Category Archives: Books

Good Reads (Mostly)

I’ve got some more books to talk about so I’ll just get right to it. Let’s start with this:

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

molokai

Synopsis:

This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

I’m starting with Moloka’i because I just finished it so it’s fresh in my mind, and also because I loved it so, so much. My friend Paula recommended it as one her all-time favourites, and I’m so glad I read it because I think it is now one of mine. The story is just so good and everything I love in a novel. It is a well-written coming of age historical fiction, and it’s heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. It gave me so many feelings, and it still does now when I think about it.

feels

Overwhelming feels at times. I cried on the subway and I didn’t even care. . I also really liked that there were so many wonderful and well-developed characters. I have read so many books lately where there wasn’t a character that I could connect to, so this was completely refreshing. It was also a really interesting glimpse into history during an epidemic that I honestly knew nothing about. So, I loved it. I’m not going to be able to do this book justice with a review but I can not recommend it enough. Such a great read.

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

three-little-words

Synopsis:

“Sunshine, you’re my baby and I’m your only mother. You must mind the one taking care of you, but she’s not your mama.” Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes, living by those words. As her mother spirals out of control, Ashley is left clinging to an unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system.

Painful memories of being taken away from her home quickly become consumed by real-life horrors, where Ashley is juggled between caseworkers, shuffled from school to school, and forced to endure manipulative,humiliating treatment from a very abusive foster family. In this inspiring, unforgettable memoir, Ashley finds the courage to succeed – and in doing so, discovers the power of her own voice.

Also a great read, though what Ashley went through is absolutely heart wrenching. Nine years in 14 different foster homes! Can you even imagine? This book made me ragey at the foster care system. I felt for Ashley so hard and was heartbroken when reading of the abuse and neglect she and her brother faced. At the end I was so proud of Ashley and her adoptive family. The fact that she wrote this book so young is impressive, and it is well-written. She doesn’t write with a lot of emotion, but her provocative commentary does a thorough job of letting the world know exactly what she went through, without the book itself being a Debbie Downer. She has become a powerful advocate for child welfare, and it is great that she can take her shitty childhood and make it into a positive influence on others — that takes a lot of strength. Anyway, I enjoyed and recommend.

I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends by Courtney Robertson

didnt-come-here-to-make-friends

Synopsis:

Courtney Robertson joined season 16 of The Bachelor looking for love. A working model and newly single, Courtney fit the casting call: She was young, beautiful, and a natural in front of the cameras. Although she may have been there for all the right reasons, as the season unfolded and sparks began to fly something else was clear: She was not there to make friends.

Courtney quickly became one of the biggest villains in Bachelor franchise history. She unapologetically pursued her man, steamrolled her competition, and broke the rules—including partaking in an illicit skinny-dip that sealed her proposal. Now, after a very public breakup with her Bachelor, Ben Flajnik, Courtney opens up and tells her own story—from her first loves to her first moments in the limo. She dishes on life before, during, and after the Bachelor, including Ben’s romantic proposal to her on a Swiss mountaintop and the tabloid frenzy that continued after the cameras stopped rolling.

If you’re a Bachelor fan, you gotta read this. It was light, fun, entertaining and incredibly juicy. Courtney dishes. She does not hold back, about the Bachelor, and about her previous celeb dating. The parts about the Bachelor, which is the majority of the book, are filled with insider info. I liked. I really disliked Courtney when she was on the Bachelor, and I honestly only like her a little bit better after reading her book — her example of “hard times” was that sometimes she had to skip her dance classes when she was young because her parents didn’t have the money and that rubbed me the wrong way (um, see book above and do a little comparison) — but I don’t think she deserved to be torn apart in the media the way she was. Though I’m pretty sure she knew what she was getting into. With her type of personality she probably should have just assumed from the beginning she was going to be edited as Mega Bitch. I had a friend once tell me she would never, ever do reality TV because she just knew she would be edited as the bitch. It makes me wonder what I would be edited as… Dumb Blonde, probably.

According to Courtney Ben sounds like a total jerk and, no matter her flaws, she did not deserve to be treated by him the way she claimed she was (which I do believe — I don’t think she’s a liar). She is much better off without him. Anyway, it’s not some acclaimed literary work or anything but it’s a fun, quick read.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

attachments

Synopsis:

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ? “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . “

This was the sweetest, most charming little book. I’ve been loving Rainbow Rowell lately, and this is up there with Eleanor & Park as one of my faves. She writes such wonderful characters. I love that Attachments took place during Y2K, I’m sure we all remember the fear of everything electronic collapsing in the year 2000. So funny. And I loved the email conversations between Beth and Jennifer. Reminded me of my convos with my best friend. I could really relate to them. I also love that FOR ONCE the main girl (Beth) in a book wasn’t described as a tiny waif. Beth was tall and sturdy and overall just a larger lady and GOOD. Finally not some tiny willowy thing who is constantly getting picked up and swung around by her man. I can’t relate to that. A tall and big boned woman? That’s more my speed.

