Friday, December 1, 2017

Sociable - by Rebecca Harrington: Book Review

Title: Sociable
Author: Rebecca Harrington
No. pages: 256
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Release Date: 27.03.2018
Format: Kindle

I don't understand why the hatred towards this book: it's shallow because these are the characters acting in it. This is the youth of the 21st century. I think I can be a bit harsh with the characters of this novel because I, too, am a 20 something living in a world of hastag everying, LOL when you have a straight face, constant social media checking, the desire to appear deep and profound, but in reality being too shallow for our own good, and with a question mark at the end of a statement (which btw is more than I could handle in this novel.)  So, it is a novel focusing on millennials. No better definition of the word than this select group of characters.

"Funny" is not the word I'd use to describe this book. Sure, there were some moments. However, what sums up this  book is cringy. The focus on appearance, the failure to be of any substance, the obsession with one fix idea one has - it's too much at times. And yet, I couldn't blame the author; this is who the young people are nowadays, in larger and larger numbers. 

I liked how the author at times addressed the reader directly. I wish she had done that more often. At some points it felt as if she kept the distance, and only sometimes came closer to the reader again. Those ocassions were when one of the characters (usually the main character, Elinor) did something worse than before. 

I didn't like any of the characters. Elinor lacked any tact and individuality. She is dependant and seemed to like to dwell in self-pity (she has a bad day every time we see her doing something, anything) and conformity, she is fake and selfish. She is like a child who expects a gold star for doing something that's expected of them; except she's an adult. Her ex-boyfriend, Mike, is beyond what words could describe: annoying, self-sufficient, self-absorbed. Mainly all the characters exist to benefit from the others, to gain something from their large network. The characters manage to drive you nuts!

It left a bitter taste this novel. It's an easy read, lacking substance as far as depth of character goes, but maybe this was the point - to show the shallowness which we as a world are heading towards. Despite the light tone, it's sad. I am sure anyone over 35 years old would not like this novel, and those younger would still need tolerance for it. Silly me actually thought there'd be a redeeming moment for Elinor. Nothing though. Nothing can redeem the world this novel shows. 

I received a free e-book copy of this novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of Characters (might contain spoilers)
Elinor Tomlinson - used to baby sit, gets a job at 26 y/o
Mike - her boyfriend, also a wanna-be writer
Pam - Mike's mother, a freelance writer for various publications
Sean - owner of
J. W. Thurgood - an employer at
Peter - writer at
Sheila - Elinor's best friend. nurse
Ralph - Sheila's on-and-off boyfriend

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Night Child - by Anna Quinn: Book Review

Title: The Night Child
Author: Anna Quinn
No. Pages: 200
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publishing Date: 30.01.2018
Format: Kindle

I liked this book because it's not your ordinary childhood drama novel. It deals with a woman's struggle, Nora, the main character, to block what happened to her in her childhood. It's cruel and harsh, but it exude compassion.

I didn't feel like I got "to know" any character very well. I wish Elizabeth, Nora's student had been focused on more. I was more interested in how the author was to present the course of Nora's therapy and her psychiatrist's intervention. I didn't find it difficult to follow the progression of the story and of the unfolding of the problem.

What intrigued me was how in a relatively short period of time Nora could go from leading a perfectly mundane life to a totally uncontrallable one. For someone interested in the going-ons of the mind and psychiatry, this is a gripping novel. Yes, gripping. I might be easily impressed, but it kept me interested until the last pages. Sure, some things were to be expected; sure, there could have been more depth of characters; but overall it was a good novel, dealing with a tough subject.

What could have been left aside were the graphic descriptions. The novel deals with child abuse and the clear depictions were, in my opinion, unnecessary, as one can get the idea of the root of the whole issue Nora is facing.

I think there was more to this novel than the mere desire to tell a story. The choice to pack so much into a short time span, the choice to set the story in Seattle in the mid 1990s are elements I don't understand, but it sets the story apart.

