Carry On

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Carry On

by Rainbow Rowell

August 2016

I read Carry On for my mom’s club book club. We’re not discussing it until October, but I loved Rowell’s novel, Eleanor and Park, so much that I was very excited to read another one of her books. I literally knew nothing about the plot or characters, so I was genuinely surprised to start reading and discover it was a fantasy novel. As I just finished reading the first Harry Potter book, I was struck with how similar the two were at first, but then I was reminded a lot of the Twilight series (disclaimer, I’ve only seen the movies, not read the books). I love Rowell’s writing style, so I was quickly drawn into her novel and caught up in her clever, intriguing plot. I was rooting for the characters from the beginning and I was totally blindsided by the twist at the end! That being said, this book is not a favorite. I think the biggest drawback for me was the story line between Simon and Baz. Carry On was the first book I’ve read with a gay couple, so I found relating to it difficult. Honestly, I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it.

Simon is a magickal student at Watford who has never known his parents. He has a difficult time controlling his magic even though he has more magic in him than anyone he knows, other than the Mag who runs the school and has taken Simon under his wing. Simon’s roommate is a vampire named Baz and the two are sworn enemies and his best friend is Penelope. They are all in their final year of school, but this year is different because the Insidious Humdrum is making magic disappear all over England in circular pockets, and they must stop him. The book follows their journey to stop the Humdrum and keep peace within the magickal world. The parallel story line follows Simon and Baz who shift from enemies to lovers and friends when they realize that they need to work together to stop the Humdrum. Spoiler: in the end they figure out that the Mag fathered Simon to make the most powerful magician in order to bring peace. But the Mag has let power get to his head and instead of allowing Simon to defeat the Humdrum, he wants to take all of Simon’s power. Simon figures this out and is able to give all his power to the Humdrum, thereby destroying him and healing the holes (that were actually caused by Simon using so much magic). Simon is left with no magic, but it’s okay because he has Baz and peace is achieved. I definitely loved the tidy, sweet ending . . . yes, I’m a sucker for happy endings . . . we all know this by now! 😉

Summing it up: I loved Rowell’s writing, but as I didn’t love the story, I would not necessarily recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

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It Ends With Us

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It Ends With Us

by Colleen Hoover

August 2016

I’m going to start by saying that if you have not read this book, definitely go out and read it before reading my post . . . I can’t talk about this book without spoiling it, and it is so important that you know nothing about it before you read. It is definitely different from Hoover’s other works, but it is both moving and beautiful, and a must read.

It Ends With Us is hauntingly beautiful and deeply moving. I cried through over half of it. I am especially affected by how there is no black and white in the story and in Lily’s character’s choices, just endless grey. Hoover draws you in with her trademark writing and meet cute. From there she weaves a compelling story dealing with love and domestic violence. Lily is a 23 year old living in Boston, dreaming of owning her own flower shop. Her father has just died and she is relieved because he abused her mother. She meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon who is not interested in a relationship, even though there’s clearly a spark between them. Later, Lily is able to open up her shop and hires a young woman, Allysa to help her out. Before long, Lily learns that Allysa’s brother is Ryle and they start seeing each other more regularly. Because of this, Ryle lets down his guard and tries out a relationship because of Lily. They fall madly in love and get married. It’s then that things get progressively difficult for Lily. After an accident, Ryle strikes out and knocks Lily down. She is horrified, but he is apologetic and she agrees to give him another chance. Before long, it happens again and Lily warns Ryle that he needs to change or she will leave him. He is remorseful and agrees, but it happens a third time and Lily leaves. It’s only then that she discovers that she’s pregnant. She is torn because she is still deeply in love with Ryle and misses him when he is “himself.” But she is so afraid for her safety and for the well being of her child that she makes the excruciatingly difficult decision to divorce Ryle, but allow him to be involved in their daughter’s life. It is heartbreaking and I am still processing the story. On a side note, there is a sub plot involving Lily’s first love from high school. He was everything to her, but circumstances forced them a part. He comes back into her life at the same time that Ryle does and is able to help her when she decides to leave Ryle. He is also there waiting for her when she is settled and they are finally able to be together. I’m so happy that Lily gets a happy ending with everything awful that happened to her. The last two paragraphs before the epilogue sum up Lily’s choices and I’m going to quote them here because they were so insightful. Lily says to the reader, “Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes and astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet. My mother went through it. went through it. I’ll be damned if I allow my daughter to go through it. I kiss her on the forehead and make her a promise, ‘It stops here. With me and you. It ends with us.'”

