The Catcher in the Rye

Title: The Catcher in the Rye

Author: J.D. Salinger

Genres: Realistic Fiction

Length: 230 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Holden Caulfield takes us through what happens when he gets kicked out of his fourth school.

Review:

This is a difficult one for me to review. For one, I can definitely see why it is a classic. Holden stays with you, even if he gets on your nerves. He is most certainly the embodiment of teenage angst and there is just so much you can discuss reading this.
However, I did find the novel dull and the repetitive nature of the main character’s voice got to me.

This has got to be one of the best show-not-tell examples I have seen of a character. His anxious nature shone through every sentence and at times it was quite intense to see how the world around Holden affects him. He acts like he has all the answers but he really is a very confused and lost boy.

While we follow Holden trying to avoid facing his parents after the fourth expulsion the fact is nothing much happens; and if his very particular voice was a breath of fresh air in the beginning it didn’t take long for it to become overwhelming. I cannot say I looked forward to picking up the book when I was not reading it.

I did think it picked up towards the end and although the ending felt abrupt it was also kind of perfect and after an entire narrative where the main character keeps stating how depressing stuff is I needed it.

Overall I think The Catcher in the Rye is great food for thought but it is not for everyone and not for every mood.

Read from Dec 26th to Dec 29th, 2016

GR Review

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One Last Thing

Title: One Last Thing

Author: Rebecca St. James, Nancy Rue

Genres: Contemporary | Realistic Fiction | Religion

Length: 368 pages | 4394 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

When Tara finds out her perfect fiancée is not so perfect after all, she needs to decide what to do. She is torn between standing by him and protecting herself and the ones she loves. His secret would destroy everyone’s world. Can she stay true to her promise to him that she won’t tell?

Review:

When I first started reading this book I was pretty confused. How were these two getting married? She asked stuff like Don’t you have any normal milk in here? while opening his fridge and practically swooned when looking into his eyes.
There seemed to constantly be something along the lines of:

An oatmeal-colored crumb escaped and rested on his lower lip. Lucky crumb.

This is a girl who has been dating this guy for three years. Come on.

So then I found out they were not living together, mainly because of Seth’s Christian values. I guess it made a bit of sense but did not really justify that sort of thing, in my book.
The main character kept telling me that she had been in love with this guy since she was 15 (so ten years prior to narrative) and yet I could not tell that she knew him at all or what exactly she loved about him besides his great looks.

I guess one of the main issues I had with this book was all the insta-love, particularly when Tara was the object of affection. I never understood why anyone fell for each other, either in the beginning or later on.

I actually enjoyed reading the novel when new things or people arrived to Tara’s life and secrets were being uncovered.
I have to admit I had already anticipated most of the revelations, particularly the major ones, and I never really connected much with the main character as you can probably tell by now, although I could see where her struggles came from.
It’s just that she came across as this self-loathing, rich but supposed to be normal, just a cutiepie girl. She is just plain perfect and has great manners and values all the great things in her life. She also has very perfect, understanding, modest parents and even if her mother was the queen of denial she always had great intentions at heart.

So a lot of the time I was reading about Tara calling herself names and then later on someone patting her on the back saying there there don’t feel that way. I suppose it is very realistic in the way that people who are struggling through something which is not even their fault may feel guilty, but I really have this beef with perfect characters.

On the other hand, Seth’s parents were portrayed as unnecessarily evil in my opinion, each in his own way – mother just plain aggressive and father more manipulative. They felt like caricatures to me and obvious alliances were formed from the get-go.
I was sad to see there was no redemption for either character in the end. I would have appreciated some growth.

Alas, the story developed into one of self-empowerment and respect, of valuing true friendships and not being afraid to be happy and also the true meaning of having God in one’s life and how the way He operates is not obvious.
As I mentioned, I did appreciate the mystery aspect. Everytime a new revelation was made, even if I had already predicted it, I felt compelled to keep reading, to see what happened next and which decisions the characters made.

In the end, it was mostly the perfection aspect and the few drama scenes/clichés that hindered my enjoyment. I gotta tell ya, there were some pretty lame lines.

The man’s footsteps echoed in the alley as he came lightly down the steps. They paused near me. I died several deaths.

Eurgh. The main character plainly irritated me and this is a case where I think different voices would have contributed to a stronger narrative.
Also, I did not really get the closure I had hoped for in the end.

The love triangle with Ike seemed beyond forced and, again, insta-love. It’s like one minute Tara is nothing more than a very efficient worker to him and the next she could be the mother of his children. What?? I have to give kudos to the author that they saved till fairly late in the book but still it was simply ridiculous and nonsensical.
I also never got what the deal with Evelyn was, what exactly she saw that would make her hate her brother that much.

Ultimately, the book had a good message and I still enjoyed reading it.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Sep 29 to Oct 02, 2015
GR Review

Every Last Word

Title: Every Last Word

Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Genres: Contemporary | Realistic Fiction | Romance

Length: 352 pages | 4992 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.75/5

Premise:

Samantha seems to have it all: a great family, popular friends, nothing missing. But she has a big secret no one knows of: her OCD. No one must know about her condition or how it affects her in the smallest things or that she has to see a shrink every day.
One day, Samantha meets Caroline, who introduces her to a group of misfits called the Poet’s Corner. As she gets to know these people and lets poetry be an escape, she gets a glimpse of what it feels to be normal and healthy, until a major revelation shakes that up and makes her doubt everything.

Review:

What an awesome book.

It was so great to finally read about a 16 year-old I could relate to.
Example:

“You’re not overreacting.”, she says.
“Are you sure? Because you can tell me if I am. I have a tendency to over think things, especially when it comes to my friends… I take things too personally. I mean, it isn’t always
them. Sometimes it’s me. I just don’t always know when it’s them and when it’s me, you know?”

Even though I do not suffer from OCD, I am an insecure person, and I relate to this a lot.
Who would have thought I would be posting this on my blog… The fact is this book is so emotional and the message about struggling not to hide anymore is so strong that I feel like exposing myself to that level.

Samantha is actually in a great social position, unlike all the misfits we usually read about, since she is part of the group of popular girls in high school. She wears a lot of makeup and cares about the way she looks.
However, even her friends do not know about her secret, that she suffers from OCD and the fact is Samantha starts wondering if they really are her friends, since they seem more and more shallow each day and not to care about her feelings.
I felt for Samantha and her struggles to sleep and not let the terrifying thoughts take over her mind and body.

And then there’s her family. It was so wonderful to read about her supportive mother, who did not only not ignore her daughter’s condition but always knew how to comfort her and get her through her problems. Always listened to her, made herself available. I have to admit I would have like to see another side to her because that had to be exhausting, instead of her just being the perfect mother but it was so refreshing that I did not really care.

And I liked AJ so much. He suffered a lot and managed to overcome his past, taking the bad experiences and reshaping himself into a young man far from perfect and fully confident but absolutely adorable. I loved his speech about the difference between being fake and attentive towards someone.

I was with this book every step of the way. It was a really chore putting it down whenever I really had to – and I really procrastinated on every single thing. It was just so amazing reading about Samantha, who had normal 16-year-old problems besides the mental ones, and somehow never seemed annoying to me. Well, whenever she would go on about how the boys were so cute she did get a bit annoying, particularly the major crush of the story, but that totally fits with her obsessive personality so even if I did not enjoy it that much I understood it.

And the plot twist. I never in a million years saw it coming, even though I thought it was odd that Sam could not seem to differentiate between what was real and what wasn’t when she was having one of her fantasies. It blew me away. So much that it was 3 in the morning and I could not put the book down. I am writing this on major sleep deprivation due to this. No matter. It was well worth it.

There were few things that I wish I would have seen, some of which I don’t even recall anymore. These are the ones I do remember:
I wanted to known what AJ’s mother’s reaction was to him dating the girl who put him through hell – that cannot be easy for a mother. I wanted to see more conflict in AJ trying to adjust to the idea of this new Samantha being the same person as the one who caused him so much pain in the past, what he thought as his feelings were changing. And if Sarah left the Eights to join her Drama Club friends, then Samantha should have come across her at some point, right? Spending so much time in the theatre and all. I wanted to see them talk, particularly about Sarah having been shunned, I think that would have brought a nice dimension to the story.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Read this if you want to get into the mind of someone who appears normal on the inside but has to deal with a serious mental illness every day since a young age.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 17 to Aug 19, 2015
GR Review

Luckiest Girl Alive

Title: Luckiest Girl Alive

Author: Jessica Knoll

Genres: Contemporary | Mystery | Psychological Thriller | Realistic Fiction

Length: 352 pages | 4992 locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

Ani has everything she ever wanted: a great job some would die for, a rich fiancé, and all the material things she wants. All that thanks to being a master manipulator, giving people the Ani they want to see, her fiancé included. Can she really be happy living like this, married to someone who doesn’t even know her true self?
Something happens that brings back all sorts of painful memories from TifAni’s past and she will be unable to avoid confronting that question any longer.

Review:

Let me just say I was positively flabbergasted when I found out this was the writer’s debut novel. No one is this good on their first try! I mean, sure, she was a senior editor for Cosmopolitan and is now the articles editor at Self (and you can definitely see those influences in the book), but writing a novel is in a completely different league.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I devoured this amazing piece of contemporary literature that not only every New Yorker but, these days, pretty much every woman (especially if you have seen shows where fashion is a big thing) from all over the globe can relate to – in every free, waking moment I had.

Moving on…

When I first started reading Luckiest Girl Alive, I thought Boy, that’s a disturbed chick. Contemplating stabbing her fiancé within the first few pages does not exactly scream normal.
Then he makes a comment along the lines of where all the stuff she eats goes and I am getting the vibe they don’t know each other that well. At that point, I wondered if she had an eating disorder. I was close, though that wasn’t exactly the case, but this was just the tip of the iceberg.

As we get to know what happened to TifAni in high school, we slowly understand how she came to be the person she is now.
I have a hard time describing how I felt about this character. At times I loathed Ani, others I felt sorry for her, and on occasion I even related to her.

What I do know is that, over the course of the book, I got to know TifAni like I never knew any other character I read about – not that I remember, anyway.
There was such depth to her. I knew her desires, her fears, how she worked so hard for the life she thought she wanted, but wasn’t really happy. I was appalled and at the same time sympathetic every time she would remind herself how she needed to be when she was with someone (Broken, I reminded myself, that’s what works on him.) and would adjust herself accordingly, never dropping her mask. Even when she really cared about someone, she would always be working an angle, a way to get what she wanted. It never once occurred to her that just being herself could be an option. It is exasperating to imagine someone living like that; how exhausting can it be??

There is constantly something in the prose that anyone, especially women (myself included) can and will relate to – things like that nagging feeling of knowing in your gut something happened a certain way, but since everyone acts like it happened differently you just got along; wanting to belong, wanting to be liked and doing things you are not proud of in order for that to happen; the 90s references like Saved By The Bell (my favourite show ever at the time); crushing on the cute, young teacher; those black prickles around your ankles when you have not shaved your legs for a while; tonguing that piece of chocolate out of your molar; lying in bed gritting your teeth over doing something so stupid, not reacting the way you should have; not knowing how to act in certain situations, having to force a reaction out of you because it just isn’t something that comes naturally – Sometimes I feel like a windup doll, like I have to reach behind and turn my golden key to produce a greeting, a laugh, whatever the socially acceptable reaction should be. How gorgeous is that?? I could never think of a way to describe it any better!!

The analogies were just crazy believable and accurate. It was so weird to picture sometimes grotesque things and yet feeling they were so adequate to what was being described, and that I could absolutely tell what I was supposed to get from what was being shown to me, not just kind of get it.

I carried around this little tease, precious to me as the shiny parasite attached to my finger, for months. The parasite is Ani’s beautiful wedding ring. So immediately I get that she values it but feels like it is leeching her out of her essence at the same time. See what I mean?

One other thing that was peculiar about this narrative was that we keep being fed details about the characters and places until late in the book; only when they become relevant to the story do they come up, there is no info dump.
And I was so happy about how the author portrayed the Tif-Andrew thing. It was so realistic! I am so sick and tired of reading about people giving in to their urges, and in this case – which was mostly driven by the idealized concept you made of a certain person, based on past fantasies -, it could have never have ended well. So I am glad one of them had the balls to do the right thing, and it was crucial for TifAni to start finding out who she really is, owning it, and turn her life around.

There just isn’t a whole lot wrong with this book. It clearly needs to be re-edited (absolutely normal in an advanced reader’s copy), and I felt the chapters were too long (my Kindle predicted I would finish reading one of them in 1h39m…).
I was also not a fan of the cover. It does scream bleak, which is appropriate, but the rose just made me think this was about romance, and it really wasn’t. I am glad I stuck to the description and not the cover.
Regarding the story, it took me a while to get into it in the beginning. I didn’t even get why she was picking a knife in those first few lines. And all the wedding preparations were necessary to set the context and get to know the character, but they did lose me for a bit. Not that long, though, only a few pages.
I did not get Ani’s sex obsessions, particularly the masochist tendencies, especially considering what she went through, but I accepted it as part of her character, while secretly hoping she had been the tiniest bit traumatized by the fact she never had a normal first time. I wanted her to feel crushed by how her dreams about it would never come true and instead I had to watch her go all casual in a sort of that’s not going to happen anymore, oh well, as if she missed some good concert or something, and keep crushing over the guy who practically pimped her out and raped her.

And the ending… It is not a whoa-never-seen-that-coming kind of ending. In fact, it is pretty much expected by then. But still. I never loved a last line as much as this one. It was absolutely the perfect way to end such a journey, because she was finally starting to find her true self. TifAni grew on me. I wanted her to be happy and to never have another sleepless night or be afraid ever again.

In case you can’t tell by now, I highly recommend this book. And I am so happy I did not read all the negative reviews before I dived into, it because it would have totally skewed my attitude towards it from the get go, and I would have read it in light of what those people felt instead of being fully open-minded.
Much respect to them, but this is exactly why I do not read reviews before I read the book. Not only do I not want to see spoilers but I also don’t want a person’s feeling of the book to impact my own. Each book should be a personal journey.
So don’t get discouraged by the first few pages, I promise it will get better. And don’t go after the comparisons to other writers, as this is something that should be appreciated for what it is, not in light of what another person wrote.
I think what the publishers meant by doing that in the praise section is that if you are a character driven reader and do not mind reading about someone you may actually loathe, you will most likely adore this book. I could not agree more, but I still think the comparison should not be made. Otherwise, readers will always keep that in mind and cannot help but compare the two, which I guess would explain all the 1 and 2 star reviews. So that strategy seems to have backfired.

This book is about Ani’s journey. Nothing else. She will piss you off at times, you won’t agree with what she is or what she does or thinks or becomes, but it is her choices and opportunity to know what exactly it means to be happy.
That’s when you can tell the writing is brilliant, when you put your principles aside and just enjoy something you could never stand in real life. As long as I can tell it makes sense for the character, I don’t need to agree with everything they do or are.
So don’t come in looking for mindblowing plot twists because there aren’t any, for the most part, not if you are comparing it to other writers’ books. Most of all, don’t come in with any expectations. Appreciate it for what it is, without pre-conceptions, and you will enjoy it.

Or maybe you just have to be a special kind of crazy to truly appreciate this novel.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Jul 07 to Ju 09, 2015
GR Review