Me Before You

Rating: 8/10 

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When I picked up this book I had heard a lot of hype surrounding it and I was intrigued . I had evenpicked it up a couple of times. The problem was that I’m not usually into contemporary romances. They always end up too formulaic. My mind changed when I saw the trailer for the movie (and not just because Emilia Clarke, who is Khaleesi from Game of Thrones, is going to play Lou).

Something in the tone and message of the trailer made me think that this wasn’t going to be some formulaic, corny story.  It seemed like it was going to deal with real human connection and the human ability to overcome tragedy. I knew then that I did want to read the book. So when my boyfriend was freaking out over what to get me for Valentine’s Day, I had the perfect solution.

I will admit that at first the story is a little slow. I have a really hard time getting through slow beginnings even though I know that once I get into the book things will start to go by fast. Anyway, it took me a little longer than I wanted, but it ended up being great! The main character, Lou, was such a refreshing change for a female protagonist of a romance story. She is fearless and funny and just a little bit broken. She’s an oddity, but she is sweet and smart. I think a lot of women will be able to identify with Lou. Rather than go through a physical change like some woman do in these novels to impress the male lead, Lou goes through an emotional/mental change all while remaining true to herself. I was very happy with this book and even though I know there is a sequel, I’m not sure I’ll pick it up. I think the ending for this book was perfect and I kind of just want to leave it at that.

 

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10 Books that I would re-read if I had the time

As I was scanning the Internet, I happened across a blog in which a woman discusses her top ten comfort books. Despite being an avid reader who consumes books by the plenty, she still has specific books she returns to for comfort and the pure joy of revisiting favorite characters (I have included the link to her blog here). This got me thinking, what would my comfort books be? In answer I have complied a list of books that  would be my comfort books. These are in no particular order

 

1. The Help– Oh my god I still remember reading this book five years ago. It absolutely kills me that the author has not written anything since. The characters and the story absolutely got to me. Sometimes I honestly wish I did not have a huge stack of books to read so I could just spend my days re-reading this book. So fantastic!

2. To Kill a Mockingbird– Ok, who honestly doesn’t at least like TKM? I know we are all assigned to read it in school, but admit that this was probably the best damn book you had to read in English class. The absolute genius of Lee to discuss such an important subject through the eyes of such an innocent child! There are times where I can’t imagine any other book topping the pure beauty of TKM.

3. Jane Eyre– Absolute favorite classic! Jane Eyre is my spirit animal. How can you not instantly fall in love with a female protagonist who sticks up for herself when no one else will? She is basically what Cinderella could have been if she had had any more gumption and had not bothered to wait around for a prince to come and save her. Long live Jane Eyre!

4. The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Trilogy– Do I really have to do any explaining here? If you haven’t read the books, then more than likely you’ve at least seen the movies. But of course the books are always better than the movies. Hobbits, Dragons, Wizards, mighty quests, and perhaps the best world building that has ever graced the fiction world. Enough said.

5. Frankenstein-So I think I had to read this for three classes in college and each time I loved it. I wrote some of the best papers I have ever written on this book. It has so much to offer. Considered the book that basically started the science-fiction genre, written by a woman in a time when men were supposed to be in charge, and a product of a dark and spooky night where a whole bunch of authors gathered around a fire and dared each other to come up with the best horror stories- how is that not awesome?

6. Dracula– The only vampire novel I like! (Well to be honest, I still have to give Anne Rice’s books a try). This is what vampires were before Stephanie Meyer ruined them with Twilight. Bleh. If you want the perfect book to read around Halloween time this is it! This story is amazing, and even though it was assigned work in college, I devoured every page as quickly as possible.

7. The Snow Child This one would have to be a winter re-read. This book just seems more magical when the snow is falling outside the window and you’re inside wrapped up in a warm blanket. One of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. It’s about a love that is so deep and so special, that I don’t know if I can even do it justice to try and explain it. It’s not just a love between lovers, but between families. More specifically it’s about the product of profound love. The magical realism in this book is so well done that when you finish you’re not sure if what you just read is historical fiction or a fantasy.

8. The Glass Castle or Half Broke Horses– I really enjoyed the author’s style of writing. The way she could tell her story and make it feel like a novel. I had never given much thought to creative nonfiction until I read her books. If I had to choose just one of them to re-read I’m not sure if I could pick between the two.

9. The Good Earth-Honestly, I didn’t expect to like this one very much. It was going to be one of those reads that I was doing more to say that I did it rather than for enjoyment’s sake, but it turns out that I thought it was great! I was memorized by the story of this one family’s saga in a time period China that I hardly know. One of the reasons I love to read so much is because it can transport you and open your eyes to new experiences. That’s what I found in The Good Earth.  I liked Buck’s writing style profoundly, and would be excited to read any of her other work.

10. Their Eyes Were Watching God– Another college read that I spent nights in my dorm room pouring over. I also bought the audiobook and listened to it on my iPod as I walked to and from class on campus. I had never even heard of the book before I was assigned it in class, but I’m certainly glad I got the chance to experience it. Zora Neal Hurston was a powerful woman and a powerful writer. You can feel her strength poor through the pages.

 

As much as I love each of these books, as a constant reader I may find this list may shift  as time goes by, but only if I have to limit myself to ten books.  I have a feeling that I have some books sitting on my shelf right waiting to take a place on this list- I Capture the CastleThe Night CircusThe Thorn Birds? We’ll have to wait and see.

I would love to hear from others to see what your top ten comfort books are.

Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses

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Rating: 8/10

I was recommended Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls and Goddesses by some good friends. Queen of the Fall is actually a series of memoir essays of the author’s life. More specifically, it’s about the author’s experiences with poverty as a woman. Not only does she talk about her experiences, but women’s experiences in general. It serves as sort of a dedication to the female sex. What I found most appealing with this book was the author’s

clear talent with language. For all us wanna-be authors out there, Livingston’s talent is what we strive for. The musicality of her prose transcended genre specific writing. While technically and essay style, sometimes it felt like I was reading a novel, and other times it felt like I was reading poetry. I was so excited to learn that she indeed has another book called Ghostbread and has another one coming out soon called Ladies Night at the Dreamland. Ghostbread is indeed her actual memoir where she gets more detailed about specific events that we witness in Queen of the Fall. I highly recommend both if you loved books like The Glass Castle

 

All the Light We Cannot See

Rating: 9/10 

When I picked this book at a local bookstore it hadn’t even won the Pulitzer yet. I remember being intrigued by the story summary and knew right away that I had to read it.#55 A Pulitzer Prize Winning Book:

All the Light We Cannot See is a beautiful novel where the prose lifts off the pages like a song. You can tell that Doerr was extremely meticulous with the language of this novel, telling two different stories from WWII that we don’t usually get in literature. As a lover of historical fiction, and especially WWII novels, even sometimes I can get tired of the same story being told over and over again. That was not the case with this story.

Doerr tells of a young blind French girl who witnesses the takeover of her country, and a young brilliant German boy whose only means of escape from a meaningless life is to take the opportunities offered to him by the Nazi party. Both of these young children loose their innocence to the events of the war, trapped and forced to make difficult decisions. Rather than a more traditional novel, the writing is almost broken up in shorter prose/vignettes. The concentration here really is about the beauty of the language and the experience of the characters told through beautiful and harsh little snap shots. All the Light We Cannot See is a great book for any historical fiction reader to pick up.

 

Smile

#22 A graphic novel: Rating: 8/10

I don’t usually read graphic novels, other than the few that I was assigned in my young adult literacy classes in college. Luckily, my students love graphic novels. When I explained that I wanted to try a graphic novel to read, I had several offer up suggestions right away. Smile was one of the books that multiple students were recommending to me over and over again. Needless to say, my students were really happy to hear that I ended up really liking it.

It’s a memoir written about the author’s experience as a teenager. She ends up hurting herself and as a result knocking out her two front teeth. What follows is her experience with braces and just growing up in general for the next four years. Many of us will recognize the same kind of issues: acne, crushes, puberty, losing and gaining friends, and so on. It didn’t take me long to finish but I found that it was a nice change of pace. I thought the art was really well done, especially considering the context and intended age level of the book. Some of us old schoolers will appreciate Raina’s experiences even more since the story takes place in the late 80s and early 90s. There’s even a part where she goes to the movies to see The Little Mermaid. None of the kids have cell phones, notes are passed in class, and Walkman’s are the it thing! It was fantastic! It definitely got me interested in trying new graphic novels. Thankfully, Telgmeier is an excellent author and has many more books available.

Orphan Train

#10 A New York Times Bestseller:

Rating: 9/10

I’ve had Orphan Train sitting on my shelf for awhile now. I had been itching to read it basically ever since I got it, but school, work, and life kept getting in the way. My friend happened to have the audiobook and let me borrow it so I could listen to it on my way to work.

Let me tell you, this book delivered! The author does a great job weaving back and forth between the past and present. In my opinion, the storyline that takes place in the past was a lot more interesting than the modern day plot line (even though I loved the connection between the two). It really is a heartbreaking tale- think a dark Anne of Green Gables. Nothing goes right for our main character as she is shuffled from one tragedy to another.

Even though I liked the past sections better, I will say that I really enjoyed Molly in the present day. The fact that she gets in trouble for trying to steal a copy of Jane Eyre from the library just because she wanted to own her own copy attached me to her right away. I highly suggest The Orphan Train to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction. Even if you don’t, I still recommend you give it a try. The story is a really well told one. Overall, I gave it a 9/10  rating and recommended it to all of my friends and family who haven’t read it yet.Read More »

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Rating: 8/10 

#17 A book that's at least a 100 years older than you:

This was one of the books that I told myself that I was going to have read in my lifetime. I grew up infatuated with anything having to do with the Civil War and the time period in general. When I read somewhere that when Stowe was invited to meet President Lincoln, he greeted her with “Here’s the little lady who started the war,” I knew that I had to read this book.

I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! This book is not only a wonderful story, but a remarkable representation of anti-slavery feelings in the 1850s. Stowe does not hold back. She lashes into everyone, South and North alike for being responsible for slavery. She takes down the slave owners in the same breath that she criticizes the do-gooder abolitionists of the North, who would send all African Americans back to Africa rather than try to integrate them into the American society. Stowe gave slaves a voice that very few were able or willing to do at the time.

Stowe does bring a lot of religion into the story, as well as the perceived notion of the gentleness and moral superiority of women, so I could see how some people might be turned off by the book, but if you think about it as a piece of work that allowed one repressed member of society (a woman) to give power and voice to other repressed members of society (African Americans) you can see that it really is a powerful work of literature! I can’t believe that throughout all my schooling to become an English teacher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was never even discussed in any of my classes. God knows I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for about three different classes-don’t get me wrong, I love that book- but I’m sure one of them could have found room for Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the syllabus.