Showing posts with label gayle forman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gayle forman. Show all posts

Monday, March 4, 2013

Don't Let The Door Hit Ya, February: Month in Review

UGH.  February.  What a craptastic month.
Likeness of me in February
I didn't THINK it was going to go that way, but it did.  I got slammed with a pretty awful personal situation in the middle of the month, something that really knocked me for a loop.  I am not ready to post about it here yet, but I think I will in the future.  For now, suffice to say that it just made last month into a very difficult one.

As such, I apologize for my relative absence.  I know my posts have been kind of "blah" lately, and that I've been Twitter MIA, but the calendar has flipped to March and I am going IN LIKE A LION!!  Watch out, world.  Rawr.

(I guess I should say that there was ONE good thing about February, and that was the creation of the Harlem Shake.  I could sit on YouTube for HOURS and watch this crap.  Amazing.)

Anyway, let's talk about books!

The February 2013 Fave/Least Fave honors go to:

February 2013 Favorite: Indiscretion by Charles Dubow
February 2013 Least Favorite: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

In total, I read/reviewed 6 books:
White Dog Fell From The Sky by Eleanor Morse
Indiscretion by Charles Dubow
Political Suicide by Michael Palmer
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I also posted one new Small Fry Saturday Review of the Good Night Our World books.

In other book talk, we discussed cover snobbery, I was spotlighted by Christine, I had another fun giveaway, and I MET JODI PICOULT.  Total highlight of my book month!

So, here's hoping for a much better March.  Peace out, February.  Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Title:  Just One Day
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of  Twelfth Night  in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

My Review:

"We are born in one day.  We die in one day.  We can change in one day.  And we can fall in love in one day.  Anything can happen in just one day."

After feeling lukewarm about Forman's If I Stay , and then absolutely loving her second novel ( Where She Went ), I was happy to find that my reaction to Just One Day was much like how I felt after reading the latter.  This novel is fun and thoughtful at the same time, with a whole lot of awesome travel-isms to boot.

When the novel opened, I'll admit that I was a little skeptical.  I felt like the text was trying too hard to be deep and insightful.  This is a problem I have with a lot of YA novels--they focus on mostly teenage characters, who just so happen to be the most sagacious and wise 16-year-olds on the planet.  They come up with revelations and quotes that my too-distracted-by-boys-and-Blink-182 self would never have so consistently done at that age.  This annoys me to no end.  I know that YA novels are, for the most part, supposed to be imparting important life lessons on their intended audience, but making those lessons so terribly obvious through "insightful" quotes feels kitschy and a bit condescending to me.

ANYWAY.  Obviously I took a turn after the first 20-30 pages.  As the story moved on, it was Allyson's personality that drew me in.  This is probably because I was a lot like her in my teen years.  Type-A personality, perfectionist, walked the straight and narrow, had the next 10 years of my life all mapped out.  Allyson slowly learns to break from this mold in a way that is neither abrupt nor contrived.  And she doesn't become the polar-opposite of herself either; rather, she blends the newly-discovered parts of her personality with the old ones.  I loved watching her blossom throughout the novel.

Allyson's relationship with Willem was pretty great as well.  Their dynamic was captivating, given that they were two such different people, and I like that the end didn't come together perfectly in a way that is typical for most romances.  I'll be picking up the sequel when it comes out for sure.

Two other small things to mention: one, all the travel in this book made me giddy!  As a travel-lover myself, I was completely glued to the tales of all the wonderful places Allyson traveled throughout the book.  Plus, I loved this quote:
"You thought too hard.  Same with travel.  You can't work too much at it, or it feels like work.  You have to surrender yourself to the chaos.  To the accidents."
I know, I was just complaining about all the overly-insightful quotes in this book, but that was a good one.

The other small thing I'd like to mention is in regards to Allyson's college advisor (Gretchen, I think her name was?).  As a higher ed professional, I HAVE TO COMMENT ON THIS.  First, she gets an A+ for her advising skills.  I would hire her any day.  And second, as a note to Gayle Forman, colleges don't call it the "guidance office".  After high school, they are Academic Advisors, not Guidance Counselors.  This detail drove me TOTALLY CRAZY and I felt it was crucial to add this to my review.  Ha.

My picky professional twinges aside, this book was truly a journey...and a fun one at that.  Allyson is a fabulous protagonist, and I can't wait to see what happens to her in the sequel.

Have you read Just One Day?  Any other recent YA reads that you want to share?

Friday, February 1, 2013

January 2013 in Review

And so January 2013 has come to an end.  A crazy month around these parts, for sure.  I had to dial it down on my posting a little bit, because things just got a little too crazy with work, home, and blogging all at once.  You'll be seeing fewer memes here, but I'm actually okay with that, because I never intended to participate in so many of them in the first place!  I think some memes are fun but can be a bit repetitive when done too often.

I still got a lot of reading done though!  The fave/least fave honors go to...

January 2013 Favorite: Where She Went by Gayle Forman
January 2013 Least Favorite: Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

In total, I read/reviewed 8 books:

I also posted mini-reviews for 2 books:

And one new Small Fry Saturday: Press Here by Herve Tullet

Beyond reviews, we chatted about my New Year's resolutions, bookish travels, and the merits (or not) of reading your book jackets.  I also hosted two more giveaways, and we all know how much I LOOOOVE spreading the free stuff around.  :)

Oh, and I got bangs.  BEFORE Michelle Obama.  Whatever Mrs. O, you can't start EVERY trend.
Why can't I make this photo smaller? Oh well, enjoy judging my pores.

What's on tap for February?  I actually have a lot of ARC/review copies to get to, so you'll be seeing more of that.  And on the personal front, my husband and I are going to try to have a "no spend month"...basically no spending beyond bills, groceries, gas.  Bye bye candy bars from the checkout aisle...and of course, no book purchases.  **sad trombone**  We'll see how this goes.  Luckily February is a short month.

However, I DID budget for my trip to Vermont to see Jodi Picoult on February 26!  WOOT WOOOOT!  So you'll hear about that soon.

What will you be reading in February, my well-read readers?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Title: Where She Went  (sequel to If I Stay)
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads :   **spoiler-y if you haven't read If I Stay**

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

My Review:

Remember my review of If I Stay ?  (I will sit here patiently if you want to go read it real quick-like.)

The book grabbed me, emotionally...but overall, compared to many other reviewers, I was lukewarm.  I liked it, I didn't OMGLOVE it.  It bothered me that Mia's position in the novel was not fully explained, and as a result, she didn't resonate with me in the way that I had hoped.

Even so, I was interested in trying the sequel, Where She Went, because the very fact that there IS a sequel was kind of a spoiler to the first book (because, um...Mia doesn't die).  It was worth a shot, even if I did end up with another lukewarm reaction.

Well guess what, guys.  My reaction is not underwhelming this time, because the sequel is FLIPPING AMAZING.

First off, the change in narrator is key.  Hearing Adam's side of the story grounded everything in reality for me, much more so than Mia's ghost-like presence in the first novel.  His emotions are so much more raw and powerful: I felt like the entire story pumped with vitality on a level that If I Stay didn't reachPlus, beginning the novel through Adam's eyes gives you an automatic mystery to solve, as you try to piece together what's happened to him since the accident, and why he's lost touch with Mia.  This distance from Mia's perspective was a big reason why I got sucked into the book so quickly.

Plus, Mia's unexplained level of consciousness in If I Stay is finally addressed head-on in Where She Went.  It's not expressed in scientific terms, but Mia tells Adam how she remembers the accident, and it cleared up a lot of the questions I had in the first book.  Again, the distance from Mia's narration was important here.  And I love that this made the two books feel like they were coming full circle--the first one left me with a ton of questions, and by the end of the second one, everything felt fulfilled.  The ending was spot-on perfect.

And finally--Adam and Mia.  I find a lot of YA relationships to be a little over-the-top, but theirs is just wonderful.  It's passionate and flawed and uncertain, and I love every piece of it.  Without getting spoilery, I have to say there is one scene at the end, in Mia's garden?  That was amazing.  There is nothing fluffy and weak about Adam and Mia's bond, which I find so refreshing for a YA novel.  And the way their music is infused into the story gives the whole thing a very unique atmosphere.  Really well done by Forman.

Bottom line: if you read If I Stay, you HAVE to read Where She Went.  I was reluctant to do so, given my reaction to the first book, but this is a sequel that's 100% worth the read.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

December 2012 in Review

Ah, December...thanks to Amazon $$ as Christmas gifts, it's the one month of the year where I make it rain (with book purchases, that is).
Liz Lemon grabbed that money and went straight to B+N.
Now that I have shelves chock-full of new and exciting reading material, I hope to have lots of equally new and exciting reviews for you soon!

Let's review December, shall we?  Let's start with my most and least fave books of the month.  The favorite was REALLY HARD to choose, I read a lot of good stuff this month:

December 2012 Favorite: Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose
December 2012 Least Favorite: Matched by Ally Condie

Annnnnd let's review the rest of my reading month.

I read and reviewed 7 books (click links for my reviews):
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Blackout by Mira Grant
Bluff by Lenore Skomal
The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose
Matched by Ally Condie
The Intercept by Dick Wolf

I did a full review of one past read:
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I also posted 4 mini reviews of past reads:
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

And I posted 5 new Small Fry Saturdays!
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Merry Christmas, Ollie! by Olivier Dunrea
Santa Claus The World's Number One Toy Expert by Marla Frazee
Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star by Petr Horacek
Jingle All The Way by Tom Shay-Zapien

In addition to all that, I signed up for a ridiculous number of 2013 reading challenges, declared my favorite books of 2012, shared my Christmas book haul, and announced my new domain name (which I'll admit, makes me feel like a certified baller.  Balla?  Baller?  I don't know, whatevs).

Also, the blog has only been up since August, but I already have over 100 posts!  YEAH BOIIII.

Now, in keeping with my new resolutions, I'm working on coming up with some new post ideas, and trying to make sure I keep up with my crazy reading challenges.  Happy January, all!

What's your first read of 2013?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: April 2, 2009
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

My Review:

If I Stay has been recommended to me SO MANY times.  This is a YA fiction novel, and a fairly short read, but everyone who tells me about it says it is heart-wrenching, life-changing, unforgettable--a 5 star book all the way through.

How could I not break down and read it?  I devoured If I Stay in two days (fast, for me).  And I had to take the weekend to think about it before writing this review, because there's a lot to it in only 196 pages.

The other reviewers were right--this novel is heart-wrenching.  It brought tears to my eyes more than once.  To expound upon the plot summary (without giving spoilers), Mia is in a car crash, and when she wakes up, she's kind of floating outside her body.  Her physical self is in a coma, in very bad shape.  But "thinking" Mia is outside that body, taking in what happened, and the reactions of her family and friends.  She then realizes that she has to make the ultimate choice--given what has happened to her, should she stay, and continue to live this life?  Or should she go, peacefully die, and leave everything behind?  She has been given the power to make the final decision.

There's a lot of detail in the novel that makes Mia's choice an enormously difficult one (but I don't want to give those details away).  Suffice to say that it's not an easy decision.  As a reader, when you're hearing the story from Mia's perspective, it leaves you spellbound.  The car crash has taken so much away from her--dying would be the peaceful and uncomplicated option.  Staying, living, would be so much harder--but also has the potential to be happy and fulfilling.  Is it worth staying, and pushing through the harder option?  Especially if that potential for happiness is only a maybe, and so many important things in her life have disappeared?

Mia's ultimate decision aside, it forces you to consider what you would do in such a situation.  Would you be resilient enough to keep living, if that life was missing so many of the things that previously gave it meaning?  Half the tears I shed in while reading this novel were over the fact that my answer to that question is "I don't know."  Forman does an absolutely amazing job turning Mia's dilemma into the reader's dilemma, through the power of perspective.

I did have one caveat with this book though, and it's the reason I don't think I was completely bowled over by it the way many others have been.  It may seem beside-the-point, but I could not stop thinking: WHY does Mia get to make this choice?  How did she get this power, this added level of consciousness?  Why does she get to make the choice, but others don't?  This is not explained in the novel, and it drove me bonkers.  To make it worse, apparently most of the characters in the novel (the nurses, her family that comes to visit in the hospital) somehow know she is able to make the choice--they are always talking to her as if that was the case, which I found to be odd, and too convenient given the premise of the novel.

I know that might seem petty, given the more powerful overarching messages of the book.  And in all probability, Forman really just meant for it to be an unanswered question, another point to ponder.  But it was a real sticking point for me.  I wasn't able to just let go and say, "Oh, that must just be how it is."  Mia is in such a unique position, I wanted some sort of explanation for how she got there.

Final verdict?  If I Stay is a lot of what I heard it would be: emotional, thought-provoking, memorable.  I just wish so badly that Mia's position in the story was better-explained, because that lack of detail took away from the overall experience a bit.  Still worth the read though...and have your tissues handy.

Other reviews of If I Stay:
Alluring Reads
Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Bookish Sarah
Novel Thoughts

Have you read any good tearjerkers lately?
Imagination Designs