Like Water for Chocolate, is the story of a Mexican girl named Tita. She is desperately in love with Pedro but life, and her mother, have conspired to keep them apart. Instead of being together Tita has to watch as Pedro marries her sister and she is forced to live a life of servitude under her domineering mother. Told in monthly instalments this novel tracks the relationship (or lack thereof) of Tita and Pedro and how their love affects the people around them.
I thought this book was really clever. Not only was each chapter a month of the year, each was accompanied by a recipe. The chapter would open with an ingredient list and instructions on how to cook the dish. These instructions, however, would always segue in the central themes and conflicts of that chapter. I was amazed by how seamless some of these transitions were. It is a real testament to Esquivel`s writing that she could preform this feat twelve times over and still keep me interested in the story.
This book has been frequently described as a love story and while that's part of it, I think that is too simple of a description. Instead I would like to describe this book as a full out soap opera! Tita's in love with Pedro, Pedro is married to Rosaura, the other sister is running around naked, brides are throwing up on their wedding gowns and the mother is obsessed with making everyone unhappy. And to top it all off they're all living under the same roof. It's like Days of Our Lives meets The Bachelor Pad! Sometimes the absurdity of the situation just made me outright giggle. You'll find yourself reading on just to see what these crazy characters will get up to next.
Like Water for Chocolate, is a fun and charming novel. There are some really ridiculous – and at times down right weird – moments but there are also some really sweet ones. Esquivel uses some interesting and very unique methods to help the reader look into the life of one crazy family and I think her techniques are something to be appreciated. Definitely one to stick one the shelf and have on hand whenever you need a reminder there are families crazier than your own. (less)
Charles Yu (the character) is stuck in a time loop. His future self and his present self have interacted and well...the results aren't good. Thankfull...moreCharles Yu (the character) is stuck in a time loop. His future self and his present self have interacted and well...the results aren't good. Thankfully future Charles left present Charles some help, a book. This book to be exact. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is an explanation of the world of the future with handy tips, including details on the capital city, the socioeconomic strata and most importantly what to do in the event you're trapped in a time loop. With the help of this book, Ed and TAMMY (my personal favourite) Charles not only looks for a way out of the time loop but learns something about his life as well.
I love the premise of this book. Time travel is often confusing and filled with techno babble that (to me) doesn't make a lot of sense. Charles Yu, however, uses just the right amount of cyber jargon and uses it in a way that just makes you laugh at loud at the absurdity of it all. Don't expect this book to follow a normal course of events, it breaks rules of space and physics so it's a safe bet it's going to break narrative convention as well. Try not to think about how impossible it all is and just enjoy the ride.
When I first heard about this book I was excited. It's been awhile since I've read a recently released science fiction title that I actually liked and this one sounded right up my alley. That's a lot of pressure for a book, but thankfully it delivered. It is a hilarious read and you won't want to put it down. It is very much in the spirit of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and it isn't often you come across someone who can pull off good science fiction and good comedy in one go. If you like science fiction and/or are looking for something out of left field check this book out and enjoy!(less)
I picked this book up at a used book store, drawn in by it's unique title and remembering that it had made it on to one of the editions of 1001 Books...moreI picked this book up at a used book store, drawn in by it's unique title and remembering that it had made it on to one of the editions of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. I found it incredibly funny, somewhat informative and at times a little tragic. Way more than I was expecting for a $4 paperback. The story follows a British-Ukrainian family during a time of family crisis. The crisis being that the father has decided to marry a much younger Ukrainian woman, who is clearly using him for money and a passport. His two daughters than join forces to save him from his unhappy fate. What made this book for me was the father, and his interactions with his youngest daughter Nadezhda. The father is quirky, old fashioned and conflicted. I can picture him perfectly in my mind. I can even hear his Ukrainian accent when I'm reading his dialogue. His antics are funny all of their own, but are made even funnier by his daughter's attempts to help a very stubborn old man. You can't help but love the father, he's the product of his history, his age and his daughters and he fulfils his role perfectly. In case you were thinking this book was a little too light hearted and fluffy, it is interspersed with memories of the families time living in the Soviet Union. Before moving to Britain the family did not have it easy, facing famine, work camps and the wrath of communism. These are serious undertones to a very funny book. I found them particularly interesting, as Ukrainian history is not one you generally hear about. Overall a nice book. It's funny, not too long and you learn a bit about the Ukraine at the same time. (less)
