Stuck in the Middle Feelings: The Rosie Project and Night Film

The Rosie Project coverThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Goodreads | Twitter | Website
Release Date: October 1st 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Series: Don Tillman #1

Goodreads description: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

I’ve seen a lot of positive responses to The Rosie Project, but I think that maybe this just wasn’t a “me” book. I’m not sure if it was my mood or the writing, but I didn’t really connect with Don. I didn’t dislike it, but there were a few times I felt a little frustrated. Overall, it was sweet, if a little predictable. I actually really liked Rosie. I liked that Don learned about himself and learned that his strict way of doing things wasn’t always the best way. I like that he learned to relax and have some fun.

If you’re interested in this one, I would recommend reading it. If you need more encouragement, I would definitely read Jen or Christina’s review.  I think it’s a good book, it just didn’t click for me.

 

Night Film coverNight Film by Marisha Pessl
Goodreads | Twitter | Website
Release Date: July 1st 2014
Publisher: Random House
Series: none

Goodreads description: 
Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an engima. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.

On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.
For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.
The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lost his grip on reality.

ONCE WE FACE OUR DEEPEST FEARS, WHAT LIES ON THE OTHER SIDE?

I learned about Night Film from a blogger who closed her blog since she posted about it, and then I saw a lot of buzz in general and my friend said it was a total mindfuck.

Ehhhhhhhhh. This one is more difficult, and while I didn’t hate it, it’s weighs slightly more on the negative side of the scale than neutral. It felt a bit slow to get into for me. The mystery was intriguing and drawing, but it wasn’t exactly thrilling for me. There were specific parts of the story that were thrilling and some that definitely got my heart racing, but as a whole, it was kind of tiring.

It’s been a while (a month, I think) since I read this one, so I can’t remember the side character’s names, but they were my favorite part of the story. They were more earnest and real. McGrath seems to think he knows everything, that he can expose the truth because the truth is in this small range of possibility. He isn’t open minded, which clouds his judgment. There was one part, regarding his daughter, that really enraged me and made me want to punch him. He doesn’t do anything bad, he’s just thoughtless and stupid.

I don’t want to say too much about the ending because I don’t want to ruin, but even though it was the only way it really could have ended, it was kind of disappointing for me. This book wasn’t a waste of my time, but it was a really big book and an investment, and enjoying it more would have been nice.

Should you check this one out? I would check out reviews on GR, and if you like twisted thrillers, probably. I do think I tend to be overly picky and impatient, and once I got annoyed with McGrath about his daughter my patience was very thin.

The Passage [thoughts]

The Passage coverThe Passage by Justin Cronin
Goodreads
Release Date: June 8th 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Book
Series: The Passage #1

Goodreads description: An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

Why I read this: I chose The Passage at complete random. I had been reading a lot of YA and I was just in a place where I needed something different. I’ve heard random good things about The Passage in the past and knew it was popular, saw it on Overdrive and took the plunge. It is a long book and a challenging journey, but one I’m glad I took. And shoutout again to Andi from Estella’s Revenge for encouraging me on the journey!

The Passage is sort of about vampires. It revolves around vampires and an apocalyptic end to society. But it’s about a lot more than that, too.  It’s about humanity, love, loyalty, loss, survival, etc etc. It’s a human story, at heart. I don’t think people that are off vampires or usually against them would have many issues with this book, because the vampire aspect is handled a bit differently. They aren’t your typical vampires and it’s very psychological and mental, it makes you think. The way the book is written put me in the mind of World War Z and the first Dark Tower book, The Gunslinger, and made me want to jump into the rest of the series (at the time of writing this, I still haven’t. Oops. Soon though. Soon.)

How I feel about it:

I have all the feelings for The Passage. I don’t even know how to convey them, so this might get a little bit messy. There was so much setup to this world that I was a little bit frustrated by all the details and all the things going on. And some of it felt fragmented to me, but now that I’ve read the whole thing, it makes more sense why certain aspects needed to be that way. I loved the feel of the story from the beginning, but my love of the atmosphere and feel grew as the story progressed. The book begins in modern times and goes through the vampire event, then you read about the time after, where there are survivors and vampires. You don’t get all the details, of why or how, but I suspect more will come in the second book.

