REVIEW: Flying Changes by Sara Gruen

flying changesFormat:  Paperback
Genre:  General Fiction / Equine Fiction
ISBN:  978-0-06-124109-3
Published:  2005

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

Anxiety rules Annemarie Zimmer’s days—the fear that her relationship with the man she loves is growing stagnant; the fear that equestrian daughter Eva’s dreams of Olympic glory will carry her far away from her mother . . . and into harm’s way. For five months, Annemarie has struggled to make peace with her past. But if she cannot let go, the personal battles she has won and the heights she has achieved will have all been for naught.

It is a time of change at Maple Brook horse farm, when loves must be confronted head-on and fears must be saddled and broken. But it is an unanticipated tragedy that will most drastically alter the fragile world of one remarkable family—even as it flings open gates that have long confined them, enabling them all to finally ride headlong and free.

My Thoughts:

I always find it interesting to read reviews after I have finished a book, especially if I am having a difficult time articulating my reactions to the book. In this case, I found the reviews highly informative, most noticeably because there was very little middle ground on this novel. The vast majority of reviewers either loved it or hated it, so I find myself in the minority here.

I read Riding Lessons immediately prior to Flying Changes, and were it not for the redeeming factors in that book (noted in my review), I may not have pushed forward. That, and unless I truly hate something, I am often compelled to get to the end of the story…and clearly the end of the story was not at the end of Riding Lessons. And I’m glad I did, because this book had, in the end, more to redeem it than Riding Lessons did.

Amazing to me was that I grew to like Mutti, and to understand her better. AnneMarie continued to be a collossally immature trainwreck until very near the end of the book, when a convergence of several factors forced her to step up and be an adult. Thankfully there was a good support system surrounding her, because otherwise it’s hard to fathom that there was any hope she could actually do it. Eva continued in her truant ways, and frankly, it was understandable considering how little her mother seemed capable of mothering her. It was never AnneMarie who dropped the hammer on her, but Mutti (or Dan). I am not an iron-fisted parent by far, but I do believe in setting limits, and disciplining disobedience and defiance, so I found AnneMarie’s inability to handle Eva frustrating, even after accounting for a divorce and a seemingly absent father (who started a new family with his new wife).

Still, in the end, she (AnneMarie) redeemed herself. She got hold of her irrational fear…at least, enough to keep from derailing her daughter’s ambitions. She also pulled herself together when there was no other choice, and considering her track record, I was relieved and gratified by that. Had she not, I am certain I would have heaved the book across the room with curses following. It’s not a ringing endorsement, but if you’re a horse person with a reasonably forgiving nature for irrational, unlikeable characters who may or may not change, then you’ll like this book.

REVIEW: Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen

riding lessonsFormat:  Paperback
Genre:  General Fiction / Equine Fiction
ISBN:  978-0-06-124108-6
Published:  2004

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

As a world-class equestrian and Olympic contender, Annemarie Zimmer lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal. Then, at eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry, the beautiful horse she cherished. Now, twenty years later, Annemarie is coming home to her dying father’s New Hampshire horse farm. Jobless and abandoned, she is bringing her troubled teenage daughter to this place of pain and memory, where ghosts of an unresolved youth still haunt the fields and stables—and where hope lives in the eyes of the handsome, gentle veterinarian Annemarie loved as a girl . . . and in the seductive allure of a trainer with a magic touch.

But everything will change yet again with one glimpse of a white striped gelding startlingly similar to the one Annemarie lost in another lifetime. And an obsession is born that could shatter her fragile world.

My Thoughts (**spoiler**):

Well, I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. I found it disappointing after having read Water for Elephants a few years back, which I loved. I pretty much disliked every single character in Riding Lessons…which makes you wonder why I went on and read Flying Changes. I found AnneMarie to be ridiculously immature for a woman of 38 years, married 18 years and mother to teenage daughter. She doesn’t seem to have outgrown her own adolescence, and maybe that was a direct result of her career-ending accident when she was 18, but her seeming inability to admit her weaknesses and learn lessons from them was very frustrating. Add to that the once overbearing father who is now dying – and with whom there are unresolved issues, an iron-fisted mother who is intrusive and continues to parent her daughter as if she were still an adolescent, and Eva, with a huge attitude and a smart mouth.

I suppose a woman who has not yet resolved issues with her own parents can not be expected to be a mature, effective parent to a daughter just like herself. Particularly when she is going through a divorce from a cheating husband, a husband whom her daughter adores, and who therefore blames the split on AnneMarie. Still, there does come a point when big girl panties are necessary.

**spoiler**

As much as I disliked almost every character, the book did have some redeeming aspects to it. I related very much to AnneMarie’s devotion to finding the truth of Hurrah’s lineage, and what really happened to him. I also appreciated that, in the end, AnneMarie recognized how much damage she had done, and used her own money to set it right. She was so selfish and had blinders to everything except what was immediately in front of her for so long, that I was gratified to see her make this very real effort, since she had basically run the stable into the ground.

