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Friday, December 13, 2019

Review: It by Stephen King



Title: It
Author: Stephen King
Format: Hardcover, 1156 pages
Pub. Date: September 15th 1986
Source: Lisa


Book Description:



To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live. It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing. Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

Frightening, epic, and brilliant, Stephen King's IT is one of the greatest works of a true storytelling master.






Review:


★★★

This is without a doubt the longest reading experience that I have ever had. I'm a quick reader, and this took me months. Overall, I didn't hate this book, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

Stephen King is a complicated writer. And by that, I don't mean his plots. His resume speaks for itself- the dude can sell a story. I found that this book was in parts, very well written. He is a master at metaphor and description. His language is so detailed that it's often poetic, and it's almost impossible not to be sucked into the storyscapes that he creates. I could picture Derry. I felt like I was in the Barrens, in the house on Neibolt street, and even in Bev's apartment. The language is vivid, and the both the settings and the characters are well thought out and well examined.

This book should be overly complicated, but it isn't. Not only does it follow seven different characters, with chapters that change focus between the seven, but it follows them in two different time periods- when they are children and then when they are adults. He did a wonderful job of making each person distinct enough that it's easy to tell who each chapter is following.

My problem with the writing is that there was too much of it. It often got stale and long, and a bit repetitive. If this had been edited down a bit more, I would have enjoyed it more.

The actual plot of it was fine. I didn't find it scary, though I'll give you that it's disturbing. Most of the scare factors were just ick for me as opposed to fears- blood, guts, bugs, corpses. It's certainly unpleasant, but I didn't quite get the "I need to sleep with the lights on" type of feeling that I was hoping for in this book. Pennywise, beyond his glamour of a clown, is a very odd monster with very odd origins. The book takes a lot of really weird turns that left me a bit confused, although with some closure.

And then there's the whole pre-teen love fest bit. Which.... While nowhere near as graphic as the internet and other reviews had led me to believe... It was a very odd choice to put in the book.

I won't be reading this book again. It was perfectly fine, but because it was so rambling and not really scary, it wasn't my cup of tea. Stephen King doesn't need my validation though, and I already know there are thousands who disagree. More power to them and to him, because he keeps his audience coming back for more.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes



Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Series: Me Before You #1
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: July 30th 2013
Source: Half Price Books


Book Description:



From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Giver of Stars, discover the love story that captured over 20 million hearts in Me Before You, After You, and Still Me.

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?






Review:


★★★★★

It's rare that I whole-heartedly and so positively adore a book. Me Before You was absolutely fantastic. It was beautifully written and raw and honest and optimistic and heartbreaking in the most perfect of ways. This was my first time reading anything by Jojo Moyes, but it certainly won't be my last.

The characters were wonderfully well written. Even if you didn't like a character (and believe me, there are a few), you still got a sense of who they were and the roots and complications of why you disliked them. Louisa is quirky, but never in the annoyingly common YA way of "omg I'm not like other girls". She's just unapologetically herself, and I admire that. I wish I had the confidence to wear, I dunno, pink zebra leggings with a festive hat and sparkly shoes and to say things without thinking too much about them. She's realistically awkward and charming, and I get what Will and her employers see in her.

And then there's Will. Poor, complicated, devastatingly handsome Will. Despite his demeanor and how he speaks to people, he's oddly endearing and you root for him to be better, to let down his walls. As he grows fond of Louisa, you can't help but to fall in love with him as she does. Even knowing damn well he's going to break all of our hearts.

The setting is also really well done. I feel like I could walk around their town with no map and feel at ease, and when they're traveling, I was swept away to be with them too.

Moyes does a brilliant job bringing up a topical and complicated topic and making it relatable, personable, and understandable. She gave me a lot to think about.

And I cried. Of course I did. I always do. I knew what was coming, and still, I cried. This is the most emotionally connected to a book and characters that I have felt in a long time. I know this book is a few years old, but this is the best book I have read this year. It was beautiful, touching, and haunting, and I absolutely recommend it. It's funny, charming, absolutely devastating, and strangely peaceful, and if you don't mind a little heartbreak and young love, this book is for you.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Review: Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle



Title: Let It Snow
Authors: John Green, Maureen Johnson, & Lauren Myracle
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Pub. Date: October 2nd 2008
Source: Goodwill


Book Description:



An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

A trio of today's bestselling authors - John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle- brings all the magic of the holidays to life in three hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and kisses that will steal your breath away.






