The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a massive undertaking of a book. (The audiobook was over 30 hours long!) Despite its length, this book is masterfully crafted and deals with a wide variety of topics from drug use to terrorism to museums to alcoholism to loss to survival. So many different themes that some reviewers have called this book an odyssey. I would have to agree with them. I definitely felt like I was being given the complete tour of the main character’s life, as well as everyone that he came in contact with.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt tells the story of the life of Theodore Decker. This book follows Theo’s life starting as a young boy in New York City to his current situation as a man in his twenties who has wound up back in New York. As a young boy, Theo lives with his mother after his father abandoned them. Out one day with his mother, Theo miraculously survives a horrendous attack that kills his mother and many other people. Traumatized, alone, and unsure of his future, Theo finds himself ensconced in the home of a wealthy friend. When his father unexpectedly pops back into his life, Theo finds himself ripped from his only place of security into a whirlwind of confusion. He bounces around the country meeting new people, but is always drawn back to New York, the girl he met the day of the attack, and the artifact he found. This artifact, a painting, leads Theo down an unexpected road into the art underworld. Theo’s life journey, accompanied by this small, mysterious painting, is perilous: full of loss, mania, fixations, power struggles, new identities, and the looming, heady sensation of anguish and grief.
This book is such a rich expanse of wonder that, once you are finished, you will be left gaping at everything that the author was able to pack in. It’s not shocking that this book won the Pulitzer Prize. Tartt has created a masterwork that takes readers through present-day America as Theo struggles to find himself amidst unbelievable loss and tragedy. Tartt pays such close attention to Theo’s feelings that readers are acutely aware of everything that is happening around him and how the tragedy he has suffered has deeply changed him. This is a story of massive loss and overwhelming survival, of obsession and the need to become a new person. Highly recommended.
This book is also available in the following formats:
All The Summer Girls by Meg Donohue focuses on the lives of three friends: Philadelphia lawyer Kate, Manhattan mom Vanessa, and San Francisco writer Dani. Kate’s fiancé has dumped her on the same day she found out she was pregnant. Vanessa is dealing with news that her husband cheated on her with another woman and is searching the internet for a man she dated eight years ago. Dani has just been fired yet again in San Francisco and is turning to her good friends (drugs and alcohol) to cope.
Kate, Vanessa, and Dani have been best friends for years, but have drifted apart. Their separation is as much to do with where they each live, their adult lives, and a major event that happened eight years ago during their last summer at the shore, as it is with normal daily life. The three plan a long weekend getaway at Dani’s father’s house in Avalon, the place where they spent two weeks out of their summer every year until one deadly night eight years ago. Being back in this familiar place brings tension to the surface of their friendship, making them all realize just how much their choices eight years ago have shaped their lives today. Each woman is holding onto a big secret, one that each is afraid to tell, and yet all of their secrets are interconnected. Kate, Vanessa, and Dani are forced to come to terms with the decisions they made eight years ago as their friendship hangs in the balance.
This book is also available as an e-audiobook through OverDrive.
The Girl on the Train is a messy intrigue of a book. If you’ve read Gone Girl, this book covers the same bases: suspense/psychological/mystery fiction, murder victims, witnesses, married people, and missing persons. This book is fast-paced and, at least for me, it was difficult to pin down who the killer actually was.
The Girl on the Train is the story of Rachel Watson’s life post-divorce. Every day she takes the same commuter train to London to work and passes the same houses and scenery. As one is apt to do on long train rides, Rachel creates stories about the people, places, and things that she sees along the way. One particular couple catches her eye on every trip. Rachel soon finds herself looking out for this married couple every time she speeds by, hoping to catch more of a glimpse into their daily lives. She gives them names, invents background stories for them, and even gives them careers. Everything is seemingly perfect until one day when she sees something out of the ordinary happen at the married couple’s home and soon after, the woman goes missing.
