Me Before You

'Me_Before_You'

Me Before You (pdf in Google Drive!)

by Jojo Moyes

Not a children’s book

 

Ugh.  This book.  If you like tear-jerkers, books that make you frustrated because the characters don’t do what you want, or controversial topics, this one is for you.  That doesn’t mean it was a bad book.  I read it in 3 days and I am sad that it’s over!

Lou (Louisa Clark) is a 20-something living in a small town in England, and her life is basically going nowhere.  She loses her job and her family relies on her for money, so she has to work as a carer for a quadriplegic (Will Traynor) with no use of his arms or legs (other than slight movement in one hand) due to a motorcycle accident.  Will was previously an adventurous, successful, and handsome man until his accident, and has lost his will to live since his quality of life is so low.  He has plans to take his own life at an assisted suicide place in Switzerland.  Louisa is hired on a 6 month basis as a carer for him, because she is vivacious, funny, and his mother thinks Lou will remind him he wants to live.

What I liked about this book was that you were really rooting for Lou and Will’s romance to flourish.  I wanted him to realize she was worth living for.  The book itself, although a horribly sad situation, was humorous and had well-developed characters, and you wanted them to be happy.

What I didn’t like about this book was the ending.  I’m sure you can figure it out that being a tear-jerker, it doesn’t end the way you want, but it isn’t necessarily the saddest book you’ve read, either.  I’m also told there’s a sequel.

Book 3 of 10 (summer challenge)

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Maybe Someday

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Maybe Someday

by Colleen Hoover

Not a children’s book

 

This is not my typical reading.  I’m not big on sappy romance novels, but I borrowed the book at the suggestion of a friend who talked me into 50 Shades and Room, both of which (I hate to admit) I enjoyed.  Maybe Someday was a whimsical read.  I wasn’t committed to the characters and I’m not really wondering what happened after the novel.  Normally, that would indicate I didn’t really enjoy it, but I read it in 4 days (Thanksgiving week… I had a lot do do!).

Maybe Someday is told from the dual perspectives of Ridge and Sydney, two people in their early twenties.  We learn early on that Sydney recently goes through a break up, and she is welcomed into Ridge’s apartment.  They instantly make a connection through music.  Ridge writes the music while Sydney writes the lyrics.  They form a relationship and a bond that creates friction in their lives, but they are determined to remain friends.

What I liked about this book was that I needed something light and fun for my week off, and this is definitely it.  I wasn’t attached to the characters, but I wanted happiness for both of them.  The writing wasn’t spectacular (though I’ve been told the addition of the soundtrack is a bonus), but I felt compelled to finish and see it through.

What I didn’t like about this book was the part at the end where I wanted to barf from how lovey dovey sappy disgusting it was.  It was like 50 Shades meets The Notebook.  People cry after sex and can’t live without one another and their hands all fit perfectly as though they were made for each other.  Oh my gosh.  I love my husband, but if I ever think it’s sexy to write all over my body with a pen, please stab me in the eye with it.

Would I read it again?  Probably not.  But it served its purpose of entertaining me!

 

Book 23 of 40 (year 2)

Room

Room

Room (paperback)

by Emma Donoghue

No AR Level because it’s not recommended for kids!

This is the story of Ma, as told from the point of view of Jack, a five year old boy.  Ma was kidnapped at 19 by a man called Old Nick and kept in a room (an 11×11 renovated garden shed) for 7 years of her life.  During this time, she had Jack and taught him that the Room was all there was, and everything on tv was just make believe.  Out of desperation, she plots to have Jack escape, and their lives change forever.  Despite the depressing tone of the story (how can being locked in a shed for 7 years and suffer from repeated assault not be depressing), it is actually not a downer book.  Since the story is told from Jack’s perspective, we see their lives in a blanket of innocence and not what it really is.

What I liked about this book was that despite how hard things were for Ma and Jack, Ma kept Jack protected and sheltered from the truth of their lives.  The theme of hope resonated throughout the story, even while Jack was counting the squeaks of the bed when Old Nick “visited”, because it is told by Jack.  He does not have the experience nor the knowledge to see their lives through a filter of despair and depression.  It also gives me an idea of what women kept in slavery suffer.  I cannot even imagine what it would be like to actually experience it.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it took me forever to read.  It annoyed me that there were paragraphs that rambled on in nearly unintelligible language (since Jack told the story and little kids don’t always get their words right).  There are also things in the story that I just don’t want to think actually occur on this planet.  It’s just too real.  Also, I swore it took place in England.  Some of the words and phrasing just aren’t used in America.  That annoys me.  I learned the story takes place in America, but the author is Irish.  That explains it.

Book 16 of 40 (year 2)

Fifty Shades of Grey

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Fifty Shades of Grey (Kindle)

by E.L. James

AR Level… No clue.  I’m not going to look it up!

Do not tell ANYONE that I read this book.  It has never interested me, despite the controversy, banishment, and talk around this book.  I am a wife and mother and I would never read (nor have the need for) “mommy porn.”  I read it as a deal with a friend.  I’d read this (a Twilight fanfic) if she read Twilight.  It’s almost embarrassing that I read it in just 3 days.

