Open Book by Jessica Simpson || Book Review

“I kept a promise I made to myself a little over a year before to show up in my own life. To feel things, whether they were the result of bad memories, or good ones in the making.”

It is easy to write Jessica Simpson off as a ditzy blonde, and while in some cases this may be true, her memoir painted a clear picture of her as someone who is incredibly resilient. I typically enjoy celebrity memoirs, and this one was no different. In memoirs, you get to pick and choose the stories that you share with your readers so you have the opportunity to leave out anything that would make you unappealing. 

Simpson chose the perfect title for her memoir: Open Book. Let’s all be honest with ourselves – Could we write a book airing out all of our dirty laundry and come out of it in the end even more likeable? Because that’s entirely what she was able to do. I never followed her love story with Nick Lachey, John Mayer or Tony Romo. Do I believe that there are two sides to every story? Absolutely. But the way she defined her relationships didn’t exactly seem one-sided (except in the John Mayer case, but man he seems like a jerk.)

The most remarkable portion of this memoir, to me, were the stories about Jessica’s cousin, Sarah. In 1996, her older cousin Sarah was killed in a car crash. Her cousin was one of her best friends, and it was devastating to Jessica. Sarah kept journals of her thoughts, feelings and prayers for other people. Honestly, I cried through the various sections of the memoir that were about Sarah – It felt emotional and raw, and it was the most memorable piece of those story.

“It was a powerful lesson in creating a legacy by choosing your words with intention. We are on this earth such a short time, cruelly short in Sarah’s case. What message did I want to leave behind?”

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han || Book Review

Release Date: May 26, 2015

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary

Synopsis: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Timesbestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Thoughts and Feelings: If you are looking for a fluffy, lovey-dovey young adult Sunday afternoon read while your boyfriend is watching football, you’ve found your book.

In the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we find ourselves back in the lives of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. However this time, we fully welcome to the story: John Ambrose McClaren. I think I’m in the minority, but I love John. I love how he writes Lara Jean back, even though its been months since the original letter was sent. Maybe its the romantic in me, but I love handwritten letters!

P.S. I Still Love You seemed to flow seamlessly from the first novel in the series which was quite incredible. It almost felt as if they were truly written as one novel and then split up to create two separate novels (and maybe the third book will be the same!!)

I also more than appreciate the fact that Lara Jean has taken her time to grow up. She is not trying to rush into adulthood. She values herself and her body — and she begins to stand up for herself. I love the juxtaposition of Lara Jean and her younger sister, Kitty. To see her grow as her younger sister grows shows the truly remarkable relationship between the Covey sisters.

Peter and Lara Jean are fine. They’re cute — It’s a lovely high school relationship. I look forward to seeing if they last in book #3 (I’m still rooting for McClaren 😉 )

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Library Book by Susan Orlean || Book Review

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Release date: October 16, 2018

Publisher: Simon Schuster

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Premise: On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever. Continue reading

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Release date: May 24, 2012

Publisher: Broadway Books

Genre: Fiction/Thriller

Premise: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Thoughts + Feelings: I did it. I finally freaking did it. I finished Gone GirlI went into Gone Girl with way too high of expectations. Everyone, everywhere, told me how incredible of a book it was, so my expectations were through the roof.

I’d like to clarify: I really enjoyed this book. I was expecting a fast-paced thriller mystery novel, but what I found was a slow-burning psychological thriller.

Amy Dunne. Amazing Amy. She is such a unique character. Portrayed in one sense, and they portrayed at the same time from a completely different perspective. Gillian Flynn is an incredible writer and artistic soul. There are so many twists and turns; complicated characters with bold, outrageous story lines. You find yourself rooting for Amy and Nick. After all, it’s their fifth wedding anniversary and they are going through some hard times. You make guess after guess of what you think is going to happen next… and guess what… you are wrong.

I’m going to be honest – I hated the ending to this book. My initial reaction to this book was “WTF?!?!”  It fit the bill of what looked like was supposed to happen, but I wanted so much more for the characters. They’re crazy. Nick Dunne and Amy Dunne are absolutely maniacs. They ultimately deserve each other, which is sick and twisted. I have such conflicting feelings about Gone Girl. I wanted to love it like all of my friends, but I am just struggling to love it. The writing was dark and twisted – I love myself some dark & twisted. But this took it to a whole separate level.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

ARC Review: Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of Outrun the Wind.

Release date: November 27, 2018

Publisher: Flux

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult

Premise: The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength, even while her prophetic powers linger. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.

To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia— where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina. As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’ second rule.

She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors willing to tempt fate to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.

Thoughts + Feelings: As a reader who knows very little (okay nothing) about Greek Mythology, I found the beginning part of this book to be challenging as I felt that I needed to know a lot of background information. I took it upon myself to do a bit of basic research into mythology to at least try to better understand the characters and where they came from. As a new reader into this topic, I wasn’t sure if these were pre-established characters from former pieces OR if they were brand-spanking new into the Greek world. As it turns out, Elizabeth Tammi writes an authors note in the end of the novel explaining many of the first and last questions that I had about a fantasy Greek mythological novel (how exciting!!)

