Tag Archive | book review

Where’d You Go, Bernadette Book Review

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple tells the story of a family, particularly a woman, who is a little “odd” and completely misunderstood by everyone. Misunderstood, but, throughout the novel, revealed—and redeemed.

As the title suggests, Bernadette, mother of Bee, goes missing. The novel, however, is more than simply a tale of how she goes missing and the madness that ensues; Bee, the narrator, goes deeper to tell why. Bee’s investigates the events originating from months prior, and readers can get to know each of the characters and walk around in their lives for a bit before things get complicated. They are privy to the secrets that Bernadette and the “gnats” keep from one another and their families, can witness the drama firsthand. Bee reads emails, police transcripts, messages between the neighbors that loathed Bernadette so strongly, to understand and share with readers who were mother truly is and why she did what she did. It is through these various mediums that the story is told.

The characters in this story were extremely unique and complex. It is difficult to fully understand Bernadette. It is helpful to see what she goes through as both a woman, but it seems as though sometimes her personality wavers.

What is more well-founded and clear, though,  is Bee’s fierce love for her mother. Their relationship and banter is similar to that of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, as well as, perhaps, readers themselves. They rang true, and was often hilarious. The scene in the car where they sing the Beatles was special. Truthfully, such scenes were far too brief, too rare. Such situations made the crazy events more realistic.

For many of the situations throughout the story that the characters find themselves in are just that: crazy. So many ridiculous things happen, unbelievable things, that the reader is reminded of it continuously. But the point is that they are surprised, suspended, and amused. And they are.

Sometimes things are clarified with later emails; sometimes things are confusing only to be explained in detail later on. Regardless, the events, be they funny, sad, exciting, or strange—keep the story moving at a quick, fun pace. For this book is certainly many things: twisty and exciting, relatable, outlandishly dramatic, complicated, and even thought-provoking. Most of all, though, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is completely and ridiculously fun.

Rating: 5/5

Crown of Midnight Review

Wanna hear something horrible? I don’t even remember actually finishing this book.

I did finish, though. So that definitely says more about the book than me. (Right?)

ttrIt wasn’t horrible. I just lost interest in it somewhere towards the supposedly most exciting part of the story, and didn’t even care to finish it until a month later when I came home from school. I also did what I said I wouldn’t and read it as an audiobook. (It was free, okay!) I’m sure a physical copy would have made the story flow better, would have forced me into world of the fae, would have me somewhat worried about Celaena when she fights monsters.

Because boy did she fight a lot of monsters.

Those parts were cool, but a lot of them were like, “oh crap I didn’t see that coming!” or, “oh no I have to save the world again I hope I don’t die!” or even better, “oh my goodness I have MAGIC? Where did THAT come from?!” Like with the first book, I just didn’t like Celaena and Maas’s groundbreaking(ly predictable) logic. It felt juvenile.

To be fair, though, not everything was obnoxious or predictable. There were a couple parts where I was shocked, freaked out, on the edge of the seat in my car. Some of the best bits that Celaena didn’t see coming, I didn’t expect either.

(I’m not going to spoil anything of course, but even if I tried I wouldn’t know how to spell their names.)

So it was exciting and exciting book. No revolutionary literature here, but exciting nonetheless. If you loved the first book, I’ve heard that this one is better, from much more enthusiastic readers and bigger fans than me. It just wasn’t for me. (That cliche applies here, I think. I also think that it was used in the actual book somewhere.)

Me Before You

I don’t usually read what all of the BookTubers and Bookstagrammers are reading—at least not when they’re currently raving about and reading it. This isn’t on general principal, I just rarely have time, and am usually already reading something else anyway. But when I needed a new audiobook, I ran to the supposedly special and uber hyped-up little red book with swirly white letters on the cover. Especially since I had heard there was a movie coming out “sometime soon”—a movie starring none other than Daenerys Targaryen and Finnick Odair themselves.

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But then I actually started reading Me Before You. And I fell in love. And there is nothing fleeting or flippant about it.

Me Before You tells the story of a young woman named Louisa Clark who needs to find a job—and herself. She finds the former as a carer for quadriplegic Will Traynor, a man who has lived and loved and lost. He teaches her to embrace everything she has, everything she could have, and everything she could be.

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This sounds super cheesy—like, almost worthy of being photographed for social media but ripped apart in reviews. But it’s really worthy of so much more.

Yes, Louisa and Will fall in love. Spoiler alert. But the book doesn’t focus on this aspect of their relationship. It focuses on them as people, helping one another, living together and caring for one another in the limited ways that they can. It also focuses on their clever banter, which absolutely killed me. Louisa is hysterical—so awkward, so adorable, so relatable. Will is smart, sharp. Moyes’ characterization of them was impeccable. By the end of the story I felt like both characters were part of me. Or at least my children or something.

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Anyway, I absolutely adored the book. I loved the conflicts, the jokes, the message to live boldly. I easily forgave the pointless perspective changes, the sometimes annoying excess of sister drama (I hated Trina so this was amplified). I cried while listening to it. In my car. While driving down the road. Yeah. It was that good.

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So you can see why I was a little surprised when I didn’t shed a single tear when I saw the movie last night. I went to the screening at the Regal Theater in Atlantic Station, hosted by Warner Brothers and Harper’s Bazaar (thank you so, so much!). It was a good movie, but was nothing compared to the movie in my head, nothing compared to the book.

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Want some, Lou?

My main disappointment was due to how much of the story was omitted in the film. The backstory about why Lou isn’t as daring as she once was, why she hates the castle? Nope. Moving in with Patrick, fighting with the Traynors about taking Will places? Nothing. The freaking BUMBLEBEE TATTOO? NADA. Too many crucial, interesting, and character-bonding conflicts are smoothed over and erased.

Other than this, the movie was great. In fact, it was probably great to anyone who hadn’t read the book. Why so great? I don’t know, ask the Mother of Dragons and the darling of the Capitol. They were brilliant. Emilia WAS Louisa, and Sam WAS Will. She was so bubbly, so happy, so Lou. He was so rough and quick-mouthed, but later so kind. They were exactly what I imagined the characters to be like, right down to the facial expressions and costumes.

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This was the best part of the movie to me. Despite the simplified plot, despite everything happening so quickly, despite the imperceptible but pointless tweaks here and there, the movie Me Before You was mostly true to the book. But more importantly, it was true to the characters. Right down to the sparkly Wellies and bumblebee tights.

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Live boldly, all. “Just…live.”

Book: 5/5 stars

Movie: 7/10 stars

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

IMG_4199I committed the unforgivable book sin of watching the movie before reading the book.

Who can blame me though – I got free tickets! (Thank you, Fox Searchlight!)

The movie was playing at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta. It is the cutest little arthouse, complete with flowering trees and twinkling Christmas lights. I went with my mom, and we were completely prepared to cry.

We were not prepared to laugh our heads off. It was so funny I wanted to punch myself in the face.

(Not really, of course. Greg just says that a lot in the book and I find it humorous. I mean, just picture it.)

I know that laughing during a movie about a girl who is dying from cancer sounds morbid; I’ve gotten several strange looks while referring it to people for its comedic value. But I’m not kidding. It was mostly funny because of Greg and Earl, but comedians such as Nick Offerman (Greg’s dad) and Molly Shannon (Rachel’s mom, Denise) lit up the screen as well. Nick Offerman walking around in a robe holding Cat Stevens – don’t get me started.

It was the kind of movie that makes you cry with laughter and with sadness. But I didn’t really mind looking like a mess in a movie theater – it was that good.

It was so good, in fact, that I read the book solely to compare the two story formats.

First, there’s “me” – Greg, the novel’s brutally honest and extremely apathetic narrator. He’s flawed: he doesn’t care about the future, is lazy, and has a very low self-esteem. (In the book, this is sometimes exaggerated to an obnoxious extent. I was less annoyed with him in the movie.)

