Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete
Matt Long with Charles Butler

rating: 8.5 out of 10 "books"

The Long Run tells the story of happy-go-lucky New York City firefighter, Matt Long. Surrounded by a large loving family, plenty of friends, a fulfilling job, prosperous businesses, and an addiction to running after years of an unhealthy lifestyle (that’s put him in the best shape of his life!), life couldn’t get much better. And while he’s endured his fair share of pain before; running the New York City Marathon and qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon, saving lives during the heartbreaking events of 9/11, and competing in an eleven hour Ironman competition, nothing could compare to the events that unraveled one fateful morning and changed his life forever.

Just after qualifying for the Boston Marathon during the New York City transit strike of 2005, Long was struck down by a bus while trying to bike out to meet up with some friends to train. Given only a five percent chance of survival, Matt survived severe wounds, broken bones, and endured multiple operations. The Long Run chronicles Matt’s long road to recovery and his determination to run again despite slim odds of rehabilitation.

Oftentimes, we don’t realize how much we take for granted until it’s suddenly taken away from us. I know I’m definitely that way. Maybe it’s just because I’m a runner, but this story definitely struck a chord. The way Long describes the events surrounding his accident, from his vivid description of what happened (when emergency crew discovered him they couldn’t tell where his body ended and his bike started because the bike had actually gone straight through his abdomen), to what he was told was going on while he was unconscious in the hospital (family and friends camped out night and day to be there for any sign of good news), to his recovery (major obstacles threatened to hinder his chances of ever running again), I couldn’t help but tearing up over and over again. The story includes not only what happened that fateful day and onward, but also provides many flashbacks to background information that further explains how Matt’s attitudes and views on life came to be. If you’re a big athlete (and even if you’re not), I’d definitely recommend reading this book!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later
Francine Pascal

rating: 3.5 out of 10 "books"

“Sweet Valley is back ... What terrible secret has torn Jessica and Elizabeth apart? Ten years after graduating from Sweet Valley High, the Wakefield twins have had a falling out of epic proportions. After Jessica commits a complete and utter betrayal, Elizabeth flees to New York to escape the pain and pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a journalist. Jessica remains behind in Sweet Valley, dealing with the fallout of her heart-wrenching choices and longing for forgiveness. But Elizabeth can't forget her twin's duplicity. Uncharacteristically, she decides the only way to heal her broken heart is to seek revenge. Always the 'good' twin, Elizabeth is about to turn the tables” – Review

Imagine my surprise when I found out Francine Pascal was writing a Sweet Valley book. It’s like it came out of nowhere, although I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised with all the reboots of everything from television to film to books. Even the Babysitter’s Club author is apparently writing more BSC books. If anything, Pascal’s novel is long overdue. I feel out of touch with this series since it’s been so long since I’ve read a new Sweet Valley book. Much in the same way, I feel like Francine Pascal has gotten a bit out of touch when it comes to young people. While I don’t mean to slam Francine Pascal, especially since her books were my main lifeline during my early childhood, Sweet Valley Confidential just feels too late. I barely remember which character was which, let alone their personalities or actions from the early Sweet Valley books up through the college years. As many readers stated on the website too, there were a ton of inconsistencies within the book and major disparity between characters then and now. It was as if Pascal herself forgot to refresh her memory by revisiting all her previous books prior to writing Confidential. The most laughable parts that I found however had to do with the more intimate moments in the book, more specifically one that happened towards the end of Sweet Valley Confidential. The way Francine Pascal described the situation read like a cheesy romance novel, convincing me even more of how far removed from her audience she must be. While Sweet Valley was never anything remotely intellectual, Sweet Valley Confidential seems to have really missed the mark this time. While it was fun to read a new Sweet Valley book and revisit the Wakefield twins for nostalgia’s sake, I think this book would have been better if it had never been written to begin with.