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! 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!

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!!

Book Review! The Happiness Project – January/February/March!

Click here to purchase The Happiness Project!


Hey all!
I’ve had this book on my To Read list for a long time & decided January 2015 was the perfect time to start a Self Actualization/Self Help book, ya know, “New Year, New You”. That turned out to be the best decision because the author, Gretchen Rubin, created The Happiness Project as a year long project. Each chapter is a reflection of goals she set for herself & how she spent the month working towards them. Rubin was a Supreme Court clerk, but decided to leave law to become a writer. The Happiness Project consists of her personal values and research she conducted on the subject of Happiness.

I connected with Rubin almost immediately because she talks about something that I often struggle with, waiting to start projects until her life is in just the right place. I have a tendency to do the same thing, as evidenced by the way I waited precisely until January 1st to start this year long project. Rubin ends up deciding there are no perfect circumstances & sometimes you just have to dive into things. Her desire to change her way of thinking motivated me to join Rubin on her Happiness Project, instead of just reading about it. Each month I will follow the goals & we’ll see how I do. Look for these reviews periodically as it will (obviously) take me a year to fully complete this review and project.

Below, you will find the Goals for January, February, & March, my review of the author’s experience, and what my own experience was. Click the FOLLOW me button on the top right to be notified by email when I post the next installment!

JANUARY
Goals: Sleep earlier, Exercise better, Toss/restore/organize, Tackle a nagging task, Act more energetic
Review: I enjoy Rubin’s writing, she’s sarcastic and sassy. We would be great friends or hate each other because we’re too similar. She’s pretty Type-A & I can be too. She talks about finding peace through having things in just the right order. My friends & family semi-seriously joke that I have OCD because while I’m not necessarily a neat freak, I can be VERY particular. Another thing we have in common is an “insatiable need for credit” (p 24). We want the gold star! We’re highly motivated by praise – I’m really giving away all my secrets – haha!
My Experience: January’s goals were a breeze as I had already made them my New Year’s Resolutions.  I had just moved back to my hometown & was an unemployed, recent college grad – it was the perfect time to focus on my health and sort through the belongings I had accumulated in recent years plus all the stuff waiting for me at my childhood home. I definitely felt better after getting my things in order (somewhat) & getting back into a healthy lifestyle.

FEBRUARY
Goals: Quit nagging, Don’t expect praise or recognition, Fight right, No dumping, Give proofs of love
Review: While this book is based on Rubin’s experience, she also delves into research she conducted, which I found interesting & somewhat troublesome. Something that struck a nerve for me was, “the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women” (p 52). I found this interesting because I don’t consider myself lonely & a majority of my friends are males because I don’t often find friendships with women fulfilling. The troublesome part of the research was that it relied heavily on stereotypical gender studies. For example, on p53 she talks about her husband not being a good listener, “[l]earning that men & women both turn to women for understanding showed me that Jamie wasn’t ignoring me out of lack of interest or affection: he just wasn’t good at giving that kind of support…[he] wasn’t going to have long discussions…[h]e didn’t want to spend hours pumping up my self-confidence” First of all, who WANTS to spend HOURS pumping up someone’s self confidence?! Second, why should we assume just because he’s male that he doesn’t want to have long discussions or isn’t a good listener? I know plenty of males that enjoy talking way more than I do & are way better listeners – that’s why we’re friends, because we complement each other. I understand there’s science behind these ideas, but if we want to grow as a society, we have to stop applying stereotypes to all men/women. Just learn about people & who they are.
My Experience: This month’s Goals were focused on Rubin’s marriage & I’m single, so I simply chose to apply the Goals to my friends and family. Following through was not as simple. I definitely struggled this month. I was especially nervous about “Don’t expect praise/recognition” because as mentioned earlier – I want that gold star! For example, as a “proof of love”, I bought my mom & myself passes to a ZUMBA studio. The instructor asked how we found them & my mom said, “We found you on Groupon”. Usually, this is where I would jump in & say, “Actually! I found the passes & bought them as a gift”, but I bit my tongue. I tried to consider these struggles as “what difference would it make?” issues. What difference did it make for the ZUMBA instructor to know that taking classes was MY idea, who cares!? Well, I care, but I guess that’s not the point. Another Goal I struggled with was “Quit nagging”. I found it hard to distinguish between nagging and giving a proof of love. Continuing with the ZUMBA example, in the past when my mom wouldn’t want to work out, I’d nag her about getting in shape, being healthy, etc. In an effort to not nag, when she didn’t feel like going to ZUMBA, I didn’t say anything. To me, it felt like I was uninvolved, the nagging was how I showed I cared. In this instance, not nagging worked because my mom found motivation on her own & didn’t feel like I was forcing her. In another instance, when I didn’t nag my friend about following through with something, feelings were hurt because she felt like I hadn’t been involved enough. You can’t please everyone!

MARCH
Goals: Launch a blog, Enjoy the fun of failure, Ask for help, Work smart, Enjoy now
Review: It was comforting to hear Rubin go through similar trials that I have experienced while blogging. A couple quotes from this month I took to heart are, “People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think. Even if [you do] something wrong on the blog, it [won’t] be a disaster” (p75). Also, “one of the biggest challenges posed by my blog was the doubt raised by my own inner critic…Was it egocentric to write so much about my own experience?…I didn’t want to be [a] novelist who spent so much time rewriting his first sentence that he never wrote his second…I needed to…[push] ahead without constantly second guessing myself” (p78).
My Experience: At first glance, I was feeling iffy about these Goals because I already write a blog (obviously), & failure & asking for help are not things I enjoy. The blog issue turned out to be a non-issue, because I’m still in the beginning stages of blogging, so it was easy to follow some of Rubin’s advice and start creating more content. I think I made great strides in terms of posting here more often, which has definitely made me happier and gotten my creative juices flowing as I try to plan my next post. I’ve been asking for help from others in the form of trying to find work & looking for companies that offer new bloggers support like the Bloguettes or Blogger Babes. I’m trying to enjoy the failure of being rejected from jobs, but that’s proving to be difficult. However, when I’m rejected, I try to think of it like “Woo hoo! Now I have more time to find an even more perfect job!”

Overall at this point, I can’t say I’m remarkably happier, but I feel like I’m challenging myself and growing along the way. Is that the same thing as Happiness? I’m not sure, & I think that’s what Rubin is aiming to find out. What do you think!? Have you enjoyed reading about The Happiness Project? Are you inspired to start a project of your own or follow along with me? Please let me know in the comments below! Remember, you can click the picture of the book at the top of this post and it’ll take you to all the Amazon listings – some sales are as low as one penny! Thanks for reading!