Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday (#73) - Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List


It has been a year since I wrote a Top Ten Tuesday post. To be honest, I have kind of missed putting these lists together. When I was browsing through the Broke and Bookish site I got so excited when I noticed the topic for this week because I knew putting this list together would mean I would have to go through lists of new releases as well as titles from my already existing TBR.

I am hopefully going to find the time to read more than just these ten books during the fall, but here is a list of ten titles I am really looking forward to reading!



Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

"A Southern Odyssey" set in Mississippi. A tale of a family, hope, struggle, addiction, and more. This has been described as an "essential contribution to American literature", a statement that was certainly able to capture my attention. Sing, Unburied, Sing has been longlisted for 2017 National Book Award.


What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

A lot of books have already been published about the election and more will likely make their appearance as the presidency of that Dum-dum continues. Though the topic interests me in general, this account by Hillary Clinton is the one I want to read ASAP. 


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I KNOW I SHOULD HAVE READ THIS ONE ALREADY! At the time this book was published earlier this year I was super busy with my thesis and last assignments, so I figured I should not even pick it up because then I could not focus on anything else. The publication was months ago, my thesis has been submitted and I have graduated and I still haven't managed to read this one. This is probably the highest priority title on this list! The Hate U Give has been longlisted for 2017 National Book Award.


The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn

I find the subject matter extremely intriguing. The fact that this one has been getting amazing reviews definitely adds to my excitement to read it. 



A collection poems, essays, and photos telling the story of the life of the mother of Alexie Sherman. Sherman has written the screenplay for one of my favorite movies (Smoke Signals) so I am pretty much interested to read anything he writes. I think this one also delves into Sherman's childhood on an Indian reservation, which is something I am really interested in reading about.


Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens 

Small town setting, a group of friends, and solid reviews by reviewers I trust all make me want to read this one as soon as possible! I also tend to think books set in small towns are perfect for the fall!


This non-fiction book focuses on a case of wrongful conviction through the case of Willie J. Grimes. I am obsessed with true crime shows/books/podcasts so, obviously, this new release is something I am dying to read. 



This one is also about the American system, which I have started to find more and more interesting in the past few years. This one has gathered some pretty impressive reviews and I am eager to know if the hype is deserved. 


Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

I have loved everything I have previously read by Jennifer E. Smith and I have a feeling I will be in need of some easy-to-read contemporary stories after I finish with the previous two books on this list. 


One of Us Is Lying by Karen McGinnis

This is not necessarily the kind of book I would normally pick up but the synopsis caught my attention and the stellar reviews my bookish friends have been giving to this certainly help too. I also heard that this one will be turned into a TV series which definitely sounds interesting too!

Let me know in the comments what you are planning to read this fall!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall (Review)

Release date: January 3rd, 2017
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Clarion Books

Description (from Goodreads):

At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?



Oh my, this one was REALLY good! 

I always feel slightly hesitant to pick up books which deal with anxiety because of (a) my own anxiety and (b) the fear that anxiety is used only as some sort of gimmick that the anxious character suddenly and magically gets rid off when for example a cute guy shows around.
"It's like my mind and my brain are two separate things, working against each other. I can't get them to cooperate."
The latter is just not the reality of anxiety (at least not for me) and I am glad to report that at least I was able to identify Gornall's representation of anxiety and anxious feelings as realistic. Because of that, Under Rose-Tainted Skies is hard to read at times, but that also makes it so damn real. 

The novel focuses on Norah, who suffers from agoraphobia and is unable to leave her house. As she herself says, she is "scared of everything." She lives with her mother, who I absolutely loved by the way, and is used to spending a lot of time on her own.
"She thinks that all my baggage shouldn't matter. She thinks people should see past it, should see that I am more than what is wrong with me. The clouds in her sky are always rose-coloured, which I know is a beautiful way to be. Alas, I have a mind that muddies everything. My skies aren't so pretty; more tainted with fear than tainted with whimsy."
While agoraphobia is obviously a huge part of Norah's life, I loved the fact that she is not defined only by that. What I mean by this is the fact that Gornall represent Norah as this wonderful, multifaceted character who fears the outside, but who also fiercely loves her mother, dreams of a kind of future her mind keeps fighting against, and who possesses a wonderful sense of humor and an ability to laugh at herself. Pretty much from page one, I was rooting for Norah!