Summing it up: While It Ends With Us was difficult to read and process, it was such a moving book that it was worth reading and I absolutely recommended it.

All the best, Abbey

Under the Egg

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Under the Egg

by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

August 2016

After reading The Gallery, and adoring it, I had to read Fitzgerald’s other book, Under the Egg. I just finished it and it did not disappoint. I love her writing style and I cannot get over how clever and interesting her plots are. Brilliant. I’m really hoping Fitzgerald keeps writing!

Theodora Tenpenny lives with her mom and grandfather, Jack, in New York City. One day her grandfather dies leaving her a cryptic message that she will find a treasure ‘under the egg.’ She remembers the painting in her house of an egg and decides to start there. She  takes down the painting and accidentally spills rubbing alcohol on it, which causes a layer of paint to come off, revealing another painting underneath. This one is of a Madonna and Child. Theodora wipes the entire top painting off and is left puzzled as to why her grandfather covered it up to begin with and wondering if it might actually be a famous painting by Raphael. Spoilers: Theodora makes a friend, Bodhi, who helps her follow clues and figure out the story of the painting. They reach out to curators, libraries, and ask their friends for insight. In the end, they discover that Jack had enlisted in the army when he was younger and had been taken by the Nazis as a POW. While he was being worked to death (literally), he made a few friends. One of whom had a daughter whom he had protected by bribery (he had a priceless painting by Raphael of the Madonna and Child that was actually a portrait of Raphael’s secret wife and child). Jack was able to escape and worked for non other than the Monument’s Men (a group of men in charge of saving priceless art and monuments during WWII), where he found his friend’s painting. By this time his friend had died and Jack made it his life’s work to find the daughter and return the painting to her. Theodora realizes that she must find this daughter and finish Jack’s work. She inadvertently stumbles across the daughter, who ends up being their neighbor, and returns the painting. It is bittersweet, but all ends well and quite happily. All this time Theodora has been struggling to make ends meet (her mother is essentially a child when it comes to taking care of things). After returning the painting, Theodora discovers an inheritance left to her by Jack and is able to stop worrying about her next meal, etc. He truly left her a treasure and a legacy.

Summing it up: I highly recommend this book. It was clever, sweet, and such a fun read!

All the best, Abbey

 

The Martian

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The Martian

by Andy Weir

August 2016

It’s book club night! Tonight we will be watching The Martian after discussing the book. I’ve already seen the movie, but I loved it and have had the book on my to be read list for a while. I was very happy for the excuse to bump it up the list. I loved this book. Yes, some of the technical details went over my head, but I enjoyed how Weir used Mark Watney’s character to describe them in a tangible and understandable way. For me the book started slow, but exponentially sped up and had me on the edge of my seat (and this is a feat considering I already knew what happened). I also laughed SO much. The book was hilarious in a really good way.

Mark Watney is one of 6 crew members who have traveled to Mars. In a tragic twist, a nasty storm picks up and Watney is speared by an antenna and thought to be dead. His crew leaves Mars, and unknowingly leaves a living Watney. When Watney comes to he realizes he is alone and begins his quest to stay alive. The rest of the book flashes between Watney and NASA and everything Watney does in order to cheat death. This is where the humor comes in. Watney has loads of it and it’s what keeps the book moving and interesting instead of bleak and miserable. At one point Watney needs to tape string to a trailer and he says, “Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.” Another time Watney is commenting on his meager fair as his food supply is dwindling, “I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’. (Side note, I’m laughing as I type this.) I experimented with potato skin tea a few weeks ago. The less said about that the better.” I was literally laughing out loud many times as I read The Martian. Spoiler: I loved, loved, loved the ending . . . Watney makes it off of Mars alive! I’m so happy he didn’t die. I loved his monologue at the end of the book so much that I’m going to quote it here:

“The cost for my survival must have been hundred of millions of dollars. All to save one dorky botanist. Why bother? Well, okay. I know the answer to that. Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary future we’ve dreamed of for centuries. But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side.”

In short, I laughed, I cried, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Martian.

Summing it up: I highly recommend this book. It was a great read.

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

by J. K. Rowling

July 2016

I never fully hopped on the Harry Potter train when I was a kid. My mom read me the first two books, but I don’t remember anything about them. My husband wasn’t into them either back in the day, so we decided that it would be fun to read them all at once together. He has a good half an hour drive to work, so I got the audio book for him and the hard copy for me! We just finished book one . . . and we both liked it. For me, it was as if I was reading it for the first time. Literally the only déjà vu was at the end with the game of chess, but it’s a fuzzy memory at best. So, as someone new coming into the series, I really didn’t know what to expect (other than having high expectations, considering its popularity). I got swept away into Harry Potter’s world and wanted him to succeed so badly. I loved the characters and Rowling’s writing style. It was easy to fall into this new magical world, as I really enjoy reading fantasy books.

Harry Potter is an unusual boy raised by his selfish, “normal” relations. He soon learns the reason why strange things happen to him – he is a wizard. Harry gets invited to attend the premiere wizardry school, Hogwarts. Against his aunt and uncle’s wishes, Harry goes off to school where he is met with many challenges like being bullied by Malfoy and despised by Professor Snape. However, he forges a close friendship with 3 peers: Ron, Hermione, and Neville, and discovers that he is a natural at the sport of Quidditch. Spoilers: the 4 friends soon suspect that dark magic is taking a hold and resolve to find the source. At first they believe Professor Snape is to blame, but in a surprising twist (after heroically defeating and outwitting many spells) they are confronted by the great dark wizard Voldemort himself, taking residence in the body of Professor Quirrell. Harry is able to defeat him in the end, but not kill him. For now, all is well and the entire school celebrates before ending the school year.

One of my favorite characters is Dumbledore. He said a few things throughout the book that I thought were profound in his world and ours. Like when he is talking to Harry after Harry finds the mirror of Erised. He says, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” Or in the end when he is talking to Harry about Voldemort (or you-know-who), “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” I thought those quotes were memorable.

I’ve heard that the rest of the books get darker and that they are sad, but I’m looking forward to reading them for myself and seeing what I think. So far, I’m enjoying and curious, and definitely drawn in . . . we’ll see where I end up!

Summing it up: I definitely recommend this book if you love fantasy. I’m looking forward to my boys enjoying it one when they’re older!!

All the best, Abbey

 

November 9

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November 9

by Colleen Hoover

July 2016

Simply put, “how does Colleen Hoover do it?!” I’m amazed and completely hooked. I don’t have words to express Hoover’s ability to create characters that absorb you to the point that you do nothing else but read. Seriously. Life stops and I read until the book is finished. Thankfully, I started this one at 9:30 pm and was done a little after midnight. 😉 For future books I’ll just be planning my evening to read them in their entirety. You can’t help yourself, that’s the amazing part. You find yourself fully invested into the characters’ lives and you must find out what happens to them. I can’t give Hoover enough praise.

Spoilers ahead: Fallon is an 18 year old struggling actress. 2 years earlier she was involved in a horrible fire and while she made it out alive, she has horrible scars to show for it. She was on her way to a prosperous career when the accident happened and now is planning to move from L.A. to New York to find work. Benton is an 18 year old college student/aspiring writer struggling with his own hidden scars stemming from losing his mother 2 years earlier. She had terminal cancer and decided to kill herself instead of waiting for the cancer to do it for her. Benton overhears Fallon trying to defend her decision to move to her father and intervenes to stand up for her (her father was being quite cruel). After successfully putting her father into his place, Benton doesn’t want to leave Fallon. They decide to hang out, Fallon shocked that Benton isn’t put off by her scars, and they begin a tortuous, passionate relationship. Though clearly drawn to each other, they decide to put off any serious “getting to know each other” and rather decide to meet every year on the same date (Nov 9) until they are 23 and have had time to live their own lives. Fallon taking her mother’s advice that, “you’ll never be able to find yourself if you’re lost in someone else.” Each year is filled with difficulty, but they always meet up and always have the same passionate connection. When they finally turn 23, they run into their hardest obstacle: Benton has kept a horrible secret from Fallon. The night Benton’s mother killed herself, Benton was unable to read her suicide note. Because of this, he misinterpreted her actions, thinking that she killed herself because of a man rejecting her. That man he figured out was non other than Fallon’s father. Benton decided to see what kind of man this was and drove to his house where he observed Fallon’s father getting the call that Benton’s mother was dead. Clearly distraught, but not enough for Benton, Fallon’s father leaves. Benton is furious and decides to set Fallon’s father’s car on fire. Things go wrong and the whole house goes up. What Benton doesn’t realize at the time is that Fallon was staying with her dad that night and was caught in the fire. Benton knew from the start that Fallon’s scars and difficult life were his fault and he wanted to make it up for her by standing up for her to her father and helping give her the confidence to be an actress again. While he successfully does this, because he lies to her, when Fallon finds out she is not sure she can trust him ever again. However, in a beautiful manuscript of Benton’s, Fallon learns his motives and feelings and realizes that he truly loves her and decides to trust and love him in return. I was totally sobbing at the end . . . yes, it was that beautiful (and I cry at everything!).

Summing it up: I highly recommend this book. It was gripping, moving, and completely engrossing . . . block off several hours to read at once!

All the best, Abbey

The Art of Arranging Flowers

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The Art of Arranging Flowers

by Lynne Branard

July 2016

This book was beautiful. I love flowers, so I was very curious to see what kind of story The Art of Arranging Flowers was. Simply put, it was a story of opening up yourself to love, especially after heartache, and experiencing the beauty of love. This book reminded me a lot of The Language of Flowers. One, because the protagonist in both stories is a florist, and two, because of the tone. It was such a beautiful, sweet, moving story. I was drawn in at the first chapter and hooked until the end. I’m having a hard time leaving the characters. I read the book in one day, so I keep thinking about them and feeling like I’m going to go back to them, but then I remember I finished the book! Even though it had a nice, wrapped up ending, I still can’t get the characters out of my head. I was moved by each one of the characters’ journeys, their kindness for each other in this little town, and how they grew and learned. Spoilers: Ruby is a 45 year old florist in the small town of Creekside. She knows everyone, but has never let anyone get close to her since her sister, Daisy, passed away. One day, she meets a 10 year old boy, Will, who has been orphaned and is now living in Creekside with his grandparents. He asks Ruby for a job and she reluctantly agrees. Before long, Will has logged a place in Ruby’s heart that she can’t deny. Meanwhile, she meets a retired astronaut who shows her that she can open up to people and be happy and okay. Through her friendship with him, she slowly opens up to love. In the end, she adopts Will, falls in love with the Vet in town, and has a very happy life.

The Art of Arranging Flowers was a simply beautiful book. I just loved it.

Summing it up: I highly recommend this book. It was moving, beautiful, and a delightful read!

All the best, Abbey