Review- Fingersmith

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

6401660Rating: 5/5 stars

“When I feel his mouth upon my wrist, I flinch. ‘Now, now’ he says. ‘Be good for a moment. Excuse my whiskers. Imagine my mouth hers.'”

Sue is an orphan living in the home of Mrs. Sucksby, a petty thief of watches, purses, and children. Although Mrs. Sucksby treats her well, Sue gets sent off to be a maid to the lady Miss Lilly. She becomes part of an elaborate scheme of the orphanage with a plan to steal Miss Lilly’s fortune. As Sue becomes more comfortable serving, bathing, and feeding Miss Lilly, the two young women find themselves struggling to be truthful with one another.

To be honest, I prioritized this book on my TBR because one Goodreads review said “lesbian Dickens!”. I wish I had coined the phrase first because it certainly fits this book. This was such a lovely and captivating story and the writing is absolutely beautiful. Sarah Waters leaves out no detail when describing Miss Lilly’s extravagant mansion, but does so without boring the reader.

I felt like I was slowly becoming one of Sue’s close friends throughout this book. I was angry when she was wronged and was giddy when she was fighting her oppressors. Throughout my time as a reader I have yet to come across another character like Sue (and doubt I’ll find one soon). Although the book was not told entirely from her POV, her character development had the most depth and thus she became easy to love.

I’m looking forward to reading more books by Sarah Waters (perhaps Tipping the Velvet next?).

Sunday Book Recommendation 2/15

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

second-glance-2104-383Oops, I forgot to publish this yesterday so this is more of a Monday Book Recommendation. Sorry about that!

Jodi Picoult has SO many books, everyone knows that. Almost every reader owns at least one of her books, especially after My Sister’s Keeper became a movie. Second Glance is definitely one of her lesser-known novels and it pains me that more people haven’t read it. It’s by far my favorite of her books (and I’ve read almost all of them!).

cw: suicidal ideation

Like her usual writing style, Picoult switches between many different points of view that range from children a man over 100 years old. Also, like many of her novels, this book touches on rare and controversial subjects. The ‘ultimate’ main character, Ross Wakeman, has struggled with suicidal ideation since the loss of his wife. As a compensation, he becomes a ghost hunter and lives off of the adrenaline rush that his career gives him. Ross has never actually found a ghost, but he continues searching for the sake of meeting his wife in the afterlife.

This book is about love and its boundaries. Yes, love is unconditional; but can it pass through time? I believe this is Jodi Picoult’s only paranormal romance, and it’s a fantastic one. I know Picoult’s style is love or hate, but if you love her books then please give this one a try!

Review- Annie on My Mind

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

AnnieOnMyMindRating: 5/5 stars

“I tried so hard to think– but there was only one word on my mind and that word was ‘Annie'”

Liza Winthrop is a high school senior busy with student council, college applications, and attending an extremely Catholic school. While visiting a museum, she runs into a girl, Annie, who completely turns her life around. Annie shares her world, a low-income town and a room full of flowers, while Liza shares hers, a love for architecture and a caring younger brother. These two girls become inseparable and somewhere along the way find themselves with deeper feelings for each other.

I cannot express how important this book is. This is the book to read for adolescent girls trying to discover their sexualities. The story of Liza and Annie is so touching and real that it can really speak to young adults experiencing the same feelings, questions, and confusion. Every time I hear of a girl struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, I just want to shove this book in her face and say “it’s okay! Stop beating yourself up for something you have no control over”.

Not only is this an important LGBT novel, but it’s such a cute story. It’s a story about two people discovering what it means to love someone and seeing how powerful that emotion can be. Annie on My Mind may be about two girls, but has nothing to do with the fact that it’s like every other novel written about teenagers falling in love. I loved everything about this book and found myself in a good mood every time I picked it up.

Review- Room

Room by Emma Donohgue

41zGJ8k52tL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: 3.4/5 stars

Jack has just turned 5 years old, and his world consists of an 11×11 foot room. This doesn’t bother him much because he knows nothing of the outside world. Now that he’s 5, Ma begins to tell Jack that grass, ice cream, and other kids actually exist on the other side of Wall and Roof and not just in the TV. Jack and Ma create a plan to escape Room, but it’s extremely risky. If they were able to escape, how would Jack cope with being outside in the fresh air, with other people for the first time?

This book was just okay. There was nothing really special about it and I honestly don’t understand what all the hype is around it. I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters, so I was really ambivalent to any of the big events that happened to Ma or Jack. There were horrible, traumatic, and sad things that occurred throughout the book, but I didn’t have that emotional attachment to care about them enough.

