Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday

 Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature meme created over at the Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books I Would Classify as my ALL Time Favorite Books from the past 3 years.
This one was really hard for me! It took me awhile to be able to narrow it down to only 10 books. So, after what it must feel like when choosing one's favorite child, here is my list...
1. The Book Thief
The Book Thief
2. The History of Love
 The History of Love
3. The Shadow of the Wind
 The Shadow of the Wind (The...
4. The Night Circus
 The Night Circus
5. The Kitchen House
 The Kitchen House
6. Me Before You
 Me Before You
7. Tiny Beautiful Things
 Tiny Beautiful Things: Advi...
8. Columbine
9. The Rosie Project
 The Rosie Project (Don Till...
10. Unbroken
Unbroken: A World War II St...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Once We Were Brothers

Once We Were Brothers

By: Ronald H. Balson

My Rating: 4.5 stars           

Who Should Read This: Anyone interested in World War II/Holocaust/historical fiction will really take a liking to this book.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):  From Nazi-occupied Poland to a Chicago courtroom Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser, Ben Solomon, is convinced he is right. Solomon urges attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that Otto Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has he accused the right man? Once We Were Brothers is the compelling tale of two boys and a family that struggles to survive in war-torn Poland. It is also the story of a young lawyer who must face not only a powerful adversary, but her own self-doubts.

My Thoughts:  I feel like I should preface by saying that some parts of this book were difficult to get through. I won’t go into too many details, as to not give anything away, but I found myself cringing my way through parts due to the intensity of the situation. I listened to this as an audiobook and had to shut it off once or twice because of the intensity. It is still a hard concept to me that these travesties happened. What is even worse is that they still happen today. There are so many prejudices in this world, and this book definitely makes one think about how we all turned a blind eye and still do today.

                Most of the story is told by Ben, who is absolutely adorable. I pictured him as this short, thin, warm character. His love for his wife Hannah is extremely enviable and I found myself enthralled in the story of his family and what happened to them during the war. The author created a very determined and strong willed protagonist, but also gave this soft side to him that makes the reader just fall in love with him. From the very beginning of the book when Ben confronts Elliot I was hooked and couldn’t stop listening. The book has chapters that look through the view point of Elliot who begins an investigation to try and find this Otto man so he can clear his name and show Ben that he has the wrong man. Other chapters the reader sees what Catherine is going through and how she doesn’t know what to believe. You can relate to her struggles because she has just recently put her life back together and now here is a man who wants her to take a case on for pro bono, and not only that, but he wants her to take on one of the most revered men in Chicago.

                The struggles of each of the characters in this book are relatable, and I found myself invested in them. The author did a great job in getting me interested right away, and he continued the mystery of the identity of Otto all through the book. Although at times I had to walk away from it, I found myself equally drawn to it and going over in my head the why’s and what if’s. The only complaint I really have about the book is that sometimes Catherine seemed a little too dramatic for me. Yes, it was a stressful situation and case, but I found that I started to question whether she was going to be able to handle the responsibility of figuring out the case. I can’t complain too much though because there were also parts where she was such a badass, and I liked how the author made the lawyer a woman because not only did he portray someone who can kick some butt, but also a character with that nurturing and compassionate side. Not that a man can’t have those qualities! J I urge readers to pick this book up. It will make you question humanity, but also show you that it is not completely hopeless. Love definitely overpowers evil. Elie Wiesel was right though when he said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference…”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

One Plus One

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
By: Jojo Moyes

My Rating: 4 stars

Who Should Read This: Anyone looking for a quick and fun read.

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.

My Thoughts: The main character, Jess, has to be one of the strongest women I know. She works two jobs, takes care of two kids all by herself (one of which is not hers), and the reader comes to soon realize that she will do anything for her loved ones. I swear this woman can’t catch a break though. Then there is Ed, who kind of has it all, and then makes a very stupid mistake and kind of blows it. At first it was a little hard for me to feel sorry for Ed because I couldn’t really understand how someone could make that kind of colossal mistake. I would tell you what he did, but you don’t have to get too far into the book to figure it out, so I will let you discover it yourself.

                This book would actually be a perfect summer read. It’s quick witted, and although the two main character’s struggles (two VERY different struggles) seem bleak, the author does a good job in not presenting the book in a depressing manner. Jess’s constant optimism reminds the reader that no matter how hard life gets, there a still some positives ahead of you. In one part Jess does sort of fall apart (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler) and you think, finally! How can someone keep it together that long? I fear I am starting to make this book sound more of a depressing read then it really is. I promise it is not. Something that I enjoyed was seeing the story pan out through various viewpoints. For the most part, Jess and Ed tell the story, but the two kids get to share their thoughts and the reader sees things from their vantage point. I think if this is done right, the story really becomes well rounded, and the author definitely has a knack for this.

                Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read, and I believe that Jess’s struggles are definitely relatable to a certain extent. I found myself starting to be very thankful for what I have and feeling that although I had some struggles in life, I might need to put them in to perspective a little more. A great book with great characters. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature meme created over at the Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books I Would Want to Read With my Book Club.

