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Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Nightmare Affair | Mindee Arnett

The Nightmare Affair is a young adult fantasy novel about a girl, Dusty, who is a Nightmare. She literally feeds off of other people’s dreams. When a girl in her school of other paranormals goes missing, she is recruited to solve the mystery by seeing the future in Eli’s dreams.  For a more complete summary, you can go here. To learn more about the author, go here.

This is definitely my favorite genre of books, so I may be a little biased in my review. I love the concept of Nightmares as actual physical beings. That idea seemed very fresh and original. However, as a whole this story seemed…familiar. I can’t quite identify the elements that were familiar to me, but they were definitely there. It is very obvious that she was inspired by J.K. Rowling and other young adult fantasy novels. With that said, there is a reason why these types of books are popular. Books that are similar to other popular books can get fans easily since the readers are looking for a book to read next based off of their favorites. 

The book had a little bit of mystery, but I guessed the twist from early on (but I do have a compulsive need to figure out the ending before the story tells me). Very few books actually surprise me in the end. There’s also a little bit of romance (which I can’t help but slightly roll my eyes to…its just so cliche in young adult books). Most of the characters also seemed cliche—i.e. the blonde popular girl, the popular jock, the nerd seeking revenge, the outcasts, etc. 

I did really enjoy this book, mainly because I enjoy this genre as a whole. Compared to other books in this genre, it definitely isn’t one of the best, but I would still recommend it to anyone. I am looking forward to reading the next few books in the series (though I usually don’t enjoy beyond the first book in a series). If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here, and look through the reading guide here. After you have read it let me know what you think! 

P.S. I get to meet the author tomorrow (and get my book signed)! I am so excited!

 ****   4/5 Stars

Update 4/23/15: Here are my photos from my visit with Mindee. She also agreed to a Q&A with me, so check it out here!

Bossypants | Tina Fey

Bossypants is an autobiography of Tina Fey’s life. It chronicles her childhood and rise to fame via Saturday Night Live. For a more complete summary, you can go here.

I’ve decided that maybe I’m not an autobiography/memoir type of person. I can enjoy them, but very rarely do I love them. I just thoroughly love novels and getting engrossed into a story. Non-fiction books just don’t typically have that same pull. Bossypants is no exception. Out of all of the autobiographies that I’ve read lately, this one seems to jump around the most. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the order of the chapters. They are not in chronological order. She talks about her childhood for a few chapters, then she jumps around between major life events later in the book. Even within each chapter she goes on a lot of tangents and its hard to stay focused on what the main point of her story is. She also spends a decent chunk of the book on just a few years of her life. I understand that those years probably are the most important years to her career, but it made the book seem kind of lopsided. 

The title of this book doesn’t seem very well suited. She seems more passive than bossy in her endeavors. I assumed (incorrectly) that the story would talk more about how to be a boss or how to rise to that point. However, Tina didn’t really talk too much about those specifics. 

With all of that said, I think that Tina Fey has an amazing voice. Her story is funny and sarcastic (and sarcasm is difficult to convey via print). She touches on a lot of serious issues—such as gay marriage, women’s rights, and politics—without throwing it in your face. 

This is a quick read and enjoyable—though I am not sure how it’s still on the New York Times Bestseller list after several years. I would recommend it to fans of Tina Fey, people who like humorous books, and people who enjoy autobiographies. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it let me know what you think! 

 ***   3/5 Stars

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Rosie Project | Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is about a guy, Don, that decides to create an extensive questionnaire in order to find his perfect wife. Don is no ordinary man. He has every minute of every day planned out and he has only two friends. He is a geneticist and believes that science can help him find his true match. Until he meets Rosie. For a more complete summary, you can go here.

This book was charming and fun! I didn’t want to put it down! I also enjoyed the quirkiness of all of the main characters. A lot of reviewers have compared Don to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, but I wasn’t picturing that at all while I was reading. However, I can see the comparisons. They are both very intellectually minded and socially inept, have particular routines, and don’t know how to act in a relationship. Rosie is the exact opposite in every way. I also enjoyed her side of the story and seeing her come to terms with some family issues. 

It seems like a lot of books now are highlighting Asperger’s Syndrome. Don is never officially diagnosed with it, but it is definitely hinted at. I think it is great that this is getting more publicity, but at the same time I worry about readers (and writers) starting to stereotype how a person with Asperger’s behaves. 

