Monday, October 31, 2016

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 336
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 15+

Madeline is allergic to the world. It's a rare disease, without any cure, and it's kept her inside her entire life. She's been content experiencing life through her books until a new family moves in next door. Olly is movement and grace and life, with a dark family life. Maddy needs to decide whether staying inside and staying a live is better than experiencing real life for just a few days.

I'm ashamed to say that this book has been on my "to read" list for several months, if not a year. Every time I'd go in to look at it, I just didn't think it would be that interesting. I finally caved and picked it up from a display at the library. And I really liked it!

I couldn't wait to get to lunch to read it and hated having to go back to work (30 minutes just isn't long enough). There are some really interesting elements of the story telling in this book, which just adds to Maddy's story instead of distracting from it. Despite her naivety on "Outside," she's sassy and interesting.

There were some times when I thought, "Would Olly really want to be with this girl who can never leave her house, who he can't touch?" I'm not sure that a real high school boy would be so willing to pursue a girl like Maddy. Maybe I'm a cynic. It's also possible that Olly's home life has made him more sympathetic and willing to look past her illness.

There was very little language and one sexual encounter, not graphic.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle

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Publication date: 1980 (original); 2016 (this edition)
Publisher: Convergent
Pages: 190
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 15+

In an attempt to explain "Christian art;" L'Engle wrote this treatise on how all art is religious, if done well. If story is truth, there is religion in it, even if not written by a religious person.

I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in elementary school. And I remember reading it again in sixth grade with the class and I got upset when I was asked to read the part of one of the Mrs. and my teacher said I was reading it wrong. I pictured her with an ethereal, echoing kind of voice, but my teacher said it was a stutter. Anyway, that's off topic.

I read it again sometime in the last two years and I was struck by what a big part religion had in it. I loved it, because it showed what I believe, which is that God and science are not separate, but work together. Reading this book, I learned that L'Engle believed the same.

This book spoke to me as a writer, as a Christian, and as a "Christian writer." It felt so multifaceted and there was so much that spoke to me on all of these levels. At first I was marking passages with sticky notes on the page, but realized that I was marking nearly every page, so I switched to a highlighter. Advice on how to write, quotes on art or religion, facts or stories that spoke to me on some sort of level--these were all marked and I hope to look back over them when I need to.

There were times when I felt that I just couldn't keep up with L'Engle, her writing was so intelligent and high level. I couldn't understand it, but I know what it was about (something she says a reader told her about the first time she read Wrinkle).

Great and interesting read which shows just how talented and amazing L'Engle was.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 342
My rating: 4.5 stars
Ages: 13+

When Olivia's father decides she has become too rebellious, he hires mesmerist Henri Reverie to cure her of her "unfeminine" thoughts. After her hypnotism, she sees people for who they truly are: monsters, angels, ghosts. She is also unable to argue. Horrified, Olivia tries to convince Henri to put her back, but Henri needs the money Olivia's father promised him.

Set against the suffrage movement in Oregon, this book was an excellent look at the struggle of women not only to get the vote, but to be heard. There is a bit of fantasy, but it is interwoven in such a way that makes it seem typical of the period. To add to that, there are real photographs included at the beginning of several chapters of women or the places discussed.

When I picked this book up at the library, I thought it would be a kind of ghost story or mystery. Though that expectation was proven wrong, what I was given was so much better. I was so into the story of Olivia and Henri that I read it in one afternoon. It was interesting, informative, romantic, and gripping.

No language and no sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 292
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 18+

Molly is a divorcee in her late 30s. For her job she writes strange features for an online magazine; in her free time she watches Nicolas Cage movies with her boyfriend. Everything is fine until Molly is assigned an article on love--a la Nora Ephron. Suddenly, her cynicism and her relationship are called into question. Add into that a frustrating mystery writer and Molly's life is becoming a chick flick of her own.

I love Nora Ephron movies; chick flicks just aren't made the way that she made them. They didn't feel silly or over the top, just about two people and their journey to love. That's kind of how this book is. It may not have the finesse or ease of Ephron's writing, and it may be a bit predictable, but, as Molly says in the book, it's the journey to the happy ending that's important.

I actually found this book refreshing, in a way. In a world that seems to need hard language and steamy sex scenes in order to find anything interesting, Yellin went back to the basics. She used storylines, characters, plot, and inferences instead.

The love story may not have made me go all gooey like some, but it was a nice read.

Two instances of the f-word and references to sex and sex-related acts.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland

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Publication date: 1961 (original); 2016 (this edition)
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Pages: 138
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 15+

In 1953, Olivia de Havilland (Hollywood movie star and Academy Award winner) moved to France to marry a Frenchman. From her American point of view, France and the French have many peculiarities, which she isn't afraid to share with the world.

To me, Olivia de Havilland will always be synonymous with Maid Marion, since that is the part of hers I know the best. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but de Havilland shares the things she has observed and learned living among the French with tremendous wit.

I laughed as she talked about learning the French language and the gaffes she made from not being familiar with the culture.

I'm glad that this book was printed again to celebrate de Havilland's 100th birthday. There is a new interview with her for the new edition, which shows that wit doesn't disappear with age.

Definitely recommend.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Pages: 291
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14+

Alexander Hamilton has been overlooked in our schools, known by most as the person on the $10 bill. But in this unique book, Hamilton is more than some dead guy, he is a fount of wisdom on every part of life: careers, family, money, and etiquette.

The musical is all the rage right now, which has sparked renewed interest in Hamilton. Before reading this book, what I knew about Hamilton was he was killed in a duel and he was a Founding Father. But this guide made me interested in this amazing and complex man.

This isn't necessarily a biography. Instead, Wilser uses Hamilton's life as a framework to give advice. Or maybe he uses the advice as a framework to share Hamilton's life. However it is, it's interesting and engaging, even funny. It's like going to a lecture by your favorite college professor: he makes it fun and maybe takes a few liberties, but ultimately, you learn more from him than you do from anyone else.

I loved all the seemingly off-the-wall comments on Aaron Burr (which may only be funny to those who know Burr's significance).

All in all, an enlightening and entertaining read and look at history.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody

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Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
Pages: 451
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 14+

Ellison had the worst Monday of her life. She got a ticket, had a horrible school picture taken, had an allergic reaction, and to top it all off, her boyfriend broke up with her. All she wanted was a chance to do it all over again. When she wakes up the next morning, it's Monday all over again. And again. And again. All she needs is to get it right.

When I first started this book, I couldn't help but make comparisons to Before I Fall, which was also a Groundhog Day-esque story. Compared to Samantha's repeated day, Ellison's seemed trivial. However, when I let go of comparing, I was able to enjoy Mondays for what it is.

Though this kind of story isn't new (it's been done in movies, TV shows, TV movies, books . . .) I liked how Brody used it. It seems pretty straightforward at first--fix everything that went wrong the day before. But it's more than what just went wrong with Ellison, but her seeing outside of herself and noticing what is going on around her.

It was a fun, light book, which I needed after reading mysteries.

Little language and no sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.