These (Books) Should Have Some Staying Power

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Everyone is welcome to join.

Just link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out your list! If you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It’s a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday Topic:
These Should Have Some Staying Power
(or Books Written In The Past Decade That I Hope People Are Still Reading In 2042)

1.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett – Excellently written and deeply moving, this is a powerful & thought provoking reminder of part of our nation’s history.

2.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows – A beautifully written epistolary, and definitely worth of a place in the literary canon.

3.  Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling – Not only are they well crafted and packed with action, the story line from start to finish is incredible, and they have been instrumental in getting kids (even professed non-readers) steeped in reading again.

4.  Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larssen – With an unusual protagonist and an oddball sidekick, technological intrigue and danger in spades, this is a detective / mystery series that rises above the rest.

5.  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – So well researched and realistic that it is hard to believe this is “just” a novel, but it is, and it is stellar.

6.  The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas – Controversial, and therefore so worth the read.

7.  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – A gripping story that spans a generation (or two), an emigration to the U.S., and all the difficulties and joys that are part of life-changing events.

8.  No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy – It’s dark and disturbing and violent, and written so well that you can’t help but be effortlessly carried to the end on McCarthy’s words.

9.  Rain Gods by James Lee Burke – As will all of his novels, the writing is wonderful, but this one is an especially gripping, disturbing tale of serial murder.  Similar in scope & setting to No Country for Old Men, it is my favorite of the two, though both are worthy of being in the literary canon.

10.  South of Broad and My Reading Life by Pat Conroy – Really, I would say anything by Pat Conroy should have longevity, and there are several that have already proven their mettle, but since we’re focusing on the most recent decade, I must include both of these books.  Pat Conroy is as accomplished an author as we have currently writing, and I believe all of his works will have staying power for decades to come.

Appreciating the Zealotry

Well it’s time for APPRECIATING THE ZEALOTRY. The purpose of this challenge is to re-post a favourite post you wrote in April that perhaps many people did not get to read due to the craziness of the month. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a romantic post – just go with your favourite, whatever that was – a story, a post about writing, a guest post…

Read full details here

How to do it? Re-post your post (s) onto your blog, then link up wherever you see the linky list…After you link, visit others on the list and have a great time reading and commenting on everyone’s favourite post for April.

Open to all, so link up…linky open until Sunday 20th.

Have fun!

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I did this challenge over at Spotts in the Valley of the Sun, but this particular post was all book related, so I’m reposting it here.

April 2 (B)…Books (and a Bookish Nerd)

If you know me personally, you had to know that today’s topic is a no-brainer. 

I love books.

I love reading, and try to do so every day.  I listen to audiobooks in my car constantly, and I set (often unattainable) reading goals each year, hoping not only to improve on my totals from the previous year, but to push myself to read things I would not ordinarily pick up.  And every year, I have had had great surprises, failures, disappointing revelations, but (nevertheless) satisfaction at having added to my reading history.

A few years ago, I was introduced to Goodreads, and I was instantly hooked.  I have always had a personal library, and Goodreads was the tool that allowed me to catalog my books, track my reading, get new book recommendation, publish book reviews, follow other readers’ reviews and comments, and interact with a group of people who love books as much as I do.

So I cataloged, organized, categorized, and made lists.

Most importantly, I started formally tracking my reading in 2007.  This has proved to be one of the most satisfying endeavors I have ever undertaken during my reading life.  I have learned a lot about my reading habits and my taste in books.  I discovered, for example, that pre-planning my annual reading is an absolute FAIL for me, as my mood is the dictator of what books wind up on my bedside table.  I also discovered that I am a relatively slow reader, in comparison to the many bookworms I encounter on Goodreads, in the blogosphere, or wherever we happen to connect.

Here are some stats:

2007:  40 books; favorites – Family Baggage and Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney
2008:  44 books; favorites – The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan, Becoming Finola by Suzanne Strempek Shea
2009:  84 books; favorites – My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
2010:  49 books; favorites – Rain Gods by James Lee Burke, The Water is Wide and South of Broad by Pat Conroy, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
2011:  54 books; favorites – Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, My Reading Life by Pat Conroy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
2012:  12 books (to date); favorite (to date) –The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

The best things about this project are that I am getting better at picking books I love, and I have at my fingertips book recommendations galore…to share with others, or to peruse when I’m in a slump.

I’d love you to connect with me bookishly.  Comments, complaints and snide remarks are welcome and encouraged.

Here’s where you can find me: My personal book blog:  https://bookishnerd.com/ Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/346637

I also revew books on Amazon.com.

So, from one book lover to (hopefully) many…happy reading!