Really cute book, definitely enjoyed, definitely recommend.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landline

Synopsis:

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

What can I say, I’m on a Rainbow Rowell kick. This one though… eh. Probably my least favourite of hers. Still okay in its own right, but doesn’t compare to her other novels, in my opinion (see ridiculously cute book above). I felt like I was kind of waiting for something to happen the whole time. It was a bit boring. Also, I don’t understand the allure of Neal. He is described as an overweight sulky man who never smiles or laughs. Like, no thanks. He seems like the kind of person you date because they are unattainable (because they give you nothing and you soak up any scrap they might offer you) and therefore an exciting challenge, and then you break up after much too long (and years after you should have) because you finally realize that unattainable is all he really has to offer. Look, we’ve all been there, but you don’t marry that person. Okay in Neal’s case I guess he’s a good dad, so that is a redeeming quality. Anyway, it was okay. Plenty of other Rainbow Rowell books to check out first though!

Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

seriously-im-kidding

Synopsis:

“Sometimes the greatest things are the most embarrassing.” Ellen Degeneres’ winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air. (To date, it has won no fewer than 31 Emmys.) Seriously… I’m Kidding, Degeneres’ first book in eight years, brings us up to date about the life of a kindhearted woman who bowed out of American Idol because she didn’t want to be mean. Lively; hilarious; often sweetly poignant.

I love Ellen and I listened to the audio version of this and it was great that she was reading it… But it was just mediocre for me. It was obviously entertaining, as Ellen always is, but it was very much just surface material and didn’t dive into anything personal at all. Basically just like an extended opening monologue. I still love Ellen, but I didn’t love this. It’s really short though, I listened to it over several hours.

Follow

Booooooks

Time for another books post!

tumblr_lkl1s5jNfw1qiqlowo1_500_large

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

the_heart_goes_last

Synopsis:

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

First of all, YAY for a new Margaret Atwood book! I had to read this for a book club at work, but I probably would have read it anyway because who doesn’t love Margaret Atwood. It was…interesting. It’s a satire and it definitely had a lighter feel than her other books, though it did take place in a dystopic society so it had its dark moments. I enjoyed reading it, and I gave it four stars, though I wonder if that was mostly because it was such a weird idea and I was impressed by it. And also because I love Margaret Atwood’s writing so much. I really disliked the characters, especially Stan. He was sort of a useless Homer Simpson type (although Homer Simpson is at least likeable). So then I wanted to like Charmaine because I always want to feel like I have a character that I’m rooting for, but she was just sort of dumb and vanilla. I’m also not really sure what this book was about — was the point of it love, or sex robots, or was it life in a totalitarian society? I don’t know. But I didn’t dislike it. It was fun to read and if you like Margaret Atwood you should check ‘er out. And if you’ve never read Margaret Atwood, I’d start with The Handmaid’s Tale.

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

why_not_me

Synopsis:

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

Mindy’s newest book, like her last one, made me feel like I wanted to be her best friend. I just find her so relatable. Except when she was talking about how hard she works. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for working hard and I feel like a total boss when I’ve had a productive work day, but she works insanely long hours — I’m talking 18 hours a day — and credits her success to that. I have a ton of respect for her, but I just can’t imagine that life. Granted, she works with her friends and her work is probably super fun, but still. I wouldn’t want my life to be only my work, you know? And I guess that’s why I’m not a successful Hollywood writer and actress. Anyway, it was a light and fun read, Mindy makes me laugh (though I don’t watch her show) and I liked it a lot more than Lena Dunham’s book that’s for sure.

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

left_neglected

Synopsis:

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus. Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

Just reading about Sarah’s life before her accident nearly gave me a panic attack. Being childfree (and catfree) right now, I don’t have a lot of responsibility outside of work, and I would not say that I have a high stress job (not anymore, at least). So everything Sarah was trying to fit into her day was overwhelming to read and I sort of wanted to shake her and tell her to slow the F down. Sarah is not the most likeable character at first — she is too boasty and braggy about her success in her career and as a supermom. But I did like her a lot more after her accident.

I found the neurological condition of left-sided neglect interesting — I had heard about it (mainly caused by strokes) previously but really did not know anything about it. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to not be able to recognize anything to your left, even the parts of your body on the left side. Really weird.