This book made me surprisingly emotional and I cried several times for different reasons. Loss, separation, happiness. I was surprised by how much I grew to love the characters and how important they became to me. I was attached. I loved reading about how the problem got started and how humans reacted, but the after and survival aspects were so compelling. It’s interesting reading/watching different types of after-disaster scenarios and seeing how people think the world might react. It looks at human nature and the will to survive. It shows that even in the worst of situations, humans still want to live and love and make things better.

I feel like I could read The Passage again at some point, and it would be really enjoyable on the second/more read. It seems like a book that might be even better when you know what’s going on and can just watch it unfold, knowing which details are important. It’s not one I’m aching to buy, but I hope to pick it up at some point. I want to read The Twelve, I had downloaded it on Overdrive and read a few chapters but I think I might wait a while longer, but I definitely want to see more of these characters and learn more about the world. I recommend it to anyone who likes eerie/gritty, end of society/survival stories with realistic relationships and human experiences but some unrealistic and sort of weird stuff going on too, ha =) 

 

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier [thoughts]

Goodreadsfirst published 1951 

Goodreads descriptionOrphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. Jealous of his marriage, racked by suspicion at the hints in Ambrose’s letters, and grief-stricken by his death, Philip prepares to meet his cousin’s widow with hatred in his heart. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious Rachel like a moth to the flame. And yet . . . might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death?

I wanted to read My Cousin Rachel because I really enjoyed Rebecca. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about My Cousin Rachel. Somehow I managed to confuse what the book was about, so it was completely different than I expected. But I liked it!

My Cousin Rachel is a story told by Philip, who is in his 20’s. He is an orphan and he grew up with his Uncle Ambrose. He’s also Ambrose’s heir. He loves his uncle dearly. Ambrose is getting up there in years and goes away from rainy England to sunny Italy and meets Cousin Rachel. Marriage happens and Philip isn’t happy. Then Uncle A dies and. . .what next? Well Philip received letters from Uncle A that made him suspicious. Then Rachel comes to England and Philip is intrigued and drawn to her, but still kind of suspicious, but still drawn to her.

Throughout the whole story, I had an idea of what was going to happen. I was so sure. But du Maurier is tricky and definitely proved me wrong. The ending was a shock.. And it’s frustrating but it’s also really awesome. I’m left wondering and itching to know what happens after the reeling.

Even though sometimes I was screaming at Philip to not be such an idiot, I still felt sympathetic for him. I think Louise is probably my favorite character and she has a relatively small part. I have no clue how to feel about Rachel. I don’t think I liked her, but I can’t bring myself to hate her. I was completely fascinated by her.

And du Maurier’s writing is so lovely. Here are some highlights:

How soft and gentle her name sounds when I whisper it. It lingers on the tongue, insidious and slow, almost like poison, which is apt indeed. It passes from the tongue to the parched lips, and from the lips back tot he heart. And the heart controls the body, and the mind also. Shall I be free of it one day? In forty, in fifty years? Or will some lingering trace of matter in the brain stay pallid and diseased? Some minuscule cell in the blood stream fail to race with its fellows to the fountain heart? Perhaps, when all is said and done, I shall have no wish to be free. As yet, I cannot tell.

 –

 Her hands were clasped on her lap in front of her. I had never seen hands so small before on an adult person. They were very slender, very narrow, like the hands of someone in a portrait painted by an old master and left unfinished.

 –

“No,” she said, “I would have welcomed a pedestal, after my rough life. A halo can be a lovely thing, providing you can take it off, now and again, and become human.”

 

So, I really liked My Cousin Rachel. It wasn’t a favorite, but it was really enjoyable and messed with my mind. Daphne du Maurier is amazing and I want to read more of her work. If you’re interested in Gothic tales of mystery with pretty words, I think you’d like this one!

