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Good Grief Is Very Good Indeed

So, I actually finished a book on the plane coming back to Madison, Good Grief, by Lolly Winston. It was a recommendation from Rebekah Koontz AKA Bekah’s Book Club, and…it didn’t disappoint. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, despite it being a chick-lit book, a genre that’s hit-or-miss for me but usually miss. The title of this blog comes from the back of the book, as reviewed by People magazine. Verbatim.

So here’s my review.

Good Grief centers on Sophie Stanton, a young widow who moves from California to Ashland, Oregon, to start over. In her quest to find herself, she takes on a new career, deals with old demons, and befriends some local oddballs. Without spoiling too much, I have to say that though there were some predictable moments, on the whole, the protagonist seemed to have a grasp on reality, gradually lost a lot of her self-pity, and grew as a person. I really enjoyed it.

Dry martinis, fringed lamps, grand piano, constant fun. I wanted to climb inside the play and live there. Wake up every morning in a drawing room comedy, with the jolly br-r-r-ing of the doorbell and telephone – visitors always stopping by, laughter always bellowing through the house. The audience howls around me. I’m no longer at the theater alone; we all seem to have one set of laughing lungs and clapping hands, one joyous pulse.

  • Lolly Winston, Good Grief, p.183

This review is brought to you by the NFL delaying SNL.

And hooray for my second six continent day of the year, with hellos to North America (USA and Mexico), South America (Venezuela), Europe (UK, Germany Portugal, Sweden, and Netherlands), Asia (India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Oman), Africa (Zambia), and Oceania (Australia).

8

‘Tis The Season…Or Something

It seems like book reviews have taken over my blog lately, with several more on the way, including the two I said would take over my blog, once I get either the inspiration or the wherewithal to write them.

But until then, please enjoy this…book review, yet another selection from Rebekah Koontz‘s Blog Book Club: Paper Towns by John Green.

In a similar vein to An Abundance of Katherines, the last novel I read by Green, Paper Towns features an angsty teenage protagonist and his quirky friends withering away, or attempting not to, in suburbia – Orlando, in this case, rather than Chicago. The protagonist himself is pretty forgettable in comparison to his friends – I actually had to sit and think for a moment to remember that his first name was Quentin – Ben, the hopeless romantic; Radar, the token black character who happens to be a supergenius; and Margo Roth Spiegelman, who might just be my favorite John Green kick-ass, way-too-smart high-schooler yet. The adult characters are kind of there; the only ones that get much development are the Spiegelman parents, who are way uptight, and Quentin’s parents, who seem way too chilled out. Also of note: a character actually has a sibling ::gasp:: for the first time I’ve seen so far in the John Green-iverse, Margo’s sister Ruthie, who probably could have contributed more to the plot than she actually did.

Basically, the book can be broken up into three sections: Margo and Quentin’s Night of ShenanigansMargo Disappears and Apparently This Is Not a Huge Issue, and The Arbitrary But Fun Odyssey.

In Margo and Quentin’s Night of Shenanigans, we meet most of the characters when Margo commandeers Quentin into doing a bunch of shit for her to get back at people. I enjoyed this part, even though, like Quentin, I had no idea what was going on. A little more backstory would have been beneficial, but we learn enough later that it’s not too much of an issue. Then, Margo Disappears and Apparently This Is Not a Huge Issue, well, except to Quentin. Seriously, after a few chapters, even Margo’s parents seem to accept the fact that their daughter, despite being 18 years old, has skipped town before her high school graduation. No one but Quentin is even looking for her. Eventually, he ropes in a crew consisting of Ben, Radar, and this girl Lacey who Margo “got back at” but must be a better person than Margo gives her credit for, because they all ditch their high school graduation on the morning before it happens to take Quentin’s new car on The Arbitrary But Fun Odyssey to track down Margo based on a few clues that may or may not lead them to her. Despite the cringe-worthy second section, this section is actually quite well-written and exciting; the trip merits an hour-by-hour breakdown, in a completely different, travelogue-like style as the quartet make their way up the East Coast in search of their friend. The ending is a bit anti-climactic, but kind of sweet, and ends with enough room for a sequel, should Green ever want to pick it up.

The verdict: much better than An Abundance of Katherines, in every way. More interesting characters, better-thought-out situations, and some of the Mental Floss quirkiness that I would expect from John Green. I’d definitely recommend this as a beach read, or an any day read. Not much else. Thumbs up.

Best quote:

“It’s a penis,” Margo said, “in the same sense that Rhode Island is a state: it may have an illustrious history, but it sure isn’t big.”

This book review has been brought to you by Northwestern University Library, and Rebekah Koontz, of course. I already have next month’s book on the way.

7

Hotshot Wrote, Abating Task

Alert the media AND stop the presses: three days, three finished books. I’m on a roll, baby.

This book comes courtesy of Rebekah Koontz and her “blog book club” post from this past March.

Challenge accepted.

I started An Abundance of Katherines by the incredibly intelligent John Green just the other day, and finished it tonight in bed. For my one sentence review of the book, just anagram the title of this post. If you’re not into that sort of kinky stuff, here’s a review.

So, short synopsisisisisisis…

Colin Singleton is a high school graduate/former child prodigy from Chicago who has an unhealthy obsession with girls named Katherine. He has dated and been dumped by 19 of them. Together with his best friend Hassan, they set out on the open road…only to end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, final resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and home to equally neurotic teenager Lindsey Lee Wells and a slew of other characters. Through an assortment of random facts, anagrams, words in different languages, and Colin’s complicated math theorem, they all manage to learn something about themselves. There’s some romance, some fighting, and plenty of footnotes to go around.

Overall, it was a good, easy read…but I kept waiting for that “yes, and…why should I care about this?” moment. It never really arrived, but the last few chapters and the epilogue had some degree of unpredictability. I wouldn’t say that I couldn’t put it down, but it interested me just enough to want to finish it, and now I’m done.

I mean, it wasn’t as much of a waste and I’m making it out to be. Lindsey Lee Wells is a fantastic character; she veers close to Mary-Sue territory but she has her faults. For some reason, I kept picturing Lindsay Lohan, maybe because of the name, or maybe because she (Lohan, not the character) has been in the news lately for completing her community service. Good on you, Lindsay. I also liked the fact that Green gave Colin a Muslim friend as a sidekick. The book didn’t delve too deeply into Islam, but I think that it really rounded out the character and was a positive, real-world portrayal of a Muslim teenager, kind of like what Barbra Streisand did for the American Jewish woman in Funny Girl. (It always comes back to Babs, doesn’t it?)

Now for the criticism…

I did not like the main character, Colin Singleton. I just didn’t find much about him worth caring about. He just seemed so wrapped up in himself, even at the end of the book. He was so neurotic, he just didn’t see anyone or anything around him, even when things got better for him. I’m just glad it wasn’t written in first person; otherwise, it would’ve been unbearable.

Overall, though, I’m glad I read it. After reading about Green’s other books – The Fault In Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns – I’m convinced that this one was just a pedestrian attempt. Still a huge John Green fan, regardless.

By the way, the title of this post anagrams to “this book was not that great.”