In college, I recall learning about W.E.B. DuBois and the concept of double consciousness. The term referred to an existence that revolved around consIn college, I recall learning about W.E.B. DuBois and the concept of double consciousness. The term referred to an existence that revolved around constantly viewing one's self through two pairs of eyes: your own, and those of a possibly more narrow-minded, potentially judgmental society. The phrase, as coined by DuBois, related primarily to African Americans in the years immediately following the abolition of slavery. And yet, I think it's a feeling to which we all can relate today. It's a sense of inhibition, an instinct to hide certain aspects of our nature from the general public, because we fear it will result in their rejection of us as individuals.
Yes, The Hate U Give -- a groundbreaking novel named after a famous and well-documented quote by (and tattoo on) rapper Tupac Shakur is -- at it's core, a paean to the Black Lives Matter movement. It contains both a very vibrant, gut wrenching, and painfully realistic account of a "routine" police stop that ended in a tragic homicide, and the aftermath of that shooting, specifically its effects on a community, a family, and one very brave, wise beyond her years, teenager, who had the bad luck of witnessing it all. But this is also a novel about double consciousness. Starr, the novel's wise, but believably young, and, at times, naive, protagonist is both a girl who lives in "the hood," whose dad is an ex con, and whose half-brother is the son of a powerful gang leader, and a high school student at a prestigious, predominately white, private school, with an almost-too-perfect white boyfriend, an uncle on the police force, and some very economically privileged friends.
Throughout the novel, we see Starr struggle, not only with the horrific shooting she witnessed of her childhood friend, but also with who she is, to whom her loyalties lie, and whether speaking out for what's right is worth risking her friends, the more sheltered and privileged part of her existence, and, perhaps, most importantly, her own safety and that of her family. Though The Hate You Give definitely pulls no punches, and minces no words, in terms of its opinions of police treatment of minorities, the book is a bit more even-handed about Starr's "double life," in terms of which aspect of it should bear more weight, and whether she should be forced to choose between the two existences at all.
One of the things I loved so much about this story was its rich and multi-faceted characters. Everyone was flawed but super likeable, from Starr's tough loving, supportive family, to her super understanding boyfriend and sweet best friend, to her down-on-their-luck-but-not-low-on-spirit neighbors.
As the book nears its conclusion, Starr comes to a firm decision on whether to be silent or speak out against injustice. And, as the readers, we cheer her on in this decision, as we know it will make her a stronger, tougher, more formidable, and ultimately happier woman in the future. But she never has to choose between her two worlds. And that's a blessing, not to mention a solid choice on the part of the author. In fact, I think Starr's is a lesson we all could use to learn, how showing more of yourself doesn't necessarily have to mean giving up on the people you love and the values you hold dear.
The Hate You Give is a powerful book that is equal parts heart warming, and heart-wrenching. This is a book that will make you think. But more importantly, it's a book that will make you feel, no matter who you are, and what your current station is in life. Angie Thomas' debut novel offers an important viewpoint into the Black Lives Matter movement, in that it illustrates how, at our core, we are all very much alike. We all experience double consciousness in one way or another. And for this reason, and also just because it's a damn good and super enjoyable book, I think everyone should read it....more
I honestly don't have anything all that profound to say about this book. Greenwell is clearly a talented writer. This slice of life novella, about anI honestly don't have anything all that profound to say about this book. Greenwell is clearly a talented writer. This slice of life novella, about an American 30-something teacher living in Bulgaria, who enters into a complicated relationship with a 20-something Bulgarian prostitute, feels real. There's a grittiness to the scenery descriptions, and a confessional, stream-of-consciousness, quality to the story that makes you question whether parts of it are more memoir than novel. (The author, like the narrator, did a teaching stint in Bulgaria, and is also a gay male of approximately the same age.)
And yet, while I was impressed by the book, I can't say that I necessarily enjoyed reading it. Though it was only 194 pages, it took me quite a while to finish. And I don't feel like I took anything particular away from it once I was finished . . . no overarching theme, message, or even a distinct memory of what I had just read.
Also, and this may be a personal thing, I was super put off by the author's seeming hatred of paragraphs. Having read this book on the Kindle iPhone app, sometimes I'd find that I could go five pages, without a single break in text. I gather this was intentional on the author's part, as it accomplished the stream-of-consciousness / slice of life feel of the story I mentioned earlier. But, for me, it made it harder for me to focus on the words I was reading. As a result of this, often, during the course of a particularly overlong sentence, I'd find my mind wandering, my eyes skimming forward on the digital page, seeking a respite.
