Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Monsters of Templeton

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

When this book came out in 2008, the cover instantly made me want to read it. And then, after seeing much talk about it, I finally picked it up. In the end, I'm incredibly glad I did. The Monsters of Templeton is about a girl who returns home from graduate school after a disastrous event to find her small, idealistic town turned slightly upside down. It turns out that in the lake she used to run by and play in, they discovered a monster. A real one. A giant one. The thing is, that's not at all the monster the title is referring to.

While home, at a place she never wanted to visit again, Willie tries to re-coop and reconnect with her hippie mother who's found religion. While doing this she learns of her mother's greatest secret: apparently Willie was not the product of a faceless father during her mother's reckless days in San Francisco, oh no, instead she's the product of one of her Templeton neighbors. One that may, just may, be related to her way back down the line.

And so starts The Monsters of Templeton an intricate tale that follows Willie as she does intense research to find how who her real father is. As the chapters fly by, you read accounts by each person from her family, from old letters to diary entries. Her family tree has so many branches that I created my own genealogy chart to follow it correctly. And it ends with one welcome understanding.

What I was most impressed with was Groff's voice. This being her first novel, she has a very sophisticated story telling ability. For each character she portrays within the novel, there's a new character voice. She creates so many personas and so many histories it's incredibly impressive and addictive. In the end, you just hope that everything she wrote was true and that Templeton (actually based off of the real city Cooperstown, NY) is exactly how you imagine it to be. I do agree that some subplots were a bit much and a bit overwhelming, but that didn't matter in the end. I devoured this book quickly, really loving it, which is why I'm trying to stop myself from tracking down the author who coincidentally lives right by my boyfriend. I'm definitely excited to read her new short story collection Delicate Edible Birds.

The Monsters of Templeton is about reconnecting with your past and learning from it. Going back and reevaluating the monsters and the heros. Learning enough from it to form a future that the next few generations can research and maybe even inspire to be like.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thanks for the Memories

Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Oh Cecelia Ahern, we meet again. While in London, I picked up a paperback copy of Thanks for the Memories since it doesn't come out (in hardback!) until next month here in the states. The Irish writer has made quite a name for herself and I'm always excited to read her next novel. I suppose that's why I was slightly disappointed with this book.

Ahern is known for starting her books in the middle of a tragedy and this book is no different. It opens with the heroine, Joyce, laying at the bottom of a staircase after a terrible fall, one where she miscarries her baby. Elsewhere, Justin, after suffering from a painful divorce, meets an attractive woman who somehow manages to convince him to donate blood. From there, the story weaves these two characters together through chance meetings and magical realizations. Ahern is known for giving her stories a fairy tale sort of feel and this one is no different.

My problem with this book was that it was incredibly predictable, right down to the ending. The characters were illustrated well enough, you liked them and understood their actions, however that was it. My greatest compliment for this book is that it's well written in typical Ahern style. It is grabbing, definitely, but it left me feeling nothing, regardless of the happy ending.

If you're looking for something that's a quick read (despite its 400 pages) with surefire happiness, then this is the book for you. If you're looking for something a bit deeper, a bit more like her last few novels, than wait for her next book The Gift which seems to be getting better reviews. Despite my lack of love for this book, I'll definitely still check it out. I like her writing too much to give up.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lost and Found, by Carolyn Parkhurst

I thought this was a very good book. The idea behind it (a mother/daughter go on a reality tv show in order to repair their relationship) is something interesting, something I hadn't come across before. The book goes back and forth, narrated by both Laura (the mother) and Cassie (the daughter), as well as several of the other contestants on the show. At first, that bothered me, becase I found it a bit hard to keep track of each of them, but I soon found myself intrigued by their characters as well. There were twists throughout the book, to keep up the entertainment value, I suppose and the book was a bit better then I expected, to be honest. I found myself picturing the scenes in my head, which is a sign of a good book, in my opinion. Lost and Found, the name of both the book and the tv show they are competing on, is a similar idea to The Amazing Race, which is one of my favorite shows, so I am sure that helped me like it even more.

It was an easy read- I read it in less then a day, but I'd surely recommend it to others.