Mar 13

TLC Book Tours: Dear Diary Review of This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

By: Helen Schulman
Publisher: Harper Perenniel
Pub. Date: August 2011
Formats: Hardback, Paperback and Electronic
Pages: 222
Genre: Contemporary
Age Group: Adults
Source: Publisher

Follow Helen Schulman on: Website | goodreads
Purchase THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE on: Amazon | B&N | TBD | IB

Goodreads Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot receives—and then forwards to a friend—a sexually explicit video that an eighth-grade admirer sent to him, the video goes viral within hours. The scandal that ensues threatens to shatter his family’s sense of security and identity—and, ultimately, their happiness. This Beautiful Life is a devastating, clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the choices we make in the name of love.

Review: I’d like to first thank HarperCollins  for sending me the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman is told from various viewpoints, but mainly the POV of a mother and wife, Elizabeth Bergamot who lives in New York City with her family. Elizabeth is happy with her life — her husband is successfully working at a university, her son Jake is turning sixteen and becoming a man before her eyes; and her daughter Coco, a precocious little kindergartener who they recently adopted from China.

The story opens up with a prologue of a shocking scene of young girl taking a sexually graphic video of herself for a boy. As Elizabeth states in the first chapter, it all began with a party. It takes a while to lead up to that party and the plot — the video being e-mailed to Jake which turns the family’s life upside down.

At the party, yeah, we finally get there, we find out that girl’s name is Daisy and she’s 13. Jake knows this, but because he’s drunk, he makes out with her. Big mistake! Through his drunken stupor, he realizes this isn’t right for him , she’s way too young. Daisy tries pushing herself onto Jake, but he rejects her, which upsets Daisy. When Jake gets home, he discovers the video sent by Daisy herself on his computer. Jake is rather disgusted by it and doesn’t know what to do. So, he stupidly sends the video to his friend who, of course, sends it just about everyone else. By the next day, the video is virtually — everywhere.

The premise of how the Bergamot’s deal with the issue is an interesting one and the reason I wanted to read it. However, there were many things that bothered me about the novel and I, also,  became bored. THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE wasn’t for me.

Despite the book being 222 pages, it takes almost half the novel to get up to the bread and butter of the story. I was rubbed the wrong by the narrator’s tone and style. It’s filled with unnecessary minutia that I believe drags the story down. The novel has received a lot of hype. While reading it I kept wondering what I was missing.

Elizabeth is too self-absorbed with trying to make it in her new life among high society, especially Coco’s “rise” in her kindergarten class, such as attending a sleep over at the Plaza hotel. Even the name Coco is too pretentious – at least for the story. I don’t mean to offend people out there named Coco, it’s just my opinion. But the name bothered me to no end. Usually character names don’t trouble me, but this name did. Maybe it’s because the parents and the son have not so unusual names. It also made Coco stand out.  Jake should be the one standing out in the story.

The other thing that bothered me was how Elizabeth knows every little detail and factor about her son’s life to the point I felt nauseous. She was too much in his head, as well as Coco and Richard’s head. I found all this all this distracting from the very solid premise.

I would have liked the story better if it had been from Jake’s entire perspective. Isn’t it ultimately Jake’s story? Nope. It’s Elizabeth’s, which would have been fine had she not gotten on my nerves. I liked Jake the best out of all the characters. Even though the characters struggle with the issues in the novel — the legality of the video, press coverage up the wazoo (way overdone realistically), and Jake’s emotional well-being, I couldn’t relate to them. The parents seemed to care more about themselves than their son. His dad at one point calls him a failure. Your son has gone through this traumatic experience and you call him a failure?

I also didn’t like how Daisy becomes famous at her school and soaks it up like a sponge, and the kids at the school pat Jake on the back, which bothers him — he’s not a hero, but an innocent victim. It is disturbing. At the end, Daisy still thinks Jake is the one to blame and should apologize. He should should apologize? Ummm…I don’t think so.

Yes, Schulman does a good job describing family dynamics and the Bergamot’s fractured one. But still,  the whole thing fell short for me, leaving me very disappointed! I was so looking forward to reading this book. The novel’s narrative is too melodramatic to make me want to continue reading, but I did. Some of it went on and on, to the point I wanted to scream — get to the point! The novel wraps up abruptly. It’s somewhat of a jolt, particularly after all the drawn out sentences and descriptions of the Bergamot’s world.

If THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE sounds interesting to you, then you may just like it. Give it a shot.

I’m giving THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE 2.5 “Diaries” being definitely not what I expected and it not living up to the hype.









