Tag Archives: book review

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 1.47.34 PMThe Proposal by Jasmine Guillory is delightful and charming … and hits almost exactly every single note of her debut The Wedding Date. Is that a problem? You decide. 

The entire plot has all of the same markers as Guillory’s debut (see my previous review to compare) — two adorable characters are attracted to each other, but don’t think they’re ready for a relationship so they lightly enjoy each other’s company under the guise of not becoming too attached until… suddenly! they are too attached and maybe they actually do want to be in a relationship and love each other, et cetera. 

Guillory packages the same story nicely with darling characters that I enjoy — I loved all of the auxiliary characters and their personalities just as much as the main characters (and maybe they’ll even be the central character in a future book? The kickboxing instructor alone made me want to quit my current kickboxing gym to seek her out as my trainer). The book opens on our two main characters who meet during a botched, public proposal. We follow Carlos, the best friend of one of the leads from The Wedding Date who is a pediatrician and helms his Mexican-American family, and Nikole, a freelance writer who is black and has a gaggle of cute girlfriends that she adventures with in the city. 

The book is perfectly packaged sweetness that delivers the same story and vibe as The Wedding Date. In the same way that romcoms often hit the same notes and can be exactly what you’re seeking, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re wanting to recreate reading Guillory’s debut. However, for me, The Wedding Date was too fresh in my mind and I couldn’t stop comparing their similarities. If I hadn’t read both of Guillory’s novels in the same year, I might have felt differently. But could I see myself picking up her next book when I need something cute, cozy, and familiar to read? Definitely. 

Publication Date: 30 October 2018 by Berkley BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jasmine Guillory web/@twitter/@instagram/facebook

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

image1 (19)Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler follows Tess, a 22-year-old white woman who flees her old life in favor of starting afresh in New York City and “discovering” herself. Within days of arriving in the city, she lands a job at a very in demand restaurant in Manhattan, despite only having barista experience in whatever town she was in before. The book is all about the whirlwind, yet very contained life this job lands her in.

The lead character, Tess, perpetually whines and wants people to take her seriously as a “real person”, fitting the stereotype of many people I met at this age in NYC. While Tess’s own actions are annoying, you’re not met to necessarily be rooting for her — she moves to New York to be a more exciting person than she used to be, but she spends all of her time working in a restaurant without exploring the city or her own interests while living in the city. Tess throws herself into the restaurant world, with all of the learning about fine dining and the hooking up and the drugs and alcohol that follow restaurant workers into the early hours of the morning. 

The story is mostly about a young woman who immediately gets usurped into a specific restaurant’s world and the strange rules and practices of those who have been at the restaurant for years and view it as the center of the universe. These characters are pretentious and I found the story absolutely delectable. I’m looking forward to watching the TV adaptation soon.

Publication Date: 24 May 2016 by KnopfFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Stephanie Danler web/@instagram/@twitter

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 1.04.42 PMThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald was passed down to me via my best friend’s mom who is very into libraries and book clubs, which once you know the contents of this plot, somehow totally makes sense.

The story centers around a visitor from Sweden coming to stay with her bookish penpal in a slow moving town in Iowa. The visitor, Sara, stays for a few months and decides to open a bookstore in the town as a way to rally the community together. She falls in love with the the bookstore, the town, and its inhabitants along the way. The entire book was charming and fluffy and had absolutely no drama. Aka when you’re wanting to get away from the terrifying news cycle, this is a perfect way to zap your brain into a cozy little town that won’t stress you out. 

The entire novel is incredibly book-centric. Sara finds her penpal from selling books internationally and starting a message chain about books with another book lover. Sara is constantly talking about books in her inner monologues and with others, even those who aren’t typical readers, sometimes giving away major plot lines of classics that you may not have read yet yourself (this didn’t bother me, but it may bother some readers). Everything is about books books books and I could see many readers wanting to get swept away with a protagonist who is just reading reading reading all of the time.

While the story was cozy, pieces of it did feel very heavy handed — there are bits about racism, queerness, etc. that feel very pointed and proud, but also strangely forced. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a story about a small town, but really mostly about a visiting reader and her constant bookish comparisons. If you’re looking for something with a bit of charm and no harm, this is a book for you.  

Publication Date: 19 January 2016 by SourcebooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Katarina Bivald web/@twitter

 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies of a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

image1 (19)Bad Blood by John Carreyrou takes the reader through the incredibly wild journey and demolition of startup company Theranos. Carreyrou writes about this scandal in a way that is utterly captivating. I could not stop talking about this book while I was reading it and hated having to put it down when life got in the way. 

Theranos, a startup company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, claimed to be initially building the capability to do and eventually claiming ability to use a single pinprick of blood to do a variety of health tests that would actually require much more blood to do accurately. However, because Theranos amassed a board of impressive, seemingly trustworthy individuals, many who were skeptical chose to let their questions and disbelief slides. The problem? Not many got close enough to see what a huge scam the foundation of the company was based upon. What happened? Theranos was able to con investors and partnered companies out of hundreds of millions of dollars by promising a technology that could not and would not be developed by the company. 

When scientists and Theranos employees raised red flags internally, they were strongly suggested to leave the company and forced to sign nondisclosure agreements that made many former employees terrified of speaking about the going ons of Theranos. When employees did speak out, the CEO, Holmes, threatened them with (and sometimes served them with) lawsuits.

Carreyrou, the investigative journalist at the Wall Street Journal who broke the first stories about Theranos being a scam, writes a full book about everything leading up to Theranos becoming the big company that it was, the terror and lies that were occurring within the company, and the beginnings of the unspooling of the company once it was publicly declared to be terrible. Every few pages my jaw dropped with new details that emerged that contributed to the creation and ultimate downfall of this company. This is a nonfiction page turner that you will not want to put down. 

Publication Date: 21 May 2018 by Knopf PublishingFormat: Hardcover.

Author: John Carreryrou @twitter

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 12.01.41 PMThis book is one of the rare books on my to-read list that a ton of the people I follow have already read and rated it extremely favorably, so when I was scrounging for a new book to read it was an obvious fit.

In All the Light We Cannot See, a historical fiction book about multiple characters in Europe during World War II, the sentences are absolutely beautiful. The characters are nuanced, and the plot mainly revolving around two adolescents: one is the French Marie-Laure who is blind and must move around and rely on others to help her live during the treacherous times, but is also shielded from how severe some things are because of her lack of sight, and one is the German Werner who is an orphan and is plucked up to join a school that funnels boys into the German military because of his keen interest and intelligence about circuitry and radios.

The stories of the two adolescents, and those who touch their lives is brilliant. I loved the details of nearly every character that was introduced as they all navigate their very different lives, yet move forward in parallel with the war being a steady, terrible event that unifies each of their lives. A theme of mysticism runs throughout one of the storylines and adds some interesting, dramatic turns to the story as well.

The chapters of All the Light We Cannot See are short, which makes it feel like you can control the pacing of this 500+ page book and not feel like you need to push through to finish an idea. In a huge book, this can (and did for me!) make the novel more enjoyable because it’s easy to pick up and put down, without feeling lost the next time you pick it up again. However, the length is what causes this to not be 5 stars for me. Did I enjoy this book thoroughly while I was reading it? Absolutely. Did I enjoy it enough to foist upon another person to read 500+ pages without mentioning the length as a caveat? Unfortunately, no. But if the book already sounds intriguing to you, you should definitely add it to your list for 500+ pages of captivating story.

Publication Date: 6 May 2014 by ScribnerFormat: E-book.

Author: Anthony Doerr web/facebook

From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty

image1 (19)I received From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by mortician Caitlin Doughty from a similarly death-minded friend. My friend and I have both spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing mortality for personal and professional reasons, so we are probably more likely to be the audience for this book than the general population who may be less macabre. 

I learned a lot about cremation and natural burials from Doughty’s first book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and found From Here to Eternity to be similarly educational about death rituals, but I enjoyed the overall book a little less. Some of the facts shared I will remember for a long time to come, but the journey to getting the facts was not as seamless as I found Doughty’s first book to be.

When Doughty describes global examples of grief and dealing with death and decomposition, she illuminates that the American approach to death hasn’t always been the way it is now, as most people believe, but I’m left feeling a bit despondent about the little room available to change things in America. I agree with many of Doughty’s beliefs that people need to be more comfortable with death, their own and their loved ones’, so that people can respect each other’s wishes and be more comfortable with grieving. However, I don’t think that people who are already uncomfortable with death will pick up this book and I think there are many powerful players who are committed to keeping Americans uncomfortable.

Publication Date: 13 October 2017 by W. W. Norton CompanyFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Caitlin Doughty web/@twitter/@instagram/facebook

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

image1 (18)I’m not typically a fan of thrillers, mostly because I don’t need an excuse to be anxious about more things, but I scooped up Sharp Objects to prepare me for watching HBO’s television adaptation. I did the same before I watched Gone Girl (also by author Gillian Flynn) and it made watching the movie much less nerve wracking because I knew exactly what to expect.

I picked up Sharp Objects for the same experience and while it was definitely a page turner that I read incredibly quickly, the entire time I was reading, I just wanted the whole story to be over. I probably wouldn’t have pushed through the novel if I wasn’t planning on watching the TV series, but I am… so I did.

Sharp Objects is a thriller mystery that revolves around a Chicago journalist returning to her hometown after two similar murders are committed (the victims are young girls). The journalist has to return to her toxic home that she had distanced herself away from in adulthood and finds herself reverting to her previous mindset and habits along the way, whilst trying to gather details about the unsolved murder cases. While I loved the details put into the main character and her depth, I would’ve preferred reading about her within another story that didn’t completely creep me out the entire time I was reading it.

Publication Date: 26 September 2006 by Broadway BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Gillian Flynn web/@facebook/@twitter/@instagram

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

image1 (17)Okay, okay, I know I didn’t really like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but as I said in that review, I knew I would eventually end up picking up the sequel. Why? I need fluff sometimes, others I care about wanted to talk more about this series, and who didn’t fall a little in love with Peter Kavinsky in the film version of the movie and desperately want to read more moments about this fictional beau?

In this book, teen protagonist Lara Jean picks up where she left off with her high school, fake boyfriend Peter Kavinsky… on the path of becoming her real boyfriend because ~feelings emerged~. The plot mostly revolves around drama with his previous girlfriend and with a boy, John Ambrose McClaren, from Lara Jean’s past re-entering the picture. There’s some typical high school drama, crushes spinning every which way for all of the characters, until finally the main couple in the series must decide how and if to move forward together (though to be honestly while Peter Kavinsky is an adorable soft jock who seems fantastic for Lara Jean in the film version, John Ambrose McClaren’s compatibility with Lara Jean fair outshines Peter in the books).

Overall, I found P.S. I Still Love You to be more enjoyable than its predecessor. A lot of the bits that annoyed me with the first novel (Kitty being grating, Peter not being that desirable and actively being someone I would not want to have a crush on) were smoothed over with the sequel… or I have rose colored lenses from watching the movie-version of the characters and was more forgiving of their book counterparts. I honestly can’t tell you which of those it actually is.

I expect to pick up the third novel (Always and Forever, Lara Jean) when I need a break from the dense, academic reads I’m returning to as the school year picks up again.

Publication Date: 26 May 2015 by Simon & SchusterFormat: E-book.

Author: Jenny Han web/@twitter/@instagram

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

IMG_8894I read my first Junot Díaz book seven years ago and wasn’t feeling it in the same way that others seemed to, so I took a while for me to find my way to This is How You Lose Her. This book is broken into separate short stories that mostly follow the life of Yunior and sometimes follows those in his orbit. The stories mostly revolve around Yunior’s own and his older brother’s escapades with women, including hairy details. 

I think Díaz is a talented writer and I found “The Pura Principle” to be a 5 star short story all on its own. However, I didn’t jive with all of the short stories and often found myself annoyed at the tales, curious about when the narrator alone had misogynist views about women and when the narrator was really articulating how the author valued (or didn’t rather) women in their own life. That said, I read This is How You Lose Her after allegations against Díaz were revealed, and while I know some internal investigations have found insubstantial evidence and Díaz himself has discussed his own experiences of sexual assault and how that affected his subsequent sexual relations, I found it impossible to objectively read this, knowing what I knew, and wondering how much of these stories revealed real beliefs and how much were purely fiction. 

Publication Date: 11 September 2012 by Riverhead BooksFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Junot Díaz web

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.35.07 PMI watched the trailer for the adorable Netflix film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and decided I needed to read the novel that it was based upon before actually viewing the movie. I lucked out and scooped up a used copy at a cute bookstore in Los Angeles (The Last Bookstore) the same weekend the movie was released.

The book was a super fast read and full of fluff. While there’s a time and a place and a reader for that, I enjoyed the story much more in movie-form than its original state. In the movie, certain details about the characters and plot points were changed in a way that made me like the overall story better. 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before revolves around teenager Lara Jean who writes letters to her crushes in an attempt to squash her crushes and then stows the letters away in a box in her closet. Suddenly, the letters are released into the world and into the hands of the boys that she’s ~loved before~. Whilst this is going on, Lara Jean is also experiencing some big changes at home: her older sister who served as the family’s matriarch departed for college in another country, leaving Lara Jean to try to fill in the hole she’s vacated and help take care of her (very annoying in the book version) little sister Kitty. Family bits and bobs dominate b-plots of the story, but the main arcs revolve around Lara Jean trying to convince one boy (who received a letter) she no longer likes him by fake dating another boy (who also received a letter).

All in all, the story is pretty entertaining and fluffy for a YA tale, but I enjoyed the execution of it (and changed details) of the film version more than the novel. The biggest deviation that I enjoyed most was Lara Jean’s fake boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky. He is much more likable in the movie and seems to be someone actually crushworthy, whereas the novel version of Kavinsky had me physically cringing at the idea that this boy was supposed to be someone “desirable.” Additionally Lara Jean and her younger sister Kitty also had some cute, bonding moments in the movie, whereas they seemed perpetually at odds with no good balancing bits in the book to ice over the negative pieces.

So what’s my recommendation? Watch the movie if you haven’t already! And skip the book… unless you want to find out what happens next for Lara Jean in the trilogy or if your friends really want you to read it so they can talk about the details (i.e. what is probably going to happen to me).

Publication Date: 15 September 2014 by Simon & SchusterFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jenny Han  web/@twitter/@instagram