Me Before You

15507958I have been hearing good things about this book for quite a while so I finally decided it was time to check it out.  I am so glad that I did!  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes follows Louisa Clark as she takes a temporary position as a caretaker for a successful, handsome businessman, Will Traynor,  who was involved in an accident that left him paralyzed.  Neither Louisa or Will are very happy about spending time together but circumstances force them to bond even in the midst of difficult situations.  Their bond is tested in a heart-wrenching way that will pull the reader along on an emotional roller coaster.

The topic of caring for disabled people is often one that is difficult to approach.  It is often not easy on the caretaker or the patient but Jojo Moyes does an amazing job at exploring the many facets of the life of a disabled person and a caretaker in this novel.  She easily pulls the reader in emotionally and makes you wonder what life would be like if you were facing the same circumstances.  I found myself in love with both of the main characters.  When they were sad, my heart was absolutely broken for them.  When they were happy, I found myself rooting for them.

This book does often involve some pretty hard topics that most people have strong opinions about but I still found it to be a beautiful book.  It is one that will probably affect you on an emotional level but I definitely think it is worth a read.  Moyes writes well and her work is easy to read.  I found myself not wanting to put this book down.  Overall, I rated this book four out of five stars.  It’s a great book but be prepared to feel all the feels!

fourstar

Go Set A Watchman

go set a watchmanIt’s not often that I can sit back and devour a book but yesterday, I did exactly that with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.  When this book was announced earlier this year, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon and have been waiting on it to arrive anxiously.  I loved Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and I couldn’t wait to dig into Go Set A Watchman.  And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Over the past few weeks there has been quite a bit of controversy over this book after it was revealed that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist.  Atticus, for many, has come to represent that epitome of humility, equality, and respect.  In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus stood up for what was right, taught his children valuable lessons about people and race, and became one of the most beloved characters of American literature.  So for many, Atticus as a racist was a hard pill to swallow.  Lee absolutely does portray Atticus with racist characteristics in Go Set a Watchman and that was hard for me to read at certain points in the book.  However, I think it is a dose of reality.  To Kill a Mockingbird is very much a story about Scout’s childhood and a child views her father very differently from the way an adult would.  This novel is set two decades after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird so of course Scout has grown up and now sees things differently.  She sees Atticus differently and notices things about him that she probably wouldn’t have noticed as a child.  Atticus still wants to do what is right but I think Scout is just able to finally see a different side of him as an adult.  I still found Atticus respectable even if I didn’t always agree with everything he said.  Also, just like many readers, Scout also has a lot of trouble rectifying the father she once knew with the new things she finds out about Atticus in this novel.  Scout’s struggle with this is one of the main plot points of the entire novel.

What I think is most poignant about this novel is that it very much pertains to all that has been in the news lately.  The difference between Atticus and Scout in this novel really highlights the conversations that are still taking place in our country.  The conversations between Atticus and Scout are still very relevant.  I think Scout’s plight in this novel is reminiscent of what many people of my generation are dealing with right now.  With all the talk about race in our country right now, I think many younger people are seeing elders that they always respected suddenly showing a very racist side.  Sometimes it is hard to grasp that the people you respect the most are not on board with what you think they should believe.  This book very much seems to me a big dose of truth and reality.

As far as writing, I really enjoyed the writing style.  Lee did a fantastic job.  There were some spots that were clearly not her best writing, however, that is something I could overlook considering that Lee wrote this years ago without the intention to publish it.  She supposedly requested that it finally be published without any changes or input from an editor and I think that has to be considered when judging her writing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was hard at times to read, especially if you are attached to the Atticus everyone knows from To Kill a Mockingbird like I am.  However, it is well-written for the most part and I believe it is a poignant and timely statement about racial relations in the U.S.  I gave it a four out of five stores and would definitely recommend it.

fourstar

The Girl on the Train

girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been on several bestsellers lists for quite a while.  I’ve seen other avid readers raving about it and comparing it to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.  I finally decided that I needed to jump on the bandwagon and pick this book up.

I ordered this book from Amazon and I was so excited when it arrived at my front door.  I dug into it pretty quickly and I have to say, it did not disappoint.  This book was fast-paced and hooked me fast.  The story starts by introducing Rachel, a young woman whose world has fallen apart.  She is divorced and was recently let go from her job.  She spends her days drinking and riding commuter trains into the city so her roommate won’t know she no longer has a job.  She spends so much time on the train that she begins to make up lives for the people that she passes each day.  And then one day she witnesses something that might help the police in a missing person case but with Rachel’s history concerning alcohol, the police aren’t sure they can trust her.

I can absolutely see how this book has been compared to Gone Girl.  While I see the similarities, I don’t think the plot twists were quite as stunning to the reader as it was in Gone Girl.  The Girl on the Train definitely has surprising twists and turns.  I just think the reader can predict some of them. However, I don’t think that it took away from the book.  I still enjoyed it and I didn’t figure everything out so there were still some surprises.

The writing was good but I didn’t find that anything special about it stuck out for me.  Hawkins did a good job helping the reader jump to conclusions about different characters.  She develops the characters well. Overall, it’s easy to read and Hawkins does a good job at keeping the reader engaged.

If you’re into murder, mystery, and crimes, or if you like books similar to Gone Girl, then pick up The Girl on the Train.  It’s a great read.  Overall, I rated it four out of five stars!

fourstar

Station Eleven

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel follows a group of actors and musicians in a post-apocalyptic world who are trying to preserve the arts.  It all begins when a highly contagious, airborne virus sweeps across the world.  In a matter of weeks the majority of the world’s population has been eradicated.  The survivors are slowly making a new life for themselves but when the caravan of actors and musicians arrive in a town called St. Deborah by the Water, they meet a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who tries to leave the town.

