It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

This book is about falling in love in many ways: your first love, your husband, your child, and even one day with yourself. The story is told as a first person narrative by Lily Bloom and follows her life over many years are she revisits and lives two different love stories of her own. We meet Lily hours after she has given a eulogy for her abusive father and throughout the story learn how that experience growing up impacts her relationships with men and with herself. As the author notes, this story is not meant to show case what every instance of intimate partner violence is like, but rather what the experience of the author’s mother was like. I felt it painted the violence in a more realistic way and in some ways explained the question all of society seems to ask people who suffer through intimate partner violence, “Why stay?”

One element of the story I really thought would feel gimmicky is that as a child Lily used to write her diary entries as letters to Ellen DeGeneres. While reading that on the back cover it sounded like an unnecessary plot device it added a level of ordinariness to Lily. While it starts as “Dear Ellen” it’s truly a letter to the reader. As well as an excellent and realistic was to condense plot that predates the timeline of the novel. It also lightens up a story that could easily have been a very hard read.

A final word on the love interests: no Fabios here. Ryle and Atlas are complex characters who both love Lily but in different ways that show how love evolves over time. It warrants to remember that we also only see these men filtered through Lily’s eyes. Personally, I loved Atlas from the moment we met him.

 

Read if you are interested in stories about:

-Romance/relationships

-Strong female leads

-Intimate partner violence/domestic abuse

Level of Difficulty: Read before bed

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This book was a casualty of a trip to pick up an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the library, and was a real occasion of like drawing to like. Both show the value of friendship, a strong female character who tests her own capabilities, a little dash of romance from a man who thinks he knows best, and a bit of the occult.

Novik full series called Temeraire which I have never read but seems to also be in the vein of fantasy fiction. I originally believed that Uprooted was going to be a more magical version of Beauty and the Beast. The only similarity it possess to that story is a woman being forced into the tower. Agnieszka is her own person both in the book and in the literary sense. She and the Dragon are in a war against an enchanted woods and are using two different styles of magic to fight it. To say much more about the book might spoil it for the readers. According to the wikipedia page, this book has been optioned for movie rights by Ellen DeGeneres. While wonderful for Novik, very much so disappoints me. I think there are some things that do not translate well to screen and the real earthiness and intimacy of the magic in the book feels like one of them.

Another element I enjoyed was how everything had a Polish name. Apparently this pulls in from the Polish stories Novik heard as a child. I feel like Eastern Europe does not get any love as the heroines as Fantasy novels even though the Grimm brother’s were German. The linguistics of this book make it feel more like an original Grimm fairytale which heighten the fantasy elements in my opinion.

Read if you enjoy:

-Fairytales

-Magic/Fantasy

-Strong Females Leads

-Linguistics

 

Level of difficulty: Book before bed

 

(More serious than a beach read, not as much concentration as a book on commute)

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Jinkies! The Mystery Machine gang is back… kinda. This second novel by Cantero is an absolute stunner in my opinion. While does borrow somewhat from the set up of Scooby-Doo (“kids” come adults and their human-like dog solving mysteries) this book builds its own universe handily. Since it is a mystery novel, I will try to leave as much mystery in it while still extolling its virtues.

I watch a lot of crime TV and have gotten good at pointing out the killer early on. This book had me off balance the entire time, which I loved, yet everything still seemed believable. I read this after coming off of Robert Galbraith’s (aka JK Rowling’s) book Career of Evil, another incredible mystery installment in the Cormoran Strike series that also had me off balance. Ultimately, though, all the elements of this novel clicked together: the mystery, the crime fighting, the gothic occult, the coming age of age nostalgia.

In many ways the construction of this novel as well as the language is a masterpiece. I found myself wishing many times that I had bought the book instead of checking it out from the library so that I could highlight countless turns of phrase. The relevancy and the sharp-wittedness of the language makes it a real treat to read. More impressive that this is only the authors second novel in the English language.

 

Read if you like

-Scooby Doo…obvs

-Mystery

-Folklore/Occult/Horror

-Coming of Age Nostalgia

 

Level of Difficulty: Read on Your Commute…you are going to really want to give this book your attention. Maybe also don’t read alone at night… 😉

 

Similar Read you might enjoy: As I mentioned above, the Cormoran Strike series will also give you that mystery jolt.

The Perennials by Mandy Berman

I went to camp, and if you went to camp The Perennials will feel very familiar to you. My camp, just like Camp Marigold in the book, was known for riding but was not co-ed. Regardless, the threads of the plot are familiar. The movement from childhood innocence to womanhood as well as the exploration of sexuality (yes, this even happens at an all girls camp). Despite the fact that the camp in the book is co-ed, it’s nice to know even at a co-ed camp the weird competition to hook-up with international male staff still remains strong. Nostalgia rings very strongly in this book, particularly for me due to my connection to being a camp counselor to thirteen year old girls at a riding camp. Nostalgia with a bit more scandal 😉 .

One of the many aspects I enjoyed about this book was the weaving of different plot lines together from different perspectives. I, for one, really enjoy the dramatic irony of knowing something that other characters don’t and watching how the secrets they keep from each other are slowly revealed. For her debut novel, the weaving that Berman does between secrets and perspectives made for an unexpected tale.

I really enjoyed the conclusion of this book because I didn’t the stitching for it. The ending was believable but not predictable. The ending is what I was describe as a “warm hug”. There is substance and leaves you satisfied without being cheesy. So if you want an ending in raging scandal that smacks you in the face, this isn’t that book.

 

Read if you like:

-Coming of age novels

-Reminiscing about your time at camp

-Sociocultural landscape of New York state

 

Level of Difficulty: Book before bed

 

If you like books about camps I also recommend: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani (setting 1930s South)

The Girls by Emma Cline

My first inclination is to say this book was waaaayyyy overhyped. It is a very interesting read but I was expecting for some brain melting awesomeness, and it fell a little of flat of that. That being said, it is a first good novel for Cline.

The story flashes back and forth between the present and the childhood of a woman who got caught up in a Manson style cult. I thought there were many moments of the text that I found really intriguing but Cline didn’t dig into them or flesh them out enough. This book felt too short for me. I think ti was around 300 pages but I honestly would have read a longer book if she had dug more into moments with the cult and the devolution of the family. I don’t know if this is a SPOILER or not but I will give you the chance to skip to the next paragraph here. I really wished that the main character had had to kill Connie.

One thing that really stressed me out about this story what the parental negligence. The way that the main character’s mother treated her made me really physically angry. I think thought that is one of the strengths of the novel too. Parents are people as well, and often far from perfect. They are planets whose children are sucked into their atmosphere and have to deal with the ups and downs, and way downs the parents have as well.

Suggest for people who like:

-Cults

-Macabre stories

-The 1970s

-Coming of age stories

 

Level of difficulty: Read on your commute

Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

This is the second book in the series by the incredible Galbraith (Ms. Rowling). I love Sherlock, Elementary, Bones, Criminal Minds, etc and I never really consider that I would love mystery/detective novels but Cuckoo’s Calling (the first in the series) and Silkworm really have me reconsidering this.

These books have highly complex and well interwoven plots that keep the reader hanging in suspense until the end of the book. After watching so much crime TV I am usually pretty good on figuring out who the murderer is or at least some of the motivations behind it. With Rowling’s books I can never figure them out until the big reveal, which is always a surprise but when the logic is given make absolute sense. All the clues are there over the course of the novel, one just has too keep their eyes open for them.

One way this suspense is accomplished is that the book does not suffer from what we could call “Evil Genius Syndrome” where the characters says, “My evil plot xyz” and goes into every detail of it. Occasionally detective Comoran Strike will say that he has a plan, or has uncovered a new detail but the book will leave it at “Strike told Robin his plan”. It makes the reveal much more dramatic.

In this book we also get more information on Strike and Robin’s backgrounds and family. I am looking forward to see how that pans out in the next books.

Suggested for people who like:

-Joanne Rowling

-Detective novels

-A bit of twisted narrative

-Literature/literary world

 

Level of difficulty: Read on your commute

 

Choke By Chuck Palahniuk

Let me tell you something: every time I read a book by Palahniuk I wonder how could someone come up with such a twisted story. The thing is despite being so twisted, the plot works…every time. Palahniuk sews together such outlandish eyes in a way that you accept them as logic in a very strange universe. Choke had me intrigued slightly off put and shocked. Choke is about a Colonial Theme Park worker who once was on his way to become a doctor and is now sidetracked by an ailing mother. And he is a sex addict.

 

Read if you like:

-Dark/Twisted stories

-Healthcare…kinda

-Mother-son relationships

-Mental illness

 

Level of Difficulty: Read on your commute

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Now I know why there was a Three Month wait for this book at the NYPL. But I also don’t because I read this book in one day. Which, truthfully, isn’t an uncommon accident for me when I have time to spare or something to avoid (looking at you Corporate Finance).

This book is geographically interesting spanning New York, LA, San Francisco, and a bulk happening in good ole Midwestern Cincinnati.

This book is a generous nod to Pride and Prejudice while also being its own story. It took me embarrassingly long to realize who Mr. Wickham was (when you read it, you will see why I am a fool) but for most characters it was easy to discern who was who and who was new early on. Darcy (who I pictured as the Matthew Macfayden Darcy) was less cross than the OG Darcy but still captured that gruffness that the original had.

This book really pushes the gas for intensifying dislikable characters. I hated Mrs. Bennet with a passion, and I loved how dislikable she was. While Mr. Bennet is minimally involved in the OG book, he is annoyingly cavalier in the update. Mr.Wickham, when I finally figured out who he was, makes you want to punch him for Liz (Darcy, was right! she can do so much better). Also Caroline Bingley comes off as a real Regina George.

I always fancied my a Lizzy Bennet (or Liz in this book) but when I took the Sparknotes quiz (http://community.sparknotes.com/2016/12/16/quiz-which-bennet-sister-are-you) I got Jane. Who has more speaking in this production than she does in the original but is still a bit of a wet mop. I didn’t really feel that the plot line with Georgie (Darcy’s sister) was necessary.

Suggested for people with an interest in:

-Family Drama plots

-Reality TV

-Jane Austen or Pride and Prejudice

-Romance 😉

Level of Difficulty: Beach Read

 

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

When I first picked up this book little did I know it was actually a sequel. That being said, it was also completely readable as a stand alone book (however I will be reading the prequel as soon as possible).

Kwan’s book has a fresh and conversational tone with the reader, often breaking the fourth wall with footnotes. This style was reminiscent of the late DFW, although much shorter and playful. Kwan successfully interwove multiple plots in a way that enriched the tale, rather than confused. It showed people with complex and difficult lives who popped up in each other’s lives and still maintained their backstory.

Would recommend this book to someone with an interest in:

-Family Drama plots

-Travel

-Asia or Asian culture

-Reality TV

Level of difficulty: Beach read