Saturday, November 26, 2011

In My Mailbox #26

Okay, it is like a year since I did In My Mailbox last time... so I think it is good time to do one RIGHT now! :)

These are some gems I've found in the past few weeks!

(The links take you to the Goodreads description of the novels.) 

Any thoughts on these books? What did you get/buy this week? 
Have a great week and remember to ReadReadRead!

Book Review: The Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry

Synopsis ( from Goodreads): 

With her body still recovering from last year's cancer treatments, Leigh Tressman is determined to be independent. Despite the interference from her overprotective brother, physical frustrations, and spiritual dilemmas— not to mention the ever expanding line of young men ready to fall in love with her— Leigh discovers what it actually means to stand on her own and learns that love can be found in unexpected but delightful places

My thoughts:

The Next Door Boys is one of those novels I picked from NetGalley just because I liked the cover design. I've had a Samsung Galaxy Tab for a while now, but I never had given the ebooks a try. Well, now I finally did, and with positive results.

I really didn't give the synopsis much attention before starting to read. So I was totally clueless to the religious aspect of the novel. Now that I look back, I think it was a good thing because I usually pass the stories with religion included. As I read through this, I actually started to enjoy the religious aspect of the story but at the same time it make me kind of sad because I myself don't have the kind of strong belief to anything (expect maybe myself) that the main character Leigh has.

All Leigh wants it some independence. But to her cancer, she had to miss a year from school, and now, even though she is recovered, she is still under the watchful eye of her parents and her big brother. Moving out and starting college isn't really what she expected; her brother is her neighbour and it seems like guys are giving her a lot more attention than she expected. And then there's Brian, her brother's roommate who first indimitates her, but who eventually becomes closer to Leigh that she never expected.

Cancer is always an issue which makes you think about your own life and what you can be grateful for. I lost my childhood friend to cancer this summer, and I have since then avoided anything related to cancer. I think reading this novel did some good to me because it made me believe that it always does not end the way it ended for my friend. It also made me feel grateful for the time and memories I was able to have with my friend.

I don't want anyone to be taken back by the religious aspect of this novel because I feel like if you pass this one, you lose a GREAT reading experience. The characters are so realistic and all of them fragile in their own ways. The love and friendship portrayed in this novel are so pure and something I myself desire. Through the glimpses to their religious faith these characters become even more real and throughout the novel I felt like these characters became people I would love to hang out with.
This novel definitely surprised me with a big bang! 

I want to thank NetGalley for providing me the review copy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book Review: A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

A Dolls House, a play by Henrik Ibsen remains still a classic of drama. It touches on issues of womanhood, but also on issues on parenting and money. Through its characters we learn a lot about the society of its time, giving us historical insights into the context of the play text.

Nora, the protagonist of Ibsen's play isn't really what the appearances give out. Treated like a child by her husband, she seems like the ideal wife of a man who's power in business is rising. But the truth is that Nora has a secret, a secret that would change everything.

Torvald, Nora's husband, is a man of strong principles. The loan, which Nora has taken behind Torvald's back fights against all of Torvald's principles and values. Torvald sees women belonging to their homes to take care of children and their husbands (probably a very common view during the time the play was written). He despises the independence of women and is strongly against borrowing money. 

The role of women is one of the main themes of Ibsen's play. Nora eventually breaks out from the mold designed from women by the society (and men). But this is not done without consequences; her self-sacrificing decision to leave her children to the hands of the nanny. Throughout the play the characters have talked about how children end up bad if their parents have been acting morally wrong. This is a thought that must be in Nora's head when she leaves her children.

Readers of Ibsen's play probably have very different types of reactions to Nora's actions, especially to her final decision. I myself cannot identify with Nora because I do not have children, but for a reader who is a mother (or father) the situation must seem quite different. Nora is stuck in a dolls house built up by her husband and the society and is tired of keeping up the appearances. 

But are her actions justified? Are we still, today, living in dolls houses we've built for ourselves and people around us?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review: From Notting Hill with Love...Actually by Ali McNamara

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Scarlett O'Brien is in love . . . with the movies. Utterly hooked on Hugh Grant, crazy about Richard Curtis, dying with lust for Johnny Depp, Scarlett spends her days with her head in the clouds and her nights with her hand in a huge tub of popcorn. Which is not exactly what her sensible, DIY-obsessed fiancĂ© David has in mind for their future. So when Scarlett has the chance to house-sit an impossibly grand mansion in Notting Hill ? the setting of one of her all-time favourite movies ? she jumps at the chance to live out her film fantasies one last time. It's just a shame that her new neighbour Sean is so irritating ? and so irritatingly handsome, too. As a chaotic comedy of her very own erupts around Scarlett, she begins to realise there's more to life than seating plans and putting up shelves. What sort of happy ending does she really want? Will it be a case of Runaway Bride or Happily Ever After? The big white wedding looms, and Scarlett is running out of time to decide.

My thoughts:

The first time I bumped into this books months ago in a bookstore at Finland I knew that it would be a perfect read for me. The synopsis sounds great; movies, London, handsome neighbor. Already from the cover you see that this is one of those books that you know what is going to happen in the end. But aren't you even a bit curious to see how it will happen?

Scarlett, the heroine is in many ways like me; she is completely obsessed with movies (I am reminded about my obsession daily by my friends and family). She also tends to relate everything to movies, which is something I do all the time. She is in love with Hugh Grant, she has seen Notting Hill way too many times, and she keeps hoping that a life would be a bit more like a movie. Her fiance David is a totally opposite to Scarlett and her personality. He seems uptight and annoying most of the time. It is still a bit unclear for me way Scarlett is with him in the first place.

When Scarlett's wedding is looming around, she realizes that she needs some time on her own to think. When she is offered a position as a house-sitter at Notting Hill, she cannot refuse. Her first moments at Notting Hill are (of course) like straight for a movie. She meets a gay guy, they become instants friends and she is invited to a dinner. She also meets her new temporary neighbor, who of course is steaming hot, but also a bit arrogant (Mr. Darcy, much?) And of course they meet at the dinner again... And that is just the beginning.

As the time goes by at Notting Hill, Scarlett sees that life truly is full of movie-like moments. She and Sean (the hot neighbor) also seem like polar opposites as you get to know more about them, but they at least have chemistry between them. It just takes a bit of time for Scarlett to fully realize it.

As I said before, this novel is totally obvious one. But I did not expect anything else from it. It is funny, full of nice movie mentions and the ending is SO romantic that it made me cry for good 10 minutes. I want my own Sean ASAP!

(From the end of the book you can find nice movie trivia and a guide to Notting Hill)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Review: Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry #1) by Simone Elkeles

Description (from Goodreads):
When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.  In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

My thoughts:
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles is one of those books that has been on my reading list literally for years, but I just never managed to buy it and give it a read, probably mostly because of the fact that I never saw a copy of it in a Finnish book store. Now that I have moved to UK, it was one of the first books I bought from here. And I am so happy I did so, because it was AMAZING!

The description of the story sounds pretty familiar; a girl and a boy from totally different backgrounds are forced together. They fall in love and are the only ones who actually understand why they are together. But this novel so much more than just this quite stereotypical story pattern.

What made this story exceptional was the characterization of both Brittany and Alex. They are round characters; they have many sides to them. So Brittany isn't just a stereotypical popular girl. And Alex isn't just a bad guy from the hood. Brittany's family life sucks and she keeps up a role just to please her parents. Alex is intelligent and passionate, but he has been sucked into the gangs and thus sees that as his eventual end. But everything changes when they are paired up in a chemistry class. After actually getting to know each other, they notice they can be themselves around each other. 

I just loved everything about this novel. It manages to be funny, heartbreaking, passionate and intelligent all at the same time. It really catches the attention all the way from the beginning and you just have to keep reading. (I did the mistake of starting this a night before a morning class and kept reading it throughout the whole night.... I must say I was quite tired at my morning class).

Definitely one of the best books I have read in a long time!