Isla and the Happily Ever After

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Isla and the Happily Ever After

by Stephanie Perkins

December 2016

I finished the third and last installment of the Anna and the French Kiss series. It was wonderful. I loved Isla and the Happily Ever After. Perkins’ writing is vivid and her plot was moving and addicting. It was impossible to put this book down. As the end of a series, it was fitting and left the reader fulfilled and happy.

Isla attends the same school in Paris that Anna did, only a few years behind. Isla hangs out almost exclusively with her best friend, Kurt. He has high functioning autism and they get each other perfectly. For years, Isla has had a crush on Josh: a hot, moody senior who blows off school and loves to draw. One day they finally connect and get to know each other. Soon, they acknowledge the truth: they have both liked each other for years. Isla was too scared to talk to Josh (especially since he was part of St. Clair’s gang before they graduated and left him behind) and Josh thought Isla was dating Kurt. Such begins their rapid romance. Spoilers: they soon become inseparable, even though Josh respects Isla’s relationship with Kurt and their established routines for the most part. Isla and Josh are rapidly falling in love and decide to recklessly run away to Spain for the weekend. They enjoy the uninterrupted one on one time, but it is not to last. They get caught and Josh is expelled. His father is running for senator and can’t afford the scandal, so Josh is forced to return to N.Y. to be the proper son his parents need him to be. They take away his phone and he and Isla have to sneak around to talk, and those conversations are few and far between. They write letters, but the separation is a huge strain. Finally, over a holiday Isla returns to N.Y. and is invited to a fancy gala as Josh’s date. It is a strenuous night and Isla comes to the realization that she’d only hold Josh back from his potential if they stay together, and if so, that he would realize she’s not good enough and end things down the road. That would be too painful, so Isla decides to break up with him now, in order to hurt less. Josh is crushed, but Isla is stubborn. She returns to school and realizes that she is still helplessly in love with Josh. At first she dismisses it because she feels unworthy of love, but soon she tries to reach out, only to be met with silence. She even buys a comic book and gets it signed by the author for Josh, but then hides it. It’s a horrible time for both of them. While Isla is wrapped in her own misery, Josh is heartbroken, but determined to prove his love to Isla (who is obviously horribly insecure). For years, he’s been working on a memoir comic book of his high school years. He showed the rough version to Isla when they were together and she freaked out because there were only a few pages about her and a ton of pages about his ex (including a full nude spread). Josh took her limited constructive feedback and decides to rewrite it. If he can finish, then he hopes to win back Isla and convince his dad to let him go to college for art and comics. One day, he gets a package: it’s the comic book Isla bought him (her sister sneakily sent it as if from Isla). He takes it as a sign of hope and agrees to join his friends on their trip. Cricket’s sister is competing in the Olympics, so he, Lola, Anna, St. Clair, and Josh are going to watch her, stopping in Paris to meet Isla, “Josh’s friend.” They get together for dinner and it is horribly awkward. St. Clair and Anna are the first to leave and disappear to one of their favorite spots. They are followed by everyone so they can witness St. Clair’s proposal! Anna says yes, and everyone leaves them in peace. Finally, it’s only Josh and Isla left. He gives her the new manuscript and makes her promise to read it right away and call as soon as she finishes. Isla is so disappointed. She hoped he would want to stay with her, but she agrees. Soon she is lost in his masterpiece. It has a new, solid story and focus (and she is much more present). In the end, her character is reading the new manuscript and realizes that Josh truly loves her. She calls him to find he’s been waiting outside for her the whole. Isla wipes her tears and looks out the window to see Josh. She runs outside and they embrace. It’s such a beautiful ending. Side note: she makes things right with Kurt, becoming friends again, and it works out for the best because Kurt has made more friends in the meantime and is very happy. Additionally, the theme of life after college is woven throughout the book and Isla and Josh get into schools in the same town and are able to live together during college. It’s truly a happily ever after story and I loved it!

