Wonder

I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut (as tends to happen), but while on a recent getaway had a chance to finish not just one, but two books. Here are my thoughts on the first:

wonder

Summary (from Goodreads):
I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

My Thoughts:
Having a brother with Aspergers gave me a unique perspective on this book. However, I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed it regardless. The characters express the awkwardness of fifth grade life, and it transported me back to that time in my own life. Being able to view the story through the eyes of different characters mad the story all the more comprehensive and authentic. I’m also not much of a crier, but this book had me tearing up at the end. I believe it showcases the resilience of the human spirit and the awkward pre-teen stage while driving home the point that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and if you do, you might be missing out on something spectacular.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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The Light Between Oceans

My bad book streak is over! The Light Between Oceans was chosen as our Book Club pick for August, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

light between oceans

Summary (from Goodreads):
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

My Thoughts:
Love, love, loved it. The book grabbed me from the beginning and kept me through to the last chapter. Part thriller, part historical fiction, the storyline is intriguing and kept me interested while not overdoing it on the history. I might have to start giving more historical novels a chance!

Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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The Next Big Thing

Before diving into our Book Club book for August, I was browsing Kindle’s Daily Deals and purchased a short story by Jennifer Weiner. I enjoyed other books of hers that I read, and this particular short story, Swim, was the basis of her book The Next Big Thing.

I began reading the short story and was immediately sucked in. It seemed to be exactly what I needed after a string of unimpressive books. I ended the short story and quickly reserved the book at the library.

next best thing

Summary (from Goodreads):
Actors aren’t the only ones trying to make it in Hollywood.…At twenty-three, Ruth Saunders left her childhood home in Massachusetts and headed west with her seventy-year-old grandma in tow, hoping to make it as a screenwriter. Six years later, she hits the jackpot when she gets The Call: the sitcom she wrote, The Next Best Thing, has gotten the green light, and Ruthie’s going to be the showrunner. But her dreams of Hollywood happiness are threatened by demanding actors, number-crunching executives, an unrequited crush on her boss, and her grandmother’s impending nuptials.

Set against the fascinating backdrop of Los Angeles show business culture, with an insider’s ear for writer’s room showdowns and an eye for bad backstage behavior and set politics, Jennifer Weiner’s new novel is a rollicking ride on the Hollywood roller coaster, a heartfelt story about what it’s like for a young woman to love, and lose, in the land where dreams come true

My Thoughts:
Womp, womp. I’m sad to say the book disappointed me. I wasn’t dying to read it when I got home, but it’s one of those books that eventually will blend into the background. It fell a bit flat at times and others were a bit, um, salacious. That was the biggest turn-off for me. My easy, summer reading does not need graphic ‘encounters’ for it to hold its own. It would serve as a decent beach read, but not a book I would recommend if asked. I would be much more inclined to recommend the short story, and wish Weiner would have written the book with the same passion that was shown in the short story.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jackpot!

I missed Book Club last month, which apparently held some very stimulating conversation. A few days after, one of the ladies referenced Jackpot! as a follow-up within our Facebook group, citing its interesting premise – would you have a child for money? I was immediately intrigued, so I downloaded it to my Kindle.

jackpot

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
If your mother offered you 8 million dollars to have a baby, would you do it?

Jamie Jacobson doesn’t have a lot of faith in love, except when it comes to her Jimmy Choo shoes. Her brother Danny has two loves; his barely existent acting career and his ability to pick up women. But life is about to take a wild turn for these two dysfunctional but lovable siblings now that their mother has just won the lottery.

Frankie, a longtime widow has wanted grandchildren for years. Now she’s prepared to pay cash for them. When Frankie presents her son and daughter each with a contract promising $8 million dollars if he or she can produce a child in the next twelve months (DNA tested, of course), Jamie and Danny each begin a frantic search for a person to help them reproduce.

Come along on their desperate, outrageous and hilarious journeys where fake seductions, ovulation kits and a tarot-card reader are replacing condoms, the pill and fun, meaningless hook-ups. They hit a couple big bumps in the road that have nothing to do with their lack of diaper changing experience, but a lot to do with their hearts.

Now they face the choice of their lives. Give in to love? Or go for the JACKPOT?

My Thoughts: A light, easy, chick lit, summer read. Enjoyable, somewhat predictable, and fluffy. It was a welcome change for me after Proof of Heaven, but I’d like something with a bit more substance for my next read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Proof of Heaven

I’m so bummed that I can’t make it to Book Club tonight, because I’m really interested in hearing what the other ladies thought of our book this month: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. I have a good excuse for missing though, so stay tuned later in the week for a recap of what I’m doing instead!

proof of heaven

Summary (from Goodreads):
A SCIENTIST’S CASE FOR THE AFTERLIFE

Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days he lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

Alexander’s story is not a fantasy. Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.

This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to. That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary. No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it. Reading it will change your life.

My Thoughts:
I consider myself fairly religious, but even this got a little ‘preachy’ for me at times. I think if I had more interest in the topic or had read other information on near death experiences prior to the book, it might have been a more compelling read. The writing helped push the story forward, but it couldn’t save the story in my eyes. Once I got halfway through, I lost interest and found myself putting off reading the book (which is never a good thing). I was really hoping that I’d like it, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Sharp Objects

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Gillian Flynn. Her twisted, dark writing blows my mind with every book I read. I recently finished Sharp Objects, and I was surprised by my reaction.

sharp objects

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable

My Thoughts:
Not as good as her other books! With Gone Girl and Dark Places, I felt that I was on the edge of my seat. While Sharp Objects was intriguing, it wasn’t the can’t-put-it-down novel that I have come to expect from Flynn. It was still a shocking, suspenseful, twisted book, and it certainly held my attention. The plot explores the sometimes sensitive subject of family and what it’s like returning home after a long time. The characters each have a distinct personality, and I never had to flip back to remind myself who was who. Flynn does a wonderful job, but in comparison to her other books, it didn’t strike as strong of a chord with me.

I will say that if you’re looking for an author with shock and awe value, Gillian Flynn is your woman. I already can’t wait for her next book!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

bernadette

Summary (from Goodreads):
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

My Thoughts:
I had heard great things about this book and was very eager to read it. It became available at the library (of course, when I already had a few books out), but I made the time and worked my way through. It’s wasn’t as gripping or exciting as I hoped. It’s a decent read that gave me a few giggles, but I wasn’t invested until about 3/4 of the way through. Granted, I’ve been a bit preoccupied. With all that being said, I’d recommend that you give it a chance. It’s a cute, light, enjoyable read. Just not a page-turner for me!

Rating: 3 out of 5

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