The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Here’s the thing… sometimes you need a palate cleanser.  A book that is sweet and simple.  It has nice characters who are generally good people.  The complications are really not all that complicated and they wrap up nicely.  If you’re looking for that, this is the book for you.  Nina is a sweet and kind (if not introverted to a fault) young woman in her late twenties.  She loses her job and through a series of lovely events buys a van, moves to Scotland and sets up a mobile bookstore.  Adorable things abound.  She endears herself to the community and love finds her.  There’s sort of a lesson in there about not taking books so seriously and wanting real life to look like a romance novel via her no nonsense, realist friend Surinder.  But really though, this book is probably one that would be made into a romcom starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey with a soundtrack by a twenty something girl with an acoustic guitar who is up and coming at the moment.  The book is rounded out by several hard on the surface but soft underneath characters and several minor story tangents that are sort of touched on and then resolved nicely.

That being said, the book is a good one.  Well written, moves at a quick pace.  It’s charming and you like the characters enough because it feels like a nice “woman follows her dream and finds herself” story.  I’d recommend picking it up if you need a nice little pick me up in between books with heavier subjects or if you’re in a bit of a dry spell.  It’s a nice book to ease back in with.

 

 

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The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

I was really torn with how to rate this book. The first half was great, and I was thinking this could be a 4-star book, but the second half was pretty awful. I settled on 3 stars since I did like that first half.

This is a story of four women who embark on a whitewater rafting adventure together. These women, who are all very different, have been friends for 15+ years and come together for an annual trip each year. Though Pia is adventurous and outdoorsy, the other women aren’t necessarily. Past vacations were more akin to lounging in a chair on the beach, mai-tai in hand.

One thing that I really enjoyed in this book was the balance between adventure and suspense. While one of my favorite genres is suspense, I don’t read too many adventure novels, but I really enjoyed this one. Although the author detailed the whitewater rafting and camping, the reader was never lost in uninteresting detail (and honestly, when it comes to camping, I’ll get real bored real fast).

This was a really strong story until about half-way through. I really wish the author had kept the storyline a little more realistic. The thing is, whitewater rafting can be extremely dangerous and it would be absolutely terrifying if you became stranded at some point. There are plenty of terrifying animals and elements to deal with in the wilderness. I really wish the author would have kept the focus on that. Instead, the story takes an even more dramatic turn and becomes insanely unrealistic. The second half of the book reminded me more of a horror movie – dramatic, exaggerated, unnecessary terror, unrealistic, etc.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

 As I sit here with the newly finished “Just Kids” next me, it’s hard to even put into actual words my reaction to this book.  I will preface this by saying that my Patti Smith knowledge is limited.  I read “M Train” last year after it was one of the Our Shared Shelf recommendations and I loved the writing style.  Haunting, simple, melodic and full of imagery and beauty as well as sadness and reality.  I decided that I needed to then get more Patti Smith in my life.  Many of you probably know her music (“Because the Night” was her biggest hit and was co-written with Bruce Springsteen). 

“Just Kids” is an ode to artists who create because they need to, feel compelled to and have it in them to make something meaningful.  Patti recounts her young life, moving to New York after dropping out of college and meeting Robert Mapplethorpe.  The two of hem have this incredible bond that goes beyond love to reach into the depths of who they are and also the influence that they have on one another regarding who they would become.  They move up in the art scene at an incredibly explosive time and Patti integrates the history of what was going on in the world during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s as well as her meetings with other significant artists at the time like Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol, and Jimi Hendrix.  She is now knowns as the Grandmother of Punk but Patti Smith embodies so much more than that and has transcended into an icon of fashion, feminism and journalism. 

The story is tinged with tragedy and loss, victories and failures and Patti strips it all down to show the reality of what it is to live and breathe your art at that time.  Goosebumps, just goosebumps all over for how beautiful this book is.  If you’re looking for a gritty truth about the art scene and the creation of subversive art and all that entails, pick this up.  You won’t regret it.

Me Before You

Me Before You was one of my favorite books. The movie followed the storyline well, even using some of the same lines word-for-word and the cast was well chosen. This was one of the best movie adaptations I’ve seen in quite a while. I was bothered, though, that one major detail was completely ignored in the movie. Did this take away from the movie? No. Did it take away from the story? No. What bothers me is the reason it was removed..

Louisa is a college-age girl living at home helping to support her family when she becomes a caretaker for Will, a 20-something (super attractive) former lawyer who is a quadriplegic following an accident where he was hit by a motorcycle. Will is moody, depressed, and miserable and has lost his desire to live. This is in complete opposition to Lou, who is vivacious, upbeat, and expressive – particularly in her fashion choices. Will eventually comes around to Lou and eventually asks her about the fashion thing (she wears wildly insane outfits) as well as her desire to stay in such a small town. With some hesitation, Lou explains that she was tipsy and raped in a cornfield on a night out a few years ago. Since then, she withdrew her desire to go to college/leave her home and begins dressing in the most ‘unattractive’ items she can find.

Was this a huge part of the book? Not necessarily. It wasn’t the central point and it wasn’t discussed numerous times. It explained Lou’s ‘fashion’ outlet and why she was so unadventurous. It shows the difference between Lou and Will and how they each handled a tragic event very differently.

Most times, when a sub-plot is missing from a movie, it’s not necessarily a big deal, but this movie was so spot-on with the book that it was noticeably missing. The movie even showed the scene where Will asks Lou about it, but she brushes his questions off.

Many people felt that in such a sad book/movie, it was unnecessary, the story was tragic enough and we didn’t need to hear about a woman’s rape. But by removing that piece from the movie, are we telling girls and women that rape is something we don’t talk about? It’s an unpleasant topic and should be swept under the rug? The scene being removed from the movie didn’t necessarily take anything away from the story, but the reason why it was removed is what bothers me.

In the end, I still loved both the book and movie and absolutely suggest both.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

I love to punctuate a lot of fiction reading with some nonfiction and I generally like to pick books about women who I know very little about or have some kind of vested interest in (so really, I pick books about women).  I picked up “Love Warrior” after listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons in which she was interviewing Melton about the book and her thoughts on love, bravery and creativity.  I had heard of Melton before as she runs the extremely popular mommy blogger site Momastery and she has been everywhere lately it seems (and hanging with her new friend Oprah.).

The book is a memoir where Melton gives a no holds barred true look at her life as a recovering addict (alcoholism and food) and she also suffered from bulimia from the time she was 10 years old.  The real heart of the book is centered on the discovery that her husband had several extra marital affairs as well as an addiction to pornography and her corresponding journey to decide where she goes from there.  I have never personally suffered from addictions issues but I am a therapist by day so I thought this level of intimacy on the subject was really fascinating to me.  Melton does not spare herself in anyway, she tells the brutal truth regarding her thoughts and actions which was refreshing in a world where we set up our social media selves to look perfect and pretty at all times.

The last 1-2 chapters is where Melton had me drawn in when she speaks about her thoughts on religion and finding a church home that believes in truly loving and welcoming all people.  Her thoughts on being a woman in this society and raising children were also insightful, poignant and spoke to me personally.

The book is a quick read, I wouldn’t say it’s like a walk in the park because the subject matter is very sad but it does give lots of hopeful tones and it’s about real life which is an interesting change of pace in a book world steeped with instalove and meet-cutes.

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

Not even going to lie, this book came on my radar after I saw Emma Roberts posted a picture of it on her Instagram (shout out to her and her excellent book recs). As fate would have it, it was sitting in the new books section of the library when I popped in so I went for it.

The story revolves around four girls who are all sent to a convent due to miscellaneous personal tragedies. You learn about each one throughout and that backstory is worth the wait for each. They are bound by the fact that they are all named Guinevere (we know them as Vere, Ginny, Gwen and Win).  The story is told through Vere’s perspective but she also remains largely a mystery for the majority of the book. Her story is told last and it was like a sucker punch in the gut when I got there. The general storyline revolves around four comatose soldiers who arrive at the convent to heal or die and the girls begin to envision them as “their boys”. This is the catalyst for the progression of the story.  It’s a slow story but effective nonetheless.

Now I am not Catholic so my knowledge is limited. There are chapters interspersed in the novel about various saints and their tragic road to sainthood and I thought they were so interesting. I know some people felt that those chapters lost them but I felt it added to the overall gothic tone.

“The Guineveres” has a definite “Virgin Suicide” like vibe and I even felt like the book had this interesting kitsch factor. I don’t know if it was the fact that the time frame is a bit blurry (I think most people felt it was set during WWII) or that it just felt very eerie due to the subject matter but I was all in on this one.

This is not a book if you’re looking for some big twist or major revelation. It is a coming of age tale and a look at what that means for all four of the girls and where they belong in this world.

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Fifteen seconds. That’s all it takes to completely change everything about a person. Fifteen seconds that we’ll never get back.

When I picked up this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Under the Goodreads description of the Kindle edition, at the very bottom, it gives a fair warning: This book contains graphic scenes and very sensitive subject matter. I didn’t read the description before diving in because I had just finished November 9, loved it, and couldn’t wait to get more Colleen Hoover in my life.

I had no idea that I was in store for such a heavy topic.

This book asks a lot of important questions: Can domestic abuse happen just once? Why is it hard to leave? Is it ever okay to accept an apology and give a second chance? A third? Are there really any excuses?

Recommended for anyone and everyone.

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This was my first Megan Abbott book. I wasn’t sure what to expect – the description sounded somewhere in between general fiction (15-year-old prodigy gymnast) and mystery (a death that shakes the community), and honestly, it was a really good mix between the two genres. This book had so many constant twists and turns – every time you think you know the resolution, there’s more waiting for you in the next chapter. I love that kind of suspense.

Bunheads by Sophie Flack

There is something extremely mesmerizing about the dance world. It’s possible that I think this because I used to dance, but I doubt that’s it. This book and its Center Stage feels had me transfixed from the very beginning and I probably could have easily read this in one sitting if time allowed. The author is so very detailed when it comes to the dancing, performing, prepping. Right before reading this, I learned that Sophie Flack was actually part of the New York City Ballet and you can tell when reading this. This book is not a guess at what ballet life is like; it’s a first-person account of what it really is.

Hannah is a corps dancer in the Manhattan Ballet, working hard to become promoted to soloist. Hannah’s entire life revolves around ballet, and at 19-years-old, she begins to struggle with the idea of having a life outside of ballet and works to achieve some sort of balance. Ultimately, any life outside the Manhattan Ballet may hurt her chances of receiving a promotion, and a dancer’s life is only so long. Hannah struggles throughout the entire book, and is torn back and forth many times.

I absolutely loved the ending – it was so perfect.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

This was a tough book for me to rate. On one hand, I enjoyed the dysfunctionality of the siblings and their families. On the other hand, I didn’t particularly like any of the characters…

The Nest is about four siblings (Melody, Bea, Jack and Leo) who look forward to their inheritance for much of their adult lives as a way to undo all of the financial damage they’ve done over the years. The financial damage is due, in large part, to their reliance on ‘the nest’ which was set up by their father as something to enjoy rather than something to rely on. The inheritance is tapped into to help pay off a girl that loses a foot after being in a car accident with Leo. The other siblings are rightfully upset by this, as most of the inheritance is spend on Leo’s mistake, and they all rally against Leo and demand to be paid back immediately.

Overall, the story is interested and the story-telling is intriguing, but I felt that there were too many characters and subplots. Does it all come together in the end? Yes. Everything has a point, sure, but the subplots should have been tied together in a less confusing order. Throughout the story, I just didn’t like the characters. Some were great – I liked Walker, Walt, Louisa and Nora (interesting that I hated the siblings, but liked the spouses/children?). Actually, I would have loved the entire book to have been about Walt, Melody and their twins being the main focus.

With all of that being said, I did still enjoy the book overall and would recommend it to someone looking for general fiction, dysfunction, and family drama. If the author comes out with another novel, I might not buy it but I’ll definitely grab it from my library.