Book Review: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

thedivorcepapers18142403I love books with funky narratives, alternating POVs, and I’m a sucker for a book with an unusual format. All of these things piqued my interest about Susan Rieger’s debut novel The Divorce Papers. Its jacket describes it as “[a] rich, layered novel told entirely through personal correspondence, office memos, emails, articles, handwritten notes, and legal documents.” Sign me up!

This is the story of 29-year-old Sophie, a criminal lawyer who gets roped into working on a divorce case. That really is the basis of the novel; we see the divorce unfold through the various documents mentioned above. I thought this would be a fun and quirky read, and in some places it is, but overall Rieger does not have the skill or voice as a writer to execute an epistolary novel.

While I think the idea of this book is fun and relatively unique, there are some problems. Namely Sophie. Sophie is a totally unlikeable, whinny woman that I would not want to be my friend, let alone my lawyer. She sends completely inappropriate emails and memos of a personal nature (spilling her guts about her parents’ divorce more than a decade before) to her boss — emails that are rather flirtatious, especially when you learn that she has a crush on DG (as she calls him). What’s worse is that her boss doesn’t seem to want to stop her from sending these emails. At one point, he tells her that a memo she wrote is unprofessional, but his criticism is related to not its contents but its structure — she rambles, he says, and that is true for the bulk of Sophie’s correspondence. It rambles and doesn’t seem to have a point — and when she finally gets there, you’re exhausted from waiting for her to wrap it up already.

Which leads me to my next criticism. I could not stand reading the emails between Sophie and her life-long friend Maggie. Although Maggie was the only one who told Sophie to grow up and grow a pair, I just could not read those emails without my eyes drifting. Granted, this is a novel set in 1999, where email was a novelty and not many people had cell phones, and texting definitely wasn’t a form of communication. But oh my gosh. NO ONE WRITES EMAILS LIKE THAT. My biggest problem with the length of the emails — and many other documents in this book, court documents withstanding — is that they were trying too hard to be literary. They weren’t written in everyday nomenclature. If I am going to read an epistolary novel, I expect it to be realistic, not full of prose that is being forced through a “literary” sieve.

This is a book that tries to rely too much on popular culture, with references to books, movies, and theatre that the majority of readers aren’t going to get. I am a smart, well-read, educated woman and I have to say, reading these references and trying to figure out them when I didn’t know was distracting very irritating. Sometimes inserting these references, even if the audience doesn’t get them, can work. I give you Gilmore Girls as an outstanding example of this. However, in the case of Gilmore Girls, you have two women just being themselves, their likeable selves. In The Divorce Papers, all we have is Sophie making repeated references to her French mother, her English father, her bad boyfriends, with all of these book and movie references that aim at making Sophie appear cultured but fail terribly in hitting their mark.

One thing that I found super irritating, and I don’t know why, is that it appears that this novel takes place in the made up state of Narragansett. Narragansett is a real city in Rhode Island, but here it’s its own state. I take it back, I think I know why it bothers me so much. The author went through law school and has taught law at two different colleges. Would it have been so difficult to do research into actual divorce laws of an actual state? I feel like making up a state and its own divorce laws is both a) a lot more work than researching real divorce laws in real states and b) lazy writing because she was too lazy to do (a). Other states are mentioned frequently: New York. New Jersey. Massachusetts. Why not use one of those?

My overall impression? I am channeling my inner Sophie when I say that this is a novel that tries way, way too hard to be avant-garde and fails miserably.

You can read an excerpt of The Divorce Papers here.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher’s Blogging for Books in return for a fair and unbiased review. I wasn’t asked to give a positive review, just an honest one!

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Book Reivew: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir You know those books you walk past about fifty times while you’re at the bookstore, reading the inside cover multiple times and even walking around with it for a while before putting it back? That’s exactly how my relationship with Andy Weir’s The Martian began. I love the premise: Mark Watney is stuck on Mars. He landed with his crew six days before the book begins, but unfortunately a giant dust storms takes him out before he can get the heck off Mars in an emergency departure. He is sure he will die there – because lets face it, Mars isn’t exactly the most hospitable of environments. His crewmates and NASA presume that he is dead. Left with a limited — very limited — supply of food, water, air, and time, The Martian is a fun, compulsive read that keeps you up, reading “just one more chapter” because you have to find out what happens to Mark Watney. The reason I kept going back and forth about reading the was because awesome premise aside, I could see so many potential pitfalls. Like the giant elephant in the room… er, in the book: Mark is on Mars. Alone. Zero other people. And something told me that could be a very good way to write a very bad book.

