Some reviews cause I felt like it

Hi bookies! Long time no see. Guess who is back! (It’s me, duh.)

So as a celebration for the comeback of the worst blogger ever, let’s start with a few books I liked, in no particular order.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn: Thinking about this book makes me so giddy. It was published in the beginning of this month, but I am thinking about rereading it. It’s set slightly in the future and time travel machines are invented. The main character Rachel is sent along with actor and historian Liam to go and steal the last Jane Austen manuscript before it’s destroyed. In order to do that they have to befriend Jane Austen and infiltrate the everyday lives of the gentry.  But Rachel can’t accept the suffering of everyday 19th life and soon she starts making small changes. But Rachel is a doctor and she can’t help wondering if Jane Austen’s mysterious illness could be cured? And how will these changes affect the future?

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: Sometimes a book talks about the experience of reading in such a familiar way that I can’t help calling it a book lovers’ book. I know, that doesn’t explain much about the plot or the genre, but that’s the first thing I need to say about The Thirteenth Tale. If you love books (and since you are reading my ramblings I guess you do), this is the book for you. It’s gothic fiction about a biographer and the reclusive novelist who promises to tell her the truth behind her mysterious past. It gave me a bit of a Wuthering Heights for some reason. Maybe it’s because of the isolated big house and a family’s strange past. One more tip: read this book on a cold day, maybe with a cup of tea next to you. It’s not a summery book at all, so it’d be much nicer to save this one for a rainy day.

Nelly Dean by Alison Case: Speaking of Wuthering Heights this is the retelling from the perspective of Nelly. Actually the original book is also told from her perspective, but this time she tells her own story. Turns out Nelly kept many secrets from Mr. Lockwood when she told him the story of Heathcliff and the Earnshaws. This book gets the tone right and the new story fits well with the original one too. You can imagine these things happening in the background of the main events. If Emily Bronte wrote a sequel, it would be pretty similar to this.

So that’s it for now. I read many more books, but these were three favorites in the past 6 months. I may write about the books that I disliked the most during this time period too, but we’ll see. But now I have to study.

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Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

I am reading the Mother-Daughter Book Club series and I really like it. But when I got to Dear PenPal, the third book, I realized that I haven’t read the book that the book club is reading, which is Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. But I know that the Mother-Daughter series sometimes spoils the books that the girls are reading.  And since Daddy-Long-Legs has been on my TBR list for a long time, I put Dear Pen Pal away, wanting to read Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs first.

Daddy-Long-Legs is described as Little Women meets Anne of Green Gables. I love Little Women and even though Anne of Green Gables is not my favorite book, I still had high hopes for Daddy-Long-Legs.

It’s about Jerusha, an orphaned girl, who is sent to college thanks to a mysterious gentleman. The only thing she knows is that he is very tall, so in her letters to him she calls him Daddy-Long-Legs. She is a smart and cheerful and at times very funny.  My favorite moments were when she rebels against Daddy-Long-Legs’ orders.

However I also had lots of problems with this book which ultimately ruined my experience. And these are SPOILERS, so keep reading only if you’ve finished the book.

I hated the romance. I absolutely hated it. Jerusha sees Daddy-Long-Legs as her family, almost as a father figure and she tells him all of her thoughts and feelings. I don’t see why she didn’t feel betrayed when it turned out that Daddy-Long-Legs is actually Master Jervie, a gentleman she had known for some time and fallen in love with.  And I thought that Jervie was very controlling. Using the authority she had over Jerusha, he controlled her and it was obvious that he was isolating her from her friends, to stop her from potential attachments to men other than himself.

I am aware that I can’t judge books written a century ago by today’s standards, but I think that Daddy-Long-Legs is one of the most problematic books I’ve read from that period. I’ll still probably read the sequel, just because I am curious about what happens next, but I assume I’ll be disappointed again.

Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell

I know that many people have trouble rating collections of short stories, because the quality of the stories may vary. Even when they are all by the same author, it’s normal to like some of the stories and be underwhelmed or even hate other stories.

But I didn’t have this problem when I read Blueprints for Building Better Girls.  All of the stories were equally good. Seriously, I loved all of them. I was on the last few pages and I wanted to start rereading the book immediately after finishing. It was that good.

But enough of my fangirling. If  I remember correctly, this collection features eight stories. They are about the experiences of different kinds of women: teenagers and mothers, party girls and artists, “good” and “bad” girls. All of them were honest, and realistic, heartbreaking and heartwarming. I can’t explain how touching these stories were.

I feel kind of dumb, because the stories are linked and I didn’t notice that until I read the Goodreads page for the book.  So anytime you read a name that sounds familiar from a previous story, it’s because it’s the same character. This gives the stories an even deeper meaning because we can see the characters from different perspectives.

I urge you all to read this book, you definitely won’t regret it.

Quick Reviews #1

Haha I know, it’s funny to call this Quick Reviews, when all of my reviews are quick and quite short. But that’s because the primary purpose of this blog is to keep a track of the books I read. It’s very personal, so I try not to strain myself and write beautiful reviews. I just write whatever I thought about a book. I sometimes have only a few sentences to say. And this is the case today. I read these books in the last few days, but I never had the time to write proper reviews.

  1. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – I have to start with this graphic novel (the third one I’ve read). I absolutely loved it. Loved loved loved it. It made me feel so many things. I was feeling very depressed after I read it, because it felt like something I’d experienced. It’s a story about two cynical and confused teenage girls and the people in their town who are all weirdos and really hilarious. It felt like graphic novel version of Daria, only darker.
  2. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – If Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson had a book centered around him, this would be it. It’s about a stereotypical butler, one who is very proper and fiercely loyal. He reflects on the past, his former master who was a gentleman, but also a fascist. He is conflicted about his emotions, because even though he disapproves of his employer’s actions, after his death he still feels loyalty to him, and yet he is ashamed about working for him. He also has some regrets about a relationship that could have happened with the housekeeper, but never did, because of his principles and personality. I felt sorry for the guy. It was a beautifully written book and one that keeps your attention through every page.
  3. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp – I am the kind of person who doesn’t read the newspaper, unless I see that something creepy or violent happened. I don’t have morbid fascination with death, but I have a natural curiosity, which makes me want to know what goes through the mind of people who cause those tragedies. So when I heard that one of the first 2016 young adult books is about a school shooting, of course I had to read it. The good things about it were the diversity of the characters and the way the book was written, through POV of multiple characters, plus through tweets, comments, blog posts.. But it could have been much better. The characters sometimes seemed too simple and similar to each other (but not always). Even though the subject is very shocking, I didn’t really feel emotional after the book. That’s why I gave it only three stars.
  4. The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick- I read this one today. It’s a book about young girls, all very different from each other, who are forced to participate in a book club where they read Little Women with their mothers. Even though it’s a book for children it was fun and sweet and I liked it, but it’s not my favorite. I actually love reading children’s books so I’ve read some that were better. My favorite characters were actually their mothers, who were all hilarious.

Well that was it. I may be gone again for a while, because I am reading two big books and it will take me a while to read them. But I may try to squeeze in a shorter book if I can.

 

 

Office Girl by Joe Meno

Office Girl is the love story between Odile, an art school dropout, and Jack, a 25-year-old divorcee. They are both unusual, quirky, frustrated with their art, confused about who they are, stuck in dysfunctional relationships. So naturally when they meet at their boring office jobs, the chemistry that exists between them is clearly visible.

I liked how there was no tension like in most fictional romances, where even though the two people are head over heels and everyone can see that, they are still not aware of the other person’s feelings. In Office Girl the romance unfolds naturally and Odile and Jack seem like real people. There are no cliches or silly obstacles in the form of scheming exes or anything like that. Ultimately the only obstacle between them is their own personalities and the existential crisis they are both in.

There were many things I liked in this book. It’s impossible not to love Odile. Okay maybe I am wrong. I am sure she’s written as a character which can be very annoying to some people. But she’s the type of person I love. I loved her free spirit. I loved her views on art. I loved her nonsensical artsy vandalism. I loved her little notebook with random ideas.

However I also had many problems with this book. While I was reading the first few chapters which are from Odile’s point of view, everything was okay. And Jack’s chapters, before he meets Odile were okay too, even though I didn’t like reading about him as much as I liked reading about Odile. However after the two meet, it seems like Odile is demoted to the status of a manic pixie dream girl and the only way we can see her is now through Jack’s perspective. She seems like she’s there to save him, which is exactly what he believes. And we are somehow supposed to share Jack’s frustration when she fails his expectations. I don’t know. For the second time in this review I have to admit that I may be wrong. Maybe the author intended to show us how Jack sees Odile, so we can see how wrong and broken Jack is. But I am not sure.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

This is the first book in a series of crime novels, where the sleuth is more extraordinary than ever. It’s a little girl!

Flavia de Luce is 11 years old, but she already has a great knowledge in chemistry. She is very smart and curious, so when a dead bird with a postage stamp on its beak and a dead man are found in their yard, naturally she goes exploring.

To be honest, the whole crime part of the story wasn’t really good. It was okay, but nothing special. It was easy to solve and there was no real tension. However, being in Flavia’s head for a while is really fun. Especially when she talks about her older sisters and their love-hate (though mostly hate) relationship. The moments with her father are very sweet and her conversations with the adults are really funny.

I expected more from this book, but even though I wasn’t wowed I think I’ll give the second book in the series a shot.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney

I have a confession. This was the first graphic novel I’ve read in my life. The first one. But it was a really good choice that made me excited and eager to read more graphic novels.

Marbles is a graphic memoir that tells the story of Ellen Forney’s struggle with bipolar disorder. I loved how open and honest she was throughout the whole memoir. Mental illness is something that is difficult to talk about, especially if you’ve experienced it personally. And when it is talked about, sometimes it isn’t handled with the attention and maturity that mental illness deserves as an issue. This is why I am thankful that Ellen Forney made such an honest graphic novel.

She gives us a glimpse of her mind during her manic times: the excitement, the ideas, the energy, the flirting, the inability to sleep… And then she gives us a glimpse into the opposite, the depressive periods, where she sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed.

Ellen saw a psychiatrist and took many different drugs for bipolar disorder and this was a struggle which lasted years. She tells us her experiences with all the different pills she had to try until she found a mix that could work.

But if there is one question that this graphic novel focuses on it’s whether art and mental illness are connected? Ellen Forney tries throughout her life to find the answer to this. She is not sure if bipolar disorder is a part of who she is, the key to her creativity and art. She studies other artists’ problems with mental illness to see their personal experiences.

I am really glad I tried a new medium and form of art and I can’t wait to read another graphic novel.

The Wilful Eye (Short Story Collection)

The Wilful Eye is a collection of six stories by different authors, all of them taking inspiration from famous fairy tales. The stories are not like the newer versions made for children. The gore, the evil, the cruelty is left in them, but they also give dimension to the usually flat characters of the stories.

It seems like the authors all asked themselves the questions: “What If?” and “Why?” and went from there, giving each story a unique answer to those questions. The stories were all different. Some were set in modern times, others in the far past, just like their originals.

My personal favorite was the adaptation of The Beauty and The Beast. I loved how the beast was really almost an animal in behavior and how Belle tamed him, by being brave and strict, but not cruel. The way he slowly became human again, because of Belle’s love and efforts was very sweet and touching. And Belle was soooooooo badass. Go brave Belle!

Another story I liked was the adaptation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier. I liked how the author was able to  create such a good psychological image of many of the characters in such a short story. It was absolutely amazing.

There’s a companion piece to this collection called The Wicked Wood which contains six more stories and i just can’t wait to read it.

Jane by April Lindner

Jane is a modern re-telling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Instead of Jane Eyre, we have Jane Moore, who has lost her parents six months ago, so she can’t pay for her college tuition anymore. She really can’t rely on anyone for financial or any other type of support. Her sister doesn’t want to ruin her perfect life with her perfect fiance and her brother is even more abusive than he used to be as a child.

Jane decides to get work as a nanny. And because of her disinterest in pop culture, she’s given a job in the home of Nico Rathburn, a famous rock star. That way the agency and Nico can be sure that the nanny won’t be a crazy fan who is in love with Nico. Except a romance does evolve. But Nico’s past has too many secrets and some of them threaten the budding relationship.

I won’t say anymore about the plot, but if you’ve read Jane Eyre, you probably already know what happens. Jane is a very close re-telling and there are not many changes in the plot. But that doesn’t meant that it’s boring. It’s very fun to read about Jane in modern times and I love the choice of profession for Mr Rochester. I definitely think his personality fits a rock star with a turbulent past.

I loved many of the secondary characters. Every moment with Maddy was cute, and I loved Yvonne, Lucia, Diana and Maria. I even like how Bianca (the equivalent of Blanche Ingram) was a talented photographer and her success was of her own merit. It would’ve been easy to make her just a gold-digging socialite, but even if she was shallow and materialistic, I liked how at least she was a successful woman.

The only thing that made me enjoy this book a bit less is the age difference between Jane and Nico. Yes, the same age difference is in Jane Eyre, but when it’s put in modern context, it’s very disturbing. And on top of that when you keep in mind that Nico is Jane’s employer, so he’s a figure of authority.It’s difficult not to ask yourself questions about the power imbalance in their relationship.

I think I’ll re-read Jane Eyre soon, but I’ll keep in mind these few issues that bothered me in Jane and see if the classic handles them better. Or maybe I just never noticed these problematic subjects before.

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

I knew I had to read this book when I saw the cover. It’s gorgeous and it fits the book perfectly. It screams Mean Girls + The Exorcist, which is exactly what this book is like.

This book was not that well written, but I still loved it. The story is simple: the new girl joins the clique of the popular girls who decide to perform an exorcism on another girl. The exorcism gets out of control. What’s not to love here? I love books about girls being freaky, crazy and scary. I should mention, it’s also a very gory book, cause these girls sure know how to torture.

With that being said, The Merciless had some problems. The characters were not well developed and I thought that the plot was not paced well. What’s written on the back cover spoils half of the book. The first half is also a bit too stretched, while in the second half everything happens too fast. The culmination happens in the final pages and then the book ends abruptly.  Even though it’s a good book, it had a potential to be much better.

I think the sequel will be coming out in 2016 and I am not sure how I feel about it. I am definitely going to read it, but I feel that this book would be better as it is now, because if the story is continued, the shocking moments in the first book lose their intensity. But then again, I am just assuming and I can be very wrong. We’ll just have to wait and see.