Sunday Book Club! Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Hey everyone!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Initial Thoughts:
I was excited to read this book because I’d heard really good things about Palahniuk’s writing – he’s the author of the book, which later became the wildly popular film, “Fight Club”. However, his writing is known to be extremely honest & descriptive in terms of violence, sex, death, substance abuse, etc, topics I usually don’t enjoy reading about. I was introduced to “Damned” as sort of a beginner’s guide to Palahniuk as it’s more “reader friendly”, just a simple dark comedy. Danny is also interested in reading this book, had purchased it, & kindly lent it to me for this review 🙂 *Insert shameless plug* Subscribe to the Savage Squad YouTube channel!

Plot:
“Damned” is the story of 13 year old Madison Spencer’s journey though the afterlife. Well, part of her journey. Semi-Spoiler, the book ends with a “To Be Continued” cliffhanger, so the reader doesn’t get total closure on the story. Madison comes from an extremely wealthy family with multiple mansions in countries around the world & goes to a Swiss boarding school, all the makings of a stuck up, spoiled brat. However, she’s more of an introvert, preferring the company of books to her peers, making her a target for childish teasing & gossip. After her death, Madison finds herself in Hell & slowly makes friends with a “Breakfast Club” inspired group of prisoners. They have many adventures but eventually Madison wants to know WHY she ended up in Hell & begins a journey to confront Satan & get some answers. Along the way she encounters all the dangers of Hell, some interesting historical figures, & ends up finding her inner strength.

Characters:
-Madison: As always, my fear when reading a story about a teenage protagonist is that I will hate them, simply because I have no patience for children. Some stories like Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple & Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer have excellent young protagonists that I enjoyed reading about & identified with. To Palahniuk’s credit, it’s because of the high quality of his writing that I hated Madison. He delivered an incredibly on point description of the mind set of an average insecure 13 year old girl. Oh my gosh, she’s the worst. She’s your typical “poor little rich girl”, really annoying, & thinks she knows everything. It sounds strange, but Palaniuk did too good of a job creating her. She’s so realistic I felt like I was interacting with a teenager, which is something I generally never want to do.

Quotes:
– Pg 6: “No it’s not fair, but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is earth.”
DAMN. Is that a pun in this context? Anyway, wow, this really spoke to me & made me think about my perspective on life. I think this is true, we expect to be showered with gifts (love, friendship, money, intelligence, etc) & then we become bitter & angry when those things aren’t given to us. Earth is earth, it’s what we make it. Heaven & Hell come after – if that’s what you believe in.

Overall/Rating: C+
“Damned” is probably the most…unique coming of age story I’ve ever read. Palaniuk has an amazing way with words. His descriptions are detailed & make you feel like you’re really in the moment, which in a book about Hell, was often uncomfortable. I think that’s his goal though, to make you think/feel, even if you’re out of your comfort zone. I admire his style of writing, but my original fears were correct & this novel just wasn’t for me. While there were some occasional moments of enlightenment, I didn’t really connect with the story or characters. I most likely will not bother to read the continuation of Madison’s story unless Danny enjoys “Damned”, buys the sequel, & lends it to me.

Have you read or heard of “Damned” or any other Chuck Palahniuk novels? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is “Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, & Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon” by Melissa Anelli.

Sunday Book Club! Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Initial Thoughts:
I was a bit hesitant to review this particular book once I saw the date it would be posted, the 15 year anniversary of 9/11. ELIC centers around the aftermath of 9/11 from the fictional perspective of 9 year old Oskar Schell, who lost his father in the WTC attack. I didn’t want this post to come off as attention seeking, I didn’t intentionally choose to review a book about 9/11 on 9/11, but I think there’s something a bit…poetic, in that it just happened to occur this way. One of the themes of this book & a message I’ve been seeing passed around a lot today, is that life must go on. We must continue to find joy, entertainment, & happiness, despite the horrific tragedy of 9/11. With that, I proudly present my review on this amazingly well written & thought provoking story in the hopes that literature like this continues to be created so that we truly never forget this day.

Plot:
Oskar Schell is not your average 9 year old. He doesn’t have much time for kids his own age, preferring to learn French or take photographs on his grandfather’s old camera. Many of these photographs can be seen throughout the book, almost like illustrations, an interesting addition in a Fiction novel. Oskar carries many heavy emotions as he struggles to cope with his father’s death in the World Trade Center on 9/11. One day while looking through his father’s things he finds a key in an envelope labeled “Black” & thus begins a quest to figure out his father’s final mystery. Along the way Oskar connects with many people struggling with the aftermath of  9/11 or their own personal tragedies, learns a lot about his family, & life in general. There is another plot line & narrator, but it’s hard to say too much without spoiling the twist. The other storyline centers around WWII Germany & not only explains some character’s backstories but shows a time where people experienced similar tragedy & terror like 9/11 & how history repeats itself. The use of this other storyline speaks to what I was saying above, the world will always know chaos. It’s up to the survivors to take that tragedy & create something beautiful from it that will make the world a better place.

