book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: Middlesex

Everyone struggles against despair, but it always wins in the end. It has to. It’s the thing that lets us say goodbye.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

middlesex

Click on image above to purchase on Amazon.

This is one of my absolute favorite novels, and one of the books that I have rated 5/5 stars on Goodreads. So, please prepare for all the praise.

AUTHOR: Jeffrey Eugenides

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: school library

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: This is the story of Cal Stephanides, and his journey of self discovery throughout his childhood and most of his adult life. His story parallels the stories of his grandparents and his own parents, each generation’s mistakes resulting in his own unique and challenging genetic condition- so that he transforms from Calliope Stephanides to Cal Stephanides. This is a novel about immigration, about gender, about identity, about romance, and about other topics that are hard to breach- this is truly, though, a novel about American culture and how many different identities can often occupy the same person.

THOUGHTS: So first of all, Eugenides’ writing is brilliant. As a literature nerd who loves nothing more than the pull of good, efficient prose, Eugenides’ writing is like several breaths of fresh air. Not only is his diction skillful, but the figurative language that he employs, such as parallelism and metaphors, could have been all for show but it only helped and supported the plot line that he was conveying.

I also loved how this was a multigenerational story but also very modern at the same time- the Greek immigrants that struggled against several of the issues that face past and modern immigrants alike in America, the parents that struggle with an unorthodox, budding relationship, and the second-generation child that shuns certain parts of their home culture out of a lack of appreciation for it, in favor for more modern, Americanized traditions. There are also many eras covered through the novel in this way- the racially charged riots of the 1960s, the booms of Detroit when it was the ultimate manufacturer of the Rust Belt, and the complexities and challenges that come with the present day.

There is also a rich variety of characters throughout the story besides the Stephanides family; there are the characters that are exhibitionists in San Francisco with ambiguous sexualities and gender identities, the girls that Callie grew up with during her school years, and the many other figures that are recognizable to those who know their contemporary American history also populate the world of this novel. These characters are all beautifully developed, complex, realistic, and completely sympathetic. There are many themes of childhood and adolescence explored, through Callie’s own adolescent experiences, and there are many subjects of adulthood that are breached. Some of these issues were brought together seamlessly, especially though the protagonist who is telling this story as a middle-aged man, breaking the barriers between those issues that strongly identify with youth and with grown-ups: questions of identity and feeling comfortable in one’s skin are not necessarily issues that disappear with age, even though that can often be people’s instinctive conclusion.

I cannot even think of a criticism for this book, and I can be quite the picky reader, but hey, there’s a reason that this novel won the Pulitzer and is proudly listed as a book in Oprah’s book club, right? It’s hard for me to imagine the kind of reader who would not enjoy this story, except maybe those who are only dedicated to certain specific genres, so stop reading this review and just go read the book instead!

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book review, book tour, fiction

Book Tour: Time Reavers

Author: Jacob Holo

Narrator: Tess Irondale

Series: Time Reavers, Book One

Length: 8 hours 36 minutes

Publisher: Holo Writing

Released: July 13, 2017

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

The monsters are real, and time is their weapon.

 

Fed up with bad teachers and daily fights with her sister, 16-year-old Nicole Taylor yearns for something better. Sadly, she’s in for a letdown, because the world ends next week.

 

Nicole discovers she has a rare gift. She can bend time around her and even stop it completely. With her powers awakening, she must face the Reavers: horrific killing machines that exist outside our time.

 

Plagued with nightmares and ambushed by monsters at every turn, Nicole has one chance to stop their genocidal invasion. With help from a chain-smoking pyrokinetic, a neurotic sword-wielding assassin, and an icy goth chick with a crossbow, she may stand a chance.

 

But the Reavers are tireless foes, and time is on their side.

 

 

Jacob Holo is a former-Ohioan, former-Michigander living in sunny South Carolina. He describes himself as a writer, gamer, hobbyist, and engineer. Jacob started writing when his parents bought that “new” IBM 286 desktop back in the 80s. Remember those? He’s been writing ever since.

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Narrator Bio

Tess​ Irondale​ is a professional audiobook narrator and voice actress, credited with bringing ​nearly ​5​0 titles to life. ​She ​specializes ​in ​Fantasy, Adventure, and Erotica, although ​her​ work ​has covered​ nearly every genre including Young Adult, Humor, Spirituality, ​LGBTQ, Sci-Fi, Self Help and ​Mystery​. ​She is on Audible’s in-house voice roster, and ​also works directly with authors through ACX.​ When not in the recording booth, she can be found hiking in the woods or hunkered over a crossword puzzle.

Website

 

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jacob Holo. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

The premise of the book was interesting and if you like urban fantasy, this book will be up your alley. The pacing was good- it kept the plot going at a nice pace. Overall, the writing was also pretty good at describing events that would otherwise be difficult to imagine. And the characters are hilarious in their own right.

However, and this is mostly a symptom of my own preferences, it did not do much characterization-wise. I personally really like books that focus on character development and Time Reavers is definitely more about the plot than anything else. I am glad that I listened to this book rather than read it, I feel like it is more exciting to listen to all the action that is going on.

The narrator for this audiobook, Tess Irondale, was absolutely fantastic. Her acting was so good- every cry of pain, every sound of annoyance was spot-on. There are so many characters in this book, but she did such a good job with her voice acting that you could definitely tell which character was which. Also her accents and the noises she made for the monster that are the Time Reavers was phenomenal. Props to her, I would definitely give her other audiobooks a listen just from the spectacular job she did with this audiobook.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this book; the only reason that I did not enjoy it more is because it simply didn’t match my reading preferences. If you are the kind of reader that enjoys plot-heavy books with slight fantasy elements that will intrigue you but won’t make your head spin, then I would definitely recommend this book for you!

Goodreads

Audible

Q&A with Author Jacob Holo
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • It was actually a lot easier than we expected it to be! Several of our indie author pals had great success with Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), so when we decided to dip our toes into audiobook creation, it was the first place we looked. All we had to do was select a narrator, send the manuscript, and voila! Finished audiobook in a few months. Of course, there was a little more to it than that: Once the first recording was done, we listened to it multiple times to catch and smooth out any errors, so it was definitely an arduous process – but it was also a lot of fun.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I work closely with my wife H.P. on most projects, and this was all her. She scoured ACX’s database of voice actors for days to find the perfect voice, and Tess Irondale was the clear stand-out. The main character of Time Reavers, Nicole, is a teenage girl who is flung from a life where her biggest problem is rivalry with her adopted sister Amy…to a life where she suddenly has superpowers and has to use them to fight giant, dimension-hopping, time-manipulating cyborg insects. That’s a pretty big change, but Nicole is a no-nonsense girl who does her best to keep a cool head, even when faced with problems as big as that, and we wanted a voice actor who could capture that type of character. However, the novel also required the ability to convey a wide range of accents, ages, and even monster noises, so that was another big factor in our decision. Fortunately, when H.P. heard Tess’ voice samples, she hit every checkbox perfectly!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • Oh, we worked very closely! Time Reavers is set in at least four different countries with characters from at least as many nationalities, some of whom speak with accents you would expect of their home country (in this case, Russia, Germany, Japan, and the US), one of whom is German but raised in conditions that give him a slight British accent. Then there are the reavers themselves, each of which make unique roars that basically sound like the Balrog from The Lord of the Rings movies combined with a jet engine – which is not exactly an easy sound for the human voice to emulate. Tess did a fantastic job with all of it, though. We went back and forth about the characters’ backgrounds, verbal quirks, and even their fates in upcoming books – the sequel, Mind Reavers, is going to be one of our next projects.
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • Lots actually, though I’d say the biggest contributor came from the time I spent in Germany. I really enjoyed interacting with another culture up close and personal during the time I was working over there, and I actually visited some of the locations that appear in the novel.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • I’ve had a passion for writing since a very young age. There are times when I’ll do nothing but write for weeks at a time, often putting in ten, twelve, or even fourteen hour days one after another. Somehow that hasn’t burned me out yet, so I think I’m doing pretty well in that regard.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I’m not. I prefer having an actual book in my hands. But H.P. devours audiobooks, and she loves how a good reader can bring an entirely new dimension to a book. Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, for example, is one of her favorite series, and though Stiefvater is a stellar writer, Will Patton rocks the reading on the audiobook enough that though H.P. owns the series in print, she almost always revisits the series in audio.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I think the characters’ relationships come through more vividly in the audiobook version simply because listeners can hear the emotions behind the words rather than just reading them – and there are a lot of intense emotions in this book. Nicole and Amy have a trying relationship (as teen sisters often do), and Daniel and his fellow Tau Guard Rüdiger have a particularly dark and tempestuous history that bubbles up at tense moments. Beyond that, though, Tess’ unique performances for each individual character gives them all a chance to shine even more brightly than they did in the text version. H.P. said she actually developed a little crush on Rüdiger’s voice.
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • I’d travel into the future and pick up some “history” books or whatever the equivalent turns out to be. Then I’d check them out just to see how far off my science fiction is.
  • If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?
    • It astonishes readers when I say this, but even though my stories play out like movies in my imagination, I rarely have specific people in my for the characters I write. H.P. is the opposite: She pictured teenage versions of Saorise Ronan as Nicole, Daniel Radcliffe as the assassin Daniel Cadinsky, and Rinko Kikushi as the weaponsmith Shoko.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • I don’t consider it cheating, and H.P. finds that sort of elitism very tiring – and frankly, what does it matter? Whether listening or reading, a person’s still experiencing the same content, just in a different package. Plus, one of the reasons why we considered making audiobooks in the first place is because certain groups of people specifically requested them, as reading physical books is somehow difficult for them. For some the reasons were circumstantial – One worked as a truck driver and so had no time to read physical books, but had hours upon hours in which he could plow through audiobooks. For most, though, the reasons were unavoidable – We’ve met a number of people at cons who struggle with dyslexia or similar difficulties, and audiobooks allow them to experience the pleasure of reading while taking away the processing difficulties. All this to say, audiobooks are in no way inferior, just different.
  • How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
    • I started another novel – or three! Soon after releasing Time Reavers, I released Bane of the Dead, Throne of the Dead, and Disciple of the Dead, which are a complete trilogy of giant robot novels that take inspiration from mecha anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam. Fun Fact: My love of anime actually influences a lot of my writing, so sometimes I’ll stick anime easter eggs into my books. Daniel’s ringtone? It’s “Cruel Angel’s Thesis,” the theme song from Evangelion.
  • In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
    • I generally find stand-alone novels to be easier to write. Problems come up in the planning and writing of any novel, and the “tools” available to the author in a standalone novel are a lot more flexible since it’s not part of a larger universe. But ultimately, I really enjoy working on a series and getting to dig deeper into difference aspects of a fictional universe as well as show the progression of characters through a series of the events. For instance, I’m really looking forward to exploring the backstory of the reavers in Mind Reavers, which is something I barely touched on in the first book.
  • What’s your favorite:
      1. Food – Sushi is basically its own food group in our house.
      2. Song – Oh, this is a tough one. I’m going to have to go with “Don’t Worry” from Xenoblade Chronicles X, arranged by Hiroyuki Sawano and performed by Aimee Blackschleger. Through a strange series of events (involving my wife’s retina suddenly detaching from the back of her eye, her lung spontaneously collapsing, and this music playing in my car as I drove her around), “Don’t Worry” has, in a strange way, become our song.
      3. Book – Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was the first book I read that really captured my imagination in a way that made me want to create my own worlds.
      4. Television show – Oh, wow. So many good ones to pick from. Hmm, let me think here. I’ll have to go with Doctor Who.
      5. Movie – This one’s easy. Dirty Pair: Project Eden. It’s definitely a product of its time (1986), but once you get past that, it’s a fun, goofy action anime where the simplest mistake can result in a string of explosions.
      6. Band – Anything featuring Yuki Kajiura.
      7. Sports team – The closest I come to watching sports is watching Starcraft tournaments, but if I could choose a favorite player, it would be Scarlet.
      8. City – Kyoto. My brother and I visited the city on my way back from a long term assignment in China, and it was the best vacation of our lives. The city was a fantastic mix of modern conveniences and historical temples and shrines. The weather was perfect, the food was awesome, and the people were ever so friendly.
  • Are any of those things referenced in appearance in your work?
    • Occasionally. For instance, a major sequence in Mind Reavers will take place in Kyoto.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    • We encounter a lot of aspiring authors, especially at conventions, and the main piece of advice we give them is always WRITE! A lot of people say they have a great idea for a book but never actually get it down on paper, and that’s the key – If you want to be a published writer, you have to finish your book. It may not be as good as you think it should be, but that’s ok. If you’ve finished the first draft, you’ve already accomplished a lot more than many aspiring authors. From that point, you edit and edit and edit again until you’ve polished it into something you’re ready to share with the world.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • An audiobook can be made or ruined by its reader, so make sure you find a reader who suits the characters and style of your book. Time Reavers would not have been the same book if it had been read by a gravelly-voiced old man (even though that same gravelly-voiced old man might be well suited to some of our other books)!
  • What’s next for you?
    • I’ve had the exciting privilege of collaborating on the first book in a new series with New York Times Bestselling author David Weber! It’s a time travel novel, the first draft is nearly complete, and I hope we’ll be ready to share some of the juicy details soon. Any readers who’d like to learn more can subscribe to our newsletter at https://holowriting.leadpages.co/dragonsofjupiter/. Subscribers are the first to learn about our new releases, as well as any contests or giveaways that we run. (We usually do two a month!)

 

Time Reavers Giveaway: Signed Copy of Time Reavers

Sep. 20th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

Lomeraniel

The Literary Apothecary

Sep. 21st:

Jazzy Book Reviews

Macarons & Paperbacks

Sep. 22nd:

It’s Novel to Me

Notes from ‘Round the Bend

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Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm

Blogger Nicole Reviews

Twisted Book Junkie

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Buried Under Books

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book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: Leaving Time

Just because you leave someone doesn’t mean you let them go.

Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult

leaving20time

Click on the image above to purchase the book on Amazon.

This was my introduction to Jodi Picoult, who many acclaim, and I must say that it was far from a disappointment.

AUTHOR: Jodi Picoult

GENRE: Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 4/5 stars

SUMMARY: Jenna Metcalf is a thirteen-year-old girl whose every waking moment is consumed by missing and searching for her mother who has been missing for over a decade, Alice Metcalf. Her father, a patient in a psychiatric ward, proves unhelpful. The missing persons case for Alice Metcalf was never reported either. Jenna enlists the help of a washed-up psychic, Serenity, and the detective that was originally assigned to her mother’s case, Virgil, in the search for her mother. As these three form the pseudo-family that Jenna never really had, details about the case reveal themselves and raises more confusion. However, Jenna is not about to give up, not after ten years of missing her mom.

THOUGHTS: I adored this story- it has everything an avid reader could want: paranormal beings, a psychic who is faking it, an angsty, witty teenage girl, an alcoholic detective, a missing person, and elephants. I am the kind that loves to read nonfiction and especially about animal emotions and the depth to which they feel it- so I really enjoyed the elephants aspect of this story. There is a lot of research about elephants in this book, so if that is not the kind of thing that will pique your interest, then this book may not be for you.

I like the characterization overall in this novel- the main characters, Jenna and Alice, are beautifully written. They are both complicated, and Jenna’s teenage voice is clear and realistic and relatable. Alice is just as complex, and she is not romanticized at all by Picoult- she has some angry moments, some bossy moments, and some mean moments. But she is still a sympathetic character, and one that you root for- it just she comes closer to real women in real life- she’s dark, she’s complex, and she’s emotional, unapologetically. Additionally, Serenity and Vergil, though most of us would classify them as losers or outsiders, are not entirely lovable, but just relatable enough so that you can relate to the issues that they are facing and the questions they have to answer. Also, the relationships that they develop with Jenna are nicely arced and anything but linear, which I feel is important for parent-child like relationships.

The plot twist at the end was something that I bought and enjoyed, even though many of the book reviews that I read on Goodreads did not. The main criticism I drew from reading those reviews is that it is a far cry from what Jodi Picoult usually does, but this was my introduction to the author, so I am able to speak on the plot twist without being influenced by Picoult’s other works. I thought it was a well-timed twist, believable, and made the story that much more enriching and challenging to my own world view.

If you enjoy realistic fiction with plenty of drama, suspense, and some of the paranormal, then this is a book for you!

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book review, fiction

Review: Magic

The event remains by invitation only, which is respected by all, and over the years it has become one of the most cherished secret occasions held in Paris.

Magic, Danielle Steel

magic

Click on the image to purchase the book on Amazon. I originally picked up this book because I found its premise to be intriguing: a “White” Dinner, where all invitees are required to dress in all white, where the location is at a secret, random, Parisian monument, and where the night is supposed to be filled with magic.

AUTHOR: Danielle Steel

GENRE: Romance, Realistic fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 2/5 stars

SUMMARY: Every year, the White Dinner is held at one of the Parisian monuments. It is an elegant event, where only the richest and most prestigious people from all over the world are invited. The whole event is rather secretive, as the location of the dinner, which is always at a historic monument in Paris, remains a secret until the night of. Jean-Philippe makes sure to invite nine couples each year he attends, as he is always one of the invitees, and this particular year, there is trouble brewing for more than one of the couples invited, and there is potential for new couples to be formed as well. The year after the White Dinner brings challenges, romance, and testing of relationships but ultimately, the White Dinner proves to be a point of “magic” in all of the invitees lives.

