Monday, January 30, 2017

Flight of Dreams

Book 10 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 23 - January 29

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

Summary (via the book jacket)
On the evening of May 3, 1937, ninety-seven people board the Hindenburg for its final, doomed flight to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Among them are a frightened stewardess who is not what she seems, the steadfast navigator determined to win her heart, a naive cabin boy eager to earn a permanent spot on the world's largest airship, an impetuous journalist who has been blacklisted in her native Germany, and an enigmatic American businessman with a score to settle. Over the course of three hazy, champagne-soaked days their lies, fears, agendas, and hopes for the future are revealed.
Flight of Dreams is a fiercely intimate portrait of the real people on board the last flight of the Hindenburg. Behind them is the gathering storm in Europe, and before them is looming disaster. But, for the moment, they float over the Atlantic, unaware of the inexorable, tragic fate that awaits them.
Brilliantly exploring one of the most enduring mysteries of the twentieth century, Flight of Dreams is that rare novel with spellbinding plotting that keeps you guessing until the last page and breathtaking emotional intensity that stays with you long after.

My Opinion
Before reading this book I had the reaction that I'm sure many people would.  The Hindenburg is one of those things that everyone's heard of but who could honestly say more than 1 or 2 facts about it?

After reading this book I have the same reaction.  The author really put the "fiction" in "historical fiction".  The names of the passengers are the same (as well as who lived or died; if they lived in real life, they lived in the book) and the flight is the same but all the conversations and events during the flight are imagined.  Which is okay but not what I expected.  This turned out to be a story that just happened to take place on the Hindenburg.  As a story, there was so much going on and so many problems that I wanted to read it quickly and find the resolution because it was making me uncomfortable.

I'm now inspired to find out more about the Hindenburg, but probably from the non-fiction section.  And I would like to visit the website referenced in the author's notes, facesofthehindenburg.blogspot.com.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"[Max] knows that in nine days, when his time comes to sit in that chair and give testimony, he will not tell them the truth. Instead he will look over Schroeder's shoulder at a point on the far wall and tell the lie he has already decided upon. It is the only way to protect Emilie. And the others. Max Zabel will swear before God and this committee that it was an uneventful flight."

"This is a world of numbers and precision, a world where you do one thing and there is a specific, predictable outcome. And it is in this moment of deep concentration that he is struck by a thought: it is a pity that he cannot chart the human heart."


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Burr

Book 9 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 6 - January 23

Burr by Gore Vidal

Summary (via the book jacket)
Gore Vidal's Narratives of Empire span the history of the United States from the Revolution to the post-World War II years. With their broad canvas and large cast of fictional and historical characters, the novels in this series present a panorama of the American political and imperial experience as interpreted by one of its most worldly, knowing, and ironic observers.
Burr is a portrait of perhaps the most complex and misunderstood of the Founding Fathers. In 1804, while serving as Vice President, Aaron Burr fought a duel with his political nemesis, Alexander Hamilton, and killed him. In 1807, he was arrested, tried, and acquitted of treason. In 1833, Burr is newly married, an aging statesman considered a monster of many. Burr retains much of his political influence if not the respect of all. And he is determined to tell his own story. As his amanuensis, he chooses Charles Schermerhorn Schuyler, a young New York City journalist, and together they explore both Burr's past and the continuing political intrigues of the still young United States. 

My Opinion
This book was highly recommended by my dad as something he's read "cover to cover multiple times".  So I went into it both looking forward to reading the book and also getting to see another side of my dad.  He's passed books on to me before but there's something special about reading a book that someone you love loves and imagining their take on it and what exactly makes them react so strongly to it.

Okay, putting my psychology degree away for the rest of the review before I get completely off track...

It was a little slow for me at the beginning but once it got into Burr's recollections it really picked up.  I'd never heard the main rumor for the premise of this book, that Aaron Burr secretly fathered Martin Van Buren.  

I'm always surprised when an author reminds me that historical figures (the Founding Fathers in this case) are not the perfect, loyal people they've been portrayed as in our textbooks.  Of course they're human and can be petty and would be upset if passed over for a promotion they felt they'd earned.

The sentence, "This insensitivity to other people's religion and customs has been a constant in the affairs of the republic and the author of much trouble...", applied back then and unfortunately continues to apply today.

I also learned a new word for snowbanks -- "snow-bitches" (thought to be derived from beaches/bitches made of snow).

Overall, this is probably not a book I would've picked up without the recommendation but I'm glad I read it and plan to continue the author's "Narratives of Empire" series (In order of course, even though the author said they don't have to be read that way...I'm not a monster).

A Few Quotes from the Book
"It has been my fate to be the centre of a thousand inventions, mostly of a disagreeable nature. I never deny these stories. People believe what they want to believe. Yet I do think that my name has in some mysterious way been filched from me and used to describe a character in some interminable three-volume novel of fantastic adventure, the work of a deranged author whose imagination never sleeps - although this reader does when he reads for the thousandth time how the hellish Aaron Burr meant single-handedly to disband the United States when a voyage to the moon would have been simpler to achieve, and a good deal more interesting."

"Curious to think that we would almost certainly have been friends had we not been two young "heroes" at the beginning of a new nation, each aware that at the summit there is a place for only one. As it turned out, neither of us was to reach the highest place. I hurled Hamilton from the mountain-side, and myself fell."

"I know the effect a good lawyer can make on a jury. The sun at noon can become the moon at midnight if Colonel Burr has decided that such a replacement is in the interest of his client."

"It was about this time that I learned exactly what it was that Hamilton had said of me, and knew that this world was far too narrow a place to contain the two of us."

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Female of the Species

Book 8 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 21 - 23

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Summary (via the book jacket)
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn't feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can't be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He's the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna's body was discovered hasn't let him forget Alex, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn't want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher's kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad's job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex's protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex's darker side breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis artfully crafts three alternating perspectives into a dark and riveting exploration of what it means to be the female of the species.

My Opinion
Wow.  This is the kind of book that can't be dissected for review because so much of it is based on the emotional experience I had reading it.  The last few chapters came out of nowhere and I couldn't put it down at that point.

I didn't love everything about it but I felt everything.  I'm very impressed with the uniqueness of the story and will definitely read this author again.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"The thing about Alex Craft is, you forget she's there."

"Everyone thinks if you fix a male dog it will lower his aggression, but most of the biters are female. It's basic instinct to protect their own womb. You see it in all animals - the female of the species is more deadly than the male."

"I'm not fine, and I doubt I ever will be.
 The books didn't help me find a word for myself; my father refused to accept the weight of it. And so I made my own.
 I am vengeance."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mrs. Lincoln's Rival

Book 7 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 13 - 21

Mrs. Lincoln's Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini

Summary (via the book jacket)
Kate Chase Sprague was born in 1840 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was the second daughter to the second wife of a devout but ambitious lawyer. Her father, Salmon P. Chase, rose to prominence in the antebellum years and was appointed secretary of the treasury in Abraham Lincoln's cabinet, while aspiring to even greater heights.
Thrice widowed, Chase found himself at a disadvantage without a wife to host social gatherings crucial to influence-building. Beautiful, intelligent, regal, and entrancing, young Kate Chase stepped into this role, establishing a salon at the Chase home that launched a father-daughter partnership bent on achieving the presidency. For her efforts, the Washington Star declared her "the most brilliant woman of her day. None outshone her."
None, that is, but Mary Todd Lincoln. Though Mrs. Lincoln and her young rival held much in common - political acumen, love of country, and a resolute determination to help the men they loved achieve greatness - they could never be friends, for the success of one could come only at the expense of the other. When Kate Chase married William Sprague, the wealthy, young governor of Rhode Island, it was widely regarded as the pinnacle of Washington society weddings. President Lincoln was in attendance. The First Lady was not.
The intertwining public lives of these two women never failed to inspire headlines, but the true and lasting influence each wrought in private makes, in New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini's skilled telling, for an even more fascinating story. Mrs. Lincoln's Rival is an astute and lively novel of the politics of state - whether enacted in houses of government of the family homes of its leaders - set against the vibrant backdrop of Civil War Era Washington.

My Opinion
Ho hum.  I really don't have anything positive or negative to say about this book.  The fact that it took me 8 days to read this speaks for itself; the pages turned slowly.  The author's note at the end with the updates on how Kate's life turned out was the most interesting part to me and I would've read an entire book on her marriage/divorce.

