Sunday, June 10, 2007

Almost half way through the challenge

Thought that I'd start the day off with an update on where I was with the reading challenge...since I'm less than 1 1/2 hours away from the halfway point (when I started this I'm at less than an hour). For some reason I took more breaks than I thought yesterday (I used a program that I still had on my computer TraxTime from my freelance days to track my hours). I'm at 10.1 excluding this post. I took a break last night to watch 2 movies with E...well finish "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and then watched "Labryinth" from the beginning (how did I miss this one when it first came out...and luckily DharmaFey dyes wool for the various characters).

So those are the hours so far and now for the total pages 735.

First up was The World to Come (313 pages), which I surprisingly enjoyed despite my friend Stephanie saying she didn't. It is about a recently divorced man named Ben Zizkind who write questions for a quiz show. At the prompting of his twin sister, he goes to a singles party at a Jewish museum and low and behold he sees a painting that used to hang in his parents home...a small Chagall. After everyone leaves to go to another part of the museum for the musical entertainment, he stays behind (he can't hear music as according to Jewish law he is forbidden within the year following a parent's death and his mom recently died). Something comes over him and he steals the painting. Now you might think that alarms go off and the video camera would capture the theft. is focused on preventing terrorists from harming the people inside. So needless to say Ben gets away with the theft until the very attractive museum director puts 2 and 2 together. The rest of the book tells the story of Ben's ancestry and how the painting came into the family (it truly is a Chagall). I have a penchant for novels that jump around in time and are also narrated from different perspectives. There is also a bit of history, art, poetry, short stories, and lots of talk about what happens after death. According to Rosalie (Ben's mom who is a children's writer...albeit a very dark children's writer if you ask me), she doesn't believe in reincarnation. What she believes is that there is a world to come where people who have passed teach and guide the future generation when they are in the womb. Definitely an enjoyable that could be enjoyed by men.

Next up, The Keep (256 pages). I originally read this last year and needed to re-read for reading group, which will meet next Monday. I was fascinated with it then and even more so now. There is a very big twist at the end that even reading a second time it was still hard to pick up on. Again Jennifer Egan reminds me of a female Chuck Palahniuk...think twist at the end of Fight Club or Invisible Monsters. Here is the general remise without giving too much away. Cousin Danny goes to work at a castle in Europe for his estranged cousin Howie. We learn that they are estranged as Danny and another cousin pulled a nasty prank on Howie at a family picnic...early on you find out that Howie was in a cave for 3 days...alone. Howie has overcome the past and become a very powerful man and invested in renovating this castle so that it can become a hostel oasis. Danny had to leave New York and is very self-centered and tech dependent. Interspersed throughout the book is another storyline about Ray who is in jail and the writing course that he is taking from his teacher Holly. Danny has some harrowing events of his own while at the castle. Everything comes together at the end in a way that readers will interpret differently. That's why I am really looking forwad to reading group next see what everyone else thinks.

Next...I decided to finish the last 102 pages of The Life You Long For. This is a story where I could identify with the heroine on one level as a mother but yet on another I wanted to throttle her. Grace is a mother of three with her youngest, Jack who is 3, having a rare condition known as mitochondrial disease. He is terminal and everyone in the family is dealing with the inevitable in their own way. The story starts out on Christmas Eve with Grace spending part of the day with her lover...a childhood sweet heart who has been carrying a torch for her for 20 years since she dumped him. Not long after...Grace learns that there has been an accusation of Munchaussen's Syndrome by Proxy against her. So not only is she dealing with Jack's illness but also the threat of him being taken away from her. But she relaxes as the Children's Protective Agency do not have enough to prosecute until there is a second complaint. This book definitely pulls on your heart strings. September 11th does have a major role in the plot but I won't say just makes all of the characters take stock. I will say that the family does have 2 traditions that I would like to adopt in our own...on New Year's Eve Day, as a family they put together a jigsaw puzzle. Then they have a jar with questions that they pull one a day and ask each other...for instance, if you were a color what would you be?

And right now, I am 64 pages into The Thirteenth Tale and can't wait to get back to it. More reviews to come.


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