Three Days, Three Books: What I’ve Read so far on my Holidays

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Author: Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is a genius architect on the verge of a meltdown. After two amazing achievements, she disappeared from a world of architecture and became a full-time mother for a brilliant girl Bee Fox. When, after a successful school year, Bee asks her parents to go on a trip to Antarctica, Bernadette’s world starts to collapse. Disputes with her neighbor and contacts with Russian mafia all lead to Bernadette’s disappearance. It’s on Bee now, to find her mother and bring her back to the real world.

The novel is a funny tale about a family full of geniuses who sometimes cope better in recluse than among the people. While I truly enjoyed how the story flowed from one event to another, I found it very confusing for the first half. It has letters, emails and other files from a lot of people in Bernadette’s life and there are also parts where Bee herself is telling a story. Towards the end, you get to know the reason behind the format of this book, but nonetheless, it makes it hard to read because of all the jumping from one person to the next.

I did enjoy the characters though. They are all very complex, with their own life story that makes them who they are. None of them is just a shallow image of what a person truly is. The author really took care of the depth of one’s character that comes with different life experiences. And of course, throughout the novel, these characters change, evolve and grow from personal experience revolving around the events of Bernadette’s disappearance. You could say that Bernadette is a catalyst for the personal growth of people in her life.

On the whole, I truly enjoyed this book but because of its confusing complexity, I couldn’t really dive into it with the same gusto as I do when it comes to really great books. That is why I’m rating this one with 3 stars out of 5.

Published: 14 September 2012, by Back Bay Books
Read: 23 June 2019
Rating: 3 stars

The Summer of Jordi Perez

Author: Amy Spalding

Abby Ives is size plus, fashion-obsessed teenager with a preference of girls. She thinks of herself as a sassy side-kick to her best friend’s love story. As her summer internship starts at a boutique store, she finds herself enjoying the company of one Jordi Perez, a known “criminal”. New friendships, romance, and adventures ensue and the summer of Jordi Perez becomes a personal growth moment for Abby.

Ugh, what to say about this book? I definitely find nothing good about it. The story is sloppy and cliché. The characters are way too superficial for my liking. There is no depth anywhere. The conversations in the book do not flow like natural, spontaneous discussions are supposed to. Abby is a very self-conscious fat girl, who think life is like a movie and this does not make her relatable to us teenagers at all. The only character I truly enjoyed was Jax and even he was over the top sometimes.

I really wanted to finally read a good queer story from a girl’s point of view but to say I’m disappointed is an understatement. Your sexual orientation should not be everything you are. It does not define you completely, therefore it should not be so unnaturally the focus of the story. It feels forced in this book and it poorly represents the reality of relationships.

Unfortunately, I’m giving this book a really low rating. It gets 2 out of 5 stars, which I am only giving because I managed to read it all.

Published: 3 April 2018, by Sky Pony
Read: 24 June 2019
Rating: 2 stars

If Cats Disappeared from the World

Author: Genki Kawamura

The narrator finds out that he has only days to live. With this realization comes an unexpected visitor, the Devil. He offers to make one thing disappear from the world and in exchange, the narrator gets one more day to live.

I’m sad to admit that I did not finish this book. There isn’t even much to say why I’m just indifferent towards it. The book is very short so I tried to finish it but in the end, I just couldn’t. Maybe it’s the translation that is making it so uninteresting. The narrator just sounds like a kid. I even lost the count of how many “wow’s” there are in the book, and I’ve only read half of it.

I truly have no words for this book, which is why I’m giving it the lowest rating there is.

Published: 30 August 2012, by Flatiron Books
Read: Did not finish
Rating: 1 star

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Secrets for the Mad

Author: Dodie Clark

“I’m excited, I’m reckless, I’m terrified, and because I can hurt so much, I can love so deeply.”
This book is funny, honest and simply brilliant. The author is truthful about things she’d experienced in life and how she overcame her struggles. Dodie covers every part of a young person’s life in today’s society. From mental health to sexual experiences and grief, you learn who Dodie really is and, if you are like me, realize that you are not alone in this world when it comes to your habits and everyday thoughts.

First of all, I’d like to mention the structure of the book. It’s divided into five parts, each part covering a certain time in her life or a certain theme. What I really love is how each part starts. There are drawings, which you find throughout the whole book, and there are photos of the author as a child, as she is now and other random photos. There are also her original songs that come along with the chapters. The whole format is indeed very different from what most of us are used to, but it definitely fits in with the genre. I do recommend reading the book in physical form because the readability is probably better than as an ebook, which is how I read it.
Also, listening to her original songs on Youtube as you come across them in the book is a good idea, because, in a way, you get to know the author even more.