Review:


★★

This book has been on my to-read list for such a long time. When it snowed shortly after Halloween in my neck of the woods, I figured it was the perfect time to get in the jingle bell spirit. I wish I hadn't.

This book is divided into three different short stories, so I'll give three tiny reviews of each one.


Starting this anthology off is Maureen Johnson's story titled "The Jubilee Express". This was easily my favorite of the three. It involves a girl named Jubilee who has to head to Florida for the holidays when her parents are arrested, only to find that her train is snowed in too.

It's definitely not a realistic story, but it's Christmas so I can ignore that. The romance plot is super cute and warm and fuzzy inside. I adored that the main character stands up for herself when she realizes she is being treated badly. We could all use that type of confidence, even if it takes awhile.

I think her name is super cute, and the way it relates to both the plot of the story and the spirit of Christmas is well done.

Some things that were a little irritating was the whole "not like other girls" thing, and the fact that she's anti-cheerleader for no real reason and even has the gall to make fun of them for all being named things like Madison..... When her name is Jubilee, which she also hates for being unique? It's weird.
Maureen Johnson's story

The middle story is that of John Green, entitled "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle". I think I was most disappointed by this story. It wasn't the worst one, but because I have read (and loved) other John Green books and had higher expectations.

The main character is awful. He keeps describing his female friend as "not a girl" and not like other girls, is one of the boys. When he finds out she's seeing another boy, he makes fun of them. Even when she asks him to stop because enough is enough, he doesn't stop. He has the type of vocabulary of "that's gay". He and his best friend are endangering all their lives for the chance to bang a cheerleader because they're so easy, coupled with slut jokes. He crashes his car and tells his parents he was carjacked because his parents have insurance, so it's all fine. He also realizes he has feelings out of seemingly nowhere. Just I see the light we are meant to be!

She's not innocent here though. She is anti-cheerleader (seriously, am I the only person on the planet whose school cheerleaders were just normal albeit pretty people?) yet she agrees to go with them (because she wants hashbrowns) and complains the whole time about going and that they're just after cheerleaders. Even though she knew that from the beginning. She clearly has feelings for the MC (lord knows why) but instead of using words, decides to be judgy and passive aggressive the whole time. She's also the type of girl who calls her friends "retarded misogynists."

Yikes. They deserve each other, but not for the way Green intended.


And last, there is Lauren Myracle's "The Patron Saint of Pigs". I didn't care for this one, but it least it (sort of?) had some personality growth.

The main character is awful. She's so self absorbed. Five people in 100 pages tell her this, and tell her she's terrible and selfish. She then supposedly has her "Christmas angel epiphany" of how she needs to change and stop being so selfish. And she sort of does? The whole story she is bossing around her boss like she's not a teenager at a Starbucks. She tells her boss (not asks) what she's doing and when she's leaving. Ha, no. And even after this "epiphany" when she comes back, she still treats her boss poorly, even though she has brought a pig (yes, literal pig!) into a CAFE. I get it, you're a teenager and all authority is bad but it's a pig in a coffee shop that is upsetting.

Speaking of Starbucks, it's mentioned so much that it sort of just started to sound like this story was sponsored. There's also a lot of pop culture references here that make the story seem really outdated. Like American Idol being all the rage, the fact that her iPod has the click wheel thing, and I would have been her age roughly in 2008 when this was first published and even I had to google what the hell an iPenguin is.

I couldn't help to be disappointed when her friends forgave her and she got the boy, to be honest.

But, at the end of this story there's a nice little wrap up that features all of the couples from the other stories too. It's a little rushed and muddled, but that's the issue with short story collections. You don't get to know anyone well enough in so few pages, and the pacing is quick.

I didn't care much for this book, and I was glad it was over. It does make me want to read more by Maureen Johnson, but that's about it.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Mini Review: In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore



Title: In Other Words: An Illustrated Miscellany of the World's Most Intriguing Words and Phrases
Author: Christopher J. Moore
Illustrator: Lan Truong
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: Hardcover, 128 pages
Source: Little Library


Book Description:



"A delightful treasure house, literally a thesaurus, of linguistic marvels." --from the foreword by bestselling author Simon Winchester

A colorfully illustrated collection of more than ninety untranslatable words and phrases and the unique insights they offer into the cultures they come from.

