Friday, August 30, 2013

Book review: Every Day

Every Day by David Levithan

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

This is one of those books with SUCH a cool premise you're scared it'll fall totally flat and be awful. A spirit that wakes up in the body of a different person every day? Love the idea. And I'm happy to say, it didn't suck. I liked it a lot.

I'm not gonna lie: I picked up this book in December after getting it for Christmas, read abut 40 pages, and then didn't pick it up again until July. I just didn't get into it the first time through.

And I think that's because I didn't love Rhiannon at first, and I didn't want her to be the one A loves.

But when I picked it up again, I got really, really sucked in. I didn't love Rhiannon initially, but I could tell why A loved her a little bit later. And A seems like such a good person initially, then gets out of control a little bit after meeting Rhiannon.

Every Day gave a lot of perspective to the joys of everyday life -- of being the same person, day in and day out, despite a hope to maybe wake up somewhere different, just once. It sheds light on some of the difficulties one person may have that another doesn't -- depression, addiction, disability, family or lack-thereof. And it helps you think of the world in ways you might not otherwise. It also challenges some of the stereotypes and ways of thinking society socializes us to believe -- specifically about gender and about love, but also about ability and disability and some other topics.

I couldn't put it down for the last hundred pages or so. Once I got into it, it turned out to be a very quick read.

Have any of you read Every Day? I tend to be a fan of Levithan's books. What did you think?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins - A Novel by Jess Walter

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. I shortened it a bit.

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

This book delivered much more than I expected.

It begins in a very chick-lit, light beach read fashion -- from the cover to the love-at-first-sight beginning. And I like a good chick-lit book now and then. But the characters and the plot of Beautiful Ruins are deeper than that. And each time you think you know the characters or the story, something shifts and you're surprised again.

There's a lot in Beautiful: there are lost loves, wrong loves, because-you're-here loves. There's what was supposed to be, what actually was, and what might have been. And it's hopeful and it's sad and it's what you want your life to be and it's what you don't want.

I gave it four stars and I think I'll read it again soon. 

Have any of you read Beautiful Ruins? What did you think?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book review: The Moon and More

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?

I love Sarah Dessen. So I was super pumped to get her new book, which came out earlier this summer. I'm not sure I can write a review without being super gushy and fangirling hardcore. But I'll try.

Emaline, the main character of The Moon and More, has just graduated high school and is about to go off to college -- the first in her family, other than her estranged biological father. As she lives out her last summer in her beachfront hometown, she deals with the reappearance of her bio father in her life, the end of her relationship with her long-time high school sweetheart, the shifting of her relationships with her other family members, and with being a permanent member of a community where many people are only temporary -- and discovering that, with her planned departure at the end of the summer, she had become temporary too.

I loved the relationships in this book -- from Emaline's relationship with her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend Luke to the half-brother who is suddenly suuuper attached to the sudden connection to a local artist, I thought they were all so true to life. You'll think Dessen stole them from YOUR life.

There were parts of this novel I cringed -- in that painful kind of way you get when you see someone embarrassing themselves (the way that makes it impossible for me to watch "The Christmas Story"). But isn't that so like life?

Sarah Dessen has often said that she hates trying to answer the question, "What is your book about?" because she ends up rambling on and on, and that's how I feel now. I think because SO MUCH happens in the book and you feel guilty leaving any piece of it out. So I'm not sure there's any more that I can say.

The Moon and More is another home run from Sarah Dessen. I happily gave it four stars and will probably be reading it again soon.

(Interesting side note -- The Moon and More was the third official title of this book. Dessen's first try was "The Best After Ever" but she and her publishers worried people would mix it up and say the best ever after. Then it was "Someone Else's Summer" but they worried bookstores would remove it from shelves at the end of the season.)

Have any of you read The Moon and More? What did you think?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Book review: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Description from Amazon (below) can be found here along with other reviews.

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

I didn't love The Happiness Project at first. Throughout the book, Rubin discusses her fears that a book about her own search for happiness won't be transcendent-- that her experience is unique to her and that there's not much others can get out of it. And at first, I agreed.

Rubin structured her challenge by creating a a focus for each month of the year: one month she wanted to boost energy, the next she wanted to work on her marriage, then focus on her career. And at first, I didn't find much in it that related to me. So she was a nagging wife. I am not a nagging wife.

But as she got deeper into her challenge, I found more and more that applied to me. I ended up folding down a corner to go back to that page. and then another. and then six more.

I wouldn't say this book was life-changing for me, but it definitely was thought provoking.

One of Rubin's main goals? Be Gretchen. To be herself. Totally something I can get behind.

Another idea Rubin discusses that really stuck with me is when she talks about how it's easy to complain and be negative. It's much more difficult to be consistently cheerful, to build others up, to be a positive person.

I've thought about it several times since then, when I found a negative comment at the tip of my tongue. And I've done my best to hold it back.

So maybe it was a little life changing.

Have any of you read The Happiness Project? What did you think?


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