Ho-lee. CRAP. Those were literally the first words out of my mouth when I finished The Martian by Andy Weir. I won’tOriginally posted at Always, Lissa
Ho-lee. CRAP. Those were literally the first words out of my mouth when I finished The Martian by Andy Weir. I won’t beat around the bush. I absolutely fell head over heels in love with this book. I devoured it (well, as much as I could with many 4am shifts in my way). I’m pretty sure that I annoyed my roommate with just how much I broke out into loud and uncontrollable laughter, not to mention with how much I was raving about the novel. As soon as I saw the book and read the back, I knew I wanted to read it. However, I waited for awhile because my expectations were high and I was worried that it would be like “Castaway” but in space – great concept, not so great execution. That was not the case here at all.
In order for a story that is primarily about a character stuck in an isolated area – whether it be an island, a cave, space, etc. – you have to have a character with a really strong personality and Mark Watney is the epitome of that. Strong opinions, a fantastic sarcastic sense of humor, and arsenal of smart ass comments and skyrocketing intelligence, he’s the whole package. I was also slightly worried about the science-y factor, not to mention the math factor, after all I’m not a genius nor do I have a science background. However as technical as a lot of it could be, it was broken down quite a bit and while there is no way that I could ever “science the shit” out of a mission to mars, I was able to at least follow along and not feel lost. In fact, the science intrigued me (just as it does in Michael Crichton books).
Throughout the course of “The Martian” I felt all the emotions. I laughed like a hyena, my heart felt like it stopped during several of the more action-packed moments, I even felt some of the loneliness and despair that Mark would mention. And most of all, I was rooting for him the whole time. I never wanted to put down this book and quite literally fell in love with it. I highly recommend “The Martian” to anyone even remotely interested in space survival books. You will not be disappointed and I cannot wait for Andy Weir’s next book, whatever it may be....more
In the interest of being honest and up front, I was one of the 50 recipients who won a copy of the ARC of All The ROriginally posted at Always, Lissa
In the interest of being honest and up front, I was one of the 50 recipients who won a copy of the ARC of All The Rage from the giveaway that St. Martin’s Press held back in November of 2014. This in no way means that I will be biased in my review. Quite frankly, I don’t need to. Courtney Summers has written yet another book that I have fallen deeply in love with, even if the subject matter is hard to handle.
Earlier, I came across a “review” on goodreads that said “stop writing teen rape books.” The fact that you can even write a review on goodreads without even having read the book annoys the crap out of me, but that’s neither here nor there. This is EXACTLY why All The Rage is necessary. This is not just “another teen rape book.” This is a gritty, hard novel that gives an unflinchingly real look into the way that rape survivors are treated and abused after their already horrific assaults. Romy is the epitome of a victim. But this does not mean that she’s pathetic. Romy is quite the opposite. Can you even for one moment imagine losing everything – your sense of self, your sense of safety and self-respect – having it stolen from you and when you speak up, you are ostracized, treated as though it were your own fault? Anyone who can go through that and survive is certainly not to be pitied, but to be admired.
Courtney Summers is known for writing about the harsh realities of teenage girls and their “politics” and All The Rage continues in that tradition. Summers shows us the ugly side of people who cannot handle truths and instead prefer to live in their own blissful ignorance, no matter what the cost. Her characters, while fiction are painstakingly real. The pain and shame Romy and other past characters (Sloane from This is Not a Test, Regina from Some Girls Are) showcase is REAL. These are characters that girls and women who have been hurt and abused can actually relate to and THAT is important. In a time where victim-blaming/victim-shaming has become common practice? THAT is why these “teen rape books” are so important.
It’s no secret that I harbor a major girl-crush on Courtney Summers, but because of my own past, I was both afraid and eager to read All The Rage. It was rough but so worth it. Her writing is superb, flawless and this is certainly her greatest work yet. Every page is filled with emotion. Romy is a heartbreakingly fragile and yet still amazingly strong young woman who refuses to give up even though that is exactly what she wants to do and you will find yourself eagerly turning the pages to see what happens next. If that is not the mark of a great writer, I don’t know what is....more
I love this book. I mean LOVE. It’s been a truly long time since a book has made me feel so many different emotionsOriginally posted at Always, Lissa
I love this book. I mean LOVE. It’s been a truly long time since a book has made me feel so many different emotions all at the same time. And I have a confession to make. While I had heard of Eleanor & Park and had added it to my “to read” list awhile back, my interest was peaked when a Twitter friend tweeted about reading it. After that, I had to run to my local library and borrow it.
