book review, fiction

Review: Attachments

Every woman wants a man who’ll fall in love with her soul as well as her body.

– Attachments, Rainbow Rowell

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AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell

GENRE: Fiction/Light Romance

FORMAT: paperback

RATING: 4/5 stars

SUMMARY: Think a 90s romantic comedy. It is currently the precipice of the new millennium, and that means the introduction of the Internet and the phenomenon of e-mail. A newspaper hires a thirty-year-old computer specialist named Lincoln to sit in a room at night and read through flagged emails sent by its employees for bad behavior. Lincoln finds himself constantly reading the email chains exchanged between Jennifer and Beth, which are flagged for innocuous reasons. In the process of reading these emails, he finds himself falling more and more for Beth, a girl he has never seen but knows the most intimate details about. Beth is similarly infatuated with a guy who hangs around the office late at night, but who she actually knows nothing about. How will they extract themselves from this seemingly intractable situation?

THOUGHTS: Again, this book was loaned to me by my friend who apparently likes to feed my newborn Rainbow Rowell addiction. Unlike the other books that I have read by Rowell, like Fangirl and Eleanor and Park, this is NOT teen fiction. That means it touches on subjects like pregnancy, and what it really means to grow up and separate from your parents. As someone who is only a year away from graduation, there are many moments in the book that I was more keen to: the decision of Lincoln to move out of his mother’s home, his debate over whether he should continue working or go back to school, his search for when and where his life is supposed to start. Of course, I haven’t gone through these steps yet, but it gives me a nice glance into what the rest of my 20’s will look like.

Lincoln’s introspective and inner struggles to achieve true adulthood are what struck me the most. And of course, there is the cute romantic-comedy element of the book that kept me coming back for more (and didn’t make me as depressed about adulthood). The friendship between Beth and Jennifer is enviable, and both are incredibly smart and witty. The issues that they go through in their respective relationships portray that there’s a lot more to adulthood than career and just finding a partner- there’s all the things that come after too. The possibility of marriage? The possibility of children? And how can you even approach these topics when you are not sure if you want either?

Luckily, the creepy-guy-reading-emails-and-being-ethically-dubious is addressed as well, as it is a very self-aware novel. If it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I never take issue with authors attacking problematic issues and topics as long as they acknowledge that its problematic, but in case you’re the kind of person who can’t get around that sort of thing, then maybe this book isn’t for you. I don’t know if Rowell wanted to address implications of new technology, and how surveillance in an information age could shape the nature of modern relationships, but I would say that a small part of that is at play in this novel as well.

All in all, this is a cute and thought-provoking read. Would definitely recommend.

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book review, classics, reading recommendations

Review: Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

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There is something to be said about the fact that I have the first line of this novel memorized. And that something is, I am OBSESSED as any teenage fangirl would be with this book.

AUTHOR: Jane Austen, duh.

GENRE: romance

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: thrift shop

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Mrs. Bennet is sent into a frenzy when a rich, eligible bachelor moves into a house in her neighborhood. She is convinced that Bingley, the bachelor, is destined to marry one of her daughters. This prediction proves to be not unfounded as Bingley and Jane, the eldest Bennet girl, are quite taken with each other. Bingley brings his friend along, Darcy, another rich, eligible bachelor that the main character, Elizabeth, finds pompous, arrogant, and exceedingly rude. Through some miscommunications, Bingley suddenly leaves town, taking Darcy with him and leaving Jane heartbroken. Elizabeth suspects foul play, and when Darcy surprisingly proposes to her, she confronts him about how he interfered with the happiness of her sister. From then on, events spiral out of control and Elizabeth’s world-view and character judgements are challenged, shattered, and rearranged. As she matures throughout the story, she finds that first impressions are not always what’s really true and that her pride, and someone else’s prejudice, very nearly destroyed the happiness of themselves and those that they hold dear to their hearts.

THOUGHTS: Pride and Prejudice, for me, was the kind of book that I picked up and rarely ever put down until I was completely finished with it. It was that captivating, and that good. Elizabeth Bennet is my perfect narrator: relatable, sassy, intelligent, loving, and flawed. Her journey throughout the story arc is one of my absolute favorites, and though the romance is the main focal point for most people, Elizabeth’s development is the meat of the story for me.

If you have ever watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on YouTube (here is a link if you have no idea what I’m talking about), there are a few aspects of the book that stand out as flaws. There is no redemption of Lidia Bennet or her relationship with Elizabeth in the book, there is not a whole lot of characterization from Wickham besides word-of-mouth (and of course the book clearly says that this is not a good way to know a character), and the submissiveness of Jane Bennet in forgiving other characters. Of course, some of these errors are only perceived as such because this is not a modern novel, and some come from the fact that the novel is only told from Elizabeth’s point of view while the video series tries to incorporate other points of view. But some, of course, are Austen’s errors.

Besides this, there are many praises that I can ascribe to this novel, and there have been many praises that other people have ascribed to this novel, so I will try and keep it brief so you can spend less time reading this review and more time reading Pride and Prejudice. The characterization of Elizabeth and William beautifully mirror each other, and although it is Elizabeth’s story, William also blossoms and grows throughout the story.

The family aspect of this story is also very important; the Bennet family, although not the best family to marry into nor the most stable of families, is recognizable, even in modern times. The mother, who is characterized as rather crazy and obsessive by Elizabeth, does experience some redemption. Mr. Bennet is lovingly characterized as a simple, quiet, but fiercely loyal man. The Bennet sisters are all quite different, but also recognizable as the different kinds of girls you have known and befriended throughout your life. There is jealousy, there is contempt, but above all, there is love and support.

The romance, of course, is your classic they met and hated each other, but once they got to know each other, things changed. But this storyline was probably best exemplified by this novel, and it feels so fresh and real in this novel. Additionally, the way that the two end up falling for each other is unorthodox and is not romantic in the conventional sort of way.

I’ll stop here to prevent myself from rambling on, but if you’d like to talk to me about your crazy love for this novel and all things Austen, feel free to reach me through the Contact page! And if you love classical novels, a bit of romance, and plenty of drama, this novel is a MUST READ 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

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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: 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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