Holy. Crap. This book was fantastic and unexpected and just plain awesome. I'm reeling . . . and didn't want it to end. But it put a knot in my stomac...moreHoly. Crap. This book was fantastic and unexpected and just plain awesome. I'm reeling . . . and didn't want it to end. But it put a knot in my stomach, too? So complicated. Review to come.(less)
If ever there were a book I’d love to climb inside, an author through whom I could live vicariously, it’s Janice MacLeod. And Paris Letters.
After clim...moreIf ever there were a book I’d love to climb inside, an author through whom I could live vicariously, it’s Janice MacLeod. And Paris Letters.
After climbing the metaphorical advertising ladder in Los Angeles, Janice realizes her “dream job” — and dream life — aren’t quite what she imagined. Worn out by her 9-to-5 and dreaming of so much more than a dull commute and another birthday cake for a coworker, she begins to fantasize about a life beyond the square walls of her office. Encouraged to journal her thoughts and think about something more, a question rises to the surface: How much money does it take to change your life?
The answer is roughly 60K, actually — enough to quit her job, sell most of her worldly possessions and leave California for a walkabout in Europe. By scrimping wherever possible, she amasses enough to arrive in Paris and walk sip creamy lattes in the sidewalk cafes just as she imagined. Though she speaks no French, her arrival in the City of Light isn’t burdened by language barriers. She soon meets Christophe, a handsome butcher, and begins her French education rather romantically.
When she considered her talents back in America, one passion kept returning to her: art. Painting. With the time and freedom to now explore those dreams, she sets to work cultivating and fashioning an entirely new life for herself. And the results are pretty extraordinary.
How to describe my love for Paris Letters? Picture me in my pajamas sipping coffee on a snowy day, imagining what it must feel like to step off a plane with only a tiny suitcase in a foreign city — unburdened, untethered, totally free. Though I love my own work, I know the constraints of a desk job all too well. The idea of abandoning it all to chase your passions — in Paris! — holds an allure I can’t deny.
For Janice, shedding her old skin and finding love in France is revelatory. Who among us can’t relate to holding that holy grail of professional accomplishment — that “I did it!” cup declaring you finally met a longstanding goal — only to realize . . . you’re not happy? It isn’t what you wanted after all? If the joy is in the journey, reaching the end of that journey — job stability; boring routines — isn’t actually so joyous in the end.
And that’s okay.
Janice’s experiences in Europe are absolutely enchanting — and I’m going to be honest here. It’s been a long time since I read a Paris- or London-themed book that didn’t make me green and rage-y with jealousy. Usually when I read a memoir about an American/Canadian upending their lives to eat macarons, write and paint abroad with a seemingly unending pile of cash, I think, Oh, golly — must be freakin’ nice.
But here? All I felt about Janice’s story was complete enchantment. She’s down-to-earth, friendly, funny, interesting. Writing honestly about both her feelings on leaving behind her old life and the stress of beginning a new one (and with a new man), I bonded with Janice immediately — and that’s all to say nothing of her actual Paris letters, which she paints, writes and addresses to subscribers through Etsy. When I finished Paris Letters, I made a mad scramble to see if her work is still available online — and it is! And my delight will continue.(less)
Deb Caletti’s The Nature of Jade started off strong for me. As someone who also deals with anxiety, I could definitely relate to our heroine’s struggl...moreDeb Caletti’s The Nature of Jade started off strong for me. As someone who also deals with anxiety, I could definitely relate to our heroine’s struggles to live a “normal” life while keeping her feelings quiet. It was easy to empathize, really — almost too easy.
The elephant plot thread? Interesting. Not something I’ve seen before. While volunteering at the zoo, Jade meets lots of interesting folks and, of course, Sebastian — as well as his young son. The story of how the pair came to be on a houseboat with Sebastian’s grandma is interesting . . . but as the storyline progresses, it all seemed to be a little . . . weird.
I don’t know how to explain it. I guess it started with a sense that, while kind, Sebastian wasn’t quite what he seems. I never quite . . . bonded with him. Felt for him, maybe, but wasn’t nearly as enamored with him as Jade was. The whole progression of their relationship seemed odd, especially since the only thing initially pulling him to her was that, after hours, he would find himself gazing at the elephants the same way Jade would. Which she knew because she saw him on the online cam, looking moodily off at the sky. Just like Jade did.
There were parts of The Nature of Jade I really liked, including our lead’s emotional journey from uncertain high schooler to rising college student. She gains confidence, poise and maturity, even as other aspects of her life begin to unravel. I found her parents’ marriage struggles to be realistic and heartbreaking, and I loved the dynamic she shares with Oliver, her little brother.
What I didn’t love? Sebastian’s back story. Without spoilers, I felt the rationale guiding his decisions to be . . . thin. That his grandmother aided him felt a little fishy to me, honestly, and I had a tough time relating to what he was doing. It seemed impulsive, strange and selfish, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the whole thing was going to play out. It was working for now, maybe, but what about five years from now? Or ten? His son would start asking questions. Everything would unravel.
And that distracted me. Not that I found Sebastian to be a truly bad dude or anything, but what was he doing drawing Jade into this whole disaster? True love and blah-ity blah blah, perhaps, but it seemed unfair. And the whole “I thought you were older” justification for their relationship didn’t strike the right chords with me. Or, like, any chords.
I’m being harsher in this review than I felt while reading it, maybe, but reflection creates differing opinions. It was a quick and mostly satisfying story, but not one I found especially memorable. Still, for fans of young adult and those who long to see anxiety disorders represented in YA culture, The Nature of Jade was a decent read.(less)
Set in 1986, the magic of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is the sweetness and nostalgia it evokes — the quiet power of remembering that blush of...moreSet in 1986, the magic of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is the sweetness and nostalgia it evokes — the quiet power of remembering that blush of first love when everything seemed possible, yet nothing was for certain. Anyone who has felt that terrifying rush of emotion, that hurtling from a cliff, will recognize themselves in our young couple.
It’s impossible not to remember our own first experience liking someone who actually likes you back..
Eleanor wavers between disbelief and surprise and terror that someone like Park would actually be romantically intrigued by her. Because Eleanor? She’s complicated. From her odd clothes to wild locks to isolation from everyone save her messed-up family, she never imagines Park could ever feel for her . . . you know, like that. And Park? For as cute and smart and funny as he is, he’s so influenced by his rigid father that he can’t understand he’s fine — perfect, even — just the way he is.
I often found myself cringing for Eleanor, wanting so badly to help her avoid the devastating effects of her stepfather or the mean-spirited kids at school. I really felt for this couple, cheering them on from the beginning, and their deep understanding and affection for one another means readers are drawn completely into their warm little cocoon. As the plot thickened, my heart was hammering as I considered they could never come out of this unscathed.
But does anyone?
Is that even possible?
Eleanor & Park was heartbreaking, realistic, uplifting, often hopeful. It was suspenseful, compelling throughout, and I found myself reading it with a vigor I haven’t felt in a while. Portions reminded me of Sara Zarr’s Sweethearts, one of my favorite young adult novels — and just like Zarr’s story, it’s not one I’ll soon forget.(less)