Eleanor & Park is set in 1986, which makes me ridiculously happy. As an 80′s baby (though I was only 6 in 1986), I was giddy from all the nostalgic references. Cassette tapes, walkmans, vintage punk bands, landline telephone calls, postcards … all of it makes me homesick for times passed long ago. Aside from the nostalgic mind trip, reading this brought up memories of falling in love for the first time. The familiar feeling of butterflies in the stomach when you see them in the halls, sharing private smiles, passing notes in class, holding their hand for the first time. Ahhh. There is nothing like holding someone’s hand for the first time, and Eleanor & Park isn’t shy with the hand-holding. Not even a little. It’s breath-taking and even a little intense. In fact, this simple act is described in the most beautiful way possible: “Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
Eleanor & Park isn’t just about a first love. It’s about being different, bullying and growing up in a difficult and, often times, painful, household. Eleanor isn’t your typical high school protagonist. She’s a misfit. Brand new to the school, a “big girl,” dresses in an unusual style and her mass of curly red hair all makes her stand out and causes her to be a major subject of ridicule. Park on the other hand, has a fairly normal home life and several friends but because of the fact that he is the only Asian kid at school, he often feels that he cannot connect with the other kids his age.
And then one day, Eleanor sits down next to Park on the bus ride to school. And their lives change. Not immediately. In fact, at first they never even talk. But eventually, Park introduces Eleanor to the wonderful world of 80′s music (such as The Smiths) and comic books and they begin to talk. And fall in love. And it gives Eleanor a chance to escape from her horrific step-father and less than happy home life.
Beautifully written and told in alternate voices from both Eleanor’s and Park’s point of views, Eleanor & Park isn’t just about finding love and discovering romance. But also about surviving the hardships that life can fling at you and pushing through all the crap just to see the good at the end of the day....more
This was not my first time reading Practical Magic. Or even my second. Or third. I’ve read Practical Magic so many times that I have had to purchase several copies through the years. The first time I read Practical Magic, I was 16 years old and listening to my then favorite cd, Under the Pink by Tori Amos. I distinctly recall the first day I cracked open the book. I’d never heard of Alice Hoffman before and the movie didn’t yet exist. But I had found this copy in a library sale for a measly 45 cents and decided that it sounded interesting. And it was a book that didn’t disappoint. Even now, 16 years later, I am still deeply in love with this book and I recommend it to everyone that I possibly can.
Though liberally sprinkled with magic throughout the entire story line, the main theme of the novel is actually love. Practical Magic focuses on the sometimes stupid and inane decisions that people make in the name of love. Gillian, the younger of the two Owen sisters, has no shortage of men falling all over themselves to be with her. And while she definitely could have her pick of all the men in her town, she instead constantly falls for the wrong ones. Gillian longs for a life free of their elder Aunts and far, far away from their New England home. Sally, the elder sister, longs for normalcy instead of love. She’d gladly give up everything just to have a life where people didn’t cross the street at the sight of her, due to their fear of the witchcraft that the Owens family is known for.
The novel also has a second major theme. Family. Practical Magic delves deep into the family ties of the Owens women. Whether it’s the elder aunts Frances and Jet or Sally and Gillian or with Sally’s daughters, Antonia and Kylie. It explores the dreams, fears, loves, losses, fights, make-ups and anger found deep within a family’s core.
But don’t get me wrong. This story about love and family is also rich with magical realism and supernatural elements brought about with the untimely death of Gillian’s dark and abusive lover, Jimmy Angelov. Hoffman’s writing is so powerful that you can actually feel Gillian’s fear when she realizes that Jimmy is haunting her and her family. Some of the creepiest scenes in the novel to me, are when Kylie tells us about seeing Jimmy’s ghost and the disturbing aura of the lavender. Read it at night and make sure you have a cuddly blanket to pull around you. I personally love the fact that the magic in the story isn’t about flashy curses and wands. It’s simple and steeped in nature, just like Paganism. It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity and Hoffman weaves it flawlessly.