Other than the beginning frustration of not knowing enough about Greek mythology to grasp the book, I really enjoyed the story of Atalanta and Kahina. The writing style was easy-going, but sometimes a challenge to follow. In the beginning there was a huge distinction between characters voices; however, somewhere around the middle Kahina and Atalanta’s voices started to become intertwined and I had to flip back several pages to figure out who was speaking. It’s a possibility that this was on purpose, but nonetheless it happened.

I loved the bad-ass driven women of Outrun the Wind. In a male dominated world, these characters are so strong and distinguished. There is Artemis, Atalanta, Kahina, Isidora and Nikoleta. They’re powerful and honest – they create this feeling of sisterhood. Each is special and unique in their own way and as the reader you root for them to succeed.

“But nobody can beat fate – not even her. Nobody can outrun the wind.”

While the female/female romance is in the book, it is not an overwhelming feature. There is a fair share of friendships, trust, love and honesty throughout Outrun the Wind.

This is Elizabeth Tammi’s debut novel and I am hooked as a fan. Due to her crafty writing, I will be delving more into the fantasy novel world and I look forward to seeing what she publishes next.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Review: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Release date: March 28, 2017

Publisher: HarperTeen

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult

Premise: You probably think that Aled Last and I are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and I am a girl.

I just wanted to say—we don’t.

Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying. When she’s not studying, she’s up in her room making fan art for her favorite podcast, Universe City.

Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As. But no one knows he’s the creator of Universe City, who goes by the name Radio Silence.

When Frances gets a message from Radio Silence asking if she’ll collaborate with him, everything changes. Frances and Aled spend an entire summer working together and becoming best friends. They get each other when no one else does.

But when Aled’s identity as Radio Silence is revealed, Frances fears that the future of Universe City—and their friendship—is at risk. Aled helped her find her voice. Without him, will she have the courage to show the world who she really is? Or will she be met with radio silence?

Thoughts + Feelings: I’ve started doing this thing where I don’t read the summary of books before I pick them up to read them. I honestly found Radio Silence at the library because I thought the cover was really pretty. Luckily, I picked a winner when I found this beautiful novel by Alice Oseman.

There is something special about how Radio Silence was written. It touches on so many issues that many young adult books (and other contemporary novels) won’t go anywhere near.

True Diversity

The first aspect that I loved about Radio Silence was how there was no cookie-cutter characters. In a once quiet world where being diverse was bad, Alice Oseman brought forward sexual identities that I had to go research because I had zero understanding of what they were. She brought in immigrants, locals, bi-racial individuals to show us that it is possible to live a life where there is diversity around you.

  • Frances is biracial (British + Ethiopian) and bisexual
  • Aled is demisexual
  • Daniel is gay and a South Korean immigrant
  • Carys is a lesbian

Platonic Friendship

The relationship between Frances and Aled was beautiful. We read so many books where the only type of relationship is romantic, and platonic friendship doesn’t exist. (At least that’s the kind of books that I’ve read). I felt at ease reading about Aled and Frances, as they discovered how similar they were through their interest in strange clothing and Universe City. 

“And I’m platonically in love with you.”
“That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

They shared the type of friendship you look for in the people around you. The friend that will help you find your voice – the friend who will look after you in the bar. It’s the person who understands what you want and need in every day life.

Education

We live in a world where there is so much pressure on young people to graduate from high school and go straight into university. You need to graduate in 4 (+/- 1) years and get a full-time job. Maybe you’ll go straight to law school or medical school. In our society, it is expected that you’ll get a degree that is useful to a career. In my own little world, there was never an option to go a different route (not that I had ever considered not going to college — but you see, it was an expectation). I went to university and graduated in three and a half years with 2 degrees. I worked for six months until I started graduate school and then… I fell into a weird abyss for a while. This was my first step away from the expectations of society. And for the first half of the year, it felt awful. I felt like I was letting myself down and that was I wasn’t living up to my own expectations (aka the expectations put on me by society). But once I adjusted to working 3-4 jobs on a regular basis and corrected my thinking to realize that everyone has different paths in life, I became happy (and tired) with my life.

“I was going to be happy. Wasn’t I? I was. Uni, job, money, happiness. That’s what you do. That’s the formula. Everyone knows that. I knew that.”

Radio Silence served as a reminder that you have choices in your own every day life, and those are the choices that you have to live with. It’s okay to not be entirely sure what you want to do with your entire life, but you have to find things you love and stick with them. It’s okay to say no to people and figure out your own life.

This book made me feel good… after it beat me down. Sometimes it is hard to take a look at your own reality and leave all the other B.S. out of it. Forget about the internet, about twitter and Reddit. Remember to take a look at your own life and preferences before attacking someone else – be good to others and remember that we’re all just human.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