Sunday, January 14, 2018

Just Another Week in Suburbia

Book 4 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

**I received an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

Just Another Week in Suburbia by Les Zig

Summary (via Goodreads)
Casper Gray goes to bed a happily married man.
He wakes up questioning whether everything is a lie.
Life in suburbia holds few surprises for Casper. He and his wife Jane are still trying for a baby after seven years. His neighbours have their quirks to be navigated. And his job as a high school teacher, while satisfying, comes with its challenges. Every day is much like the one before - that is, until Casper makes a discovery that threatens everything he knows...
As Casper's fears grow into obsessions, his world starts to unravel. Just Another Week in Suburbia is a story about love, trust, and insecurity, and the question of whether you can ever really know another person.

My Opinion
This book was deceptively simple.  It's very grounded in reality but the characters are still unpredictable enough to keep me surprised.  There's no huge dramatic "aha" moment but I didn't want to put the book down, probably because I love to people-watch and this felt like looking into a couple's window and witnessing their private marriage moments.  I would definitely read this author again.

I can't really say much about the discovery or the progression after it other than to say that it was a perfect example of how something so small can begin an unraveling and change the dynamic of everything.  Some of the stuff involving his work felt unnecessary but overall, I understood the journey of the characters even if I wouldn't react the same way.

This would be a good book club book, assuming the book club can handle a few graphic sex scenes, because there is a lot of discussion potential about characters' choices and how the reader felt about them.  

Quote from the Book
"Everyone knows what they should've done after it's too late to do it."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Alice in Wonderland

Book 3 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 

Summary (via Goodreads)
The story of a little girl who fell down a rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland continues to delight readers of all ages. Accompanied by the classic illustrations of John Tenniel, it is one of the best loved novels in the children's literature.

My Opinion
My 11 year old daughter's team for Odyssey of the Mind is using this book as inspiration for their skit so I read the book as well when she was finished with it.

I know this was written a long time ago but was there really a time when a drink having the mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffy, and hot buttered toast be would described as "nice" as the author did?  Maybe it grosses me out because I'm not much of a food mixer.

I don't remember being especially enthralled with this story when I was younger and that holds true today.  It was fine, the illustrations were very good, but I won't be re-reading this one again. 


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Music Shop

Book 2 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

**I received a copy of this book via a Goodreads Giveaway and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

**I read an advance uncorrected proof so quotes may not be exact in the final publication**

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Summary (via Goodreads)
It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop's owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. Terrified of real closeness, Frank feels compelled to turn and run, yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. Can a man who is so in tune with other people's needs be so incapable of connecting with the one person who might save him? The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music--and love--in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction. 

My Opinion
I really like the author's writing style and quirky characters; it makes it very easy to read and fall into the story.  I actually had a dream about these characters last night but they were doing something much different than the actual book (In my dream Ilse was a secret millionaire and Frank sold a painting to solve his own money issues instead of taking it to auction like he was supposed to) which made the reading a little strange today because I kept thinking about it even though it wasn't in line with the plot at all.  Seriously, nothing about those actions are anywhere in the story - I guess maybe I should add a spoiler alert that there's not a random art heist, haha.  And now that I think about it, maybe the art world of "The Object of Beauty" is still on my mind as well.

The author also has a good sense of humor.  I recognized when Kit was learning German but could only talk about being ill because the lesson was hospital-related.  It's the same reason I can say "this is my aunt's pen" in French but nothing that would actually be helpful in conversing.  I also laughed when she said any mistakes in the book are entirely Frank's or Peg's (two of the characters) instead of the standard author disclaimer.

I didn't love the last few parts where things could've been resolved earlier if people just talked to each other but overall this was a smooth read to pass some time.  Now I want to go listen to the music they talked about.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Real love was not a bolt out of the blue, it was not the playing of violins, it was like anything else, it was a habit of the heart. You got up every day and you put it on, same as your pants, your boots, and you kept treading the constant path."

"Jazz was about the spaces between notes.  It was about what happened when you listened to the thing inside you.  The gaps and the cracks.  Because that was where life really happened: when you were brave enough to free-fall."

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

suicide notes from beautiful girls

Book 1 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Summary (via Goodreads)
They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather's shed. They say it was suicide.
But June doesn't believe it.
June and Delia used to be closer than anything. Best friends in that way that comes before everyone else - before guys, before family. It was like being in love, but more. They had a billion secrets, tying them together like thin silk cords.
But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June's boyfriend, Ryan, were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this - things would never be the same again.
Now Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth...which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

My Opinion
My 15 year old daughter asked for this for Christmas and read it immediately, then asked me to prioritize reading it because she wants to talk about it.  I read it immediately then passed it on to my 14 year old daughter telling her the same thing.  A book that has been in  our house for 8 days and is already on the 3rd reader shows how bingeworthy it is.

