Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

81WWiiLgEyL★★★★

Found this one under the mysteries sections, and while it wasn’t the thriller I was looking for, it was the love story I needed. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a heartwarming story about passion.

First of all, I’ll pick up any book that Reese Witherspoon recommends, she has a serious eye for books (or maybe her PR person does…?). We can only hope she picks this one up to make a movie or series out of it (as she did with Big Little Lies and Wild).

What its Like to Read This Book
You’ll grow up wild alongside the Marsh Girl, feel her isolation from the townspeople and the fear of a prison sentence for the murder of a local man. Your heart will break alongside hers, like any other young girl who fell in love; and you’ll feel the warm of truly kind people. 

Favorite Quote
“She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.” 

Book Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

40605223★★★★

This one is perfect to curl up with on a stormy October night when you’re in the mood for a Halloween scare. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid is probably the scariest book I’ve read all year. It was named one of NPR’s best books in 2016, a well deserved recognition in my opinion.

The Premise
A guy and his girlfriend (our nameless narrator) go on a road trip, and she is thinking of breaking up with him. They meet his family and begin their drive back but make a few unexpected stops. 

Advice for Reading

I actually think the best advice I can give about this book is to stop reading about it and go in blind. When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect…I didn’t even know it was scary!

You’ll be freaked out the entire time, so if you’re easy to creep out don’t read it while you’re home alone.

It’s a quick read. I got through it in a day, partially because its short and partially because I couldn’t put it down.

Coming Up
Get ready for it, this one’s coming to Netflix.

Book Review: The Glass Castle

download

★★★

I am forever reluctant to pick up nonfiction books, I see reading as a way for me to escape into a fantastic worlds where anything is possible. However, time and time again, I find myself picking up nonfiction and enjoying them. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is no exception. I liked it, didn’t love it.

The characters in this story are incredibly interesting and even gave me a new perspective on homelessness. I loved that Jeanette’s parents were eccentric and often made conscious choices and preferences to live their lives as they did. The characters were real, and as a reader, it was at times frustrating to know they exist(ed) in the real world. Jeanette’s father is probably one of the most frustrating nonfiction characters I’ve encountered in a long time. Throughout the book, he just seems to become more and more disappointing and never really seems to find rock bottom. Her mother, similar to Lenora Allbright in The Great Alone, stands by his side through it all which makes my feminist blood curdle in my veins.

I wish I had read this one before I read Breaking Night or The Hillbilly Elegy. While its unbelievable that these stories are real and truly inspirational, I am becoming fatigued by the theme of coming from nothing and getting to the very top.

A common theme in all three of these books is the need for love to succeed. In each story, the author (main character) had someone who loved them, even if it was in a very dysfunctional, yet genuine way. I really believe that having love in their lives, no matter how strange it was, really made all the difference.

I guess coming from nothing and making it to “alright” doesn’t make a very good memoir? Fair enough, but maybe it would actually be refreshing every now and then. Three stars because I’m tired of the theme, honestly, I would have probably given it four stars if I hadn’t recently read two other books with very similar themes.

Book Review: White Oleander

★★★½Book-White-Oleander-Cover-janet-fitch-5516513-545-800

I came across White Oleander by Janet Fitch on a friend’s reading wish list. It’s the story of a young girl named Astrid who is left to navigate the California foster care system as her mother, Ingrid, is locked up in prison for murder. It’s a coming of age tale, which makes it a little typical, but I think the writing is beautiful and makes it unique. There’s an audio version narrated by Oprah Winfrey that I think really adds to the experience of the novel.

In addition to the poetic diction of the novel, I really appreciated the depth of the characters. If you enjoy watching characters grow up throughout the story, I think you’ll really appreciate White Oleander. Astrid is so innocent when we first meet here, and we watch her grow up. By the end of the novel, you understand why she became who she did. As an outsider looking in, I sympathized with her, even when wholeheartedly disagreed. As a young woman, she was dealt bad cards and she is desperately trying to hold her life together.

And then you get to know her mother… Ingrid is extremely narcissistic but also a brilliant whose prose is beautifully incorporated throughout the novel. Fitch richly brings us into the mind of someone who is truly evil, possibly the deepest illustration of such a personality that I have ever read in a fiction novel.

I gave it three and a half stars because while the plot was a little lackluster, the prose was absolutely beautiful. If you liked The Girls, I would suggest giving this one a try.

