Etta and Otto and Russell and James

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I’ve gone. I’ve never seen the water, so I’ve gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

It’s important to note that I started reading Etta and Otto and Russell and James as a last stitch effort at salvaging some sanity after what is proving to be a very long, and arguably miserable Winter. The result was a delightful mix of magical realism and down right charm. Time has no boundaries and there is never any clear dialogue, yet somehow Hooper bonds you so close to her characters that they have remained on my mind nearly a week after turning the last page.

Turning the last page. Actually, this was the first “real” book I have read in ages. I have been a devoted e-reader groupie ever since purchasing my first device almost 5 years ago. And while I can still preach the benefits of downloading a book in seconds, there was something extra special about reading this particular book off a paper page.

Etta was a school teacher haunted by tragedy who falls in different kinds of love with best friends, Otto and Russell. Time moves back and forth from their youth to present day, where all are now in their eighties. Etta, with the goal of seeing the ocean for the first time, sets off on a journey to walk across Canada. On her way, she meets up with James, a mysterious coyote who both protects and encourages Etta. My only complaint was the severe dive in character development when it comes to Russell, a once integral part of the plot is all but dropped after he goes off on his own. The story is ultimately focused on Etta and Otto’s profound connection and love. It’s best to approach this as a adult fairy-tale of sorts. It doesn’t always make sense, but really, does everything always need to make sense??

Buy the “real” book, have a cup of tea ready and spend a chilly Sunday morning with Etta and Otto and Russell and James.

Buy the book here!

Happy Reading!

Xx

One more Summer read: Wild

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Let me first state, from a reading perspective, I’ve had a pretty disappointing Summer, ranking in at just 2 books from June to August 20. Two books. Which is one more than what most high school students are required to complete, and 5 less than what I accomplished last year. In spite of this hideous fact, the Summer wasn’t a complete literary wash out. One of the two books was Wild , you know, the one with the girl who goes camping for a really long time?

Of course there is much more to it than that, but for the longest time whenever someone would mention the book to me, the first thought that came to mind was usually “Oh, the nature book where she loses her boot”. Reading about Cheryl Strayed’s journey both on the Pacific Crest Trail and off really helped me get past some Summer blues and take greater appreciation for my own life.

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The tragic death of her mother, the end of a young marriage, and a terrifying dip into drugs and promiscuity all led Cheryl to take those first few steps onto the trail. The trail which turned out to be a last stitch effort to re-contruct a soul torn down by the events of an unfortunate life. The boot falling off was the very least of her problems. This memoir is a testament to how wonderfully nature could cure almost anything, and how important it is that we preserve it.

Pick up a copy of Wild here

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Check out the trailer for the upcoming movie starring Reese Witherspoon here.

Happy Reading.

Xx

Unbroken, unbroken.

Unbroken

Let me first start with an embarrassing confession: I’ve been doing some major slacking on my intended 2014 reading list, like, major slacking (See A new year, new books.).

So this past winter I scanned the list of worthy titles and landed on “Unbroken”, now anybody with even a partial foot in the literary world already knows all about this book. The legendary story of Louis Zamperini, the man who met hitler at the Olympics, only to eventually fight against him, live on a raft for 40+ days, and then survive the torment of three years in a Japanese POW camp. You know, that classic fairy tale.

Louis Zamperini

Around the time I picked up (or rather downloaded) the book I was feeling a bit broken myself. I was suffering from classic heartbreak, admitting that makes me feel both terribly dramatic and awkwardly honest, both of which I hate. It wasn’t necessarily one thing in particular. I was feeling crummy about a few things that hadn’t gone my way. Sometimes life is just crummy that way.

Louis Zamperini

So there I was, manically depressed and reading about one of the most horrible events in human history. Perfect combination for a “Girl, Interrupted-esque” suicide, right? Wrong. This book gave me hope…and a great deal of perspective.

Louis Zamperini

The account of Louis Zamperini’s life reminded me of both the fragility and power of my own. I felt as though I lived with him, is his mind and in his heart. I think that’s what makes this book so special to those who read it. Laura Hillenbrand writes so effortlessly, it’s as if blood is pumping through the pages.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this. It’s one of the best. If you read only one book this year, read “Unbroken”.

Angelina Jolie and Louis Zamperini

If that didn’t convince you, Angelina Jolie is directing the screen adaptation and you know that woman is gold.

Happy reading.

Xx

*Addendum*

Only a few short days after posting this review Louis Zamperini died at the age of 97. He lived a bold and triumphant life, rest in peace.

Everyone should read this children’s book.

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First off, I would like to be honest and admit to audibly scoffing at adults who prowl the young readers section for their next book. I thought I was above you. Turns out, I’m just as big of a sucker for a charming, harmless story as the rest of you. This book was so much more than I thought it would be- a true masterpiece- one I will be certain to share with my future children.

Wonder is a snapshot of the life of August, a bright 10 year old boy who was born with a severe facial deformity. After living the first decade of his life undergoing painful surgeries and even more painful stares, he is about to begin the scariest thing of all, entering school for the first time with hundreds of not-so-friendly middle schoolers. The story is told through the perspective of Auggie and the other young people in his life. It explores the dual nature in all of us, how we could be so empathetic, while also unintentionally making cruel choices. This is a superb debut novel, and R.J. Palacio deserves all the praise she has received.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you wil try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”

“Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

“the universe takes care of all its birds.”

Buy Wonder

Happy Reading.

P.s. I’m onto my third book on my list, not sure if I should start Doctor Sleep or Unbroken next? Please help.

Xx

Wolves, I’m home.

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Holding true to a resolution I made in the beginning of the year, I had recently finished book 1 of 10 “goal books” I intended on reading by the end of 2014. (Confused? Please reference back to New year, new books.) Tell The Wolves I’m Home is almost magically told through the eyes of June Albus, a fifteen year old girl reeling from the death of an uncle she shamefully harbored feelings for. Please hold dry heaves until the end of this review. It’s not like that. For June, the love she had for Uncle Finn was birthed from pure innocence. However, there is plenty Finn was forced to keep from her and the truth slowly begins to unravel after he dies of AIDS.

For me, the litmus test of a good book is its ability to seamlessly introduce you into another person’s consciousness. From page one you are immersed in Junes sometimes raw, and oftentimes tender, feelings for the people who inhabit her small up-state life. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking to get lost in some truly beautiful writing.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Her tears tell the story of what she knows. That the past, present, and future are just one thing. That there’s nowhere to go from here. Home is home is home.”

“I know all about love that’s too big to stay in a tiny bucket. Splashing out all over the place in the most embarrassing way possible. I didn’t want to hear anymore of the story, but I couldn’t help listening. The pain of it almost felt good.”

“I thought of all the different kinds of love in the world. I could think of ten without even trying.The way parents love their kid, the way you love a puppy or chocolate ice cream or home or your favorite book or your sister. Or your uncle. There’s those kinds of loves and then there’s the other. The falling kind.”

Read this book.

Happy reading.

Xx

A new year, new books.

Happy New Year Everyone!

As I recover from last nights champagne hangover I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed with myself. I’ve missed so many good reads this year! So, for 2014 I’ve compiled a list of “Goal Books” to complete over the next 12 months. From light-hearted love stories to horrifying depictions of poverty, this list has something for every type of reader.

In no particular order…

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I’m a sucker for a sad girl tale and this book seems to fit the bill. It’s the story of a young girl who discovers both herself and the secret life her beloved Uncle was forced to live.

Read Tell the Wolves I’m Home

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It’s 1986 and two high school misfits fall in love through their mutual admiration for music. Don’t let the Teen book label mislead you, Rainbow Rowell knows how to write about love and Eleanor and Park is no exception.

Read Eleanor and Park

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It takes Donna Tart 10 years to write a novel and they are usually well worth the wait. In her most recent endeavor a newly orphaned boy is comforted by a famous painting which leads him into the dark underworld of art dealing.

Read The Goldfinch

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Did you ever wonder what happened to little Danny after The Shining? Well, this book has the answers. A now middle-aged man, Dan is forced to deal with the paranormal perils threatening the life of a special little girl. Described as “Instantly riveting” this novel is sure to be one of Stephen King’s best.

Read Doctor Sleep

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Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo painfully illustrates the contrasting social classes that inhabit the area surrounding India’s Mubai airport. Personal stories of seemingly impossible poverty will stay with the reader long after all the pages have turned.

Read Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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A fifth grader with a jarring facial deformity longs to be excepted as “normal” by his less than understanding classmates. This story of compassion and empathy is something both children and adults will relate to.

Read Wonder

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This runaway New York Times Bestseller tells the almost forgotten story of World War II lieutenant Louis Zamperini’s fight for survival in the most trying of times. From boyhood perils to the flight that would change his life, this book left readers captivated.

Read Unbroken

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The most realistic depiction of the life Jesus Christ and the fierce establishment his existence threatened. This book is anchored with historical facts and was recommended by both believers and non-believers alike.

Read Zealot

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Malcolm Gladwell has graced us once again with his astute observations of the world we share. Through thorough research and Gladwell’s distinctive prose this book will change the way we view society’s underdogs.

Read David and Goliath

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Sandberg examines the roles of women in the work place and gets to the root of why men still hold the majority of leadership positions. As the chief operating officer of Facebook she also has some valuable advice for anyone looking to further their own career.

Read Lean In

What are your Goal Books this year? Please share in the comments!

Xx