We started this blog in 2010 after a New Years' Resolution to read 60 books between the two of us. (40 for C, 20 for D.) After reaching our goal, we decided to keep going in 2011. This year, C has pledged to read 30 books, and D will read 12. By no means are we professional reviewers; we're not even professional bloggers. We're just two people who love to read and decided to share our thoughts and offer our limited insights. We hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book #16: Swine Not?

I essentially grew up with Jimmy Buffett. He was always on the stereo when I was little. Appropriate or not, "Margaritaville" was the first song to which I learned every single lyric, and I just loved to show that off to anyone who would listen. I will be the first to admit that I have a giant soft spot for Jimmy and will pretty much accept anything he does with open arms. That's exactly why when I heard he wrote a book about a pig in New York City, I welcomed the opportunity to read it. Dumb? Yes. But it's Jimmy Buffett! Jimmy and his tunes went on every vacation my family ever took, so naturally when it comes time to hit the beach, I always get a Buffett craving. I nominated his book Swine Not? for the book club, and somehow it won.

Swine Not? is about Rumpy, the McBride family's pet pig who makes the move with the family from comfy Tennessee to intimidating New York City. Rumpy quickly learns he's not quite as accepted in the Big Apple as he was in the rural South. The 12-year-old McBride twins, Barley and Maple, have to come up with elaborate disguises and escape routes anytime they take Rumpy out of the house. That's a sad situation for a pig who was used to running around among humans all the time back home. Rumpy becomes lonely and begins searching for his long lost brother, Lukie, who he believes is living in NYC. With the help of the rest of animal world and the McBride family, Rumpy goes on a quest for his brother and some respect from the big city.

This was a very quick read -- a great book to take on vacation since the chapters are only a couple pages long. (The story is told through the voice of Rumpy the pig and Barley, one of the McBride twins. The chapters alternate between their points of view.) It was easy to put down and pick up again when I only had a few minutes to spare at a time. As lyrical as Jimmy Buffett is, I thought it would flow a little better than it did. I'm sure the thing was edited to death after he wrote the original manuscript, but I was still surprised to see it was a bit choppy.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it was pretty juvenile. I feel like it could be on the shelf next to his children's book (Jolly Mon) instead of next to his other adult novels (A Salty Piece of Land, Tales from Margaritaville). The story is obviously about Rumpy the pig, but the other main characters are children. The characters, plot, and writing all seemed way more kid-centric than I expected, although I'm not sure how you'd make a story about a pig any more adult. It'd be like trying to make Homeward Bound an R-Rated movie. The ending was way too "happily ever after" for me, too. I won't spoil it, but I'll just say some pretty unbelievably unlikely things happen. I would've preferred things to be a little more realistic.

This isn't really specific to this book, but can I just go on record and say that I HATE IT when books don't use contractions? It's so unnatural. Even in dialogue sequences, this book would say "did not" instead of "didn't," "could have" instead of "couldn't." That's a pretty minor beef, but it really bothers me. Seems like I've run in to that in several books lately.

So, bottom line -- this was enjoyable, but not great. It wasn't a huge time investment, so I'm glad I read it, but it was definitely just a silly little book about a pig.

But at the end of the day, you know what? It's Jimmy Buffett. It's excellent.

Read from April 20, 2011 to April 24, 2011

2/4 Stars


Monday, April 4, 2011

Book #15: The Film Club: A Memoir

This was a lovely little book, and I learned stuff, too! Win!

David Gilmour, a Canadian journalist, wrote this memoir about a period of his life that would have any parent shaking in their boots -- his teenage son, Jesse, was failing school and desperate to drop out. David, unlike most parents, realized Jesse was miserable and made him an offer that no kid could refuse: Drop out of school. Live at home, rent free. Don't bother getting a job. Awesome, right? This is the deal Gilmour made with his son Jesse.

Here's the catch: Jesse had to watch three movies per week with his dear old dad -- movies chosen by his dad. Also, no drugs. That's another part of the deal. So, that's how the next year or so of their lives went.

What follows is an amazing journey through film -- which leads David and Jesse to learn more about each other and about life in general. The topics covered in the films chosen by Gilmour for his son open up their conversations to cover everything from women to alcohol to camera angles. Gilmour took a massive chance on his son and found a way to connect with him in the process, which, in turn gives Jesse the purpose in life he wasn't finding in high school.

This is a beautifully written story from the heart of a father who completely, totally loves his son. I can image what kind of reactions he must have gotten when people found out he was letting his kid be a "deadbeat," sleeping until late afternoon and writing rap songs with his saggy-pants friends... But in the end, he knew what was best for his kid, and he was going to give him what he needed no matter how long it took or what strange path it took to get there. Gilmour is a wonderful father, and his words prove how much he cares about his son.

As for Jesse... The book covers his late teenage years, which is probably the most obnoxious period in any person's life, and Jesse's no different. Ohhhh my Goddddd at the draaammmaaaa. There are two main girlfriends discussed in the memoir, and my LORD, are all teenage boys that miserably melodramatic about a chick they dated for a few months? Sheesh. Cannot handle that mess. Anyway, glad he got things straightened out.

One of my favorite things about this memoir is the list of films in the back of the book. Gilmour gives us a list of all the movies he and Jesse watched during the period of time in which their "deal" took place. It's a great resource, because Gilmour chooses some stellar films to share with his son. What a film buff that guy is. Throughout the book, he gives interesting factoids and trivia about the movies they watch -- even down to the decisions directors made about particular camera angles. It was very cool to read those facts about movies I know and movies I don't. I've definitely added a few to my "watch" list thanks to this book. And you can add this to your "read" list. Yay!