Characters:
Oskar Schell – I’m always anxious to read novels where the main character is a child because, to be frank, I don’t really enjoy children. However, I felt a kinship with Oskar in that, we both didn’t really connect with kids our own age, preferring relationships with our family or other adult mentors. Oskar is written in a clever but often naive way. There are a few plot lines, such as his mother’s “love life” after his father’s passing, where Oskar definitely shows a more standard child like attitude. However, at the end of the novel, the reader sees how Oskar has grown & his eyes are opened to another perspective he didn’t see clearly before. Again, not your typical child character, which I appreciated & was able to connect with.

Overall/Rating: B+
Without giving too much away, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Oskar’s journey to find something about his dad really led him on a journey to find himself & some peace, which is ultimately more important. However, as a person who lost their dad at a young age too, I understand Oskar’s frustration at that abstract concept. I can sympathize because I too wondered for many years, why was there not one last “I love you”, “goodbye”, or bit of grown up advice? The truth of that unfortunately, is that there is always one last something, we just never know it’s the last until it’s too late. I highly recommend this story, especially if you’ve ever struggled with grief or loss of any kind. ELIC made me laugh, cry, think – it made me feel! Obviously I wasn’t in NY on 9/11, but from my point of view this novel has its heart in the right place. I honestly believe Foer didn’t write this story for attention or to make money on a hot button topic. This is not a political story, the focus is on the people that lived & died on that day & how the survivors still struggled. It’s a noble effort to take an event that hit so close to home & explore it with a child-like sense of curiosity & naiveté & create something that can speak to a variety of people.

Have you read or heard of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”? What about the film? I’m interested to watch the film based on the book & see how it compares. Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is September 25th & the book is “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Sunday Book Club! Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Happy Sunday!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Turn of Mind” by Alice LaPlante.

Initial Thoughts:
As I usually say each Sunday, I don’t remember why I added this book to my list. This is an especially painful irony given the subject matter of “Turn of Mind”. The fact that the main character has dementia hit close to home for me, but my interest was also piqued because of the overall mystery. Keep reading to see if this is a book you might be interested in as well!

Plot:
“Turn of Mind” is a fictional story that focuses on the life of Dr. Jennifer White, a successful hand surgeon who suffers from dementia. Her husband James has passed away & her children, Mark & Fiona, now have control over various aspects of her life. The story shifts back and forth between past & present as Jennifer struggles with dementia – plus that fact that her best friend Amanda was murdered & she’s the prime suspect! While Jennifer mourns the loss of her friend, when she actually remembers she’s been murdered, she also can’t help but wonder if she DID murder her. While extremely close, the women shared a tumultuous past with many secrets & when her mind is right, Jennifer fears one of those secrets was Amanda’s undoing.

Characters:
– Dr. Jennifer White: Jennifer’s dementia & the way LaPlante formats her story make for a unique relationship with the main character. The reader gets their information through Jennifer’s eyes, so we’re just as in the dark as she is. She can’t remember if she killed Amanda, so you aren’t sure either which leaves you with mixed feelings towards her. You feel sympathy because of how dementia is ravaging her brilliant mind, but on the other hand, if she’s a psychopathic murderer, you want nothing to do with her! Normally in a story like this the main character tries to prove their innocence, but Jennifer isn’t sure she’s innocent, most days she can’t even remember she’s a suspect. All of this adds up to an extremely complex character that provokes a lot of thought & discussion.

Overall/Rating: B+
The depiction of dementia is SPOT ON with what I’ve witnessed from my grandparents. It was so accurate that I wonder if LaPlante knows someone with dementia or if she did a lot of intense research. If it’s the latter, it really paid off! This is great insight to the fragmented mindset of someone with dementia & how they become increasingly confused, frustrated, agitated, & even dangerous. Some may find the disjointed nature of the narrative confusing, but that goes with the territory of the disease, so I felt that was an authentic choice for LaPlante to make for a character with dementia. I rated down a bit because I felt like once the mystery was solved, I wouldn’t want to revisit this story again. I also rated down because the pace was pretty slow, barely moving enough to keep my interest. You don’t get an answer to the big whodunit until literally the last few pages of the book, & I was a little disappointed because I still had some unanswered questions!

Have you read or heard of “Turn of Mind” or Alice LaPlante? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is August 28th & the book is “The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell.

Sunday Book Club! The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Fates Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard.

