Talk Nerdy To Me (Book Reviews)

Actually, I am the one who is going to be talking nerdy to you. I have a few books to talk about.

I really appreciate all your recommendations on my last books post, I want to read them all and I will — but since most of my reading lately is on an ebook through my library’s Overdrive app, I am at the mercy of when my holds become available. It’s stressful. I am next in line for four books that I’ve had on hold for several months, including Jenny Lawson’s new book, which I have had on hold since early November. This means these four books are all going to be available around the same time, which is unfortunate because I can’t read four books in the allotted three weeks. I don’t want to have to wait another four months! I have to be strategic with my reading these days. The library app is so handy, but it’s stressful.

Oh and if you want to be my friend on Goodreads my name is just ‘happyorhungry’.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

love-anthony

Synopsis:

Two women, each cast adrift by unforseen events in their lives, meet by accident on a Nantucket beach and are drawn into a friendship.
Olivia is a young mother whose eight-year-old severely autistic son has recently died. Her marriage badly frayed by years of stress, she comes to the island in a trial separation to try and make sense of the tragedy of her Anthony’s short life.

Beth, a stay-at-home mother of three, is also recently separated after discovering her husband’s long-term infidelity. In an attempt to recapture a sense of her pre-married life, she rekindles her passion for writing, determined to find her own voice again. But surprisingly, as she does so, Beth also find herself channeling the voice of an unknown boy, exuberant in his perceptions of the world around him if autistic in his expression—a voice she can share with Olivia—(is it Anthony?)—that brings comfort and meaning to them both.

I liked Love Anthony, but not nearly as much as I love Still Alice, also by Lisa Genova. Still Alice absolutely blew me away and I don’t think I have ever been moved so much by a book. I didn’t expect to have the same experience with Love Anthony, but I was still disappointed. I do really enjoy Lisa Genova’s writing though. It’s deeper than your average trashy chick lit, and this book gave me the feels. I don’t have much experience with autism and I find it so interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of someone who is on the spectrum. If you are the parent of a child with severe autism I can’t even imagine the comfort this book might bring you. Especially the epilogue, which made me ugly cry.

However, it switches between viewpoints and I didn’t love the back and forth between the two main characters, Beth and Olivia. They seemed too similar to me so sometimes I would get their stories mixed up and it would take me a minute to remember what had happened to which character. I also thought that some elements of the plot were a bit thin (how Olivia becomes a successful photographer overnight or the weird coincidence of Beth writing the book about Anthony, Olivia’s son, when she has no experience with autism). But overall I liked it and enjoyed reading it.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl

Synopsis:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I enjoyed reading this a lot. Rainbow Rowell is becoming my new favourite young adult author. I really liked Eleanor & Park, too. Both books are cute and have well-developed, quirky characters. I loved Cath and I found her social awkwardness endearing. I too would have felt weird about going to the school cafeteria by myself and trying to figure it out, because I too can be awkward in public and tend to get in the wrong lineup or do something embarrassing or whatever, so I completely understand worrying about that. But food will always win for me. I don’t mind having to be awkward and uncomfortable if it means I get to eat food, so I can’t relate to hiding in your dorm room and eating only protein bars, as Cath did (until her roommate dragged her out). But I do relate to considering it. Also, I absolutely LOVED Levi!

I didn’t love the Simon Snow fan fiction parts of Fangirl though. I could have done without those. It was like Harry Potter but I had no attachment to the characters and it just annoyed me to have to read about them when I wanted to hear about the adventures of Cath and Levi. I have Carry On (Rainbow’s next book) on hold at the library but apparently the entire thing is about Simon Snow and friends, and now I am less excited about it. Has anyone read it and liked it? Maybe a whole book about this Simon Snow character will be better than having it interspersed in a book about someone else.

Anyway, otherwise I liked it and I’d recommend.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple

bernadette

Synopsis:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

I was so disappointed by this book. It has great reviews and I really wanted to like it…but I did not. I did not like the format at all. It is written almost entirely in letters, from various characters. I have read other books like this before and it didn’t bother me (We Need To Talk About Kevin, for example), but in this case it really did until a few chapters from the end. The most disappointing was that some parts were really funny. I loved Bee (Bernadette’s daughter), and I thought Bernadette and Bee’s conversations were hilarious. That was the only redeeming quality and for me the book fell flat otherwise. My pal Paula put it the best: “I hated it but there were just enough things I liked to get me to finish.”

Yup. That’s exactly how I felt. And the parts I liked I really liked, which made it all the more disappointing.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

invention-of-wings

Synopsis:

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

I loved it. I am not going to be able to do justice to this book by writing a review, I don’t even think I have my thoughts together about it… It was one of the most powerful books I’ve read. I cannot believe the amount of research Sue Monk Kidd would have had to put into this. The character development is spectacular, and I found myself really rooting for Handful (and her mother) and Sarah. It was refreshing to read about such strong women.

The only thing is it dragged a bit for me in the middle, but the book follows characters from when they were children until they are middle-aged, and I would think keeping the reader’s interest in that kind of story is difficult. It’s a bit heavy so prepare yourself to get sucked in. I highly recommend this book. It’s a great read.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

where-she-went

Synopsis:

It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

I totally get why so many people love this book, but it’s not my favourite. I thought it was pretty good, it’s a light and quick read, and I liked it better than the first one. At the same time I don’t feel like I want to rave on about it. Gayle Forman is a great writer, and she does dialogue really well. I just needed more. Or something. I don’t know. I know I’m in the minority, this book has amazing reviews.

That’s it! Have you read anything good lately?

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9 responses to “Talk Nerdy To Me (Book Reviews)

  1. Right now I am reading “The Silent Sister” and I am enjoying it. I was reading “The Paying Guests”, which hd good reviews but I could NOT get into it. I also recently read Chris Hadfield’s book “An Astronauts guide to life on earth”. People raved about it, but I didnt really enjoy it.

  2. I just finished The Kind Worth Killing, and it was strangely compelling. It’s dark, for sure, but you find yourself rooting for the killer in a very odd way. I was really anxious the whole time I was reading it, and I actually liked the ending!

    I also really liked the Luckiest Girl Alive. Did you read that one? Pretty good. Also, the Good Girl. But don’t read Pretty Girls (god, I am reading a lot about “girls”). It was too dark to be entertaining.

    Last one: A Death in Sweden.

    Apparently, I am in a dark book phase. 🙂

  3. I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette because I listened to the audiobook. I think the format worked surprisingly well for an audiobook. The woman who read the book is the same woman who plays Liz Danes (Luke’s sister, Jess’s mom) on Gilmore Girls and she was perfect for this. Agreed on The Invention of Wings, it was great. I just finished The Japanese Lover and Why Not Me? Both were pretty good! Now I’m on to My Name is Lucy Barton.

  4. I felt the exact same way about Fangirl! The fanfiction excerpts broke up the story line and I found myself skimming those portions instead of reading them. But I did enjoy Carry On, it was nice to be able to sit down and
    read the whole story instead of picking through small excerpts.

    Oh man, I feel you about Overdrive. As soon as I’m done a book I make sure to return it early, but it sure feels like no one else does. Those wait times can be very long at times.

  5. Erin @ A Flimsy Plan

    I am anxiously awaiting “All The Light We Cannot See” from Overdrive- I feel like I have been number 4 on the list for MONTHS. I feel like I’m always the last person to read popular books (as witnessed by the fact that I literally JUST finished Girl on the Train) so it is really only my own fault that I have been waiting so long… sigh.

  6. I totally agree with you about the Carry On excerpts in Fangirl – didn’t really care for them or about them. I just read Carry On and I LOVED it! Much better as a full-length book. It was just really fun. 🙂 Love your book reviews!

  7. I finished Carry On a few weeks ago – it took me a while to get through the first third of the book, which really felt like it was a little too Harry Potter to be original, but it did pick up by the middle, when it became a lot more interesting. Though I find as a rule she tends to rush her endings and leave a lot of things unfinished which drives me crazy, because I always get the feeling authors who do this are like, oh, I met my word count, OK, I’ll just end it here even it it’s not really done.