1.       Wild By: Cheryl Strayed- I just finished her book Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar and it was amazing. Strayed has a way of putting her thoughts into words, and she is so eloquent. In a lot of her advice she talks about her personal life which I know she touches on a lot in Wild, so I think it would be a great book to discuss.

2.       I Am Malala By: Malala Yousafzai- This girl is amazing! Her struggles and the rights she is trying to obtain for women in oppressive countries are just astounding. What a role model! 

3.       The End of Your Life Book Club By: Will Schwalbe- I think this one would be a tough read, but I think that it would create some great discussion. The author starts a “book club” with his mother who is dying of cancer.  

4.       Gone With the Wind By: Margaret Mitchell- I have always wanted to read this book! I think it would be great to sit down with a group of girls and discuss the issues of the times from the book and also kind of compare it to the movie. 

5.       Quiet By: Susan Cain- This is a book about the world of introverts. How introverts live in society, how society may not be the best environment for some introverts, etc. I myself am a social introvert, so I love being around others, but I also need my quiet, alone time or I get very cranky!

6.       The Opposite of Loneliness By: Marina Keegan- This is a collection of posthumous essays and stories written by Keegan. She passed away a couple of days after her college graduation. She wrote a great essay entitled The Opposite of Loneliness, which happened to be the last essay she wrote for her school and it was great. This made me interested in her other work.
7.       We Were Liars By: E. Lockhart- This book sounds really good. I have been becoming more of a YA book fan, and so this one sounds like it would be fun to delve into and then talk about all the juicy gossip.  

8.        Not That Kind of Girl By: Lena Dunham- I love Lena! I have drunken the Kool Aid, and I can’t get enough of her. I have heard this book is pretty funny, which would be fun to reminisce about with a group of girls! 

9.       The Invention of Wings By: Sue Monk Kidd- An Oprah’s book club book. I mean, do I need to say more? 

10.   The Poisonwood Bible By: Barbara Kingsolver- I have tried to start this twice, and people can’t believe I haven’t gotten sucked in. My cousin did say though that it took about 50 pages or so. I think maybe if I read this for a book club I would be able to press through.



Friday, January 23, 2015

What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot

By: Liane Moriarty

My Rating: 5 stars

Who Should Read This?: Fans of Liane Moriarty will love this book. Anyone who may have read her other books I think will enjoy this light read, especially since her other books, in my opinion, tend to be on the more serious side. My mother actually read this and recommended it for a fun read. It is a quick read and would actually be a perfect summer read when you are feeling lazy and maybe laying on a beach somewhere.

Synopsis (From Goodreads): Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.
Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.

My Thoughts:
I was hesitant to start this book before my mom insisted I read it. As I mentioned previously I feel like Moriarty can write some depressing stuff, and this book sounded complicated. Though it does have its moments when you sit back and reflect on the hardships all of the characters are going, the protagonist Alice kind of provides comic relief. Moriarty really got me thinking about how crazy it would be to wake up and be missing a decade of memory. I don’t have children, but I can only imagine how difficult it would be to wake up thinking you were pregnant with your first child, only to find out you actually had 3 children. One of the things I really enjoyed about Alice was that even though she was going through this tremendously stressful situation, she still kept such a positive attitude. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that. Furthermore, we find out quite early in the book that Alice has changed quite a bit in the last decade. Except she doesn’t realize she has, so she goes back to having the beliefs and personality of her old self. I thought it was a brilliant idea for Moriarty to add this because the reader than gets to go through the journey with Alice kind of coming back into her own, learning she made mistakes, and also learning how she got to this new her. It reminded me how much people can change over time.

Like other Moriarty books, this one jumps from character to character point of views. Sometimes I really loathe when authors do this, but Moriarty does a good job in keeping the flow of the book going. Characters revealed the answers to questions that Alice could not tell the reader because of her memory loss, so by giving the point of views from other characters it really rounded out the storyline and added depth to the book. It reminded me that there are two sides to a story, and that although on the surface people may seem to be handling life, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

What Alice Forgot really surprised me, and it was different from other books that I have been reading, which was refreshing. It is a fast book for being a little bit of a longer book, and the character development was well done. I really enjoyed the topic of memory loss as well because it really got me thinking how that would affect one’s life, and was equally as impressed that the author could keep it relatively light hearted with a topic that could easily be morbid. I truly recommend this book to everyone because I think anyone can learn something from this. From reading this book I definitely learned to appreciate my loved ones more and realized that no matter how complicated life gets, we need to remember to be there for the ones who matter the most to us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This is a weekly feature that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. For this week, the topic was "Top Ten Books I Want to Re-read." Hope that you enjoy, and let me know some of the books you would love to dive back into.

1.       Mountains Beyond Mountains By: Tracy Kidder- This book was one of the reasons I went into the field of public health. Dr. Paul Farmer is a crusader for health, rights of the impoverished, and showing people how they can give back. Kidder does an amazing job at describing Dr. Farmer and showing the reader a great perspective of the man that just keeps on giving.