This book was also made into a movie, which I have yet to watch:

 

Book Review: The One-In-A-Million Boy

The-One-in-a-million-boy-by-Monica-Woods★★★★

After finishing The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood, I am an emotional wreck. Within the first chapter of the book, we learn the nameless, “one-in-a-million” boy has died and we are left with the aftermath of this tragedy. One interesting element of this novel is the absence/presence of “the boy.” From the very first chapter, we know that he is gone, and yet he permeates everything. I absolutely love the way Wood never lets us hear from the boy. We are only left with the reactions to him. While studying art in college, one technique I learned was to only draw empty space and let the un-drawn space on the paper create the image. Wood is taking a similar approach to building everything but the main character to draw us into him.

The boy left behind three essential characters we follow throughout the novel: his parents, and an elderly neighborhood woman. Each is uniquely complicated, deeply flawed, and tragic in their own way. Quinn, the boy’s father, is selfish, immature, and filled with regret. Belle is a grieving mother, riddled with guilt, frustrated by her (now twice-over) ex-husband. Ona is an extremely lonely, elderly woman, and the main medium through which we learn about the boy through a series of one-sided interviews.

Ona was my favorite character – she’s the type of character who teaches you something. Whether that be the difference between “persuading” and “convincing,” or recognizing the people who come into your life, even for a short time, and leave a lasting impact. She’s filled with understated wisdom, a life of hard lessons shared with the benefit of retrospect.

If you liked A Man Called Ove and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I would suggest picking this one up. Quinn reminds me of Ove and the boy reminds me Oskar. It’s pretty sad, but it’s also clever, funny, and heartwarming.

I won’t talk about it, but I LOVE the ending. It’s just perfect.

Here’s an interview with author Monica Wood:

How Do You Be Married? A Book Review

★★★

I should preface this review by stating I am a recently engaged young woman. Naturally, the title of Jo Piazza’s How to be Married caught my eye. I’m about to get married and have no idea “how to!”

I truly enjoyed traveling all over the world with Jo, and seeing that she asks the same questions I do. I loved hearing from other cultures about what is important to their relationships and keys for success. At times in the book, I wholeheartedly disagreed with the advice given. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s still useful to hear other people’s perspectives.

One thing I wish was different: the amount of time Jo and her husband have been together. As a woman about to marry my high school sweetheart who I’ve dated for seven years, I find it very easy to dismiss some of Jo’s personal advice. I know it’s her life and so she can’t change the amount of time she’s been with her husband… but I think I would have found more validity in someone whose relationship wasn’t quite so new.

Still, I thought it was fun and will be passing it along to some of my engaged friends!

Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Book Review: Eleanor & Park

eleanor and park★★★

Sometimes the weird, awkward moments are the moments we fall in love. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell reminds of that in a really refreshing and beautiful way. Everything about the two teens in love is perfectly imperfect and it works really well. Rowell charmingly reminded me how friendships are formed when we’re kids. I truly enjoyed watching Eleanor and Park bond over music and comic books. The initial set up of their friendship really made the ending (which I won’t spoil) all the more meaningful.

Eleanor’s home situation made me cringe, from the first to last page. I appreciate how complicated Eleanor’s feelings were about her family. Throughout the novel, I found myself trying to see the good in her family and hoping it would work out. It’s heartbreaking to know that a lowlife like her stepfather was given so much power over her life. For pretty much the whole book, I wanted to scream at her mother. Rationally, I understand the desperation of Eleanor’s mother, but I still don’t find her to be a forgivable character.

Park’s home life balanced well with Eleanor’s situation. His family wasn’t perfect, but it was about as close as you can get to it. I understand why Rowell made Park’s parents so lovey-dovey in order to illustrate it was a home filled with love. However, it was a little bit cheesy and not very realistic. Nevertheless, Park’s family reminds us all the importance and power of a loving family; just as Eleanor’s family reminds us the consequences of a family without love.

Apparently, it was in development to become a movie, but it got canceled. Hopefully, it’ll get picked up again. I think it would make a great movie, I can see it with a Celeste & Jesse Forever vibe to it.

Overall, worth a read. I gave it three stars instead of four because I thought it was a tad juvenile. I read it online, so I didn’t know when I picked it up that it was in the young adult section.

 

Hated Loving It: Pride and Prejudice Book Review

Pride-And-Prejudice-Book-Cover-Locket-Necklace-keyring-silver-Bronze-tone-B0964★★★★

Perhaps I read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen because everyone I know assumes I already read it. I seem like the kind of girl who would get wrapped up in and fawn over a Jane Austen novel. Assumptions were correct, I am that kind of girl. What surprised me most is how many mixed feelings the characters in this novel gave me.

Is Austen poking fun at the ridiculousness of how obsessed  the women of her time (and even now) were with finding a husband? If Austen is being sarcastic, then I find her very funny and agree. However, even the presumably most sensible character in the book, Elizabeth, is still obsessed  with finding a husband – even when she prides herself on not being as silly as her mother and sisters.

As someone who identifies as a feminist, it irritates me to the core how much all the Bennet sisters think about finding husbands. And yet, I still find myself reading alongside them thinking “yeah, Charles is being such a jerk right now!” For this reason, I really have to give Pride and Prejudice four stars. Austen has perfectly articulated the contradiction of being a feminist but also a girl with a crush. My original inclination was to call the book archaic and offensive. However, as I came to the conclusion that many readers will find that they are half the time poking fun at Mrs. Bennet and half the time wondering when Mr. Darcy is going to re-enter the novel and save the day.

I swooned when Mr. Darcy said, “My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” while cringing at his apprehension about falling for Elizabeth. What’s a girl to do?

In her book Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay wrote, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” While I don’t think I’m a “bad feminist” for liking this book, I think Gay’s sentiment definitely encourages me to keep fighting the good fight for women and keep loving whatever it is that I love. Mr. Darcy included.

All in all, yes, read this book. Be comfortable with all your mixed feelings and appreciate that Austen is presenting the world as complicated and contradictory as it truly is.

I got a copy from my library, but there are a bunch of different prints and versions which can be found in any bookstore. I will probably also be purchasing something Pride and Prejudice themed from an Etsy shop soon.

I do not like your face. Murder on the Orient Express Review

“The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.” – Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express

★★★★

This was a quick, fun “read.” I put read in quotes because I actually listened to this on Audible, who produced a special performance of it, which was fantastic and really added to the experience. Murder on the Orient Express is witty, thought-provoking, and even a little bit scary at times.

Christie (obviously) does a wonderful job with character development. This novel has many caricatured characters. They are dramatic and opinionated, which makes the novel a little bit funny at times. I laughed out loud at this line: “If you will forgive me for being personal-I do not like your face, M. Ratchett.” Just picture Christie sitting there and typing that one out…

A good portion of Murder on the Orient Express takes the format of an interview between the detective and the various suspect allowing for Christie to create really vivid descriptions of each character for the reader. Because there were so many personalities, the story did get a little confusing at times. However, Christie creatively recaps the conversations, further clarifying and reiterating who each character is and their role in the story.

As in all classic detective novels, the big AHAH! moment came in all its drama and glory. I literally had a smile on my face during this part because it was so classic and yet so clever. Overall, Christie was able to invent funny and interesting characters who she brilliantly wove into a thrilling plot.

I got this novel to my “already read shelf” quickly because I am so excited to go see the movie in theaters now. Here’s the full movie trailer, you’ll see what I mean about all the characters:

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone…16 Years Late

HP★★★★

Better late than never! I finished JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone just before Thanksgiving. I tried to read the Harry Potter series when it came out in 2001 (my brother is a huge fan), but at the time I was a too little young. Since then, I watched and loved all the movies but decided somewhere along the line that I hate the entire fantasy genre. Obviously, I was just depriving myself of magical glory. Moral of the story: don’t label yourself out of any genre… you never know!

For this one, be prepared to fully immerse yourself in the magical world of Hogwarts and the wonderful characters that fill it. I read this one in about four days, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. Rowling does a fantastic job of setting the scene and building the characters. It’s worth staying up a little bit later for.

I particularly loved Hagrid, the gamekeeper at Hogwarts. I always seek symbolism in animals and how characters treat them. Hagrid’s compassion for even the most dangerous creatures warms my heart completely. The scene in the dark woods with Fang the boarhound really made me laugh. Picture a big giant “dog-like’ creature who is scared of the smallest things, a little bit like Hagrid, himself.

I haven’t read a series in quite a while, and I’m looking forward to continuing this series. As someone who truly thinks of characters in books as friends, I look forward to a long journey with this group! I’m onto Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and will keep you posted on my thoughts and progress.

I got a copy of this one from my local library, but it’s available at any bookstore. Also, if you haven’t seen the movie, definitely get on that!