My Book Review of Markus Zusak’s, I Am the Messenger

Synopsis:
Protect the diamonds survive the clubs dig deep through the spades feel the hearts Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

My Review – 3 stars
I LOVED the first chapter and would give it 5 stars. I then learned you shouldn’t judge a book by its first chapter ūüėú. After reading chapter one I assumed I would like this book better than The Book Thief, Zusak’s 2005 historical fiction novel which I rated 5 stars.¬†However, I was wrong with my assumption. I Am the Messenger went downhill from there.

Was it because of my high expectations from the get-go? I don’t think that was the only issue. One of the biggest problems for me was Zusak’s writing style. The story had a good premise but his fragmented sentences brought about an affected and grandiose element. It didn’t feel like it was a natural evolution of the plot. If he had been a little less forceful with his writing style the story may have been more enjoyable.

Another problem was the characters. I didn’t like Ed or any of his friends. I find that I need to appreciate at least one character to like a book but I didn’t like any of them. I don’t think it was the lack of character development but a true dislike of the people in the story.

My Favorite Quotes:
“Believe it or not – it takes a lot of love to hate you like this.”

“I’m just another stupid human.”

“That was when the world wasn’t so big and I could see everywhere. It was when my father was a hero and not a human.”

“She soon says, ‘You’re my best friend, Ed.’ ¬†You can kill a man with those words. No gun. No bullets. Just words and a girl.”

“Have you ever noticed that idiots have a lot of friends? It’s just an observation.”

“Big things are often just little things that people notice.”

Final Thoughts:
I was disappointed in this book but I’ll admit it wasn’t my kind of story and the characters were not my kind of people. Zusak’s writing style made it even worse. It’s a shame because I tremendously enjoyed his book,¬†The Book Thief.¬†All in all, I¬†gave this book 3 stars because of its first chapter and its original plot.

My Book Review of Fredrik Backman’s, A Man Called Ove

Synopsis:

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon – the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage¬†of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

My Review – 5 stars

I LOVED this book‚Ě£ÔłŹ It was funny, touching, endearing, sad and “laugh out loud” hilarious. I adored Ove from the start even though he was clearly a “grumpy old man,” albeit only 59. Backman did a phenomenal job developing all the characters, even the neighborhood cat. The cat seemed to be symbolic of Ove’s deceased wife. It made me think the book was heading in a different direction but it remained a simple story with great depth. This book was all about the characters and not so much about the plot. The characters made me want to keep reading. This is one¬†of the few books¬†I wanted to keep reading but for the sake of the journey, not the ending. I wasn’t even curious about the ending.¬†I enjoyed¬†witnessing a re-awakening of Ove’s soul which brought about a tremendous feeling of hope.

My Favorite Quotes:

“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”

“People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”

“Ove had never been asked how he lived before he met her. But if anyone had asked him, he would have answered that he didn’t.”

“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. Memories, perhaps.”

“Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.”

“One finds a way of living for the sake of someone else’s future. And it wasn’t as if Ove also died when Sonja left him. He just stopped living.”

Final Thoughts:
I enjoy books that make me laugh and cry and this was a perfect combination of both.¬† But it¬†wasn’t a sad kind of cry. It was a cry for the heartwarming¬†feelings it brought.¬† This book also made me think more about the value of personal relationships and how some people take for granted the relationships in their life.¬†¬†A Man Called Ove¬†is a must read!

Review of Amy Schumer’s Memoir, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Synopsis:

The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor.  Now, Amy Shumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex, and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul and stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friend – an unforgettable and fun adventure you wish could last forever. ¬†Whether she’s experiencing lust at first sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her boot camp instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller who will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.

Amy Schumer's Memoir, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

My Review – 4 Stars

This book was entertaining and a much needed read after my last two books involving serious and dark topics. ¬†I give The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo 4 stars for Amy’s amazing courage and candidness along with her rawness, humor AND seriousness.

What do I mean by seriousness? ¬†I assumed this book would be 100% funny since she’s a comedian. ¬†However, there were two topics she talked about with great solemnity:

1) Her Father’s battle with Multiple Sclerosis. ¬†You can feel the love she has for her father. ¬†She’s open about his alcoholism and MS and how the MS has crippled him over the past several years. ¬†I like her determination to push her father (even though he doesn’t have it left in him) to see the¬†only doctor in the US who is FDA approved to treat MS patients with stem cells.

2) The theater shooting that occurred in Louisiana during her movie Trainwreck in 2015. ¬†She talks about how heartbroken she was over this and dedicates a chapter to the two women who were killed during the shooting, Mayci and Jillian. ¬†Amy has since become an advocate for sensible ways to stop gun violence. ¬†She’s involved in an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety and even lists the members of Congress who have taken money from and been influenced by the gun lobby (about 65 names).

