The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Title: The Hating Game25883848
Author: Sally Thorne
Pages: 387
Year: 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I kept seeing The Hating Game on my Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Goodreads timeline, and its rave reviews piqued my curiosity. As is my policy for all books, I put it on my Kindle Wishlist until it went on sale. My boyfriend bought me an amazon gift card for the sole purpose of buying full price books, but I have still adhered to this policy. Because, as I explained to him, why would I buy two full priced books when I could buy 20 books for $1.99? Ahem. On to the review.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman are both executive assistants to the co-owners of Bexley & Gamin, a publishing company in New York City. While they share an office space in close quarters, they have never gotten along. When their respective bosses announce that one of them will be promoted over the other, their competitive drive only raises the stakes of their hatred for one another. However, the office dynamic begins crumbling when their daily arguments and games turn into sexual tension.

Office romance? Enemies to lovers? Sounds like a big cup of cliche. *Sips tea* But the author was able to bring new life to these tired tropes through her hilarious and quirky characters. Lucy’s narration of her working relationship with Josh and the other employees of Bexley & Gamin had me laughing out loud. The witty banter and bickering between Lucy and Josh only made their chemistry more apparent.

As a whole, this book was a fun, hilarious read. I enjoyed every second of it, and seriously could not put it down. Recommending to all fans of contemporaries and rom-coms!

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

Title: Everything You Want Me to Be29276588
Author: Mindy Mejia
Pages: 340
Year: 2017
Publisher: Atria Books
Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Hattie’s boyfriend seems distraught over her death, but had he fallen so deeply in love with her that she had become an obsession? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger?

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to death.

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

This is a review that I have sat on for a while now, just because I was so stunned by this book. Everything You Want Me to Be is a book that has stayed with me since the very last page, and I’ve had a difficult time putting into words just how much I enjoyed it and how deeply it disturbed me.

The story is told from three alternating points of view; Hattie’s, Peter’s, and Del’s (the Sheriff investigating Hattie’s murder). Both men know vastly different versions of Hattie, and this is made apparent right away. In a small town setting where everybody knows everything about everybody, people are very surprised to learn that the popular girl they thought they knew was not all that she seemed.

This book is one of those books that will make you uncomfortable, but not in the reasons that you’re thinking. While being about the murder of one of the main characters, Everything You Want Me to Be is actually pretty tame when it comes to graphic violence. What’s disturbing about it is Hattie’s final year in high school, the events leading up to her death, and what caused everything to fall apart.

Hattie is a master in the art of manipulation, and by the time she turns eighteen, it’s as natural to her as breathing. This is not to say that she is a sociopath, but that she has learned how to perceive what will be most pleasing or attractive to each person in her life and changes her personality based on those preferences. Her manipulations are grounded in good intentions, but that level of self-regulation is exhausting to Hattie. When she finally decides to end the charade and mold herself into her best character yet (herself), she is murdered.

Even though there is a relationship between Hattie and a teacher, I wasn’t as uncomfortable with this as I would have previously imagined. This is not to say that I was completely comfortable with it, I wasn’t. But the 8-year age gap between Hattie and Peter seemed less and less significant as time went on, and I found myself feeling sorry for them knowing what was to come.

Peter Lund was a fascinating character. He’s a young teacher, new to the profession, having all the excitement and characteristics that make up the best kinds of teachers. However, he is not without his own problems. He’s become increasingly distant from his wife, as a result of being transplanted from big city life to his wife’s small hometown. He misses the opportunities that city life affords him, and feels alien to the farm life in which his wife is so capable.

Sheriff Del Goodman is less of a defined character. His purpose is to provide the reader with more details and discoveries about the investigation into Hattie’s murder. Being an old friend of Hattie’s family, he has a personal stake in the case and is therefore more involved and forthcoming with information, but he is still not as developed as the other narrators.

As far as structure, I thought that the pacing was very good. Mejia gave us certain revelations at the perfect times and withheld others until later. The investigation was filled with twists and false assumptions that kept me guessing until the very end. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was shocked yet again. Highly recommended to fans of the psychological thriller!

The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart by Anna Bell

Title: The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart28811985.jpg
Author: Anna Bell
Pages: 432
Year: 2016
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: A hilarious new romantic comedy for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Jane Costello from Anna Bell, the bestselling author of Don’t Tell the Groom. Abi’s barely left her bed since Joseph, the love of her life, dumped her, saying they were incompatible. When Joseph leaves a box of her possessions on her doorstep, she finds a bucket list of ten things she never knew he wanted to do. What better way to win him back than by completing the list, and proving they’re a perfect match? But there’s just one problem – or rather, ten. Abi’s not exactly the outdoorsy type, and she’s absolutely terrified of heights – not ideal for a list that includes climbing a mountain, cycling around the Isle of Wight and, last but not least, abseiling down the tallest building in town …Completing the list is going to need all Abi’s courage – and a lot of help from her friends. But as she heals her broken heart one task at a time, the newly confident Abi might just have a surprise in store …

Abi is completely devastated when her long-term boyfriend, Joseph, dumps her unexpectedly. So much so, that it sends her wallowing in a deep depression for weeks. When she discovers his “Things to Do Before I am 40” list among the items he’s left at her apartment, she decides to complete it; thus, impressing him and winning him back in the process. What ensues is the hilarious, yet heart-warming journey of a woman’s discovery of herself.

If you’ve ever been broken up with, especially unexpectedly, you’ll know the emotional roller coaster that ensues in the aftermath. Obsessing over what went wrong, what was said, what might have gone differently, and how you can win them back. Abi’s case is no different. The novel begins with Abi wallowing in post-breakup depression. Bouts of crying, emotional eating, and lack of personal hygiene… Personally, I found it a little pathetic that she let someone else have that much control over her and her happiness, but I can understand the sentiment. This is why that when Abi finds Joseph’s bucket list, it makes sense in her desperate state that she wants to use it to win him back.

Aided by her best friend, Sian, and colleage, Giles, Abi begins to make her way through the list as quickly as she can in order to win Joseph back before he can find someone else. What I liked most about Abi’s group of friends is that even though they were unsure about her list (why abseil down a building when you’re afraid of heights?) and didn’t know the real reason why she wanted to start and complete it so quickly, they still wholeheartedly supported her. They wanted her to succeed and were willing and able to help her do so. I thought their support of Abi really lifted the tone of the story and made it more of a team effort. Sometimes, having a great group of friends around you during a difficult break up can be all the medicine you need.

 

The bucket list aspect could have been very formulaic and just followed the list without much depth or character development, but instead we got to see Abi’s character change and grow from the pity party of one we saw in the beginning, to a woman with confidence and independence. It was very inspiring to see her, not only pick up the pieces, but become a better version of herself, despite her original motives. While this book is very much the predictable, romantic comedy trope, I still found myself invested in Abi’s character and the outcome of the book. All I wanted was for Abi to realize how awesome she was on her own, and that she didn’t need to place her self worth in someone else’s hands. Thankfully, she arrived at that conclusion in the end, after five or six shenanigans.

A must-read if you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud, inspiring, romantic, pick-me-up!

The Shoes Come First by Janet Leigh

Title: The Shoes Come First25026404
Author: Janet Leigh
Pages: 286
Year: 2015
Publisher: Goodreads
Rating: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis: In Sunnyside, Texas, Jennifer Cloud is an assistant purchasing manager for an upscale shoe store. But after her boss is arrested, she’s forced to find work elsewhere and ends up in her brother’s chiropractic office, where she discovers a hidden passion for helping others.

However, when she receives an unexpected birthday gift from her aunt that transports her back in time to 1568 Scotland, she meets a dashing Scottish outlaw who introduces her to a world of time-traveling keys. But on a return trip to the past, Jennifer’s key is stolen by a villainous band of time travelers who will stop at nothing to collect all of the keys for themselves. When Jennifer attempts to retrieve the key and sees her cousin kidnapped, she enlists a dysfunctional cast of characters—including a few interested suitors—to help her find the key and rescue her cousin.

Oh man… Where do I begin? I picked this book based solely on the fact that it was free via Kindle, and I am so glad of that fact. I really hate to say that I hated this book, but it was pretty bad… I’ve read better Twilight fan fiction… (*Cough* Fifty Shades of Grey *Cough*)

Ditzy (and virtually helpless) Jennifer Cloud’s obsession with shoes outweighs most other pressing matters in her life, until she accidentally stumbles upon a time traveling outhouse that takes her back in time to the 16th century. There, she meets a Scottish hunk, for whom she abandons all morals. (Context: At the time, she’s a 16 year old virgin who sleeps with a stranger she just met.) After a big time jump to the future, Jenn is yet again whisked away to the past via outhouse. Only this time, her redneck cousin Gertie goes along for the ride. From there, a series of shenanigans transpire, as well as Jenn being fought over by at least 3 different men. All of whom, I should mention, are massive fuckboys that Jennifer shouldn’t be wasting her time on anyway.

Positives:

  • There were a few funny moments that I couldn’t help snorting at.
  • Jennifer Cloud is written as a kindhearted, passionate person, who can’t help but inspire those around her to be better.
  • Time travel

Negatives:

  • Jennifer Cloud is written as a woman with no self control. She sleeps with a man she has just met, who abandons her in a foreign land/foreign time. She is indecisive, ditzy, and helpless. She has to rely on others to save her, and frequently wishes for the men in her life to save her from predicaments instead of looking for a solution herself. She’s described as gorgeous, but doesn’t buy that all these men are interested in her. In summary: Jennifer Cloud is a Disney Princess.
  • All of Jennifer’s love interests are serial daters, and are well known for sleeping around. None are immune to Jenn’s charms.

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    Me

  • Many, many, MANY plot cliches.
  • Cheesy villains

If you want a LIGHT, romantic, cheesy read, this is the book for you. Personally, I found it a little hard to get through, but someone else may enjoy it immensely. This book received a *chokes on coffee* 3.71 rating on Goodreads.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Title: The Devil Wears Prada 228580
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Pages: 432
Year: 2003
Publisher: Doubleday
Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: When Andrea first sets foot in the plush Manhattan offices of Runway, she knows nothing. She’s never heard of the world’s most fashionable magazine, or its feared and fawned-over editor, Miranda Priestly. But she’s going to be Miranda’s assistant, a job millions of girls would die for. A year later, she knows altogether too much: That it’s a sacking offence to wear anything lower than a three-inch heel to work. But that there’s always a fresh pair of Manolos for you in the accessories cupboard. That Miranda believes Hermes scarves are disposable, and you must keep a life-time supply on hand at all times. That eight stone is fat. That you can charge cars, manicures, anything at all to the Runway account, but you must never, ever, leave your desk, or let Miranda’s coffee get cold. And that at 3 a.m. on a Sunday, when your boyfriend’s dumping you because you’re always at work, and your best friend’s just been arrested, if Miranda phones, you jump. Most of all, Andrea knows that Miranda is a monster who makes Cruella de Vil look like a fluffy bunny. But also that this is her big break, and it’s going to be worth it in the end. Isn’t it?

The Devil Wears Prada (2006) is one of those films they play on TV all the time, and one I almost always watch when it is on. It’s really a fantastically entertaining film, and Anne Hathaway’s, Meryl Steep’s, Stanley Tucci’s, and Emily Blunt’s performances are top notch. So when I found the book on Amazon Kindle for $1.99, I couldn’t pass it up. Miranda Priestly would not approve of my bargain shopping, but I don’t work for her, so YOLO. Settle in for my review, it’s not like you have anything better to do at the moment.

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I think most of you will know the story by now – Andrea Sachs, a recent college grad who neither knows nor cares anything about fashion, is thrown into a world where anything bigger than a size zero is frowned upon, carbs are the devil, and if you thought that top went with those shoes, you are seriously disturbed. Her boss, Miranda Priestly, head of Runway Magazine and dragon lady extraordinaire, is the most demanding and unreasonable person on the planet. The only reason Andrea puts up with it all, is because working for a year as Miranda’s assistant will open up many doors for her in the future. Only, she’s turning into a “clacker” herself, and her personal life is crashing down around her. After reading the book, I can only say that if you’ve seen the film and think you know the book, you are sadly mistaken. I’ll take “creative liberties” for 500, please.

In the film, we are introduced to our clear protagonist, Andrea “Andy” Sachs (Anne Hathaway) when she interviews for her first publishing job out of school. As her demanding job occupies more and more of her time, we become frustrated alongside her, as her friends and family refuse to see things from her point of view. We become enamored with the cold, Miranda Priestly, and the Runway way of life. When Andy’s job demands her soul, she gives it all up (in a professional way) and takes what she has learned to her next opportunity.

In the book, Andy ends up at a job interview for a magazine she doesn’t read, nor has ever heard of. She doesn’t do any research about the company before the interview, and doesn’t look to see who the key players are. “A million girls would die for this job” is a phrase repeated countless times throughout the novel, but Andy doesn’t appreciate what she has. She constantly complains about her vapid and fashion obsessed co-workers, but while that may be so, they have a much better work ethic than she does. Instead of being grateful for the experience and the contacts she is gaining, she chooses to complain about having to earn her dues.

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While I felt for Andy when Miranda would come up with yet another vague task for her to complete, I couldn’t help but be annoyed with the way she acted. After almost a year of working, she chooses to blow up at Miranda and is fired on the spot. I felt this to be extremely unprofessional, and I couldn’t help but wonder how Andy’s job prospects would pan out after this. (This is fiction, so obviously she is just fine.) Miranda Priestly, while difficult, is an extremely influential person in the magazine industry. Did she really not think about what the consequences might be for her outburst?

From the moment Andy is hired at Runway, she begins to put her friends and family second behind her career. Her best friend and roommate is an alcoholic. When she begins failing her classes, sleeping with random guys, and losing time, Andy doesn’t talk to her about it or offer to help. When her boyfriend starts becoming increasingly distant, Andy doesn’t make more of an effort to keep him in her life. Instead, she seriously considers cheating on him. When Miranda suggests that Andy “reminds her of herself”, Andy takes it as a compliment and uses her words as an opportunity for career advancement. Even when the worst happens, Andy throws away the opportunity for redemption to preserve her career. Because this is fiction, she ends up rebuilding all the bridges she burned, but I couldn’t help wanting to shake her screaming “IT’S JUST A JOB!!!!”

One thing I wish the book had touched on was the double standard in modern culture for women in leadership positions having to act the same way as their male counterparts. While Miranda was (and is viewed as being) difficult, cold, condescending, etc; it’s important to realize how much she has accomplished. Her background is briefly touched on in the novel, but it is explained that she came from nothing and clawed her way to the top. She wouldn’t have gotten to where she is, garnered the respect she has, or proven her invaluable worth to the magazine and fashion world if she didn’t have talent or determination. This, while men are able to occupy leadership positions without the assumption that they are shrill, cold, or overly ambitious.

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3.5, because while it was definitely worth the read, I prefer the film. Or maybe I just prefer Meryl Streep. (That woman could play a plastic bag blowing in the wind and still win an Oscar, IMO.)

The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

Title: The Wangs vs. The World28114515
Author: Jade Chang
Pages: 355
Year: 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Rating: 3

Goodreads Synopsis: Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.
Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

Before I begin: how do you feel when an author has their characters frequently speak in a different language, and they don’t provide translation? I, for one, find it to be very irritating. Especially if I can’t figure out what they are saying.

The Wangs Vs. the World follows a family of billionaires living in L.A. who lose everything when Charles Wang, the patriarch, decides to put up his home and business as collateral to start a new line of makeup products (Referred to as “the Failure.”). When the economy crashes in 2008, Charles packs up his second wife Barbra and pulls his two kids (Grace and Andrew) out of school to make his way across the country to his oldest daughter Saina’s house in Helios, NY. This fall from grace is narrated by Charles, Barbra, Grace, Andrew, Saina, and even the car they are riding in for the majority of this road trip.

This book was promoted to be a hilarious “riches to rags” story about a family of Chinese immigrants living in America. I guess I didn’t get the jokes… I got the impression that parts of it were intended to be funny, but they just fell flat for me. In fact, I found myself cringing throughout the entire novel. The first chapter starts out with a joke about how Wang means “King” in China and “penis” in America. Penis jokes ceased to be funny when I turned 12, but please… continue. From there, Chang showcases the family’s prejudices against people who think differently than they do, look different than they do, and come from different areas and walks of life than they did. “All Floridians are backwards, all republicans are stiff and racist, all teenage/college-aged girls are slutty, mixed relationships are only okay if you have cute mixed children…” should I go on? I considered abandoning this book several times, but plodded on in the hopes that it would eventually get better.

The dialogue was good (when it was in English), especially between the siblings. The author has a knack for using dialogue to portray images and characters, and clearly made a lot of effort to create complex, well-rounded characters. I just didn’t have any sympathy for them. I didn’t relate to their problems, hopes, dreams, or fears. Any time I felt sympathetic for one of them, they did something that changed my mind. Okay, that’s a lie. Grace was the only character I wasn’t completely turned off by, but that’s only because I kept telling myself that she was just a kid and didn’t know any better than the life of privilege she was accustomed to.

This review seems to have taken a turn for the critical, which I apologize for because it really wasn’t that bad. I gave it 3/5 stars, verging on 3.5. I have to say, this book was not a terrible read. I didn’t hate it, and I did end up liking Chang’s writing. However, I found myself to be more often offended than complacent, and less invested in the characters than usual. There seems to be a disconnect between author and reader as well, which is demonstrated by the liberal use of Cantonese/Mandarin or whatever language they are speaking without translation or explanation. I feel like I missed important plot points because I couldn’t understand what the characters were saying, and the dialogue in this book was so important because this book was entirely driven by dialogue and the individual journeys the characters take over the course of the novel.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

16181775Title: The Rosie Project
Author: Graeme Simsion
Pages: 295
Year: 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

The Review Project:

Problem:
Not enough people have read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

Hypothesis:
If I review The Rosie Project on this blog for my followers, that will increase their desire to read this novel in the future.

Materials:
→ The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
→ This Blog

Subject 1 : Don Tillman, narrator.
Gender : Male
Age : 39
Occupation : Associate Professor of genetics at the University of Melbourne
Notable Qualities : Black-Belt in Aikido, suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome (unbeknownst to Don, who thinks there is something missing that leaves him baffled by human behavior and unappealing to other people.)
Relationship status : On the prowl. After realizing that many women are incompatible with his personality and over-organized way of living, Don decides to make a 16 page questionnaire to find himself the perfect wife, A.K.A. “The Wife Project.” (Something that has ACTUALLY HAPPENED, to Amy Webb who found her husband by using math and analytics to narrow the dating field.)

Subject 2 : Rosie Jarman, unsuitable for “The Wife Project”
Gender : Female
Age : 29
Occupation : Barmaid, Student
Notable Qualities : Smart, stong-minded, vegetarian, trying to find her own special person (her biological father). Rosie is an utterly likeable female lead who brings the unexpected to Don’s life. She shatters his (many) personal beliefs, disrupts his routinized life in a big way, and causes him (and the reader) to fall in love with her. However, she is far from the Manic Pixie Dream girl. She doesn’t want to fix Don, she has her own problems and failings that she is focused on. She is unapologetically herself, and one of the best supporting contemporary heroines I have read in a while.

Research:

➊ The Wife Project is portrayed as an extremely sexist way to find a wife, which put me off at first… but this fault is addressed and worked through with character development. Don’s character progresses so much throughout the novel. When we meet Don, he lives a solitary life of meticulous routine. Because he is different and sees the world in a different way, albeit in a way devoid of emotion, he has been ostracized from his peers. His rigid lifestyle has led him to ostracize others in the same way, if they do not make his standards then they are eliminated as potential relationships. Throughout the course of the novel he learns to accept others for who they are, and accept himself for who he is.

➋ The author perfectly captures Don’s voice, which is the strongest part of the novel in my opinion. I found it to be incredibly accurate to the way people with Asperger’s Syndrome think and speak in the real world, and it certainly explores the complex issues they face in a light-hearted way.

➌ Don’s inability to recognize social cues leads to some hilarious hi-jinks and misunderstandings that left me laughing out loud.

“I turned to see him – he was large and angry. In order to prevent further violence, I was forced to sit on him.
‘Get the fuck off me. I’ll fucking kill you,’ he said.
On that basis, it seemed illogical to grant his request.”

Conclusion: Why should you read this book?
Don is an awkward, but adorable character whose desire to fit in and find love is moving in more ways than one. Honestly, if I haven’t given you enough incentive already, I’ll leave you with this. If you love The Big Bang Theory, you’ll love this book… And if you don’t love The Big Bang Theory, you’ll still love this book. (I know, because I fit into the latter category.)

 

 

 

 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Nightingale21853621
Author: Kristin Hannah
Pages: 440
Year: 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

This book took me a while to get into, but once I did I just fell in love with Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac. Their story was so beautiful, and it reduced me to tears. (Robot status report: does not compute.) As the goodreads synopsis says, Vianne and Isabelle are two somewhat estranged sisters living in France. All but abandoned by their father after the death of their mother, Vianne and Isabelle have each grown up very differently. Older sister Vianne is timid, introverted, and dependent on her husband. (If she was an animal, she would be a mouse for sure.) Isabelle, having been bounced between boarding schools since she was a child, is rebellious and immature. She doesn’t have a problem with saying what she thinks and standing up for what she believes in. It is no surprise that when the war breaks out, each sister deals with it in a different way.

Isabelle is outraged by the German occupation and immediately joins the resistance. She rebels against them in any way that she can, even placing Vianne and her daughter in danger in the process. She receives an opportunity to go to Paris and seizes it, never letting Vianne know the grave reality of what she is doing. For her last name, Mauriac, she becomes known as “The Nightingale,”  and graduates from passing out flyers to escorting downed air pilots back across the border into allied territory. Basically, she is known by the Germans as Undesirable No. 1 (for my HP fans out there). Isabelle grows up a great deal throughout the story – from an 18 year-old girl who falls in love-at-first-sight with an escaped jailbird, to a young woman who has dedicated her life to the service of others.

While Isabelle’s character teetered on the edge of annoying in the beginning of the novel, I couldn’t have been more satisfied with where she ends up. I found her to be so brave, throwing caution to the wind and never letting up in her resolve. She never once thought about what could happen if she was caught, only the task at hand. I am a cautious person by nature, so the fact that she would do half of the things she did was inspiring to me.

Vianne, whose husband has gone off to defend the Maginot line, slides into survival mode and takes every day as it comes. That is, until they start taking away the Jews. She begins saving Jewish children before they can be taken away, and hiding them in the orphanage at her local church. One of them, her best friend’s son, Vianne adopts as her own. All this, under the nose of the German Officer living in her home.

Vianne also went through a huge character transformation throughout the book. While she may have been timid and unsure of herself in the beginning, the war turns her into a warrior of sorts. While Isabelle is out fighting on the front lines, Vianne is fighting on the home front. She fights for the survival of her family, her friends, and her country. Literally and figuratively. Even though she is not always actively and outwardly resisting the Germans, she does it in small ways that make a difference in every life she touches. While Isabelle is the thunder and lightning, Vianne is the rain. She is comforting and subtle, playing a part in the storm.

At the beginning of the book, we find out that only one sister has survived the war. Hannah does a great job of tipping the scales to either side, making it appear as if one sister is doomed and then tipping it towards the other. I have to say, while the book definitely led up to it, I didn’t expect the outcome it gave me. I kept hoping for a different end. However, I think she tied up all the loose ends nicely. Some, more abruptly than others.

All in all, it was a fabulous read. I would recommend this to anyone that has a sister, it definitely gave me a new appreciation for mine.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

15507958Title: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Pages: 369
Year: 2012
Publisher: Viking
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

I came into this book fully expecting a poignant love story that defies all the odds. I could not have been more wrong.

When we meet Louisa, or Lou, she is an unemployed young woman in her mid-20’s living at home with her parents. She is perfectly content to stay in her small town for the rest of her life, and is in a dead-end relationship with a man she has nothing in common with. She gets a job caring for Will Traynor, an ex career shark and adrenaline junkie who is paralyzed in most of his body. He ultimately teaches her to come out of her shell and to not be afraid of the world around her, all while falling in love with one another.

me-before-you-movie-trailer

I relate to Lou in so many ways, the first being that she is an unemployed young woman in her mid-20’s living at home with her parents. (Lol.) I know the struggle of looking for a job, and finding that you generally seem to be under-qualified for the job for which you are applying. I know the frustration of wanting to be so much more than what I currently am, and settling for jobs that are below my own skill level simply for the sake of having money coming in. Like Lou, I tend to get stuck in my own comfort zone. I don’t like change, and I am very cautious in personality so I tend to not take risks even when they might benefit me. Even the story of the maze got to me, while I may not have been in that same situation, I understand the fear and mistrust that comes with it. Your body is the one thing you feel like you can control, and when that control is taken away… What are you left with?

This story resonated with me, not only for the storyline and the characters I came to love, but because Lou’s life so closely paralleled my own. I don’t want to go as far as to say that the book changed my life, but it definitely opened my eyes to the reality of my situation. I have been feeling stuck for so long, like I am running as fast as I can and I’m not getting anywhere. Reading this book (along with some other events) was the push that I needed to get myself on track. Like Lou, I may not know where I am going yet, but I’m excited for the journey.

A few other notes:

The ending did not make me cry. (Probably because I’m a robot.) While the scene with Lou pouring her heart out to Will and him telling her that she wasn’t enough broke my heart, it wasn’t enough to make me physically cry. (Beep boop.) I teared up a bit when he asked for his parents at the very end, simply because I can’t imagine what they were going through. For the record, while I respect the choice that he ultimately made, I did NOT agree with it. Suicide is one of the most selfish things a person can do, and I don’t think I would be able to stand by while someone I loved ended their life.

I was definitely angry, I hated the ending because I just wanted them to end up together. (May or may not have thrown my book across the room in protest.) But I wasn’t surprised, I knew that it was coming. This book wasn’t about trying to spark Will’s will to live, it was about sparking Louisa’s. It was Louisa who needed the push to spread her wings and Will was part of her journey.

10/10 Moyes! Can’t wait to read After You!