Another element that I absolutely loved was how realistic both Gillian and Sally are. They are written as extremely flawed and human characters. I identified with both of them. All my life, I have been very much like Sally. I’m one of the oldest of my siblings, always been held responsible for things long before I should have and wished I could have been more like my “normal” peers. But like Gillian, I have always been stupidly boy-crazy and have always fallen for the wrong men. All I can hope for is that my life gets a happy ending similar to the Owens women ;)
In the end, if you are expecting Practical Magic to be just like the movie, you may be in for a let down. There are some pretty huge differences. But personally, I find the book much more enjoyable and I actually happened to like the movie. The only thing I would have liked to have seen more of, are more scenes with Gary and Sally. We definitely didn’t get enough of them. The pacing was terrific, the characters are all like-able (well, perhaps with the exception of Antonia for most of the book) and I love Hoffman’s style of writing. There are few authors who can manage to write so poetically without the words seeming clumsy and deliberate....more
Wow. I finished reading The Storyteller two days ago and I am STILL just so amazed at the latest novel by Jodi Picoult. If anyone who stumbles upon this review and reads the summary and thinks A) Oh another Holocaust story or B) Another courtroom drama from Jodi Picoult, then you, my friend, are in for a big surprise. There is no courtroom drama. In fact, none of the characters even step foot inside a courtroom in this latest novel. As for being a Holocaust story … it is so much more than that.
I will admit that my review could be seen as biased for two reasons. 1) I absolutely freaking adore Jodi Picoult and am in love with almost every book she’s ever written and 2) My family is Jewish. My grandfather and great-grandfather, both fought in WWII. In fact, my great-grandfather received a purple heart for being gassed during an attack (he was an ambulance driver). I also had a great step-aunt who was actually in a concentration camp. My mother came across her journals once. The little bit she told me was horrifying and amazing all at the same time. But that’s another story. But yes. I would understand why I would be considered biased. But I don’t think that anyone who reads The Storyteller would be able to remain apathetic.
Put yourself in Sage’s shoes. You are a loner in your hometown. An orphan, a baker who works late at night and sleeps through the day. You have terrible scars that cross your face sustained in an accident that you still have not come to terms with emotionally, psychologically or physically, your boyfriend is a married (with children) mortician and your closest friend (who owns the bakery) is an ex-nun. It’s hard for you to open up to anybody. Until this lovely elderly man comes along and shows you such kindness. He ignores your scars and teaches you chess as well as what it means to truly have a friend. And then, he asks you to please help kill him. When you ask him why, you discover that this sweet man, this generous person who has been privy to some of your closest secrets, has been keeping the biggest one of all. He was an SS guard during the Holocaust. And not just any guard. He was a guard at one of the most infamous concentration camps in all of WWII. Auschwitz. As if that wasn’t already a horrifying ordeal, you suddenly remember that your beloved grandmother Minka (and the closest relative you have in your life) was a Holocaust survivor. How would feel? What thoughts would run through your head?
While reading The Storyteller, I ran the gamut of emotions. I felt utter amazement for Minka, distraught for the MILLIONS of lives lost during one of the darkest periods in our world’s history, betrayed by Josef, disgusted by the actions of not just the SS and Nazi’s but also for the people (and it wasn’t just Germans) who turned their heads and pretended not to see what was going on, completely sick to my stomach at the torture and humiliation and depravity that the survivors and victims had to endure. I cried along with Sage when Minka recounted her story and when I thought of what my relatives and all their friends (not to mention all the lost victims and strong survivors) experienced. It’s been a long time since a book has literally made me curl up into a ball and cry, and that’s exactly what The Storyteller did. It is a powerful retelling of our history, one that should never be either forgotten or shrugged off as if it never happened.
