not the type of person that needs an extremely action-packed plot, but I do like for there to be some sort of adventure at some point, like when Hazel and Gus traveled to Amsterdam in TFIOS. I felt that’s one of the elements this book was lacking.
  2. Though the main characters were brilliant, as I mentioned above, I did feel that there could have been a few more supporting players in the story. There were a few minor characters, but they never felt fully flushed out to me. I think John Green could have given a bit more detail about some of them, and maybe even added in a few other characters to the mix.

I know this didn’t give a plot summary at all, and you’re probably thinking “but what is the book even about?” I just wanted to do something different with this review. If you’d like to read more about the actual story, you can check out this book review.

Leave a comment below letting me know if you’ve read this book, or any of John Green’s other books. I’d also love to hear any suggestions you have for the next book I should read! You can take a look at my past book reviews to get an idea of the kind of novels I enjoy.

Book Review: The Girl On The Train

Book Review: The Girl On The Train

girlontrain

I’m back with a much-overdue book review! If you read my October Favorites blog, you’ll know the I loved the book The Girl on the Train, and have been planning on writing a review of it since, well, October. So without further adieu, let’s jump right in!

“I have lost control over everything. Even the places in my head.”

The story follows a thirty-something named Rachel, who leads a rather depressing lifestyle that is hugely made up of lying to her roommate, drinking excessively, and crossing boundaries with her ex husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. As a form of escape, she obsesses over watching a certain couple every morning as she passes their house on the train. She thinks they look like the perfect couple, and invents an entire backstory and life for them, complete with what their names would be and what careers they have.

This alternate reality is shattered when the woman, who turns out to be named Megan, goes missing. Rachel feels somehow drawn to the mystery and feels like she needs to find out what happened, even though in actuality she has no real tie to the couple. The book is a suspense thriller, and you are taken along for a ride as Rachel and other characters try to figure out the mystery.

The two main aspects that I enjoyed the most about this book were the changes in perspective and the changes in time. Basically the majority of the chapters were from Rachel’s perspective, but Paula Hawkins also threw in chapters from Megan and Anna’s perspectives as well, which only added to the confusion and suspense in the plot. Also, each chapter jumped around in time, making it even more difficult to decipher what was happening.

If you’re the type of person who loves books that really make you think and keep you on your toes the entire way through, then you are sure to be entertained by this book! It’s actually being made into a movie with an awesome cast, and I can’t wait to see how that turns out. I think it has great potential to be a very gripping movie if done correctly. Think Gone Girl.

If you want another opinion on the book, I really enjoyed Janet Maslin’s New York Times review. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever read this book and what you thought, or if you’ve read another good book lately that you’d recommend! I’m always on the hunt for new books to read.