My favorite quotes:

“Do they think models size 6 and above can’t make it to the end of the runway without stopping midway for a burrito? Enough, enough with these waifish elves walking your impossible clothing down an ugly runway with ugly lighting and noisy music. Life doesn’t look like that runway.”

“On the evolution chart, this guy and I were at opposite ends. I was dragging my knuckles, sniffing around for bananas, throwing my own feces at tourists, and he was a Disney prince but with more sex appeal.”

“First, I’d like to thank all the people who pointed out that I was a woman… You made sure I didn’t lose sight of my ovaries. Thank you. Without your constant reminders, I may have just forgotten my uterus on a crosstown bus, but you guys made me perpetually aware that I bleed once a month and I can tell a joke!”

“Women are always expected to be the gracious hostess, quick with an anecdote and a sprinkling of laughter at other stories. We are basically unpaid geishas. But when we do not fulfill these expectations, people assume we must be either depressed or a c**t. Maybe I’m a c**t anyway, but it’s not because I don’t want to blink and smile at someone as they tell me they ran cross-country in middle school.”

“My favorite people in the world still give me shit and treat me like the Long Island trash receptacle that I am.”

“I have been skydiving but I didn’t like it because you have to JUMP OUT OF A FUCKING AIRPLANE.”

Final Thoughts:

There are so many things I loved about this book:

I laughed out loud a lot such as when she shared her diary excerpts from when she was a teenager. They were entertaining especially since Amy added footnotes in 2016 in response to her teenage self.

I loved her courage to share the stories of her childhood even if they didn’t put her or the members of her family in the best light. ¬†I especially enjoyed hearing about her relationship with her sister, who she is still very close with.

Above all, I loved that she was able to show a more serious side and how she has such a big heart.  The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo has made me an even bigger Amy Schumer fan.

My Review of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings

Synopsis:

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees, a #1 New York Times bestselling novel about two unforgettable American women.

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. ¬†The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. ¬†We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. ¬†Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

My Review – 4.5 stars:

Why did I wait so long to read this book? ¬†Once again, Sue Monk Kidd’s lovely prose is like no other. ¬†She has an interesting way of telling a story and bringing all the fine details together. ¬†The parallel yet intertwined stories of Sarah and Hetty were captivating.

Sarah had limitations imposed upon her from a young age. She wanted to be a lawyer just like her father yet could not pursue her dreams since she was a woman.  I enjoyed the relationship she had with her father and her brother, Thomas, but I found myself a bit irritated over their cowardice.

Sarah and her sister, Nina, were anything but cowards.  I have never been a history buff but enjoy learning about it through a fictional story.  I was happy to hear Sarah and Angelina Grimke were true abolitionist women but disappointed that I had never heard of them until I read this book.

Hetty had limitations imposed on her from a young age since she was a third generation slave. ¬†I enjoyed the relationship she had with her mother, Charlotte, and the strength and perseverance she learned from her. ¬†Her life was similar to Sarah’s in that she had no freedom to pursue her dream which was as simple as being free to live her OWN life.

Favorite Quotes:

“To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil.”

“If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.”

“My body might be a slave, but not my mind. ¬†For you, it’s the other way round.”

“I saw then what I hadn’t seen before, that I was very good at despising slavery in the abstract, in the removed and anonymous masses, but in the concrete, intimate flesh of the girl beside me, I’d lost the ability to be repulsed by it. ¬†I’d grown comfortable with the particulars of evil. ¬†There’s a frightful muteness that dwells at the center of all unspeakable things, and I had found my way into it.”

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you should know where you came from.”

“You got to figure out which end of the needle you’re gon be, the one that’s fastened to the thread or the end that pierces the cloth.”

“How could I choose someone who would force me to give up my own small reach for meaning? ¬†I chose myself, and without consolation.”

“She was braver than I, she always had been. ¬†I cared too much for the opinions of others, she cared not a whit. ¬†I was cautious, she was brash. ¬†I was a thinker, she was a doer. ¬†I kindled fires, she spread them. ¬†And right then and ever after, I saw how cunning the Fates had been. ¬†Nina was one wing, I was the other.

Final Thoughts:

Sue Monk Kidd did a great job portraying the evils and reality of slavery so this book had many sections that were painful to read. At the same time, it was a well knit story with rich character development so well worth the emotional turmoil.  I would highly recommend it.

Review of Bryn Greenwood’s All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Synopsis:

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. ¬†It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. ¬†Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. ¬†Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night when her stargazing causes an accident. ¬†After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. ¬†When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world.