Overall I enjoyed this book, more than Love Anthony, the last book I read by her, but not nearly as much as Still Alice, which remains one of my all-time faves.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

the_nightingale

Synopsis:

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

I loved it. Looooved it. I hard a really difficult time putting it down and I spent a couple nights up way past my bedtime reading because I needed to know what happened. I’ll admit this type of book is right up my alley. It’s your typical WW2 husband goes off to war, wife and sister’s town invaded by Nazis and they are left trying to survive as everything turns to shit around them. I particularly enjoyed the parts about the resistance movement.

I have read many books that take place during WWII (Night, Sarah’s Key, City of Thieves, All The Light We Cannot See, the diary of Anne Frank, Until We Meet Again, etc.), but every time it hits me anew how the lives of so many millions of people were ruined. I can’t imagine living in that kind of fear. I thought that The Nightingale did the every day life well during this time. Nazis taking over your town, living in your home, residents living in fear and essentially barely surviving for years. This book really hit home to me how long this went on for. It was a great read and I just demolished it. Highly recommend.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson 

furiously_happy

Synopsis:

In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

I love Jenny Lawson and I like reading her blog (the Bloggess), but for me her books are a long slog. Her first book was actually a DNF for me (did not finish), but I still wanted to give this one a chance and I had high hopes I would get more into it. I really feel bad not giving it a great review because I like her so much and I think writing a book in itself is an amazing achievement and I don’t want to harp on anyone doing their thing…and also I think it is great that she is so vocal about mental illness because we need less stigma about it. But I had a really hard time getting through this book. It took a lot of energy to read. I will say that I liked the last quarter of it more than the rest, though maybe by that point I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to finish no matter what.

On the bright side this book made me laugh out loud a few times, but that alone wasn’t enough to redeem it for me. I think I might be the minority because a lot of Bloggess fans seem to absolutely love her books, so I get it, but the dark parts made me feel so sad and the tangents made me want to yell “JUST GET BACK TO THE STORY!” I do think this book might work better as an audio book, as Jenny reads it and I think her emphasis would help the narrative.

And that’s it. Read anything good lately?

Follow

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?

Follow

Books.

Exciting title, I know, but time for book reviews! I’ve been reading a lot this past month.

The Girl With All The Gifts

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts

Synopsis:

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

I loved this book. So, so much. I was having love bursts for it as I was reading it. I read it on Paula‘s recommendation and I emailed her halfway through and just said “I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH!!!” I didn’t want it to end, but the ending was so good! It is an interesting and different perspective on zombies, and completely unlike any zombie story I’ve read or watched before. I wish I could read it all over again for the first time. I think it might be up there in my list of all-time faves and I would give it all the stars if I could. Highly recommend.

Eleanor & Park

eleanor-park

Synopsis:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

I really liked this book too. I read it just after The Girl With The Gifts and I find that every time I finish a book that I really love I am a bit apprehensive for the next book because I don’t see how it will live up to it. It’s a dark time. But with this book I was right back into the swing of things. I loved their love! Eleanor’s family life made me sad, but what she found with Park made me so happy. The ending wasn’t my favourite, but what can ya do? I don’t know what else to say about it except read it. Five stars from me.

China Rich Girlfriend

china-rich-girlfriend

Synopsis:

On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiancé willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined. Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband. A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich.

I didn’t love this book as much as the prequel, Crazy Rich Asians (which I reviewed in my last books post), but it was still entertaining. I didn’t really care for the Kitty Pong storyline; I felt like I wanted to just skim her parts, but I soldiered on. The last book did not make me want to be rich in the least, but this one, particularly when it was describing one of the character’s houses (mostly her bathroom that was basically a forest, and her personal spa), I was kind of longing to be a millionaire. Just so I can have an amazing bathroom. Anyway, I enjoyed living vicariously through the characters. I also enjoyed how much they described all the Chinese food they were eating. I wanted it all! I was hungry throughout the entire book and I cannot wait to eat China for HoH eats the world because of this book! And Hong Kong, and I might pretend Singapore is a country so I can eat more. I give a full star just for the food descriptions in here. Otherwise, solid book, and if you read and liked the first, I’d check it out.

Missing You

missing-you

Synopsis:

It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart—and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years.

Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her. But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.

As the body count mounts and Kat’s hope for a second chance with Jeff grows more and more elusive, she is consumed by an investigation that challenges her feelings about everyone she ever loved—her former fiancé, her mother, and even her father, whose cruel murder so long ago has never been fully explained. With lives on the line, including her own, Kat must venture deeper into the darkness than she ever has before, and discover if she has the strength to survive what she finds there.

Oh, Harlan Coben. I must admit I am a loyal Harlan Coben fan. I discovered his Myron Bolitar series back in high school and I have been reading him ever since. I liked this book a lot. The end didn’t catch me completely off guard, but I loved the little twists and turns this novel took. It was fast-paced and it left me wanting more. It wasn’t a literary masterpiece or anything, but Coben’s dry wit was definitely present and that always makes it enjoyable to me. I don’t understand why his books like this don’t get as much attention as say, The Girl On The Train. I am jealous of the way Coben can pump out these suspenseful and elaborately entwined stories once a year. Of course, they usually have a similar theme — the main character’s past always comes back to haunt them in some way, and it’s usually to do with a family or relationship secret.

The Stranger

the-stranger

Synopsis:

The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.

Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.

Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them.

Also typical Harlan Coben style, same sort of thing, suspenseful with all the twists and such, but I didn’t like this book as much as Missing You. I also felt like Coben was a bit sexist in this book. I did not enjoy the way he described his female characters. I can’t remember noticing this in his books before but it left me questioning if maybe I am just more aware of sexism now. It’s possible… Otherwise it was a decent story, but nothing super memorable.

Have you read anything good lately? Evan and I are going away for a week in February so I definitely need some reading material! I am always up for recommendations.

Follow

Books and More Books

It’s been a while since I’ve done a books post and I have a few to review. I went through a lull near the end of summer but now that I am taking transit to work again every morning my reading time is back in full force.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

wild

Synopsis:

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

People seem to either love or hate this book. I am somewhere in the middle. I did not love it, but it didn’t anger me as much as it did the people who hated it. The biggest complaint I see in reviews is that Cheryl is so incredibly self-absorbed, but I knew to expect that going into it. First of all, I’ve read Eat Pray Love, which I assumed was around the same level of head-up-ass, and second — the book is written by Cheryl solely about Cheryl’s own shitty choices and Cheryl’s journey about Cheryl alone with Cheryl’s thoughts. If I were to write a book about some adventure of mine I’m sure I’d hear the same reviews.

The biggest thing for me is that I could not believe how incredibly ill prepared she was for walking the PCT for months. I understand that you are going to learn a lot along the way and obviously in the beginning you are not going to know what to expect… but to not even flip through a guide book before you leave for months-long hiking adventure alone in the wilderness when you have absolutely zero backpacking experience? I just can’t fathom the stupidity behind that. I do endless research when I am going to an all-inclusive resort, or even a one night hotel stay in my own province, so this baffles me. I get that this was in the days before the internet which makes everything a lot more difficult, but geez. Anyway, the book was okay. 3 stars from me, but leaning towards a 2.5. I actually liked the movie better.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

crazy-rich-asians

Synopsis:

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season. When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination,

Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

This book absolutely tickled me. I loved it. I can’t even believe how much. It took me a few chapters to get into it though. A lot of characters are introduced in the beginning and I was worried that there would be so many it would confuse me and I would lose interest trying to follow their stories. But I soldiered on and became enthralled pretty quickly. I was so interested in all the crazy richness because it is so different from my life, but Rachel was a normal (from my point of view) character I could relate to. This was such a guilty pleasure. The sequel is out and I have a hold for the ebook but seven people are in front of me so I hope they hurry up!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

the-night-circus

Synopsis:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

I read this on Paula‘s recommendation and I am very glad I did. This was a really great, different, interesting book. I wouldn’t say I got completely attached to the characters, but I will cheesily tell you that this book was a feast for the senses. I totally got swept into the magical, fantastical atmosphere. I loved the descriptions and I could really picture the mystical circus and all the attractions. It was so dreamlike and definitely stirred my imagination. I wasn’t sure of everything that was happening at the time but I just kept reading and eventually it all came together. Solid 4 stars from me, maybe leaning towards 4.5.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

good-omens

Synopsis:

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch(the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist…

I freakin’ love Neil Gaiman so I was excited for this. Also, when I read the synopsis the humour reminded me of Lamb by Christopher Moore, one of my very favourite novels. I love dry, sarcastic wit in books. This humour in this book was definitely more British and it did make me LOL several times, but it wasn’t quite what I imagined. In the beginning I had high hopes for it to be the greatest book I’ve ever read, but as I read on I felt bogged down and less into it. It was still clever and the satire was very well done and I gave it four stars on Goodreads, but at the same time I am not actually sure how much I enjoyed it. I don’t think it will stay with me.

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl

Synopsis:

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.

Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.

Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.

And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

This book was light and cute and entertaining and very well done for a debut novel. It was also a nice change from the typical “illness romance” that is all the rage these days (a la The Fault In Our Stars). I gave it a 3 star on Goodreads, and possibly would have gone for a 3.5 if it had been available, but in my opinion it’s not a 4. I didn’t read this book all at once though, I kept randomly picking it up over the course of a month or so between other books, so that may have something to do with it. The book made me laugh at times (but it did not make me cry), but the humour also annoyed me at times–I don’t really know how else to explain that. Sometimes it was painfully not funny I guess.

I could see this working well as a movie, since a lot of it is written in a movie script format already. That took a bit of getting used to but I think I liked it. Definitely a solid young adult book but not my favourite.

Follow

Books vs eBooks

I have been reading a lot of ebooks lately. As in, either on my iPhone or on my iPad.

IMG_1742

When I tell people this I often get the response “Oh I don’t think I could do that, I love books too much,” and then they look at me like I must not love books that much if I am able to read an ebook over a book book.

amy-poehler

It’s like telling someone they’re not a real movie lover because they prefer to watch movies on Netflix over DVDs.

Hey, I love books too! I get it. I totally side-eyed electronic books when they were first becoming a thing. I too love the smell of books and the feel of books and holding an actual book. And more than anything, I love bookstores. I worked at a bookstore for several years. I spent most of my paycheques on books. I dragged home boxes of heavy books from the Toronto Book Expo every year. To think that ebooks might one day replace the experience of going into an actual bookstore and buying a book makes me sick. I know the smell of a bookstore so well that when I walk into a mall my senses can detect that there is a bookstore in that mall. Seriously, this has happened. I walked into a mall once and was immediately like “there’s an Indigo in here” before I even knew there was an Indigo in there. Because I smelled it. I have a sixth sense for books.

And I love owning books, they’re my most prized possessions! I have extensive bookshelves filled with them and have toted them around with me on every move, even though those boxes filled with books were heavier than anything else I was moving. I still have my Archie Comics from when I was a kid, my collection of RL Stine Fear Street, Christopher Pike, and I am recollecting the Babysitter’s Club books because they hold so many memories for me.

Recollecting an old classic. The Super Specials are hard to find! #claudiakishi #maryannespier #babysittersclub

A post shared by Lindsey Evanoff (@happyorhungry) on

 

So trust me when I say I am a book lover. I promise I am.

But I can’t lie, I’m doing most of my reading on ebooks these days. I’m just finding them more convenient. Books are heavy! When I was reading Lord Of The Rings years ago I had all three books in one hardcover that I was toting around. It was super inconvenient and my friends all thought I was reading the bible. If I’m reading a hardcover book in bed at night my arm starts to hurt from holding it up. And when it’s dark I have to turn the light on to read and also disturb Evan (book lights are crap).

If I’m out and about and I happen to find myself with some downtime, I’ll just play Candy Crush or something if I don’t have a book with me. But when the book is on my phone, it’s always with me! I don’t have to lug it around. It takes up zero space. I can carry an entire library in my pocket.

IMG_1736

I am reading so much more!

It’s also extremely easy to buy books from the Apple store, they download in seconds and are on both my devices immediately. If I stop reading on my iPhone and pick up my iPad to continue reading later, it automatically syncs and picks up exactly where I left off.

I can adjust the text size, the contrast, the background colour in a second. I can instantly look up words I don’t know in a built-in dictionary. I can highlight text if I want to save a passage for later.

I also like that no one knows what I’m reading. If you want to read 50 Shades Of Grey in a public place (don’t read that though, you can do better), no one will know.

There are times when books are still best, like if you’re in the bath or at a pool or lake and don’t want to have your electronics by the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But I am almost reading ebooks exclusively now. When I first made the switch I forgot I wasn’t reading an actual book within 10 minutes and I haven’t looked back. A book is a book is a book, no matter how you consume it.

I am hoping to publish my own book over the next six months or so (a collection of my cartoon stories, plus new ones), and I am going the self-publishing ebook route because trying to self-publish a printed book with illustrations would be crazy expensive (I’ve done extensive research and don’t want a publisher). So even though my book will be in ebook form, I hope people won’t turn up their nose at it and will still give it a chance.

When DVDs first came out I was hesitant to accept them because I was so attached to videocassettes (and loved rewinding, apparently), but in the end I had no choice. Same with CD’s and cassette tapes, though I have happily embraced mp3’s. Of course I hope that ebooks don’t ever replace books, and I will still buy the physical copy of books I really like (so in the end I am buying the book twice).

But this is what technology is for – it’s given us a choice. I have to choose convenience.

Which do you prefer, books or ebooks? No judgment here!

Follow