Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Greatness Guide: Book 2 by Robin Sharma

In The Greatness Guide: Book 2 – 101 More Insights to Get You To World Class, Robin Sharma presents a series of short chapters outlining the ideas to consider on the road to “greatness”. It’s not just a book of wishy-washy theoretical notions, but real ideas and steps that could change your life.

I loved this book; it gave me goose bumps more than a couple of times. The blurb at the back of the book said it would “excite, energize and elevate” me. It did more than that. It also inspired, captivated and entertained me.

There are plenty of unique concepts in this book that were new to me. He gives real life examples, presents inspirational quotes, and serves it up in an easy going, but compelling manner. A couple of times I had to re-read a chapter to understand the message, but since the chapters are extremely short (many of them one page) that wasn’t a problem.

While some of Robin’s advice isn’t exactly new, his presentation makes the ideas fresh and innovative. That’s an awesome thing to be able to do. From personal experience, I can tell you that some of these ideas work like a charm. ;)

There are so many great lines in this book. I couldn’t possibly list them all. One of my favourite quotes from German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.” (page 160).

I’m going to save this book and reread it. Only this time I’m going to take my time, perhaps reading only one or two points a day. That way I can reflect on the “lesson” and maybe implement it into my own life.

I haven’t read anything else by Sharma, but now I’m definitely going to pick up The Greatness Guide and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

In Crooked Little Vein, Mike McGill is a self-professed shit magnet. He’s also a detective who’s been hired by the U.S. federal government to find a book. He and his sidekick, Trix, cross the country in search of the “other” American Constitution. A “backup Constitution to deploy at the first sign of crisis”. What they find is an array of sexual deviants and f**cked-up people between New York and Los Angeles.

I love books that are quirky and different from others. This one was definitely that. It is weird, out of the ordinary and raunchy. It’s totally readable, though, and I really enjoyed reading it. Ellis definitely knows how to tell a story and hold on to the reader’s attention. While the story is mostly a detective story, along the way the author takes jabs at politics, the Internet, sex, everything mainstream and airport security. That’s just to name a few of the items lampooned in this bizarre, X-rated novel.

This book may make you laugh, cry (ok, maybe not), feel disgusted and if you’re lucky like me your gag reflex may even stage it’s own little revolt. (Ok, just once, but that was in the restaurant scene. I just might have to become a vegetarian after reading that.)

After reading this book, you’ll have a new definition of mainstream and you might even find yourself questioning, “Is this normal?”

My favorite quote:
“You don’t get to keep the parts of the country you like, ignore the rest, and call what you’re got America”. (Page 168)

It’s definitely not going to be for everyone. In fact, I can’t think of one person I’d recommend this to. If you like truly bizarre things and are not afraid of them, perhaps this book is for you. Open this book at your own risk! [There, now you can’t say your weren’t warned.]

Run by Ann Patchett

In Run, Tip is almost hit by a car. As it turns out, a woman pushes him out of the way and while she is seriously injured, only his ankle appears to be damaged. He soon finds out the woman who saved him isn’t quite the stranger she’s at first thought to be. The woman’s young daughter, Kenya, holds a secret that, once told, will turn their lives upside down.

Sometimes it’s hard to write a review without giving too much of the story away or simply restating the whole thing. There’s so much more to the story than what I’ve written here. It’s unique, insightful, and nothing short of brilliant.

Patchett’s writing, this story and its characters are all magnificent. Her writing is fluid, powerful and an absolute joy to read. As the story progresses, she offers little tidbits of information integral to the characters or plot to entice the reader into wanting more. It draws you through the book. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop.

Her characters are vivid and believable. Just when I thought I’d picked my favorite character from the bunch, another comes along equally fantastic. In the end, I couldn’t decide on one. Contenders would include: Teddy and his speeches, Tip with his fishes and Uncle/Father Sullivan and his healing powers and Kenya with her athletic abilities.

Most of the story takes place in a 24-hour period. The story could have been bogged down with irrelevant details or short on details because of the time frame, but the author skillfully pulls details from the past to tell the whole story in the present and show how the characters got to this point in time. It’s amazing how intertwined their lives have become even though up until this point some of them didn’t know each other.

I usually don’t enjoy “dream sequences” all that much, but in this case, it fit well with the story. It was a unique way to bring in a past event and provide essential details of the story. Very well done.

I think this book would make a good book club choice. It could possibly generate many interesting discussions about adoptions, interracial families, family dynamics, politics and much more.

I haven’t read anything else by Ann Patchett, but I definitely will now.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen

The Luxe is an excellent young adult novel filled with prestige, intrigue, romantic triangles, backstabbing and so much more. Godbersen provides the reader with a total escape. It’s another time, another place and another world.

Set at the end of the 19th century, the story centres around five young adults. There’s Elizabeth Holland and her sister, Diana; Penelope, Elizabeth’s best friend; Henry, the wealthy and handsome playboy, and Will, the coachman for the Hollands. The prologue opens with Elizabeth’s funeral. From there, the reader is transported back to find out what happened to poor Elizabeth. Did she jump into the river herself or did she have help? Suspects and clues abound as the story unfolds.