Summing it up: I loved this book. It had humor, heart, angst, and a happy ending. I definitely recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

December 2016

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children was another family recommendation. This time from my sister. I didn’t hesitate at all, but quickly took it to read. Not surprisingly, I’m happy I did! I really liked this book, even though it was totally creepy. It was so interesting, and had such a steady pace, not rushing or drawing out too long. There’s no easy way to really describe it, so I’d say, just dive in and find your bearings.

Jacob is an ordinary boy in an ordinary town, who wishes for something more. He works at a store, which he hates, and has a grandfather whom he loves, but who is seeming to go crazy. He tells stories about his old friends who could do amazing things, like levitate, form fire out of thin air, and one who is invisible. He also has a collection of firearms and talks about monsters. Jacob enjoyed looking at the old photographs of his grandfather’s friends when he was young and believed in them, but now he is skeptical and worrying about his grandfather. One day, he goes to check on his grandfather, only to find him dead. The crazy thing is Jacob sees a creature with tentacles receding into the woods. His parents agree to send him to counseling after going through such a traumatic event which is causing Jacob horrible nightmares. Jacob’s therapist is a great help and eventually suggests that Jacob visit the island where his grandfather met all his old friends. Jacob’s parents reluctantly agree and he gets to go with his dad. Once on the island, Jacob quickly finds the home his grandfather stayed at, but is dismayed to find it in ruins. It’s not long after this, that he meets his grandfather’s friends, who are truly different and haven’t aged a day from their photographs. Spoilers: Jacob is soon swept into their world, where time stands still in order for them to be protected from “normal” humans, as well as from horrible tentacled creatures called HollowGhasts and human looking creatures called Wights, both of whom hunt peculiars for food (Wights doing the brunt of the work because they can blend into human society). Jacob is drawn to the peculiar’s world and enchanted with their life, feeling at home and safe with them and their headmistress, Miss Peregrine. He’s learning more about his grandfather (including the fact that he had dated, Emma, a peculiar who can form fire and who has taken a pointed interest in Jacob), and more about himself. He finds out that he is actually peculiar, like his grandfather. They both can see monsters, while everyone else cannot. Before long, this ability comes in handy as he spots both a HollowGhast and Wight on the island and therefore knows trouble it’s coming for Miss Peregrine and her peculiars. Everything comes to a head when the Wight breaks into Miss Peregrine’s world and captures her, while the HollowGhast tries to kill Jacob, Emma, and a few of their friends. He is ultimately unsuccessful (he dies), but the damage is done with Miss Peregrine. Jacob and his friends must rescue her and defeat the Wight, who has been disguising as Jacob’s therapist. After an epic battle, they kill the Wight and are able to rescue Miss Peregrine (who was forced to turn into a Peregrine – her peculiarity), but she is unable to turn back. They also learn that the HollowGhasts are working together to capture other leaders like Miss Peregrine (who alone are able to manipulate time) in order to gain more power and eventually master time itself. Jacob has to decide if he will return home to his ordinary life, or abandon it to live with the other peculiars. In the end, he decides to stay with his new friends and help defeat the monsters. He tries to explain things to his dad, who is incredulous and clueless, but knows he’ll never really understand, and then he leaves to start his new life.

Summing it up: This book was so creepy and so good. I definitely recommend it and can’t wait to read the other two books in the series!

All the best, Abbey

Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

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Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

by Lissa Evans

December 2016

My brother recommend this book for me and once again it was a good recommendation (this is the same brother who “made” me read my new favorite series, The Penderwicks). Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms was a short, sweet, clever little book with fun, quirky characters. I loved their personalities and the innovative plot.

Horten and his parents have recently moved to his dad’s home town. Horten is understandably upset because he’s leaving his friends behind and will have to wait all summer to make new friends at his new school. When they arrive, his father tells him stories about his great uncle who used to have a shop in town with all sorts of wondrous mechanisms. Horten is curious and one day decides to visit his great uncle’s old house, only to find it dilapidated. He decides to try and learn as much as possible about his great uncle. Horten learns that his great uncle mysteriously disappeared years ago and no one knows where he went, or what happened to his shop. He left Horten’s father a special box that Horten discovers has a secret opening with a letter and coins. The letter tells Horten’s father that if he’s worthy he’ll be able to find the shop and be the new owner. Horten’s father never found the letter, so Horten takes up the quest. He follows clues, using the coins along the way for various mechanisms, which lead to more clues. Horten runs into friends and foes as well, from a sweet old lady who was friends with his great uncle; to a nasty woman who is trying to find the shop; to a pushy, clever girl next door who insists on helping Horten. Spoilers: Horten finds his great uncle’s hidden shop with his greatest mechanism: a real magic wishing well, but he inadvertently leads the nasty woman to it as well. Horten wishes to learn what happened to his uncle and finds out that back when his uncle was inventing the wishing well, he had a fiancee and she (not believing it was real magic) wished to live at a simpler time and disappeared into history. Horten’s great uncle realized her mistake and wished to be with her, thus disappearing forever. Horten is thrilled to learn the truth and even more thrilled when his great uncle tells him that he is worthy and the shop is his. The nasty woman was able to follow Horten, but in perfect timing/cleverness, Horten is able to leave her in history while he returns to the present. It was the perfect ending for everyone.

Summing it up: this book was so clever and fun and I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

If I Stay

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If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

December 2016

I actually watched the movie version of If I Stay a while ago before I knew there was a book. I loved the movie, so once I found out about the book, I was eager to read it. Well, I loved it just as much as the movie (if not a little better). I don’t know why I love it so much, given the tragic premise, but I devoured the book in one night. The writing was phenomenal. The plot was gripping and heart-wrenching and made it impossible to put the book down. The icing on the cake? There’s a sequel!

Mia is high school girl with a normal, rather good life. She has a loving mom and dad, a younger brother who adores her, and a boyfriend who melds great with her family. Mia is a gifted cellist who will likely be going to Juilliard. One morning, there’s enough snow to close school (a dusting in Oregon will do that), so the whole family decides to drive up to visit old friends. On the way, they get into a horrific accident, killing Mia’s parents on impact and sending her and her brother to the hospital. The strange thing for Mia is that she watches all of this outside her body – observing the events, conversations, etc that go on around her. The rest of the book follows her observations and her struggle to decide whether or not she should stay and live. Spoilers: pulling her to leave is the fact that she is an orphan and that her brother ends up dying. Pulling her to stay is the fact that she’s surrounded by family and friends who want her to live, and the hope of a future if she stays. In the end, her boyfriend plays her a cello piece, flooding her with memories and hope and she decides to stay.

Summing it up: This book was beautiful, heartfelt, and I absolutely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

The Things They Carried

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The Things They Carried

by Tim O’Brien

December 2016

I read The Things They Carried for my MOMS club book club. I have mixed feelings about it. I enjoyed it because it taught me new things and opened my eyes to other experiences and realities. I disliked it because I found the flow hard to follow at points (though it read easily) and the fact that the content was gruesome and difficult to read. I’d say that even though it’s a challenging read, it’s definitely worth reading.

Tim O’Brien is a Vietnam vet who writes in order to cope with his past. His book is filled with both true and fictional stories that are blended together into a memoir of sorts. He recounts his time in Vietnam fighting as well as some of his experiences before and after the war. It truly was heartbreaking, fascinating, and a book I couldn’t help but finish (though it took several sittings because it was hard to read too much at once). That blur between truth and fiction, Tim explains thus, “By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others. You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain.”

Summing it up: I recommend with the caution that it is a war story.

All the best, Abbey

The Muse

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The Muse

by Jessie Burton

December 2016

I cannot remember for the life of me how I stumbled upon reading The Muse. Likely the cover had something to do with it . . . I can’t help myself (as we all know). I requested it from my library, but it took a while to come in, so I totally forgot why I wanted it. That being said, I dove into it and I really enjoyed it. Burton is a gifted storyteller who vividly describes places, characters, and events. It was if I was truly there experiencing things with Olive and Odelle. This book discussed events I’d never heard of (like the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s), and wove a complex story that kept me riveted until the very last page. I’m definitely intrigued to read Burton’s other book, The Miniaurist.

The Muse weaves a story of love and loss from two different time periods and two different places: Spain 1936 and England 1967. The book alternates between the two periods before tying everything together. Olive Schloss moves to southern Spain with her parents as a young woman. She is frustrated with her life and family because she wants nothing more than to paint and go to art school (she even got accepted), but she is holding back because her father is an art dealer and her whole life she has heard him say that women simply can not be artists . . .it can’t even be considered. She is afraid to admit that she is an artist and frustrated that she is so limited. When they first arrive at their new home, they are greeted by Isaac and Teresa Robles, siblings come to offer their services to keep house, help out, etc. It isn’t long before they learn that Isaac paints and Sarah (Olive’s mother) commissions a painting of her and Olive for her husband. Isaac agrees, but unbeknownst to him, Olive has found inspiration to paint like never before because she has fallen in love with him. Fast forward to 1967, where we meet Odelle, a young black woman who works at a prestigious London art gallery. She is an aspiring writer who keeps having writer’s block. One day she meets a young man, Lawrie, and they fall for each other. Lawrie has just lost his mother and the only she left him is a painting. He decides to see if Odelle’s art gallery can find him answers and maybe get him a good price for it, if it has any value. Spoilers: back in the 30’s, Teresa decides to take matters into her own hands and when Isaac’s painting is ready to be presented, she swaps it with Olive’s painting. Olive and Isaac are stunned, but keep quiet, Olive later begging Isaac to go along with the ruse, because of course her father was in love with the painting and wants to find a buyer (and likely wouldn’t feel that way if he knew it was it daughter (a woman) who painted it. Isaac reluctantly agrees and sure enough a buyer is found and more work is desired. Isaac wants out, but Olive convinces him to go along with it for one more painting, but she lies to him and sneaks a third painting with the second to be shipped to the German buyer. While all of this is transpiring, Spain is heating up for Civil War and Isaac is caught on the wrong side. He is being hunted and soon disappears. Olive is distraught. She loves him, but he does not love her back and just leaves her. One day, Teresa is caught, and humiliated in order to tell where her brother is, but she remains silent. Olive catches on an convinces Teresa to tell her the truth. When she reluctantly agrees (he has not actually left, but is hiding in the woods), Olive runs to him, only to find him with her mother and see that her mother is pregnant. She is furious and confused as to why her mother is better and in her anger fires a gun to get their attention before kicking her mother out so she can speak to Isaac alone. The gun shot alerts the enemy, who shoots Isaac and then Olive (whom they mistook for Teresa). The next day, Olive is found, buried, and later the family leaves with Teresa for England. Olive’s parents separate, Harold to who knows where and Sarah to raise her son, Lawrie, alone, before dying and leaving him one last painting. Teresa goes her own way, renaming herself Marjorie Quick and finding work at a prestigious art gallery in London, where she hires a young woman named Odelle and soon takes her under her wing, encouraging her writing and helping her to succeed in life (in part by getting her published). By the time she hires Odelle, Quick has learned that she has cancer and there is nothing she can do to stop the disease. She knows of Odelle’s connection to Lawrie, and therefore the supposed Isaac Robles painting, so she slowly brings Odelle into her life, leaving her little clues to the truth. But in honor of Olive’s wish to remain anonymous, she doesn’t tell Odelle the full story until after she dies: leaving Odelle with the entire story and bequeathing her her house. In the end, Lawrie sells the painting and moves to America, while Odelle finally gets her answers and lives in Quick’s house. It was a fitting ending and an interesting, haunting story.

Summing it up: I definitely recommend The Muse. It was beautifully written and a brilliant story from cover to cover.

All the best, Abbey

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard

by J. K. Rowling

December 2016

This book was so good. I sank into it and drank up every word as if it was a calming cup of tea. I’ve always loved fairy tales. The Blue Fairy Book was an early favorite of mine. There’s something about them that feels like home. I immediately liked the tales themselves, but then it got so much better with the commentary. It was clever and funny and gave a depth that I really enjoyed. The illustrations were beautiful in top of everything else. Totally enthralled with Rowling’s book!

 

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Summing it up: I loved it and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey