June Wrap-Up & July TBR’s

2016 is FLYING by! I can’t believe it’s already the last day of June! Since my May wrap-up, I’ve moved up to Boston, MA and started working at one of the local hospitals as a medical scribe, as I try to piece together what my next steps are. Unfortunately, my job has been a bit slow at getting started, but that has left me with lots of time to read. Here’s a recap of what I read this month and a list of what reviews you have to look forward to in July!

June Reads:

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
5 out of 5 stars

After You by JoJo Moyes
5 out of 5 stars

The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney
3.5 out of 5 stars

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
5 out of 5 stars, review to come!

July TBR’s

On The Run by Izai Amorim (release date: 9/6/2016)

It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality by Michelangelo Signorile

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer R. Kincheloe

The Association of Small Bombs and Go Set a Watchman are still on my reading list and if I’m able to get through them this month, I will also post a review of them. Otherwise, they will be the first reviews of August!

Let me know in the comments below what’s on your reading list for July or if you’ll be reading any of the books I mentioned along with me!

Looking for more summer reads?

June Review/July TBR’s are coming ‘atcha in just a couple of days but in the meantime, enjoy this great article that one of my sorority sisters wrote
(You go, Lydia! PPLAM):

5 Books You’ll Regret Not Reading This Summer

Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read any of these books or if you would like me to review any of them! I’ll happily add any or all of them to my reading list 🙂

Review of The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney

When I first read the book jacket synopsis of Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, I couldn’t wait to start reading because it reminded me of Emma Straub’s The Vacationers which I absolutely adored. However, I’ve come away from this novel with rather mixed feelings. For me, this novel as a bit like watching a reality TV show. Even though I struggled to empathize with and truly invest in the characters, I felt compelled to keep reading to see what happened, regardless of how appalled I was by the selfishness exhibited by each Plumb.

In this fictional expose of an upperclass family, The Nest explores the lives of the Plumb siblings (Melody, Bea, Jack, and Leo) who are months away from tapping into their inheritance which they fondly refer to as “The Nest.” Each of them is counting on a large sum of money to bail them out of various financial predicaments they are facing. However, before the money is dispersed, Leo, the eldest of the siblings, injures a young waitress while driving under the influence and Francie, the matriarch of the family, taps into The Nest to keep her quiet and check Leo into rehab. The remainder of the novel explores the great lengths the Plumbs will go for money and self preservation, even when family is involved.

While the demons that each of the Plumbs have create a realistic level of familial dysfunction, their transgressions and selfish acts makes it hard to rally behind any of the characters. The combination of Melody’s unwillingness to sell her house in order to send her two daughters to college, Jack’s failure to invite his family to his wedding, and Leo’s overall carelessness and selfishness made me feel as though the Plumbs were undeserving of The Nest and my empathy. Furthermore, I found many of the supporting characters to be too underdeveloped to be relevant. For instance, Paul Underwood seemed to play a pretty big role in Leo’s success, yet the Plumbs continuously spoke about him as if he were a nobody and then suddenly changed their tune when Bea started seeing him. I felt similarly about the storyline involving Tommy, Vinny, and Matilda. While I understood how they fit into the story of the Plumb’s, I felt as though their backstories detracted from what was unfolding with Leo, Jack, Melody, and Bea. Moreover, I found the symbolism with The Kiss statue and Vinny and Matilda to be contrived and rather unimportant to the overall storyline and theme of the book.

Despite my critiques of  The Nest, I thought the overall takeaway message about how money impacts relationships was very important. It seems as though we always manage to hurt the people we love the most, and Sweeney does an excellent job of capturing that sentiment through her story of the Plumbs. Overall, I thought the book was well written and would definitely recommend it.

Let me know what you thought of The Nest! 

3.5 out of 5 stars

ows_145825205950184

Review of Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

**SPOILER ALERT** (if you haven’t read the book skip the last two sentences of the third paragraph)

'Me_Before_You'

It’s been about two weeks since I finished Me Before You by JoJo Moyes and I am still reeling! It has been an absolute struggle to find the right words to express just how much I loved this book (and the sequel, review to come.) This was honestly one of the most captivating, moving, and truly organic love stories that I’ve ever read and I strongly encourage everyone to seek out this emotional rollercoaster of a novel.

In this heartwarming, yet heartbreaking tale Louisa Clark takes a job as a caregiver for Will Traynor, a young, successful businessman who is struggling to cope with his paraplegia. What begins as a rocky and solely professional relationship between Lou and Will evolves into so much more as they take the time to get to know each other. When Lou learns the true reason behind her employment, she makes it her mission to try and show Will how to live life to the fullest, even from the confines of a wheelchair.