I only had a few small issues with this book. First of all, Don gets a lot of advice from his friend Gene and Gene’s wife, Claudia. Gene is a serial cheater that is trying to hookup with a woman from every country. I had a problem with how often Don took their advice on relationships, considering how messed up their marriage is. At some point Don begins to realize that is a problem too, so I felt better after he resolved that. I also hate when (SPOILER ALERT) a relationship is slow to start, then all of a sudden there’s marriage. I just feel like that’s not realistic, and yet a lot of novels make that happen. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It really makes you think about our every day actions and how we behave in relationships. I recommend this book to men or women that are looking for a humorous love story. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here, and look through the discussion questions here. After you have read it let me know what you think! 

 ****   4/5 Stars

Thirteen Reasons Why | Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why is a story about Hannah who leaves a series of cassette tapes for people who impacted her choice to commit suicide. On these tapes, she describes why each of those people received the tapes and how they made her life unbearable. The story is told from the perspective of one of the recipients, Clay. For a more complete summary, you can go here.

OK, so this book is about a very touchy subject—suicide. If I’m going to focus on that issue, here are my thoughts. A lot of her problems (minus one circumstance) were things that happen a lot to girls/boys in high school. I worry that this kind of glorifies suicide and that anyone who is going through similar issues might see suicide as a better solution. I also didn’t like how she blamed everyone else for her suicide. She did admit that in the end it was her choice, but she is essentially ruining several people’s lives by blaming them for her death. How does a person move on after they believe that they were the reason for someone committing suicide? I do understand that the point is more so that people should be aware of their actions and words, because you never know how it will affect someone. I like that concept, but I wish that the book showed how the actual bullies were changed by the story, and not just the person who was caring and considerate the whole time. 

With that touchy subject out of the way, I’ll focus on the actual novel. I liked the idea of the audio tapes and the narrative switching back and forth from Clay to Hannah. It gave a more dynamic story than just switching off each chapter, as multiple-perspective books usually do. However, I did find it to be very confusing at times. Sometimes things were happening to Clay as he was listening to Hannah’s tapes, so the stories would get kind of jumbled in my head. I had to go back and reread some sections for clarification. The story was intriguing enough that I didn’t mind too much about that. I definitely wanted to keep reading without stopping. 

Overall, it was a good story and I hope it makes people think about reaching out to other people and being kind. I also hope it helps those who are feeling suicidal feel inspired to ask for help. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it let me know what you think! 

If you or someone you know if feeling hopeless or suicidal, please call 1 (800) 273-8255.

 ****   4/5 Stars

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sharp Objects | Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects is a thriller about a reporter, Camille, who has to reluctantly travel back to her hometown to write about the murder of two young girls. Camille has an ugly past filled with death, cutting, and violence. This is the story of her discovering the mystery of a brutal town filled with evil people. For a more complete summary, you can go here.

I am always leery about reading other novels from an author that I love. Sometimes the book is too different, or too similar, from the original book that impressed me. But, wow, this book was incredible! I think this solidifies Gillian Flynn as one of my new favorite authors! It was similar to Gone Girl (read my review here) in that it was a psychological thriller—-all of the main characters are seriously messed up. It leaves you confused, intrigued, and disturbed…in the best way possible. Flynn does not write “feel good” books. If you’re looking for that, then this book is not for you. If you want a book that you compulsively read until you finally finish it at 3am, then this is the book for you. 

Other than those few things, this book is an entirely different story and format than Gone Girl, which I really appreciated. I could tell the writing was similar, but Flynn created some amazing and unique voices for the characters in this book. The book definitely gives an outsider’s perspective. Camille is a reporter and very observant, and she is also out-of-place in her old hometown, so the writing really makes you feel that emotion. 

There are some very graphic and disturbing parts to this book, but I didn’t really bother me in this context. I didn’t like any of the main characters, but that’s ok, I don’t think we are supposed to. Flynn doesn’t seem to make relatable characters. Instead, she creates characters that have been through hell and back and how they react to it. Not every story can be about resilience and happy endings. This story is brutal, raw, and beautiful. 

I will definitely recommend this book to anyone! Again, it’s not for people who love light and happy stories. It is also not for the faint-hearted. But, oh my gosh, it’s worth a shot. Flynn’s last book is on my “must-read” list for sure!

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here, and look through the discussion questions here. After you have read it let me know what you think! 

 *****   5/5 Stars

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wild | Cheryl Strayed

Wild is a memoir of Cheryl’s summer-long hike across the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). She takes this trip after a troubled childhood, her mother’s death, and her eventual divorce due to cheating on her extremely supportive husband. She also experiments with sex and heroin as she tries to pull herself back together. Her goal is to process the events in her life and find herself along the trail. For a more complete summary, you can go here. You can also learn more about Cheryl Strayed here.

