Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reader's Report: "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything"

When it comes to the Fine Arts, I am an incredible critical person.
I go see a ballet performance and think, "Really? THAT's your best pirouette?"
I go to a school play and judge the backdrop, "That's the best sun that your art teacher could come up with?"
I read a book and judge, "You can get this piece of crap published but an editor won't call me back?"

I had moments like this while I was reading Janelle Brown's "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything".
When I went to visit my local library, I saw a cover that was familiar from my days at B&N. I decided to pick it up and scratch off another book from my incredibly long wish list of books.

Now, let me preface this review by saying that there's a chance I'm biased when it comes to this book. There were many, many similarities between "AWEWWE" and "The Weird Sisters" which I had just finished reading two days beforehand:

--An unexpected pregnancy
--A family who had lost their love and was trying desperately to put the pieces back together
--A sister in debt
--A father misunderstood

We all know how much I loved "The Weird Sisters" and to find it's second-rate cousin was not a pleasant experience.

Through this book, I discovered the real meaning of "a beach read." I had heard that category title plenty, but never understood. Yes, it's a light and fluffy tale that is superficial at best, but is still enjoyable. However, it's new meaning is "A book that you won't cry if the waves wash it away, because you can guess the ending anyhow. If the wind catches a few pages, you won't be missing anything."

Overall, I give it two out of five stars.

This was Ms. Brown's first novel and it shows. I see potential in her, however, here is my biggest concern...

Don't write what you don't know.

I don't think that Ms. Brown has a sister. I also don't know when the last time she stepped into a reputable church was. The bond of sisterhood and the seeking of religious truths are two of the biggest themes in the book. Neither of which Ms. Brown seems to be a decent source.
It's one thing to write about a medical procedure after consulting a surgeon on the proper steps to completion. It's another to write about two of our lives most sacred bonds without a first-hand account. I also don't think it's fair to take the Bible and tweak it to fit your agenda. It says what it says for a reason...and Ms. Brown, what you think it says, is incorrect. Read it from cover to cover before you start passing judgment.

If you're heading on vacation and see a discount copy of this on the shelf, feel free to pick it up. If you're looking for something to swallow you whole by the fire this holiday season, don't waste your time.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Reader's Report: "The Weird Sisters"

I worked in a local Barnes & Noble for close to two years on-and-off in college. To say that I loved it would be an understatement. I had the greatest boss ever--with multiple jobs since then, no one is yet to top her--and I adored the people I worked with. Best of all, I was surrounded by a sanctuary of books every single day. I was paid to talk about books. I was paid to hold them, read them, sell them.

While I was working there, I had an ongoing list of books that I wanted to read. I would keep a pack of Post-its in my badge so I could scribble down the title and author whenever a new, intriguing title came into my life.

Since I moved back to my hometown, the nearest B&N is about a half-hour drive away. It is a great thing for my wallet because it forces me to browse my local library (which just happens to be two blocks away).

I ran into the library the other day to pick up something to read over the weekend. As I was walking the aisles, a cover caught my eye. I remembered seeing it at B&N and putting it on my list. Although I already had a book or two in my arms, I decided one more could never hurt.

At first glance, I assumed that it would be story of family. I love big family stories -- they so often remind me of my own. As I began reading, a surprise awaited me.

Pause: Before reading further, you should know something about me...I am a Shakespeare junkie. I truly do not know if I can marry someone who doesn't at least APPRECIATE the Bard. My dream job includes teaching a class dedicated to Shakespeare. I once received a leather-bound copy of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" from my uncle for Christmas. When I opened it, I immediately started to cry. Not just small tears...the big, crocodile kind. The kind that my sister and cousin still make fun of me for.

Now that you know that vital piece of information, I can let you in on my surprise: From the prologue, the author, Eleanor Brown, begins to quote the Bard himself! I figured it was a happy coincidence because what, after all, hasn't ol' Will written about, and thus can be quoted on? My glee was sky-rocketed when the Prologue let me know that the father of "the weird sisters" was a Shakespeare professor at a small, private college and I could see a recurring theme coming my way.

In this novel, Ms. Brown took three of Shakespeare's characters and made them sisters. She brought with them not only their name, but some of their famous, fatal flaws and incorportated them into a real-life, modern-day drama.

"First came Rosalind, a fair choice; probably our mother's intervention spared her from something weightier. But after that, it was all our father's doing, we are sure. Because then came the second daughter, and what can you name a second daughter but Bianca? And then the third, and if it had been anything other than Cordelia, the heavens might have shaken. Bean and Rose were grateful, truely that the Lear comparisons could not have been made until the troika was complete, or they might have been dubbed to match the play's older sisters, and they knew there was no way to survive being named Goneril and Regan. Not in this day and age" (58).

Each sister carries the plight of her namesake; Rose wishing for true love. Bean, although always lusted after, never loved; although adored, never cherished, and consequently is trying to find her place in the world not even thinking of others. Cordelia, little Cordy, always the favorite, but now finds herself on the outside of the familial circle and tries to find where "home" truly lies.

Don't worry, you don't have to be a fellow Shakespeare junkie to enjoy this book. Some of the more subtle references may be lost on you, but the overall story is a compelling drama of three sisters, tied together by the eternal need to have one another but the human nature to be on their own, who are trying to figure out life after multiple failures and life-altering decisions and consequences.

You see, they love each other. They just don't happen to like each other very much. But it's always amazed me how love can conquer all.