Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review: "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen

This is one that Hollywood might actually get right.

From what I can tell from the previews, the casting is pretty well done. I’m not a Twihard by any stretch of the imagination (have yet to pick up a book in that series), and I don’t understand the fascination surrounding Robert Pattinson, but he is an absolute perfect choice for the role of Jacob Jankowski in Water for Elephants.

And if you would have asked me yesterday, I would have said Reese Witherspoon would do a great job as the lead female role, but that was before I saw her latest flick, How Do You Know. (Save yourself two hours. It was awful! I forced my husband to watch it, and after about an hour in, I was the one who turned it off). Either way, though, Emily Blunt would have been far better choice to play Marlena, the female lead. I realize I’m about five years behind the Emily Blunt craze, but she is absolutely amazing in anything she does, and this would have been no exception.

But I’m way off track here. If this were a movie review blog, it would merely be a series of posts of me whining about movies that simply wasted a good Saturday evening - especially when they mess with perfectly good books. But it’s not. This space is reserved for books.

And this happens to be one I loved.

I devoured Sara Gruen’s debut novel, Water for Elephants while on bed rest during my twin pregnancy, and I have to say it was the bright spot during my stay in the hospital (aside from the whole giving birth to healthy twin boys, of course).

Beautifully written and truly original, Gruen’s story is set during the Great Depression and starts after the tragic death of Jacob’s parents. Alone and penniless (soon after the funeral he discovers that his father’s farm and veterinary practice has been mortgaged to the hilt) Jacob, an Ivy League veterinary student, literally hops a train and finds himself aboard a traveling circus train car.

Without at job – and now without a home – Jacob seizes the opportunity to use his knowledge and love for animals to earn a living as the animal trainer for the traveling show. After befriending – and ultimately falling in love with – Marlena, a beautiful ex-ballerina and the star of the main event, he soon learns that behind the glitz and glamour of a circus production lays dark secrets and deadly jealousies.

A love story that is filled with passion, intrigue and a most unusual heroine, Water for Elephants is an absolute must-read. And as long as Hollywood doesn’t do anything stupid (like try to change one single thing about the story) it should be an absolute must-see.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Four weeks?! I've got some explaining to do ....

I look back over the past month and wonder what happened. I suppose it’s tough to pinpoint exactly where I’ve gone off track when you consider my days are a blur of refereeing twin fights and cleaning up every inch of the bathroom on an hourly basis (how do boys manage to consistently miss the toilet bowl but have the aim of an Olympic marksman when they challenge each other to a pee-off and the target is the neighbor cat on the move?).

But it seems to boil down to three things, just three small distractions that have kept me from working on my site: 1) No leisure reading time, 2) trying to harness Joey’s newfound curiosity for all things dangerous and breakable and 3) the acquisition of a sewing machine.

It’s no accident that some of the best writers are big readers themselves. The more you read, the better you write. Period. Regardless of your current skill level, reading will make your writing better. When I don’t make the time to read, there’s no inspiration to find the time – or right combination of words - to write, and it’s not something you can force. I certainly have enough material; I’ve read enough in the past to have plenty to review, just not enough gas in the tank to write a decent post.

Which leads me to Joey .... With only three years under my belt, I’m still relatively new to this parenting thing, but I’ve learned that - so far - the ages one to three are the hardest, and Joey is no exception. And although these years come with amazing milestones like walking and talking (she just said “Bye Daiyy”), they also come with an overwhelming curiosity and the grabby little hands that go along with it. She is utterly fascinated with the computer and wants to pound on the keyboard right along with me, so on the rare occasion inspiration has struck (I have a couple reviews about half finished) the second she hears that tap, tap, tap of the keyboard, she comes into the office to help. At least I have someone to blame for the typos.

And, lastly, my sewing machine. Probably one of the coolest birthday presents I’ve ever received. I love it. (Thank you Mom!) But it’s also proved to be more of a challenge than I ever could have guessed. I knew it would be an uphill battle: The small amount of creativity I do have doesn’t translate to textiles, or sketching, sculpting, painting or even color-by-numbers. 

But I just wanted to make a simple pillowcase. 

Five weeks later, it’s still unfinished. It’s been started and re-started. Done and re-done. And still sits in a comically over-sized heap on my couch. I know when something looks good, I know what I like when I see it ... a pretty painting, a beautifully sculpted clay pot or a fun new fashion discovery ... I just can’t create it myself.

But at least I can write about it, which leads me to this rather sloppy transition, a new fashion find, something truly unique made by someone truly unique herself. Poor Pitiful Pearl, a fellow blogger, mother of two and someone who knows how to harness her fashion inspiration and who uses her gift for a worthwhile cause, donating 10% of her profits to charities such as Casa Hogar Orphanage in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I suppose I’ve added her into this post for a couple reasons 1) because in the small amount of time I’ve gotten to know her, it is evident she is a truly genuine person and someone who deserves a mention and 2) as a fourth reason for my absence … I’ve been too busy following her blog and shopping her Etsy boutique.

Me in my latest fashion obsession, PPP.

Luckily for me, I believe a big portion of writing ability is inherited, and even though it’s a skill that needs to be honed, I’ve hit the genetic jackpot. My sewing skills, however, are gonna need some work, but I suppose genetics gave me a bit of a nudge there as well, considering I’ll get a fair amount of practice hemming pants for three children the next 18 years.