The premise of this book is solid. Your traditional coming of age story, a boy torn between his parents, his friends and his struggling with his own e...moreThe premise of this book is solid. Your traditional coming of age story, a boy torn between his parents, his friends and his struggling with his own emotions and opinions. What makes this story unique is that it's sets against some strong themes of environmentalism. Sam (the main character of the story) is surrounded by some excellent and hilarious characters who both aid and impede his development. The main conflict is what to do over the ever growing deer population. The deer are reproducing at an uncontrollable rate and the town is divided between a scheduled hunt to thin the herd and those who want to protect the deer at all costs. Sam isn't just divided because the community disagrees but because his parents do as well. Having the rallying point be the deer herd seemed a little odd at first, but it worked. Who doesn't love Bambi right? Many of the characters in this book are hilarious. Situations often reach ridiculous proportions that you just can't help but laugh at. In particular I loved Sam's mother, a die hard, middle aged hippie, his high school girlfriend Megan, a know it all with rich parents and delusions of grandeur and his friend Ryan, an amateur activist with a flair for the dramatic. Many other characters, however, fall flat. Most are based on common archetypal characters and their development doesn't go far beyond these basic traits. They fit into their roles exactly, usually at the expense of their personality and originality. Overall this book is a easy going, fun read. Sam may not be Holden Caufield, but he is your average teenager, trying to find his place in the world. The characters are basic, the plot is simple but it makes you laugh and it gets the point across.
Who would have thought a novel about Grim Reapers could be so delightful?
Gina Damico has created the fabulous town of Croak, a mostly isolated community where one third of America's Grim Reapers, live, sleep and work. I loved how creative this setting was. Everything about it was unqiue and catchy and the way everything, from the store to the local bar was named after death - yes some of the names were pretty cheesy but that was part of the fun! They even have there very own drink, which is said to taste like drinking desert. Sign me up for some of that!
Setting aside, what really made me fall head over heels for this book was Lex. She has some absolutely hilarious moments. Shes angry, she's stubborn and she isn't afraid to speak her mind (even if what she has to say is kind of rude). And she was perfectly paired with Driggs, her partner in death. Their personalities seem to clash yet perfectly compliment each other at the same time. I thought the dialogue of their many arguments was spot on.
One of the major sore spots for Lex, in her new found calling, is that often times when someone is murdered they (the Reapers) are able to see exactly who committed the crime but they are forbidden from interfering. Lex feels pretty strongly that they can (and should) do something about all these horrible people in the world. I thought this led to an interesting and thought provoking plot. Amongst the humour, this book was also able to raise some important questions about who should choose punishments, who gets to “play God”, and what exactly justice is. Very clever the way Gina slipped that in.
For those looking for something a little more light hearted, you're going to find plenty to enjoy within these pages. But for those who like their stories a little more complex I think there's plenty here for you as well. I think this book has a unique ability to adapt - depending on you want to get out of it. I can't wait for the sequel so I can read more about the people of Croak and see how Gina Diamaco expands on many of the obstacles Lex is faced with.(less)
Hilarious with a capital H. I have never laughed so hard about Canadian history, Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Kate Beaton is intelligent and clever....more
Hilarious with a capital H. I have never laughed so hard about Canadian history, Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Kate Beaton is intelligent and clever. Absolute must read for all of us that suffered through high school Canadian history. That knowledge can now be put to good use!(less)
Despite the fact that I am in my 20s and have no children (aged 9-12 or otherwise) I still enjoy a good middle grade title. A well written middle grade title is fun, it's refreshing, it's the stuff fairy tales are made of. I don't mean that poetically, I find that fantasy style middle grade styles help relive that time in my life where I watched Disney movies on repeat and read Doctor Seuss and Robert Munsch books.
So when I read the description of Scary School, I was really excited to read it for the all the reasons listed above and when all is said and done I found it a very cute and funny read. This is a great middle grade title, it's inventive and has an interesting story that will keep kids interested. It's smart (it does after all take place in a school) but it still easy to read and understand. I know since finishing I have passed along my copy to a seven year old (almost eight!) member of my family and he is currently devouring the story with minimal help.
The great thing about this book is the jokes. The book is full of them and you are guaranteed a giggle or two. I'm a little worried that a few of them may go over kid's heads. For example there's a reference to Minotaurs being aMAZEing. I'm not sure how many kids I know would get that joke, but it's totally possible I know the wrong kids!