4 star rating

 

Have you read My Cousin Rachel? Did you like it or no? Have you read Rebecca? What were your thoughts on that? Have you read anything else by du Maurier, have any recs for similar stories?

Let me know! 

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis [thoughts on time traveling historians]

 

Blackout and All Clear cover

Blackout  and All Clear 
 by Connie Willis
February 2010 and  October  2010
Publisher: Spectra

Blackout’s Goodreads description: In her first novel since 2002, Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Connie Willis returns with a stunning, enormously entertaining novel of time travel, war, and the deeds—great and small—of ordinary people who shape history. In the hands of this acclaimed storyteller, the past and future collide—and the result is at once intriguing, elusive, and frightening.

Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place. Scores of time-traveling historians are being sent into the past, to destinations including the American Civil War and the attack on the World Trade Center. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser, Mr. Dunworthy, into letting her go to VE Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. And seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who has a major crush on Polly, is determined to go to the Crusades so that he can “catch up” to her in age.

But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments for no apparent reason and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, unexploded bombs, dive-bombing Stukas, rationing, shrapnel, V-1s, and two of the most incorrigible children in all of history—to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past.

From the people sheltering in the tube stations of London to the retired sailors who set off across the Channel to rescue the stranded British Army from Dunkirk, from shopgirls to ambulance drivers, from spies to hospital nurses to Shakespearean actors, Blackout reveals a side of World War II seldom seen before: a dangerous, desperate world in which there are no civilians and in which everybody—from the Queen down to the lowliest barmaid—is determined to do their bit to help a beleaguered nation survive.

I found Blackout randomly on Overdrive. I think the cover and title just seemed interesting. When I read what it was about, it definitely seemed like a me type of read. History, WWII, and time travel are things I really enjoy reading about!

About the story: In 2060, Historians go back in time to observe history. This series focuses on three and they each go back to Great Britain during World War Two. There are a lot of complications with the process and they have to figure things out.

Feelings: I really like these books as a whole. The first book ends in a completely ridiculous spot, and it almost doesn’t feel like a complete book at all. However, I enjoyed the whole story. Luckily the second book was available when I finished the first one! In the first book, you get to know the main characters and get familiar with the setting and what is happening. They are time traveling historians. TIME TRAVELING HISTORIANS. I love time travel stories and I love history. This story happens during the Blackout in London during World War II. I also love learning about World War II, because even though horrible things happened, people did try to work together and make it better, and I think this book does a good job of showing that.

The three main characters of the books are all student historians. There’s Polly, who is studying how Londoners kept heart during the Blitz, Merope/Eileen (mostly known as Eileen in the story because it was a common name in WWII, especially since she was “playing” an Irish maid) who is observing the evacuations of children to country manors and Michael/Mike who is supposed to be at a battle at Dover, researching heroes that came on their own accord to save downed sailors. The story starts out in Oxford 2060, with all three of them talking and learning that the lab that’s in charge of sending them on assignments has been in an upheaval and switching orders of assignments, including Mike’s. They’re all sent to separate locations and months in 1940, but they each begin to face unexpected problems with their assignments.

Time travel stories almost always have some issues and this story is no exception:

  • I don’t understand how the future has time traveling technology but they’re letting history students use it? That is like the most ridiculous idea ever. There’s no way governments would just be like “Oh, time traveling technology? Let’s let young people gallivant around through important historical events, no big deal.” Unless the future just has a drastically different government, which is very possible. Maybe they think it’s fine. But even with “slippage,” it still seems crazy to me.
    • There is supposed to be a paradox-safe sort of padding called “slippage”  and the instructors and scientists in charge of the technology and students mostly (there are some that disagree) believe it’s impossible for them to affect history at all.

 

Slippage is basically the cause of a lot of the problems, it’s normal and it causes travelers to get there a few hours after they’re supposed to or maybe in a different place. The team at the lab is supposed to research drop sites so nobody will see anything suspicious. In the prep stage for the main characters, something is obviously starting to go down with slippage, but they don’t know much about it. They only know some things have changed. When they don’t really know what is going on, they begin to wonder if they can really affect history or not. They have implants of some important details, such as certain places hit in the blitz, but they don’t know every single detail. When they take actions and see results, they start to wonder if they might have changed the complete course of the war.

Overall, the book really focuses on small interactions and how little things might have unexpected results. I loved seeing the characters puzzle it out and worry about what was happening.

I loved that the three main characters were dealing with WWII situations with all the knowledge of the future, because it added to the reading experience. Two of many:

  • Londoners had a superstition about the ravens of the Tower of London and when some died during the war, they brought in more so people wouldn’t be alarmed. I had no idea about that before I read this book.
  • Virginia Woolf and T.S. Eliot and others were on Hitler’s lists and he planned to put them in camps. I am pretty sure I knew this at some point and had not thought about it in a while.

There were a few other issues with the actual story and not just time travel stuff. The main one has to do with Eileen and how I didn’t really like the transition of her character from book one to two. I think the ending makes up for a little bit of it, but not all of it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but she kind of gets pushed to the side a bit and I didn’t think it was fair. There were some time related tiffs I had that weren’t actually about the time travel: some chapters were in the past during the blitz, some were in 2060, some were in other times. It could have actually been my fault because I wasn’t paying attention, but some of the other time chapters really confused me because they either didn’t tie the characters together or I missed the names completely. It took me a few of these chapters to figure out what was going on and once I did I was fine.

I kind of surprisingly fell in love with these books and characters, and became overwhelmingly  invested in their story. It made me cry (not just sad crying), and the kind of crying that I was sort of like “Oh, I love this” because I didn’t expect to like it so much. Also, I love that romance wasn’t driving the story but it was there in different parts of the story and it was heartfelt and lovely. Plus, there was so much other love and just community that it was just great. I think maybe I don’t even love the ending, or “answer” I guess, but I love the story overall and I wanted to know more about the characters, I didn’t feel ready to leave them. I knew Willis had written several other books, but I just now, while writing this review, realized there are other books with historians traveling in time set before these, and I am going to be reading them at some point!  I definitely plan on looking into the rest of her work, also!

Basically: If you’re willing to get through a bit of slowness and you love reading about survivors in World War II and Time Travel, I think these books are worth your time.

If you have happened to have read them, tell me your thoughts! Or, have you read anything else by Willis? Anything similar or comparable? Let me know!

Connie Willis’s website

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell [art of wussing and thoughts]

The Sparrow cover

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

goodreads | amazon | book depository

author: website | twitter

Goodreads description: In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being “human.” Words like “provocative” and “compelling” will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer

Why I picked this book up: Andi from Estella’s Revenge loved it. Her review and video about the book are much better than anything I’ll say here, so you should check them out. I picked it up in October I think, and finished it right around New Years.

Why I wussed: Since the book is separated into different times, you know the outcome of the mission pretty early in the book. Part of the story is getting to know the characters and before the mission, parts are during the mission, and parts are after the return. You find out who survives and who doesn’t early on. (This is a trend with my wussing! With The Book Thief, I knew what would happen to Rudy. I can’t know what will happen or I will pause out!) There was also a very specific part of the story that dealing with hands that had a large part in my pausing.

Why I was determined to finish: I was curious, the writing was lovely and I was attached to all of the characters. I thought about it so much during my time away from it.

Was the wussing justified: Not completely. Everything happens and is what it is, but the book didn’t dwell on certain occasions like I expected it to. What I was really worried about didn’t have as huge of an impact as I expected. I wish I had just read it all the way through and not lost any momentum!