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Jul 26

“Waiting On” Wednesday: This Beautiful Life, All You Desire & The Keeper of Lost Causes

(Feel free to use my meme button but please just link back to me. Thanks!)

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases we’re eagerly anticipating!

By: Helen Schulman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pub. Date: August 1, 2011
Formats: Hardcover, Audio and Electronic
Pages: 240
Genre: Literary Fiction
Age Group: Adults

Follow Helen Schulman on:  goodreads

Pre-Order THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE on: Amazon | B&N | TBD | IB

Publisher’s Synopsis: When the Bergamots move from a comfortable upstate college town to New York City, they’re not quite sure how they’ll adapt—or what to make of the strange new world of well-to-do Manhattan. Soon, though, Richard is consumed by his executive role at a large New York university, and Liz, who has traded in her academic career to oversee the lives of their children, is hectically ferrying young Coco around town.

Fifteen-year-old Jake is gratefully taken into the fold by a group of friends at Wildwood, an elite private school.

But the upper-class cocoon in which they have enveloped themselves is ripped apart when Jake wakes up one morning after an unchaperoned party and finds an email in his in-box from an eighth-grade admirer. Attached is a sexually explicit video she has made for him. Shocked, stunned, maybe a little proud, and scared—a jumble of adolescent emotion—he forwards the video to a friend, who then for-wards it to a friend. Within hours, it’s gone viral, all over the school, the city, the world.

The ensuing scandal threatens to shatter the Bergamots’ sense of security and identity, and, ultimately, their happiness. They are a good family faced with bad choices, and how they choose to react, individually and at one another’s behest, places everything they hold dear in jeopardy.

This Beautiful Life is a devastating exploration of the blurring boundaries of privacy and the fragility of self, a clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the sacrifices and choices we make in the name of love.


By: Kirsten Miller
Series: The Eternal Ones #2
Publisher: Razorbill
Pub. Date: August 9, 2011
Formats: Hardcover and Electronic
Pages: 240
Genre: Paranormal
Age Group: Young Adults +

Follow Kirsten Miller on: Blog | Website | goodreads

Pre-Order ALL YOU DESIRE on: Amazon | B&N | TBD | IB

Publisher’s Synopsis: [spoiler]Haven Moore and Iain Morrow have been living a blissful life in Rome, an ocean way from the Ouroboros Society and its diabolical leader. But paradise is not to last. The mysterious disappearance of Haven’s best friend, Beau, sends the pair running back to New York, where they encounter the Horae, an underground group of women who have spent centuries scheming to destroy Adam Rosier. Only they can help Haven uncover the secret to Beau’s whereabouts in one of her past lives. But their help comes at a price: Haven must infiltrate the Ouroboros Society, charm Adam Rosier, and lure him into a trap. It’s a plan the Horae believe will save the world-but Haven and Iain fear that it may destroy the happiness they’ve been chasing for two thousand years.[/spoiler]

By: Jussi Alder-Olsen/Translated By: Tiina Nunnley
Series: Serie Q #1
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Pub. Date: August 18, 2011
Formats: Hardcover and Electronic
Pages: 400
Genre: Mystery/Crime
Age Group: Adults

Follow Jussi Alder-Olsen on:  Website | goodreads

Pre-Order THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES on: Amazon | B&N | TBD | IB

Publisher’s Synopsis: Jussi Adler-Olsen is Denmark’s premier crime writer. His books routinely top the bestseller lists in northern Europe, and he’s won just about every Nordic crime-writing award, including the prestigious Glass Key Award-also won by Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Jo Nesbo. Now, Dutton is thrilled to introduce him to America.

The Keeper of Lost Causes, the first installment of Adler- Olsen’s Department Q series, features the deeply flawed chief detective Carl MØrck, who used to be a good homicide detective-one of Copenhagen’s best. Then a bullet almost took his life. Two of his colleagues weren’t so lucky, and Carl, who didn’t draw his weapon, blames himself.

So a promotion is the last thing Carl expects.

But it all becomes clear when he sees his new office in the basement. Carl’s been selected to run Department Q, a new special investigations division that turns out to be a department of one. With a stack of Copenhagen’s coldest cases to keep him company, Carl’s been put out to pasture. So he’s as surprised as anyone when a case actually captures his interest. A missing politician vanished without a trace five years earlier. The world assumes she’s dead. His colleagues snicker about the time he’s wasting. But Carl may have the last laugh, and redeem himself in the process.

Because she isn’t dead . . . yet.

What are you “waiting on” reading?

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