Category Archives: Books

Booooooks

Time for another books post!

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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

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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

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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

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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

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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 

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Books vs eBooks

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Books Lately

Talkin’ ’bout The Rosie Effect, A House In The Sky, The Husband’s Secret, Not That Kind Of Girl, and Armada.

First though, I wrote this article on outrageous CNE food over the past few years (well, list, article is a stretch) for Buzzfeed Community and I would love it if you guys checked it out!

Ok, onto the books.

books

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simspon

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Synopsis:

The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge. Rosie is pregnant.

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie.

As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia back together, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him most.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a book. I completely fell in love with The Rosie Project when I read it, so yeah, I had some high expectations. This book did not meet those expectations. It wasn’t the same at all. In the first book all of Don’s quirks were entertaining, relatable, and endearing. In this book, his quirks were over the top and exaggerated. He was almost a parody of himself. And the author turned Rosie into a total bitch. The storyline was not doing it for me, and I found Don and Rosie’s relationship completely unrealistic (talk, guys! Just talk to each other, you idiots!), which was a disappointment because in the first book I loved their love.

I also don’t think the author paints women in the best light in this book, and that made me angry. So, I had a difficult time getting through it. I didn’t read very much for weeks because every time I would go to read I remembered that I was reading this book and I didn’t care for it, so I browsed Reddit instead. I didn’t care what happened, and I’ve never been so happy to get a book over with. I do not recommend (I gave this 2 stars on Goodreads, only because I still love Don). But I do still recommend the first book, The Rosie Project.

A House In The Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

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Synopsis:

As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.

Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.

Vivid and suspenseful, as artfully written as the finest novel, A House in the Sky is the searingly intimate story of an intrepid young woman and her search for compassion in the face of unimaginable adversity.

I read this next and it was a breath of fresh air. I loved this memoir and had a really difficult time putting it down. It was so beautifully written it was almost like poetry, and Amanda’s honest and raw narrative captivated me from the first page. I remember Amanda and Nigel being kidnapped in Somalia, and I remember their release over a year later. Amanda’s kidnapping hit especially close to home at the time because she was almost the same age as me, she was also Canadian, and her traveling up until that moment sounded like a dream. I have read reviews where people have said “Well, what did she think would happen going to Somalia?” and yeah, it’s incredibly dangerous and rife with war. But I think we can all relate to being young and feeling invincible. She did not deserve what happened to her and at times her suffering was difficult to read. But she rose above it and is stronger because of it.

This reviewer said it the best:

“Amanda, upon her return, did not disappear into the shadows. She took her experience and decided to create change that would directly impact the lives of the very community and country that so changed hers. Far from spewing hatred towards her captors, Amanda took a road of forgiveness (admittedly not an easy one), recognizing that her captors were born into the violence they inflicted on her and that no good could come of any of her suffering and loss if nothing changed.”

A House In The Sky is up there with The Glass Castle as my new favourite memoir. Highly recommend. Also, perhaps I am naive but I was not aware you could make that much money from serving!

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

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Synopsis:

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive..

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Normally I don’t love it when books skip around from character to character and there’s more than three characters (unless we are talking about a Babysitter’s Club Super Special, and then yes I do), but in this case the jumping around didn’t bother me. I also didn’t particularly like any of the characters, so maybe it didn’t bother me because I wasn’t getting attached to them.

It was what it was, a light, easy, entertaining read (I’m not going to say summer read because I enjoy reading all kinds of books in the summer, heavy included). I was entertained throughout and I LOVED the ending. I do not say that often. Best ending I think the book could have had.

I enjoyed it and I would recommend it. 3 Star rating from me. But I have to say that I dislike the cover of The Husband’s Secret and I probably wouldn’t have read it if it weren’t for my Bestie and her sister’s recommendation. It looks too romance-y.

Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham

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Synopsis:

From the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s Girls comes a hilarious, wise, and fiercely candid collection of personal essays that establishes Lena Dunham as one of the most original young talents writing today.

In Not that Kind of Girl, Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and, most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.

Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not that Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. “I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you,” Dunham writes. “But if I can take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile.”

Lena Dunham is a fantastic writer, absolutely. And I know it isn’t easy to write a book, so all the kudos there. But overall, I just don’t think Lena Dunham is my cup of tea. I find her to be weird in a very…weird…way. Weird in a way that is different from my weird, and I have a difficult time relating to her or her situations. I did live a completely different life than her, and I already struggle with understanding that people who live in NYC are real people (they’re too cool and sophisticated in my mind), so maybe that’s why.

Some parts of her book I very much enjoyed, and some parts I found myself skimming because it was too much mundane information and I didn’t care. She has her moments of hilarity and relatability, but I don’t think she’s the voice of her generation. This review says what I’m thinking better than I could ever articulate. In my opinion, it was just okay.

Armada by Ernest Cline

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Synopsis:

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

I loved Ready Player One. I knew that Armada couldn’t be as good and I tried to go into it with my expectations low, but I was still disappointed. I did not love it. I have heard this book being compared to a lot of other sci-fi works (Ender’s Game and The Last Starfighter in particular), but aliens are not my favourite and I don’t typically seek out alien things to consume so I am not familiar with either of them and can’t comment on that.

It was the entire narrative that I didn’t enjoy. While the book had its witty moments, I found the characters to be thin and difficult to connect to. To me, the dialogue between them was not realistic and seemed very surface and juvenile. I know it’s young adult, but I have read many young adult books where the characters were so real and vivid their conversations reminded me of real-life conversations between teenagers. I didn’t get that impression here.

Armada also lacked surprises and twists. Or I should say, the surprises and twists didn’t surprise me. I never fully felt into it, and I was never on the edge of my seat. I never had that feeling of not being able to put the book down because I couldn’t wait to read what happened next, and I never had any doubt about who was going to win the war in the end.

I would not recommend this book for my friends to read, because I know they would not enjoy it. I do, however, think there is a specific audience that would like it.

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