Mitko, the narrator's love interest(?), is a well-developed character, if not necessarily a likeable one . . . to me anyway. He doesn't have many complex motivations apart from figuring out how to manipulate the people around him to give him that which he needs to survive at any given moment. I suspect many poor young men living in less-than-prosperous countries, with little opportunity for advancement, are similarly motivated. So, I guess painting Mitko this way was more realistic than say, writing him as Julia Robert's character in Pretty Woman. But, as I mentioned earlier, realistic does not always yield enjoyable.
So, in sum, while I appreciate this work for its artistic merit, and gritty realism, I'm afraid it just wasn't my particular cup of tea....more
I had to do it. I had to see if it was a fluke. After adoring Full Package by Lauren Blakely, I had to check whether I've become that girl who loves TI had to do it. I had to see if it was a fluke. After adoring Full Package by Lauren Blakely, I had to check whether I've become that girl who loves Those Kind of Books . . . you know . . . the ones with titles and covers that look like straight-up porn. The Answer: MAYBE.
I didn't adore Well Hung, as much as I did Full Package. But it was fine. It's a fun, sexy read, if you go in to it without too many expectations. Plus, the conclusion and dual epilogues were sweetly romantic, and made me smile.
I'm starting to realize there's a bit of formula at play with this particular series. You have a male POV character who says, "I'm super hot for this woman, who is my friend, co-worker, nanny, business adversary, etc., but I'm absolutely NOT going to mess things up by doing sex stuff with her."
Some unrequited love and sexually tense scenes follow this introduction and then . . . you guessed it, the male POV screws up, and does the sex stuff with his lady love. Sometimes he lasts 50% of the book before "screwing up," like in Full Package, sometimes he only last 15% like in Well Hung.
Enter more sex stuff, then lots more sex stuff, then the contrived conflict between the characters, then their admitting their oh-so-obvious love for one another and coming back together as a couple by the last chapter, throw in a teaser for the next book in the series, and a call back to the characters from the prior books, and end-scene.
Wyatt and Natalie were more realistically flawed characters than Josie and Chase (who almost verged into too perfect territory), but I found I didn't relate to them quite as much as the latter two, which I suspect is just a personal thing. (They definitely aren't as smart as the other romantic leads in the series, for starters.) Also, by way of a minor quibble, early on in the book, the Wyatt POV has a bit of a "dirty old man" feel to me, even though the character, I believe, is supposed to be somewhere in the 29 or 30 year old range, but that gets cleaned up later in the book.
As for the sex scenes, as is consistent with these two exhibitionist, slightly more blue-collar, characters, they are, for sure, more numerous, more creative, and more graphic, than those presented in Full Package, which, could be a selling point, I guess, if that's what you are into. Also, as someone whose been to Vegas a few times, and even stayed at the Bellagio, like the characters did, I will give kudos to the writer for realistically capturing the excitement and free spirit of a drunk night in Vegas that ends in a surprise wedding, in a way that other romance writers, who have utilized the same premise have not. (Lauren Blakely has been to Vegas, and has had some wild times there. That's for sure. And for those of you who have too, like me, you will appreciate the realistic touches of this part of the narrative.)
The female love interest in this book, Natalie, was definitely perfect, for our male lead, Wyatt. But I found her persistent spouting of cliches like "I'm so hot for you," "I've wanted you for so long," "I've dreamed of having your massive dick inside of me every night," etc. to be a bit too male cliche fantasy for any real, flesh and blood woman. As for Wyatt, in addition to his dirty old man tendencies early in the book, his random and plot convenient bouts of paranoia about Natalie stealing his business were super frustrating.
All that said, we don't read books like this for the equivalent of Shakespeare. We read them for escape, fun, romance, and titillating sex scenes. And Well Hung offers all these in spades. So, if that's what you are seeking right now, dear reader, go get em girl!...more
Throughout our lives, we accumulate lots of "stuff." The older we get, the more "stuff" we begin to cart along with us, in purses, backpacks, the trunThroughout our lives, we accumulate lots of "stuff." The older we get, the more "stuff" we begin to cart along with us, in purses, backpacks, the trunks of cars, and U-Haul trucks. That "stuff", that baggage, is both physical and psychological.
