Bel Canto

Book: Bel Canto

Author: Ann Patchett

Short Summary:
In a country in South America, the name of which is never disclosed, a birthday party is being held for an important Japanese business man at the home of the Vice President. Many important people from all around the world are in attendance, including the opera star, Roxane Coss who is to be the evening’s entertainment. The night does not go as planned when terrorists suddenly appear to take everyone at the party hostage. From there, unusual and unlikely bonds are formed while everyone deals with the situation.

My Thoughts:
I admired the writing style in this book. I loved the way Patchett transitioned seamlessly from one ‘s character’s inner thoughts to the next without missing a beat. The elegance of her style much mirrored the elegance of Roxane Coss’ arias.

Although this book was about a hostage situation for political reasons, this book was not about politics. The name of the country where the hostages were held was never mentioned because it didn’t matter to the story. This book was not about a certain country or its politics. This book was about human connection. It was about the way people, regardless of their background, culture, job, or language, all have human emotion in common.

There were moments when I found situations in the book to be unrealistic, however I was able to suspend disbelief for the enjoyment of the story. I don’t know that everyone would be as affected and mesmerized by music as they were, and this is coming from a huge music lover. I also don’t know how believable it would be to have lines between the hostages and terrorists become as fuzzy as they were, but again, suspension of disbelief.

I’m still pondering the ending. It seemed to come very abruptly. I won’t give anything away, I’ll just say that I closed the book unsure of how I felt about the ending and wanting more information.

Regardless of my feelings about the conclusion of the book, I still would highly recommend it. It is a book that held my interest from page 1, has distinct and interesting characters, and would spur very interesting discussion.

My Rating: 4/5 stars


City of Thieves

Book: City of Thieves

Author: David Benioff

Short Summary:
This is the tale of two men during World War II, Lev and Kolya, who find themselves cellmates in jail, and then off on an unusual mission to find a dozen eggs for a colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake. Lev, a young insecure teen and Kolya, a confident former member of the red army embark through Leningrad and the surrounding areas to find these eggs that could save their lives. Along their tiring, dangerous journey, the two form an unbreakable bond.

My Thoughts:
I had a little bit of a hard time with this book. I think part of it was due to the fact that I listened to it. I listen to audio books on my way to work and my school’s spring break happened to fall after I had finished the first half of the book. There was a week break until I listened again, which made the story choppy and interrupted. This is obviously not the fault of the author or story, but my listening habits.

That being said, there were a lot of things I enjoyed in the story. Lev and Kolya had such distinctly different personalities, yet the forming of their friendship felt real and believable. Benioff wrote the story in such a way that I could actually feel the chill in the air of the cold winter Leningrad nights. The setting played a major role in this story and helped the story come alive. Another aspect of the story that I connected with was the boys’ emotions. Among death and terrible danger, the emotions of the two were so real. They could be dodging bullets at one minute, then worrying about saying the wrong or appearing nervous in front of a girl the next. These emotions gave reality to wartime and almost reminded me of Anne Frank. In her diary she was obviously fearing for her life, but still felt the normal feelings that any teenage girl would.

One other thing to note about the audio version of this book was the music interspersed throughout. I found it highly distracting and annoying. At times it was so subtle that I actually kept thinking there were weird sounds coming from my car and I should pull over. I don’t mind a little bit of music at the very beginning or very end of an audio book, but this was far too much and detracted from my overall enjoyment. I was, however, impressed with the narrator and the voices he  represented.

Although my listening of the story was sporadic and the music was annoying, I still liked this book. I didn’t love it, but it’s possible if I had read it instead of listened to it I might have. If you enjoy wartime stories, you will most likely enjoy this book.

My Rating:3.5/5 stars

Soundtrack Sunday: Let the Great World Spin

Following the lead of alita.reads I’ve decided to choose a song I would pick as a soundtrack to a book.

Book: Let the Great World Spin

Author: Colum McCann

One Sentence Summary: On August 7, 1974 a tightrope walker walked a wire between the two towers of the newly built World Trade Center above the city of New York. Below, the residents of the city were looking up in awe while living their lives.

Soundtrack Song: New York, New York by Ryan Adams

Why I chose this song: There are no shortages when it comes to songs about New York (here is a list of a ton), but I felt this song and video really captured the essence of the city. This video shows the chaos of it all, the rush. It shows the world spinning and the people trying to keep up. It is also eery that this was filmed on September 7, 2001, just a few short days before the attack on 9/11/01.

The world won’t wait, so I better shake that thing right out there through the door. Hell, I still love you, New York!

Previous Soundtrack Saturdays/Sundays:
Ella Minnow Pea
Love is a Mixtape (Love and Loss, One Song at a Time)

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

Book: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

Author: Chelsea Handler

Short Summary:
Chelsea Handler is the loud mouthed late night tv talk show host of the show Chelsea Lately. In this comedic memoir we learn of the crazy antics that make up Chelsea’s life. She is not afraid to say what she thinks, and she does it with quick wit and often a potty mouth. This midget loving, redhead hating, vodka drinking girl has certainly gotten herself into some insane situations that can’t help but make you laugh.

My Thoughts:
If you think this book is a departure from my normal book choices you are correct. After reading books like Little Bee, Ella Minnow Pea, and Let the Great World Spin, this is most definitely something different. That being said, it was just what I needed. What I needed was something to make me laugh, and if there is one thing Chelsea can do well it is that.

I’ve recently started watching her show and I can’t get enough! Luckily she has 500 episodes so there is plenty to catch up on.

If you are looking for a break from serious books to read something light, quick, and humorous, then this is the book for you. Chelsea is rude, crude, and unafraid to share her thoughts. She’s my kind of girl.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Let The Great World Spin

Book: Let the Great World Spin

Author: Colum McCann

Short Summary:
On August 7, 1974 a tightrope walker walked a wire between the two towers of the newly built World Trade Center above the city of New York. Below, the residents of the city were looking up in awe while living their lives. As the book unfolds, the characters slowly begin to make unexpected connections to one another, spanning from 1974 all the way to a few years after the fall of the towers.  

My Thoughts:
I can’t stop thinking about this book and its characters. There was just so much in here to soak up. The characters were written with such vivid description and were so complex and interesting. The way they are all connected didn’t feel contrived or unrealistic to me. As vast as New York is, this book showed that it can be made intimate as well. Coincidences do happen.

The city of New York played a huge role in this book. It was almost a character in itself. McCann helped the reader feel the rush of the city, taking us from the fancy apartments of Park Avenue to the seedy and gritty slums and projects. The city was brought together by the rise of the man on the tightrope, just as it was brought together years later by the fall of the towers.

This book had so many levels to peel through and an abundance of themes. The use of the tightrope walker, to me, served as a metaphor for all the characters walking their own tightrope, just trying to keep their balance in life. It also showed the juxtaposition of the fall of the towers years later. Here something was being created, while later something was being destroyed, yet the world keeps spinning.

I would highly recommend this book. It makes an excellent book choice selection, full of great topics of discussion and conversation. This thought-provoking, well written book is one I think I could reread over and over and get something new out of it each time.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Soundtrack Sunday: Ella Minnow Pea

Following the lead of alita.reads I’ve decided to choose a song I would pick as a soundtrack to a book.

Book: Ella Minnow Pea

Author: Mark Dunn

One Sentence Summary: On the fictional island of Nollop, Ella Minnow Pea and her friends have to adjust their speaking and writing when the High Council begins to ban words that fall from the statue of the island’s namesake, Nevin Nollop, the man who wrote the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Soundtrack Song: Wordplay by Jason Mraz

Why I chose this song: This book is most definitely all about the wordplay. Not being able to use certain letters made the residents of Nollop very clever and creative with the words they chose to use. I actually couldn’t stop singing this song in my head the entire time I read this book! Anyone who enjoys words and clever ways they can be used will love this book and this song!


*Unfortunately the original Jason Mraz video wouldn’t play, so I put in the best video I could find…this one shows the lyrics.

Previous Soundtrack Sundays: Love is a Mixtape (Love and Loss, One Song at a Time)

Good Luck during the Read-a-Thon!

Unfortunately, I am not able to participate in the read-a-thon tomorrow. It is my cousin’s 60th birthday and all the women in my family are going to see the musical Billy Elliot and going to dinner in the city. I’m sad about missing the event but excited to see this show. I’m a big musical fan.

I just wanted to wish everyone luck tomorrow! I hope you all get a lot of reading done and have some wonderful books to share!!! I’m having a hard time trying to decide what to read next, so maybe some of your entries during the read-a-thon will give me some ideas. Have fun everyone!  -Julie