I always like it when young adult novels feature good description of a therapist-client relationship, and I think Gornall does pretty good job creating the scenes in which Norah talks about her life with her therapist. Such scenes are also interestingly used to give insights into Norah's condition and the different things she has been going through. 

One of the main aspects that made Under Rose-Tainted Skies hard to read at times are the sections of the novel focused on Norah's self-harming behavior, such as cutting and picking on her skin. As a result of these scenes, I would definitely attach a trigger warning about self-harm to this novel!
"Acceptance of the strange is his superpower."
The romantic element of the novel is introduced when a new guy called Luke moves to the house next door to Norah's. As she connects with Luke, first hesitantly, Norah starts to feel things that both scare and excite her. In general, Luke is a super decent guy, but I did appreciate the fact that Gornall does not attempt to portray him as some sort of 100% perfect prince but rather as someone who is flawed and might not always know at first how to talk to or act around Norah. All and all, the romantic aspect of the novel was very cute, yet realistic, at least to the extent that Norah does not suddenly just recover from her anxiety after a cute guy looks at her.

I though Under the Rose-Tainted Skies was a beautiful, touching, occasionally funny, and romantic novel about growing up, about coming to terms with issues related to mental health. Gornall writes beautifully and once I really got into this story I found it extremely difficult to put down.


Rating:


Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (Review)

Release date: March 4, 2014
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 237

Description (from Goodreads):

A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

"This is an enchanted place. Others don't see it, but I do."

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners' pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Beautiful and transcendent, The Enchanted reminds us of how our humanity connects us all, and how beauty and love exist even amidst the most nightmarish reality.
 



Once in a while you, if you're lucky, you come across a book that changes how you think about certain things. For me, The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld was that kind of book.

When you really start to think about it, isn't it actually quite strange that certain combinations of words can make you feel so much. To make you think. 
"In here, names end. We end. Like periods end sentences. Like the ropes and the bullets and the hot electric nodes and the frying chair, and eventually, the cool milky tubes. Even if we live out our lives in here, we end. Our creation is over."
I imagine that when you decide to write about death row inmates, one of the first things you must decide on is how to portray individuals whose actions have been deemed so horrible that they have been convicted to death. You can sensationalize such individuals, turn then into caricatures of human monstrosity. You can keep them clouded in mystery and let other characters speak for them. Or then you can do what Rene Denfeld has done with The Enchanted.

In addition to being an author, Denfeld is actually a death penalty investigator, and I think the fact that she has done work similar to what "the Lady" does on this novel really allows her to write about death row inmates as human beings, as people with feelings and thoughts, fears, and hopes. Yes, they all did horrible things to end up there, and at no point does Denfeld try to deny that. But it also questions a system that makes people want to die instead of trying to fight for some sort of life. Not necessarily a life of freedom, but at least a life that allows one to exit the conditions of solitary confinement.
"No one heals from what I did. I want her to pretend that I never happened -- I was an abortion that went undone. I want to tell her I wish I could take it all back, fold back into the womb, erase myself into a seed, make myself obsolete. Never have been, never was here. never did those terrible, horrible, heartbreaking things to her son."
I come from a country where death sentences are not "a thing". In general, you cannot really be convicted "for life" -- you can get a life sentence, but that usually means about 14 years of imprisonment, after which it is seen that one has suffered his/her punishment and is allowed to start a new life. There are of course those, who get out, commit a new crime and are taken back in, but in practice, an individual who for instance murders someone can walk free after doing his/her time. 

The US prison system is probably more familiar to me than the Finnish one, just because it has been the focus of some many movies, books, TV shows and documentaries that have allowed me to take a look to it from different points of view. Denfeld's novel is definitely a worthy addition, and one that I think possesses a kind of honesty I have never come across before.

Since "the Lady" and Denfeld herself are death sentence investigators, individuals who try to find ways to save death row inmates from a death sentence, I would imagine both are against the death sentence. Even if your opinion is opposite to theirs, you should definitely read this one, because it might provide you with something you have not thought about before. 
""Yes" is the most beautiful word in the world to him, a word of open doors and new adventures."
The focus of The Enchanted is on a number of characters -- there are the inmates on Death Row, the Lady trying to save a character named York from the execution of his sentence, a priest who has fallen from grace, a young boy who comes face-to-face with the brutality of the prison system, and many others. The narration of the novel is done extremely interestingly. Honestly, I do not want to say much about it, because I think the narrative voice and the events he describes are elements every individual reader should make his/her own interpretations about. If you have read this one, leave me a comment and let's chat about our thoughts on the narrator

Denfeld writes so beautifully and gracefully about people and especially places that are definitely not considered beautiful or graceful. But while the words are beautiful, this definitely is far away from a "feel good" book of any kind. It is brutal (trigger warnings esp. for rape, violence, discussions of self-harm) and harsh, and what makes it so difficult to read about is the fact that there is a sense that these are not things that Denfeld has just come up with. Rather, these are things she has witnessed, things she has heard about.
"Later I read that there are things inside us too tiny to see. Not even a microscope can capture them. This got me thinking -- if there are things inside us too tiny to see, might there be things outside us too big to believe?"
While for the majority of this novel there is a sense of hopelessness present, little moments here and there feel hopeful and show that even in the darkest of darknesses there is a possibility for a sudden ray of light.

I cannot really name a specific group of readers I would recommend this to, because I honestly want everyone to read this! It might not be for all, and the subject matters it deals with can understandably make some readers hesitant about reading it, but if the synopsis at all catches your attention, I highly recommend that you at least give it a try. And hey, if you like magical realism, there is some of that here as well!


Rating:


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What I Read During Summer 2017

Summer is starting to be over, at least here in Oulu, Finland, where colorful leaves are already filling up my yard. A sure sign of fall is also my yearly knitting and crocheting inspiration which usually hits once the temperatures get lower and you need to start to think about things like scarves, mittens and winter hats.

Since I didn't blog much this summer (expect by posting a few reviews from my drafts), I thought rather than writing reviews for all the books I read (that would take forever!), I could just share some of the highlights with you.


The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch

Summer 2017 will probably forever be remembered by me as the Summer of Twin Peaks. The Twin Peaks revival inspired me to pick up this cult classic from the 90s since I wanted to know more about Laura and about Twin Peaks as a setting. I don't know what I was really expecting from this one, but oh my, this one was much darker than I expected it to be. Laura is such an interesting, flawed, fragile character. While her story introduced in the show is tragic as it is, knowing more about her childhood and her life with her parents makes her short life seem even more tragic. If you are a Twin Peaks fan I highly recommend picking this one up if you haven't already! The diary format makes it quick to read and I honestly feel like it added a lot to my general understanding of the "Twin Peaks universe". 


Kangastus 38 (The Wednesday Club) by Kjell Westö

This spring/summer has been monumental in the sense that for the first time in ten years I have started to read Finnish books and books in Finnish again. While I still find reading in English somewhat easier at times I have noticed that by extending my reading to include books in Finnish as well my selection of what to read has increased A LOT. I am in Finland, after all, and the libraries are mostly filled with books written in Finnish or translated to Finnish.

I picked up Kjell Westö's Kangastus 38 (you can find it in English by the title The Wednesday Club) one night from a bag of books my mother had put for recycling. I had never heard about it before, but the mention of pre-WW2 Helsinki and a society filled with people who consume movies, magazines, etc. caught my interest. I never expected I would enjoy a book I just randomly picked up as much as I did enjoy this one. If you are interested in familiarizing yourself with Finnish literature I highly recommend this one -- it features Helsinki, the capital city, as a setting and goes into some of the political stuff that took place in Finland the years and decades after the Civil War while focusing on an interesting set of characters and events


The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

I read Denfeld's The Enchanted earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with the rawness and beauty of it. When I noticed Denfeld's new novel was available on Netgalley, I acted instantly and luckily got approved to read it. While The Child Finder was not as good as The Enchanted, perhaps because I find the subject matter of Denfeld's previous novel more interesting, it is a good, touching, raw and gripping novel that kept me on the edge of my seat. Denfeld writes so incredibly well and the way she develops her characters managed to, once again, take my breath away. If you like literary thrillers or thrillers in general, I highly recommend picking this one up. Also, I am not a big mystery/thriller reader, but I was unable to put this one down!


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I cannot believe it took me so long to get to this one. I feel like everyone had already read this one, so there is probably no need to go on for too long about this one. Bad Feminist was just as entertaining, thought-provoking, hilarious and well-researched as everyone told me it would be. As a media/film person I especially loved the essays she writes about movies/television/media culture in general. 


We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson

I kind of hope I would have saved this for Halloween, but oh well... I can always reread it if I feel like it. Since I started watching BookTube years ago I have been seeing this book frequently on different kind of favorites lists. When I was looking for a short book I finally picked it up and read the whole thing on one sitting. We Have Always Lived in a Castle is extremely entertaining, dark, kind of funny, and just pleasure to read. I cannot wait to see the movie adaptation of it which stars the lovely Sebastian Stan, among others. 


Hunger by Roxane Gay

I actually read this one before picking up Bad Feminist and I can honestly say one of the main reasons for acquiring Bad Feminist this summer was the fact that I loved this one so much. Roxane Gay writes incredibly well and her approach to discussing her body and her life so honestly made me tear up several times while reading this one. 


Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

I picked this up on a whim from the library while waiting for my mother to get out of work. I have seen the movie adaption of Double Indemnity multiple times, so there were really no surprises here. Nevertheless, I thought the book was well written and entertaining, so much so that I read the whole thing during one night. If you are deciding between reading the book and watching the film I would go with the film. Maybe after that, you want to read the book too like I did. 

Please leave a comment below and tell me what were some of the best books you read during summer 2017. Also, I really want to know which books you are looking forward to reading during the fall. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

This Is The Start of Something New...Again


I can't even remember how many times I have done this, written a comeback post after my blog has been inactive for a while. Before, I used to feel so guilty not updating this blog and writing this kind of posts felt like an equivalent to the epitomic "walk to shame" (not that I really have any experience of that). But feeling guilty about something like this, about a hobby that should be fun for me instead of stressful, seems kind of silly to me now. Yes, I am sad that I have not been able to post here, but there are reasons for that.


First of all, I am not a Master of Arts. I graduated officially in late-July, though I did submit my thesis already in mid-April. All sorts of university bureaucracy just made it so that I had to wait for the official graduation for a while. Since people tend to graduate at very different times there are really no big ceremonies with caps and gowns. I, in fact, picked up my official degree from the nearby grocery store with a small post office desk. No pomp and circumstance there, let me tell you.

Life after graduation has been fun yet at the same time a whole new kind of stressful. I have been actively looking for a job for a few months now and unfortunately, my search has not yielded results yet. I am trying to stay optimistic though and really want to believe that just right around the corner there might an amazing job just for me. Luckily my parents are letting me stay at home until my situation changes, which means I don't have to worry about paying rent.


Moving on to something else... A day after I submitted my thesis in April I got a call from home that my grandmother has passed away. Obviously, my thesis and the impending graduation were forgotten by me right away as I had to start to organize a trip whole while grieving the loss of a woman who was so influential to me for almost 26 years. My grandmother had lung cancer, so her passing wasn't a complete surprise, but at the same time, I do wish that we would have had a little more time with her. Since my father passed away years ago, my brother and I had to also become involved with all of the legal stuff that comes up with when someone dies (THERE IS SO MUCH STUFF YOU NEED TO DO!), which added a whole new level of stress to the situation. Things are getting a bit easier now and while I do miss my grandmother daily I have been able to think about all of the good things and memories she supplied me with.

So why am I back, you might ask. To be completely honest, I am not quite sure why myself. I just felt like writing something and once again writing about the books I have read and coming back to this blog seemed like the most logical decision. How often will I update? I have no idea! I might update several times a week, a few times a month... I am not making any promises. I just wanted you to know that I am still reading, I am still interested in sharing my love for books with you, and that you might hear from me sooner rather than later.

I hope you are all doing wonderfully! Fall has already taken over Finland and my yard is filled with beautifully colored leaves (I have to share a pic with you soon!) Hockey season started last week (pretty much like Christmas for me!), and speaking of Christmas... IT IS NOT THAT FAR AWAY! I am knitting myself a massive scarf, reading books accompanied by a warm cup of tea, and preparing myself for fall TV. Please let me know in the comments how you are doing and if you are on Twitter, LET'S CHAT! You can find me from @milkamilka.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

After the Fall by Kate Hart (Review)

Release date: January 24th, 2017
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Pages: 336

Description (from Goodreads):

A YA debut about a teen girl who wrestles with rumors, reputation, and her relationships with two brothers.

Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens. He doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a girl, except when he decides she needs rescuing. But Raychel doesn't want to be his girl anyway. She just needs his support as she deals with the classmate who assaulted her, the constant threat of her family’s eviction, and the dream of college slipping quickly out of reach. Matt tries to help, but he doesn’t really get it… and he’d never understand why she’s fallen into a secret relationship with his brother. The friendships are a precarious balance, and when tragedy strikes, everything falls apart. Raychel has to decide which pieces she can pick up – and which ones are worth putting back together.



After the Fall has been on my radar for what feels like forever, which made it one of my most expected 2017 releases. The synopsis instantly caught my attention when I first read it, because it kind of reminded of something I have read before, for example by Courtney Summers.

Raychel is seventeen and living in a college town she cannot wait to leave behind her. She lives with her mother, is no stranger to financial problems, and feels like her plans for the future are increasingly becoming just a distant dream than something that could actually happen to her. 

There are two guys on Raychel's life -- her best friend Matt and his brother Andrew. While Matt seems like the "obvious" choice for her, she navigates towards Andrew. Matt is safe and more than eager to protect her, but maybe that is not what she is really looking for. 

In addition to Matt and Andrew, there is a classmate who sexually assaults Raychel, which understandably complicates her relationships with men. Who can she trust? Does she need someone to save her, or can she save herself? Does she need to be saved in the first place? 

After the Fall is written in dual narration format and switches between the points of view of Raychel and Matt. I really liked Raychel as a narrator but found myself annoyed by a large portion of Matt's parts, but I think that was something Hart tried to do in the first place. At first, Matt is introduced as this "ideal" guy, but the more we hear of his thoughts, it becomes clear that he is one of those guys who thinks that being "good" excuses him from the shit he says. 

Andrew is much less responsible in comparison to Matt, but not trying too hard to be "good" actually makes him so much more likable, and it is clear to see why Raychel finds herself wanting to get closer to him.

In addition to being dually narrated, the novel is also divided into two parts, with the first part being much stronger. 

After the Fall deals with feminism and rape culture, both important topics and ones everyone should be aware of. As Raychel gets assaulted by a classmate, questions of what actually constitutes sexual assault, what consent means, etc. are ones Raychel tries to find an answer to, and in connection the assault the novel quite brilliantly brings up the things schools should teach students about sexual assault -- maybe rather than paying attention to what girls wear, educators should focus on telling about, for example, consent. 

After the Fall is definitely not a happy, breezy, easy to read young adult contemporary novel. The struggle Raychel goes through broke my heart, and the parts focused on her assault and its aftermath made me hate this world and the way it treats its young girls/women. 

I desperately wanted to give this novel four stars, but unfortunately,  I found myself losing interest towards the end of the second part. The first part is written exceptionally well, and the second part just cannot follow that. If the synopsis catches your attention, I definitely recommend you give this a try, though -- just be prepared to be annoyed with Matt. 


Rating:


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Girl Out Of Water by Laura Silverman (Review)

Release date: May 2nd, 2017
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

(Review copy from NetGalley)

Description (from Goodreads):

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.




This book caught my attention when the author Laura Silverman was being bombarded with absolutely hateful comments on Twitter. I love vocal people who are not afraid to express their opinions, so I instantly added this to my TBR. When I noticed it was auto approved for it on NetGalley, I didn't hesitate and instantly downloaded to my iPad.

Anise Sawyer loves her life on the beach. School is over for the year and her plans for the summer include surfing as much as possible and spending time with a group of friends she has been close with since she can remember. 

All of a sudden, her plans for the summer come crashing down when her father tells her that they are set to fly to Nebraska on the next day. Very quickly, summer of surfing and bonfires on the beach turns into summer of babysitting for her aunt's children in the soaring heat of a Nebraska summer.

I absolutely loved Anise as a character, mostly because she felt so real to me. While reading about Anise, I felt like I was reading about a real teenager, about someone who is intelligent and kind, but also occasionally selfish and a bit melodramatic. She is flawed, but hey, aren't we all. 

The relationship she has with her father was one of my favorite things about this novel. My father passed away when I was 12 years old, so the teenage me never had a relationship with my father, and I think that is one of the reasons I love reading about loving and caring father-daughter relationships.

The relationship Anise has with her mother is also a big part of the novel and I loved how Silverman was able to make the mother's presence tangible even touch she isn't really there for Anise in a way her father is. 

Anise's familiar relationships are also focused on via her connection with her young cousins and it is in these interactions between Anise and the kids she has been told to take care of that Silverman's prose gets to really shine. I loved how in many ways Girl Out of Water is all about different kind of families and proves that not all families look the same. It also shows that while family life might not always be perfect, being surrounded by people you love makes it worth it.

Related to the question of the family is the concept of home. For Anise, Santa Cruz has always been home. Her house on the beach, her garage filled with surfing equipment, the hangouts she spends time at with her friends. Santa Cruz, in many ways, is who she really is and she has never felt a need to leave. When the trip to Nebraska forces her out of her comfort zone, Anise starts to think about what home really means to her and how to come to terms with the fact that life in Santa Cruz is going to keep going even when she is not there. 

If you are a fan of contemporary romance, you won't be disappointed with Girl Out of Water. There's a guy she leaves behind -- someone she has known for a long time, someone who pretty much defines home for her -- as well as someone completely new and surprising, someone who makes her question a lot of things and someone who challenges her in a way she not been challenged in before. Fear not, there is no love triangle here, though

I love romance and I think Silverman writes the romantic scenes very well. But I think as a whole, this novel is about much more than the possible new romantic interest that Anise meets during the summer. As mentioned, it is about family, about home, and perhaps most importantly, about a young girl making new discoveries about her life once she is removed from the setting she has always thought to be the only place in the world 100% made for her. 

Silverman writes exceptionally well and as a whole, Girl Out of Water was an incredibly pleasant reading experience for me. I also want to give Silverman two thumbs up for the way she writes about disability.


Rating:


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Double Review: Beauty and the Beast Novelization by Elizabeth Rudnick & Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly

Release date: January 31st, 2017
Author links: Goodreads - Website
Publisher: Disney Press
Pages: 275

Description (from Goodreads):

Belle has dreamt of adventures like the ones she reads in her books, of traveling the world outside her small town. When Belle's father is captured, she takes his place as a prisoner of a fearsome Beast. But life in the enchanted castle isn't as terrible as Belle imagines, and she ultimately finds friendship and love. Enjoy this tale as old as time about adventure and love, about looking past first appearances, and about the inner Beauty and Beast in all of us in this beautiful novelization of the upcoming star-studded film!






Release date: January 31st, 2017
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Disney Press
Pages: 352

Description (from Goodreads):

An original addition to the beloved Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Lost in a Book follows the lonely, bookish Belle as she finds an enchanted book in the Beast’s library called Nevermore that carries her into a glittering new world. There, Belle is befriended by a mysterious countess who offers her the life she’s always dreamed of.

But Nevermore is not what it seems, and the more time Belle spends there, the harder it is to leave. Good stories take hold of us and never let us go, and once Belle becomes lost in this book, she may never find her way out again.
This deluxe hardcover novel expands upon the beautiful story and world seen in the new Walt Disney Studios' film, Beauty and the Beast.



Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Disney movies, so obviously I have been eagerly waiting for the premiere of the new movie. It hit theaters a few weeks ago, but, unfortunately, I haven't had time to see it yet (thesis has been keeping me busy!), but I did have time to read these two Disney releases released as sort of promotion material for the movie.

Elizabeth Rudnick's book is a straight-up novelization of the movie script. I guess one could question why I decided to read it before seeing the movie, but honestly, can you really be spoiled for this movie this the story is so well-known? I don't think so. There are a few things here that are not in the animation, but I imagine they are things that have made it into the new movie.

Obviously something that is missing from the novelization are the songs, but I think including the lyrics to the different musical pieces would have interrupted the flow of the story. This novelization is nothing mindblowing, but I did enjoy reading more about these characters, and the final few chapters managed to make me very emotional! 

Also, after reading this I really cannot wait to see the movie!

The book by Jennifer Donnelly is an original addition to the story of Belle and the Beast and its events take place after the Beast introduces the library to Belle. Lonely and missing home, Belle finds a book called Nevermore and finds herself transported into a kind of world she has only been dreaming about. But as she becomes more familiar with this new fantasy world, she realizes that life at the castle might not be as bad as she imagined it to be. 

I have not read anything by Jennifer Donnelly before, but I know she is quite well known for her historical YA novels. While I wasn't super into this story in general, I did think Donnelly writes well and I definitely would not mind giving one of her earlier novels a change. I think Donnelly excels in giving a voice to characters that are not her own, which makes me excited about the prospect of reading about characters that she has actually created herself. 

If you are a Beauty and the Beast fan, I think these novels could be a beautiful addition to your collection, and as a Beauty and the Beast fan I definitely enjoyed my time with them. Both are quick to read, and whether you are looking to extending the story of Belle and Beast or living through it again in a different format, your wishes will be sorted with these two. 

Rating (for both books):

Friday, April 7, 2017

Shelter by Jung Yun (Review)

Release date: March 15th, 2016
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Picador

Description (from Goodreads):

Why should a man care for his parents when they failed to take care of him as a child?

Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.

A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?

As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.



While Shelter, Jung Yun's debut novel, is not the kind of book I would usually pick up, seeing it mentioned on multiple "best of 2016 reads" list both on the blogsphere and BookTube made me excited about the concept of reading it when a spotted a copy at my local library. 

Much like Yun herself, the main character of Shelter - Kyung - moved from South Korea to North America when he was a child. While the novel focuses mostly on Kyung as an adult, little glimpses of his childhood are provided to the reader, which makes it easier to understand the feelings he has towards his parents. 
"Thirty-six years old, and he's still behaving like a child, trying so hard to please someone whose standards have always been too high."
Shelter is an interesting blend of a mystery story and a family drama. It is also a story about cultural differences and expectations, and about the things we learn from our parents -- often things we might want to forget about, but just can't find a way to do so. The mystery aspect of the story, the process of figuring out what exactly happened to Kyung's parents, is well paced and executed in a way that made me want to keep turning the pages. 

One of the most interesting aspects that I found myself thinking about while reading this novel is how the characters are described and how Yun writes about the things they think about and the things they do. I found almost all of the principal characters of the novel extremely unlikable. Yet, they are written about in a way that makes them seem so damn real that it was difficult for me not to feel something for them. 
"It's hard to be happy when you don't know what it's supposed to look like."
The idea of whether it is possible for us to really ever escape our roots is brought up on Shelter mainly through the relationships Kyung has with his parents. The influence of the Korean culture mixed up with the kind of upbringing he has had within the American society has created certain kind of expectations he has always felt like he hasn't been able to fulfill. Thus, he has always felt like he hasn't been respected by his parents. As his distant relationship between his parents forcibly becomes closer, Kyung is made to question both his upbringing and his current state in life.
"You know what it's like spending your entire life trying to make up for something you can't take back?"
The novel also interestingly touches upon ideas about living behind a facade, whether that is by pretending to have the kind of life you are expected to have, or by living in a way that you cannot really afford in reality. I feel like during this day and age especially the financial aspects introduced in the novel are something a lot of people can relate with, and I find the way Yun discusses such problems well executed.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Shelter and will definitely be looking forward to checking out what Jung Yun writes next.

Rating: