Friday, June 29, 2012

Summerland (Elin Hilderbrand)

When you see someone on the beach with a beverage in her hand, chances are she’s not reading War and Peace or Crime and Punishment.  Summer is a time for what is commonly called “chick lit.”  However, no matter how mindless you want your book to be, some of it can be just plain awful.  Very few books that take place in the summer and are geared towards women can be considered quality books.  Elin Hilderbrand is one of those authors who writes these types of novels…books where you can do your “mind escaping” but completely enjoy the story along the way.  Hilderbrand’s latest, Summerland, will take your breath away.

We begin the night of Nantucket’s high school graduation.  Sitting in the audience are the main cast of characters...Zoe, mother of twins and an established caterer; Hobby, one of her twins; Jordan, the head of the local newspaper; and Jake, Jordan’s son.  Penny (Zoe’s daughter, Hobby’s twin sister, and Jake’s girlfriend) is on stage singing the National Anthem with the voice of an angel.  Later that night, a tragedy occurs that affects the life of every Nantucket resident.

Characters take turns playing the narrator in Summerland, which is very effective at allowing the reader to see the plot from different angles.  Your heart aches for each and every one of them as they deal in their own way with the unimaginable tragedy.  This is the best type of novel…the type that you can’t wait to see the ending, but you also don’t want it to end.  Both Summerland and last year’s Silver Girl were beautiful reads, and I can’t wait to delve further into Hilderbrand’s past books.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rules of Civility (Amor Towles)

I am always looking for the best new books to review, so I picked up Rules of Civility because of many recommendations.  I was immediately drawn to the cover, which depicts a photo of a woman in '30s garb lying on a chaise lounge with a man at her beck and call.  I just love books set in different time periods, especially ones from this era...a time when political correctness was unheard of and the names of Fairbanks and Garbo were on everyone's lips.

Katey Kontent and her roommate, Eve, are living in New York when they meet a sophisticated gent by the name of Tinker Grey.  Katey and Eve quickly become enamored with the debonair and, by all accounts, rich fellow. A tragic event changes the course of all of their lives forever and "what could have been" never materializes.

Most reviews are giving Rules of Civility between 4-5 stars, with phrases like "not able to put it down" written about it numerous times.  Why then did I find it dull and boring?  It has been compared to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, but I see no comparison.  Because I absolutely hate to not finish a book, I slogged through it unable to care about or sympathize with any of Towles' characters.  I found the plot jarring with no real underlying purpose and did not understand where it was going.  But most of all, I just didn't care about any of the characters.  To me, the definition of a great book has always been one where I couldn't wait to get through my day so I could curl up with it at night.  That didn't happen here.

I'm giving it a 2 because Towles did a nice job integrating the historical facts and culture of that time period.  The cover was brilliant.  Other than that...not for me.