Book Review: Commonwealth

Book Review: Commonwealth

“Isn’t that what everyone wants, just for a moment to be unencumbered?”

As I mentioned in my August Favorites blog post, I recently finished reading Ann Patchett‘s novel Commonwealth, and thoroughly enjoyed the read. Today I am going to give you all a glance at what the story is about, and what I liked about it.

In a nutshell, Commonwealth is the story of an unconventional blended family, including six step siblings who form a lasting bond with each other through shared summer vacations spent at their parents and step parents’ homes, and their shared resentment towards their often negligent parents. For a book that follows the lives of so many characters (the six children, four parents, and other family members and significant others that appear throughout the story), each character is surprisingly well-developed. The more you read, the more you get to know each of these people and understand who they are and where they’ve been.

The story spans a total of five decades of time, jumping between the present and the past with each chapter, sometimes jumping within a single chapter. For some, these jumps in time may be a bit too much. I will admit I was confused at times, and it was difficult to keep each character and storyline straight in my mind. (“Wait, whose parent is this again? Who is this person married to?”) However, for me this made the story more interesting, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping track of everything in my head. It was also fun to read about the characters as children, and then find out where their life went as an adult.

Commonwealth really picks up pace when one of the daughters, Franny, begins an affair with a well-known author, and tells him the stories from her childhood, which he proceeds to use as the inspiration for his newest bestselling novel which he names “Commonwealth.” Though he always claims the story is not based on Franny’s life, it’s clear it is, and the book has a negative impact on her siblings, mainly her youngest step brother, Albie, who learns painful things about his childhood through reading the novel.

Overall I thought Patchett’s book was a sharp and realistic portrayal of family ties and the struggles people face throughout life. Though the story is fairly realistic, it still has the level of drama and slight exaggeration needed to make an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys strong character development and intriguing life stories, as well as books that span multiple decades of time.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, or any of Ann Patchett’s other novels. If not, what was the last book you read and loved?

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

“I find that the thoughts spoken between the lines are the most important parts of a poem or story.”

Welcome to my latest book review. Today I will be talking about a novel called Mrs. Poe, by Lynn Cullen. As always, I like to recommend another book review for you all to read in case you want to get another opinion on the novel. Book Riot wrote a good one, which you can check out here. But first, read on for my take on the book below.

One of the quotes on the cover reads “Vivid…Atmospheric….Don’t miss it.” I think those first two words are the perfect description of the book. Lynn Cullen does a great job of writing in a way that lets us imagine the places and people in the story, as if we are there ourselves. Set in New York City in the 1840’s, there are plenty of beautiful dresses and lavish dinner parties filling the pages, which I think would make this story into a great play or movie.

Mrs. Poe follows the life of Frances Osgood, a poet trying to make a name for herself, and her forbidden romance with one Edgar Allen Poe (maybe you’ve heard of him?) Throughout the novel you hear about other well-known writers from that era, as well as fun facts about them which was interesting to read. I felt like I learned a lot while still enjoying the story, which is difficult to accomplish in a work of fiction.

While it took some time to pick up, the plot definitely thickens towards the middle of the book when suspense and intrigue starts to build due to Poe’s wife, who appears to have caught on to the affair between Poe and Osgood. Without giving anything away, small details and coincidences start to appear which makes the reader wonder if Mrs. Poe is plotting something terrible, or just a crazy, jealous wife.

Lynn Cullen clearly did a lot of research to make sure everything that happens in this fictional story could have happened in real life, even if we have no way of knowing if any of it actually did. She combed through all of the letters and poems written by Poe and Osgood, and about them, to get inspiration and find historical facts she could use for her book. I think all of this hard work paid off, as the story feels extremely realistic while still giving us the excitement that is often lacking in true stories.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys period pieces, as well as stories that offer a lot of detail and descriptions with which to let your imagination run wild. I would also recommend it to any literary enthusiasts out there, as you will likely learn a thing or two about some of your favorite writers from that time.

Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, or what the last book you read was. I am always on the lookout for something to add to my must-read list!

 

 

 

Book Review: Why Not Me?

Book Review: Why Not Me?

MindyReviewHeader

I can’t believe it’s been three months since my last book review! I definitely want to write more this year, I’ve just been really busy lately, and I haven’t had a regular reading schedule for myself. But I finally got around to reading this book, and I’m excited to share my thoughts.

Mindy Kaling has been one of my celebrity idols for a while now. From writing and acting in my favorite show of all time, The Office, to creating her own show, The Mindy Project, I have been following Mindy’s career for a long time and have been impressed with everything she’s accomplished. She also happens to be hilarious, and very inspiration when she wants to be. Not to mention she is an amazing writer. Mindy, if you’re reading this, I’m basically in love with you. No big deal.

I read Mindy’s first book and loved it, so I knew I would like this one if it was anything like the first. And it was, in all the best ways, while still bringing fresh topics and jokes to the table. It’s also full of great quotes, both inspirational and comical, so I thought I would try writing this review a bit differently. I will be sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book, along with a bit of context. Hopefully this will give you enough of a sneak peek to make you want to read the book yourself.

“If you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you don’t got it, flaunt it. ‘Cause what are we doing here if we’re not flaunting it?” 

This quote is from the chapter Unlikely Leading Lady, where Mindy tackles the topic of body image. She talks candidly about her relationship with her body, and the way the media tends to focus on her appearance since, as she puts it “women who are my size are so rarely seen on TV and film.” She also talks about how, although she has had her fair share of body image issues, in general her brain is filled with more important thoughts than what she weighs or whether or not she should eat dessert.

Mindy'sBrain

“As calm as I might be, still, about once a month, I wake up at 4 a.m. and lie in the dark worrying about the same handful of things.” 

This was from a short chapter at the end of the book, aptly titled 4 a.m. Worries. I liked this quote (and this chapter) because Mindy shared some of the real worries that keep her up at night. It made me feel better to know even someone as successful as Mindy still has fears in life. Some of the fears she listed included: what if I have nothing to say? What if I have too much to say and not enough time? 

“Confidence is like respect. You have to earn it.”

In the final chapter of the book, Mindy explains the connection between hard work and confidence. She states confidence must be earned, just like respect. And it must be earned after a lot of hard work. She fights against the idea shown in many movies and TV shows, that working too much is a bad thing. “I have never, ever, met a highly confident and successful person who is not what a movie would call a ‘workaholic.”

“People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding. People do not get scared when you’re failing. It calms them.” 

I loved this quote because I think it is so inherently true, no matter where you live or who you interact with in life. As Mindy mentions, “That’s why the show Intervention is a hit, and everyone loves ‘worrying about’ Amanda Bynes.” People don’t like seeing others succeed, because it reminds them of everything they haven’t been able to do yet. Mindy goes on to say it perfectly: “When you’re winning it makes them feel like they’re losing, or worse yet, that maybe they should’ve tried to do something too, but now it’s too late.”

 

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me. There were so many other hilarious and inspirational parts of the book, but you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what they were! Comment below which quote was your favorite, and if you have already read this book or plan to in the future.

Book Review: Before The Fall

Book Review: Before The Fall

“To try to predict the places we’ll go and the people we’ll meet would be pointless.”

Reading has become a big part of my life, and I’m so happy I get to share my thoughts on the books I read with all of you! As I write this I am almost finished with another book, so expect yet another book review sometime in the next month.

Today’s review is on Noah Hawley’s suspense novel Before The FallIf you haven’t noticed already, my book reviews tend to be less plot-focused and more general thoughts about the book. So if you’re looking to learn more about the plot, I found this New York Times review by Janet Maslin which I would recommend reading (before or after coming back to my review, of course).

Not only is Hawley an author, but he is also a TV producer/writer (best known for creating the award-winning show Fargo). As I read this book, I could definitely see elements of a TV script in his writing. He added a lot of details and descriptions of the characters, which helped them come to life on the page the way I’m sure he has to do when creating characters for the screen. I’m a sucker for good character development, so this caught my attention right away.

Another element of the novel that I liked was that each chapter switched perspective, giving you a look inside the mind of all of the main characters, similar to the way Paula Hawkins wrote The Girl On The Train. I always enjoy novels that are set up like this, because I like to get to know all of the characters instead of being stuck hearing the story from only one point of view. I also think it works well with mystery/suspense stories, unveiling pieces of the puzzle from different angles.

The one part of the novel that was a bit disappointing to me was the ending. It felt rushed and abrupt, and I didn’t feel satisfied the way I did at the end of The Girl On The Train. Like I said, Hawley adds a lot of details into the novel, and when I reached the end I realized many of the details hadn’t been relevant to the conclusion. I know this is a typical ploy to throw off the reader and ensure the ending can’t be easily guessed, but I was left wishing there had been more essential details to explain the ending.

Overall this was a well written and entertaining read, and it kept my interest the whole way through. If you like stories that include a lot of character detail and plenty of mystery, you will enjoy this book! Like I said, the ending wasn’t my favorite, but it is still well worth the read.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, and if you agree or disagree about the ending. Have you read any of Hawley’s other novels? If not, what is the last book you read?

Book Review: I Am Malala

Book Review: I Am Malala

“It was as though they wanted to remove all traces of womankind from public life.”

I’m back with another book review! Like I mentioned in my last review, I joined a book club. I’m excited to share my thoughts on our first book with you: I am Malala. 

I am Malala is a memoir written by a young girl named Malala, who grew up in Pakistan. She tells her experience fighting for the right to get an education, which ultimately lead to her being shot by the Taliban. The book includes a lot about the history of Pakistan, as well as Malala’s own family history and details about the Islamic faith. I enjoyed learning more about a culture that I didn’t previously know much about. It was definitely eye-opening to read about the struggles young girls and women face in other parts of the world.

Despite the many cultural differences I saw between the United States and Pakistan, I was surprised by how many similarities there were. For example, Malala mentioned the book series Twilight, which caught me off guard because I would have never thought girls in Pakistan were reading Twilight just like American girls. A quote that I loved was when she said “sometimes I think it’s easier to be a Twilight vampire than a girl in Swat.”

One of the most moving aspects of the book was Malala’s relationship with her father. Though she is close with everyone in her family, her bond with her father was really special to read about. They appear to be very similar in many ways, most notably their passion for women’s rights. Malala began campaigning for women’s rights alongside her father, and it was evident how proud he was of her, especially when he declared in one of his speeches, “In my part of the world most people are known by their sons. I am one of the few lucky fathers known by his daughter.”

Malala’s pure bravery was another thing that stood out to me in this book. Even when it was known that she was being targeted by the Taliban and could very well be in real danger, she claimed to not feel scared and she continued to fight for what she believed in. She said,”My feeling was nobody can stop death; it doesn’t matter if it comes from a [member of the Taliban] or cancer. So I should do what I want to do.”

I will admit this book can be a bit dull and difficult to get through at times, especially when she goes into detail about the history of her country and her family. However, it was worth it to me because I really learned a lot and I feel like I gained a better understanding of another culture, which I always find beneficial. I would definitely recommend reading this book if you like true stories, and if you are looking for something semi-educational but still interesting to read!

Let me know in the comments if you have read this book, and what you thought! If you haven’t read it, let me know what the last book you read was.

 

 

Book Review: It Gets Worse

Book Review: It Gets Worse

“The problems you have as a kid will seem ridiculous when you get older because bigger and worse problems will come along. But you will learn to deal with them easier as you grow up.”

Welcome to another book review! It’s been a while since my last one, but I actually just joined a book club, so that should help keep me on track with reading more often. Right now we are reading I am Malala, which is quite different than the book I will be reviewing for you all today. But the one element that connects the two is that they are both non-fiction.

Shane Dawson is someone that I have been familiar with for a while from watching his YouTube videos. His humor is outrageous and extremely self-depricating, so I knew his book would at least be entertaining.

It turned out to be much more than simply entertaining. I thought he did a great job of having a good mix of humor and seriousness. He covered some heavy topics such as his past eating disorder and his grandma passing away, and somehow managed to have me laughing in one sentence and covering my mouth in horror in the next. He has an understanding of the fact that even the most serious of topics have a grain of humor buried within them, and he tactfully extracts that humor at just the right moments.

His book was also extremely inspirational, which was something I didn’t necessarily expect. In one of my favorite chapters in the book, Human Trash, Shane tells a story about making a film for his class in high school, and how his teacher freaked out and turned off the film halfway through, saying it was terrible and that he was disappointed in Shane for making something so awful. Even at that age, Shane already knew he wanted to be a filmmaker, and the teacher’s harsh words really hurt him.  However, there was someone who disagreed with the teacher’s critique. The school principal saw the movie and called Shane into his office, and he had this to say:

“Shane, throughout your life some people aren’t going to get what you do. They won’t open their eyes to see the potential you have and see all the greatness you have in that head of yours. But there will also be people who do. People that get you. And I’m one of them.”

Shane says this conversation has stuck with him ever since. I think it’s so awesome that the principal not only understood him, but took the time to make sure he got the reassurance he needed to keep reaching for his dreams.

One of my other favorite chapters was the very last one, which was written by Shane’s mother. He writes that she always wanted to be an author, but was never able to follow through on that dream since she was a busy single mother. Shane chose to give his mom the gift of officially becoming a published author by letting her write the final chapter in his book. She wrote about the first time she saw him perform in a school play, and how the audience loved him and gave him a standing ovation. She said she had a feeling that night that in the future he would be impacting millions of people, not just one theater. And he certainly has, with more than 16 million total subscribers across his YouTube channels!

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good laugh (particularly if you don’t mind crude, irreverent humor), and who enjoys reading personal, true stories. Even if you’ve never heard of Shane Dawson, you will still enjoy reading it. He is honest and hilarious, and the book is a quick read that will have you both laughing and close to tears.

Hope you enjoyed my book review! Leave a comment below if you’ve read the book, or just let me know what the last book you read was.