I loved this book. It is well written and kept me interested all the way through. While I’m sure the author provided plenty of clues as to what happened, I didn’t catch on until the very end. Not only did I want to find out what happened to Elizabeth, but I also wanted to find out how that beautiful dress on the cover fit into the story. And speaking of the dress, it’s gorgeous. I love it.

I found the whole high-class lifestyle quite enthralling. Waiting for visitors, marrying for status/money, attending balls in gorgeous gowns, having secret lovers…I’d have to give up my sneakers, but where do I sign up?

I’m probably in the minority when I say that the book doesn’t really need a sequel. Sure the story could go on, but that could be said of a lot of books. That’s not to say, I won’t read the next one; I’m sure I will. However, I’d also be happy if the author simply left it at that.

Highly recommended for teens and adults.

When to Walk by Rebecca Gowers

In When to Walk, Ramble’s husband has decided to leave her. He’s had enough. Ramble, who’s partially deaf, somewhat crippled and already pretty unstable, descends further into madness. She takes the reader on a journey of trying to make it in the world on her own.

The storyline was rambling; therefore, it was a bit hard to follow. However, I found it fascinating. I loved that she mentioned the man with the photocopied ten many times. [I’m sure there’s something symbolic there, but I didn’t catch what it was.] I just thought the event and the man were out-of-the ordinary. My favourite parts of the book were when Ramble offered up definitions or explained origins of words she encountered.

The main character, Ramble was so aptly named; she had a hard time sticking to one subject for very long. While she had trouble moving about herself, she mind was constantly on the go. Con, her husband, was also appropriately named. There are a number of other characters in the book, each appealing in their own right.

My favourite quotes (Oooops…I lost the pages references):
“If an English girl ever talks to you about squeezing her lemon, she means she’s got to have a pee.”
“Another good thing about crutches is that you can use them to whack aside junk mail.”
There was one other, but I can’t find it now in the book. It was about the advice Ramble’s mother gave her regarding leaving her husband and a bus. If I find it, I’ll come back and update this review.

All in all, I’d say this was an interesting and successful debut novel. I’d be willing to try another one by Gowers.

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

In Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy takes us on a touching, sometimes heart-wrenching journey of her life after cancer leaves her with a facial disfigurement as a young child. She endures many, many operations in search of a new face as well as the taunts and stares of others who didn’t see Lucy as “normal”.

Grealy’s story is extraordinary. Her writing was expressive and a joy to read. Her insight and maturity level as a child were very advanced for someone so young. She was so in touch with her feelings and really seemed to understand the motivations of others. Her memory of the events that happened so long ago was remarkable. She had so many vivid recollections of her ordeal. I don’t know if I’m envious (I’d love to have a better memory about some things) or I feel sorry for her (sometimes I’d sooner forget bad events).

I’m not much of a poetry fan, so the poetry references and part of the story regarding Lucy’s draw towards it was not that interesting to me. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story.

Before I started, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to get through this book. My mother was severely disfigured by cancer and I don’t think I’ve come to terms with it after these years. However, Lucy’s story is so different from my mother’s that it wasn’t as difficult to read as I initially thought. Grealy did provide me with some new information that would have been helpful had my mother survived and did well after her surgery.

While the story reminded just a little of my mother’s ordeal, it did transport me back to the time was I was in the hospital as a child. I was much younger than Lucy, probably 4 or 5 and don’t remember that much. I do have a few memories, more like snapshots really or very short videos. Also, Lucy’s story about her father’s death reminded me of my own father’s death. So in the end, Lucy’s story led me down memory lane after all, just not the one I thought it was going to.

Highly recommended.

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

Sometimes sisters can be very much alike, but other times they can be very different. Such is the case with Rose and Maggie in In Her Shoes. One sister is thin, beautiful, dyslectic and flighty while the other is not-so-thin, not-so-beautiful, intelligent and dependable. The author presents a light-hearted, romantic and funny novel with some rather touching moments.

The storyline was shallow at times and not always that believable, but it was still a decent read and entertaining. A few times I cringed at the parts I considered to be crass and vulgar. Honestly, I’m not a prude, but occasionally things like this bother me, especially when they don’t fit with the rest of the story and appear to be gratuitous. Those parts were not at all to my liking. However, thankfully they were few and far between and the rest of the story was very readable.

As far as characters go, I liked Rose more than Maggie, but I really didn’t like the main characters that much at all. Ella was ok, I guess. I much preferred some of the members of the “supporting cast”. Mrs. Lefkowitz was a hoot, while I found both Simon and Lewis to be loveable.

While there was a movie made from this book, I haven’t seen it nor do I intend to. I really don’t care for movie tie-in covers because I like to determine for myself what the characters look like, but in this case I really didn’t mind that much.

I haven’t read anything else by Weiner, but I do have another book by her around here somewhere. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll read it before I send it out into the world.

I’d probably recommend this book to chick-lit lovers. You could do worse.