I think the problem with Room is that its entirely narrated by a five year old kid. This, obviously, makes his world very bias. The book would have been so much deeper if it had switched between Ma and Jacks POVs. By sticking only to Jack’s POV, it’s almost like Donoghue was taking the easy road. Ma could have been such a complex character, but we merely got a glimpse into how she was feeling.

I understand that this is a great bookclub book– there are a lot of controversial issues to discuss. Despite this, as a pleasure read, I’m disappointed with it. I was really hoping for better.

Sunday Book Recommendation 2/8

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

13158800This book was one of my favorites that I read in 2014. It’s actually rumored to become a movie in late 2015, so I recommend reading it before the film comes out! It’s definitely a really heavy story and it will stay with you for a while.

This book focuses around a lighthouse keeper, Tom Shelbourne, and his wife Isabel. The two live alone on the island of the town’s lighthouse, but are effortlessly in love and don’t mind the isolation. The couple is struck by grief after Isabel has multiple miscarriages after trying for a baby for years. As if fate is answering Isabel’s prayers, a baby washes up in a tiny boat on their shore without a note or identification. Tom suggests that they alert the mainland about the child, but Isabel persuades him to keep quiet. This is a story about Tom and Isabel living with both the joy of having a child and the grief of knowing that the baby is not their’s to keep.

Like I said, this is not a light-hearted story–it’s very dark and heavy. Nonetheless, I’m excited for it to become a film and encourage everyone to read the novel before it’s out in theaters!

Review- Rubyfruit Jungle

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

165395“Why would people get upset over something that feels so good? Me being a queer can’t hurt anyone, why should it be such a terrible thing?”

cw: suicide mention, homophobia, transphobia

This book is about coming out, I mean really coming out, in a world against anything different, or “queer”. Queer is such an inclusive term now, it encompasses so many forms of oppression (eg sexuality, race, class, gender identity, etc) and really shows how they all intertwine in a system of institutional biases. But for the main character of this book, Molly, it’s a derogatory term for people who are attracted to the same gender as themselves.

**spoiler ahead**
Molly discovers that she likes women during her early middle school years, but continues seeing men well into her adult life. The thing I love about Molly is that she simply doesn’t care what other people think and tries to not put a permanent label on herself. Towards the end of the book, she does call herself a lesbian, but it takes her many sexual experiences to get to that point. I admire her for staying true to herself the entire novel
**end spoiler**
What I really love about this book is that its a real coming out novel. Molly faces homophobia from everyone around her– her parents, counselors, and friends. I really felt for Molly and experienced the pain of rejection along with her. Molly was so determined to never let other people get to her, and that made me proud to be feeling these emotions with her.

Although this novel is set in the middle 1900’s, LGBT youth and adults still face these problems today. This really opened up my eyes to how much things haven’t changed in the past 50 years. Yes, lesbians are not constantly called “dykes” and “queers” in a derogatory way, but homophobia and transphobia still exist in the everyday world. LGBT youth are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide that straight youth because of this very reason. Although I can absolutely admit that we have come far in the gay movement, there is still a lot of work to be done. I praise Rita Mae Brown for writing such a powerful novel about the struggles of coming out in this world and hope to read more books like this one.

Review- The Book of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

Rating: 4.5/5

20697435“Never forget the Book. Never, never. The Book our rock, our hope, our redeemer.”

Peter, after intense examination and a series of personality tests, is selected to go on a mission in space. He is chosen to serve as a catholic priest for a colony of humans living on an extraterrestrial planet. He has no idea what, or who, to expect on this mission, but he knows that spreading the word of God is one of the most important jobs of every Christian. With that in mind, he is not afraid to preach the verses of the Bible to whoever is willing to listen on this new planet.

Yeah, that was a pretty broad synopsis…but I have to be really careful with my words or I might spoil something big. So, please, allow that fragment of a plot summary to suffice for this review.

This book started out extremely slowly. I almost put it down about 50 pages in. I’m glad I kept going because it starts to get interesting and creepy around page 100. The books starts flying after that and it’s really hard to put down. Peter is really annoying at first, which is why it’s hard to get past the first hundred pages, but I came to like him.

I was initially interested in this book because people seemed to have such a hard time placing it into one specific genre. I’d say that this is definitely science fiction, with a touch of horror and thriller. Those three make for a great and captivating read!

I was really, really disappointed with the ending. It felt extremely unsatisfying and a bit confusing, even after re-reading the last chapter a few times. There are so many things/lessons that Faber could have finished with, but he just hastily wrapped it up without giving the reader a good sense of conclusion.