This isn’t to say that I hated Greg, or that he’s a bad character. He’s actually a really good character, one who is startlingly real. He makes bad jokes and has girl problems. His family is a bit odd, and school stresses him out. He felt like one of my brothers.

Greg’s tone throughout the novel is the kicker. It’s laced with humor, completely off-the-wall (but weirdly accurate) analogies, and his unfiltered thoughts about people and situations that he observes.

Then there’s Earl.

Earl is probably my favorite character. He’s so funny – crude, but funny. It takes a while to realize this, but Earl is much more mature and thoughtful than Greg. He calls Greg out on his crap, makes him take responsibility, makes him think. I felt like I knew Earl too, like he was someone I go to school with.

And we can’t forget about the dying girl.

I mean, even though the book seems to.

Seriously. I could easily count the number of chapters that Rachel is actually in. There are very few of them. Reading the book, I didn’t know her at all. It’s told from Greg’s memories and mind, and he’s so caught up with himself and conversations and making the film that, as a reader, I don’t even feel like Rachel was a real person. She was a shadow character.
me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girlThis is where the movie shone. The movie brought Rachel to life. It brought us out of Greg’s head and into his school, into Rachel’s house, into Mr. McCarthy’s office. (Why does the history teacher have an office? Whatever – respect the research.) The movie added humor (the scene in class where Greg discovers how he got high – not in the book) and took away useless factors (like Greg’s sisters, and the fact that he used to date Rachel). The movie was also nice because it showed bits and pieces of the films that they made. Because let’s be honest – it’s weird to read about someone doing stop motion.

Finally, the film added a level of depth and emotion that the book lacked. Like I said, everything in the book is told directly from Greg’s perspective, while in the movie you can see him struggle with things and see people interact with him. It’s less biased, in a way. You grow to love Rachel, and cry when it’s time for prom (also not in the book). The Greg in the book never would have done what Movie Greg did in this scene. Movie Greg does learn from Rachel’s situation, while Book Greg just seems to sort of move on.

(If that was vague, my apologies. Spoilers and whatnot.)

Long story short, the movie was perfect, and the book was pretty good. Weird as this sounds, I might like the book more because I saw the movie first, and because it was so good. I definitely would (and have) recommend(ed) this book and movie to others.

Who knew that a book/movie about a girl with cancer could be so funny?

Book: 4/5 stars

Movie: 9/10 stars (IMDb scale)

Emerge: The Awakening by Melissa Craven

EmergeWhat it’s about:

When Allie Carmichael is forced to leave her Australian life in the beginning of the book, she reacts as any teen would. The only difference is that moving isn’t new to her; she’s done it numerous times. But with the familiar struggle of making new friends and navigating a new place, the last thing Allie expects is to get new powers as well.

These powers that not only set her farther apart from others, but also explain why she has always been such an outsider. But she isn’t as alone as she thought; Allie makes many new friends – and allies – that help her as her life changes in ways that she struggles to fathom.

The powers and knowledge that she gains do not come without a price, however. Allie tries to have a normal life, tries not to love the guy who becomes the one constant thing in her life, tries to get stronger through her daily training sessions, and tries not to be killed. Allie soon discovers that these things are going to be difficult and that, when she and her friends are eventually put to the test, it is only the beginning of her long and mysterious destiny.

What I thought:

I received an ARC of Emerge, and it was well worth the read. It brought several words to mind: unusual, intriguing, funny, and promising.

Unusual, because I personally have never read a book like this before. I liked it, but was very surprised. I enjoyed that I learned about Allie (the main character) and her new world just as she did.

Intriguing, because I often couldn’t put it down, and read several hundred pages at a time. I thought that it would simply be another dystopian novel with a strong female lead. I was wrong. Craven creates an entire history and race, but places it within a modern setting. This setting makes both the characters and their struggles, which are occasionally unrealistic, more relatable. I did get confused about who was who and what backstory was what. However, most of my questions were eventually answered. After the stories and training sessions, the book got particularly exciting. My OTP grew closer, and I began to care more about what happened to them and the rest of the characters.

Funny, because it made me actually laugh out loud. I grew to like Allie more and more because of her quick and sarcastic sense of humor. Her interactions with the other characters were so clever; she said things that I wish I had thought to say.

Promising, because I know that it is the first book of the series. As a stand alone, there would have been way too much introduction and rising action. However, the conflicts that were introduced, the pressing ones – were solved. It was satisfying, and somewhat surprising. I definitely recommend this book, especially if you like magic, sassy heroines, and prophecies.

4/5 stars

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

FullSizeRender (6)What it’s about:

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn is a story about a woman named Libby Day who survived and escaped the massacre of her family (about twenty years before the novel takes place). The book jumps from the past to the present, revealing glimpses at both the repercussions of and the actual events that took place. In the past, family and financial problems build and threaten to tear the lives of the Days apart, even without the knowledge of what is to come. In the present day (ha, pun), Libby’s only surviving sibling, Ben, has been convicted and imprisoned as her family’s killer. However, no one really knows what happened at the family farm on that fateful, bloody night. A seriously twisted group of people that calls itself the “Kill Club” has several theories of its own, ones that they eagerly hire Libby to explore. Only then does Libby get out of her dark place and open herself up to the idea that maybe her brother is not really the killer. Maybe, just maybe, more went on that night than she had originally thought.

What I thought:

I picked up Dark Places because I loved Gone Girl, by the same author. I’ve decided that Gillian Flynn is not afraid of writing anything. The topics she explores and describes are uncomfortable (and simply gross, at times), but I admire her for it. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to make note of some of the things that she does. So, bravo Gillian.

In this book, Flynn also uses three different perspectives, similar to the method she implements in Gone Girl. The third person narrator follows Libby in the present day, and skips between Ben and their clueless mother, Patty, up to the night (morning, technically) that they are killed. This allows the reader glimpses of the action from many different points of view. It was infuriating at times; some parts were slow, and I did not like Patty very much. However, the changes in perspective and time not only kept the story moving, but also made it much more interesting and exciting.

And then, of course, there were Flynn’s famous plot twists. The arbitrary goose chase was worth the twists toward the end. I won’t spoil anything, but I loved when Libby and Lyle finally piece everything together. And the whole Diondra thing? OMG.

None of the people I expected to be the killer were the killer. Which was good and bad. Good because, again, plot twist. But bad because it seemed really random, like an afterthought, almost.

It wasn’t the best book in the world, but I would recommend it, especially if you liked Gone Girl, or murder mystery stories in general. You should especially read it before the movie (starring Charlize Theron, Chloe Moretz, and Nicholas Hoult) comes out sometime this year!

3.5/5 stars

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

FullSizeRender (5)Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is the most well-written and thought-provoking dystopian novel that I have ever read.

It chronicles the collapse of the modern day world due to a mysterious and deadly flu virus. Before, there was Arthur Leander, an actor like many others: he made it big, is plagued by popularity, and suffers a cruel hand dealt by fate. After, there is a world-hardened Kirsten Raymonde, who remembers very little from before – except for the aforementioned actor, whom she collects articles about in order to preserve pieces of both her past and that of the world she has lost.

Station Eleven has many shifts in both time and tense. The story jumps from the past (before, during, and after the flu outbreak and the end of the world), to the present (exactly twenty years after the pandemic). It also follows many different characters as they go (or went) about their lives. In the beginning, these stories seem disjointed. Characters and symbols seem to come and go arbitrarily. However, eventually everything ties together in a brilliant, unexpected, and even beautiful way.

This book was also written well in that the language and descriptions used were so astounding and  lovely in and of themselves. I could clearly picture everything that the characters saw and feel all of the emotions they felt. Sometimes the story jumped to their stream of consciousness, and a character would relay everything that they saw and felt, down to the silhouette of an ant on a tent. I appreciated these details, and admired how well everything was explained and thought out.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially those who are fans of dystopian novels, or books such as The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Station Eleven is full of poetic language, interesting insights about life and the world in which we live.

5/5 stars