I wouldn't recommend this novel to just anyone, and I would certainly warn of the difficult subject matter and the graphic aspect of it.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of Characters:
Nora Brown - High school English teacher; abused when she was six years old by her father
Paul Brown - Nora's husband; is having an affair with Elisa (if I remember her name correctly), their neighbour
Fiona - Nora and Paul's six year old daughter
Jason - a student
Elizabeth - a student. commits suicide
John - School principal
James - Nora's younger brother; gay
Helen - Nora and James' mother; died when they were young
Seattle - where Nora and Paul live now
Ireland - where Helen was from and Nora and James were sent after Helen died and their father left them

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The End We Start From - by Megan Hunter: Book Review

Title: The End We Start From
Author: Megan Hunter
No. Pages: 160
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Release Date: 7.11.2017
Format: Kindle

I like dystopian novels, but this one didn't make a big impression on me. I liked the little details of the novel that gave it personality: the unnamed woman; the people whose names are only a letter (and of course this made me wonder what would have happened if there were two or three people with the same letter name); the span of the novel from the birth of the child, Z, to the moment he takes his first steps; the lack of emotion throughout the novel - facts are presented, no details; to quote an excerpt in the novel, they left behind sadness and happiness.

It didn't read like a substantial novel - the plot was minimal, really. It read like an anonymous person's journal entries, as if the reader didn't need to know all the details. And I do want to know the details, actually - how did R's parents disappear? Where did he go when he went away? What was life like, really, in the shelters? All these gaps in the plot would make for a great discussion point, I am sure, but it's difficult for the reader to understand the characters better.

The novel has a poetical tone, but at some point it started to drag on. However, it's a short novel and it's a fast read. It's not a bad novel, it has it beautiful parts, but I wanted more from it plot-wise.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of characters:
unnamed woman - mother of Z, a baby boy
R - the woman's husband, Z's father 
S and J - R's friends
N - R's father
G - R's mother
O - another woman, the woman's friend
C - O's baby girl
D and L - two young men who help the woman and O
H - O's friend from college
F - H's wife
B and W - H and F's children
V - the woman's old boss

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Best Kind of People - Zoe Whittall: Book Review

Title: The Best Kind of People
Author: Zoe Whittall
No. Pages: 404
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine
Release Date: September 19th 2017

I can't say I was very impressed with the novel. It was something that kept me interested, but I thought there was too much time spent focusing on the same scene and feelings. I wish there were more said about how the novel ends. 
At times it felt as if the characters had no connection with one another, they were simply put together and each decided to go their own way. I didn't feel a wholeness of their relationships. Each was self-absorbed and sometimes they had to bump into each other, and were irked by these encounters.
What is more, it felt like they acted independently from one another. I didn't have a favourite character in the story, just some characters I sometimes felt sorry for.
It would have been nice if the ending were as intriguing as the beginning. After the hype and the shocking release of the news in the first chapters, you'd think there would be more to look forward to in the end. The neat and hand-smoothed ending was dissatisfying.
It had the promise of a captivating novel, yet it lacked in many areas. Writing this almost three weeks after I finished reading it, I can say that it left no impact. Actually, I had to take a moment and try to remember how it ended. A clear sign that it didn't impress. Too bad.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Church of Small Things - by Melanie Shankle: Book Review

Title: Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life
Author: Melanie Shankle
No. Pages: 224
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication Date: 3.10.2017
Format: Kindle
Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography-Memoir, Religion-Christianity, Humor

This isn't my first book of Melanie Shankle's. I read her first three as they released. A review for her third book, Nobody's Cuter Than You was reviewed here on the blog. 

Church of Small Things is somewhat more different than the first three. It's still funny, with a clear Melanie Shankle voice, but it approached a more serious plethora of topics. She writers about family, parents and grandparents, her sister, her husband and daughter, about friends, church and community. If you are familiar with her other books you may have read about all these before. Not to mention, if you know her blog, most certainly you will feel like you already know about the people she writes about. Some chapters read more like a blog entry, without the serious-toned or meaning-filled ending. Readers and non-readers of the blog will like it nonetheless. Other chapters are more serious, without the extra-funny parts, and I enjoyed those the most. It's like reading the saga of a Southern family.

I like how she approaches every chapter. She may start from a random idea, but the story is deeper and has meat to it, and you read it feeling like she's telling this personal anecdote and life lesson to a small group of friends, you among them. Melanie is good at telling stories that hold your attention, but without thinking too highly of herself. She is down-to-earth and easy to relate to, despite the decades and countries that maybe separate her from her readers.