Initial Thoughts:
Marketed as a cross between “The Virgin Suicides” & “The Lovely Bones”, “Fates…” promises a mystery surrounding a teenage girl & all the boys who loved her. I enjoy mysteries, although I find stories involving young girls almost always include scenes of sexual violence that I find too graphic. I was hoping that Pittard wouldn’t find it necessary to create a plot that centers around rape, although the comparison to “The Lovely Bones” didn’t fill me with great confidence. Also, I don’t generally like stories about teenagers because as a “grown up”, I find it hard to sympathize with teenage rebellion/whiners/young love. However, the intrigue behind the mystery plot was too strong to throw me off of this book so despite the potential negatives I began reading, albeit with trepidation, nervous to see what would unravel…

Plot:
All the boys are obsessed with Nora. She’s a mystery to them, the perfect girl they all long for yet can’t have. Nora becomes an even bigger mystery when she disappears, never to be heard from again. Told from the point of view of the neighborhood boys, the story follows how the people in her hometown handle her disappearance & how rumors of what happened to Nora represent a tale of caution, adventure, & intrigue for years to come.

Characters:
– The neighborhood boys: It was a little bit difficult for me to keep track of all the names & stories, but I think that’s pretty true to life. Imagine a group of boys from your youth or current neighborhood. There are certain kids that just fade to the background or others that you had/have more of a connection with so they stay in your mind – same concept for this group of characters. Also, some of the boys are ultimately more important to the overall storyline so they get more “face time” with the reader but then another kid will pop up & you’re thinking, “Wait, who is he!?”.
– The Narrator: About halfway through the book I realized, I didn’t know who the Narrator was. It’s an interesting storytelling device on Pittard’s part because it kind of keeps the Narrator safe from any scrutiny because you don’t know what his backstory is or what role he plays in certain events. I felt like the Narrator was an anonymous boy, but in the Author’s Notes, Pittard says the narration was moving from boy to boy. For example, George tells a story about Trey & Danny, & later Danny tells a story about George. I almost want to go back & re-read the book focusing on which boy is NOT mentioned & using a process of elimination, figure out which boy is speaking.

Quotes:
– Dedication: “For Malcolm Hugh Ringel, who disappeared from our lives 6/16/06”
This doesn’t have anything to do with the actual story, but started the book on an intriguing note. I assumed this was someone important to the author that passed away or went missing, perhaps the inspiration for the story, & was prepared to do some follow up Google searching of my own, however, the author addresses the mystery in her Notes at the end of the novel. I was pleasantly surprised she did this & was happy to have at least one mystery resolved. I won’t say any more, but the dedication is a very touching tribute.

Overall:
Pittard kept me intrigued & eagerly reading. As I predicted, there is a storyline centering around a rape, but I appreciated that she didn’t describe it in any detail. It has nothing to do with the disappearance of Nora, but provides another layer of complexity to this group of kids & how that horrible event weighs on them as they grow up. I think that’s kind of the main point of this story – the idea that life is a series of wild & crazy events & sometimes we misinterpret their meaning. Events that seem huge at the time reveal themselves to really not matter, or small things really mean a lot & can change everything. The continued mystery of who the Narrator is & some other plot points that I don’t want to spoil is maddening but references the idea that we never really know each other or what goes on behind closed doors. Overall, this story isn’t really a mystery. Nora’s disappearance serves as a backdrop but ultimately the plot doesn’t revolve around solving her case. The main focus is on those left behind & how they move on & grow up.

Rating: B-
I rated “Fates” down a bit because I was disappointed that – SPOILER! – there is no resolution to Nora’s disappearance, but I suppose it gives the story an air of realism as many similar real life cases go unsolved all the time. As mentioned above, it was hard to really get to know the characters & that kind of keeps you disconnected. The mystery was definitely the driving force of the story, that’s what kept me reading, hoping that eventually Nora’s disappearance would become the main focus again. I didn’t really connect to the story in a big emotional way & I was a bit unhappy that it turned out to be a reflection of life rather than a “real” mystery but it was still well written & entertaining.

Have you read this book or another Mystery I might like?  If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments!

The next Sunday Book Club is July 24th & the book is “Bossypants” by Tina Fey.

Sunday Book Club! The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Reflections of Queen Snow White” by David Meredith. The exciting announcement I mentioned last Sunday is that I was asked by the author to read & review this book! Yay – my first Sunday Book Club Collaboration! Disclaimer: I did receive this book for free, but that in no way influences my Review.

Initial Thoughts:
When David first emailed me & offered me the chance to review his book, I was surprised, extremely flattered, & excited. I love this Genre of Fairy Tale retellings or examination from a modern authors point of view, as you’ve probably noticed with my past Book Reviews such as Beastly, Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale, The Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, & others coming up on my Books to Read List. I’ve never read an E-Book, which is the only way this novel is currently available, so I was a little nervous about how I’d feel using “new technology”, haha! I was also nervous because of the collaborative spirit of this Sunday Book Club. It’s tough to be fair when you know the author will most likely read your Review, but I believe I was unbiased. Keep reading & let me know in the Comments if you feel I was being too easy, fair, or too harsh!

Plot:
As the title implies, this story is of course, about Snow White. Meredith continues forward from the tale we know & starts his story with an older Snow White who is not the cheerful, upbeat Disney princess many know & love. She is now bitter, sad, & lonely because Prince Charming has passed away. Snow’s depression & grief have caused a rift in her relationship with her daughter Raven to the point that she is not even involved in the planning of her upcoming wedding. One day while wandering the castle in a state of despondency, Snow stumbles upon the Evil Queen’s old chambers. She finds the Magic Mirror has been stored there & embarks on a magical journey into her past to try & find some peace in this new chapter of her life. I will leave it at that to prevent any Spoilers.

Characters:
– Erfruet – It took way too long for me to piece together that Snow’s “right hand man” is one of THE dwarves. You know….one of the seven! I thought this character was used as a clever & cute way to pay homage to the original story & show how the Dwarves’ relationship with Snow continued after her marriage, connecting the old & new story.
– It seemed like all of the characters had some type of accent & foreign name, except Snow White & Prince Charming. I thought perhaps this was an homage to the Grimm Brother’s & their German heritage, but the accents didn’t seem German so I’m not certain.

Quotes:
– Acknowledgements: “To anyone who has ever known loss, wrestled with grief, & struggled to find themselves again”
This is really what the story is about & I admire Meredith for taking on such a difficult topic & trying to make it more relatable by involving a beloved Fairy Tale character. It’s an interesting topic for this Genre, one that’s not too often explored because most readers don’t want to think about the reality that comes after “happily ever after”. I will touch more on this idea below in the “Overall” section.
– Magic Mirror: “What happens, happens. The past is the past and your past is ever a part of you! Only by facing it can you truly leave it behind. Otherwise, it will ever intrude upon your present”…She felt as if she stood alone on the edge of a precipitous gorge, filled with despair at the impossibility of her predicament, but knowing that her only choice was to descend into its shadowy depths, cross the unseen rocky path at its bottom, and pull herself out once more on the other side.”
The beginning of this passage is really so true, not just about grief, but anything that plagues us from the past. The second half of the Quote seemed like a subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, metaphor for the process of grieving.

Overall:
I could definitely see this becoming a film. While I enjoy Fantasy stories, I sometimes take issue with how unnecessarily lengthy they can be. I know I’ve complained on here a few times about endless pages of scenery. I enjoyed Meredith’s extremely descriptive but mostly concise style of writing. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are scenes of abuse & sexual content that made me rather uncomfortable. Meredith has a knack for creating an intriguing story & providing resolution. There were several times I found myself wondering about a “plot hole”, but later receiving a full explanation. Overall I enjoyed the theme of the story & the unique idea of this stereotypical happy go lucky Princess dealing with grief. I think Meredith was trying to touch on an important point about loss & love. He presents the reader with the idea that throughout our lives we have way more than one chapter, way more than one “happily ever after”. Just because one type of love has left our lives doesn’t mean all love is gone & there’s nothing to live for, it just means our idea of happily ever after has to change. SPOILER! I also appreciated the Feminist angle of the story. The Magic Mirror is trying to make Snow see that although Charming helped her, she played a huge role in her own destiny. She saved herself, but gave the Prince all the credit & after his passing, felt she was lost without him because she did not see her own value.

Rating: B-
Unfortunately, my rating was influenced a bit by the production value. Any book I catch typos in automatically gets knocked down a peg. While I did enjoy the overall theme & message of the book & find them to be important topics to tackle, I can’t support the sex scenes & some of the discussions the characters have about sex/body fluids. I can very well see the interactions taking place, especially in that time period, but that doesn’t mean I want to read about them. That’s the beauty of reading, I’m supposed to be able to use my imagination, haha! Some of those scenes were too descriptive for me & I would imagine other readers may feel the same. While those scenes were not too frequent, they did weigh heavily enough on me that it was almost a distraction from the book as a whole. I would say it’s 50/50 – Great topic/message but some really uncomfortable character interaction!

What do you think? Will you be heading to Amazon to download your own copy of “Reflections”? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below! Big thank you to David Meredith for asking me to do this Review – I congratulate you on all of your well deserved success.
If you’re an author or PR team looking for Reviews, please reach out to me – MissAl.Leigh@gmail.com

The next Sunday Book Club is July 10th & the book is “The Fates Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard. Stay tuned & thanks for reading!