I picked this book up for a few different reasons.  The first being that it was a National Book Award finalist.  The second being that it came highly recommended by several of my reader friends.   Reading this book was definitely a good call. My favorite thing about this book is its unique take on a post apocalyptic world.  It seems like most of the books in that genre that I have read in the past few years involve a strong, controlling government or authority or some kind of zombies or creatures to fear.  Station Eleven didn’t have those elements.  The characters live in a world that many of us can’t imagine but the most dangerous element of that world is the other people in it.  To put it simply, the world in Station Eleven seems like a much more realistic and plausible take on how the world could end up if something catastrophic occurs.

Station Eleven alternates between the past and the present as well as between the different characters’ point of view.  Mandel did a wonderful job at pulling this off.  It allows her to tell the story of how the virus spread and impacted the world while also letting us see how the people who survived ended up where they are. It was easy to follow and the different takes on the story line complimented each other well.  It was also a book that really pulled me in.  It held my interest and I read it rather quickly.

I enjoyed this book and Mandel’s writing so much that I rated this book a solid five stars.  If you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories but would like something a bit different from the typical book in this genre, check out Station Eleven.

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1066: What Fates Impose

18842784In high school and college, I had several instructors who required their students to memorize dates for the history courses that I took.  One date that was always required was 1066.  As history major, I am very familiar with the Battle of Hastings so this book made it to my “to-read” list pretty easily. It probably would have stayed on my list of books to read for a bit longer, but when the author, G. K. Holloway, contacted me about reviewing the book I jumped on the opportunity.  Mr. Holloway provided me with a copy of his book which I greatly appreciate.

The first part of the book sets up the background history to the actual battle very nicely.  There is a lot of politics and history in this portion of the book.  The narrative follows several members of several families.  Holloway includes a character list at the beginning of the book which I was grateful for during the first half of the book.  It was nice that I was able to refer to the character list to help keep all the families and characters straight in my mind.  The first half of this book went a bit slow for me. I’m not sure if it was the actual book or the fact that I was studying for the GRE test and preparing to start my master’s degree in history.  Once I took the GRE exam, this book really picked up for me so I tend to think that the slow start was due to my own personal time management issues rather than the book itself.

The second half the book was a much easier read for me.  I was very engaged in the book by the second half and it just seemed to fly by.  Even though I knew how the story would end, I was still eager to keep reading.  Holloway did a fantastic job of vividly painting a gripping narrative of the Battle of Hastings.

Holloway’s writing was excellent.  The book flowed well and I found I could almost relate to some of the characters.  It is also very evident that he did his research.  It was not hard to see that he spent a lot of time delving into the history of this time period and the events in the book.  It is the first historical novel that I have read in a long time that I felt as if I was also getting a commentary on life during the time period.

If you are interested in historical fiction or British history, I highly recommend this book.  I gave it a solid four star rating.

fourstar

Orange is the New Black

Orange is the new black

Like much of the country, I recently found myself sucked into the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.  It ended up being one of those series that my husband and I binge-watched and really enjoyed.  After we finished the second season of the Netflix series, I decided to pick up Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, which inspired the Netflix series.

Like the Netflix series, I really enjoyed Kerman’s memoir.  Her writing flows very well which made this book a pretty quick and easy read.  I found it easy to connect many of the characters from the book with the Netflix series even though the character names were changed for the series.  Kerman’s book was definitely not as action packed as the series but that is to be expected since this book is Kerman’s memoir and not written for ratings.

Kerman does a very good job in this book highlighting the problems with the prison system and showing what many of the people in prison go through.  I often think that middle-class Americans do not always recognize the struggles that many people in low socioeconomic situations go through and I think that Kerman did a wonderful job of putting some of that into words.  This book left me with a lot to think about.

Overall, I gave this book three stars.  While it is well-written and shines a spotlight on the plight of women in the prison system, it was a bit slow at times.  I also found Kerman to be a bit repetitive throughout this book.  If you haven’t watched the Netflix series yet, I would suggest reading the book first.  If you have watched the series, be aware that the events in the series are exaggerated greatly.

threestar

The Maze Runner

6186357James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the first book in the Maze Runner series.  It is one of those books that has been hanging out on my “to-read” list for a long time.  The movie is currently in theaters and I have heard a lot of good things about it so it prompted me to finally pick this book up and read it.

Thomas doesn’t remember anything prior to waking up in an empty box in the Glade.  He doesn’t remember where he came from or who he is.  The Glade is filled with boys who arrived in the same fashion as Thomas and also do not remember anything.  Thomas must quickly learn to navigate life in the Glade and something about this place seems vaguely familiar to Thomas but he can’t remember why.  And then, everything changes.  The next box to arrive doesn’t contain a boy.  Instead, the Gladers find the first girl to ever be sent to the Glade.  Things quickly change and Thomas soon realizes that he holds the key to the maze and many of the problems at the Glade…if only he could remember his past.

One of my students recently told me that James Dashner was one of his favorite authors.  I have to agree with that student.  Dashner definitely seems to be an author that I am going to enjoy reading more books from.  His writing is smooth and flows well.  He also kept his chapters engaging.  Every chapter ended in a way that made me want to just keep reading,

The Maze Runner is the first book in series and ended accordingly.  Dashner leaves the reader with only partial answers to most of the problems in the book.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

This is a book that I think fans of the dystopian genre will really enjoy.  It is also considered a young adult book so it will appeal to younger readers.  Overall, I rated this book four out of five stars.

fourstar