There's also a really stellar cast of characters! Each chapter deals with new characters, adding to different branches to the storyline. I particularly loved Dr. Dragonbreath and his set of 5 classroom rules. If you break them you don't just get detention - you get eaten! I would've like to learn more about Derek the Ghost (since he's the narrator and all). Despite the fact that he's doing all the talking we know very little about him. I think he should've had his own chapter.
If you have (or know) kids in the ages 8-12 range this would be a great book for them. In addition, however, it's also a fun read for teens or adults who are just looking for something light and enjoyable. (less)
Small Medium At Large is the story of a spunky young girl named, Lilah Bloom. One day, the day of her mother's w...moreOriginally reviewed at Hooked on Books
Small Medium At Large is the story of a spunky young girl named, Lilah Bloom. One day, the day of her mother's wedding to be exact, she gets struck my lightning. Nothing quite gets your attention like someone getting struck by lightining. That is, unless that person can then hear the voice of her dead grandmother, who wants her to help her dad start dating again.
If I were to use a single word to describe Small Medium at Large it would have to be hilarious. From the first conversation between Lilah and her best friend, to the final piece of wisdom from her dead grandmother (Bubby Dora), this book was constantly making me laugh out loud - often in public! There were even a few times my dog came over to check on me, I was making so much noise.
Joanne Levy nails the voice of twelve year old, Lilah. She sounds exactly the way I would expect to her too. Never too old or too young. Intelligent and a quick thinker, you can't help but like her. Motivated by nothing but good intentions, she's a character to be admired. And she's Jewish, adding some much needed diversity to the middle grade character pool.
I have some friends that think I'm strange for reading middle grade titles (or "kid's books"). But when I read a book like Small Medium at Large that makes me laugh so hard I almost spit tea across the room, I reminded of all the reasons I love 'kid's books' and I'm sorry that there are people who will miss out on this wonderful story because they can't look past the age range on the bookstore shelf.
Final recommedation: A must for all the middle grade people in your life. Whether actual 9-12 year olds, or just those of us that are young at heart, Small Medium at Large is a refreshing and funny read you're sure to enjoy.(less)
Middle Grade fantasy is absolutely fantastic. It makes me feel nostalgic for the books I read whe...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Middle Grade fantasy is absolutely fantastic. It makes me feel nostalgic for the books I read when I was younger. And honestly who doesn’t love getting lost in a fairy tale? The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is no exception. It made me feel like a kid again, it was laugh out loud funny and it reminded me a lot of classic Disney movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White but with a great twist.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is really the story of four Prince Charmings (You didn’t think there was just one guy doing all the rescuing did you?) There’s Frederic – Cinderella’s prince – who is scared of everything (but an excellent negotiator!). Duncan, who broke Snow White’s sleeping spell. He’s a little dopey, but absolutely loyal and just wants to make friends with everyone and everything. Gustav, who rescued Rapunzel without realizing what he was getting into – which is the story of his life! And Liam. The only real “hero” of the bunch, who is unfortunately expected to marry the absolutely nasty Briar Rose. Seriously, move over Regina George. You have been de-throned.
I loved this book because all four of them – except maybe Liam – weren’t quite the Prince Charmings you generally think of. Fairy Tales are often all about the girls, and even most retellings focus on the female characters as well. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was a nice twist because it let the men develop more as characters. No longer cursed to simply swoop in at the end, looking handsome and expected to solve all the problems with a dashing smile and love’s first kiss. And this is all accomplished without sacrificing the strength of the female characters. It’s win-win!
I also loved that, contray to a lot of fairy tales, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was not about the romance! Yes Snow White and Duncan have a lovely relationship but the rest not so much. Each one is their own person and chasing their own dream. Cinderella wants adventure, Rapunzel wants to help people, Frederic wants to face his fears etc etc. Their destiny’s aren’t wrapped up in simply being with another person and I thought that was a more realistic portrayal.
Recommendation: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a delightful return to the fairy tales I grew up with but it makes this return without sacrificing strong characters or realistic goals. Basically it’s the whole package. Recommended for middle grade readers and those who grew up watching their Disney VHS’s over and over.(less)
The Good Luck of Right Now is the newest novel from superstar author, Matthew Quick. Like his oth...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Good Luck of Right Now is the newest novel from superstar author, Matthew Quick. Like his other novels it is both funny and thoughtful, quirky and beautiful.
This novel is told in the form of letters. Specifically letters from regular guy, Bartholomew Neil to super star actor and activist, Richard Gere. I really enjoyed the letter format. In this format Bartholomew is able to be at his most honest and shares details with Richard Gere that he may not share with someone he knows and has to see on a daily basis. It gives us real insight into Bartholomew’s character while simultaneously making some very interesting points about the power of celebrity and their influence over us.