Sunday Book Club! Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

Hello again!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt.

Initial Thoughts:
“Pictures…” is yet another book I don’t remember any initial details about like where I first heard about it, or why I wanted to read it. After reading the back of the book again, I was intrigued by the mystery, but concerned that this would be nothing more than a sappy romance novel. Unfortunately I was right. I want to keep Spoilers to a minimum so this is going to be a short review as there’s not a lot I can say, but keep reading to see my overall thoughts on this novel & if it’s worth picking up!

Plot:
“Pictures…” is marketed as the story of two women, & that’s kind of true, but it’s more about what happens to their loved ones after their lives intersect. Isabelle has been trapped in a loveless marriage essentially since she was just a kid. April is basically the polar opposite, or so you’d think if you saw her & her “perfect” family. Isabelle discovers her husband is not only cheating on her, but has gotten his girlfriend pregnant, something he & Isabelle had never been able to do. She leaves him & is in a horrible car accident with none other than April. She is also leaving her husband, Charlie, & has taken their son, Sam. Sam & Isabelle escape the car accident relatively unharmed, but April is killed. The book follows everyone’s journey to find peace & answers – along the way discovering that sometimes the people you need most, are the most unexpected.
SPOILERS! Yes, Isabelle & Charlie eventually start a relationship, which ends for the sake of Sam. He finds out about the romance & is distraught because he believed Isabelle was an angel meant to help him communicate with his mother, not get in bed with his dad. I think the idea of a child having a hard time adjusting to his father having an intimate relationship with someone other than his mother is quite normal, so I didn’t really find that part of the story particularly interesting or dramatic. Eventually readers also find out that April was leaving Charlie because she’d been carrying on an affair with a married man, so her perfect life, isn’t as perfect as it appeared. In the end, everyone figures their lives out in an ending that doesn’t quite make sense to me, but maybe when you read the book you’ll be able to shed some light for me!

Overall:
This was a fairly quick & easy read, but honestly a bit boring. I’m not sure where all these amazing reviews are coming from, but I felt like the mystery of why April was leaving Charlie drove all of my interest. Once I found out she was cheating, I felt kind of let down because it was such a “normal” thing. I thought the big reveal was going to be something much…bigger! In the end, they were all just normal people trying to get through another day, making bad decisions & a tragic accident brings it all to light & then they have to learn how to function again. Maybe because I’ve had tragedy in my life I don’t find the topic extremely stimulating anymore? I’m not sure, but I just didn’t quite connect with this book in the way other reviewers seem to have.

Rating: C
I gave this book a C rating because it was a quick read that kept me somewhat entertained. However, as mentioned above, once you actually broke down the idea of what was happening, it was all rather average & boring. I’m not really sure who this book is intended for because I think even the most hopeless romantic would be soured by the ending. Not going to reveal any SPOILERS! there, you’ll have to read it for yourself if you’re interested – or send me an email & we’ll talk about it 🙂

Have you read or heard of “Pictures of You” or Caroline Leavitt? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is June 26th & the book is “The Reflections of Queen Snow White” by David Meredith. If you’re not already a Follower of this blog, you’ll want to hit that FOLLOW button to get notified when that Review comes out as there’s also a pretty cool announcement along with it!

Sunday Book Club! “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker

Hey everyone!
Today’s post will be a review on “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker.
I hope you’ve been enjoying these Sunday Book Club posts. Even if you’re not reading the book before the review is posted, hopefully you’re discovering some new literature/authors you’re interested in.
Please click the FOLLOW button to stay updated with all my posts & videos!

Initial Thoughts:
My Book List is at least 5 years old, so sometimes I don’t remember why I put a book on it. “Little Giant” is one of those books. Even when I read the back of the book I was still wondering why I’d wanted to read it. The description was too vague. I couldn’t figure out if there was going to be actual magic in play or if it was metaphorical. However, if a book made it to my Book List, 99% of the time I read it even if I don’t understand why I wanted to in the first place. I figure that at one point something piqued my interest so it deserves a read. Keep reading to find out what I thought of “Little Giant”!

Plot:
“Little Giant” is the story of Truly, a huge girl in a small town. Her parents die & Truly & her sister Serena Jane are left to fend for themselves. Their lives take them on completely different journeys yet ultimately keep them close & bring them together despite tragedy after tragedy. The story follows Truly as she figures out where she fits into her world despite her big size & insecurities.

Quotes:
– Pg 1: Not a specific quote, but the Prologue was kind of confusing & didn’t start the book off in a great way for me. It’s a flash forward covering a scene from the end of the book & I was thinking, “What? Who?! What does that mean?” There were a lot of details, but no real information & for whatever reason it didn’t pull me into the story but kind of made me turn my nose up at it.
– Again, not a specific quote, but just a warning that this book can be pretty dark. There’s quite a lot of death, a rape scene, & several graphic passages about war in Vietnam.