We all have baggage . . . lots and lots of it. Sometimes that baggage makes us wiser, stronger, and smarter. Other times it holds us back, and weighs us down, making us wary and slow, preventing us from moving forward in our lives, and accomplishing our goals and dreams. Most of the time the baggage does a little bit of both simultaneously.
Everything We Keep is a story about baggage. Our protagonist Aimee, suffering from the recent loss of her fiancé, her childhood sweetheart and the only love she ever knew (on what would be her wedding day, no less), quite understandably, has some baggage. She carries the baggage of her past both physically, with closets full of her fiancés clothes, and a ring she continues to wear on her finger throughout the story, and emotionally, through depression and a difficulty moving forward with her life. The early parts of this story are about Aimee's journey toward overcoming the loss of her fiancé, and accomplishing her dreams, while being alone for the first time in her twenty-six years of life.
And then the story becomes something else entirely . . .
I struggled quite a bit with my rating for this novel, flipping back and fourth between 3 stars and 4 stars repeatedly, as I completed the final chapters. I ultimately settled on 3.5 stars, which, unfortunately, isn't an option here.
On one hand, I absolutely adored the writing style of this novel. After a bit of a slow start, Lonsdale drew me in, and kept me turning pages, right up until the last words of the story's epilogue (which I hated, but more on that in a bit). Whether writing about a coffee shop or mansion in suburban California, or a beach in the outer reaches of Mexico, this author has a real sense of place, and she doesn't require a lot of words or flowery descriptions to establish it. The settings in this novel felt real to me, in ways that other aspects of the story did not.
I also found myself moved by the poignant and insightful things the author had to say about loss, growing up, letting go, and moving on. It's not often that a novel teaches me something. And I feel like this one definitely did.
But while the novel was unique, well-written, and definitely kept me guessing the whole way through, quite a large amount of suspension of belief was required for me to swallow the wildly soap operatic twists and turns the story takes in its later half. (See for example, the "five-years later" epilogue to the tale, which actually made me groan out loud upon finishing it.)
I also had some issues with Aimee, the protagonist. I had a lot of trouble pinning her down as a character. She seemed more like someone who merely reacted to the strange soap opera twists tossed her way in haphazard and often frustratingly inconsistent ways, than a flesh and blood woman with any sort of marked personality.
Then, there was Ian, the protagonist's "new love interest." Unlike Aimee, he was rather consistent in his actions throughout the novel. And that consistency showed him to only have three discernible personality traits (1) is super hot for Aimee for reasons we aren't shown in the novel, and will willingly and "supportively" lap up whatever crap she spews at him at high personal cost to his own dignity; (2) is sexy and a good kisser; (3) likes to take photographs of stuff. What's that you say? Those aren't actually personality traits? Yeah, so you see the issue I have here.
Those reservations aside, this book was a quick read, and a wild ride, written by a debut novelist with natural talent, one who I'm sure has a lot of better, possibly even great, publications in her future.
I may even read the inevitable sequel to this one . . . either that or wait until the obligatory Lifetime movie comes out based on both books and just watch that . . ....more
My feelings about the Alice and Wonderland books has always been fairly ambivalent. I recall reading the first one in high school and finding it whimsMy feelings about the Alice and Wonderland books has always been fairly ambivalent. I recall reading the first one in high school and finding it whimsical, cute and clever but just a little too weird and randomly plotted for my taste. I remember reading that Lewis Carroll was on LSD most of the time he was writing the book, and that his "fondness" for his young neighbor Alice bordered heavily on the inappropriate, and was surprised by neither.
I read Through the Looking Glass in college, and liked it less than Alice in Wonderland. I thought it was kind of dry, actually. However, I developed somewhat of a greater appreciation for the short story, upon learning that its plot was actually derived from the moves of a chess game, which could be repeated on an actual chess board. I thought that was pretty cool.
Marissa Meyer, unlike me, appears to be an ardent fan of the Alice and Wonderland books. Her appreciation for them is shown throughout Heartless. She is successfully able to capture the unique cadence / long-limerick / whimsical quality of the writing from the original tales in her story. Plus, the lands of Hearts and Chess, respectively, look and feel just as they did in the two works from which they originated.
Meyer has also clearly done her homework here, not just on the two short stories themselves, but on the history behind them, the varying interpretations of them, and Carroll's (arguably drug-induced) thought process while writing them. (For an obvious example of this, check out her afterword, which discusses the source of a particular riddle that plays a major part in Heartless and is also featured in the original stories.) Meyer's story actually gave me a greater appreciation for the original tales. As I was reading, I found myself regularly looking up on the internet various characters from Heartless, just to be reminded of how they dovetailed with their Alice and Wonderland counterparts. (Then again, maybe that's just because I'm a big ole nerd.)
As for the story itself, I loved the first quarter of it. I'm a sucker for a good villain origin story. Cath, as initially presented, is the perfect mixture of polite, charming, and willfully naive, but with just enough hints of selfishness, arrogance, self-pity, and thinly-concealed rage. So, throughout the book you find yourself dreading, yet recognizing, the trajectory that will ultimately bring her down the dark path to her Alice and Wonderland destiny.
For those of you who watch Once Upon a Time on ABC. Cath actually reminded me quite a bit of Regina / the Wicked Queen, whose origin story on the show bears some striking similarities to this one: disapproving opportunistic parents foisting a loveless marriage on their young daughter, a forbidden love that comes to a tragic end, etc. In fact, I found myself picturing a teenage Regina as Cath quite often as I was reading.
I think the book meanders a bit toward the middle, and is arguably about 75 pages too long. Then, when we get to the much-awaited ending, the novel changes course, and actually feels a bit rushed. I recall seeing that I was 85% done with the book, and being surprised that so much was still left to resolve, especially considering the slow pacing of the last 30 or so percent. Then, about five pages later, everything had come to an abrupt "head." (No pun intended.) This had the unfortunate result of making the tragic events of the final portion of the book have less emotional resonance than I believe they would have had, if more time was spent on them, and less on, say, yet another dance, tea party, play etc.
As for the love interest in the book, Jest is pretty hot as far as fictional characters go. He has a memorably spectacular entrance in the opening scene of the novel that would make any 17-year old girl fall in love with him I think. His growing relationship with Cath definitely has that appropriate fairy tale quality to it, but, at times, felt a bit surface to me. On the other side of the coin was Hatta (a pre-"Mad" Hatter), who while not romantic interest in the book, was probably one of the most developed, complex, and interesting characters in the story. I'd probably be interested in reading a separate book about him.
In short, though Heartless was not without its problems, it's an ambitious and masterfully written book, one that I think would be great companion piece to any high school curriculum teaching the Alice and Wonderland stories....more
After getting off to a somewhat rough start with the books I had selected to read in 2017, I was looking for a fun, quick and dirty (pun intended) novAfter getting off to a somewhat rough start with the books I had selected to read in 2017, I was looking for a fun, quick and dirty (pun intended) novel to get me over my reading hump (pun also intended). So, I journeyed to a place I rarely go to pick books, the NY Times Best Seller list. I found Full Package near the top of that list, with a cover and title that made the book seem like it would be pure porn. I hesitated a bit then, because, in my experience books, with covers like this, and titles like this, tend to read like the raunchy Mad Libs of a 13-year old girl. No plot, no character development, just a bunch of really hot twenty somethings graphically describing how good they are at having sex, over and over again.
But I thought hey, I said I wanted something quick and dirty. And this book had some surprisingly good reviews. It's also short in length (unlike the guy on the cover!) and only $3.99 on Kindle. (Reading Full Package on Kindle is essential, if you don't want to get side eyes from the folks on the city bus, for reading a book with this cover, and this title).
And I'll be damned if this wasn't a sweet book. And it was barely porn-y at all! In fact, it didn't contain any sex at all until Kindle informed me I was about 50% finished. (Then, it kind of made up for lost time, but still!)
Doctor Chase and Baker Josie were just so darn likeable! (A wee bit too perfect, if you ask me, but that's OK.) Their friendship seemed real. Their banter was clever, snappy, and made you smile. The slow burn of their relationship towards romance was expertly crafted, and, at times, almost more erotic for me than the actual sex scenes in the latter end of the book. (See e.g. a great scene where the pair sit together on the couch and discuss what type of porn each prefers to watch and why.) You just couldn't read this book without rooting for a pair as frigging adorable as this to end up together.