The first large chunk of The Martian is exactly what I thought — Mark is alone on Mars (I think that is a well-established fact at this point) but my reading eyes and heart are so very happy to report that it was not the trainwreck I feared it would be. During this time, Mark makes a plan, explores how he ended up on Mars alone, and breaks down a lot of really boring scientific words and math into narration that is surprisingly interesting and engaging — and for you fellow non-sciencey people, incredibly understandable. I had to reread a few places but for the most part the science and the math clicked as I read.

Mark’s narration is also broken up with chunks of events taking place back at home at dear old NASA and with the crew mates who believe Mark to be dead. While I enjoy Mark’s entries into his log the most, I do think the parts of the book that deal with external characters are a really nice and refreshing break with what could otherwise be a long of repetitious stuff happening on Mars.

One thing I think is really important to point out here is that I really, really like Mark. He is the kind of person who, if he existed in real life, would have friends but a lot of people would think of him as a little bit of an arrogant jerk. I think that’s what made me like him so much. He seemed totally really and really funny. I never would have thought that a book about being stranded on Mars and left to die in the barren wasteland of a far-away planet could be hilarious, but there were so many times during Mark’s entries that I legitimately laughed out loud.

I’m not a quick reader, but I finished this book in a couple of days. In fact, when it was done, I thought, “Wow… what a short book!” But looking back I see it’s 300+ pages. I just couldn’t stop reading it. If anything this is where my main conflict and “criticism” come in. On one hand, I wish the story were longer, because there’s a lot of time where we read entries from Mark with massive amounts of time between them. But on the other hand, a lot of what happens is very repetitious, and reading more of that could get boring very quickly. I would have loved to see a little more of the NASA side of things — how the crew was selected, how the mental health of all of crew members post-accident were being monitored (this is mentioned a little but not in tons of detail), etc.

I hear this is being made into a movie and I have to say, I can’t wait to see it. I’ve already recommended this book to several of my friends because I enjoyed it so much.

One cool fact about The Martian: Andy Weir wrote this book and originally published it online for free. His readers wanted an ebook, so he formatted it for the Kindle and sold it on Amazon for 99¢, the lowest he could list it for, before it was picked up by Crown Publishing. I think that is really awesome and a giant plug for self-publishing – and the quality of the writing itself!

You can read an excerpt of The Martian for free here.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher’s Blogging for Books in return for a fair and unbiased review. I wasn’t asked to give a positive review, just an honest one!

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#boutofbooks update post

boutofbooks

Here is where I’ll be updating my reading post. Each day, I’ll add in the previous day’s information, always putting the newest information at the top. (I’ll make it easy for you to get to the older updates, don’t you worry!)

Goals
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday

Sunday

Number of books read: 6
Number of books finished today: 0
Total number of books finished: 4
Number of pages read: 250
Total number of pages I read: 1,489
Number of hours read: 2 hours 30 minutes (but I ended up not keeping track of time at the end so I read more than that!)
Total number of hours read: 19 hours 5 minutes (but I probably ended up reading around 21 hours total)
Name the book(s): Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
What else I did: I took two naps because I stupidly stayed up for 29 hours. I spent 52 minutes on the phone with dumb Expedia making them fix a major flight issue that was their fault. Read. I’d really wanted to finish, but I was really happy with that I did!
Money raised for my charity: $49.50
Goals met: I was a little ambitious with my goals and really didn’t meet many of them – but I am so happy with how this week went! My biggest goal was to finishing reading Long Walk to Freedom – and I did! I also read two books for my #bscchallenge, and I was happy with that, too. Life kept happening and I needed to be flexible so that’s exactly what I did. I look forward to doing this again in August.

Saturday

Number of books read: 6
Number of books finished today: 1
Total number of books finished: 4
Number of pages read: 190
Total number of pages I read: 1,239
Number of hours read: 1 hours 50 minutes
Total number of hours read: 16 hours 35 minutes
Name the book(s): One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf; Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
What else I did: I can’t even tell you. I think I went to Ventura.
Money raised for my charity: $49.50

Friday

Number of books read: 5
Number of books finished today: 0
Total number of books finished: 3
Number of pages read: 415
Total number of pages I read: 1,049
Number of hours read: 3 hours 50 minutes
Total number of hours read: 14 hours 45 minutes
Name the book(s): Dawn and the Impossible Three (for #bscchallenge); One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
What else I did: Work. Grocery shop. Took a nap after work.
Money raised for my charity: $44.50

Thursday

Number of books read: 4
Number of books finished today: 1
Total number of books finished: 2
Number of pages read: 121
Total number of pages I read: 634
Number of hours read: 2 hours 45 minutes
Total number of hours read: 10 hours 55 minutes
Name the book(s): Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
What else I did: Work. Sweat. Complain about the heat. Dave Ramsey class. Sweat some more.
Money raised for my charity: $32.50

Wednesday

Number of books read: 4
Number of books finished today: 0
Total number of books finished: 1
Number of pages read: 171
Total number of pages I read: 513
Number of hours read: 3 hours 5 minutes
Total number of hours read: 8 hours 10 minutes
Name the book(s): Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela and Dawn and the Impossible Three by Ann M. Martin (for the #bscchallenge)
What else I did: Work. Sweat. Complain about the heat. Hide out at a deserted Starbucks (too hot for people to go out, I guess!). Sweat some more. Take a cold bath.
Money raised for my charity: $25.50

Tuesday

Number of books read: 3
Number of books finished today: 1
Total number of books finished: 1
Number of pages read: 226
Total number of pages I read: 342
Number of hours read: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total number of hours read: 5 hours 5 minutes
Name the book(s): Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela, Discipleshift by Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington, and Mary Anne Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin (for the #bscchallenge)
What else I did: Work. Bible study in the early morning. Class (I’m a TA for a class at my church on Tuesday nights). Accountability group. Overall I was pleasantly surprised at how much reading I was able to fit in!
Money raised for my charity: $22.50

Monday

Number of books read: 1
Number of books finished today: 0
Total number of books finished: 0
Number of pages read: 116
Total number of pages I read: 116
Number of hours read: 2 hours 45 minutes
Total number of hours read: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Name the book(s): Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
What else I did: Work! I also ended up spending a considerable amount of time last night (like, two hours!) wrapping books to be shipped for Paperback Swap. I planned on staying up a little later but by the time I reached a natural stopping point I was so tired that I accepted the stopping point as my cue to go to sleep. I had originally planned to read for five hours, but you know what? Life happens AND I still managed to read 116 pages of a book I haven’t picked up in months. I say it was a highly successful day!
Money raised for my charity: $5

Time Devoted to Reading

I will be reading all week, but with a really heavy push on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the hardest for me, but I’ll make extra time on Tuesday (90 minute lunch!) and Thursday as well.

My Goals

  • Read 5 hours M/W/F; read 3 hours T/TH; read 8 hours (or more!) on Sa/Su for a total of at least 37 hours, I know I’ll push myself to do more!)
  • Catch up on my GoodReads Challenge (currently 4 books behind)
  • Read/finish three adult books (2/3)
    • One of these will be finishing A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; the rest are up in the air
  • Read/finish six Baby-Sitters Club books, including one Super Special (2/6)

 Books to Read

  • A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • Six Baby-Sitters Club series books (2/6)
  • Two other adult books (1/2)
    • One fiction
    • One non-fiction

Here’s some more info about Bout of Books read-a-thon:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.

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#boutofbooks spell it out challenge

I am doing the Spell It Out challenge, hosted by Kimbery Faye Reads. Check out the other fun entries, and as always… happy #boutofbooks-ing!

I blog about life and God over at kristaonpurpose.com, so I’ll be spelling out kristaonpurpose with book titles. Happy reading to each of you stopping by – and tell me if you’ve read any of the books on my list, especially the few I’ve marked as to be read!

Kitchen House, The by Kathleen Grissom*
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
If I Stay by Gayle Forman*
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus*
Nanny Diaries, The by Emma McLaughlin
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
Under the Dome
by Stephen King
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Power of One, The by Bryce Courtenay
One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Emma by Jane Austen

*to-be-read books

Comment here and I’ll check out your list, too!

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#boutofbooks – if you like X, try Y challenge

Because I read more than most of the people in my daily circle of friends/acquaintances, I often get asked for recommendations. What a fun way to do this challenge because I have ALL THE RECOMMENDATIONS. So without further adieu, here you go!

If you love epic historical novels, try The Power of One or The Persimmon Tree, both by Bryce Courtenay. TPoO takes place in South Africa during World War II and tells the story of Peekay, a “rooinek” (red neck in Afrikaans) battling against tensions with Afrikaaner children. He must learn to think first with his head, then with his heart. TPT is similar but takes place in the Dutch East Indies and Australia. It’s the story of Nick Duncan and Anna. So beautiful. (Both books have sequels – Tandia and Fishing for Stars, respectively!)

If you love graphic novels historical novels, try Maus I/II or Persepolis/Persepolis 2. I feel like these might be cliche recommendations, but they are incredible works of both written and visual art. Maus deals with the Holocaust and Persepolis deals with Iran after the Islamic revolution. Beautiful and heart-breaking.

If you love books about current trends or current events, try The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddartha Mukherjee. Mukherjee writes a “biography of cancer,” and it is an incredible read. Despite its heavy topic, he tackles it well, and in language that the non-scientifically-minded can grasp. The book looks at many different aspects of cancer: its historical roots, the social implications, the cultural “war on cancer,” the politics of treatment, and so much more. It’s a lengthy by fascinating read.

If you love compelling memoirs, try Lucky by Alice Sebold. I must confess, I’m not a big fan of Sebold’s other works, but Lucky is just incredible. Sebold honestly and painfully shares her story of surviving a brutal rape and how she got her life back together after it. I can’t imagine reading it and being unchanged.

For more recommendations, go check out the post over at The Book Barbies and maybe consider adding your own!

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#boutofbooks for charity!

#boutofbooks starts in just a few hours (12:01 am on Monday, May 12 – 11:59 pm on Sunday, May 18). That is approximately six hours and one minute away, give or take a few depending on when this post posts.

I had so much fun reading for the #readathon two weeks ago that I decided to take an idea that was used for that event and make it work for me at this event. I’m going to read for charity! Let me explain how it will work and the other details.

First of all, my charity of choice will be the library at my sister’s school. She goes to a great school with a lot of kids who fall into a lower socioeconomic class and whose parents and families can’t all afford to donate books and things. So I will raise money for her library – so the kids can have books, especially the newer books that they all want to read.

How will I raise the money? Well, first and foremost it will be coming out of my own pocket but I’d love it if anyone feels the desire to donate a flat donation, too, or match whatever I raise! Here’s a breakdown of what I’m be putting in the pot.

$10 for ever adult book I finish
$5 for ever adult book I read but don’t finish
$5 for every YA/children’s book I finish
$3 for every YA/children’s book I read but don’t finish
$1 for every blog comment
50¢ for every tweet or retweet

If you have any desire to help the library at Charisse’s school, message me, leave a comment (you have you to give me your email address to leave a comment so I’ll contact you there!), or tweet me!

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#bscchallenge

I am totally a child of the 90s when I say that I have had a long and passionate love obsession with the entire Baby-Sitters Club series. I got them in the mail, I stalked the bookstore at the mall, I read them over and over again at school and sneaked them home from the library. I recently have rekindled this love affair and I’ve started trying to complete my collection. That means I’m looking for the books I’m missing: copies of each cover edition of the books (there are between one and three for the original series!), all of the super specials and other spin offs.

What’s the point, you ask? These were such a special part of my childhood, and honestly a saving grace because they gave me a refuge from a lot of junk taking place in the world around me. They allowed me to keep a certain level of innocence and I have wanted for years and years to get a complete collection. So now that I’m 31, I’m doing just that.

I sorted all of my books earlier in the week. Last night I cleaned out my bookshelves and posted to PaperbackSwap a bunch of books I don’t care to own anymore. And I’ve already requested a ton of BSC books to get me started (although I think I have up until the 60s without any gaps, so I’m good for a while!).

As the books are coming in, I am — you guessed it! — reading them all.

My goal is to read 237 books (that’s the regular series, the super specials, the mysteries, the super mysteries, the autobiography books, the special books, the Friends Forever series and super specials, the graphic novels, the novels related directly to the regular series, and the California Diaries series) by December 31,  2015. I will be 32 years old when I finish this project. And my dream will be fulfilled. (I’m skipping over the Little Sister series. I’ll probably attempt to collect those ones, too, because they’re a spin off of the regular series, and I might read them, but it’s too much hassle to add them to this list!)

If you care to read with me, I’ll be updating here sometimes and I’ll also be posting on twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #bscchallenge.

Happy reading!

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