Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright PlacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This book blew me away! This is some of the most well-written and brilliantly conceived young adult fiction that I've read. So good.

It's a novel about mental health, adolescence, suicide, friendship and grief. And it's amazing! I have lost two people to suicide and I am very aware of the messiness that surrounds it. And I feel this novel handles both mental health and suicide so effectively and honestly.

One of my favorite quotes from the novel captures it's take on mental health so well ... As someone who suffers from depression, this quote particularly resonated with me.
It's my experience that people are a lot more sympathetic if they can see you hurting, and for the millionth time in my life I wish for measles or smallpox or some other easily understood disease just to make it easier on me and also on them.
The relationships in the book felt very honest and real. The novel made me feel raw and emotionally impacted beyond what I typically feel. I suspect Finch will be a character who will stay with me for a long time. He almost felt like an old friend as I felt in him some of what I felt for people I've cared for in my life.

Although not a joyful novel, particularly given the very raw and emotional core of the story, it is a hopeful one. One that spoke to me as a human being and made the issues of the mentally ill very real.

I highly, highly recommend this one. Very good - well written, plotted so well, and ultimately gave me a great deal to think about.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mini Reviews

I've been really busy and haven't had time to write the more detailed reviews that I typically shared but I still wanted to share my thoughts on a few of the books that I have read lately ... hence, the mini reviews ...

ChesapeakeChesapeake by James A. Michener
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first Michener novel and I really enjoyed it. It wasn't a quick read due to its size but the stories within this novel were informative and interesting! Michener does an amazing job of including all the detail you could ever want without weighing it down and making it boring. I love the Chesapeake and spent almost every summer of my entire life on the Bay so this novel was a true home run for me. The only reason it's 4 stars is that the last couple of parts of the novel weren't nearly as interesting as the first 3/4 of the book. It felt as if they were weighed down in some way and much less compelling. However, the success of the first 3/4 of the novel makes it well worth the read!

Ugly LoveUgly Love by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have had a number of bookish friends recommend that I read Colleen Hoover so I picked this one up to giver her a try. And, WOW, I am so happy that I did. Although this novel is technically a romance novel, it's so much more than that. Colleen Hoover can write - it's not deep literary fiction but it's really well written romance. I was really surprised by how much I loved this novel and how much Hoover made me FEEL as I read it.

This book just killed me. Had me sobbing on the couch as I read ... in that way that only a great romance can do! These characters were really compelling and I enjoyed the story quite a bit. All in all, a great read! I read it in almost one sitting - I could not put it down!

Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My second Colleen Hoover novel and another great read! Although I didn't love this one quite as much as the last, this one was also fantastic! If you want unique romance that is well written, interesting and keeps you emotionally compelled, I have to recommend this and/or Colleen Hoover.

I'm grabbing up more of her work because I'm so happy with the first two reads! I read this in just a day ... immensely readable, fascinating, and kept me on the edge of my seat! Definitely recommend!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: Supermarket Healthy by Melissa d'Arabian

Supermarket Healthy: Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a LotSupermarket Healthy: Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending a Lot by Melissa d'Arabian
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This rating makes me so sad because I love Melissa d'Arabian and was so hoping this would be a great cookbook for our family. Perhaps I'm not the right person for it and that's why it didn't resonate? I'm not sure but this one just didn't wow me.

It is definitely a well produced book.The paper is fine, the book binding is also fine. The photography is really good - I enjoyed the overall design of the cookbook.

I think that what I wasn't a fan of is really the types of dishes explored in this book. I was viewing this as a resource for our family - a cookbook to help me find interesting dishes that won't break the bank. Dishes geared towards families. And I didn't find the dishes featured to be particularly family friendly in some places. Although my family is far from picky, I had a hard time finding anything here that isn't either already on our usual dinner list (things I already cook) or things that I felt like my kids would enjoy.

In my reviews of cookbooks, I always try to outline the recipes that caught my eye but I'm having a hard time doing that with this cookbook. I am going to go through and pick a couple of things to try despite their not initially jumping out at me and I hope that will help me begin to find more value in this one.

I suggest that you take a look at this one in a bookstore before purchasing to be sure that what you see offered here is something you're interested in. I'm really bummed that I didn't love this one given how much I enjoy d'Arabian's show on the Food Network!

NOTE: This book was offered to me for free by the publisher for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This is one of those books that I think everyone should read. It is such a thoughtful exploration of death and end of life. I keep thinking back to this book and the things it made me think about. It helped me see that I need to have a different kind of conversation with my family about end of life than I probably would have before reading this book. And I think back to the end of life experiences of my grandparents and wish I'd had this book to lean on as I watched them face death. This book is about what it is to be human today and how medicine can help and hurt those facing death. I just can't get over how readable and interesting this book was ... I highly recommend it. It's a must read, in my opinion!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King

Glory O'Brien's History of the FutureGlory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now THIS is what YA should be ... A.S. King is one of the best YA authors that I've read. She writes realistic characters that feel true to life. I found the themes of this novel to be particularly interesting given what sort of future it imagines, particularly given the political issues of today. This novel was thoughtful, well written, and gave me a great deal to think about. This is a novel that I think most teenage girls would get a lot out of ... it's entertaining AND intellectually stimulating.

I have read one other novel by King but I plan to dig in to some of her other novels soon. She's such a breath of fresh air to me. This novel has some magical realism that is critical to the overall plot and I found it to be very reasonable and understandable within the context of the overall story. I'm not usually a fan of magical realism but when it's done this well, I really enjoy it.

I highly recommend this to teens and adults alike! Really good book!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mini Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving TimeLeaving Time by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel, much more than I expected based on the synopsis. I'm not going to talk much about this one because I think it's best to go into it not knowing much. Great story, great characters, gave me a greater appreciation for elephants. Jodi Picoult is always a great storyteller and this novel is yet another great read! I definitely recommend this one!

Sorry for the mini review but I think this is one that is too easy to spoil so I kept it short and sweet!