Ever racked your brain for a word you're convinced should exist, yet is inexplicably absent from the dictionary? All languages have their limitations-should English fall short, the expression may lie elsewhere. That's where this book comes in: a quirky, international lexicon of linguistic gems that capture cultural untranslatables with satisfying precision.

Take for example the Japanese yoko meshi, “a meal eaten sideways,” describing the experience of trying to communicate in an alien tongue, or mono-no-aware, the appreciation of life's sadness. From the distinctive coziness of the Danish hygge, to the unrestrained dis of the Mayan bol (“in-laws” and “stupidity”), to the profound collectivism of the Zulu concept of ubuntu (roughly, “I AM because WE ARE"), these mots justes are grouped according to language and prefaced with insightful overviews of the relevant cultures by linguist Christopher J. Moore.

Embellished with 20 entertaining new untranslatable words and phrases and 90 characterful color illustrations by Lan Truong, and with a foreword by Simon Winchester, In Other Words is amusing, profound, and unputdownable--a gorgeously packaged gift book to entertain even the most well-versed polyglot with marvels of language from around the world.






Review:


★★★★

I adore words and language. It's why I pursued degrees in several of them. It's why I have a love/hate relationship with all the articles from places like Buzzfeed called things like "25 CRAZY Words You Won't Believe Exist in Europe!!!". When I saw this little book tucked away in my local little library box, I knew I had to give it a read.

It's a short book but has a lot of information in it, as it's a collection of words, phrases, and idioms that don't have exact translations in English. It's divided by region/language/country.

Each word or phrase has a cute little illustration to go along with it, and is near the pronunciation guide, the definition, the history of how it came to exist as a phrase, as well as examples on when or when not to use it and (when applicable) the nuances of using it.

I was pleased that I knew most of the British and French ones.... But I didn't know most of the rest. It's definitely educational, but written with a sense of humor so that it doesn't just read like a dictionary or textbook.

If you're a fan of languages or Etymology, or are looking for a gift for an English teacher, this book is perfect.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review: The Espressologist by Kristina Springer



Title: The Espressologist
Author: Kristina Springer
Format: Paperback, 184 pages
Pub. Date: January 4th 2011
Source: Salvation Army


Book Description:



What's your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you're lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it's a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it's not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane's Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She's the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?





Review:


★★

I knew what I was in for when I grabbed this book. Something light. Something fluffy. Something that wouldn't take too much time or focus. And I got what I expected. This book was okay, but not quite for me.

I love the idea of this book, conceptually. I think that the idea of matching people based on their drink orders is a really cute one. And overall, that part of the plot was okay.

Some parts of the book were just a little bit juvenile for me, even by YA standards. "Totally", "omg", and "hottie" are used so much that they don't even sound like real words anymore. Plus the chat speak of things like "c u 2".

Where it fell flat for me was the main character. To say I didn't like her would be wildly understated. She's wanted to be a fashion designer since... Before reality TV stars made it popular. ...Really? Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, and Ralph Lauren would beg to differ. Because of this love of fashion, she's judgy there too, judging her friend for having superstore shoes. Plus, she calls pretty much everyone at her college weirdos who didn't get into real college or are old people. Yikes. Oh, and her coworker as a floozy for flirting. Nice.

She also seems like a pretty terrible employee. She's writing constantly instead of doing work and gets mad when people are annoyed by it. She gets promoted and says "power is great" and uses this to shove around a coworker she doesn't like and doesn't ring up coffees. Forgets to do inventory and stock, she acts like the manager is being sooooo mean.I get that it's a fictional book but good lord.

The actual match making parts were cute, as was her building success. It was cute and fluffy and because of the cozy setting of a coffee shop, that plot works really well. I also appreciate that she stands up for herself against her bullies. As much as I may not like her, I appreciate that she's no doormat and that she can hold her own.

I also know this isn't how you're supposed to judge a book, but the cover is super cute. I'd be lying if I said it's not what drew me into the book in the first place. It sums up the book and the tone of the story really well.

Ultimately, I think this book is just too young for me, even if I am a fan of YA books. If you're looking for something short that's easy to get through, this is a good choice. I'm not mad that I read it, but I won't be reading it again

Monday, December 2, 2019

Review: Caging Skies by Christine Leunens



Title: Caging Skies
Author: Christine Leunens
Format: Paperback ARC
Pub. Date: August 6th 2019
Source: Goodreads First Reads


Book Description:



The inspiration for the major film Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi

An avid member of the Hitler Youth in 1940s Vienna, Johannes Betzler discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa behind a false wall in their home. His initial horror turns to interest—then love and obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house and he alone is responsible for her fate. Drawing strength from his daydreams about Hitler, Johannes plans for the end of the war and what it might mean for him and Elsa.

The inspiration for the major film Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi, Caging Skies, sold in over twenty countries, is a work of rare power; a stylistic and storytelling triumph. Startling, blackly comic, and written in Christine Leunens’s gorgeous, muscular prose, this novel, her U.S. debut, is singular and unforgettable






Review:


★★★★

I really liked this book. I wasn't really quite sure what to expect, having read the synopsis and also having seen the trailer for the film based on it, Jojo Rabbit.

Leunens has a really developed sense of writing. She's good at delivering emotion and tone, even when you don't really want to be feeling the things you're feeling. For example, that you feel bad for a devoted member of the Hitler Youth, and that you continue to feel bad even as he's supporting the Reich and as he's continuing to keep a Jewish girl in his walls for his own personal fulfillment.

Johannes is flawed and in a lot of ways, just not a good person. But in other ways, he seems so aware and so caring. He takes care of his family and his home with one hand, but lies and bullies with the other. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him a lot of the time, but he was never a dull character. The way the author describes his hometown and what is happening after Hitler's regime is over, it felt like I was transported. When his feelings were hurt I felt them, even if I thought he deserved it (and he often did). Elsa too is well written. Leunens does a good job of making her hopeful and sad and appreciative and rebellious, all in one. There's a lot of complexities and sometimes it's happy, sometimes it's sad, and sometimes you find yourself laughing and then feeling like a bad person.

It would have been 5 stars for me until I started to hit the end. Then it seems to have turned into a completely different book. The tone changed, and the pacing wildly changed. It went from well paced (and maybe even a little slow) to zooming by, and then abruptly it was over. I actually reread a bit to see if I had missed something but, no, it wasn't me. It almost felt like when you are writing an essay for an exam and the proctor calls five minutes so you just write like mad. It's a shame that it ended on a rough note for me.

That aside, this book was well written and I am glad I read it. If you're easily offended, this might not be a good fit for you as there's a fair amount of dark comedy. If you're a fan of WWII or Holocaust books, than I think it's worth reading.

I have not seen Jojo Rabbit, so I have absolutely no idea how the two compare but going off of the trailer, I'm going to say that they seem like completely different animals, so, keep that in mind if you liked the film and are considering reading the book.

I received a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for my honest review. Thank you.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Review: The Upside of Iris by Helen Rose



Title: The Upside of Iris
Author: Helen Rose
Format: eARC
Pub. Date: September 9th 2015
Source: Netgalley


Book Description:



What does love look like to you?

For young Iris, the whole world looks upside down, and the only person who truly understands and appreciates her perspective is her new friend Charlie, who has his own unique trait: he cannot speak. His silence, her precociousness, and their acceptance of each other make the two a perfect match.

But happiness is fleeting, as Iris’s new stepsisters, skeptical and jealous (as conventional folks often are of those who dare to swim against the tide), manage to drive the two apart. Iris and Charlie are separated for the remainder of childhood.

Grown-up Iris never forgets about Charlie, though, and her love for him influences the charming art gallery she now owns. But despite the visually magical environment she inhabits, Iris finds herself doubting Charlie once again, thanks in no small part to those pesky stepsisters of hers.

Still, before she decides to give up hope altogether, she decides to do one small thing for the other lonely souls around her . . . with wonderful consequences.

The Upside of Iris is an illustrated love story for all ages, and for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood. It is a whimsical, touching reminder that perspective is truly everything, and that a change in perspective can make all the difference in the world.






Review:


★★★★

This book is so charming and cute, I loved it. The whole plot is summed up really nicely in the blurb, so thankfully I don't have to rehash it here.

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. They are stunning to look through, and are really the heart of the book. It's what makes the book work, and make it worth reading. Between the quirky story line, and these illustrations, it very much put me in mind of the film Amelie. Surreal, bright and colorful, but ultimately lovable and endearing.

It's a story of being yourself, and being happy. A story that tells you not to give up on what you're looking for, and when you might find it. It encourages uniqueness and tells you that it's okay to be different, that some people just see the world differently. In Iris's case, literally.

This is a great book to read with your child together, to go over the lessons learned as well as the vibrant illustrations that perfectly match the corresponding texts.

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.