Limitations

Book: Limitations

Author: Scott Turow

Short Summary:
Judge George Mason, who has appeared in other Turow books, is the judge on a rape case involving several men. The rape happened a few years ago, but evidence has just arisen. This case stirs up some old memories for George that make him start to questions himself and his abilities as a judge. Meanwhile, he is getting threatening emails and text messages from an unknown perpetrator. Turow leaves the reader pondering the limitations of the law and the limitations of the people who are meant to uphold it.

My Thoughts:
I liked this book, didn’t love it. I listened to this one and it was short and to the point, yet moved slightly slowly. There are times when I crave a good legal thriller, but this book spent much more times outside the courtroom than in. I could have used more courtroom scenes that pulled me in. Turow’s Presumed Innocent were full of them and I was left wanting more out of this one.

I love the title of this books. The story dealt with the statutes of limitations according to the law, but it dove into the limitations we as humans feel to live to their full potential.

Many of the characters from Turow’s previous books make an appearance in this book. It’s always fun to see the return of a character you got to know so intimately in the past. Rusty Sabich from Presumed Innocent makes a brief appearance, which got me looking forward to the sequel of that book titled Innocent, coming out later this year.

If you like books dealing with the moral implications of the law at a relatively slow pace, you will enjoy this one. If you want more action and intense courtroom drama try one of Turow’s earlier works.

My Rating: 3.25/5 stars

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

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

Ella Minnow Pea

Book: Ella Minnow Pea

Author: Mark Dunn

Short Summary:
The residents of the island of Nollop enjoy a pleasant life full of happiness and literary abundance until one fateful day when the letter “Z” fell from the statue in honor of the island’s namesake, Nevin Nollop. Nollop authored the pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Soon the letter “Z” is banned by the island’s council and it’s use in speech or writing is forbidden. As letters continue to fall, they continue to be abandoned by the people of Nollop. Determined to change the island from turning into a totalitarian state, Ella Minnow Pea, with the help of other residents, looks for a way to change the situation and get all the letters back into use.

My Thoughts:
This epistolary novel was brilliant. It had all the wit, humor, and wordplay one could want. As the letters drop from the statue the people of Nollop can no longer use them in the letters they write to each other. I loved the farewell they did to several of the letters. It must have been quite a task for Dunn to deliberately eliminate letters from words as the novel progressed.

While the wordplay in this book is fascinating, there are so many other great components to this story. The idea of censorship is a theme throughout. The council censored the residents spoken and written words, but they could not censor their thoughts or ideas. I loved that the people fought for their freedom of speech and literary freedom. This novel also showed the dangers of a Totalitarian state and how much people suffer when their voices are not heard and they are silenced. Religion and a higher being comes into play as well. The council believed that it was Nollop’s will that the people stop using the letters and that he was the all mighty being. While some people of Nollop went along with this willingly, others stood up for their own beliefs and fought back.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves words! It makes you appreciate the alphabet and each letter in a whole new way. It also brings to light many great topics for discussion in a book group. This is a quick read and one you won’t regret!

My Rating:4.25/5 stars

So Much For That

Book: So Much For That

Author: Lionel Shriver

Short Summary:
Shep Knacker was ready to leave it all behind; the company he sold years ago yet still works for, the worries and annoyances of everyday life, and even his wife Glynis, if she chose not to follow him to the remote island of Pemba. Shep had been saving for his getaway he affectionately called “The Afterlife” for years. However, everything changed when Glynis announced that she had an aggressive form of cancer. The book follows the marriage of Shep and Glynis as she “battles” cancer and he pays for it literally and figuratively yet never leaves her side. It also takes us into the lives of the Knackers’ closest friends, Jackson and Carol, who have health problems of their own to deal with. This book takes a deep look not only into these characters’ lives, but how the American health care system has played a major part in them.

My Thoughts:
While I thought this book was good, it just didn’t do it for me the way the other Shriver books I’ve read have. I can’t actually pin point what was lacking in this book either. I don’t think it was the characters. Shriver has a way of writing characters that just pop off the page and come to life. Each character had qualities that were highly irritating, yet I found myself feeling sympathy and some kind of connection with each one of them.

It might have been the story itself. Being about sickness, this book obviously didn’t have a very happy theme, although there was still some humor weaved in. At times there were a few too many statistics and information about the health care system thrown in via one of Jackson’s crazy rants. For the most part this was done well, but once in a while it felt a little bit unrealistic.

The health care system in the US is obviously a big concern for everyone who lives here and has been in the news non stop. I, for one, am anxious to see what changes the new bill will truly bring about, and I’m hoping it’s some positive ones. This book definitely showed the hardships of being sick in this country and how much it can cost, again both literally and figuratively. The one question asked on the flap of this book was “How much is one life worth?” This book does take the time to help the reader evaluate this question.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but didn’t love it. It was very well written and the topic was very relevant if you are living in the US. If you aren’t, I can see how you may become uninterested, as some other bloggers not living here have mentioned. If you are new to Shriver’s work, I would recommend The Post-Birthday World and We Need To Talk About Kevin before I would recommend this one.

My Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Not My Daughter

Book: Not My Daughter

Author: Barbara Delinsky

Short Summary:
Susan Tate was a single mother at 17. Shunned from her family, she moved out to Maine to start a life for herself and her daughter, Lily. 17 years later, when Lily announces that she is pregnant, Susan, now the principal of the local high school, is stunned. It is soon revealed that two of Lily’s best friends, Mary Kate and Jess, are pregnant as well. The girls, all good students and role models in the school, entered into a pregnancy pact. They had the idea it would be a good idea to go through pregnancy and raise their children together. Being in a position of authority and someone the people of the town view as a role model, Susan’s character and position as a mother is being scrutinized. Throughout the story, Susan struggles to be a good mother, accept Lily’s pregnancy, and deal with a town that is turning their backs on her.

My Thoughts:
I listened to the audio version of this book, and it made for a light, easy listen on the way to work. The plot was very easy to follow and the writing at times seemed simplistic, yet enjoyable.

I really liked the character of Susan. She was a strong woman, good educator, and caring mother put into a very difficult position. She had the tough job of defending her daughter, her actions as a mother, and maintain her position as high school principal, all while trying to keep her sanity. I admired her struggle and how she handled herself throughout it.

Lily, however, annoyed the hell out of me. Her friends, Mary Kate and Jess did as well. I was interested in learning what would drive teenage girls into something like a pregnancy pact, but I’m not sure the story answered this question. These girls were just plain foolish about being mothers, which I found inconsistent with their characters who were all good students and never had any trouble in school. Sometimes listening to their reasons for wanting to be teenage moms just made me cringe and wonder if I was that naive as a teenager.

The one big question asked throughout the story was “What makes a good mother?” This is not an easy question and there is no easy answer. Susan loved her daughter, taught her well, and cared for her. Still Lily wound up pregnant, just as Susan had been at 17. Does her daughter getting pregnant make her a bad mother? Should she have watched Lily every second or trusted that she raised her to make intelligent choices? Is someone whose own daughter gets pregnant capable of running a high school full of impressionable teens? These are all questions to ponder while reading this story.

I would recommend this book. It may not be the best piece of literature ever written, but it certainly raised important questions and ones that could lead to long, in-depth discussions.

My Rating: 3.75/5 stars

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Author: Stieg Larsson

Short Summary:
Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist for the magazine Millenium , has recently been convicted of libel. When he takes a leave of absence from the magazine, he is hired by Henrick Vanger, a wealthy businessman. Vanger hires him to investigate the disappearance of his beloved niece Harriet who has been missing and presumed dead for forty years. Blomkvist moved away from the city to the quiet island of Hedeby to look into Harriet and an interesting assortment of possible suspects in the Vanger family. An unlikely partner, tattooed and unusual Lisabeth Salander soon joins Mikael on the case. Together they look into the Vanger family and discover secrets and scandal along the way.

My Thoughts:
Simply put, this book was awesome! I loved the characters, the mystery, and the family saga. It all just worked together so well. This one definitely had me turning the pages and I found myself gasping in surprise more than once.

The character of Lisbeth Salander, “the girl with the dragon tattoo” made this book what it was. She is one amazing and unlikely protagonist. Her intelligence and awkwardness combined with her mysterious background made her a character I really came to like and was eager to learn more about. My favorite part of the book was when she gets revenge on someone who has done her wrong. When I want revenge on someone, I dream of burning down their house or something like that. Not Lisbeth. Using her unique imagination she defined the meaning of revenge, but I won’t give it away. You will have to read it for yourself.

The combination of action, mystery, and character development made this book flow for me. I enjoyed learning about Mikael and his relationships, the intricacies of the Vanger family, and especially Lisbeth. I now feel invested in these characters and am excited to follow them through the next two installments of the Millenium trilogy.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars