In the Water They Can’t See You Cry by Amanda Beard
(Touchstone, 2012, 256 pages)
This memoir by famous Olympian, Amanda Beard, gives the reader a great deal of insight into what it was like being a professional athlete. There’s a lot more to it than the notoriety and requests for autographs. Beard grew up wanting to be in the water. There was a nice age gap between her and her two older sisters so when she saw them swimming when she was three, she was eager to join them in the pool. She officially became a part of the swim team at 4 years old. After her skills were honed as a pre-teen, it became clear that she needed more of a challenge than just competing in the summer. She joined a competitive swim team that went year-round. This is what took her to her first Olympics at the age of 14.
Beard never really got used to the attention she got as an Olympic athlete. She just knew she loved being in the water. When she was swimming she could let things go and just focus on the task at hand. This started to change after she went through puberty and she had to readjust to the water in her new body. Eventually she went to college in Arizona where she competed on their swim team. Here she gets her first taste not only of being a part of a supportive team, but also of what can happen when you’re in an unstable relationship. Her relationship with another Olympic athlete was by no means a healthy one. He wasn’t attentive, she felt self-conscious, she became bulimic, she started cutting herself, she did drugs to fit in with him… It was clearly a downward spiral that set the tone for the rest of her relationships.
The reader is taken through the many pitfalls Amanda experiences in her life. She reveals that despite the outward appearance that she tried to maintain as a professional, inside she was constantly battling herself and her inner demons. She never felt happy. Then she meets someone who is FINALLY there for her. From here on out things begin to turn around. It’s a struggle to come back from the dark world she had been dwelling in, but she’s willing to put in the work.
This was a quick read, but I didn’t really get sucked into it. I thought there would be a little more scandal, maybe? It was nice getting some of the inside scoop of what the Olympics are like from a competitor’s perspective.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
(Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2011, 432 pages)
In 1998, Alice is 29 years old, married, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine her surprise when she suddenly wakes up in a gym in 2008 where she is 39 years old, getting divorced, has three kids and doesn’t remember the last decade of her life. After hitting her head in the gym, Alice has to try and piece together all the changes in her life in the last ten years, including learning who her children are and why she’s getting a divorce. And why does everything keep leading back to Gina, someone she doesn’t even know? There are just too many questions and too few people that are willing to give her answers.
What I enjoyed about What Alice Forgot is that Moriarty doesn’t show who Alice really is when she’s 39. You wake up with Alice thinking that she’s 29 and pregnant and learn things about her life as she pieces them together. That is what really made the story for me. The narrator, Alice, wasn’t holding anything back or keeping any secrets from the reader, she just simply didn’t know.
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
(Grand Central Publishing, 2010, 340 pages)
Katie Feldman is a newcomer in the small town of Southport, North Carolina. Southport is the kind of town where everyone knows everything about one another. So it’s strange that no one knows what Katie’s story is or why she moved to the small sleepy town. Reluctantly Katie starts to befriend her next door neighbor, Jo, and Alex, a widow with two small kids. As her friendship and relationship with Alex starts to grow, Katie is glad that she is finally able to relax but she battles with herself on whether she can trust them with her secret.
Nicholas Sparks books are usually safe bets, including this one. It was a fast read that kept me entertained and was relatively light. Sparks does a great job with releasing bits of information to Katie’s secret that keeps you engaged and then leaves one last twist for the very end. This was a good summer read for me. Also I was curious to see if there was any plans for Safe Haven to have a film adaption, since so many of his books have transitioned to film the last couple of years, and Safe Haven is set to release in 2013.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
(Jonathan Cape, 2001, 371 pages)
Atonement is the reflection on how one girl’s mistake can change the course of everyone’s lives around her. Brinoy Tallis is 13 years old and has dreams of becoming a writer. But Brinoy needs something new and grown up to happen in her life so her writing can be spectacular. Brinoy starts to witness the beginning of a relationship between her sister Cecillia and the Tallis housekeeper’s son, Robbie. Instead of seeing the relationship as it is, Brinoy twists everything in her mind to something far more “exciting” to write about and ends up being the downfall of many people’s lives.
This is by far one of the most frustrating books that I have read. By having the different vantage points of the characters, I got to witness the relationship bloom between Cecilla and Robbie and see how carelessly Brinoy was changing the events in her mind. I admit that I had to take a break for a couple days just because I was so frustrated with Brinoy. I asked my sister if she ever read Atonement and she said she tried a couple years ago but could never get over her frustration with Brinoy to finish it.
I would definitely recommend having a lighter read by your side if you pick up this book. Brinoy’s character was just too frustrating for me to read the book straight through.
Slow Heat in Heaven by Sandra Brown
(Grand Central Publishing, 1991, 464 pages)
Once again, Sandra Brown tells a fascinating story. She draws the reader in as she weaves together words. Deep in Louisiana is the town named “Heaven,” but it is far from what most would characterize as a heavenly place. The wealthy live high and mighty and the poor live in servitude. The adopted daughter, Schyler returns home to the logging empire on the brink of disaster. Her daddy, Cotton, has suffered a heart attack and the family is about to lose it all due to mismanagement. Meanwhile, her sister and brother-in-law have been living it up.
Schyler turns to Cash, the local womanizer, who is the only one skilled enough to lead the workers to deliver the timber and meet the requirements of a new contract, but at every turn, something goes awry. What deep secrets is Cash keeping that he’s lived with for so long? What is his interest in Schyler? Brown tells a riveting story that turns the good guys into bad and the bad into good while telling this story packed with action, deceit, and romance.
Bookends by Jane Green
(Broadway, 2003, 368 pages)
I know in my last review, that I said I would have two more Jane Green books coming, but I think Bookends will be my last one for a while because I am in the mood for a different author. 🙂 Bookends covers the life of college friends, Cath, Si, Josh, and Portia. These four lived together during college and were the best of friends until Portia does something to drive a wedge between them all. As college passes and these friends grow up, Cath, Si, and Josh remain best friends while they lose touch with Portia. Life is plodding along for all them when, by happenstance, they run into an acquaintance of Portia’s and get her contact information. Cath debates about calling her for a few weeks and finally does, which in turn starts a small reunion of the friends. All seems well until Cath sees Portia out with Josh, who is married, and then Cath thinks he is having an affair with Portia. The novel goes through the ups and downs of everyone’s relationships. I think I like this book better than the previous ones by Jane Green because it seems to have added some real life problems other than finding one’s true “soul mate.”
Feeding a Yen: Savoring Local Specialties from Kansas City to Cuzco by Calvin Trillin
(Random House, 2003, 208 pages)
Calvin Trillin is a well-known food writer that I’d been meaning to read. When I saw this title at the library I had to pick it up. The book is essentially a cohesive collection of essays about the various foods Trillin craves that he can ONLY get in very specific locations. There are places all over the world that he can pinpoint and say, this place has the best *blank* and that place is still the only place you can get it.
He takes you to Spain, France, California and Kansas City (to name just a few locations) and he talks about various specialties that just have the ability to take over his taste buds and make him crave that dish from then on. He refers to these dishes that can only be found in their “place of origin” as residing on a “register of frustration and deprivation.” This is because if a craving were to hit for a specific item, he’d have to travel a considerable distance to satisfy it.
This was an enjoyable read, but I kind of had to plod through a few of the essays.