Books

Lily’s Literature #19

What is there to do in the winter besides curl up and read? Not a lot. Reading doesn’t add any additional calories to our already bloated holiday bodies. It doesn’t harm our precious little brains with wifi signals or cause our eyes to glaze over like all the Oscar nominated movies like to do. It just is. And that’s good.

I really tried hard to like Nick Cave’s book, And the Ass Saw the Angel. I really frickin’ did. Nick Cave has this coolness about him where people feel like the need to like him and accept anything he creates. Or at least I feel that way.9780141045610

The world that Cave brings to life is unlike any other that my mind has encountered. I tried to find reference when I was reading, wanting desperately to compare it to something familiar, but I couldn’t find a match. It was just too bizarre. The story begins with Euchrid Eucrow, a sad sack born to even sadder sacks of parents. Surrounded by inbred, bible thumping townsfolk, Euchrid is left alienated and survives as best he can. A mixture of visions, wild animals, and prostitutes turn his world upside down and ends up giving him purpose.

I spent most of my time trying to make sense of what I was reading. I was slightly disturbed, but mostly confused. I do have to commend Cave on his writing–beautifully crafted and descriptive. Barely comprehensible southern accents dotted the pages which was entertaining, but didn’t do anything to aid my understanding of the novel.

After that I read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. You don’t even have to say it. I know. How has it taken me this long to read The Kite Runner? For some reason I just ignored it’s huge success and read other things. Granted, I believe I was in college when it was at the height of it’s popularity. I wasn’t much of a reader during college, what with having to study and write papers at 4am. But now I’m making up for lost time. 9781594480003_p0_v3_s260x420

For those of you who haven’t read this glorious work, Hosseini’s novel takes place in Afghanistan in the 1970’s. The protagonist, Amir grows up in a wealthy home with his father and hazara (servant) and their hazara’s son who also serves as a playmate for Amir. Desperately longing for his father’s approval, Amir demolishes anyone and anything that would deter the love he would receive from the man he looks up to. Through severe twists of fate, Amir is dealt a harsh hand that forces him to choose between his father and friendship.

I ate this book up and wanted more afterwards. It was so heartbreaking and emotional. I was so involved with Amir’s life journey and choices. Feeling bad for him one moment and hating him the next. Hosseini has a way with words where he makes the reader do as little work as possible. He lays it all out in a beautiful way and in turn, you’re left with a vivid picture to soak up. I’ve forced most of my family and friends to pick this up if they haven’t already.

Most recently, I read a book that would normally be outside of my comfort zone. A science fiction novel written by new author, Chad Ganske. I’m always a bit nervous before delving into new worlds that I may or may not understand. However, there is no reason to be scared of Idyllic Avenue51LJBv1RSOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Set on the Utopian planet, Ultim, mutant Stanford Samuels is trying to persevere as best he can. The only way he and his arranged wife, Sarah, can guarantee their safety and ultimately continue living is if they procreate a perfect child to aid the re-population of a sustainable bio-dome. With the help of robot aids, genetically defectless allies, and a mutant army, Stanford has to take a stand against everything he has ever known.

Idyllic Avenue is a great intro into what the world knows as classic sci-fi. There are definitely similar elements of other Utopian societies such as Winston’s watched-over world in Orwell’s 1984, and also parts of Lowry’s inescapable, role-dependent dome in The Giver. The mutant vs. perfect element reminded me of a science fiction book that I recently reviewed, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. That being said, Ganske’s novel is very much it’s own story and quite unique. His character, Stanford is relatable and realistic in his thought process and relationships with those around him. The setting of the novel seems intimidating, but it’s really no more complex than the previously mentioned books. To write a book comparable to some of the greats is quite a feat. If you are interested in a concise, well-written novel, I would suggest this read.

Have you read anything of worth lately?

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Books

Lily’s Literature #18

I am now ashamed at the rate I read books. I used to cruise through novels (well, compared to people who don’t read at all) and now I hardly have time to read a chapter a day. The struggle is real.

I picked up the book Where’d You Go, Bernadette? a while ago simply based on the cover. This decision-making tactic is usually followed by regret and remorse. This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised.

The author, Maria Semple, tells Bernadette’s story through both Bernadette herself, and her daughter, Bee. Bernadette is a washed up architectural genius of sorts that has given up her passion and dream to living in a stuffy Seattle suburb with her Microsoft CEO of a husband. Because Bee excelled in school, her parents promised her that she could choose any reward she wanted. In turn, Bee decided a trip to Antarctica was a suitable present. That’s when the drama starts to erupt from Bernadette’s life and begins to spill onto those around her.41HGJKFdW3L

To be honest, the book was slightly cheesy. It’s one of those books like, The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion) or Me Before You (Jojo Moyes) that will definitely make a great chick flick. I really loved the character development and back stories but I didn’t really like the characters themselves.

After that I picked up The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I wanted to give this one a try because I really liked reading The Maltese Falcon in high school. But I also wanted to give this one a try because it was only $5.

The story follows old-school detective Phillip Marlowe into a troublesome case involving a dying millionaire and his two cheeky daughters who have been blackmailed. Marlowe finds himself in a tangled web of liars, cheats, and addicts all trying to get the upper hand.2052

That’s probably the worst, most vague description, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much of what I read. I was confused for the majority of the book. I don’t know why, but I had trouble following the characters and keeping track of who was who and what they all did. It’s not a very big book, but I still managed to get lost. I should probably just watch the movie.

After those two less than spectacular books, I’m happy to say that I picked up a good one. Well, my friend picked it out for me. That’s the beauty of book clubs, my friends.

The book City of Thieves by David Benioff (who has a really cute author photo, btw) is a story told about David’s grandfather during the German occupation in Leningrad. The somewhat short book takes the reader on an exciting journey through Russia during a horrifying time. Yet it also has the upbeat and often funny outlook that teenage boys tend to have. At the time, Benioff’s grandfather, Lev, was only 17. Through some very odd events Lev was paired up with the unlikely companion of an army deserter and forced to go on a daunting task in order to save his life.81i8JgTuWUL

A couple chapters in I was very unsure about how I liked the story. There were a lot of Russian names and events that kept flying over my head that I couldn’t keep straight. However, once I really delved in, I thoroughly enjoyed it. A fast, sweet, and rewarding read. It also teaches you something about the war as well. Always a bonus.

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Books

Lily’s Literature #17

It’s been a while. I’ve been trying to get my reading in despite life’s little distractions. Good distractions, but still. I’ve set a higher reading goal for myself this year compared to last year’s goal of 25 books by the end of the year. This year I was aiming for 30, but I’m only at 19 so far. I say “only” because last year I read 31. But last year I also had no job, no money, and you guessed it, no life. But now I have all of those things but not as many books read. Why am I still talking about this? Moving on…

So I finally read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Despite the thinness of the novel, it took me 5ever (longer than 4ever) to finish it. At first I was really immersed in the book. The writing is beautiful. Actually, that’s an understatement. The writing is some of the best I’ve read. The characters are well-developed and smart. Nabokov’s writing makes you feel witty and perfectly educated. lolita

His character Humbert Humbert is so likable and charismatic that you don’t really mind his thoughts about a 14 year old girl until you actually step back from the book and think about it. And then you realize that Humbert’s thinking is so realistic that only a child-obsessed brain could write these words and perfectly pin-point these observations. Kind of gross.

I was quite bored during a lot of the story. It started out strong for me and then quickly went downhill. I trudged through it and I’m glad to say that I did. Would I read Lolita again? No. Do I appreciate the story for what it is? Sure.

After that I read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. This book is very original and was definitely a breath of fresh air for me. The story is split between two juxtaposing lives. One being, Nao, a suicidal girl who lives in Japan and wrote a diary explaining her sad and sorry life circumstances. The other, Ruth, a married woman living on one of the small islands surrounding Vancouver. She finds Nao’s journal washed up on shore and becomes engulfed in the girl’s tale.15811545

I have to give extreme props for originality with this one. I really liked the two settings. I learned a lot about ancient and modern Japanese culture yet I could relate to the depictions of Pacific Northwest island life. It was a cool mix that ended up working well. However, I did feel like there were some lulls in the story, but I remained interested because it felt very real.

And most recently I finished another Gillian Flynn book, Dark Places. This one was perhaps my least favorite of Flynn’s three novels. It just seemed kind of rushed and messy. Don’t get me wrong, it made sense, but I just didn’t connect with any of the characters or feel invested in what was going on. It was still an exciting read, but I liked Gone Girl and Sharp Objects slightly better.dark-places-cover-w352

In Dark Places, we meet Libby Day, a survivor of the brutal murders of her mother and two sisters one night in their family home. Her brother, Ben, has been locked away for 25 years accused as the murderer. Libby gathers new information about her family’s untimely deaths and learns that Ben may not be the one who killed her mother and sisters after all.

In all of her books, Flynn tries to throw the audience for a loop in a betcha-didn’t-see-that-one-comin’ kind of way. There is definitely a good element of surprise, a lot of suspicious characters, and a few red herrings, that keep the reader guessing. It’s a fun, easy read to take your mind off of the normalcy of every day life.

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Books

Lily’s Literature #16

Ahh sweet summer time. Reading is one of my favorite things to do during these warm months (and cold months…well, any month really). I have some good reads to update you on so let’s dive in, shall we?

So far this year, my favorite book that I’ve read has been Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell. It’s so packed with juicy scenes, drama, and interesting characters that I couldn’t stop reading it. I would highly suggest this read for both men and women. It was also featured in Oprah’s book club, but that might be a deterrent for some folks.Back-Roads

Back Roads is about a 19-year-old guy named Harley who’s stuck raising his three younger sisters in the back roads of Pennsylvania after their mom was sent to prison for shooting their father. Harley works two jobs in order to care for his siblings and their needs. An unconventional love interest walks into Harley’s life and things get too complicated to bare.

I looooved this book. I think I might have loved it because there were a lot of sex scenes. Tee hee. But still, I thought the story was so captivating and chillingly realistic.

After that I picked up The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver which is a pretty thick read with not much pay off. I expected a lot from this one, but it didn’t keep me coming back for more. Poisonwood_Bible

The story follows a family of Southern Baptists into the jungles of the Congo to preach the word of God to the people of Africa. The father, a preacher is too absorbed in self-righteousness to recognize the wants and needs of his family. He has four daughters and a wife that follow his lead and eventually, break away and evolve into the people that they always knew they were.

The aspect of the novel that I liked best was that it was written in the voices of the preacher’s daughters and wife. Each chapter featured a daughter’s insight and all of them were distinctly different, even the two girls who were meant to be twins.  Other than that I felt like it dragged a lot. It was emotional and even educational, but for some reason it bored me a bit. Not my favorite.

And lastly, I read Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Damn this was a good read. I’m starting to realize that I enjoy a nice murder mystery every so often. It’s important to mix things up, right?9780307341556_p0_v6_s260x420

Sharp Objects is about a reporter from Chicago who is sent to cover a series of murders that took place in the small town she grew up in. Dreading this, the main character agrees to go to her hometown to report on the damage done. Whilst there she becomes absorbed in the case and all of the possible culprits.

I liked this story because it was so precise and to the point. It’s around 250-pages so it’s a perfect summer read to take on vacation or something of the like. I thought the characters were all well-developed despite the thinness of the book. The tone of the novel was perfect as well as the predictability level. Flynn seems to lead the reader in one direction and then whip them around once they believe they’ve figured it out. I would have trouble picking a favorite between Sharp Objects and her other book, Gone Girl.

What have you been reading lately?

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Books

Lily’s Literature # 15

Friends, it’s been too long. I’ve had some computer trouble lately and I’ve also been over-extending myself with work and play. The month is flying by and I’m getting older. Yet I somehow always avoid getting wiser. However, I did manage to read 3 books in the meantime. Let’s converse about them.