Another thing I love is the reality of life in this book. There are so many life lessons written in the simplest ways and on nearly every page you can find something to relate to.

All in all, this autobiography is a magnificent piece of writing, and even though I have no recollection of how the book found it’s way onto my to-be-read list, I am glad I read it at this point of my life. I’m giving it 5 out of 5 stars because it really does not lack in any single thing.
Published: 2 November 2017, by Atria/Keywords Press
Read: 22 June 2019
Rating: 5 stars

Dear Rachel Maddow

Author: Adrienne Kisner

Rachel Maddow is Brynn Haper’s celebrity hero. Due to a school assignment, drafts to Rachel’s email become Brynn’s way of letting her emotions and thoughts out in the open. At first passionless, Brynn discovers the power of standing up for herself and others who are in a minority or otherwise overlooked by a certain group of students in their high school. With Rachel Maddow as her politically vocal example, Brynn finally realizes the importance of listening to people and telling their stories.

“I like trays. They can be used as weapons.”
Brynn Haper is a sassy seventeen-year-old, who is dealing with difficult situations on a daily basis. She is clever and blunt, sometimes too straight-forward for her own good. Brynn is the main character that teenagers can relate to because her life is far from perfect and yet she keeps on going.
Other characters in the book are interesting to read about as well. Everyone has their own story, which we only get to know briefly through the mentions in Brynn’s diary. The most exaggerated character in the whole story is probably Adam, who is your typical rich kid with plenty of connections that get him everywhere. Even when he is in some big trouble, the consequences lead him to something better. This is probably supposed to represent the privileges of certain people in comparison to the groups of regular, hardworking men and women who try their best to succeed and yet they stay on the position they started at.

As far as the writing style and novel form goes, I love it. I find myself enjoying the epistolary novels lately as they have a more dynamic feel to the story. It was definitely hard to put the book down, even though I was supposed to study.

All in all, I really loved the book. It was a super quick read for me and a great form of relaxation. The story is fresh with ideas, and even though young adult novels tend to resemble each other a bit too much lately, I found this one way less cringy and cliche than most. I’m giving it 4 out of 5 star, mostly due to the fact that it still lacks some more depth.

Published: 5 June 2018, by Feiwel & Friends
Read: 18 June 2019
Rating: 4 stars

Dreams of My Russian Summers

Author: Andreï Makine

“…the translator of prose is the slave of the author and the translator of poetry is his rival.”

This book made me an emotional mess. The words are powerful and the descriptions make brilliant pictures of France and Russia.

It’s a book about the boy’s Russian summers with his grandmother Charlotte from France. He tells us about the memories she shared with him and his sister and the way he imagined France in his grandmother’s time of youth. As he is growing up, he faces many difficult events that make him doubt his identity. If he thought of himself as a Frenchman in his younger years, the boy soon realized what a Russian man is supposed to be. It’s a story of growing up, becoming of age, struggling with intimacy and most of all, it’s about the boy’s love of France and his grandmother.

On the whole, the writing style is gorgeous. The sentences are heavy on metaphors and the descriptions of Russia and France make a vivid picture. I literally fell in love with the book by the first two pages, just because of the way the author tells the story. From the French ‘petite pomme’ smiles to the plot twist, in the end, the words flow beautifully.

As for the characters, it’s hard to say anything – be it good or bad. They are all so real and there’s a connection I could feel with every single character. They’re just real people. And that’s what makes this book even more special. You get to know a story about a woman who survived both world wars, who walked from France to Russia on her own, who suffered so much and yet stayed beautiful, inside and out.

The book made me cry. I never expected such raw emotions when I started reading it. I was not left disappointed. Honestly, it blew me away and that’s why I’m giving it all 5 stars, as well as announcing it as my favourite book from now on.

Published: 1995, by Editions Mercure de France

Read: September 2, 2018

Rating: 5 stars

 

Monthly Wrap-Up: August 2018 & September TBR

Once again, the end of the month is here. And sadly, for us, students, this also means school is starting. But let us not dwell on that too much just yet. We still have two days to enjoy. Even with the stress of the school approaching, my August was pretty awesome. It was filled with wonderful moments that I cherish greatly. Unfortunately, with my exhausting summer job and a long visit from my uncle, I didn’t manage to read all that much. I read three books and started the fourth one.

Books of This Month

Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap

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I had to read this book for my school essay, and it kind of disappointed me. I hope next time I read it, I’ll find something more interesting about it.
Rating: 2.25 stars
Review link: Angel of Oblivion

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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I loved this book. I recently joined a book club, and this month we read and discussed Thirteen Reasons Why. The book filled me with emotions I haven’t felt in a long time. I really recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.
Rating: 5 stars
Review link: Thirteen Reasons Why

Mirror Mirror by Cara Delevingne

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A friend recommended me this book and I had high hopes for it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good as I expected. Cara is an amazing actress and a model, but she hasn’t impressed me that much with Mirror Mirror.
Rating: 2.5 stars
Review link: Mirror Mirror

September TBR

As for September, I set my goal a bit higher. I decided to try and read 4 books, as well as finish the one I’m reading now. I must say I’m quite excited to see if I can pull it off as well as survive the first month of school.

Currently reading: Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andreï Makine

TBR list:

  • Cogheart by Peter Bunzl (an ARC from NetGalley)
  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin (an ARC from NetGalley)
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell

 

Mirror Mirror

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Author: Cara Delevingne

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. When a friend recommended me this book, I had my hopes up and in the end, it let me down, big time.

This is a story about a group of teenagers in a school band. One goes missing, others plan a concert to remember her. Naomi gets found, the concert is still on but the friendship amongst Red, Rose and Leo is slowly degrading due to personal problems they all face. Red and Naomi’s sister Ash find who nearly killed Naomi and used plenty of other girls, while the band members are once again reunited as friends.

To start off, let me tell you what I think of the plot. Basically, it’s a book about some teenage drama with some twists, that you can kind of predict if you read similar books like this. The whole story seems so familiar and unoriginal, it’s honestly hard to get into. I struggled through most of the book. Only the last ten chapters were really interesting and gripping. The rest, not so much.

As for the characters? I can’t say I could connect to them all that much. All have problems they deal with in their own way, and yet all seem to be quite strong. It all sounds too perfect, even though they’re supposed to be struggling. Red has identity issues as well as family drama. Rose has a dark past that she confronts with a brave smile and attention-seeking attitude. And Leo’s brother gets out of jail and tries to involve him into some shady business. A tech-nerd Ash is the most interesting of all, to be honest. She’s smart and cunning, as well as determined to find out who hurt her sister. In the end, she does that and avenges Naomi by bringing down the person behind this.

I honestly don’t know what to say about the writing style though. It was weird reading this book. Some sentences seemed so lacking to me. Some of the chapter beginnings bothered me the most. ‘Heart racing, acid in my throat, sweat prickling the base of my neck. 3 a.m.’ It’s just… Something is missing. I can’t pinpoint what exactly, but sentences like that make me uncomfortable.

Overall, I couldn’t really enjoy reading this one, as well as couldn’t connect to the characters. That’s why I’m giving it 2.5 stars out of 5, just because I managed to finish it and was surprised by the ending, which was honestly the only interesting part.

Published: October 3rd, 2017, by Trapeze

Read: August 28, 2018

Rating: 2.5 stars

 

Thirteen Reasons Why

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Author: Jay Asher

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”

This book touched me deeply. I’ve read it for the first time when I was dealing with a bad case of depression, a few years ago. At that time, I was struggling with thoughts of suicide and even attempted it. But as I was going through a healing process, my mother brought me this book. And it made me feel better.

This time, I read it because we’re having a book club meeting, where we’ll discuss it. Once again, it didn’t disappoint. I read it quickly, loving the emotions of it.

The story is about Hannah’s reasons for her suicide. We’re following Clay listening to the 7 tapes Hannah recorded. Each tape has two reasons why she decided to go through with it. Throughout the story Clay finds himself getting to know Hannah and missing her more and more. We encounter real emotions, horrible stories and valid reasons.

What most people don’t get is that depression and such thoughts don’t happen because of one exact thing. Sure, that can be the case sometimes. But I related to Hannah especially because she struggled with small things that gathered inside her, and in the end, broke her. Whenever someone asks what was the reason behind my illness, I cannot give them a definitive answer. It would take at least thirteen reasons if not more, to explain it. It’s the small things, words that seem harmless.

But I also ended up in a similar situation as Clay plenty of times. There were friends, there still are friends that struggle with the same thing Hannah did, and all I want is to help. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as it seems. That’s why I loved Clay. He is such an honest character and he battled with real emotions as he listened to the tapes. My heart ached for him.

As for the writing style, I loved the simplicity of it and the whole idea of the chapters being about a certain tape and reason. The emotions were brilliantly represented through the words and actions.

Honestly, I think the author managed to write a very realistic story about a teenager struggling with existence in a world full of back-stabbing friends, hypocrites and gossip. I think people should be more careful about the impact that their words and actions can have on someone. I’m not saying I’m perfect because I’m fully aware my words hurt too. But being aware of it and thinking before commenting is one step in the right direction.

Published: October 18, 2007, by RazorBill

Read: August 15, 2018

Rating: 5 stars