The character development in this novel is absolutely stunning. I think the main reason I was so moved by this book is because Moyes makes each character leap off the page and become so real to the reader. Louisa captures the true essence of young adulthood; the floundering, the lacking self-assuredness, and the naivety, while Will exquisitely captures the darker side of living with a disability that I feel is often strategically avoided. More importantly, Lou and Will’s relationships captures love in its purest form. The way their relationships unfolds allows the reader to explore just how intoxicating, yet painful that love can be. The hard truth about love that this book explores is the fact that if Lou truly loves Will, she’ll let him go through with what he wants to do, even though it would mean losing him. As Nathan eloquently puts it, “No I want him to live. But I want him to live if he wants to live. If he doesn’t, then by forcing him to carry on, you, me–no matter how much we love him–we become just another shitty bunch of people taking his choice.”

I apologize if this review isn’t as in depth or informative as others but it’s really difficult to put into words how this book touched me. It challenged how I thought about love, disability, personal choice, and most importantly living life to the fullest. If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh, cry, and grapple with bigger issues than you’ve ever experienced in a love story, Me Before You is it.

Let me know your thoughts on the novel or the movie if you’ve already seen it!

5 out of 5 stars 🙂

Review of A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

27429684

It’s been a little while since I finished A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi and I think I was delaying this review because I was hoping that with time, the story would resonate more with me more. However, the more I reflected on the story, the more I realized how unimpressed I was.

In the novel, Malladi follows the lives of two Indian women, Priya and Asha and their respective families who are brought together through a surrogacy. Priya is a young woman living in the Silicon Valley with her husband, seemingly living the dream. However, all she wants in the world is to be a mother yet, she is unable to conceive. Halfway around the world in southern India, Asha is a poor woman raising her family in a small hut, struggling to make ends meet on her husband’s meager salary. Driven by her desire to provide a better education for her gifted son, she checks herself into the “Happy Mother’s House,” where she sells her womb and carries Priya’s baby in hopes of making a better life for her family.

Malladi’s attempt to bridge the lives of these two women in a meaningful way falls short. Priya comes across as very self-absorbed and seems to be too caught up in her own desire to have a baby to understand the hardships that Asha and her family are going through. Her inability to consider Asha’s wants and needs during this delicate situation makes even her “selfless” moments look contrived. This is compounded when her savior complex comes into full force as she works to get Asha’s son into a school that they will never be able to afford without substantial scholarship money. On the other hand, Asha’s consistent need to dislike Priya is quite infuriating. This is not to say that her feelings toward Priya are unjustified, however the lack of character development among both characters leaves the reader less than empathetic towards their situation.

A House for Happy Mothers is a story that had so much potential but did not explore complexities of this situation enough to be moving. The intersection of cultures and socioeconomic classes throughout the storyline should have been the driving force of the story, however the direction in which Malladi takes the characters barely scrapes the surface of these issues. Frankly, I found myself struggling to rally behind either character. I felt rather indifferent when Asha finally gave birth to Priya’s baby or even as Priya and her mother worked together to get Asha’s extremely gifted son into a better school. Ultimately, I feel as though the premise of the story should allow for a very moving tale about the strength of a mother’s love regardless of the circumstances and that simply wasn’t there.

3 out of 5 stars

Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read the book!

 

Review of Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

Follow You Home by Mark Edwards is a book I purchased out of sheer boredom while waiting in line to board a transatlantic flight and I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. In this psychological thriller, Laura and Daniel are on a backpacking trip across Europe that is supposed to act as “one last hurrah” before they settle down and start a family. However, on the Romanian leg of their journey, everything goes terribly awry. They are thrown off a sleeper train in the middle of the Romanian countryside and as they struggle to make their way to the nearest town, they stumble across something in the forest that changes their lives as they know it.

This book gives new meaning to the term “page turner,” as Edwards keeps the reader guessing until the very last page of the novel (literally). Just when you think you’ve worked out how this complex web of characters stretching from London to Romania all fits together, or when you’ve convinced yourself that the characters have absolutely lost their minds, everything changes and becomes even darker and more twisted than you could ever possibly imagine. Even the most seemingly irrelevant supporting characters are brilliantly intertwined into this terrifying experience that has followed Laura and Daniel home to London.

Furthermore, what truly sets Follow You Home apart from other psychological thrillers is the fact that amidst all the drama and suspense, Edwards weaves in a love story that is unconventional, but organic. Given the circumstances, their love for each other has the potential to be a bit overdramatic and unrealistic. However, Laura and Daniel’s love story was a perfect portrayal of two people trying to navigate both their PTSD and their love for each other and serves as the grounding force of this rollercoaster of a novel.

If you’re looking for a novel that will grab your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat for 300+ pages, look no further. Follow You Home was truly a great read and I will definitely be adding Mark Edwards’ other works to my ever-growing reading list.

51PtmxP6VqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

May Reads & June TBR*

Happy June! Despite being my last semester at William & Mary, my finals schedule did not allow me to get a lot of reading done. However a few days after graduation, my dad and I jetted off to Scotland and Amsterdam which left plenty of long plane/train rides to read three lovely novels, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Here’s an overview of what I read this month and what I’m planning on reading this month!  Let me know if you have any thoughts about any of these books/recommendations on what to read next!

May Reads

A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi (3 out of 5 stars, review full coming soon!)
An eloquent tale of how two Indian women from very different backgrounds are brought together by a surrogacy 

The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes (5 out of 5 stars)
The heartwarming tale of an autistic teen’s desire to save a tree in his neighborhood 

Follow You Home by Mark Edwards (5 out 5 stars, full review coming soon!)
A psychological thriller about a happy couple’s backpacking trip gone awry

June TBR’s

Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

*TBR=to be read 🙂

Review of The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes

small-EagleTree-Cover-201x300

In his novel The Eagle Tree, Ned Hayes exquisitely captures the balance between the challenges that inevitably come with living with Asperger’s syndrome and the unique, perspective on life that comes from viewing the world with an autistic mind. Although the driving force of the story is the protagonist Peter “March”Wong’s undying desire to both climb and save the Eagle Tree from succumbing to the greed of a developer, it is elegantly juxtaposed with his mother’s battle to keep custody of her autistic son, despite his self-destructive tendencies.

What makes this book truly remarkable is how March,the protagonist, uses his extensive knowledge of trees and their behavior to better understand himself and the people around him. He makes the profound observation that “we are not truly or only individual people” but rather “we are like aspen groves” and are “actually connected to one another underground and must rely one another for sustenance and for the ability to continue to thrive in this world” (ch. 15).However, March also recognizes the fact that his flapping arms, perseverating, and social challenges separate him from the “ecosystem” of humans. Moreover, he astutely observes the fact that he is not alone in his societal ostracism. Specifically, he says, “people seem to have removed themselves from the natural ecosystem anyway. They take from it, but there is no direct connection. The feedback is all negative” (ch. 14).

It is this refreshing perspective that I feels sets this book apart because it speaks volumes about the current climate of today’s world. It seems that we, as a society are so quick to other and exclude specific groups of people because they are different. Yet, we seem to forget that we’re all in this thing called life together. Just as “everything in the forest contributes to the whole, (ch. 12)” as March observes, the actions of each human being contribute to the well-being of humanity. It is a perspective like March’s that reminds us that we should work to promote the happiness of others, instead of playing a primary role in their discomfort, as seems to be the case with many of today’s lawmakers.

Ultimately, the Eagle Tree is a truly heartwarming tale filled with very relatable characters who successfully portray what living with an autism spectrum disorder looks like on the individual, family, and community level. The characters are three dimensional and very relatable and you can’t help but find yourself rooting for March, even when his plans to save the Eagle Tree become a bit dangerous. His observations about people and how they interact with the world around them are both keen and heartfelt, and most definitely something that will change the thinking of every reader.

5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quotes

Time can be difficult for me. It is a continuous thing and if has no boundaries. Sometimes if moves very fast and sometimes very slow…It is not possible to plan or move precisely in time, and that makes me scared.” (Chapter 5)

“I am a tree that looks dead to the world, but when you climb to the very top, you find bright green limbs, sucking sap one hundred feet from the ground. And you discover that the tree is very much alive, and is keeping its secret of life from the world.” (Chapter 14)

“But the parts of these trees that really mattered to me right now was the roots. Those are the parts of the tree that search through the soil for nutrients and water, and slowly discover what is deep underground. I was what was underground here. The majority of who I really am is buried underneath the surface, and no ones sees it. I am always connected to the deep river of knowledge, my taproot sliding right into the river’s main spring. And these trees were trying to determine who I was from the little bit of me that they could see sticking up above the soil. It hardly seemed fair that they could judge all that I am from the little bit that they could see interacting with other people, because that’s the smallest part of who I am.” (Chapter 23)