2.       Night By: Elie Wiesel- This is a short one, but oh my word is it a profound one as well. I remember just crying and wondering how we as humans can be so cruel. Not only that, but the courage it took Mr. Wiesel to tell his story and to have to relive that part of his life is truly inspiring and humbling.

3.       The Little Prince By: Antoine de Saint-Exupery- I read this when I was in middle school, or maybe when I just started high school, and I think that it might be time to go back and really sink into the book. I have a feeling I will appreciate and understand it much more now being in my late 20s.

4.       Harry Potter Series By JK Rowling- I don’t really feel like I need to explain my reasoning for this…how could one not want to read these over and over again.

5.       The Catcher in the Rye By: JD Salinger- I read in an article once that people either loved Holden or hated him. I would be one of the formers and could not get enough of him. Yes, he could be whiney, a little naïve when it came to the privileges that he had, and sometimes was unbelievably selfish, but there was also so honest and raw about him.

6.       Half the Sky By: Nicholas Kristof- This book was eye opening. I will sadly admit that I was naïve to just how ungrateful I really am to have grown up in a country that allows women to aspire to a career, having a voice, and just having the right of choice! The women in this book are heroes in my eyes and they inspire me to remember how much I have to be thankful for and to also work for others to have the rights that I have.

7.       Eat, Pray, Love By Elizabeth Gilbert- I have to confess, I did not finish this book the first time around. I recently though went through some big life changes, and I wonder if I might find more appreciation for Gilbert’s journey and struggles this time around.

8.      The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern- This book was amazing!! It was so fun and different. The descriptive language the author possesses is truly a wonderful gift and I got completely lost in the story.

9.       The Shadow of the Wind By Carlos Ruiz Zafon- I feel like I have this book on my list of must reads for anyone and everyone. The gothic setting and diverse characters make this a read that will keep you up until the wee hours of the morning because you just won’t want to put it down. One of my favs of all time for sure.

10.   Unbroken By: Laura Hillenbrand- The movie adaption of this true story is coming out this Christmas, and I kind of want to read it again before going to see it. This is another book I recommend to absolutely everyone. Zamperini (on whom the book is about) endured so much hardship during WWII and I kept wondering all through the book if I could ever be strong as him. After reading it, for weeks I ate everything on my plate and couldn’t bear to toss anything into the trash because of how precious food and water came to be for him in the book. It is definitely a story that will make you grateful for the men and women who put themselves in danger every day in order to protect the freedoms we all take for granted.

Well that’s about it. I realize now there are so many amazing books I want to re-read! I could probably go on and on if asked to.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins
By: Jess Walter

My Rating: 3 stars             
Who Should Read This: Anyone who loves books that take you through various decades with a heartwarming yet heart wrenching love story. The book is written through multiple perspectives, giving the reader a chance to see everyone’s point of view on the actions that effected all of their lives.

Synopsis (From Goodreads): The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks on over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot-searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the star struck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion-along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow.

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

My Thoughts: This is a book I had wanted to read for awhile now. I had heard really good reviews from multiple blogs, and the synopsis promised me all the makings of a good love story. I spent two weeks in Italy after undergrad, and loved all of the history and culture that it oozes. And what people say about Cinque Terre is absolutely true, it is breathtaking!! The pictures of it are beautiful, but if you have the chance to go there, I HIGHLY recommend it! Needless to say, I was excited to read the book and go back to Italy for a little while. The book turned out to be a lot different then what I was expecting. As the synopsis says, the book does span through various generations and places. I actually did like the jumping around in time and places, but at points there were parts that in the end I was unsure why the author included them.

I think what surprised me the most was how much I disliked some of the major characters, and I think the story might have been better actually if the write had incorporated fewer characters. At points it felt that some were unneeded. Michael Deane, the producer, was extremely unreal although I don’t know what I was expecting from a character based in Hollywood and in the movie franchise. Even Claire his assistant, who was in a quarter life crisis and who truly wanted to make great movies and not crappy reality tv shows, bothered me. I felt like nothing was ever good enough for her. She seemed to be in a constant rambling of complaints and I wanted to tell her to make up her mind and make a decision. 

I promise I didn’t dislike all of the characters. Pasquale stole my heart from the very beginning. This shy, timid, Italian man made me a believer in the kindness of humanity, and that there are those out in the world that actually do, do the right thing. Even I would probably feel inadequate of Pasquale’s friendship if he existed in real life. He was so selfless and a romantic and I just adored him. When Pasquale first sees Dee, the actress, who has come to his small sea town in Italy, he falls in love just seeing her and knows that he “would remain in love for the rest of his life — not so much with the woman, whom he didn’t even know, but with the moment.” Ugh, just love! 

Ultimately, I give credit to Jess Walter for writing an eloquent love story. The book was well written and in the end he tied everything together in a way that will leave readers satisfied and content. I really enjoyed the ending and although I won’t give too much away as to not ruin it for others, I will say that it made me remember the importance of love, in all its forms. The love we find in a significant other, the love of we have for our children and family, the love we find in a stranger who brings us peace of mind, even the love we have for a truly great artist who reminds us of how fragile we as humans can  be. 

I am interested to know what others thought of it, so if you have read this book, please let me know!