Book Review: The Glass Castle

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★★★

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:

 

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.

 

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!

 

 

Book Review: The Husband’s Secret

the_husbands_secret★★

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty follows the lives of three women who don’t know each other very well, but whose lives’ are completely intertwined.  Cecilia’s life is perfect until she finds a letter from her husband containing a dark secret she was only supposed to find out upon his death. Tess is betrayed by her husband and cousin, who kick off the novel by announcing they are in love. Rachel is mourning the death of her daughter, who was brutally murdered years ago.

Part of the reason I enjoyed reading is that I’m naturally a gossipy person (character flaw🤷‍♀️). Getting completely consumed by a novel and the world of its characters helps keep me out of trouble and negative gossip in real life. The Husband’s Secret is an over-the-top version of a conversation I’d have with my girlfriends over coffee while loving every minute of it. The plus side to it being fictional, I get to avoid gossiping while getting all the benefits of a juicy story.

The reasons I gave this novel only two stars? It’s predictable and shallow.

The Husband’s Secret would have been a great two-hour catch up with my girlfriends over coffee. If it were a true story, it’d be a wild one. However, in the age of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, we really can’t call this a thriller. Cecelia’s husband’s secret was quite obvious from the very beginning of the book. Additionally, by half way through I think its pretty clear to see what the gist of the ending will be. I spent about half the novel waiting for the author to get to the inevitable point.

I also found the characters to be quite shallow and frivolous. While Tess was in a very difficult situation from the start – her thought processes and behavior were irritating to read through. I found her to be the most shallow of all the characters, and particularly cringed at all the unnecessary fat-shaming. I think her character could have been cut out completely for the plot to work. The juicy elements of her marriage in shambles seem a bit hodgepodge and didn’t mold well into the rest of the story.

Moriarty also wrote Big Little Lies, which I haven’t read and after reading this probably will not. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the HBO series and was excited to hear it is coming up for a second season. Looks like The Husband’s Secret is being made into a movie, perhaps it will be better than the book.

Overall, a juicy story, but not worth the long read. I read a copy from my local library, but you can get it at any bookstore.