Commonwealth

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Commonwealth explores the complicated relationships of the Keating and Cousins families after they’re joined by infidelity, marriage, and divorce.

This book is more of a study of life rather than a novel. Instead of a protagonist, the story follows various members of a highly dysfunctional family. They lie to each other, cheat on each other, and abuse each other on various levels. Sometimes they are seeking personal gain, other times times they are seeking someone else’s downfall. It doesn’t really matter, because rather than showing how a blended family can unite and succeed, Patchett chose to show how a blended family can destroy (and enjoy) tearing itself apart from the inside out.

The plot was hard to follow. Events were uncovered out of order and the frequent flashbacks made the flow of the book choppy. The artistic decision to us a shifting POV didn’t help the cohesiveness of the story.

I know that this book received wonderful reviews, but it wasn’t for me.

Ann Patchett is a beautiful writer though, so if she’s written a more traditional novel, I’d love to read it!

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Title: Commonwealth
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Published: May 2, 2017
When I first got the book, I thought they were peaches on the front and it reminded me of an old fashioned Savannah!
Dress: Bohme
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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Lara Jean Song wrote five secret love letters. One to every boy she’s ever loved.

She never intended for anyone to read these letters, but when they’re delivered, Lara Jean has to open up about her feelings. As she faces current crushes and past loves, Lara Jean is forced to choose which boy will be her future.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a wonderful trilogy starring an unexpected protagonist. Lara Jean Song is a timid Korean teen. She’s not the smartest, the prettiest, or the funniest, but her little quirks (a love of baking and wearing thrifted clothes) make her a relatable and believable character.

When her love letters are mailed by her little sister (in a moment of spite), Lara Jean’s simple and quiet world gets turned upside down. Her past crushes range from the high school stud, her older sister’s ex, and a top member of the Model United Nations team. The variety of personalities and interests gives good depth and entertainment to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. 

The third book is the weakest of the series, but by the last book, I was so invested in Lara Jean’s story that I pushed through the slow parts.

If you are looking for a lighthearted read that’s filled with high school heartache and first loves, then I highly recommend To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. 

 

 

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Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: April 15, 2014
Side braids and barrettes, Lara Jean is a girl after my own heart!
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Unearthly

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Unearthly, Hallowed, and Boundless

The Unearthly series follows Clara, a teenager who learns that she is part angel. Her rare genetics have assigned her a specific purpose to fulfill on Earth; too bad she doesn’t know what that purpose is. Short visions are the only clues she has to guide her, but their ambiguous meanings leave her second guessing everything.

While seeking answers about the role she’s meant to play in life, Clara finds friends, enemies, and love.

As she battles her personal (and very real) demons, Clara works to answer one question: Does fate really exist, or will she be able to decide her own future?

This series originally started out as research reading for my own YA novel about angels and demons. It turned into a very enjoyable read and exceeded my expectations. The other angel/demon books I’ve read feature a brooding fallen angel that the “heroine” falls in love with. Unearthly took a different route by having the strongest character be the heroine. Clara does the rescuing and in truth is the only person able to rescue herself. No one can interpret her visions for her, and she has to learn how to rely on her own strengths to overcome obstacles.

Along with a strong female protagonist, this series features three equally strong plots that tie into each other well. Each book is able to carry itself. There is no weak link title in this series.

If you are looking for an exciting read where more is at stake than a broken heart, I recommend the Unearthly series!

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Title: Unearthly
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: November 1, 2011
This book is about good vs. evil, light vs. dark…hence the black. It also takes place in the wilds of Wyoming…hence the flannel.

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The Light Between Oceans

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The Light Between Oceans

Tom Sherbourne is the keeper of the lighthouse on Janus Rock. The island is miles away from civilization, and when Tom marries Isabel, their future revolves around the family they hope to raise in the shadow of the lighthouse.

Dreams of motherhood slip further and further away from Isabel as she buries three stillborns. In the moment of her deepest despair, a boat washes onto the shores of Janus rock carrying a dead man and beautiful healthy baby girl.

Who is the man? How did he die? Where did the boat come from? Only one question matters to Isabel: What will happen to the baby? Little Lucy becomes a part of the Sherbourne family, but as the year’s go by the other three questions are answered and the Sherbournes are again faced with “What will happen to the baby?”

This book is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I have never cried while reading a book, but The Light Between Oceans had me sobbing multiple times. The torment faced by Tom and Isabel Sherbourne is devastating. What would I do if I were told to give up the child I raised, even if I raised her under a lie?

The unfathomable struggle is what made this story so gripping, but the craftsmanship of writing is what makes this book a standout. Stedman is as much a poet as an author. The life she paints on Janus Rock is mesmerizing. Her ability turned a small island into its own world of beauty and turmoil and character.

And I know you’re not supposed to compare the book to the movie…but the movie had me bawling in the I-can’t-breathe kind of way.

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Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman
Publisher: Scribner 
Published: April 2, 2013
*Remember to check out my instagram @bookfaire for a chance to win this 5-star book!
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The Love That Split the World

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The Love That Split the World

People think Natalie Cleary might be crazy since she sees things no one else can. Are the people she sees ghosts, visions, or living nightmares? When Natalie falls in love with Beau Wilkes, she has to figure out if his odd arrival in her life is a sign that he might not be real. Now she has to solve the puzzle of how to keep her mystery love in her world.

The Love that Split the World was a quick read making it great for summer. While the plot behind the story may seem heavy (a girl is trying to make sense of a world that is literally changing before her eyes), Emily Henry managed to keep things light in the book.

The idea of having two timelines of life overlapping on earth was interesting. It was so unique! This theory is what really gave this book its rating. But then Henry added time travel, which never works for me. Going back in time and altering major events can kill a book. We invested all this time in a story, and now you’re going to go back and undo everything? Nope.

The love interest Beau Wilkes was flawless. That might sound like a good thing, but perfection is unrealistic and it made his character flat. The love was as superficial as Beau was– a love at first sight that was more of a teenage obsession than anything else.

I loved the cleverness behind the book, but the characters and relationships could have been developed a little more.

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Title: The Love That Split the World
Author: Emily Henry
Publisher: Razorbill
Published: January 26, 2016
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The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale delves into the oppressed world of Offred. Her life’s purposes as a Handmaid are to pick up groceries, keep herself healthy, and once a month try to get pregnant with the Commander. Anything else could get her killed.

So Offred doesn’t do anything else…for the whole…entire…book.

The Handmaid’s Tail isn’t a story about how Offred grew and changed. It’s a story of how the world she lived in changed. That’s what was so off-putting for me. I prefer character driven stories, and The Handmaid’s Tale serves as more of a political/religious critique.

I kept waiting for Offred to do something to challenge society, to rise up and find a way out. She’s given several opportunities and I rooted for her to take them, but Offred does what she is told and little more.

She remembers her life before Handmaids existed, a life when she was allowed to read, wear makeup, and dream of a future with her now missing husband and daughter. These flashbacks of “life before” break the story flow. Because Offred is such a passive character, she spends a lot of time thinking about the past. The frequent jumps from far past, to present, to recent past muddle the timeline of events and make the story drag.

If you are interested in fictional reflections about government/religion, then you might enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale. It wasn’t the book I expected, so I was disappointed.

This is one of the first audio books I’ve listened to while I was working. Not going to lie, it’s really hard to pay attention to an audio book while you’re writing emails. I had to rewind so many times because I tuned out the book!

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Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor
Published: March 16, 1998
The Handmaids are a class of oppressed women. I took these photos the day after I chopped off my hair…#notoppressed
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What’s Your Favorite Book? (Careful with Your Answer)

Can we talk about one of my biggest bookworm pet peeves? It has to do with the simple question “What’s your favorite book?”
I often ask this question when I’m looking for a new book recommendation. I want something that I can check out from the library, read in three weeks, enjoy, and return. There are literally hundreds of thousands of options to choose from, but somehow when I ask, “What’s your favorite book?” so many people name a series instead of a single title.
Harry Potter is not a book title.
The Lord of the Rings is not a book title.
The Lunar Chronicles is not a book title.
The Hunger Games…technically is a title, but you know they’re not just talking about the first book.
I am by no means bashing on trilogies, sagas, chronicles, sets or series. In fact, a good chunk of the books on my shelf are boxed sets. All of the series listed above I’ve read and loved and own. (I own part of the Lunar Chronicles, but only because I’m poor and need to buy food instead of books.)
It’s frustrating to look up a title recommendation only to find there are five other books I’ll need to read in order to have the full plot resolved. That’s not a three week read, that’s an investment!
So please, the next time someone asks you, “What’s your favorite book?” answer the question correctly. Not books. Not book series. Just book.
The Lord of the Rings
The Hunger Games
Harry Potter…I’m missing book two!

 

This Is Where It Ends

This Is Where It Ends

A quiet rural town is getting back into routine on the first day of school. The students and teachers are gathered together in the auditorium for the principal’s annual “Welcome Back” pep talk. Everything is normal, until the assembly ends and the teachers realizes that all the auditorium doors are locked from the outside.

There’s a shooter in the room, and this first day of school will tear the town apart. 
I have never read a school shooting novel before. I like to read to escape real life, and unfortunately violence, hate, and bullying in schools are all over the news and social media sites. For some reason though, I picked up this book and decided to read it. It was a good choice!
This Is Where It Ends is written from four different character perspectives (with a few special sections interspersed throughout). Jumping from view point to view point normally makes the story too jerky and disjointed for my liking, but Marieke did a wonderful job of keeping her timeline in order. In fact, the timeline was one of the things I thought was brilliant. 
The entire span of the book only takes place in one hour. Each chapter is broken up by different time increments (i.e. 10:32-10:35 A.M.), so you’re reading in real time. The different narrators are located in various places: inside the auditorium, outside the auditorium, outside the school, so you’re able to get a full spectrum of what’s going on. Brilliant. 
The plot is violent (it’s all about a school shooting), and every single character feels misunderstood (typical teenager). Despite the heavy subject matter, it didn’t weigh down the flow of the story too much. Marieke did a good job of balancing dark backstories with hope and determination. 
While this book isn’t a new favorite that I’ll reread over and over again, I am glad that I gave it a chance. It reminded me that I need to be part of the good in the world. It doesn’t take much to be kind, but it can make the biggest difference in the life of someone I’m kind to.  
Title: This Is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks 
Published: January 5, 2016

The Story of Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I grew up performing in musicals and plays and dance recitals, so I will always be a theatre girl at heart. Halloween gives me a reason to dress up…full-out costume.

My dog and boyfriend hate it because I make them dress up too…full-out costume.

This year our family costume was inspired by the children’s book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.

I first heard about this book when watching The Blind Side, and I had to get a copy for myself.

A bull who loves flowers.
He’s sent to a bullfight.
All he wants to do is smell flowers.
The End

The Story of Ferdinand is a simple story with black and white illustrations. There are no special effects, no superheroes, and no crazy villains. A classic story is timeless whether it was written 5 years ago or 50 years ago. It’s nice to know that such a story has lasted the test of time. A good children’s book doesn’t trend, it stays consistently read by each generation.

Title: The Story of Ferdinand
Author: Munro Leaf
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Published: March 31, 2011 (First published January 1, 1936)

 

Señorita and her Matador

 

Olé!
(Reason #5 to never get rid of your old prom dresses.)
With our little bulls

 

Ferdinand the bull-dog

 

The Night Circus

The Night Circus

What a magical cover for a magical book! Seriously, I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but how could you not pick up this book?

The Night Circus is beautifully written with an air of old world mystery. The two main characters, Celia and Marco, are used as pawns in a game to see which magician is stronger. Their chess board is a traveling circus where every night they must create a new object or tent full of magic that’s meant to astound and mystify.

Yes, there is a love story between the Celia and Marco, but it was their magic that kept me drawn to the book. Every night I wanted to see what the new tent would hold. And every night I was not disappointed. The Night Circus creates a world that I so badly want to be a part of. I would do anything to be able to visit Le Cirque des Rêves. The setting of the book is a huge win for me because it is so unique. Circuses are generally thought of as playful with bright colors, but this one takes it to the next level as something powerful filled only with the colors of black and white. A sophisticated circus with a hint of danger…isn’t it delicious?

This book is full of mystery…A circus that only opens at night. A cast all dressed in black and white. Two magicians locked in a deadly game. These are the ingredients for a memorable book, but add in beautiful writing, and you have a 5-star book!

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Anchor Books
Published: July 3, 2012