GOAL!

Let me tell you this… I don’t know the first thing about soccer. This whole World Cup business just goes right over my head! But I know A LOT about goals. My profession requires that I write short term and long term goals for every patient upon each encounter, and document their progress. And for myself, I’ve learned the value of setting personal goals, and the satisfaction in meeting them. Most of my goals have been financial; I wanted to pay off all credit card debt before I turned 30, I wanted to pay off my car a year early, I wanted to buy a house before I was 32. I have accomplished all of those goals! And now, I have reached another goal, my 31st book review of the year! That was the goal when starting my blog last September. 31 reviews after turning 31. And I’m a few months ahead of my deadline, which means plenty of time for more reading!

Book #31- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, By Gabrielle Zevin 

AJ Fikry Rating: 4– Would recommend to a friend

Synopsis: A.J. Fikry is the owner of Island Books. He is  a particular man with particular tastes in literature. He is not great with the customers in his store; his wife was always better at that, but she died in an accident and A.J. can’t seem to move on from her memory. His sister-in-law, Ismay, is a big help when it comes to keeping his head above water. She is married to Daniel, an author with a wandering eye. This is A.J.’s worlds until a series of strange events occurs, leading to a toddler abandoned in the bookstore. A.J. sees this as a sign to turn his life around and adopts the girl. Maya becomes a staple in the store and changes A.J.’s life in every way.

My Impressions: The perfect way to reach my goal was a book about books! The style of story telling that carries the plot along is for each part to begin with a book description. It is as if A.J. is telling the story of his life and his memories through the books that he has read. He is sharing his literary legacy with his daughter, Maya. I found it a little hard to connect with A.J. as a character in the first few chapters. His voice is stiff, but I think that is an intentional trait. As Maya becomes a bigger part of his life and he opens up to the community more, he becomes a much more relatable, likable character.

The character of Maya is delightful from the start. The inner thoughts expressed for her are perfect at every age and her charm comes through every word. It’s very easy to see how she was able to soften A.J. and basically wrap the town around her finger. The other secondary characters are well written, but poorly described early on, so the way I imagined them was negated later as more details were revealed.

Why you should read it: It was a sweet story with a different set a twists that were unexpected and intriguing. It was a quick read and would be a great way to kick off your summer reading list!

Read if you liked: Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan), Matilda (Roald Dahl), Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)

Book #31 in the bag! Goal= Met!

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” ― Stephen King

YA not?

It seems like the YA genre is getting a lot of heat lately. Thanks to John Green and The Fault in Our Stars, the spotlight is on YA novels turned film, but the scrutiny is on the value of these books in the adult literary world and whether we should spend vs. waste our time with them.  So for everyone judging adults reading from the YA section of the bookstore, let me ask, what defines a YA book?

Probably the first answer is a teenaged protagonist. Then, subject matter relating to adolescence.  Occasionally, there is some element of fantasy, though not required. And more often than not, these books arrive in series. Let’s explore: Twilight, Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Hunger Games.  Wildly popularized by their movie buzz, but still marketed as YA.

But if we follow that set of rules, it could also be argued that books like Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie are also YA novels. And I’m sure no one would tell you to feel embarrassed about reading that. I’m firmly in the camp of read whatever you want! If you are a kid who only wants to read comic books, a teen who only wants to read magazines, or an adult who only wants to read blogs; I’m all for reading anything that informs, enriches and enlightens your world. I’m the kid who read every word on my activity placemat at diners, practically memorized the signs in the aisles of the grocery store and tried to pronounce all the vitamins and minerals hiding in my cereal. Why? Because reading is good for and it’s more fun than staring into space while you wait. Thats why I’m the adult who carries reading materials everywhere and measures my purse to my Kindle before buying. My point: never feel ashamed of your reading material! You’re already one-up on the person playing candy quest on their phone!

Instead of my normal review format, here is a list of YA novels I’ve read recently that are totally worth reading as an adult:

1) The Fault in Our Stars, John Green 

fault in our stars Hazel and Augustus meet in a support group for kids with cancer. They bond over their shared fates and as they become close, they share their favorite books with each other. Hazel’s book has an unsatisfying ending, and they decide to pursue the author together to ask for further closure of the story.  It’s rather like reading the plot of a Shakespeare play in modern times.

2) The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

book thief Set in WWII Germany, the story is narrated by Death who becomes intrigued by Liesel when he sees her steal a book at the site of her brothers grave. Death follows her story as she is taken in by foster parents, learns to read, and steals books from Nazi book burnings and affluent community members. The story is beautifully descriptive and gives unique insight into being a German citizen during the Nazi reign.

3) Reconstructing Amelia, Kimberly McCreight

Amelia Kate is a single mom, doing her best to raise her daughter well, but she works hard as a lawyer in a competitive firm and isn’t as on top of things as she may think. When she gets a call to inform her that her daughter jumped from the roof of the school, she is in utter disbelief. Then she starts receiving mysterious messages indicating that Amelia’s death wasn’t suicide after all. Kate investigates the remains of daughter’s life to uncover the truth. A bit like an episode of CSI, this story offers insight into high school social media and the privilege of affluence.

4) If I Stay, Where She Went, Gayle Forman

if i staywhere she went If I Stay tells the story of Mia who is alone in the world after a horrible car accident takes her family from her. She is hurt badly and while her body lies in the hospital, her consciousness roams amongst her friends and grandparents gaining a different perspective of the situation. It becomes clear that she has a choice to stay with them or to join her family…  Where She Went tells the story of Adam, Mia’s boyfriend and his life after Mia. At the time of the accident, Adam’s band was gaining ground in Portland and Seattle and since then, they’ve reached super-stardom.  While I enjoyed the first book better for the interesting perspective, I appreciated the closure of the follow-up.

5) The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau

ember Ember is a city created by “the builders” with a specific infrastructure and community plan to save its inhabitants from the dangerous conditions occurring on the surface of the Earth. The city was supplied for 200 years, but 40 after they were due to exit, Ember’s people are running out of supplies. When they are assigned their jobs, Lina and Doon become suspicious of the city’s ability to survive and discover a way to save the people of Ember. This post-apocalyptic fantasy proposes an interesting means of survival and renaissance.

 

Those are just a few suggestions to get you started, all coming with my recommendation for personal enrichment, book club discussions and side-by-side reading with your favorite 13-17 year-old!

 

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” ― C.S. Lewis

Only You

I’m nearing my goal of 31 book reviews. It’s been a very interesting project to get my blog up and running, generate interest and traffic and learn the ins and outs of publishing my opinions on the internet. I’ve had a ton of fun doing it! And as a personal challenge, it’s been great to step outside of my normal book choices and really enjoy some stories I may not have tried otherwise. I appreciate all of the comments and suggestions- here and on Twitter. And while I won’t be reading any zombie-versus-alien-apocalypse series any time soon (despite unrelenting suggestions from my friend Martin), I have gotten to know many new authors with other titles that I can’t wait to read. So while I’m working on book #31 (and 32 on audiobook), I’m also working on my next goal for the blog. In the meantime, check out this weeks title.

Book #30 The One and Only, Emily Giffin

one and only Rating: 3- It was a good book.

Synopsis: Shea and Lucy are lifelong BFFs. Shea’s mom and Lucy’s mom and also BFF. Lucy’s dad is the football coach for Walker University, and Shea is possibly Walker’s biggest football fan. When Lucy’s mom dies from a long battle with cancer, their little family is rocked. Lucy turns her grief on Shea, criticizing her life choices from dead end job to pot head boyfriend. Coach gets in on the action, with a little more subtlety, buy giving Shea a pep talk and a contact for a job interview. He also advises her to stop wasting her time with the lame boyfriend. She has always looked up to Coach, so she readily takes his advice. She also follows Lucy’s instructions to keep an eye on Coach and help him in his grieving, since the two have a special bond over football.

Shea takes all of their advice; getting a job as a sports reporter covering Walker, stepping up her dating game in a relationship with a pro football quarterback, and spending more time with Coach. But as they spend more time together, Shea realizes that all her years of hero-worship have turned into a bit of a crush! And she begins to feel as if the feelings may be reciprocated… But how could they? And how would she tell her best friend that she is in love with her father?

My Impressions: I most definitely think that the author has written a very real female character here. Shea is both strong and vulnerable, self-aware and insecure and we meet her at place in her life where she searching for her grown-up identity.  The life struggles she faces are terribly relatable, and the moral challenges she encounters present choices that could change her life entirely. Her friendship with Lucy, as close as sisters, plays out just that way; no matter what is said or done, it’s forgiven and/or appreciated for it’s good intentions. I also liked the development of her relationships with her mother and father, separately, and the alteration of what she believes to be true about them. I think most adults have that happen in their lives at some point, and it either strengthens or separates a bond with parents. But then the story gets a little weird for me… I guess age doesn’t really play a huge part in relationships anymore, much like it didn’t in the era of Jane Austen. But Shea’s relationship with Coach is the one that I don’t find realistic and honest throughout the book. And it’s all a little George Michael- Father Figure for me!

Why you should read it: If you are a fan of Emily Giffin from her past books, you may find this book a bit of a departure from her usual stories, but consistent with her style. It’s still chick-lit, but not the traditional story line.

Read if you liked: Love the One You’re With (Emily Giffin), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Friday Night Lights (H.G. Bissinger)

Book # 30 in the bag

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” ― Jane Austen