A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

My Review – 4 stars:

Wow! ¬†This book was quite ugly AND wonderful. ¬†I wanted to rate it a 1 in some parts and a 5 in others. ¬†I had a hard time getting through the graphic parts most likely because I have a 10 year old daughter. ¬†Though I loved Wavy’s character, I will admit the relationship between her and Kellen grossed me out when things started getting more intense. ¬†I probably would not have finished the book if the plot hadn’t thickened right about that time. ¬†I was then eager to finish it. ¬†I’m glad I did because it felt less “icky” in the end.

Greenwood did a great job developing the characters in the first half and the plot became more intense in the second half. ¬†There was a gamut of emotions that ran through me – sadness, anger, hope, happiness, disgust, discomfort, denial. ¬†At one point I was questioning Wavy and Kellen’s kisses. ¬†They couldn’t be romantic kisses, right? ¬†It’s probably more like a father and daughter. ¬†That’s what went through my head. ¬†I think the author was purposefully a little vague here.

Favorite Quotes:

“Summer had so many tricks. ¬†The nights lasted longer than the days, even though the angle of the Earth’s axis meant that was impossible. ¬†The night couldn’t be longer, but summer made it seem that way. ¬†Summer sneaked time for me, taking a minute from February, three minutes from English class in March, ten whole minutes from a boring Thursday in April. ¬†Summer stole time to give me another hour under the stars with Kellen.”

“Feeling dead was better than when my heart hurt. ¬†Sometimes I thought it might burn through my ribs while I was asleep, and smolder in the sheets until the whole house caught fire.”

“I liked learning things. ¬†How numbers worked together to explain the stars. ¬†How molecules made the world. ¬†All the ugly and wonderful things people had done in the last two thousand years.”

“‘I was selfish to wish for you,’ I said. ¬†All I’d ever thought about was how much I wanted him. ¬†Needed him. ¬†I never thought of what it would mean for him.”

“The crying kept getting louder and louder, until it was hard to listen to. ¬†You can look up the word keening¬†in the dictionary, but you don’t know what it means until you hear somebody having her heart ripped out.”

Final Thoughts:

I can understand why someone would not want to read this book, especially if they have a young daughter. ¬†However, it is a beautifully written story and not just because it’s a love story. ¬†I was more intrigued with Wavy’s circumstances and her ability to manage herself since a young age. ¬†This was where it was nice to see Kellen come into the picture as someone to watch over her since her parents were not doing so. ¬†Part of the synopsis describes this perfectly, “what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world.”

Review of Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty

Synopsis:¬†Six responsible adults. ¬†Three cute kids. ¬†One small dog. ¬†It’s just a normal weekend. ¬†What could possibly go wrong? Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. ¬†If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other. ¬†Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. ¬†A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. ¬†But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. ¬†Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite. ¬†Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone? In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. ¬†She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

My Review:  3.5 Stars

Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite authors due to her unique stories and relatable characters. ¬†However, her latest book,¬†Truly Madly Guilty, is one of my least favorites. ¬†It wasn’t until about halfway through the book the story drew me in which is also about the time the tragedy was revealed. ¬†I then became a bit depressed in thinking how this tragic event could happen to any of us when least expected.

I was intrigued by two relationships:

1) Erika and Clementine – long time friends but not mutually valued. ¬†It made me think about the impact of a parent’s opinion on a child’s relationship. ¬†Is this a good thing or bad thing? ¬†For Erika, it got her through childhood. ¬†Clementine, on the other hand,¬†resented her mother for pushing her into the friendship. ¬†In the end, their friendship was a necessary part of their life journey and it became significant to both.

2) Clementine and Sam – spouses struggling with their marriage after a tragic event. ¬†It made me think about the importance of communication in a marriage but also how it’s natural for one of the spouses to shut down. ¬†This is a very realistic occurrence and shows how easily divorces can happen from single events.

My favorite quotes:

“It was interesting that fury and fear could look so much the same.”

“So, this is how it happens, a part of her thought as she rocked and begged. ¬†This is what it feels like. ¬†You don’t change. ¬†There is no special protection when you cross that invisible line from your ordinary life to that parallel world where tragedies happen. ¬†It happens just like this. ¬†You don’t become someone else. ¬†You’re still exactly the same. ¬†Everything around you still smells and looks and feels exactly the same.

“Everybody wants the babies…The cute little babies. ¬†But what they really need is foster parents for the older kids. ¬†The angry ones. ¬†The broken ones.”

Final thoughts:

Though not my favorite of Moriarty’s, Truly Madly Guilty should be read due to the life lesson involved. ¬†I highly¬†recommend Liane Moriarty’s books,¬†What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies.