Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Review: The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

Where did I get this book? My local library!

Where did I get this book? My local library!

This engaging novel, written by two best friends, explores the consequences that arise when a jilted bride has the chance to rewrite her own history–on social media.

After her fiance Max breaks the news at the rehearsal dinner that he can’t go through with their wedding, Kate is crushed. She doesn’t know how she can possibly explain what’s happened to all the people posting congratulatory messages on her Facebook feed, especially when she doesn’t understand what’s happened herself.

When Kate posts a status update wishing she could go back and do the past month over, she gets an unexpected second chance at saving her relationship with Max. It’s not surprising that her efforts have unintended consequences, but the story has enough twists and turns to keep it fresh and interesting. The book’s real strength lies in its depiction of strong and lasting friendship, as Kate’s friends Jules and Liam do their best to support her even after she throws them for a loop with her crazy tales of time travel.

In the end, The Status of All Things serves as a good reminder that the lives we see on Facebook are rarely as effortless and perfect as they appear.

Genre: Female friendship fiction with a time travel twist.

Read it if: You love the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding, the collected works of Jennifer Weiner, and/or Landline by Rainbow Rowell; you spend too much time looking at your friends’ perfect lives on Facebook; you have always dreamed of a do-over button.

Skip it if: You have difficulty suspending disbelief when confronted with Freaky Friday style plot devices; you really can’t stand Facebook; you are squeamish about occasional use of profanity and very mildly naughty bachelorette parties.

Movie-worthy: This definitely has potential–its success would depend entirely on casting.

Best enjoyed with: A mocha from Starbucks or shots of Pappy van Winkle.

Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Where did I get this book? I bought it, because it's a new Margaret Atwood book, so OF COURSE I BOUGHT IT.

Where did I get this book? I bought it, because it’s a new Margaret Atwood book, so OF COURSE I BOUGHT IT.

In this near-future dystopia, Stan and Charmaine are a young married couple caught up in the economic collapse of the northeastern United States. Despite working hard and following the rules, they find themselves living in their car, wandering from one unsafe parking lot to another just to stay alive. Charmaine brings in some meager income from her job bartending at a makeshift bar/brothel called Dust; Stan is unemployed and increasingly desperate.

When Charmaine hears about the new planned community of Positron/Consilience, it sounds like a dream come true. Residents receive housing, food, guaranteed employment and complete security. In exchange, they agree to spend every other month living in the community’s prison, wearing orange prison jumpsuits, sleeping in a shared barracks, and working at whatever occupation they are assigned.

Stan and Charmaine jump at the chance, even after Stan’s brother Conor, a criminal who seems to be thriving in the new chaos, warns him against signing up. All seems to be going well until the couple become entangled with their Alternates, the married couple who live in their house while they are in Positron prison and switch places with them monthly. It soon becomes clear that, like Charmaine, Positron/Consilience has some fairly dark stuff going on under that cheerfully innocent exterior.

The Heart Goes Last raises uncomfortable questions about just how much personal liberty people would sacrifice to ensure their own economic safety and security, and just how far those in charge would go when given the chance to exploit a captive population. When the world is all before us, do we really want freedom? Or do we long for a lost paradise of no choice at all?

Genre: Speculative fiction with robot prostitution, Elvis impersonators, and a Doris Day soundtrack.

Read it if: You’re an Atwood fan; you fear that technology will increasingly lead us into the darker crevices of the human imagination; you are interested in the relationship between free will and society.

Skip it if: You are squeamish about language, sexuality, or robot prostitution; you are easily frustrated with everyman protagonists; you were hoping this was the utopia that finally worked out for everyone.

Movie-worthy: To be honest, I was picturing Chris Pratt and Anna Faris as Stan and Charmaine the whole time. You would have to get the right director for this blend of dark and wacky though–maybe the Coen brothers or the Wachowskis.



Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt“A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.”

The Goldfinch is without question one of the best books I have read in a very long time. A bare bones description of the plot could evoke a Victorian-era novel or a modern day thriller; the suspense and dramatic tension of the story never falter. Yet this novel succeeds in expressing something profound about art, life, love, connection.

Fabritius-GoldfinchWhen the novel opens, Theo Decker is sick and miserable in an Amsterdam hotel room, remembering the day his mother died. At thirteen, tragedy derails his life and takes away the only person who truly loved him. It would be almost impossible to describe what happens without giving away the novel’s breathtaking twists, but one thread remains constant: his love for the Carel Fabritius painting The Goldfinch, which plays a pivotal role in his life.

And the ending is exactly right. Not every author can enthrall the reader for over 700 pages and still stick a perfect landing, but this is Donna Tartt’s masterpiece. The Secret History was fantastic, The Little Friend troubling and unsettling; The Goldfinch is perfect. Yes, I said it: perfect. I ordered it without any particular expectations, without reading any reviews, because I’ve enjoyed Tartt’s previous novels, but in my opinion The Goldfinch is in a completely different league.

And can I say a quick word about the paper? In the hardcover edition, The Goldfinch has pages with a smooth, luxurious finish. It was a tactile delight to turn each page. Fitting when one considers how much the book contemplates the pleasure of handling beautiful, well-made objects, of appreciating what lasts in the face of everything that fades and dies.

Genre: Literary fiction / masterpiece

Read it if: You love those chunky old 19th century British novels like George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, you love art, you love a perfectly calibrated plot, you love books that refuse to stop speaking to you long after you’ve turned the last page, books that leave an ache in your chest.

Skip it if: You prefer protagonists who make good choices, characters who are either clearly good or clearly bad, endings that are unambiguously happy.

Movie-worthy: Only in the absolute best hands could this be a movie worthy of the book. I would love to see it; I bet it would be beautiful–those desert scenes, the art, the antiques.