Sure, as is the case with most of these type of books, the eleventh hour "conflict" seems super contrived and artificial. And the fact that neither Chase, nor Josie, can figure out that the other person is head over heels in love with them, about five pages into the book, makes the characters seem way dumber than they are made out to be. Also, as is the case with most male POV romances, the guy character "thinks" things that don't always seem to me like things that a masculine guy would actually think about . . . more like what a woman HOPES a masculine guy thinks about.
That being said, I read Full Package in under two days. And it definitely got me over my reading "hump," in more ways than one. And for that, I'm grateful....more
Look, I'm a sucker for a good romance. And the back jacket description for this book, in particular, really enticed me, with its promise to provide aLook, I'm a sucker for a good romance. And the back jacket description for this book, in particular, really enticed me, with its promise to provide a realistic historic fictional tie in to the iconic VJ Day photo of a sailor kissing a nurse right smack in the center of Times Square, just seconds after hearing the spectacular news that WW2 had officially ended.
But apart from the event setting the stage for the narrative, this novel has absolutely nothing at all to do with that iconic photo. The sailor in the photo never appears again after the opening scene, and though the heroine does admit to likely being the lady in that photograph, she never cops to it publicly. In fact, since the notorious photo is woefully blurred, the heroine isn't entirely sure the photograph is actually of her, seeing as "many strangers were kissing that night in Times Square."
So many opportunities to catch Mono, so little time.
In addition to letting down readers who were looking for a fictional story that plausibly brought light to a renown historical event, While You Were Mine doesn't exactly succeeed as a historical fiction novel either. The so-called historical portions of the story are woven rather awkwardly into the narrative, almost as if pieces of your high school history book were literally cut and pasted into the novel at random intervals, and in random ways that did nothing to advance the plot proper.
As for the characters, I just found myself unable to relate to the heroine and first-person narrator of this novel, Gwen, who I found to be super judgmental, as evidenced by her regularly, awkwardly, and outwardly expressing disapproval for characters who (gasp) drank alcohol despite prohibition having ended decades prior, and/or (double gasp) weren't maternal by nature, and/ or (triple gasp) got married young and/ or suffered from depression, or other forms of mental illness due to war trauma, post partum depression, or some other reason.
As for the hero of the story, Lieutenant John, I didn't get why the author chose to narrate his chapters in third person omniscient, while the female narrator got to tell her story in the first person. The inconsistency in narrative styles made the swap between male and female chapters even more complex and less fluid than it could have been.
Finally, I just didn't really buy the narrator, and her supposed storybook "soul mate" as eachother's true loves. The heroine, for her part, seemed only into the hero because he was super hot (as most male characters in these sort of books are.). And the hero only seemed hot for the heroine because she was good with kids, cooked and cleaned, and seemed like she would make a spectacular future 1950s wifey.
Sure the words on the page were all big talk about love and lust, and the ability to utilize those emotions to overcome crisis, both in one's individual capacity, and as the member of a couple. But when it came down to actual dialogue between these characters, the magic simply wasn't there, at least not for me.
In short, While You Were Mine is a passable historical fiction novel, if you look past it's stark, not too likeable, characters, unnatural historical fiction insertions into the story, and poor chemistry/ forced romance between the two leads. But hey, I've definitely read worse. You probably have too....more
I picked up this book under somewhat false pretenses. It's currently being packaged as a five book series, of what would ostensibly be new novellas byI picked up this book under somewhat false pretenses. It's currently being packaged as a five book series, of what would ostensibly be new novellas by Ian McEwan. So, you could imagine my surprise when I learned that this was actually Mr. McEwan's first novel, which is now being repackaged and sold with his other older books as a result of his current success. Apparently, someone also went and made a movie out of this book a while back. Go figure.
On one hand, having read a number of Mr. McEwan's more recent books, it was interesting to view his origins as a writer. The writing style of The Cement Garden is a bit more straight forward, and a bit less flowery and affected, than that included in say Atonement, The Children's Act or Saturday. And yet, I enjoyed all of those books to varying extents, and really just can't recommend this one.
Having read the reviews, I knew a bit about what I was getting into here. The death, the sadness, the dysfunction, the incest. This was by no means touted as a "feel-good" story. What I didn't count on was how unpleasant the book was to read. All of the characters were just so distinctly unlikable. Jack, the narrator, is selfish, antisocial, and aggressively unhygienic (i.e. he refuses to shower for three-quarters of the book). Julie is a manipulative, self-absorbed siren. Her boyfriend Derek is a total douchebag. Even little Tommy is a whiny needy, possibly severely troubled, child. Neither of the deceased parents seemed particularly likeable either, in their cameo roles at the start of the novel. I think I actually would have been less bothered by the incest aspect of the story, if I could understand at all why any of these characters would want to spend more than a few minutes with one another, let alone sleep together.