I read a pretty interesting book by Ann Patchett called State of Wonder. I hadn’t read any of Patchett’s other novels so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I ended up really enjoying it though. In a nutshell the story is about a research scientist named Marina Singh whose mentor recently died in the Amazon. In turn, she’s sent on a whirlwind adventure to find out what truly happened to her mentor and what kind of research is actually being completed. 9118135

Whilst reading I found the story simple, yet complex, and realistic, yet unbelievable. It was a cool mixture. It’s not the best book in the world by any means, but it’s a very interesting story and it definitely has the power to whisk you away to the Amazon jungle which is pretty cool. Is it sad that the way I visualized the jungle was similar to The Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise ride?

After that, I picked up Mistborn written by Brandon Sanderson. Well, I can’t really say that I picked it up because it was picked for me. My book club was supposed to read this fantasy novel, but I think I might have been the only one who read it through and through. Fantasy isn’t for everyone, I will admit.tumblr_lu3lj5YlKk1qaouh8o1_400

Mistborn is about, gahh how do I explain this?…okay it’s about this girl Vin who lives in a dystopian, corrupt version of Earth. There are many people who seem inhuman and a select few who have been blessed with powers. Vin is one of those people. Once she learns of her special powers she teams up with an outlaw-type gang whose main goal is to overthrow the government and the Lord Ruler. An almost impossible task that brings Vin and her unlikely group together.

I really had a lot of trouble getting into this book because it opened with a map. Any book that has a map on the first page terrifies me because I know I’ll have to make a huge effort in learning a new world. Everything is wayyy easier when things are set on earth. However, I powered through it and have to give Sanderson some recognition in the creative department. The writing however, is subpar, but I’m not one to judge. Actually, yes I am.

And most recently I finished Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I really loved this book because it not only hooked me in with it’s shocking story, it taught me something along the way. That’s always a bonus. SKUSA

The story is about a girl, Sarah, and how her family reacts to the Jewish Roundup at the Velodrome d’Hiver in Paris. The accounts are horrific, but typical if you’re familiar with the antisemitism that occurred during Hitler’s reign. The story is also crossed with another, more modern tale of a journalist who discovers the secrets that Parisian society kept buried. She finds herself connected to Sarah and opens her eyes to the history around her.

I really loved this book. It was a quick read, yet it was jam-packed with interesting facts and a disturbing storyline. I don’t know why I’m so interested in messed-up stories, but they definitely keep me hooked. This is a good book for anyone to read. There is also a movie version which is supposed to be very good as well.

That’s all folks! Have you read anything good lately?

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Books

Lily’s Literature #14

Hello ladies and gents. I’m back with another list of fab books that I’ve managed to read. This time around I would describe the three books as the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s pretty fitting, and hopefully you’ll understand why.

I guess we’ll start with the bad since I go in chronological order of when I read each book. I picked up 1984 by George Orwell because I always feel bad when I miss out on a story that everyone seems to be familiar with. Whenever people bring up 1984, I mention how I loved Animal Farm. And people are like, “Yeah but 1984 is so much better and different.” But is it?1984-cover

In his novel, George Orwell writes about a dystopian society ruled by Big Brother. Everyone is constantly being watched and controlled. There is a lack of freedom in all areas of life. Even thoughts are successfully under surveillance. The story follows a man named Winston and his memory of how life used to be before Big Brother, cameras, and hidden microphones. He has so much rage against the setup and wants to break free. One day fateful day the chance presents itself to Winston and his love interest and they decide to act on it.

I wasn’t really wowed by this book. I’ll admit that Orwell’s idea was way before it’s time and from a creative standpoint, very unusual and impressive. He really made that society come alive. However, I just wasn’t into the characters or the long, drawn out descriptions of Oceania’s politics. Some of it went over my head and a lot of it bored me. Overall, the book didn’t wow me, but I can appreciate the uniqueness of Orwell’s idea at the time.

After that I read something really great. White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I remember my mom reading this book when I was younger because Oprah featured it on her show. I’m glad, years later, I finally got around to reading it myself. Actually, during the middle of the book, I reached out to Janet Fitch on Goodreads.com and told her how much I loved her book and she wrote a very kind message back. It was a delightful surprise.Book-White-Oleander-Cover-janet-fitch-5516513-545-800

White Oleander is the beautifully tragic story of Astrid Magnussen and her mother, Ingrid. Ingrid paints her bohemian lifestyle in an alluring way for her daughter. Everything about her mother is enchanting. But sadly, most of Ingrid’s life is focused on herself and not on her sweet daughter. After dating a man for a short time and being suddenly dumped, Ingrid seeks revenge, which costs her freedom, and Astrid’s lonesome wandering.

I really enjoyed the descriptions in this book. They were so fun to read. So many pretty words and scary scenes, yet all so real at the same time. I thought it was a little bit lengthy, but I couldn’t see it being shortened either. Just an all-around good read. I’d highly suggest this one. Especially since Janet and I are bffs now.

Today I finished reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Every so often I like to throw a Young Adult book into the mix. I thought this story was intriguing, but it’s an ugly topic.ThirteenReasonsWhy

Thirteen Reasons Why is about a teenager named Clay who received 7 cassette tapes in the mail with no return address. He listens to them and hears the voice of the girl from his school who recently committed suicide. She sent out 7 tapes with thirteen sides naming all of the reasons (and people) that caused her to end her life.

It’s actually a really creative plot but I ended up getting bored a little bit towards the end. I kind of struggled with the girl’s story and how she didn’t really help herself or let other people reach out to her. There were a lot of names being juggled around which made it kind of hard to follow. The thing is, don’t think she should’ve blamed people for her own choice. But it’s a tricky subject so who knows. It had a lot of potential but didn’t totally deliver in the end (for me, personally). BUT one cool add-on to the book is the youtube site hannahsfriend13 where you can listen to a recorded voice read off the tapes. Kind of rad and spooky. It really brings the book to life, which I appreciated.

Have you read any good books lately?

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Books

Lily’s Literature #13

I sped through these last three books. They all seemed to keep my attention and progress quickly. I mean, the fact that it’s been raining a lot here might have something to do with it as well. When it rains there isn’t much else to do besides read and clean. And we all know that I don’t do the latter.

My mom recommended the book The Secret History by Donna Tartt to me. This one being much slimmer than her recent release, The Goldfinch. The story takes place in a small private university town in New England. The main character, Richard Papen, travels there from his home state of California looking for a change of scenery and life direction. Having studied Greek, he applied for the course and met 5 strange students that he would get to know intimately. As his university career continued, Richard was met with a darkness that he couldn’t escape, all thanks to his peers.29044

I really liked this book. There were areas that seemed a little dry in my opinion, but I’m extremely annoying when it comes to books keeping my full attention. However, the way it was written, the various east coast accents and descriptions made me feel like I was fully enveloped into their world. I also appreciated a lot of the Greek, Latin, and classical references because, believe it or not, I was forced to take Latin for 6 years. So what I’m trying to say is that I know what true pain feels like.

I picked up The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan next because a.) it was short, and b.) I really like books that take place in Asia. I was a big fan of The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan written by Lisa See. Check those out if you haven’t already done so. The Joy Luck Club is essentially a group of four women who joined together in San Fransisco after immigrating there from China in the 1950’s. There are different stories told through each of the women’s eyes–stories about their childhood, adolescence, and eventually adulthood. Paired with them are the more modern, American stories of their daughters. 7763

I liked the way this book was written. I enjoyed comparing and contrasting the behaviors of the mothers vs their daughters and the mothers vs their own mothers. That being said, it was hard for me to keep all of the stories straight. There were 8 voices overall and I kept having to revisit past pages and chapters to make sure I had the right person in mind. It might have been easier for me to balance less people. Regardless, the stories still left me with shivers.

And lastly, today I finished the book Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I had heard a lot of good things about this one. So much so that I felt confident recommending it to a friend before I had even picked it up myself. The story is about 26-year-old Louisa Clark who lives in a little tourist town in England. After suddenly getting let go from her job, she lands a temporary position taking care of a quadriplegic man. Their unique friendship causes them to see life differently.Me-Before-You-Cover

I don’t want to ruin any of the book, but it’s pretty predictable. I mean, it’s great, entertaining, and surprisingly funny. A perfect beach read that will likely turn into a chick flick. I know this because it’s already on IMDb so they must have something in the making. I really enjoyed reading it and felt like I knew the characters all very well, but I just can’t help but feeling like there’s something missing.

Have you read any good books lately?

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