The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes {Book Review}

The Girl You Left Behind was an easy, enjoyable read. I gave it a 3.5/5 primarily because it was one of those books that you don’t really need to focus on, but it keeps your attention.  It was a predictable story, similar to a lot of the mystery-ish novels I have read that are set in the UK with a past and present storyline being told simultaneously.

The past storyline took place during WWI and followed a hotelier named Sophie as she basically sacrificed everything for a chance to see her husband again. She was bold and courageous, and stood up to the people who persecuted her. It ties into the present day story via a painting of Sophie. The painting is owned by the 2nd main character, Liv. It is the (self-proclaimed) only thing that she has left to remind her of her deceased husband. You know, besides all his stuff, a wonderful house and  a place on the board of his old company. Liv finds out that her new man friend is actually a detective hired to find her painting and return it to the family that it was allegedly stolen from 90 years previously.

I found myself much more interested in the WWI story than the present day story. The present day story just didn’t seem that believable, and Liv annoyed me a little bit. Her love interest just happened to be an employee of the company that was ruining her life, the evidence that they need in order to have a happy ending just happens to fall into her lap 90 something years after it should have been lost forever. Not to mention, her life was out of control and instead of doing something about it, she became a hermit. She was a jerk to every single person who tried to be nice to her. She never even thought about the other people in her life. For that reason, I just found it kind of hard to like her, and since I didn’t really like her, I couldn’t care much about what happened to her.

Even with those problems, it was a quick read, and Sophie’s parts helped carry along the present day story. It’s worth reading if you just want to spend a couple mindless days reading a nice chick lit mystery-ish book. (I know I keep saying mystery-ish; I don’t really consider this a mystery book, however it does have a few of the characteristics of a mystery, as you are unsure of what happens to Sophie until the very end.)

 

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Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer {book review}

I love this book. I know that there are a lot of serious readers out there, (and a lot of less than serious readers out there) who are not fans. If you think this is going to be a story like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, give up now. Jump ship, don’t bother buying or even borrowing this book.  However, if you can get past his previous works and think about this book as just its own enjoyable piece of fiction, you might love it as much as I did.

The story is a bit … unbelievable. It centers around a family that is falling apart, and on Israel, which is also falling apart. I am not Jewish. There are certain references to Jewish customs and Middle Eastern issues that I was not familiar with. I don’t consider myself to be a great judge of that section of the book, because I have no idea how plausible it actually is.

The Middle Eastern politics seem to be what bothered most people about this book. The thing is, it was easy enough for me to read (and I get bored fairly easily) because mixed in with the politics, there was also a significant amount of family drama that kept it interesting.

The characters are witty. If you love JSF’s ability to craft a beautiful sentence, this book won’t disappoint you. He writes smart children’s dialog too, able to capture the strangeness of children’s minds, and celebrates the questions they aren’t afraid to ask. The book juxtaposes some very coarse sexual language with flowing, beautiful, expressive language. At first, there are a lot of things that are hard to grasp, and this is one of them, because the dirty language breaks in throughout the book with no explanation of why. It is eventually explained, and then adds another layer of understanding to the book.

“Between any two beings there is a unique, uncrossable distance, an unenterable sanctuary. Sometimes it takes the shape of aloneness. Sometimes it takes the shape of love.”
― Jonathan Safran FoerHere I Am

The children are sometimes too smart, there are things that the eldest, Sam and the middle child, Max say that blow my mind. The ability for them to think on their feet and argue without sounding too much like whiny adolescents is a breath of fresh air, but (especially Max at 10) seems a bit unbelievable. They do have brief periods of dirty jokes that are able to anchor them back to teenage reality.

The adults also have excellent banter, and deflect what should be heavy conversations by making light of them. This ends up being part of their downfall, but it entertaining. There are also some great puns in this book.

NPR and podcasts are mentioned fairly frequently in the book, and being a talk radio junkie myself, there are certain stories that I remember hearing, mixed in with fictional stories. I really enjoyed the random pieces of information and trivia that are sprinkled throughout the book.

Overall, my recommendation is that you read this book if you like: funny banter, smart kids, dysfunctional families, upper-middle class life, offensive language, family drama and things not really having a happy ending.

