I finished Ann Brashares latest novel My Name is Memory last night and instantly wondered if maybe my review copy had left out a much needed “to be continued…” at the end of the book. The way the first novel ends is incredibly frustrating, but thankfully after a little online research I discovered that this is going to be a trilogy so I can now stop my eyes from bugging out of my head in annoyance. In all seriousness though a little clue into that fact right up front might have helped me deal with the agony I was feeling when I was down to the last five pages and nothing was wrapping up. I’m curious if the actual copies that are for sale in bookstores now alert readers to this fact or not? I’ll have to pop over to Porter Square Books at lunchtime and see.
Notwithstanding the rather abrupt ending, My Name is Memory weaves together elements of so many genres that I love including historical fiction, romance, and sci-fi. The best part is that they all seem to work harmoniously together. The basic premise of the book revolves around the many lives of Daniel. Daniel has a memory that stretches across centuries. Thankfully not in the “I’m a vampire and I’ve lived for 2000 years” mode. Daniel lives and dies like a normal man, but somehow Daniel is able to retain his memory from each of his lives as he is reincarnated over and over again.
Many of his lives intersect with a woman whom he refers to as Sophia. In each of these instances he is consumed with persuading this woman of their destiny. As you can imagine having a strange man you’ve never seen before explain that you have hundreds of years of history together could be a bit daunting. The present day incarnation of “Sophia” who is actually known as Lucy essentially runs screaming from Daniel when he starts spouting his seemingly crazy notions. But his strange tale stays with Lucy and she begins to wonder if perhaps there could be something to Daniel’s claims.
While Lucy ponders, Daniel takes the reader on an epic jaunt through his past lives. I loved Daniel’s portions of the book. Reading about his many adventures in various foreign and far-flung places offered an exciting pace to the story, and the frequent near-misses in Daniel and Sophia’s tragic inability to ever be together left me feeling frantic for them to meet in the present day.
Of course, nothing comes easily to these star-crossed lovers. In true villain fashion Daniel’s evil brother, who also harbors the same supernatural ability but with a more wicked twist, decides it’s time to make his presence known.
Will Sophia and Daniel ever live happily ever after? Well you wont find out in this book, but perhaps by book three we’ll all be able to celebrate a merry resolution to this epic love story.
Just as an aside, I actually had this book with me on a flight home from Houston where Alexis Bledel sat two rows in front of me. I was instantly star struck and thought it was such a cool coincidence that the star of the film versions of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was on the same plane with me while I read an Ann Brashares novel. I know…I know…I’m a total geek.
I can’t quite figure out why Jennifer Weiner’s newest book, Best Friends Forever, has such an uninspiring title. In spite of this rather insignificant shortcoming (that is honestly more than made up for by the gorgeous cover art) I can absolutely recommend this tremendous chick-lit novel to you without any reservations at all. To me Jennifer Weiner is the queen of escapist novels. Her stories are filled with endearing and memorable protagonists that get into and out of bizarre shenanigans in ways that seem truly plausible. Her ability to weave such well-rounded and likable female characters is a true gift, and I enjoy nothing more then to curl up beach-side or pool-side with a brand new copy of her latest novel and drift away. Unfortunately this means that my Weiner books are almost always splattered with a mixture of water, sand, and sunscreen, but it’s a small price to pay for a light summer afternoon read that leaves you feeling truly happy and satisfied.
Best Friends Forever examines the relationship and subsequent break-up between childhood friends Addie Downs and Valerie Adler. Addie and Valerie are polar opposites. Whereas Addie is shy, cautious, and prone to weight issues, Valerie is outgoing, curious, and eventually blossoms into a blonde bombshell. Unfortunately the cliques and pettiness of high school lead to a betrayal of trust and Addie and Valerie end their friendship.
Then on the evening of their fifteen year class reunion Valerie appears on Addie’s doorstep with blood on her coat and the two women are thrust into an amusing Thelma and Louise like road trip where deep pains from their respective pasts are revealed.
One of my favorite portions of the novel involved a childhood trip to Cape Cod that the girls take with Valerie’s crazy mother. Jennifer Weiner’s decadent description of traditional beach food found on The Cape made my mouth simply water:
There was corn on the cob and clam chowder and red plastic net bags filled with gray clams that Val and her mother called steamers. There was coleslaw and French fries and a tangled mound of thin, crispy onion rings, tall plastic cups brimming with ice and soda, and little plastic dishes filled with melted butter. A dozen oysters lolled slick in their shells on a bed of crushed ice, and two gigantic lobsters sprawled over oval-shaped plates, leaking steaming pale-pink water.
See what I mean? I would kill for some clams right now. Absolutely kill! So if you have a little vacation time left this summer and you’re looking for that perfect book to bring along I’d suggest that you promptly pick up a copy of Best Friends Forever and stash it in your overnight bag immediately.
Like many of you the first novel of Margaret Atwood’s that I read was The Handmaid’s Tale. I remember feeling utterly bewildered by it at the time. Truth be told it was probably a bit over my head. In Junior High I went into adult novel high gear and routinely devoured anything that didn’t involve girls my own age. A dystopian world of women forced to become surrogates for wealthy and well placed couples was quite a departure from my usual diet of V.C. Andrews and Jude Deveraux but because I found the book on my Aunt Beth’s bookshelf I simply had to read it.
Years later though I appreciate Margaret Atwood’s novels thoroughly. From Alias Grace to The Robber Bride each story is beautifully developed and seems to always stay with me in a haunting manner. This was doubly true for the apocalypse fueled Oryx and Crake. Interestingly enough Atwood chose to revisit the world she created in this novel in her latest work, The Year of the Flood. Whereas Oryx and Crake was told from the perspective of two men, The Year of the Flood is told from the viewpoint of two women: Toby and Ren.
At the opening of the novel a virus has decimated humanity. Toby has sealed herself inside the luxury spa she managed where thankfully many of the treatments she used on clients are edible. Ren, a trapeze artist, is trapped inside the high-end sex club that she danced at. Food is running low and both women wonder if anyone besides themselves have survived the unnatural element that has wiped out society. A disaster that was vocally predicted by Adam One the leader of the pro-animal and vegetarian activists the God’s Gardner’s whom they both followed in the past.
The novel deftly moves between Toby and Ren’s respective back stories and the horrors of their present day confinement. Reader’s of Oryx and Crake will fully recognize familiar plot points including the CorpsSeCorps (the corrupt corporation that essentially has taken over all aspects of the American life), Rakunks (half skunk, half raccoon engineered animals without a skunk smell), and of course Jimmy aka “Snowman” who had his own connections to the downfall of humanity.
I find Atwood’s ability to create such an alien human existence that feels so completely foreign and yet frankly quite possible given today’s tumultuous environmental and political climate to be an amazing gift. I simply couldn’t put the novel down and found myself racing through the story frantically reading to uncover how Toby and Ren ended up in their respective predicaments. The Year of the Flood will be released on September 22, 2009.
My Aunt Beth cracks me up. This is the book she sent me for my birthday. In case you can’t see the card it reads, “Happy Birthday Erin! Let’s survive the imminent zombie invasion together.”
Here’s the thing. I’m a little obsessed with zombies. Unfortunately, they scare the hell out of me and I have zombie nightmares all of the time, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to read about them or watch movies where they shuffle around in hordes eating humanity. Yup…that’s me…princess movies and zombies. Perhaps someone needs to combine the two and Anne Hathaway could star? Actually, now that I think about it, that would be pretty fantastic!