The humour in this book was spot on. It often caused me to erupt into giggles in the middle of a crowded subway. From Bartholomew’s observations of the world around him to Max’s colourful language this book will have you in stitches. But there are also some brilliant bits of wisdom woven into that humour. I often found myself reading passages twice – once to laugh and the second time to appreciate how beautiful the sentiment was.
Another element I really appreciated was the way religion was presented. Primarily because it wasn’t presented as an oppressive, negative force. I think The Good Luck of Right Now shows all the different ways people find comfort in their faith – from the traditional to the bizarre. I also liked that there was an intersection of religions – specifically Catholicism and Buddhism. Both have doctrines and philosophies that Bartholomew draws on throughout the course of the novel and I liked that Quick didn’t present it as an either-or situation. Bartholomew wasn’t less Catholic because he chose to embody some Buddhist teachings. If anything the two religions enhanced one another and I think that could lead to some really interesting discussions.
And perhaps best of all Canada makes an appearance! (Ok not best of all but still pretty awesome). As the novel progresses Bartholomew makes a number of friends – a defrocked priest, an extreme cat lover and a girl who has been abducted by aliens. So naturally the four of them go on a road trip! A trip to Montreal and Ottawa to be precise. I love road trips in novels – especially the way the characters interact with one another as time goes by.
The Good Luck of Right Now is a beautiful and insightful novel about faith, grief, and learning to find the little things in life that make you happy – whether they be cats, having a beer with an age-appropriate friend or Richard Gere movies. Ultimately I think Quick’s previous novel, Silver Linings Playbook, is a stronger book but I would still highly recommend The Good Luck of Right Now – especially for fans of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and The Universe vs Alex Woods by Gavin Extence.(less)
There are three kinds of stories in One More Thing – the ones that made me laugh, the ones that m...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
There are three kinds of stories in One More Thing – the ones that made me laugh, the ones that made me think and the ones that really stood out. I thought for this review I would break down each kind.
The ones that made me laugh
This title is applicable to the majority of stories in this collection. Novak’s stories are short and sweet but also quite charming and many left me with a smile The following were some of the highlights. Stories like “All You Have to Do,” ”No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg” and “Chris Hansen at the Justin Bieber Concert” flowed smoothly, used charming language and were just all around easy to read. Other stories like “Great Writer’s Steal” were simple and straight forward but would always have one line (in this case: ”they misunderstood literature on an unusually fundamental level”) that stood out and really brought the story together.
Of all the ‘stories that made me laugh’ there were three that stood out in particular. The first was “Closure.” Partially because it was just a fun story with a great twist. But also because I listened to the audiobook sample (read by Mindy Kaling and B J Novak) and it reminded me so much of Kelly and Ryan from The Office. Then there was “Julie and the Warlord” which physically made me spit out my coffee when I got to the discussion questions at the end. And last but certainly not least “The Something by John Grisham.” I went through a HUGE John Grisham phase when I was in high school and I loved how perfectly this story captured some of his more common tropes.
The ones that made me think
There are less stories in the ‘ones that made me think’ category but that makes them no less meaningful. What really stood out about this stories was that it was often only one line that really grabbed you and worked its way into your head. For example in “The Best Thing in the World Awards” - ”the fun isn’t whether love is going to win the fun is seeing how.” Or “If You Love Something” - ”If you love something let it go. If you don’t love something definitely let it go. Basically, just drop everything, who cares.” And perhaps best of all “J C Audetat, translator of Don Quixote” – ”Have you heard this song? It’s like poetry…Have you read this book? It’s poetry. Oh no thank you”
The ones that really stood out
There are really only two stories in this category – “Sophia” and “Kellogs.” I don’t want to say too much about them because I think part of the reason they were so great is that you truly had no idea where the story was headed when you started reading. “Sophia” got much more serious than I expected and I loved when the narrator talks about the nicks and dents that happen every time you get your hopes up and are disappointed. “Kellogs” has so many twists and surprises but was ultimately a great story about family, values and potential. What both of these stories had in common was their length – they were both on the longer side, which really allowed B J Novak’s true story telling ability to shine through.
Even if you don’t normally read short stories I would recommend this collection. They’re not all fantastic offerings but more often then not you’ll find yourself chuckling along or wanting to highlight a certain passage so you can come back to it. If you like humour, witty dialogue and great twists, One More Thing is for you.(less)