Rachel is forced to confront whether she should go to the police, contact the missing woman’s husband, or just lay low. Rachel is having a rough time dealing with her past, with her ex-husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. Her life is spiraling out of control and the peace that she found while watching the married couple has been shattered, leaving her in the lurch and without a solid place in the world. This novel shifts between three different narratives: Rachel, Anna, and the missing woman. Each narrative is packed full of action. Readers will be left wondering what happened and wondering about each characters’ motives.
The Girl on the Train will also be released as a movie on October 7th!
This book is also available in a wide variety of other formats.
Hey – here’s an idea! Let’s combine two great party ingredients – alcohol and cake – into one! The result is the fun-filled Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine and Beer by Krystina Castella and Terry Lee Stone and a guaranteed good time for everyone.
Cakes range from the traditional that your grandmother might have made (well, your grandmother maybe, not, unfortunately, mine) such as English Trifle and Black Forest Cake, to cakes based on cocktails. The emphasis here is on fun – cake shots! – and tasty. Recipes are easy to follow and most include 2-3 variations. Also, each cake includes information on how much alcohol remains after baking – lightweight, feeling it and totally tipsy – as well as suggestions for appropriate special occasions and accompanying cocktails.
Of course, you will need to bake responsibly when including alcohol – you’d have to eat a lot of cake to get tipsy (although I suppose it’s within the realm of possibility) but you should be considerate of teetotalers and those with alcohol issues. The real goal here is to have fun, in the kitchen and with friends.
Everyone’s favorite TV barfly George Wendt makes a foray into the author world in Drinking with George: A Barstool Professional’s Guide to Beer. Before your inner skeptic kicks in, consider this chapter-opening confession from a proud 0.0 GPA recipient during a sojourn at Notre Dame University:
“I’ll be the first to admit that I lucked into the role of Norm Peterson, a character whom I’d been training to play my whole life.
Under one set of covers, Wendt gives you a mini-biography, a slew of interesting beer facts, funny beer anecdotes from his own life, and lighthearted fare regarding his Hollywood friends. None of these pile up too thick in any of this collection of 1-4 page essays, so like what the “born-on” date has done for Budweiser products, the book stays fresh.
This title has what is known in some circles as a crisp finish and clean aftertaste. The funniest and most interesting stories are in about the last third of the liter..er… book. But, hey, relax. We’re not talking War and Peace here. Perfect for the attention span of the mead-swiller in your life.
No, this has nothing to do with rainfall. Rather, the “wet” refers to moonshine. The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, a fictionalized account about the real-life Bondurant brothers in Depression-era Virginia is gritty, gutsy and sometimes even gory. It’s narrated primarily by the youngest brother, Jack, who is in fact, the grandfather of the author. The author, Matt Bondurant, also enlists the help of Winesburg, Ohio author Sherwood Anderson who started his own investigation (in 1934) of the brothers’ dramatic confrontation with the county sheriff. In doing so, Anderson was the first to dub Franklin County the “wettest county in the world.”
The story begins in 1928 when a pair of thieves rob Forest Bondurant of his large stash of bootlegging money and end up cutting his throat. Somehow he manages to reach a hospital 12 miles away. Soon after, two anonymous men appear at the same hospital, one with legs totally shattered, the other castrated. Needless to say, they aren’t talking. You get the picture — this is real roughneck country and the Bondurant boys are no angels.
Bondurant does an excellent job of imagining and portraying the probable lives of his ancestors. It’s not always pretty, but it does give the reader a gripping view of their struggles to survive during Prohibition in the poverty-stricken foothills of westernVirginia.
The publisher’s description of 99 Drams of Whiskey: the Accidental Hedonist’s Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink as “part travelogue, part distillery guide, and part history book” is accurate but lacking. This book is fun! It is a great idea for a vacation, to visit whiskey distilleries. Ms. Hopkins kept her book an easy read by balancing the density of history with whiskey tasting notes and anecdotes from her visits to renowned distilleries. I thought I knew about the different whiskeys until I read this book. I need to further my education. Check out her blog where she reviews beer, foods, and all other things.