THOUGHTS: I like to think of myself as a rather generous book reviewer, but I need to be honest, as I did not enjoy this novel. The characterization fell really flat for me, each woman counterpart of each novel was characterized as the “perfect” woman with a couple of insecurities. They are all stylish, beautiful, sexy, intelligent, and a good mother if they have kids. The only thing that can really distinguish them is their partner, their job, and the situation they are in; none of these things should be the defining characteristic of any character or anyone in general, in my opinion. The men were all also gentlemen, but appropriately seductive; the only man that was not good was one rascal playboy and it was just all so boring.

The lives that the characters lead are also not recognizable nor relatable to me; one character enjoys India because she is able to take a private jet to each exotic location, another goes shopping for her daughter’s wedding dress at Dior, and they all enjoy unbridled success in their careers and enjoy the perks of being the most elite people in society. I have nothing against the culture that was being displayed in the novel, but I did have an issue with how these conditions were treated as normal and expected in the novel; it only made all of the characters come off as entitled.

The thing that got most on my nerve is that there were so many redundancies when the issues that were facing each couple surfaced in the book. The same arguments for whether or not to take a job in Beijing, for whether a relationship with a large age difference will work, etc. came up again and again and were sometimes examined from different points of view but these revisiting of the issues felt less like progress in the conflict and more just like saying the same thing over and over.

Some good things about this novel is that it was extremely readable, the prose is smooth and sometimes very simple. There are certain kinds of readers that would enjoy this book, but I unfortunately was not one of them. If you like characters that live exquisite lives and romances that face some challenges but inevitably and perfectly come back and blossom, then this book is probably for you, but I don’t think I can recommend it.

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book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: The Girls

Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get.

– The Girls, Emma Cline

I had heard great things about this novel from friends and most people on Goodreads, so I picked up this audiobook and decided that I would give it a shot.
AUTHOR: Emma Cline

GENRE: Realistic fiction

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: This novel is set in the late 1960s, in California. Evie is a lonely fourteen-year-old girl, who lost her best and only good friend because she was more interested in her friend’s brother than her friend. When she sees a group of girls in the park, she becomes intrigued and sets out on an effort to befriend “the girl with the black hair”, or as she is later known as, Suzanne. Evie’s friendship with Suzanne pulls her into the midst of Suzanne’s life, and Evie begins to live with Suzanne’s group, who all practically worship their caretaker Russell. In a story-arc that eerily mirrors the real life Manson Family from the 1960s, Evie grows up at “the ranch”, a place with loose morals, a lot of tension, and questionable motives.

THOUGHTS: Let me say right off the bat, that I really enjoyed Cline’s prose but it is definitely not for everyone. Her sentences are long, winding, and descriptive; her figurative language is enticing, complex, and at some instances in the book, startling. If you would rather a book just get straight to the point, then this book may not be for you.

I am not claiming that Cline was trying to convey a greater message with her work, but I disliked how the book was drearily pessimistic, especially about the role that females should and would play and how femininity can sometimes be crass and false. Maybe it is because I am more of an optimist than the main character is, or maybe it is because I am young and have a hard time relating to the narrator, which is a middle-aged Evie. Even though many of the statements made about girls or women in general were heartbreakingly true, like the quote I listed above, and even though I could relate to some of the female fears communicated by Evie and the girls at the ranch, I could not accept Evie’s conclusion that the way that girls are conditioned to want love and never receive it sets themselves up for a lifetime of disappointment. I believe there are ways in which women and females can unlearn those roles that were dictated to them, that they are able to find contentment and satisfaction and the love that they need to be whole. (Of course, I am also aware that Cline is a completely different person than Evie, and that their views may differ, but I sensed no irony that Cline was trying to convey anything other than what Evie had come to conclude in life).

Again, I loved the writing style and I believe that it really enhanced the story, especially since a lot of it is told in flashbacks. I read this book via audiobook and the dreamy voice of the narrator (Cady McClain) was brilliant for this story, and her voice acting was everything a reader could have wished for. I did not know much about the Manson Family, but reading this novel has piqued my interest. I always found the subject of cults to be somewhat grotesque but after reading this book, I had real sympathy for the girls who had nothing better to do than devote their lives and their bodies to a washed-up, middle-aged man. Their tragic stories prove how people can and will do anything to feel like they are doing something important, something different than everyone else, and something that can maybe make them feel whole again. The characterization in this story is perfectly in check.

I also enjoyed how there was a parallel between past Evie, and a fifteen-year-old girl that present Evie observed for a couple of days; this parallelism only goes to show how even with the change of time, the change of culture, etc., the main insecurities of girls stay stagnant. This is mostly because the expectations of girls and the role they play has not changed all that much through the decades.

If the male leader of the cult/ranch had been the focus of the book, I feel as though I might have lost interest. That is the story that everyone else chooses to focus on. However, Cline took the unorthodox approach and named the girls, or the followers, as the unsung heroes of her story (which, as a feminist, I am all about!). They were both victims and perpetrators, both innocent and guilty, and I enjoyed reading about that complexity and the writing style really captured it beautifully. If these sound like aspects you might enjoy in a book, then this novel is for you.

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book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: Me Before You

You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.

– Me Before You, Jojo Moyes


So I have to admit, I was reluctant to read this novel. Reluctant, I say, because I was sure that it would not live up to the hype and I had heard mixed reactions to the movie. But, I am pleased to say that the novel is NOT the movie and is actually much better, but who can say that they were surprised? And anyways, romance is not my genre but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this novel.

AUTHOR: Jojo Moyes

GENRE: Romance, Realistic Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Louisa, or Lou, is a small-town, twenty six year old, English girl with no big plans. She lives a comfortable life with her sister, her nephew, her parents, her grandfather, and her boyfriend. Her family’s financial situation is tight and depends on her wages, so she does not have the ability to move away nor can she pursue an education. Personal reasons and secrets also lead Lou to lead a life within a small radius, leaving her with no desire to see the world and no aspirations. Lou is a bubbly, awkward personality with a wardrobe louder than most. One fateful day, she loses her job at the cafe and instead is assigned to be the caretaker and companion Will Traynor, a quadriplegic, ex-CEO, rich man in his thirties. At first the pair does not get along, but as time proceeds, they learn to rely on each other and of course, fall for each other. However, Lou has to reconcile with a deep, dark secret of Will’s that could possibly threaten their intimacy as well as their relationship.

THOUGHTS: I think the issue with my primary reluctance with reading this novel is that it was marketed as a romance when it really is not that at all. This story is all Lou’s, the protagonist, and how a relationship she has affects the course of her life and her personal worldview. I think the main proof of this is the fact that there is a sequel to this book even though (SPOILER ALERT) the relationship comes to an end in the course of this first novel. Additionally, there was no romanticization of Will’s paralysis, and yet at the same time, a real understanding that this romance only could have occurred if Will was paralyzed, and would ever occur in some made-up, fantasy land where he fully had control of his body.

There is something to be said about the fact that I finished this book in the span of less than twenty four hours; the storyline is riveting and the dialogue is witty and refreshing. Moyes’ writing is accessible and easy to digest; however, I found it to be lacking in that it did not have a unique, identifiable style. There are bursts of brilliance, but overall, the diction was not too impressive, which is why I could not give it a higher rating.

That being said, there was no need for fancy figurative language most of the time; the storyline and exposition managed to carry itself quite well without it. Moyes’ style, while not a standout feature of the novel, suits the mood and purpose of the work well.

The management of sensitive topics in the book, such as assisted suicide, is handled with grace. I know that the way that Moyes treats these subjects may have provoked controversy, and I believe that it only makes the work that much better, because in my opinion, the purpose of the novel is not to paint moral issues in simple shades of black and white, nor is it to preach. It is simply a honest reflection of the complexities of life.

The characterization is sublime and I found both Lou and Will to be highly sympathetic characters, and Lou served as a reliable narrator. I loved the imagery associated with Lou’s personality and her wardrobe, I loved the complicated relationships she often found herself, and I loved how she managed to look at all of her character flaws and mostly take them in stride. Will was also very well-written; he was both appropriately dark and yet generous beyond belief at the same time yet very believable.

The background motifs also played nicely into the tapestry that is this novel; of course, there is the classic class struggles between two peoples who have affections for each other, the examination of what a healthy functioning relationship actually looks like, and family disfunction. They do not distract from the main plot and instead, at most times, enhance the novel.

If you are a fan of watching a beautifully arced character grow and if you are a fan of subtle complexities, this is the book for you.

 

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