This is not an easy to read or light book. At times, it’s extremely hard to read and yet the pacing is incredible and Picoult will keep you wanting to know what happens next. As with all Picoult’s books, there is a “twist” at the end. I did in fact guess the twist about halfway through the story. But finding out that I was right didn’t quell the shock value of the end. This is one novel that continues to live on even after it’s done. As I said before, it’s been two days since I finished it. Not only have I kept thinking about the story but I’ve found myself thinking “what would I have done in those situations?” I’d like to think that I would have been as brave as Minka. But the fact is, I’m lucky. Luckier than I have ever realized. We’ve never had to face the horrors that so many faced during WWII. And for that, I’m even more thankful to Jodi Picoult than ever before. Not just for writing such a powerful and heartfelt novel, but for making me think and for reminding us all of just how much our world has gone through and how much we have survived....more
Wow. That was literally the first things I said, after closing my copy of Gone Girl. Just. Wow. It’s not often thatOriginally posted at Always, Lissa
Wow. That was literally the first things I said, after closing my copy of Gone Girl. Just. Wow. It’s not often that a book surprises me, and it’s certainly not often that a book completely floors me. But this one sure did.
Told in alternating voices, we get an inside look into the less than idyllic marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne. I personally love a novel with dueling voices. When done badly, it can be a huge failure. But Ms. Flynn executed it perfectly. Each voice has their own (if quite ugly) personality which enhances the storyline, tenfold. One thing you have to remember? This story is completely manipulative. You think you’ve read stories with unreliable narrators before? Well, Flynn is a master of the unreliable narrator.
I won’t lie, when I first started the novel, I was feeling a bit let down. It’s a slow start. I already disliked Nick, not because of the growing marital problems that Amy’s private journal described, but because he comes across as a narcissistic and selfish coward who completely ignores his doting wife. But as the pages kept turning, I began to change my opinions and started hoping for a twist to this crazy story. A twist I wasn’t expecting at all but thought would be utterly delicious. And wouldn’t you know, as I reached Part Two of the story, I got my wish. And it was glorious.
What started out fairly slow, gained crazy fast momentum. I couldn’t put the book down and actually found myself losing sleep for work because I was so glued to the dark and intense storyline that Part Two provided. My opinions on the both Nick and Amy completely changed as well. I still found Nick to be narcissistic and cowardly. But I started to feel pretty damn sorry for him as well. Truth be told, many reviewers intensely disliked the characters. They simply are not easily likeable characters. But they are fascinating. And I have to admit, I may have a tiny girl crush on Amy. Which I don’t even want to speculate as to what that says about me! I apologize for being so vague, but unless I’m about to give spoilers (NEVER) I have to remain somewhat vague.
There is a reason that Gone Girl has remained on the bestseller’s list for two years. It’s worth the read. It’s a manipulative, gritty, deliciously dark psychological thriller and that twist … holy hell....more
first book I read by Courtney Summers was ‘Some Girls Are’ and I immediately loved both, her style of writing as well as the characters that she created. I devoured the book and read it in under a day. It was the same with the rest of her books. So when I first heard about ‘This Is Not A Test’ I was extremely excited to get my hands on it, but when I found out that the plot had to do with zombies… I was sold and it immediately went on my “MUST HAVE IMMEDIATELY” list.
However, it must be said that ‘This Is Not A Test’ is not your typical zombie story. There is very little blood, gore or brain matter as is usually found in a zombie novel. Instead of placing her survivors directly in harms way by making them fight for their lives in open spaces, Summers took a non-traditional approach and sent them into hiding in their old high school. Safer, perhaps. But certainly not safe, especially with tempers on the rise, several teenagers playing the blame game and an unsecure entrance in their fortress.
If you’ve never read a Courtney Summers book, then let me explain something. Her protagonists have all been fairly damaged, almost broken heroines. But they are heroines. Do not mistake damaged for weak. Each of the girls have been strong in their own ways. And Sloane is no exception. She’s spent most of her life talking her father’s abuse and now she’s been abandoned by the one person who understood exactly what she was going through, her older sister, Lily. Sloane wants nothing more than to stop living. And the day she chooses to attempt to do so, happens to be the same day that the world falls victim to a Zombiepocalypse.
Sloane’s pain is real. Each page of this novel drips with her pain. Her emotions are confused, and she is completely on edge. But even though the entire world has gone insane with an infection that creates these zombies and even though she’s angry at the sister who swore she’d always protect her, you can tell that Sloane, while not happy by a long short, finally feels as though she can breathe while the survivors are barricaded in that school. For once, she’s not worried that something she says, might end up with a black eye. Or broken ribs.