Book thoughts: This book is so lovely and heartbreaking in a “will make you think and think again” way. The characters feel real. The group that goes on the mission are so lovely and have to do something incredibly challenging. The new planet is strange with strange beings and customs. Christian explorers that set out to see more of God’s creation and to learn about them and share knowledge with them. They struggle with so many different things with the inhabitants, and things do not always meet their expectations. Not every member of the team was a believer, there were atheists and agnostics. Every believer on the team had their struggles with faith, including and maybe especially Emilio the Jesuit linguist and center of the story. His faith is challenged exponentially when he is exquisitely happy.

So much of this book made me wonder and examine myself. It’s heartbreaking but so lovely. I think this is definitely a book I want to reread at some point. I’m curious about the sequel Children of God and might check it out at some point.

Again, you should check out what Andi has to say about this book!

Have you read The Sparrow? Does it sound like something you might enjoy?

Nowhere But Home and Ten Tiny Breaths [thoughts: mini editions]

Nowhere But HomeNowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
Goodreads | Book Depository
Release Date: April 2nd 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Series: nope

Why I read this: This book was getting a lot of positive reviews and it sounded fun.

What it’s about: A woman who had a hard time growing up goes back home to Smalltown, Texas and tries to find herself, more or less.

How I feel about it: It was okay. I thought parts of it were incredibly dramatic and unrealistic. There was one major scene and I think a few others (it’s been a while since I read it) where private things happened in a largely public setting. Stuff like that makes me cringe. I mean, maybe it could happen and I’m sure even the drama can be bigger in Texas, but if stuff like that does happen in real life, I never want to find out. There was also some stuff with the Queenie’s job that was kind of sketchy, I am not sure on the rules of it at all but it seemed unrealistic. Plus, her reactions to some of the events that took place were too easy. The whole book felt too easy for me. The romance was predictable. HOWEVER: Overall it was light and enjoyable. Not a bad read, just not something I loved. It had some heartfelt, warm moments involving family and moving on from the past. I liked Queenie and her family, too.

Would I read it again? No, I don’t see myself wanting to revisit this story.

Would I recommend it? If you’re looking for something that might be kind of silly but with a lot of heart!

Do I plan on reading more by the author? I would read more of her work.

 Liza Palmer‘s website and twitter

Ten Tiny BreathsTen Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker
Goodreads | Book Depository
Release Date: December 11th 2012
Publisher: Papoti Books
Series: Ten Tiny Breaths #1

Why I read this: I saw this book mentioned a lot. It seemed like an emotional New Adult book.

What it’s about: A woman and her young sister move to find a new life years after tragedy, I’m not sure how to explain this one well.

How I feel about it: I did not like this book. I didn’t even read all of it, I skimmed the end because I was curious. I feel like Kacey was written to seem so tough that she just lost her reality. She just came off as a caricature of the angry/hurt girl. I didn’t feel anything genuine from her character. The whole story also felt extremely dramatic, it felt like a fanfic. When the “twist” happened, I was just…completely turned off. I skimmed everything after that. Also, taking ten tiny breaths doesn’t seem like it would be very helpful. I don’t get it.

Would I read it again? No.

Would I recommend it? No, but if it sounds like a story you might like, go for it!

Do I plan on reading more by the author? I don’t think so, it’s not my type of writing.

K.A. Tucker‘s website and twitter

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty [thoughts]

What Alice Forgot coverWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Goodreads Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: May 2010
Publisher: PanMacmillan Australia
Series: none

Goodreads description: Remember the woman you used to be …

Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What’s more, she’s looking forward to the birth of the ‘Sultana’ – her first baby.

But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone’s telling her she’s misplaced the last ten years of her life.

In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she’s his worst enemy. What’s more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn’t speaking to her either. And who is this ‘Gina’ everyone is so carefully trying not to mention?

Alice isn’t sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn’t have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband forever?

I had tried to read What Alice Forgot a few years ago and I think I was in a very “no baby, no pregnancy” mode, so I just stopped when that came up. I’ve seen The Husband’s Secret on lists and I’ve wanted to read it, and Danielle at The Book Barn mentioned What Alice Forgot on a Top Ten Tuesday a while ago, so I decided to try it again! I’m really glad that I did!