And don't get me started on the smells that pervaded this book. So much of the book's 154-page run time was focused on bad stenches: Jack's body odor, rotting food, decaying bodies, a house fallen into disrepair. I get the idea that this was meant to be a Lord of the Flies type story, where the characters went "wild" without parental supervision. But the characters in Lord of the Flies were no older than 12 and 13. Jack and Julie are in their mid to late teens and should have known better.
I don't know. Looking at some of the other more positive reviews of this novel, maybe I'm in the minority here. And I'd still recommend Ian McEwan's other writing to anyone interested in a solid, well-crafted read. I may even try some other novels in this five-book series. But this one was a thumbs down for me.
As a woman who is "living" this book, I found it refreshing to see statistical backup, personal life stories, scientific studies, and good old-fashionAs a woman who is "living" this book, I found it refreshing to see statistical backup, personal life stories, scientific studies, and good old-fashioned logical reasoning to reinforce all those things which I, for the most part, already knew. We are living in a changing world. That sounds like a cliche, but it is absolutely true when it comes to adult women, who are experiencing life, careers, female and male friendships, sex, dating, travel, and home ownership, in very different ways than our parents did . . . perhaps, even in very different ways than women just ten years our senior. There are so many opportunities available to single women that simply weren't available to us before. But there are also more physical, emotional, practical and psychological barriers to entering into traditional marriages and having children on our own terms. The result is that adult women are carving out their own paths, and there are an infinite number of paths from which to choose.
There's no "wrong way" to be an adult woman, single or otherwise. And I think this book does a nice job of exploring a variety of female life paths, and establishing that all of them are "normal." As I was reading this book, the thought that most pervaded my mind was not that I was learning so much, but that I wanted others to read it: family, friends, and neighbors, who may not be as aware of this social change. Because while I do believe that people are getting married and having children later by choice, that some are choosing not to marry and have children altogether, and that this trend will continue to grow as time passes, I don't think societal and cultural expectations have caught up yet with what's actually happening in the world. I still feel like my friends and I are chastised, judged and pitied for being single, either silently or not so silently, and that makes me sad.
As for the book itself, it took me a while to finish. Though insightful and interesting, for the most part, this isn't exactly a fast read. (For me, the historical portion, which details the history of single women from around the 1800s to now, was particularly a long slog.) I also think, though the book was largely journalistic and attempted, for the most part, to be unbiased in its presentation of female singlehood, a lot of the narrative was colored by the author's own experience (that of a woman who chose to marry in her mid-thirties and immediately have children).
Given that, I don't think this book is for everyone. I also think that, unfortunately, for most of the folks who do choose to pick it up, this book will be preaching to the choir. And those who really NEED to read it, won't. But if you, like me, are a person who is feeling like a bit of an outsider, in a world where marriage soon after college graduation is still presented as the cultural ideal, this book will serve you as a warm hug and a nice pat on the back. So pick it up, or better yet, try to make the person making sly comments to you at the office or dinner table about how "you should settle down, because you aren't getting younger"read it. They won't, but at least you can say you tried . . .
Don't let the slightly cheesy retro cover and admittedly cliche back cover synopsis fool you. This is a super fun, surprisingly well written, romanceDon't let the slightly cheesy retro cover and admittedly cliche back cover synopsis fool you. This is a super fun, surprisingly well written, romance that will fly off your to-be-read pile into your must re-read when I'm feeling particularly grumpy pile in under 72 hours. Imagine what would happen if a modern day Mr. Darcy worked for a publishing company and shared his paltry office space with a super sassy and intensely equally driven modern day Lizzie Bennett. (That's this book in a nutshell, Pride and Prejudice fans... minus the first chapter, which was a twinge awkward and stilted in its workplace description. My advice: If you start this book and aren't sold on chapter 1, keep reading. It gets soooo much better.)