Rating: D
This wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read but I did have a hard time finishing it. I was able to put the book down for days at a time & feel no desire to keep reading, which is extremely strange for me. Even if I’m not loving a book I usually feel a strong urge to keep reading simply just to finish & move on. This book made me feel lethargic. It just didn’t have enough oomph! It was boring. I realize the story is taking place over a lifetime, but even so, it moved so slow & was often predictable. I found the characters unlikeable & therefore didn’t care what happened to them, which of course only increased my lack of desire to keep reading.

Have you read this book? If so, what are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club will be posted May 1st & the book is “I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag” by Jennifer Gilbert. I just started reading it & I already love it!

Sunday Book Club! Paper Towns by John Green

Hello again!
I hope you’ve all been enjoying these Sunday Book Club posts! I would love more of your book suggestions in the Comment section below or via Social Media! Remember you can add me on Twitter/Instagram: @MissAl_Leigh
Also, please hit the FOLLOW button to get email updates for new posts 🙂
Please keep reading to see my thoughts on “Paper Towns” by John Green.

Initial Thoughts:
This book came recommended by one of my college roommates that really likes John Green. I was nervous because he obviously has a reputation for writing Young Adult novels, which I’ve found to be very hit or miss. Also, I knew he was behind “The Fault in Our Stars” & I didn’t want to read a depressing book. However, my friend assured me that “Paper Towns” was different – so off I went.

Plot:
“Paper Towns” is about a teenage boy named Quentin & the wild adventure his life takes him on when he becomes involved with his next door neighbor Margo – who he’s been in love with basically forever. One day Margo disappears & Quentin sets off on a journey to find her following clues he believes she left for him. It’s a coming of age story that teaches us that first impressions can be deceiving & it’s always important to give people a chance to show us who they are. I really can’t say too much more than that without giving everything away.

Characters:
– Margo: About half way through the book, I was over this girl. I had no idea why Quentin was so obsessed with her, I suppose because she was a mystery to him & he was intrigued. Once you get to know her though, she’s such a brat. She’s super selfish and overly dramatic. There were several points where I thought she was going to die & I was totally fine with it. I’m ashamed to say I was like this at one point in my life. Now that I’m “older & wiser”, I have no patience for whiny teenage girls that think everything revolves around them & every bad thing that happens is the end of the world.

Quotes:
– Pg 75: “I shaved this morning for PRECISELY that reason. I was like, ‘Well, you never know when someone is going to clamp down on your calf and try to suck out the snake poison.'” – Margo
The dialogue in this book is spot on. This is just one of many clever lines that I laughed out loud while reading and thought, “That sounds like something I would say!”. Green is known for having a pretty good handle on clever & accurate young people verbiage.

Overall:
Despite this being a “Young Adult” novel, I could definitely relate to the complex themes presented. They reflect what most of us have been through, life & death, falling in & out of love, growing up, friendship, our general connection with others, & how we tie it all together to make a full life.
Random side note, I was frustrated by the discrepancies between Book Margo & Film Margo’s physical description – which I will admit might be a bit unfair especially because I haven’t even seen the film. Book Margo is described as curvy, her friends make comments on it, it’s part of her insecurities. Film Margo is played by Model Cara Delevingne who according to the internet is 5’8 & a size 2. She’s not someone I can see having trouble squeezing into her friends jeans, as Book Margo does. I know that has nothing to do with the book, but it annoyed me as soon as I read her description because Hollywood had the opportunity to use a curvy actress, & didn’t take it. It’s also frustrating because as I mentioned, her size is part of her insecurities, it’s part of her character. I’m not sure how they would have included that in the film.

Rating: B+
While I didn’t enjoy one of the main characters, overall, I enjoyed this book. Green’s style of writing is smart/on point & helped me identify with the characters. I’m not sure this book will be everyone’s cup of tea as it is about high school kids getting into shenanigans, but if you can suspend yourself from your “serious adult business”, you just might enjoy it.

Have you read “Paper Towns” or any other John Green novels? If so, what are your thoughts? Which one is your favorite? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club read will be April 3rd & the book is, “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker.