I wanted to love this book, but I only kinda liked it. And, wow, this book was long. I realize it was about a couple thousand miles on a trail, but holy cow. It started to get really repetitive and dry. I would have been okay with the book being about half of the length. She could have cut out some of the stops to make the pace go a little bit faster. I honestly almost gave up on this book halfway through. She did cut out a lot of details near the end, as the last half of her trip was condensed into the last third or less of her book. There were also so many characters in and out of her story, that I could barely keep track of who was who. A little refresher when she ran into them again would have been nice. 

I did enjoy getting details of her background story and purpose for the trip. I also enjoyed her descriptions of the hike, especially the first few weeks of her trip. I have never—and probably will never—go on a hike more than a few days long, so it was nice to live vicariously through her. She was so ill-prepared for her journey, that you would think that anyone with enough gusto could hike the Pacific Crest Trail. But really, she probably was extremely close to being killed or raped several times on her trip. I wouldn’t recommend this story as an inspiration to follow in her footsteps. 

I appreciate and respected Strayed for being so brutally honest with her mistakes and experiences. However, I could have done without some of the horrifically disturbing parts (i.e. killing her horse, eating her mom’s ashes, and pulling off her toenails). I think those were all important experiences to her, so I understand why she included them. I just don’t have the stomach for that sort of thing. 

Overall, I am glad I read this book to see what all of the hype was about. I am excited to see how Reese Witherspoon portrays Cheryl in the movie version. This book would be good for people who are struggling to find their identity. I think women would probably enjoy it more, but some men might appreciate it too. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here—and there is a reader’s guide there too. After you have read this book let me know what you think! 

P.S. I judged it in a similar way that I did for another travel memoir, "The Paris Letters".

 ***   3/5 Stars

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me | Howie Mendel

Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me is an autobiography of Howie Mendel, the comedian and host of the show Deal or No Deal. It chronicles his rise to stardom through comedy, acting, and hosting. It also describes the challenges he faces in every day life with obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and germaphobia. For a more complete summary, you can go here.

For a book written by a comedian, it was filled with a lot more heartbreaking moments than I was expecting. However, the main reason why I picked up the book was because I knew it discussed his germaphobic tendencies. I also have a lot of those tendencies, so I was curious to see how he deals with that challenge. It was interesting to hear about how that, along with his OCD and ADHD, affected his entire life. It is hard for someone to come out and talk about some of their most embarrassing moments, but he did that and I think it will help a lot of people struggling with the same things. 

With that said, this book was also filled with a ton of hijinks and humor. I know Howie Mendel mainly from Deal or No Deal, so I didn’t realize that he has an extensive history with stand-up comedy and pranks (I also didn’t realize that he is sixty—wow!). He has done some pretty crazy—and possibly cruel—pranks on his closest friends, family, and coworkers. He was also very impulsive and made a lot of choices without thinking about the consequences (which seems entirely opposite of his role as a host). This is one book that actually made me laugh out loud a few times. 

It was clear that Howie isn’t a professional author, but he admitted that that wasn’t his goal anyways. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it was a nice break from the novels that I usually binge-read. I recommend this book to anyone struggling with OCD or ADHD, or even anyone curious to know more about those disorders. It is also great for anyone looking for a good humorous story! If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it let me know what you think! 

****   4/5 Stars 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Paris Letters | Janice Macleod

Paris Letters is a blog-turned-memoir about Janice’s journey from a burnt-out advertiser in California to a relaxed artist in Paris. She decides to save up enough money so that she can quit her job and travel until she finds her new calling. The trip takes her to many parts of Europe, but finally has her settling down permanently in Paris with her new beau. The language barrier between them is a challenge, but doesn’t seem to be an issue. For a more complete summary, you can go here. To visit Janice’s blog, you can go here.

I loved the first half of the book. I am at a time in my life when I am trying to figure out what to do and where to live. Janice makes it seem so easy to let go and stop feeling stuck. She took control of her life and savings and was brave enough to move across the world. She condensed all of her stuff to a couple of suitcases and released anything that kept held her back. For such a terrifying idea that most people would never actually do, she made it all sound very freeing and wonderful. The first half also explained how she got adjusted to the life of traveling and the beauty of Paris. 

I didn’t like the second half of this book. She started to complain about tourists in Paris, which was hypocritical since she was a tourist not too long ago. Also in the second half, Janice’s timeline starts to jump around and it’s never really clear how long into her journey it is—a few weeks or a few years. She also brings in friends and characters that she doesn’t introduce or make relevant beyond the one scene that they’re in. She also makes it seem like the transition to living in France was pretty easy. She mentions a few challenges, but overall her adjustment seems unrealistic and too incredibly simple—like she was leaving out the unpleasant details to make her traveling seem more perfect. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It wasn’t really what I expected going into it because I don’t like to know anything about a book before I start reading it. I just got this book as per a recommendation, so I wrongly assumed that it would be a novel, not a memoir. That’s not a big deal though. I think the book would have been better if it was a little more cohesive—but since it was her blog turned into a novel, the jumpiness makes sense. But I am also not a huge fan of memoirs, so I may be slightly biased. I would recommend Paris Letters to women who love memoirs and travel stories. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it let me know what you think! 

 ***   3/5 Stars

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I’ll Meet You There | Heather Demetrios

I’ll Meet You There is a coming-of-age story featuring the perspectives of two teens trying to get out of their rundown small town: Skylar and Josh. Skylar is a seventeen year old with a full scholarship to an art school starting in the fall. She yearns to leave the town that holds her back, but she doesn’t want to leave her alcoholic mother behind with her new scummy boyfriend. Josh, on the other hand, got his chance to leave by joining the Marines, but he was forced to come back after losing his leg in Afghanistan. The only thing these two have in common is that they work at a tiny old motel in town. This creates a relationship between two people who just really need to be understood. For a more complete summary, you can go here, then go here to read the first five chapters for free! You can also learn more about Heather Demetrios here.

I loved this book. At first I thought to myself, “Oh great…this is going to be like every other young adult novel about love and summer.” But it was so much more than that. First of all, I cannot ever begin to imagine what soldiers go through in war. I also can never try to understand how it feels to go back to my hometown after seeing my friends die, suffering from PTSD, and losing a limb. However, I think that Demetrios does an amazing job of giving us little snippets of the struggles that Josh faces on a daily basis. Most of the book is written in Skylar’s voice, but a few little sections give us a glimpse into Josh’s head. I think it was the perfect balance. Skylar also had so many struggles of her own. This was one book where I didn’t know what she would decide doing in the end. I went back and forth on her decisions as she did. 

Let me also say that this novel has romance in it, but it is slow building. I really appreciated that. Most relationships start like that, rather than the whirlwind love-at-first-sight story that so many young adult novels try to push. It just seemed really believable to me. I also really fell in love with all of the characters, flaws and all. I was rooting for all of them…even some of the antagonists. 

My only issue with this book was its frequent use of derogatory language. As the story went on, I began to realize that it was more so about the culture of that small town. It still didn’t make any of that language okay, but it seemed to fit with the ideas and values of the setting. 

I would really recommend this book to anyone. I think women would probably enjoy it more, but some men might appreciate it too. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read this book let me know what you think! 

 *****   5/5 Stars

Monday, March 2, 2015

Paper Towns | John Green

Paper Towns is a coming-of-age story about a boy, Q, who has always been “in love” with his next door neighbor, Margo. One night she takes him on a crazy adventure, and the next day she disappears. Q does everything to find out who Margo really is, and where did she go? For a more complete summary, you can go here. You can also learn more about John Green here.

This is a very exciting novel that I think most teens can relate to. It deals with typical issues like love, friendships, and peer pressure, but it is more introspective than that. Green really helps the readers think about how we see others and how we see ourselves. Is the way we view others impacted by what we think of ourselves? And vice versa. It asks the readers to think about how well you really know other people. Sometimes we hold people in our lives up on a pedestal and we imagine their lives to be happy and perfect and better than our own…but that might not always be accurate. This is also a book about acceptance and true friendship. We may find flaws in our friends, and they find flaws in us too, but they still accept us. I really loved how analytical Green was about relationships in this book. It really created a lot of new thoughts for me. 

This novel also had a lot of adventures. There’s an awesome night of pranks and a long, but memorable road trip. Those are the moments that we have to create in our lives. Most people do the same mundane things every day. I know the moments I remember most from high school were the moments when I felt out of my comfort-zone, but also exhilarated. High school is really the time for people to explore dangerous, but exciting adventures with friends. This book brought back a lot of those memories for me, and hopefully it inspires teens to make some of those moments for themselves too. 

I would recommend this book to anyone, but I think it is written more for a teen audience. I think adults can find a lot to appreciate about this book too. 

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read this book, you can view John Green's responses to some popular questions about the book here. Then let me know what you think of the novel! 

 *****   5/5 Stars