Okay, with that said, I got sucked into the story.  It follows a relatively average girl (Anastasia) who is pretty (but doesn’t know it), smart (but not snobby), innocent and inexperienced (but not too naive), with divorced parents, in Washington state, with a crappy car, a female friend, a good male pal, and charmingly awkward.  Doesn’t that sound JUST LIKE Bella Swan?  And then there’s a mysterious, excruciatingly handsome (hot, even) man (Christian Grey) with rust-colored hair, a checkered upbringing, adopted by loving parents (one a doctor) with encouraging siblings (one an affectionate sister), and warns the average girl that he’s dangerous and should stay away.  If nothing else, I wanted to read how Bella Ana got herself out of situations and Edward‘s Christian’s attention.

Anastasia Steele is a college senior who interviews the rich and powerful Christian Grey for a school newspaper.  He instantly falls for her, but warns her that he would be no good for her.  If you’ve read Twilight, I do not need to tell you the plot of this story.  He charms her, she falls for him, he buys her lots and lots of expensive presents, he worries about her health and safety, she changes his previous notions of a girlfriend, blah blah blah.  Plus, they have a lot of hot, dirty, “events.”  But compared to the rest of the story, that’s just a few chapters.  After the first “event” you can pretty much get through the others without giggling.  While I can totally understand why its considered “mommy porn,” I can also understand why my friend got hooked (and got me hooked) on the storyline.  I hope not to be disappointed in the sequels like I was with Divergent.

What I liked about this book was that it was interesting aside from the dirty parts.  The intimate parts were entertaining, but at a certain point, they just became too much, and I’d find myself tuning it out and wondering why Christian was the way he was, and how Ana was going to find a happy medium in their relationship.  I think I had more fun finding parallels between Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey more than anything else.

What I didn’t like about this book was the terrible writing!  Oh my goodness, I’ve never read anything like it!  It is a British author writing American dialogue, and not very good dialogue at that!  We generally don’t use “fond” very often here, and there were many other phrases that were clearly not Americanized.  Some of the words were so obscure, I had to utilize the dictionary feature of my Kindle, while I felt the author should have used the thesaurus feature of her computer.  Seriously, not everything is said in a “murmur” or “whisper,” and it shouldn’t all be said “dryly.”  All pants don’t “hang from [a man’s] hips” and I’ve never heard of a woman’s privates being referred to as her “sex.”  “Oh my” is also vastly and obtusely overused.  I am not saying I’m the greatest author (I’m not an author at all) and I’m sure my blog posts are riddled with errors, but I’m not making millions of dollars on them.  Never have I wanted to take a red pen to a book before.  But seriously, more power to anyone who can become filthy rich from a dirty fantasy written as a fanfic!

Book 37 of 52

Divergent

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Divergent (paperback)

by Veronica Roth

AR Level 4.8, 16 points

I wasn’t going to read this book.  I read the Hunger Games trilogy, and figured I put in my time with futuristic society literature.  However, my mom read it and enjoyed it, a student practically put in in my bag for me, and my niece read the books.  So… I thought if I am forcing my students to read books I choose, I’d better pick up a book someone else recommends for me.  So Derek, I only read this for you.  P.S. Thank you, Derek!  I read the entire book in 3 days, and it’s a pretty long book (but easy reading).

Like Hunger Games, the central character is a strong, independent, but seemingly weak teenage girl growing up in the future, where society is quite different than what we know today.  Society is divided into 5 factions, and at age 16, members take an aptitude test that tells them which faction they would best fit in with, although they are allowed to choose which one they want to be in.  Beatrice (Tris) has an unusual (and dangerous) result to her aptitude test.  She finds that she is divergent, meaning there is not one faction she best fits into.  This is considered threatening to the governments of each faction, so she cannot share this information with anyone, including her family.  Tris makes her choice and goes through initiation to prove herself and learn to be a member of that faction, despite others who make her life very difficult.  She discovers a plot that would destroy the factions and has to do something about it.  The first of 4 novels, we are left hanging.  I can assume that if this series is anything like the Hunger Games series, there will be highs and lows, joy and sadness, and I’ll end up wanting to throw a book or two at some point.

What I liked about this book is it had everything one would want in a novel: well-developed characters (both likable and hated), fear, sadness, anger, and of course, love. The love story is what is making me want to watch the movie right now as I type this.  I had to ask my fourth grade niece part way in if two of the characters end up together, and I was delighted to hear (and later read) that they do.  I am not a huge fan of these adventure/action/futuristic novels, but for some reason, if there’s a good love story (like the Katniss-Gale-Peeta trio), I am a sucker for it.  (Let me be clear, I was Team Gale all the way, and we know how that ended up…)

What I didn’t like about this book is the manner in which several characters died.  I am waiting to find out in the next novels that one of the deaths was not actually a suicide, but a murder.  I do not like to think of that kind of betrayal and death by a character I enjoyed.  I also don’t like the way Veronica Roth is making me go buy the next book instead of waiting for my niece to bring me the next one.  I have a few days left of my vacation, and I do not intend to spend them in front of the tv.

While I would love to recommend this book to everyone, I have to say that there are several parts that are for more mature readers.  It makes me uncomfortable to think that my sixth grade student or fourth grade niece read some of the situations that were potentially inappropriate, violent, sexual, etc.  So readers, beware when recommending this book (although excellent) to younger readers.

Book 35 of 52

Gone Girl

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Gone Girl (Kindle)

by Gillian Flynn

AR Level 5.6, 23 points

I decided to read a grown up book.  I guess adding in a little adult content can’t hurt, especially after feeling like a perv while reading young adult (when the teenagers make out and talk about having sex in juvenile fiction, it just feels inappropriate).  It is absolutely adult fiction.  I would not recommend this to any of my students.  It might even be a little off-putting for someone not married, because while it is a suspenseful “thriller” and being made into a movie (can’t go wrong with Ben Affleck), it dwells on the low points of marriage and doesn’t shine a very bright light on being a wife or husband.

The story follows two characters: Nick and Amy are writers living in New York with drastically different backgrounds and upbringings.  Nick was born in Missouri along the river and lived with an emotionally abusive/distant father and a clingy mother, along with his twin sister.  He meets Amy, a native New Yorker, and the real-life “Amazing Amy” that her parents modeled their book series after.  Both lose their jobs and have to move back to Missouri where Nick’s dad is suffering from dementia and his mom is dying of cancer.  Their marriage starts to go south right away, and I just can’t tell you anymore from there… it’s definitely a good read, as long as we don’t mention the ending.

What I liked about this book was the points of view the story was told.  We read it from Nick’s point of view, and multiple viewpoints of Amy.  I also like a book that will make me read 75% of it in one weekend when I have a million other pressing things to do.  I read at a birthday party, at the mall, in the car, while my kids took a bath, and any other time I was able to get a few minutes in.  I finished it in the parking lot of a Macaroni Grill, and scared passersby when I got to the ending…

What I didn’t like about this book was… the worst.  Ending.  Ever.  I guess I can’t really say that.  It was clever, but it really annoyed me.  I’d rather the wrong person win than a total non-ending.  I just wasn’t satisfied.  It begs the question… what makes a good ending?  Is it and ending that produces the results you want, or that it produces an emotional reaction?  It frustrates me when the book is awesome, and then it was a dissatisfying ending.

Book 26 of 52 (half way there!!!)

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
AR Level 5.1, 18 points

 

This is a must read.  I had heard of the movie, and usually I go out and get any book that is based on a movie, but I didn’t do it then.  I should have.  I could have read this book for the second time instead of the first.

I went through a period where I read everything about the Holocaust I could find.  I read all of the classics-  Diary of Anne Frank, The Hiding Place, Number the Stars, etc.  In college, I had to read Survival at Auschwitz, and that started my obsession again.  It’s a depressing topic to read about, but fascinating at the same time.  Sometimes I feel guilty for wanting to read about it and wanting to visit a concentration camp.  It’s a devastating piece of history that we should never forget, and good literature like The Book Thief will make sure that never happens.

So on to the book… this is a story of a young girl in Nazi Germany (I LOVE that it’s from a different perspective- usually we read about the Jews’ perspective instead of the Nazis’).  She is abandoned by her mother after watching her brother die (I assumed it was a mercy abandonment due to the war).  Liesel did not know how to read in the beginning, but stole her first book at her brother’s funeral.  When she arrives at her foster family’s home near Munich, she does not immediately warm up to Rosa and Hans, but soon forms a strong bond with Hans (Papa).  Papa teachers her to read, plays his accordion, and shows her unconditional love.  She also finds friendship with several others… her best friend Rudy, the Jew they are hiding, the mayor’s wife, and the crotchety old woman next door.  She finds an even stronger friendship with books, and starts collecting (and stealing) them.

Long story (550 pages long) short, we get to see what it was like for a young girl to grow up in poverty in Nazi Germany during World War II in a family that did not agree with the Nazi Party.  We see the ups and downs of her friendships.  We learn to cuss in German (I swear, I walked around calling people Saumensch and Saukerl in my head all week long).  We see the power that words have, both back then and in our own lives.  Liesel is a survivor, both literally and figuratively, and we find out how true that is in the end.

Oh, and did I tell you the narrator of the book is Death, himself?  A very cynical, different Death than we’ve read or watched in other media in the past.

What I liked about this book was the change that Liesel went through.  She had these powerful relationships that formed her as a person.  She was able to write about her life experiences and they helped her grow.  She didn’t just see the world as a poor girl in Nazi Germany.  Each cloud, book, argument, etc. affected her and made her who she was, good and bad, and she was able to touch the lives of others.  This book helped me see that Nazi Germany wasn’t 100% evil that we normally read about- people were people, and not everyone agrees with their government.

What I didn’t like about this book was crying like a baby.  But that’s what happens when you get attached to characters, and then you have to say good-bye to them.  It’s no fun being reminded by your husband that it’s just a book, because when you’re reading about this girl’s life, it’s not just a book.

Thanks, Denise, for recommending and lending me the book!

Book 16 of 52 (slacker!!!)