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
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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.

Book Review! The Sisters by Nancy Jensen

Lots of book reviews! I still have at least one more planned for this week 😀 “The Sisters” is going to be a quick one – too many potential spoilers!

Usually I write pretty in depth Book Reviews with Character Analysis and Quotes, etc. However, my Review of “The Sisters” is going to be much more general. I was so enthralled in the story I raced through without taking any notes. I considered giving it another read simply to take notes to write a better Review, but ultimately decided against it for a couple reasons.

1. There’s no way to talk about the story & characters without spoiling the main mystery, the “big reveal”, the catalyst that sets all the drama in motion. You find out the details in the first few chapters, but it’s still a journey you should experience for yourself, not through Spoilers in this review.
2. I have other books I want to read, haha! While I enjoyed this story & thought it was well written, the subject matter was fairly dark, not something I want to linger over. Plus, now that I know all the ins and outs of the story, there’s no…thrill of the chase, if you will. I know how it ends. Rereading all the pain and suffering this family experiences isn’t going to change anything other than this review. You should take my word that this is a good book without needing a full review, haha!

Rating: B
As mentioned above, the story was super sad, but definitely kept me intrigued. The basic story is about sisters & best friends, Mabel & Bertie, young girls in the 1920’s. When Bertie is 13, a tragic set of circumstances & misunderstanding separates them. The novel follows how, not just their lives, but the lives of subsequent generations are changed because of the actions taken by the two girls. It will tug on your heartstrings especially if you’re a woman and/or have sisters or just in general have had a relationship torn apart due to a misunderstanding. I couldn’t give it a full A because like I said, very dark, not something I’d really want to read again, it didn’t really make me think or inspire me in any way, & towards the end I did have some trouble keeping track of all the characters.

Have you read “The Sisters”? If you want to talk Spoilers, please be courteous of other readers & don’t leave them in the comments! All my contact info is listed at the top of the page – you’re always welcome to shoot me an email at MissAl.Leigh@gmail.com Thanks for reading!!