Part of the problem was I felt the title is misleading so that threw me off from the start.  There really isn't much about Mrs. Lincoln at all and I didn't get a sense of the rivalry they apparently had.  However, the author obviously did a lot of research and I appreciated the little details and accuracy about the time period.  

I would read this author again but in the end, this book just wasn't for me.

A Quote from the Book
"[Kate] had not sought a rivalry with Mrs. Lincoln, but from the moment Mrs. Lincoln had made it her ambition to put Kate in her place, their roles had been cast, their course set. Now Kate would never defer to Mrs. Lincoln, never acknowledge her as her social superior. Kate did not have the White House - at least, not yet - but she did have her pride. In lieu of the title First Lady, for the moment she would accept Belle of Washington - and let Mrs. Lincoln try to claim that for herself if she could."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Vivien Leigh

Book 6 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 16 - 18

Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean

Summary (via the book jacket)
Vivien Leigh's mystique was a combination of staggering beauty, glamour, romance, and genuine talent displayed in her Oscar-winning performances in Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. For more than thirty years, her name alone sold out theaters and cinemas the world over, and she inspired many of the greatest visionaries of her time: Laurence Olivier loved her; Winston Churchill praised her; Christian Dior dressed her.
Through both an in-depth narrative and a stunning array of photos, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait presents the personal story of one of the most celebrated women of the twentieth century, an engrossing tale of success, struggles, and triumphs. It chronicles Leigh's journey  from her birth in India to prominence in British film, winning the most-coveted role in Hollywood history, her celebrated love affair with Laurence Olivier, through to her untimely death at age fifty-three in 1967.
Author Kendra Bean is the first Vivien Leigh biographer to delve into the Laurence Olivier Archives, where an invaluable collection of personal letters and documents ranging from interview transcripts to film contracts to medical records shed new insight on Leigh's story. Illustrated by hundreds of rare and never-before-published images, including those by Leigh's "official" photographer, Angus McBean, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait is the first illustrated biography to closely examine the fascinating, troubled, and often misunderstood life of Vivien Leigh: the woman, the actress, the legend.

My Opinion
Something I'd read in a previous book peaked my interest in Vivien Leigh and I sought this book out because it looked like a good way for me to learn more about her interesting life.  It didn't quite satisfy though; the pictures were excellent and the information was all new to me but I don't feel like I know any more about her after reading this than when I started, other than her list of movies and plays.  I wanted to know more about her relationship with her daughter and more about her mental struggles; I don't know if that information is out there but this book seemed like it would deliver but unfortunately didn't.  

I'd also heard about Clark Gable having bad breath during Gone With the Wind, which this book seems to refute, and it made me sad to think about how people are remembered and that sometimes the facts don't always apply.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Whether clawing her way back to the top as civilization crumbled around her in Gone With the Wind or fighting and ultimately succumbing to harsh realities in A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivien had the unique power of immediacy which has kept her performances fresh - and thus helped keep her in the spotlight - long after many stars of her generation have faded from memory."

"In 1999, the American Film Institute named Vivian on of the twenty-five greatest actresses to have ever graced the silver screen. Compared to many of the other women on the list - Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor - Vivien's filmography is small. Yet her contribution to cinematic culture was anything but."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

Book 5 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read on January 12

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

Summary (via the book jacket)
Isn't that the best of all life's ages, an old man thinks as he looks at his grandchild. When a boy is just big enough to know how the world works but still young enough to refuse to accept it.
Grandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the sweet scent of the hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden.
As they wait together, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife - and what it was like to lose her. She's as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won't remember her.
This peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time is where they will learn to say good-bye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear.
Fredrik Backman has rendered an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man's struggle to hold onto his most precious memories and his family's efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.

My Opinion
I didn't want to read this novella in one sitting because I wanted to savor it but the pages kept turning and I couldn't help it.
Lovely little book with a beautiful ending.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Humans are a strange breed in the way our fear of getting old seems to be even greater than our fear of dying."

"That's why we get the chance to spoil our grandchildren, because by doing that we're apologizing to our children."



The Vineyard

Book 4 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 03 - 12

The Vineyard by Michael Hurley

Summary (via the book jacket)
Ten years after their college days together, three wounded and very different women reunite for a summer on the island of Martha's Vineyard. As they come to grips with the challenges and crises in their lives, their encounter with a reclusive poacher, known only as the "fisherman", threatens to change everything they believe about their world - and each other.

My Opinion.
1 star rating.  I usually have one book a year that is so bad, makes me so angry, that I vent out my review with no thought on cohesion or making sense to anyone but myself, hit "publish" without rereading it, and then move on to try to scrub my brain and pretend this never existed.  This is that book.  

Warning: there could be spoilers and there will definitely be language.

My notes as I was reading the book present the downward spiral...

By page 32 I was doubting if the male author had ever talked to a woman.  Dude, girls do NOT think about their boobs as often as your characters do.  It was weird but kind of funny at first but then I got to the part where Charlotte was committing suicide by drowning and this was her last lucid thought as she was sinking (and her dress had come off): "Charlotte's breasts now floated heavenward in hopeful anticipation of the end. She caught herself wondering if angels in heaven had perfect boobs to go along with the perfect rest of them..."  Ummm, what?  This was the point where I felt a little dread as I continued the book.

But then Charlotte is saved by the mysterious fisherman with obvious Jesus similarities and I had bigger problems than boobs; that was the point where I realized this was a sneaky religious book.  Here's the deal...I don't read a lot of Christian fiction because it's not my taste.  Knowing that, if I do happen to read one as a recommendation or for book club, I tend to be gentler in my review and try to be objective because I'm not going to blast a book for doing something I don't like (preach) when I knew going in that it was that kind of book.  But when there are NO indications that would let me know ahead of time that this is a religious book and I discover it as I'm reading, all bets are off and I'm reviewing it as is.  Tough shit for the author if you don't like it, next time take better care with your descriptions and you can find the correct audience.

**In hindsight as I look as these notes, it's cute that I thought my biggest problem with the book was that it was a sneaky religious book.  So cute.  Turns out religion was the least of my concerns so don't blow off my 1 star rating as someone who just doesn't like Christian fiction...there's plenty more on my mind than Jesus.  And in the end it was not that much of a religious book either because what faithful person wants to read about a masturbating priest or a boob-grabbing Jesus?  Making the audience of this book dipshits like me who were suckered in by the description and have to finish every book they start (plus, I had to know just how bad it would get and the answer surpassed my wildest dreams).**

Then it was Dory's turn to interact with the fisherman.  As she approached him to buy shrimp/ask about Charlotte he pushes the straps on her dress off her shoulders so it comes off and she's standing nude in front of him.  Then "the fisherman placed his hands on Dory's bare breasts and leaned over as if to kiss her cheek. With this, Dory's body dropped lifelessly to the ground."  Dory is taken to the hospital and when she wakes up it turns out he told her she has breast cancer even though a mammogram said she didn't so they had a second opinion and yup, she has cancer.  What in the actual fuck?  WWJD?  Touch her boobs!!! But don't worry about this plot point, she doesn't have any treatment and doesn't have cancer a few weeks later.  Thank God she saved her boobs!!!

Then we meet a character who is stereotypically all bad: Smoke.  This becomes a theme throughout the book, the good characters are all good and the "bad guys" are all bad.  This also becomes the first of many side trips that were completely unnecessary.  At a time when the book should've been reaching a resolution on a few of the shitstorms that had already been created, the author decided to throw in some more:  Financial difficulty!  Impotence!  Blackmail! Positive pregnancy test!  And so on...

Then it gets worse!  Charlotte, having survived her suicide attempt, is seeing a priest for counseling because she's struggling over the death of her daughter (the reason she wanted to die in the first place was to be with her).  The motherfucking priest is a creep with romantic feelings for her.  Does the author give Charlotte any sort of realistic backbone?  Nope.  Instead, even though Charlotte doesn't feel the same way, "out of the odd mixture of pity and high regard for the burden of his vow of celibacy, she had permitted deep kisses and lingering hugs."  WHAT?  Even ignoring the fact that he's a priest, that's not a typical reaction you have to any man in that situation (and don't give me shit about damaged characters, I know all about damaged characters and she wasn't one).  But as if that wasn't enough, they would pray each night and the priest "gently cupped her breasts with his hands and began to pray for the soul of the child who nursed at this bosom".  So much ick...a priest taking advantage of a grieving mother.  Plus, here we go again with the boobs...so much obsession with boobs!

Thank you Turner!  She's the character who said everything I was thinking.  She flipped the fuck out and punched the fisherman when she saw him holding Dory's boobs, she went to the priest and threatened him when she found out he was taking advantage of Charlotte, and she saved Dory from Tripp and Smoke.  How was this woman rewarded?  Although she ended up protecting the fisherman and truly believing in him, giving up her life to follow him around and help with his teachings, she died in the end.  From breast cancer.  I guess fisherman Jesus couldn't warn her in the many conversations they had or the six years she spent following him around.  WWJD?  Hold a grudge because she cockblocked him.

More boobs.  Turner "considered her breasts to be not her strongest asset but still enough to hold up a strapless dress without spilling out of the top of it - a blessing, she surmised, of long-deferred childbirth".  Sorry honey but your boobs just aren't that great, otherwise fisherman Jesus would've touched them and you wouldn't have died of breast cancer. 

Then what I thought was the ending happened and it was a complete downer.  As I mentioned, Turner died.  But the "bad guys", including the creepy priest, had no consequences and actually made a ton of money capitalizing off the tale of the fisherman.  So that sucked.

Then the actual ending happened and my head exploded.  In one final disgusting moment, Charlotte is summoned by a letter from a widow.  Long story short, Charlotte would use the backyard shower and the widow and her (then alive, obviously) husband were her neighbors.  The husband would sneak over and peep through the bushes at Charlotte while she was showering but it's okay and not creepy because he's an ARTIST and was painting her.  And somehow the painting was sold to a local bar but again, it's okay because the widow is giving Charlotte the money!  So Charlotte and Dory walk into the bar and there is a large painting of Charlotte in all her full frontal nudity (can't forget to include "her tits were fabulous" when describing it!) behind the bar.  Do they take it down?  Nope, Dory pays Charlotte $100 because they had a bet going of who was going to age better and Dory decided it would be no contest based on how great she looked in that painting from six years ago.  And then they go play with their kids.  But they do take the money from the painting and open a school for girls in honor of Turner which is really nice.

THE. FUCKING. END.

Friday, January 6, 2017

I Just Want to Pee Alone

Book 3 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 04 - 06

I Just Want to Pee Alone: A Collection of Humorous Essays by Kick Ass Mom Bloggers

Summary (via Goodreads)
Motherhood is the toughest - and funniest - job you'll ever love. Raising kids is hard work. The pay sucks, your boss is a tyrant, and the working conditions are pitiful - you can't even take a bathroom break without being interrupted with another outrageous demand. Hasn't every mother said it before? "I just want to pee alone!"
I Just Want to Pee Alone is a collection of hilarious essays from 37 of the most kick ass mom bloggers on the web.

My Opinion
There isn't much to say about this book, everyone should have a pretty clear idea of what they're getting based on the description.  It was a light read that came along with perfect timing; it was given to me for Christmas and I read it while attempting to put my house back together after the kids returned to school after the holiday break.

It's a pet peeve of mine when bloggers write books and basically charge for a regurgitation of what I could've read for free on the Internet so I'm happy to report that that is NOT the case with this book.  I don't read most of these blogs but the essays included by the bloggers I do follow were new, which was very nice and well-appreciated.  

A few things I noted:

  • When Patti Ford said her experience giving birth could be summed up in seven words, "My hospital room had to be repainted", and left it to the reader's imagination as to how that would even happen...wow.  I'm horrified yet intrigued.
  • "If I have learned one thing in my motherhood journey thus far, it is this: There is no greater awkwardness in all the world than standing idly by as your mother-in-law compares the vaginal lubricant that you use with her son to the one she uses herself, trying to determine which one will work better on your five-year-old's rear end" (from the essay by Stephanie Giese) is a pretty spectacular out-of-context quote.
  • "Because I'm the Vagina Boss, That's Why" (by Brenna Jennings) wins best essay title.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Sometimes it's just best not to be home alone with a child who was seemingly sent to this earth for the sole purpose of finding your breaking point. Every now and again you honestly need the prying eyes of the public so that you don't duct tape your spawn to the ceiling fan, in the hopes that it "gently" lulls them to sleep." ~ Patti Ford

"Here's another thing to keep in mind...every other girl at the table went through something very similar to get out of the house for this little get together so they aren't going to notice any imperfections, because they are too worried about their own appearance to even care." ~ Andrea

"When you start to feel like you have failed, like you have completely messed up as a parent, take a long look at that little human that you made. YOU made a person. While the road to get there may have been rough, and at times even unbearable, YOU made a PERSON." ~ Tara

"So just indulge me for a minute. It has been a long week. (Wait, it's Monday? WTF?) ~ Kim Forde

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Born a Crime

Book 2 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 01 - 04

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Summary (via Goodreads)
Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man's relationship with her fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother's unconventional, unconditional love.

My Opinion
5 star read.  Anything I want to say feels inadequate.  Yes, he is a comedian and the book is funny and the stories are presented in an entertaining way but I hope the format doesn't minimize what readers could learn from his experiences and insight.  I really hope he writes another book with the rest of his story once he found success and I would also love to know more about his mother, who sounds unimaginably strong.

The very first paragraph reads, "The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other. Apart hate, is what it was. You separate people into groups and make them hate one another so you can run them all."  I know we don't label it as such here but it sounded so familiar, like he could be talking about our country today.

I also had an "Amen" moment when he was talking about the missing link to the ever popular phrase "give a man to fish and he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime".  Mr. Noah makes the excellent point that it's not enough to teach someone to fish, you also have to provide them with the rod.  People need resources to succeed (and it's not a handout to get the resources because they still have to make good use of them).  It sounded so simple when he said it and that's an outlook I will definitely hang on to.  

I laughed at his anecdote about getting detention every day for being late.  "The names of the kids with detention were announced at every assembly, and I was always one of them. Always. Every single day. It was a running joke. The prefect would say, "Detentions for today..." and I would stand up automatically. It was like the Oscars and I was Meryl Streep."

A Few Quotes from the Book
"[His mother was] estranged from her family, pregnant by a man she could not be seen with in public, she was alone. The doctors took her up to the delivery room, cut open her belly, and reached in and pulled out a half-white, half-black child who violated any number of laws, statutes, and regulations - I was born a crime."

"We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited."

"Human beings like to laugh, and lucky for me pretty girls are human beings."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Sun is Also a Star

Book 1 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from January 01 - 03

**I received a copy of this book via Blogging for Books and would like to thank them as well as the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it.**

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Summary (via Goodreads)
Natasha: I'm a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I'm definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won't by my story.
Daniel: I've always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents' high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store - for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My Opinion
5 star read.  I just finished it and my head hurts from the overwhelming feelings I have.  I almost feel like I want to cry but not really from happiness or sadness, just because I have to release what this book made me feel before moving on.

I laughed.  I swooned.  I felt a little jealous because I'm married and there are many great things about growing old with someone but reading about those first moments of "am I falling in love? maybe I'm falling in love" with the kisses that feel like they last for days and everything heightened and brightened...it took me back and those are things we hope live in our memory bank because they can't be replicated.

I loved the short snippets from other people because it reaffirmed my life's faith in the littlest interactions resonating with people.

The ending didn't go the way I expected, especially since this is a YA read, but it wasn't a cop-out and perfectly fit the tone.  It was heartbreakingly hopeful and should be experienced spoiler-free so I'll leave it at that.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Bev's always been relentlessly optimistic, even in the face of dire odds. She's the kind of girl who buys lottery tickets. I'm the kind of girl who makes fun of people who buy lottery tickets."

"As our eyes meet, I get a kind of deja vu, but instead of feeling like I'm repeating something in the past, it feels like I'm experiencing something that will happen in my future."

"Observable Fact: I don't believe in magic.
 Observable Fact: We are magic."

"Can you imagine if everyone had the power to mess with everyone else's live? Chaos.
 But of course that is the problem. We already have that power over each other."