Still, this was a great read and I’m happy it was at the top of my 2015 TBR. A good way to start off the year!

Sunday Book Recommendation 1/25

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott

779576I should probably re-read this book before I recommend it to people on the internet (thanks for reading my stuff, by the way!). The last time I read this was during my sophomore year in high school and I don’t think I fully understood it’s meaning. I’ll read it again soon and probably update this review.

Although it’s subtitled “A Romance of Many Dimensions”, this book is no romance. It’s definitely science fiction and philosophy mixed together. The novel is told by a character named A. Square who is, quite literally, a square. A. Square tells us of his life in Flatland, a 2-dimensional world, and what this place looks like to the triangles, circles, and hexagons, and other polygons living there.

The book opens with, “I call our world Flatland, not because I call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space.” Essentially, this book is just A. Square explaining the rules and limitations of Flatland (and Lineland!), like a manual. There is no central plot line, but with each rule of Flatland explained, A. Square has a little story to go along with it.

This certainly falls under a strange, mathematical genre of science fiction. It’s a pretty short read (150 pages) and very easy to finish in one night. A. Square has a sense of humor in his narration, which adds to the lightness of the book. If you have a free night or long afternoon, please try to pick up this book!

Review- Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Pages: 370     Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Neverwhere(1)“What’s it like being dead? It’s very cold, my friend. Very dark, and very cold.”

Richard Mayhew lives a boring life in London, working at a job that doesn’t seem to interest him and engaged to a woman who isn’t right for him. He comes across a girl named Door, bleeding and helpless on the side of the road, and decides to bring her back to his apartment. Through meeting Door, Richard is thrown into London Below, another version of London full of people who “fell through the cracks”. He turns invisible to everyone from his old life, but he meets incredible people living below– Rat-speakers, beast hunters, and bird sellers. Richard and Door embark on a journey to avenge Door’s family and help Richard get back to London Above; a life far less interesting than the one he has below.

This is such a classic Gaiman novel. I’ve come to love Urban Fantasy through reading his novels. If someone were to ask me what urban fantasy is, I’d just hand them this novel in silence. There’s no way to put it in words. People who have read any of Gaiman’s novels will know what I’m talking about.

This book is great. Richard is the perfect protagonist who you kinda hate for being so annoying but end up rooting for him by the end of the novel. Door, too, is a protagonist and a strong female character. I often find books that are centered around a male character and consequently fail to represent any female power. Door is, in fact, very powerful and an important character not just for Richard, but for the novel in general. Yay for prominent female characters!

It was interesting reading the discussion questions at the end of the book/interview with Neil Gaiman. He says that that the novel can be read as a satire and commentary on the lower class and homeless populations living in London today. I definitely didn’t read the book that way, but it’s an interesting point of view. I might go back and skim this novel with this new lens on it!

Review- Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Pages: 127          Rating: 5/5 stars

41grAYBhp6L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“…You’ve got to understand that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great Full, and your whole body, form wingtip to wingtip, is nothing more than your thought itself.”

As a disclaimer–this book wasn’t originally on my January book list. My dad and I were at the bookstore and he insisted that he would buy it for me. He literally would not let me leave the store without this book. I am so happy I decided to read Jonathan Livingston Seagull this month instead of feeling guilty by having it stare down at me from my shelves. I will definitely be taking more book recommendations from my dad.

Jonathan Seagull is well, a seagull, who does not fit in with his flock. Rather than focusing on catching fish for dinner and other things that seagulls normally do, Jonathan loves to fly. He loves learning how to do tricks and trying to beat his nosedive record of over 100 mph. Upon seeing how different Jonathan is, his flock declares him an Outcast and leave Jonathan alone and without a family. Jonathan is taken in by another flock of seagulls, a colony of outcasts who, like him, live to fly. There he learns how to master his body and mind and discovers what it means to be free.

Although the plot summary of this novel paints it to be very shallow, this book means so much more than an outcast seagull discovering how to fly really fast. Trust me. The novel serves as a beautiful commentary on both society and religion, depending on how you want to view Jonathan and what he believes is heaven.

This book is one of the most definite 5 star ratings I’ve ever given. I think I may have to go back and read it a few more times before I fully understand it, though. Bach uses a wonderful story about a seagull discovering his passion for flight to analyze social constructs that exist everywhere today. The themes in this book are countless, but I can’t write about them without spoiling the plot. Like I said, I’m so glad that I bumped this book up on my reading list. I loved it.