If you don't like books that leave questions unanswered at the end, this is not the book for you.  It's one of those books that I feel weird recommending because it drove me crazy but it was compulsively readable and I didn't know what was going on.

It's a YA read that adults would not be bored by but this is a YA read I would give to an older teen ready to try more adult, do-some-thinking-and-look-below-the-surface themes (I know my girls won't pick up everything that I did because of their lack of experience/exposure and that's okay).  This would be a good read for someone that likes the unreliable narrator/give up trying to guess ahead and enjoy the ride/mindfuck type of mysteries but doesn't like a lot of graphic sex or violence.  There are heavy topics including sex and violence but it's more allusion than actually spelled out word for word on the page, and I'm sure there is language but it wasn't anything that's standing out now that I'm reflecting on it.

I've written many words without actually saying anything about the plot and that's intentional.  But if you read it, let's analyze it together.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I thought about that moment for a long time after, because by that point in our friendship I'd thought I knew her so well that she couldn't surprise me. But people, they always can, no matter who they are. And everything that happened after that, between us, that surprised me too."

"Every day thousands and thousands of people die.
 Some know it might be coming - they're sick or old, or their lives are dangerous. Some don't have any idea at all.
 They wake up and don't bother to think, this is a day, because it is the same as the thousands that came before it and the thousands they think will come after.
 None will come after."

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What Was That All About?

Book 73 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from December 27 - 31

What Was That All About?: 20 Years of Strips and Stories by Jerry Scott

Summary (via Goodreads)
What Was That All About? is the perfect celebration of Zits'twentieth anniversary! Always spot-on, sometimes chaotic, and often messy comic moments are immortalized by the true-to-life give and take between Jeremy and his often befuddled parents.
Authors Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman have sifted through the highlights (and some lowlights!) over the life of the strip and have created a unique behind-the-scenes, insightful view into the history of Zits. They have selected their all-time favorite cartoons to fill the collection along with special features, including stories about:

• How they met in Sedona, Arizona, and came up with the crazy idea of creating Zits

• The teenagers in their own lives

• Choosing the title Zits

• Strips that newspapers declined to publish, or words they censored, etc.

• Creating a Zits Sunday strip

• Sucks, bites, and blows: staking out territory on the comic page

• Fish paste and other reasons our kids don't want to travel with us anymore

Excerpts from their sketchbooks will also be shown.

My Opinion
This was a quick, enjoyable read for me as a longtime fan of the comic but it was definitely more comic strips and less actual writing/memories.  I probably would've been disappointed if I had purchased this but I received it as a gift and know many others in my family that it will be passed along too now that I've read it. 

An Object of Beauty

Book 72 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from December 25 - 29

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Summary (via Goodreads)
Lacey Yeager is young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the NYC art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby's and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Her ascension to the highest tiers of the city parallel the soaring heights--and, at times, the dark lows--of the art world and the country from the late 1990s through today.

My Opinion
I was absorbed.  I didn't always like Lacey but I did always understand her.

I will definitely be looking for more of Steve Martin's writing.

Quote from the Book
"I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down, and see it bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to ever write about anything else."


Book 71 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from December 16 - 25

Amy by Peg Sutherland

Summary (via the book jacket)
A golden wedding usually means a family celebration. But the Hardaway sisters drifted apart years ago. And each has her own reason for wanting no part of a family reunion. As plans for the party proceed, tensions mount, until it even begins to look as fi their parents' marriage might fall apart before the big event. Can the daughters put aside old hurts and betrayals...for the sake of the family?
Amy Hardaway has managed to persuade her older sister, Megan to come home to Hurricane Beach to help talk some sense into their parents. Now she has to work on Lisa, the youngest Hardaway. It shouldn't be too difficult. After all, Lisa's gorgeous ex-husband, Jon, is back in town. 
Jon Costas has come home to help deal with his missing brother's teenage daughter. He's not interested in seeing his ex-wife again. But he's finding Amy harder and harder to resist. Could he be falling in love with another Hardaway woman? If so, his timing couldn't be worse!

My Opinion
I picked up this book at Goodwill solely because I was with my friend Amy when I saw it. 

I'm just realizing as I'm looking at the summary that the anniversary party didn't actually happen in this book.  I know this is part of a "Sisters" trilogy set so I guess I'm lucky that I picked up the first one if the others build off of this one.  If I happened to see another book from the set I'd pick it up to see how they settle everything but will not be putting any effort in searching it out.

For what the book is, a Harlequin Superromance, it is fine and there is way more plot than romance.  The plotline involving the niece was a little heavy and wrapped up too neatly - there were probably other, lesser things she could've been getting involved in that would still lead to the need for the search and such that wouldn't be a felony.