Sunday Book Club! “ROOM” by Emma Donoghue

Hi everyone!
As mentioned in last Sunday Book Club’s post I’m going to be discussing “ROOM” by Emma Donoghue this week. Did you finish it by today or did you need more time? I’m generally a fast reader, so I can put more time between Sunday Book Club posts if more time is needed, or, if you’re not reading along & you don’t care when they get posted – please let me know in the Comments below!
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Initial Thoughts:
I heard about this book through one of my college roommates when it first came out a few years ago. At the time I wasn’t too intrigued because it sounded super sad & possibly graphic. Now, however, the book has been made into a film that’s getting a huge amount of positive attention in the Entertainment industry. The film was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role (Brie Larson – winner!), Directing, Adapted Screenplay. I was curious to read the source material before I potentially watch the movie. Also, along the way I have added other books by Emma Donoghue to my book list, so I’m more interested to read this novel that first introduced me to her name. As I said, I was a little scared to read this due to the troubling plot…which you’ll read below!

Plot:
WARNING: Light spoilers. If you know the basic plot of the story, you can figure out the path it’s going to take, so I’m just going to describe the basics. However, I’ll try not to be too specific so you can still be surprised by the twists & turns.
“ROOM” is the story of Ma & Jack, told from 5 year old Jack’s point of view. Ma is a young woman who was kidnapped & held hostage by a man known as Old Nick. She becomes pregnant with Jack while being held hostage, so all Jack has ever known is the one room they are contained in. He knows nothing of the outside world or the people that exist beyond Ma & Old Nick. The book follows their life including how Ma shields Jack from the real reason they’re in “Room”, among other things.

Characters:
– Ma: Ma is extremely tough & dedicated to giving Jack the best life possible despite their crazy circumstances. She often has to choose between Jack & herself & has to sacrifice to keep him protected from the reality of the situation, I can’t imagine being in her shoes. There are some scenes at the end of the book that do a wonderful job of showcasing her character, especially who she was before the kidnapping & her commitment to Jack. It’s hard to get into too much detail without giving away the plot.
– Jack: I think overall Jack’s character is supposed to represent a fear of moving on, something we carry with us even as adults. He never quite understands that Room is a bad place. It’s all he knows & Ma did a great job protecting him, so he never fully agrees with her that Outside would be better. I don’t think Donoghue meant for this story to be metaphorical, I think she was just trying to tell a story of a fierce love between a mother & son in unimaginable circumstances. However, I like the idea of Jack representing a fear of moving on because I think more people can identify with that. It’s a little hard to connect to someone who’s 20 years younger than me, different gender, obviously different upbringing, etc – but it’s easy to connect with him when I think about how scared he must be to figure out there’s a big world beyond the only front door he’s ever seen. At its most basic, its similar to leaving home for the first time, ending a bad relationship, starting a new adventure etc.

Quotes:
– Pg 6: “Oh, I forgetted to have some when I woke up.
That’s OK. Maybe we could skip it once in a while, now you’re five?
No way Jose. So she lies down on the white of Duvet and me too and I have lots.”
Jack/Ma/Jack
When I first read this passage I had NO idea what was going on. I know nothing about kids or the way they talk, so I wasn’t sure if I was missing something, or if this is how Donoghue wrote the dialogue. After a bit more reading – that’s how Jack was written. This passage refers to breast feeding, which Jack still does at 5 years old due to the strange conditions of his living situation & Ma’s reluctant willingness. Also, Jack refers to everything in “Room” like it’s a person…Duvet, Bed, etc are names, not just objects.

Overall:
Donoghue did an amazing job of pacing this novel so you feel like you’re in that room with Ma & Jack. Every day/page it’s basically the same thing, a little monotonous & slow, but mixed with anxiety because you never know what might happen. At a certain point there’s only a couple options for the ending so you’re just waiting for it to go down & see HOW exactly it happens. After the excitement, the ending is kind of lackluster, but I think that’s a reflection of what you could expect from the situation – this sounds vague but I don’t want to give too much away. Reading from the point of view of a 5 year old was an interesting writing technique on Donoghue’s part because it gives a very horrific & graphic topic a bit of innocence. Obviously Jack is the product of rape & Old Nick keeps Ma to continue raping her. However, the reader is never really subjected to those intense scenes because Jack isn’t, we only experience what Jack experiences. When Old Nick comes to “visit” Ma, Jack is usually asleep or Ma has told him to hide. We hear about the “bed creaking”, but that’s about as graphic as it gets, which is a welcome relief. I feel like this book could be a different experience for every reader because we can only know as much as Jack knows, yet at the same time, we can make inferences based on context clues & everyone can interpret those differently.

Rating: B+
As dark & ugly as the topic of this book is, I did enjoy it. However, it’s not something I feel a great desire to read again. I’m not even sure I would recommend it, except that the writing was really well done & that’s worth something to me. As mentioned before you kind of have an idea of how things are going to end which might be frustrating for some.

Have you read “ROOM”? If so, what did you think? Have you read/do you recommend any of Donoghue’s other books? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!
Again, please let me know in the Comment section below if you would prefer that I only cover one book a month so you have time to read along or if you’re not reading along & want me to review books at my own pace.

The next Sunday Book Club will be March 20th & will cover “Paper Towns” by John Green.

Sunday Book Club! Helen Keller in Love by Rosie Sultan

Hello again!
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts this month, I’m somewhat revamping the blog in terms of what content you see & when you see it. I usually do random “Book Reviews”, but as I’m now trying to give myself & my readers a more reliable schedule, I’m renaming those posts – “Sunday Book Club”. You’ll be getting a book review every other Sunday & I’ll try to tell you what the next Book Review will be so you can read it beforehand. Well – that’s the plan if I can keep up! Also, please hit the FOLLOW button to get email updates when I create new posts 🙂

Get comfy & keep reading to see my thoughts on “Helen Keller in Love” by Rosie Sultan. I thought a book about love (…kind of) would be perfect for February. I hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day & hopefully you have a better love life than Helen Keller…

Initial Thoughts:
I found this book at the $1 Store of all random places. I’ve found surprisingly good books here before & the reviews were positive so I decided to give it a chance. I knew nothing about it, other than it was Historical Fiction with a bit of Romance – obviously. I was intrigued at the idea of someone taking the life of a famous woman & imagining what shenanigans she would’ve gotten into, especially since Keller is often thought of as a child hero or incapable of living a “real” adult life.

Plot:
“Helen Keller in Love” is about exactly what it sounds like – Helen Keller’s love life. Specifically, her forbidden love affair with her temporary tutor Peter Fagan. Fagan steps into the famous Annie Sullivan’s tutoring shoes when she’s diagnosed with tuberculosis. Keller & Fagan fall in love very quickly Keller’s mother & Sullivan forbidding the romance, among other odds. The story follows their relationship, gives some background on Keller’s life, & explains how even with this great love…she still ends up alone. I noticed there were Helen Keller facts/stories that I remember learning in school that were changed in the book. The author, Rosie Sultan, supposedly did a ton of research while writing this, so I’m not sure if she took artistic liberties or if maybe what I learned in school has since been determined untrue…? I don’t want to spoil anything more, so I’ll leave it at that!

Characters:
Helen Keller – Most people admire Keller for her hard work & determination to overcome her disabilities in a time when the rest of the world didn’t understand her & we didn’t have the technology to help as we do now. With that being said, it’s almost uncomfortable to see this other side to her personality. She is extremely man hungry & eager to break the rules. I understand she must have felt very sheltered, lonely, & misunderstood, but she acts like a bratty teenager trying to be a rebel, hang out with the bad boys, & get into trouble. She’s the good girl trying way too hard, she’s Sandy trying to fit in with the Pink Ladies – sometimes you just have to know your place & strengths. Some people are meant for that rebel kind of life, & some are meant to walk the straight & narrow. Again, I guess it’s understandable given her situation but my god, it’s pretty annoying.
Peter Fagan – I’ve never heard of Fagan before, so I have no idea what his real characteristics are reported to be by history. In Sultan’s story, he’s a bad guy. I can’t give too many details because I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say this, if you’ve ever heard the sayings/concepts of, “People will tell you who they are. Just listen.” or “If someone tells you, ‘I’m a jerk’, even if it’s as a joke – they are telling you who they are!” That sums up Fagan. He told Keller the kind of guy he was several times, & she even admits that she didn’t listen.

Quotes:
– Pg 53: “With Helen, I have found someone who will love me completely – and can never leave.” – Annie Sullivan
CREEPY, but that is the nature of Sullivan & Keller’s relationship. Sullivan was so emotionally dependent on Keller, it ultimately crippled their relationship – in this story.

Overall:
While I didn’t love the portrayal of most of the characters, I found the story entertaining, like a bad soap opera. I’m curious as to why the author chose to write the ending the way she did, although, it may have been based on fact. I appreciated Sultan’s supposed huge amount of research but it was kind of lost on me because I don’t know enough about Keller to separate most of the fact from fiction. It would be too easy for people to take this book & assume everything is fact – unfortunately I’m not sure how to remedy that without people taking more of an independent interest in Keller.

Rating: C
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book. It earns points because I appreciate the research that went into it, & it wasn’t horribly written, but overall it was somewhere along the lines of a trashy beach novel. Not a ton of substance, just a portrayal of a great woman in history reduced to a horny, whiny, crybaby. If you’re interested in the characters, or enjoy being a sympathetic shoulder to cry on for your friends, maybe you’ll be able to sympathize with Keller, but I couldn’t.

Have you read or even heard of “Hellen Keller in Love”?  If so, what are your thoughts? How did you feel about the way Keller was portrayed? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is March 6th & the book is “ROOM” by Emma Donoghue.