Alice hits her head and loses her memory. She thinks she’s 29, pregnant and madly in love with her husband. She wakes up in a gym to find that she is ten years older and everything has changed, especially how she operates.

I’m kind of a fan of memory loss books/situations in general. I didn’t exactly know what to expect from this one, but it wasn’t what I got. The story starts out with Young Alice, and the impression that something is wrong. But you get to know her, and I liked her a lot. She was fun and a bit silly, but she didn’t seem vapid or annoying. When she wakes up at the gym, ten years older and without a clue, she has to figure out the changes she’s made as a person. She is continually confused by her current life. She has to start at the end and work her way backwards, picking up clues and memories along the way.

I liked how Young Alice wasn’t happy with everything in her “new” life. There were changes that just weren’t okay with her and she was intense at finding where connections went wrong and actually trying to do something about them. It felt very much like a book about connections and saying the things you need to say and making changes when they’re needed. Young Alice didn’t know the whole story, but she definitely felt things were wrong and wanted to make them better. She wasn’t content, especially with misunderstandings in the future, she was active.  The reconciliation of Present Alice and Young Alice was interesting, and actually seeing the change first hand instead of reading what other people told Alice when she was without her memory. Alice was able to learn a lot about herself , which always leads to personal growth.

There were some things I didn’t love about the book, one weird past friendship and some other things that were odd, but nothing huge. Some things might have been a little easy considering everything going on, but I was willing to let it slide.

4 star rating

What Alice Forgot was fun, sad, and heartwarming. I was eager to see how it would end, and what Alice would remember. I loved the connections in the book, and the family aspects. I loved how active Alice was in making changes. I think this is a book I might want to reread at some point, and I’m more interested in Moriarty’s other work, especially the incredibly long waitlisted The Husband’s Secret! I recommend What Alice Forgot if you like books about memory loss, strong connections, mishaps, and development. 

Liane Moriarty‘s website 

The Goldfinch and The Ocean at the End of the Lane [mini reviews]

The Goldfinch coverThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: October 22nd 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Series: none

Goodreads description: A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother, a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld

I’ve seen The Goldfinch on some best of the year lists and prominently displayed at bookstores. I wasn’t even sure what this book was about, but I decided to give it a go! As the description states, Theo survives a traumatic experience but loses his mom. Afterwards, he has to find a place to live, people to connect with, and a way to move on.

I found it easy to empathize with Theo most of the time, but sometimes I just did not understand his choices. He made mistakes, which is normal. He was going through a lot and mainly on his own. However, I could never really follow how he made some decisions, and the more he did, the less I cared. I was really close to not finishing this book, but the underlying mystery of the painting kept me going.  I know there was a message intended to go with the story, but only because it’s clearly stated in the last few pages. I can kind of see what the gist of it was, with choices and mistakes and connections, but I also feel like I did not get anything from this book on a personal level. I understand what it was trying to do, but I didn’t feel much about it.

Annoyances: Two different times (maybe more) the narrator just tells you something will happen or you’ll see a character again. The summary at the end of the book was very “here’s what this was.”

The Goldfinch didn’t really work for me, but it could very well just be me. The Goodreads average is 4.18! Have you read it? Do you plan to read it? 

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane coverThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: June 18th 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Series: none

Goodreads description: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

I have such mixed results with Gaiman’s work. I really loved Good Omens, thought Stardust was okay, can’t get through American Gods (though I like the idea of what’s going on), and I didn’t really like The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Honestly, I found Ocean Lane boring. The concept of the other world/old world and the ocean itself were intriguing to me, but the actual story felt tired. For a fantasy, nothing really excited me or sparked my interest. I didn’t love the writing, either. It just felt like a variation of a lot of stories that have been told. The “bad guy” just felt like a caricature. I felt very detached from the whole story. I think there was a lot of deep and meaningful messages being hinted at because of the paragraph I left out of the GR description, but I couldn’t feel the message.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t find anything to hold onto from it.