Yeah, you've probably read a book with this exact same plot line about a million times. But the stellar writing, the sweetness, and the smart and driven,yet nerdy and adorably awkward narrator, paired with a seemingly arrogant and uptight, but oddly shy, and morally conflicted / socially awkward (yet hot as all heck) love interest will win you over in 35 pages flat.
It's a fun fast read that I highly recommend to all the swoony soft core romance lovers among you. The plot moves fast. The snarky humor is top notch. And while the sex scenes are admittedly rather tame, the foreplay descriptions will have you sighing and gasping for air in equal measure.
For those of you still on the fence, give this one a go. You won't regret it. I know I didn't.
You ever hear the phrase "comfort food?" For me, both of Christina Lauren's book series (Beautiful and Wild Seasons) are my Comfort Books. They may noYou ever hear the phrase "comfort food?" For me, both of Christina Lauren's book series (Beautiful and Wild Seasons) are my Comfort Books. They may not have a lot of "nutritional value." I may not eagerly cop to reading them at work functions or cocktail parties. But they always manage to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Not to mention, they are absolutely my go-to "meals" when work and life are stressing me out, and I just need to unwind and feel good for a little while.
At first blush, I feared that the Pippa and Jensen love story would be your standard Manic Pixie Dreamgirl tale, with Jensen in the role of workaholic stuffed shirt, who doesn't know how to appreciate life, and Pippa as . . . well . . . the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl. But the authors did a nice job of fleshing out the complexities and contradictions of these characters. Sure, Pippa was flamboyant, outspoken, and a bit manic. But she was also thoughtful, insightful, smart, and a bit insecure. And yeah, Jensen was a stuffed shirt, but he was also highly sexual (This wouldn't be a Christina Lauren book if he wasn't), kind and generous with his friends and family.
It's fitting that this was the last book in the Beautiful series, because it felt the most adult. These are no longer characters in their early twenties, sowing their wild oats, screwing up, and accidentally stumbling upon true love. Most of the characters in the series are now married, some have children, and their discussions with one another focused mainly on the real meat of romantic relationships, i.e. what happens after the credits roll in the romantic comedy, when lust and infatuation is replaced by something deeper and more meaningful.
I guess that is probably why this book actually had the least sex scenes of any Beautiful or Wild Seasons series book. (In fact, I only counted maybe four?) Jensen and Pippa weren't getting wasted and jumping into bed with one another, seconds after they met. These were two adults who had been recently hurt by past relationships and were each, for their own reasons, hesitant to start something new. So, their sex life, at least initially reflected that. It made for a more realistic read, and made you appreciate the sweetness of the sex scenes that were included. (Though part of me could have used the inclusion of one or two more, maybe?)
The other cool thing about this book was the chance to revisit with past Beautiful characters, particularly Will and Hanna, who were my absolute favorite couple in this series. The pair get a nice-sized supporting role in this book, which I enjoyed immensely. Chloe and Bennett, Ruby and Niall, and Max and Sara are also featured. Plus, each couple gets a nice little epilogue chapter to themselves, so that every Beautiful reader gets a chance to revisit his or her favorite pairing.
If I recall correctly, this marks the conclusion of both of Christina Lauren's chief romance series, which makes me a bit wistful. What the heck am I going to do the next time I'm hankering for a heaping helping of Comfort Book? I guess I'll have to re-read Beautiful Player . . ....more
Generally speaking, I tend to be a bit loath to pick up a memoir, because I often find them to be a bit self-aggrandizing and/or self-indulgent. Too mGenerally speaking, I tend to be a bit loath to pick up a memoir, because I often find them to be a bit self-aggrandizing and/or self-indulgent. Too many times I’ve been burned by a memoir where the author downplays his or her own flaws and portrays him or herself as a victim of others’ shortcomings. That said, I actually read two memoirs this year that I genuinely enjoyed, both of which went a long way toward altering, or at least softening, my anti-memoir stance.
When I first heard Amy Schumer wrote a memoir, my first thought was, “300 pages of booze and penis jokes, with a smattering of awkward sexual experiences thrown in for good measure.” And though that’s not the type of book I typically rush to grab, at the time, I had just come down from reading a super dark and depressing novel, and booze and penis jokes seemed to me like a real nice change of pace.
And there are a lot of booze and penis jokes / hilariously awkward sexual experiences thrown into this book, I’m not going to lie. But what surprised me was how insightful, genuine, and honest Amy was throughout the memoir, and how much she reminded me of myself in some of the chapters . . . except, you know, I’m not famous or the least bit talented in the art of acting / standup comedy.
Like me, and, perhaps many of you bookworms out there, Amy is actually an introvert, a revelation that shocked me more than perhaps even the juicier personal tidbits she offers up in this tome. She also battles the same type of insecurities we all have toward her weight and personal appearance, despite appearing on television as this uber confident super woman. I liked that Amy is open and honest with herself about her flaws and shortcomings, throughout the novel. And I was genuinely touched by her recounting of some of her experiences with her father, who suffers from M.S.
I also feel like a lot of women can learn a thing or two from Amy’s experiences with rape and domestic abuse. The fact that a strong, confident and successful woman is being open about the fact that she found herself in an abusive relationship goes a long way toward fighting the stigmatization of domestic abuse victims as weak and passive people. And that may help others suffering in similar relationships seek the courage to remove themselves from these dangerous situations or at least seek help.
In short, even if, like me, you hate memoirs, read Amy Schumer’s. Come for the booze and penis jokes, stay for the honesty, humility and important insights . . . ...more
Stop me if you've heard this one. Once upon a time there was a quiet, impressionable, lonely high school girl. Everyone assumed she was a good girl. BStop me if you've heard this one. Once upon a time there was a quiet, impressionable, lonely high school girl. Everyone assumed she was a good girl. But really she was a cipher, an empty vessel waiting for someone else to tell her who she should be. Along comes a BAD GIRL, who makes the good girl do very bad things. Also in this story, there's a Mean Girl, whose rich, popular and pretty, custom made to be the perfect enemy for a BAD GIRL and her loyal amorphous subject.
It's a high school story we've all read before, and seen before, in countless young adult novels and made-for-TV movies. But what made this story different was how shockingly dark it got. The author really made a point to push the envelope here, and make the reader uncomfortable, with tales of twisted sex orgies, gang rape, parental abuse, animal mutilation and satanic rituals. And in that, the author succeeded.
This is about as far away from a YA book as a tale about high school girls can get. If it was a movie, it would score an NC-17 rating for sure. There were times I felt I wasn't "mature" enough to read this book. And I'm not exactly what you'd call a "spring chicken."
Did I enjoy reading this book? That's tough to say. This is not a feel good story. And these are not exactly root-able characters. I also felt like some of passages were a bit overwritten. It was almost as if the author felt that by throwing all the dark evil plot points into the mix, she was somehow saying something different and unique about the nature of teenage girls and their relationships to one another. But really, the message was kind of the same as what we've been told a million times, in much lighter, simpler stories. I also felt like some of the dialogue didn't read true, especially when it came to the character of Lacey, who tended to speak and narrate more like an evil version of Confucius, the fortune cookie guy, than the Goth Girl from the wrong side of the tracks she actually was.
That said, I enjoyed some of the deft character portraits painted by this story. I liked how Hannah/Dex's chief defining characteristic was how little of her own personality she actually had. She was sullen, and lumpy and unsure of herself . . . a baby duck waiting to imprint on the first kind face . . . or, perhaps, not-so-kind. I think we've all been Hannah at one point in our adolescence, whether or not we want to admit it, trying on new personalities in an attempt to find the one that fits best.
I also liked the surprising depth and shades of grey given to the Mean Girl of this story, and, perhaps, more surprisingly, to Hannah's father. The latter of which rarely ever happens in a book based on teenagers where usually, the parents are just there to provide the necessary roadblocks in the plot as the story moves along. If I was going to root for anybody in this book, it would probably be these two . . . which, if you know the plot of the story, probably isn't saying much.
In short, if you are looking for a fun YA coming of age story, with bits of 90's retro alt-rock nostalgia thrown in, this probably isn't the book for you. But if you are looking to challenge yourself with a dark and disturbing, surprisingly fast read, with a few interesting side characters thrown in for good measure . . . one that makes you briefly question the nature of your high school friendships, you could give this a go . . ....more
Here's to Us offers a hastily tied up in a bow ending for nearly all of its not particularly likable characters . . . apart from the deceased, who I lHere's to Us offers a hastily tied up in a bow ending for nearly all of its not particularly likable characters . . . apart from the deceased, who I liked very much. Nonetheless, its an inoffensive, not-overly-long, beach read, for when you are in the mood for something faux tabloid trashy, and not too mentally taxing....more