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Friday, March 20, 2009

Perpetual Check by Rich Wallace

Author: Rich Wallace
Release Date: February 2009

Category: Contemporary
My Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Summary: Perpetual Check by Rich Wallace is about two brothers, Zeke and Randy Mansfield, and their relationship with not just each other, but also their father. Zeke is a high school senior, a good soccer player, and a natural chess player that started beating his father at the age of six. Zeke can beat almost anybody, except his little brother. Randy on the other hand is a high school freshman, he’s a little pudgy with a haircut paralleling a Cub Scout, he likes to make up words, and he’s a chess whiz that beats his brother nine times out of ten. But this time, tension runs high since both Zeke and Randy have qualified for a major high school regional championship. If the boys bring everything they’ve got and play their best, then it could quite possibly sit one against the other. Their father is there from the beginning, putting more pressure on the boys, coaching from the sidelines and intimidating everyone until they break or try too hard. Now it’s time to see who wins, who loses, and who is loyal.

Review: This wasn’t the best book, but it wasn’t the worst either. Knowledge of chess would have been really helpful, because it can get a little confusing when they are talking about the pieces and the moves if you don’t know anything about chess. Each chapter goes back and forth between perspectives, starting with Zeke. That can also be confusing at first, since you have to continue reading the chapter to know who is talking; but later their personalities show through enough to recognize who is “speaking.” There are some conflicts between the brothers that seem trivial, but then you remember they are brothers and it’s understandable. It’s an extremely quick read, something that can be read in one sitting, seeing as it is only 112 pages. I usually like reading from a male perspective, but this is just not a book with much character development or really story. I can’t say I would recommend this to most people, I would recommend this for someone younger, male, and into chess; but probably not most females.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In the Meantime by Robin Lippincott

Author: Robin Lippincott
Release Date: September 2008
Category: General Fiction
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Summary: Kathryn, Luke, and Starling met at the ages of 5 and 6 in the early 1930s; and became inseparable from that moment on. From elementary to early high school they attend the same schools and are constantly at one of their houses, usually Starling’s. But as they get older, so do the cruelties and insults from people that don’t understand them or their friendship, and so Starling and his family move across town, away from the hostility expressed by some of the more aggressive high school bullies. They continue their friendship regardless of the distance that is, until something happens between Luke and Starling that causes a separation between the two and Kathryn is left in the middle, and left to mend the boys’ friendship. We follow the three from a small Midwestern town, to New York City where they hope to follow their dreams, and then we follow Kathryn to Boston. We see Luke turn into a successful publisher and bachelor for life, Starling a struggling actor and then a worse fate, and Kathryn a student, then a married woman and adulterer.

Review: In the beginning the book can be a little hard to read, but once you get past the first 30 or so pages, it becomes interesting, relatable, and totally engrossing. This is a story that follows about 70 or so years through some of the hardest times in history, but ending only days before September 11, 2001. I believe the author did that for a reason also; it seems despite the wars and the depression and the like, these three characters lives were fairly innocent and continuing on would have left them a lot less innocent. There is a chapter where you see three similar friends in Hiroshima, and you also see the outcome of those friends when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and I should give a warning that this chapter is disturbing and detailed. This is definitely not a story for everyone, but it is a good read; it puts things into perspective at times and can really make you think and I think anytime a book makes you think, that’s a good thing.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig

Author: Charlotte Greig
Release Date: May 2009
Category: Contemporary
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Summary: In A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy, we meet Susannah, a 20-something philosophy major at Sussex University in the United Kingdom during the 1970s. Susannah’s official boyfriend Jason is the perfect mate, in the sense that he is about 10 years older than her, a mildly successful antiques dealer, and the owner of an elegant apartment off campus, but he’s not perfect enough to “keep” her. With Jason, Susannah can go to school, study philosophy, and explore the life of a normal student without having to live in the less than desirable student housing. Things were simple, that is until Susannah becomes involved with her tutorial partner, Rob. Rob is unlike Jason in every way, he’s 18, free spirited, broke, and lives in communal housing with a large group of other people. Susannah begins dating both men, missing her classes, discussing feminism with her girlfriends, at least until she finds herself in a predicament on the largest scale: she becomes pregnant. She has to turn away from her friends and lovers when their advice is not what she is looking for, so she turns to likes of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and other European philosophers. Do they have the answers she’s looking for, or will she be forced to take this journey on her own?

Review: I liked it, it's a pretty good read. At least a small background in philosophy is helpful, but not totally necessary. The character of Susannah is so easy to relate to at times, and then other times you just want to smack her upside the head and tell her to put down the philosophy and grow up. Her two best friends remind me of the girls I knew in high school, one being the girl that likes to party and knows how to have fun even when it’s a bit too much fun, yet a bit overemotional at times and completely irrational; the other being the uptight girl that is always concerned about her grades, common sense taking precedent over every other reasoning, totally rational, and yet can still cut loose once everything is in it’s right place. Jason and Rob are polar opposites and it’s like being right to choosing between the rebel that will potentially break your heart and the sensible guy that will do anything to keep you, including lying to himself in the process. Charlotte Greig definitely hits the nail on the head with her first novel. This is definitely worth reading and something that can possibly help put things in perspective when that rebel/bad boy breaks your heart, and they always do.