Sadly, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was also not for me. It also seems widely loved and the GR average is 4.05. Have you read this one? Do you plan to?

Vicious by V.E. Schwab [book review]

Vicious coverVicious by V.E. Schwab
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date:  September 24th 2013
Publisher: Tor
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world.

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

Villains! I had heard a few things about this book before it came out and was vaguely excited that someone was writing about the bad guys because bad guys are interesting! When it came out, I am pretty sure I only saw positive things about it. I know Eve at Paper Grey loved it, though I haven’t read her review (I can’t do that with highly anticipated books because I’m weird). All the glowing made me even more excited for it!

Victor has always been a bit of an outsider. When he meets Eli in college, he sees everything he wishes her could be. They become friends, but Victor is jealous. As Eli begins to research extra-ordinary abilities that appear in traumatized individuals, both friends get deeply invested, and things end badly. Ten years later, Victor has escaped from prison and is out for revenge.

Victor is such a compelling character. He’s got issues, but he knows he has issues. He isn’t worried about societal views of right and wrong, but he has his own code. He wasn’t exactly someone I sympathized with, but I understood his motivation. It was kind of a nice change as a reader not having to rundown if something is right or wrong, knowing that the character wasn’t aiming to be a good person anyway. His drive and the characterization of his malevolence is rather thrilling. Eli, his nemesis, is a contrast because he’s messed up and has his own issues, but he believes he is doing the right thing. Aren’t bad guys that believe wholeheartedly that they are doing the right thing extremely terrifying? Surprisingly, one of my favorite characters is 12-year-old Sydney, a girl Victor happens upon and recruits for his cause. She is dealing with her own demons while she joins two escaped prisoners. She’s smart and easy to sympathize with, and even though there were reasons to give her sympathy, she wasn’t a depressing character. She’s just awesome.

The story jumps in time, but I never felt lost or confused. The labeling helped with that, but I think the narration did, too. Everything felt like it was in place and timed just right. There were also some characters that were a part of the story early on, but didn’t actually get a point of view until later in the book, and usually I am kind of annoyed by that tactic because it tends to feel sloppy, but it felt so natural and right for the this story. The story is also centered around things that require suspension of belief, but unlike some books, it isn’t exhausting because the characters are realistic. Their actions and reactions feel like things that could actually happen when faced with abnormal situations, which really makes all the difference in stories with any sort of paranormal aspect. Plus, there was at least one time when a character brought up something like “why not just do this?” and it was so clever and the answer supplied was clever and fitting. There was one thing that was king of easy to predict early on, but for the rest of the story I figuring everything out, which is important for me.

I wasn’t hooked from the very beginning. I was interested, but I wasn’t in love. It took me a bit longer than I expected to read it, which was probably more my fault than anything else. Once I got into it, I started liking it more and more. I was pretty sure it would be a solid 4 stars, but the last 100 pages or so really jumped out and grabbed me.

4.5 star rating

Vicious is a wickedly delicious view into the lives of the not-so-virtuous. It’s intense and complex but easy to follow. The characters are realistic and easy to care about. I read and reviewed The Archived and I really enjoyed it, and this book is fantastic, so I will be interested in anything Schwab writes from now on! I recommend Vicious if you like lovely writing, great characters, questionable morals, and powers/abilities!

V.E. Schwab‘s website and twitter

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby [book review]

Juliet, Naked coverJuliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon
Release Date: September 29th 2009
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: Annie loves Duncan — or thinks she does. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t. Duncan really loves Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanish singer-songwriter who stopped making music ten years ago. Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

In doing so, she initiates an e-mail correspondence with Tucker, and a connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional and artistic ruin-his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the new material he’s about to release to the world: an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet — entitled, Juliet, Naked.

What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.

So, I had absolutely no idea what Juliet, Naked was about when I picked it out. I have heard generally positive things about Nick Hornby’s work and this book. I was browsing the shelves and picked it up. The spine was pretty and colorful! I did skim the jacket, and it wasn’t what I expected at all.

Juliet, Naked was hard for me to put down! I wasn’t even sure I was enjoying it, but I couldn’t set it down for long. It isn’t unusual for me to pick up my book if my computer is taking too long to load or something, and with this book, I couldn’t focus on much else. It wasn’t really that I loved it or was enthusiastically wanting to know what happened next, I just had that itchy feeling where I needed to keep reading. I read it all in one day, on Labor Day actually (my reviews are really backed up, in case you couldn’t tell).

Juliet, Naked is not a story about anyone named Juliet! If you read the description, you know that, but I don’t always read descriptions so I thought I’d mention it! Tucker Crowe was a semi-popular musician in the past (I can’t remember the years, I think early 90’s) and Juliet was an album and claim to fame. He mysteriously quit playing and making music in the middle of a tour, which led to a lot of questions among diehard fans. Duncan is a diehard fan. He is active on a website dedicated to Tucker. He, along with Annie (his partner/girlfriend), even went on a tour of places that were “meaningful” to Tucker Crowe fans. When a new, stripped version of Juliet is released, Duncan is obsessed and thinks it’s better than the original. Annie disagrees, which causes a huge row between Annie and Duncan, and leads her to contact with Tucker himself.

The book is told in the third person, and it’s mainly Annie and Tucker, with some Duncan. For me, it was the Annie show, she was definitely my favorite character. She and Duncan are in a relationship of convenience. He was always more interested in a retired musician than Annie. Annie works at a small museum in a small English town. She expected more from life and isn’t really sure how she ended up in the middle of this weird relationship with a huge focus on Tucker Crowe. Duncan is ridiculous and a bit pathetic. I was continuously frustrated with him, and I wanted to push Annie away from him! I think the description is really misleading because I’m pretty sure they mention how they weren’t really in love, they just had the kind of love that came from being with each other. They never had passion for each other.

Duncan and Annie’s relationship is just sad. I couldn’t really feel anything for Duncan. Annie wanted things like a family, which are not aligned with what I want at all, but I definitely empathized with her. Duncan more or less scorned her opinion about music and then treated her pretty badly. When Annie “meets” and starts emailing with Tucker, it’s something different and exciting. Plus, she knows it would drive Duncan crazy. She has some appreciation for Tucker as a musician, but she starts to actually get to know him and like him as a person.

Tucker was really fascinating. He was never a huge star, but people knew him. He had some fame. Once he stopped making music, he had to reevaluate a lot of his life. He’s in his fifties, and he’s attempting to cope with getting older. He has a lot of family issues. He lives with one of his sons, but he has a few other children, all from different mothers. He has to address his mortality and creativity. He shuns his past and doesn’t like diehard fans that spend a lot of time focused on him. When the new version comes out, he’s happily surprised to see someone call it like it is and responds to the review, which happens to be Annie’s.

I’m not really sure I get this book. I feel like some of it went over my head, and I didn’t really want to hash it out. I think it touches on figuring out how to be happy with your life when it isn’t what you expected. All three of the main characters go through pretty large changes in their life and have to adapt in ways they never really expected. I think that was interesting. There was some scrambling, along with some hits and misses. I was more or less happy (it was going to be 3 stars) with the book until the end, when something really weird happens. I’m not sure what the general take on this move is, but it was ridiculous in my opinion, and made me question Hornby’s writing and how much he cared about a certain character.

two star rating

Juliet, Naked is a tough book for me to review. It was a quick read, but I’m not sure it was for me. I was disappointed by the characters and the ending. I wouldn’t read it again, but I am interested in reading more of Nick Hornby’s work. I think it might appeal to some readers, and maybe the big problem I had with it wouldn’t bother everyone. If you like challenging characters coming to terms with reality, characters making big life changes, and music related books, Juliet, Naked might be the book for you!

Check out Nick Hornby’s website!