Do not read this book if sexual language or political opinions bother you.

“I’ve raised my voice at a human only twice in my entire life. Both times at the same human. Put differently: I’ve known only one human in my entire life. Put differently: I’ve allowed only one human to know me.”
― Jonathan Safran FoerHere I Am

Why I Love Jane Austen {a Ranking of her Books}

 

I love Jane Austen novels. It is no secret that although I love playing video games,  I believe I should have been born in the 1800’s. (Preferably as a wealthy person, because I wouldn’t want to die of cholera or consumption.)  I think it is something about being expected to sit around and read books all day, while waiting for a ball to happen in the evening. Or having a dinner party followed by cards on a less fun day. Also, having servants to do your hair. I feel like mom buns are only a thing because somewhere in history, women have lost the luxury of having servants to do their hair and lace up corsets. The other reason why I love Jane Austen, is that she was saucy. First of all, she was a single lady. She had love interests, but it never worked out, so she wrote novels.  She used sarcasm like a pro, and she made fun of society in a subtle, yet hilarious way.  She wrote strong female characters, who actually were respected for being independent.

The best Jane Austen novel: Pride and Prejudice. The reason, is Elizabeth Bennet. It was hard for me to decide whether Northanger Abbey or P&P were better, but E. Bennet sways it for me. She is the opposite of what you think of when you think of a lady. SHE WALKED THREE MILES THROUGH THE MUD TO VISIT HER SICK SISTER AND DIDN’T CARE WHAT THE RICHEST FAMILY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD THOUGHT ABOUT HER WHEN SHE SHOWED UP DRIPPING WITH MUD AND INVITED HERSELF TO STAY THERE AND CARE FOR HER SISTER. She also was stubborn, and judgy. Her cousin proposed to her, and she turned him down because she knew he was an idiot. Her only fault as a character, was part of the reason I love her so much. She should have seen Mr. Darcy for the honest and perfect man that he was, but she let her judgment be clouded by a lie she heard about him, that fit well with her first impression of him, not asking her to dance at a ball. She is not perfect like many other characters in classic novels. Is it a spoiler to tell you that everything works out in the end?   (That is the only complaint I have about Austen books, that almost every character is happily married to the perfect man in the end of the book. Excepting each book’s token girl who made a mistake and lived in sin, eloped or married for money.

Okay. I could go on about the reasons why I love E. Bennet / Darcy all day, but I won’t, because I still have to explain why I love all the other Austen books.  Before I move on, here is a quote that speaks to me.

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Northanger Abbey: Northanger Abbey has snark. The whole book parodies other novels written at the time, and pokes fun at gothic novels and their female characters / heroines. Austen often breaks out of the novel to explain a literary device, or sarcastically explain what should happen in a novel. She is also very clear that her characters like reading novels, and she calls out other novelists for writing characters who don’t read, or who consider gothic novels as trashy.

Her main female character, Catherine is a young lady tomboy who is forced into town to find a man, as her entire neighborhood is comprised of females. She is taken advantage of by a friend who is hoping to marry her brother for money, and is treated very poorly by that friend’s brother, who hopes to marry her. She finds friends in Mr. Tilney (a quirky man she meets at a ball) and his sister. She hopes to marry Mr. Tilney, but has some obstacles put in her way by her friend’s brother, and also by her own self. She is invited to their house, an abbey, which excites her gothic novel loving self. She convinces herself that her host (Mr. Tinley’s father) killed his wife, and embarrasses herself by admitting that in front of the son. She is eventually thrown out of the house in disgrace.  Although she goes home and of course, lives happily ever after.

Mr. Tilney is perfectly strange. He is condescending and smart, and makes observations about society that are true and very funny.

“Now I must give one smirk and then we may be rational again”
― Jane AustenNorthanger Abbey

Mansfield Park:  Mansfield Park is the only novel that follows a less fortunate lady. Fanny is a ward, taken in by her wealthy uncle. Her mother is a very pretty lady, who made an unfortunate choice in marriage. She married a Naval officer who left work due to disability. They have too many kids and can’t afford them. Her two sisters married better; the eldest, marrying Sir Thomas. The middle sister (Mrs. Norris) married the clergyman who lived in the parsonage on Sir Thomas’ land.  Sir Thomas and Mrs. Norris decide to take Fanny in when she is 9, and raise her as a lady. Mrs. Norris is terrible to Fanny, and constantly reminds her that she is not worthy of her life. Sir Thomas has 4 children, 3 of which have questionable morals, and Edward, who wants to be a clergyman.  Fanny and Edward are very similar, Fanny is a good person with the best morals, and makes many sacrifices for the happiness of the family.  This story has a lot of family drama, and the ladies and gentlemen who should know better behave very badly.  But, like all Jane Austen novels, Fanny gets what she deserves and wants in the end.

I believe the reason I like this novel so much, is that I enjoy the social commentary, how the people who should have such great manners are making a mess of their lives, and the people who are considered undeserving by society are actually the best people. Also, I can’t resist when Aunt Norris, who is a truly horrible person gets what is coming to her.

“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”
— Jane Austen (Mansfield Park)

Emma: Emma is just funny. It is full of Emma trying to do what she thinks is best, but making mistakes all over the place. She believes she will never marry, as her father needs her company. However she does love playing matchmaker for everyone else in town. She causes many confusing situations, and eventually swears off matchmaking. Even though she swears she will never marry, she ends up marrying the only man who isn’t afraid to correct her. I won’t lie, about 1/3 of the way through the book, I put it down and had a really hard time picking it up again, as the story gets a bit slow at that point.  But I’m glad I powered through, because it does get better.

Sense and Sensibility: This book is a good book, but it is a bit harder for me to get through it. The book follows a wealthy family of mostly women, who are put out of their house by their step brother/step son when the father dies. The girls go to live in a cottage, and romantic problems abound. The eldest (Marianne) falls in love with a man, thinks they are engaged, leads her family to believe they are engaged, and then finds out that he is actually engaged to another woman. The younger sister(Elinor) believes that she is nearly engaged to her step brother’s brother in law (I know, the family trees in these books are nightmarish). She ends up finding out from a frenemy (friend/enemy for those of you not in the know) that he is actually secretly engaged to said frenemy, and has been for the past 4 years. His mother finds out about his secret engagement and disinherits him. His fiancé then marries his younger brother, who inherited the family fortune. He is then free to marry who he wants and marries Elinor. They all live happily ever after, except for Marianne’s love interest, who married a terrible woman for her money and is tortured for the rest of his life.

Persuasion:  The heroine of this book is a middle aged (28 year old) lady, named Anne, who has decided to give up on love in order to keep her father’s household in order. Her father is basically a selfish, vain jerk who only cares for himself, and spends more money than he makes. They are forced to rent their lovely house full of mirrors and move into a small house. Her father falls for her sister’s single mother friend, and asks her to accompany them to the new house instead of Anne. Anne goes to visit her other sister, and nurses her nephew after he breaks his collar bone. Basically everyone in the whole family is an idiot except for Anne. She meets a man that she had been in love with when she was 19, but was convinced by her family and friends to leave because of his station in life. She is forced to see him trying to woo another woman in her party. Things work out in her favor, because of a head injury that is the result of a terrible fall taken by her friend, who then falls out of love with her man.

The award for most inappropriate laughter gets awarded to me, as I laughed out loud when one of Anne’s friends is taken up lifeless while jumping during a walk. I seriously laughed so hard at the drama of the scene. Her friend was jumping over a staircase / retaining wall kind of thing, flirting, trying to get her man friend to catch her. (I had to google scenes from the movie to understand exactly what happened, because location is not familiar to me.)

“He advised her against it, thought the jar was too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, “I am determined I will:” he put out his hands; she was to precipitate by half a second, she fell on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!”

So there you have it.  Some reasons to read a Jane Austen book (or all of them) today. I had read P&P (multiple times) and Emma previously, but I decided to read them all back to back a couple weeks ago. It only took me about 3 weeks to read all 6 books, excepting the month that I took off in-between the first few chapters of Emma and finishing it. I like being able to keep them fresh in my mind to compare them, although it is possible that I thought I liked Northanger Abbey the best since it was the last book I read. I always tend to look more favorably on a book I’ve just finished than books that have had some time to settle.

20 YA books to read right now

I hope to start doing book related posts on Fridays, for my first few posts, I think I am going to do some reading lists.

I know I’m old, but I still read a lot of young adult books. So, we will start with a list of my favorites.

  1. Harry Potter Series. – JK Rowling
  2. The Mortal Instruments Series – Cassandra Clare
  3. The Infernal Devices Series – Cassandra Clare
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chboski
  5. Looking for Alaska – John Green
  6. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
  7. Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green / David Levithan
  8. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Rachel Cohn / David Levithan
  9. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
  10. The Diviners – Libba Bray
  11. The Fault in our Stars – John Green
  12. Lunar Chronicles Series – Marissa Meyer
  13. Going Bovine – Libba Bray
  14. Sunshine Girl Series – Paige McKenzie
  15. Percy Jackson Series – Rick Riordan
  16. Unenchanted – Chanda Hahn
  17. Everyday – David Levithan
  18. Matched Series – Ally Condie
  19. Josie and Jack – Kelly Braffet
  20. Divergent Series – Veronica Roth

Okay. So I know 20 is kind of a long list, and there are a lot of books on here that are obvious picks. But I can’t skip them on a top 20 list just because they are popular. I’ll give you a really short run-down of each book below. Not a regular review, because this post would take hours for you to read. I might review each of these books in the future, if I don’t have a new book to review for you.img_0835-1

  1. Harry Potter – JK Rowling- If you haven’t read these books yet, you have obviously been living under a rock. STOP READING THIS BLOG AND GO READ THESE BOOKS. These books are so important to me for way too many reasons to list. I have finished them over 10 times in my life. I believe you can learn all the important life lessons from reading Harry Potter.
  2. The Mortal Instruments – Cassandra Clare- A series about a regular girl, who is … wait for it, not a regular girl. These books follow Clary through finding out about the world of Shadowhunters, vampires, werewolves and fae, with the most handsome person alive, Jace Herondale. The feels in this series are intense, and it is one of the most well written young adult books I have read. It has a perfect mix of fantasy, action and love.
  3. The Infernal Devices – Cassandra Clare – This series takes place in the same world as The Mortal Instruments, in Victorian London. I have a weak spot for Historical Fiction, so this series is right up my alley. It boasts more action than traditional Historical Fiction books, and a strong female main character.
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chboski- This book probably isn’t for everyone. It is a very sad read, but it has wonderful uplifting passages. This book will make you feel all the feels about a wallflower trying to find his place in the world. It also focuses on music and mental health, and will introduce young audiences to the magic of the Smiths. (Sing me to Sleep is in my top 10 songs, so this book may speak to me for this reason.)
  5. Looking for Alaska – John Green – This is another one of those books that everyone has read. But I had to add it to the list, because IT IS AN IMPORTANT BOOK. Besides having some of the most quotable passages in any book ever, it is a story that so many people can relate to, even though the characters are in a life situation (boarding school in the middle of nowhere) that pretty much no one has experienced.

    “So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.”

    ― John GreenLooking for Alaska

  6. We Were Liars-E. Lockhart – Another one dealing with mental health, and possibly the saddest book ever written. About a girl, her cousins and love interest, spending Summer on the family island after a fire.
  7. Will Grayson, Will Grayon – John Green and David Levithan- David Levithan is one of the best co-authors I’ve ever read. He made it to my list for 3 different books, 2 of which he co-authored with other authors and one of his own. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is about 2 different teens named Will Grayson, each Will’s perspective written by one author. It is a tale of friendship and strange coincidence. This book is different than any other book I have ever read.
  8. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist- Rachel Cohn and David Levithan- Rachel Cohn is at her best when writing with David Levithan. Her other books are all worth reading, but her and DL are perfect writing partners. This is a classic teen love story, sprinkled with a love of indie music. And this is possibly the only book that I will ever say the movie is equally as good as the book. Also this book is super short, you can read it in a day. I don’t even know how many times I have read this book, it’s so good.
  9. Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell- Rainbow Rowell is best known for writing Eleanor and Park, which I do not love. Fangirl, however, is amazing. It is a novel about the nerds who write fanfic. And teenage love. It gives a lot of insight into the lives of people who write fanfic for a large audience and sheds light on the amount of time that is put into something that never gets as much credit as it deserves, in my opinion.
  10. The Diviners – Libba Bray – Libba Bray is one of my all time favorite authors. The Diviners is a paranormal book that takes place in the 20’s. I have said a million times that I love historical fiction, and I also love everything about the 20’s. The Diviners isn’t as steeped in the strange as some other paranormal books, but is very entertaining. The heroine is a young lady who goes to live with her uncle in 20’s New York. Her uncle runs a museum of the occult, and Evie has a unique ability of being able to see people’s pasts, making her the idea partner to help research weird events. It starts off a bit slow, but is definitely worth keeping at it.
  11. The Fault in our Stars – John Green – You’ve read this book, right? I don’t know anyone who can read who hasn’t read this book. Another sad story, but written in such a way that is relevant to anyone who reads it. A story about cancer, but also about loving a book more than anything else in the world, and the disappointment of finding out our idols are not always as deserving as we expect them to be.
  12. The Lunar Chronicles Series – Marissa Meyer – I wanted to rank this series higher, but I couldn’t decide what other book to move down to fit it in. This series is a very easy read, a new take on the fairy tale heroines, in the future with space travel, robots and life on the moon. It is interesting, because the perspective changes between a few female characters though out the series. Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White) all work together to take down an evil queen and a nation of people with the ability to control other’s minds. img_0829
  13. Going Bovine – Libba Bray – One of the weirdest and funniest books I have ever read. It is about a high school student who contracts mad cow disease, escapes from the hospital and takes an epic trip across the country. Craziness ensues in the it’s a small world ride, and it leaves you pondering what is real and what is imaginary, and if it even matters.

    “The dark does not weep for itself because there is no light. Rather, it accepts that it is the dark.”

    ― Libba BrayGoing Bovine

  14. Sunshine Girl Series – Paige McKenzie- A paranormal series (so far it’s 2 books) based on the you tube channel of Paige McKenzie. The first book is scarier than the 2nd book, although these books aren’t meant to be horror books, but tell a fantastic story of young love and friendship, and how spirits get to the afterworld.
  15. Percy Jackson series – Rick Riordan – This is a magical series, that can actually be read a bit earlier than most Young Adult books, but can also be enjoyed by adults and teens. It follows Percy Jackson, a half blood son of Poseidon. It is a story of quests in the same manner as old Greek tales but with a modern twist.
  16. Unenchanted Series- Chanda Hahn – A warning about this series, it could have used some more editing. There were grammatical errors, but the story was engaging, and I couldn’t put them down, so I decided to add it to my list. A story about a high school girl, who finds out she is a Grimm, and has to live through all the stories in Grimm’s fairy tales without dying. The story throws her some crazy challenges and the stories change with the time, just like the original Grimm’s tales do. It’s a really great concept for a book, having the stories be personified. The whole series is really cheap on Kindle, and worth buying, even with grammar issues.
  17. Everyday – David Levithan- Everyday the main character (A) wakes up as a different person, retaining memories but never having the same body or life. A is also able to access the memories of the body they inhabit. A falls in love with a girl who is dating the borrowed body one day and tries to remain in contact with the girl via e-mail. This book makes you think about a lot of things, including gender, love and if self is the body or the soul.

    “I wake up thinking of yesterday. The joy is in remembering; the pain is in knowing it was yesterday.”

    ― David LevithanEvery Day

  18. Matched Series – Ally Condie – A 3 book series about a dystopian future society. Teens experience an arranged marriage put on by the government at age 17. The main character is super happy with her match, but discovers some concerning things about the government system, and fights against it. The basic plot of many dystopian fiction YA books, but entertaining.
  19. Josie and Jack – Kelly Braffet- This book is a strange story about a brother and sister who are each other’s world. Jack has some serious jealousy over Josie’s first friend and crush. Worth a read if you like complicated family drama.

    “Logic is what the devil likes most.”

    ― Kelly BraffetJosie and Jack

  20. Divergent Series – Veronica Roth- When I first read these books, I was really into them. The story is a great dystopian future society story, following Tris and Four, two teens, who don’t fit in with their government’s idea of a perfect society, and fight for what they think is right. Worth a read, will have you unable to put them down.