One of the things I loved about this novel is that it feels real. Real emotions from characters that come across as real. If you think about, you know someone just like each of them. Another thing I loved about this novel was watching Sloane get stronger with each chapter. My only complaint (and it’s really not even a complaint) is that I guessed the ending early on and that it was rather anti-climatic. I highly recommend this novel. I couldn’t put it down and anyone who says it’s just another zombie book, was definitely not reading the same book I was....more
There has to be a moment at the beginning when you wonder whether you’re in love with the person or in love with the feeling of love itself.
If the moment doesn’t pass, that’s it—you’re done. And if the moment does pass, it never goes that far. It stands in the distance, ready for whenever you want it back. Sometimes it’s even there when you thought you were searching for something else, like an escape route, or your lover’s face.
I have to start this review by saying that I picked up this book only three days after my boyfriend and I agreed that we needed to have a long talk about our relationship. (We did in fact break up soon after.) I’m not a huge fan of romantic novels, though I do consider myself to be a romantic. To me, most romantic novels contain too much fluff and not enough actual emotion. So I actually didn’t have extremely high hopes for this novel. I will also admit that the only experience I had had at that point with David Levithan’s writing was “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” which he co-wrote with one of my favorite authors, John Green. I had loved his writing style in the “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” and I had read several glowing reviews of this book, so I picked it up and walked around Barnes & Noble, thumbing through it while looking at other books.
I have to say that the concept behind the novel is what originally drew me to this book. A love story told through dictionary entries? It was certainly a unique idea. I read the first three pages while idly wandering around the store and decided to go ahead and buy it. And I am so glad that I did. I finished the book in less than two day. Had I not had to go to bed early and work an 8 hour shift the next day, I would have finished it that night.
David Levithan has managed to paint a realistic portrayal of the tribulations as well as the happiness that a couple can face throughout the course of their relationship. Unlike many romantic novels, The Lover’s Dictionary isn’t all candy and flowers. It delves deep into the raw emotions of anger, betrayal and even cruelty that we can sometimes throw at the ones we love the most. Perhaps it is because of what was going on in my own life at the time I read it, but I felt like Levithan had actually been reading my journals when I read this novel. There were many moments that made me sit up and say “YES! That’s exactly what it’s like!” or “Oh. Now I understand how it must have felt to him.” There were many moments that made me actually want to cry and many that made me smile.
I completely identified with the narrator. He was in a position where the person he loved with all his heart and hurt him deeply as well as broken his trust and cut him down. He was torn. Desperately in love with his significant other, yet also knowing that the relationship was changed for the worse. Yet he also knew he wasn’t innocent. Guilty of his own moments of anger filled cruelty, he had lashed out and said things he didn’t necessarily mean. Yes. This novel struck a nerve in me, yes. But I hadn’t realized just how much “The Lover’s Dictionary” had gotten under my skin until I read this:
“misgivings, n. Last night, I got up the courage to ask you if you regretted us. “There are things I miss,” you said. “But if I didn’t have you, I’d miss more.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve come across an author that could conjure up so many emotions just from one book. At just over 200 pages, this is a short read, but I urge you to run out and find a copy of this book. Curl up with your favorite drink and indulge in sugary goodness while immersing yourself in this book. Take your time and savor this novel. You will not be disappointed. This is a book I will be keeping close by – not just because I loved it so much, but because of all the quotable moments found throughout. David Levithan, I hereby declare you the master of emotional prose....more
I cannot tell a lie. The cover is what drew me in first. It’s not the most colorful cover. Or even the most beautiful, but it certainly stands out and it caught my eye immediately. I hungrily read the synopsis and as soon as I did, I was so intrigued that I knew I had to buy it as soon as it released. I mean, zombies? A post-apocalyptic world? A romance of unusual proportions? And zombies?! Wait, did I already say? Oops. Yes, I was all over this book. With all the books that I read last year, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion was my absolute favorite read of 2011.
Warm Bodies is definitely a unique creation. While romance stories are a dime a dozen, how many of them feature a somewhat freshly turned zombie as their romantic lead? Not many, that’s for sure. Post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels are hugely popular and zombies seem to be in rather large demand nowadays. But a Twilight-esque novel featuring zombies, this is not. Marion’s debut work is thought-provoking, filled with striking and memorable quotes as well as several very humorous moments, and features one of the most unique, and surprising, romantic leads that I’ve ever read about.
R was a refreshing change from your typical, plasticine, Harlequin-esque Lotharios. And not just because he’s a brain-munching zombie. While outwardly he may be monosyllabic, his mind is filled with witty ruminations, lyrical descriptions and flowing verse. He dislikes his need for human brains, his want to kill, but accepts it as his nature. R is so genuine and likeable that it is hard to fault him for his killings when it’s what must be done for survival. R knows that he is different from his zombie brethren. While the rest of the zombie clan is content to wander aimlessly for hours, grunting and drooling, R listens to records, saves relics from his human life and sits in cars trying to remember how to drive.
It is when R kills, and eats the brains of, a human named Perry that he starts to actually relive parts of Perry’s life in his own mind and first sees a glimpse of Julie, the dead boy’s girlfriend. When R actually meets her in person, she is about to be killed and eaten by his fellow zombies, and for reasons that R does not understand, he saves Julie’s life and hides her in the airport that he calls home.
The relationship between R and Julie isn’t the steamy, torrid affair that most romances are made out to be. Julie is at first appalled by what R is and R is mostly intrigued by this girl that represents the life he once knew. The two form a timid friendship that slowly blossoms into a deep and heartfelt connection as they fight against both, a terrifying, rotting army of cruel skeletons and what is left of the military hellbent on destroying all zombies.
Warm Bodies is not simply a story of the bleak future of the world to come. It’s a story of tentative love and of having hope during a time when it seems like there is none to be had. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It’s a quick read and one that will stay with you for quite some time afterwards. Warm Bodies will make you appreciate what you have in the world and will make you think and even laugh. Yes, there are descriptions of blood, gore and brain-eating but quite honestly, if you have watched a bloody horror film, you’ll be able to handle the “gore” in this book....more
It’s no secret that Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors, and while I love her books, there have been some misses. However, Sing You Home is a hit, plain and simple. Picoult is known for tackling controversial issues in each of her books and this is no different. This particular novel encompasses such varied matters as: in-vitro fertilization, gay rights, discrimination, evangelical Christian beliefs, divorce, suicide and even unconvential therapy – in this case, music therapy. And in true Picoult fashion, Sing You Home is told from the perspective of three very different characters – Zoe, Vanessa and Max.
The one huge difference between Sing You Home and Picoult’s other books, is that Picoult teamed up with her friend Ellen Wilber to produce a soundtrack to this book. The CD is made up of 10 songs and is supposed to help give Zoe a voice. The intent is that you play the songs during the indicated moments of the book. However, I found that to be a small distraction, mainly because I was too impatient to do so. I just wanted to read! But I listened to the cd afterwards and it’s a beautiful cd. The music and lyrics give Sing You Home a truly haunting quality and truly brings Zoe to life. I highly recommend listening to the cd, whether it’s before, after or during the course of the book.
Once I actually sat down and read the book, I finished Sing You Home in about 24 hours. Each time I had to put it down I would have to make a deal with myself. “I’ll just read 2 more pages and then go make dinner.” Or even “Just one more chapter before bed.” Picoult’s writing is sublime. She doesn’t try to show off by throwing around huge vocabulary words or ridiculously long sentences. It’s simply fluid and poetic. Each character’s voice was well-defined and you were able to really see the story through each of their eyes, whether you liked that particular character or not.
The relationship between Zoe and Vanessa is beautiful and their struggle to gain the rights to the fertilized embryos is heartbreaking. Even with Max, as weak as he was, his struggles with his drinking and trying to come to terms with his ex-wife’s new identity was believable and very real. The court battle that ensues throughout the story is emotional. It actually brought me to tears a couple of times and several times I was cheering on Zoe’s lawyer Angela on as she went head to head with the loathsome Wade Preston and Ben Benjamin, Max’s lawyers.
But what I loved most of all about Picoult’s 18th novel, is the message. That it is not necessarily true that one mother + one father + children = family. But that family is simply made up of the people that love you and have your back. Whether they be blood related or chosen by their actions....more