I don't usually skip parts in any of the books I read, but this time I did. I just skipped the chapter about her dogs. I don't read the blog entries about the dogs, nor the shenanigans they too often find themselves in, nor do I care about the haikus one of the dogs is compelled to write too often after every event of its life. Those dogs are neurotic and they stress me out. I also regret reading the chapter about her wide selection of pets over the years. Maybe not wide in your opinion, but 3-5 too many in my opinion.

All in all, I sure had a good time reading her memoir. Of all her books so far, this had the most memoir-like feel to it, and the one I enjoyed the most. About her third book I said it was better than the first two; this time I must say that her fourth book is better than her first three. Having followed her writing over the years, I can tell she has become more comfortable in her writing. Now I cannot wait to read her next one.

My only regret is that the advanced e-book copy I received did not have the Foreword by Ree Drummond

I received a free advanced reader e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

-About the Author-
Melanie Shankle is a graduate of Texas A&M and lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband, Perry, and daughter, Caroline. Melanie began blogging in July 2006 when she started her blog, Big Mama. She’s also a regular contributor to The Pioneer Woman blog. Her first book, Sparkly Green Earrings, came out in February 2013 and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list. Her second book, The Antelope in the Living Room, was released on February 4, 2014 and also hit the New York Times list.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sing, Unburied, Sing - by Jesmyn Ward: Book Review

Author: Jesmyn Ward
No. Pages: 304
Publisher: Scribner
Publishing Date: 5.09.2017
Format: Kindle

Despite being a page-turner - i.e. making me read because I wanted to learn what happens next and where the author takes the plot and characters, this book did not impress. 

I kept thinking that I am most certainly missing something, I was sure there is some deeper meaning and layer I don't get, some symbolism or metaphors I can't grasp. 

Honestly, this novel is not very original. Mothers and fathers who love their partner and addictions more than their children, grandparents looking after their grandchildren, children who are more mature than their age - all these bits of drama and hardship you can see in other books as well, dealing or not with the problem of race. 

This is the kind of book that I am sure makes perfect sense to the author when written, but not to me as a reader. I found it to be forced, as if the author tried too much to make is deep and gripping, trying to make it sound poetic. Such an example would be (sorry, spoiler ahead) when Mam was dying, with Given and Richie present, and there were alternating voices. It was too much for something that in the end didn't take or lead anywhere.  

If I understood it correctly, this novel wants to be truthful to life in the South, to show the cruelty towards people of colour. If this wants to be an authentic presentation, although fictional and literary, why the voices of plants and animals, why the ghosts? All these elements distracted from the severity of what African-Americans in US endured. Thinking back on this, all these horrible things were mostly hinted to, as if an afterthought because it was mandatory: imprisoning, bloodhound, injustice for the people of colour. It seemed as if there were two distinctive parts, with little to make them merge smoothly: Leonie's, Jojo's, and their family's drama, and Richie and Rev's and their past secret. I  A too large part was occupied by Leonie and her thoughts. I was more interested in Jojo's voice, and even Rev and Richie's.

It is a fast read, but besides being compelling, I didn't find it very impressive. However, maybe this is just not for me.

I receive a free e-book copy of the book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of Characters: (may contain spoilers)
Jojo - 13 year old boy
Kayla (Michaela) - toddler, Jojo's sister
Leonie - their mother. drug addict. has visions of her dead brother, Given, when she's high
Michael - their father - white. beginning: Parchman Farm Penitentiary
Mam (Philomene) - children's grandmother, sick of cancer
Pap (River) - children's grandfather
Big Joseph and Maggie - Michael's parents
Misty - Leonie's friend. travels with her to Parchman. her husband is imprisoned as well.
Gloria - Leonie and Misty's employer, bar owner
Richie (Richard) - a young man imprisoned the same time Riv/Pap was imprisoned. killed by River so he won't be caught by the men hunting him.
Al - Michael's lawyer
Kinnie Wagner - dog overseer when River and Richie were in Parchman
Fred and Carlotta - friends of Misty's, drug dealers.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

What I've Read Lately #5

I the previous post I mentioned the books I've read lately, books I didn't need to write a review from. A quick note to add that "lately" is to be used loosely because some of these books were read last year in May. However, because I haven't written a "What I've Read Lately" post since about that time, every book is here in these two lists. 
Let us proceed. 

I may have mentioned that my friend and I want to read the whole Narnia series. We decided to read them in chronological order, and so far we've read the first five. The fifth one, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was not impressing in our humble opinion, and this made us decide to take a break from the Narnia readings. This was in May. May 2016. I miss it a bit. 
The nautical vocabulary was what made it difficult to focus on the good parts of the story. To tell you the truth, I forgot a big chunk of the plot. Of course there were parts that impressed me and reminded me why Narnia is special, but I couldn't tell you exactly without the list of quotes and passage I underlined in the book.
I hear the last one in the series is really good, so I look forward to getting to reading the next two.

This is Sophie Hudson's third book, and it was funny like the first two, but on a more insightful note. I like how she's able to mix the two together - the silly and the serious. When she's not writing books or blog posts, she is a high school counselor, like Mrs. Tami Taylor aka Mrs. Coach in Friday Night Lights. Working all day with teenagers and still being a nice person to be read and follow on social media is a trait to have.
She speaks about women in the Bible who were not afraid to invest on their younger friends or family members, but invested in them and taught them to live big lives. Basically she talks about the need for women of all ages to live in community. I liked the book, and if I were or had a teenager, I'd probably buy her fourth book as well, which is a devotional for teenage girls.

I first heard about this from Joanna Goddard. The author was her sister's husband. I read at the beginning of the year. It was a more serious and profound book than I usually read, the kind of book that you have to take a minute to process. Upon learning of his illness, Paul Kalanithi has to come to terms with how he's to spend his life. He and Lucy, his wife, decide to have a child, and a baby girl is born. 
Besides being a gifted and dedicated doctor, he is also a good writer. The book is unfinished because he didn't have time to do it, and there is an epilogue written by Lucy. Knowing who he is and what prompted him to hurry writing the book, makes the reading more meaningful and gives it a deeper significance. 
The language is not simple, I had to re-read some parts to make sure I understood them completely and clearly, but it's not the kind of book that you rush through. 

So this happened. 
I was visiting my sister, it was too early in the morning, no one was up yet, I didn't want to wake anyone up, a Roald Dahl collection was nearby, so I grabbed this one. 
Cute and funny read, especially if you like Roald Dahl. 
Not much else to say.

I was preparing for my exam and I was dying to read something. Reading was my way of both procrastination and unwinding after a day of (trying to) study. I kept giggling throughout this novel. It's the first novel she wrote, apparently, although not the first published. I could see features and bits present in her better known novels, but also the difference between this first writing experiment and her more mature writings. The overdose of Gothic elements was a downer and dreary, just too much. 
Being surrounded by so many people talking about feminism and equal rights and social and civil movements I was genuinely surprised by the cynicism and misogyny in this novel.
Despite this, I was engaging and it made me miss Jane Austen. I have two-three novels of hers I haven't read yet, but I plan to remedy that at some point. Nothing beats a Jane Austen novel.

via Pinterest

I started watching the TV series a few years ago, and it was as cheesy as you'd expect from a Hallmark production. My cousin and I enjoyed watching it. 
Then I read the first book in the series last year, and of course almost everything was different than the book. This year I read the next five in the series. I have to say that after five Janette Oke novels you are spent! They are cute, but I am sure I would have enjoyed them more in my high school years or maybe early 20s. But since I meant to read them for a while now, it was a good opportunity to do so. 
I have to put it out here that Wynn Delaney made me eye-roll so many times I feared for my sight: he was the perfect, know-it-all man, never making a mistake throughout six books. He knows it all and always makes the best decision for everybody. Please. 
Elizabeth was a human character, making mistakes and trying to be a Pollyanna, as you'd expect, but she was a dear. So were the other characters - human. 
Not much else to say, except now I can't watch the TV series anymore because they are not in a mining town, the perfect man's name is Wynn, not Jack, and there is no lady who tries to win Jack/Wynn back, nor is there a bad man who tries to scam everyone in Coal Valley/ Hope Valley, and no sign of Abigail. There is, however, a lot of puppy eyes and love between Jack and Elizabeth in the TV series. Hallmark...

What I've Read Lately 1, 2, 3, 4