Book Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

forgiveleonard

From the first page of this novel, Leonard Peacock makes it clear that he is going to kill himself.  That is his mission.  We are with him for his journey of what he plans to be the last day of his life, which also happens to be his eighteenth birthday.  While this is definitely not a happy book (quite the opposite, really), Matthew Quick gives a voice to Leonard that is authentically teenager – sarcastic, pessimistic, and at times even funny. Honest.  I can clearly picture Leonard, I see a bit of my high school self in him and I can think of more than a few kids I knew growing up that were very much like Leonard – which is kind of the whole point really.  Leonard feels like he is alone in the world, he feels like nobody gets it and he’s so different than the rest of his peers and really, he’s not.  We’ve all been there in some capacity and we’ll probably be there again.

I feel like I’m broken—like I don’t fit together anymore. Like there’s no more room for me in the world or something. Like I’ve overstayed my welcome here on Earth, and everyone’s trying to give me hints about that constantly. Like I should just check out.

Even though Leonard keeps telling the reader of his plan to kill himself, you spend the whole book hoping he won’t do it or that someone in his life – his old widower neighbor, his checked-out fashion designer mother, one of his teachers – will grab the poor dear and hug him, tell him they love him and it’s okay to feel like he does and that his life is valid. However, they keep not doing it.  All he wants is for one person to acknowledge that it is his birthday (I know those feels, Leonard), but it seems that his teachers and few friends don’t know it’s his birthday, and his mom is too busy pretending that she doesn’t have a child to remember what day it is (God, that is infuriating). “Happy Birthday, Leonard” are his magic words.  Those are the words that would save him and no one seems to be able to say them.

I really enjoyed the way that Quick used the Holocaust as a corollary to Leonard’s narrative.  I think it sends out an important message on the way we view “bad” people.  Leonard’s teacher, Herr Silverman, encourages his students to think about the humanity of the time period rather than the tragedy.  We are so quick to dehumanize others for what they have done that we do not take the time to examine what the parameters of their choice were.  The truth of the matter is that more than one of those Nazi guards or soldiers were just doing what they had to do to protect their life and their families lives.  There are many layers to the awful things that happened during that time, and I don’t think many people made it out of that time guilt free. At the end of the day, I think most people just hoped to make it out alive. That’s not to say there is any excuse for what happened, but if you think about it, it’s easy to understand how the population is at the mercy of those in charge and if those in charge are morally ambiguous, evil, or corrupt – well… you see what happens.

Leonard and I have a lot in common I think.  I spent a lot of my time in school feeling very much like him, like I was too different, too weird, too misunderstood and that those around me were so… flat.  I know it’s the thing that people always say and that teenagers hate to hear – but it does get better.  Maybe not immediately, and maybe not forever, but there are moments and stretches of time where you think that it’s not all bad.  I’m certainly not on a roller-coaster that only goes up (to quote the late Augustus Waters), but it’s not a bad ride.

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.91 Stars
Number of 1 Star Reviews: 312

My Review on Bookdigits

Book Review: The Moon and More

moonandmoreOne thing you have to love about Sarah Dessen‘s books is that they are consistent.  If you are looking for something to satisfy your summer romance needs, Dessen is your girl.  While some may think it’s a bit formulaic, or monotonous, there is comfort that comes from reading Dessen that you don’t get from reading epic fantasy or a dystopian trilogy.  It’s sort of like coming home after a long vacation, curling up in your own bed and finally getting that good nights rest that you can only get at home.  I mean, after 11 books, she’s really perfected the summer romance novel.

I really loved that the ending was not the typical happily ever after, though it was happy in it’s own right.  I won’t tell you who Emaline does or doesn’t end up with, but I can say that it was very realistic.  At 18, you really just have no idea what you want yet, so you’ve got to take the time to try out all the possibilities.

My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.65 StarsNumber of 1-star reviews: 702

My Review on Bookdigits

Fan Art Friday: Gone With the Wind Edition

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a Fan Art Friday, and Gone With the Wind has left me with a book hangover I haven’t quite shaken yet, so I’ve been perusing the interwebs looking at all the wonderful GWtW related things.

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara as portrayed by the iconic Clark Gable and Vivien eigh

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara as portrayed by the iconic Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh

How about this lovely drawing of the actors who portrayed the characters by DeviantArt artist LazzzyV? Absolutely stunning. Vivien Leighs eyebrow game was strong.

kincaidgwtw

This one’s not really fan art, but this Thomas Kincaid painting of a scene from the novel is so pretty and I need it. You can even buy it printed on a coffee mug!

You can also find tons of unique merchandise on Etsy , from pillows to wall decor to recycled book covers – any fan of Gone With the Wind is sure to find something that tickles their fancy.

Book Review: Gone With the Wind

gwtwI acquired my copy of Gone With the Wind a few years back, not sure how many years but it has a Border’s Books sticker on the back so I know it was quite some time ago.  The first time I picked it up, excited to dive into the classic depths of Margaret Mitchell’s thousand page long journey, I put it down again after only a few pages.  I guess I wasn’t ready at the time, but when I picked it up just a few days ago I found myself staying up past my bed time to read just one more chapter and carrying the heavy volume in my purse just in case I had a spare moment to down a few pages.

Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton Twins were.

From the outset, Scarlett is not very likeable.  She is vain, manipulative, selfish, stubborn and willfully ignorant of the culture surrounding her.  The talk of Civil War bores her and she doesn’t intend to bother her self with such things.  No, ma’am. Instead, she focuses her attentions on getting the man she is convinced she loves to marry her though he is clearly never going to do so, no matte what his affections for her are.  However, her plans are stopped in their tracks, over and over again as the world she has been raised in changes without her asking it to and she is forced to change with it or lose everything.

While Scarlett may indeed be all the things I described above, she is also strong, profoundly loyal, resourceful, and daring.  In a time when the expectations on women, especially self-proclaimed Southern Belles was to sit and home, raise children, tend to the slaves and her husband, Scarlett O’Hara dares to get her hands dirty beside those slaves.  She dares to do what she has to do to keep her home, her family and her lifeblood safe. Beyond all of her faults, you cannot doubt for one second that Scarlett goes out and gets shit done, no matter what people say.

And then there is the famous Rhett Butler.  He is part pure southern gentlemen, charming his way in and out of whatever he pleases, and part sarcastic … well… asshole.  i mean, really. At times he is in incredibly charming jerk, to put it bluntly.  The kind of jerk that makes girls blush in anger and embarrassment, while simultaneously gaining their affection.  Infuriating.

All your beaux have respected you too much, though God knows why, or they have been too afraid of you to really do right by you.  The result is that you are unendurably uppity.  You should be kissed and by someone who knows how. – Rhett Butler

Gone With the Wind is much, much more than a romance novel.  It is a historical novel in two ways – published in the 1930’s and taking place in the 1860’s there are two layers of cultural understanding that we must appreciate.  While there is much in the novel that will make any person uncomfortable such as the superfluous use of the n-word and the almost unreadable dialect that Mitchell wrote the slaves dialogue with – we must know that this is a product of the time in which the novel takes place.  I don’t know that it is meant to be insulting or a caricature, but I do hope that it was in some way meant to paint an honest picture of the south at that time.  Does it make me cringe? Absolutely – as it should.  But, it offers something that my public school history classes did not – and view of the other side of the coin.  While I have no doubt that the end of slavery was inevitable and indeed necessary, I am unsure that the viciousness and violence towards the southern civility portrayed throughout the novel was justified.  In fact, I’m certain of it.  It feels important to mention because there are many things going on in the world today that cause us to generalize groups and say all of them are one way or another and it comes from both sides – we must take a few steps back and recognize that no matter what side someone is on, just because they belong to one group, job, location, etc, does not mean that they are inherently bad or wrong.  Some just don’t know any better, or they are too comfortable and set in their ways to know or do any differently. They are a product of their environment and the environment does not encourage change.  It is a shame that after more than a hundred years we are still fighting the same battles.

I also found particularly interesting that the North/Union seemed to be the Republican party and the South/Confederate seemed to side more with the Democratic – because in today’s culture they are decidedly opposite. Also that Mitchell does not paint the prettiest picture of president Lincoln, which is plainly the opposite of what I was taught. It just goes to show that there are two sides to every story and that the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  It also, I think, shows just how this novel has had staying power for the last 75 years.  It has stayed relevant because human nature has not changed.

I’ve gone on quite a rant up there, but I feel like it was important to say and to follow up with a saying I’ve always felt true – “You catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar.”  In my personal experience, kindness goes a lot farther than viciousness and cruelty.  Burning things to the ground only breeds a need for vengeance, where as kindness encourages people to be open and to return that kindness to the next person.

In terms of the writing itself, Mitchell proves to be a master of her craft.  Some of her sentences are astoundingly breathtaking, so much so that I found myself reading them twice over to appreciate their beauty. For example, the description of Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s mother:

She would have been a strikingly beautiful woman had there been any glow in her eyes, any responsive warmth in her smile or any spontaneity in her voice that fell with gentle melody on the ears of her family and her servants.  She spoke in the soft slurring voice of the coastal Georgian, liquid of vowels, kind to consonants and with the barest trace of French accent.  It was a voice that never raised in command to a servant or reproof to a child but a voice that was obeyed instantly at Tara, where her husband’s blustering and roaring were quietly disregarded.

I mean really, that passage is like melted butter on a roll fresh out of the oven. While many of Mitchell’s descriptive passages are long-winded, the glide over you easily and you don’t mind how long they go on because you can sense the carefulness with which she chose each word. She manages to deliver some of the mouth scathing dialogue I’ve ever read as well.

Let her talk,” cried Scarlett.  “I’m enjoying it.  I always knew she hated me and she was too much of a hypocrite to admit it.  If she thought anyone would admire her, she’d be walking the streets naked from dawn till dark.”

While some might say her long forays into the politics surrounding Scarlett at the time might be long-winded, unnecessary or boring, I found them rather interesting.  Seeing the war and troubles through the eyes of the losing side is much different then what may have been written down in our history books, although one must also recognize that Mitchell may have taken some liberties with her rendition of the war.

In the end, I find myself feeling a bit sad with how Scarlett’s journey ends, for it takes her far too long (nearly all 959 pages), and innumerable losses to realize what truly matters in her heart and at that point it has already passed her by leaving her in its wake.  If only she replaced her mantra through out the books “I’ll think of it another day”, with “There’s no time like the present.”

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.25 Stars
Number of 1-star reviews: 15,572

My Review on Bookdigits

Book Review: Dark Places

darkplaces

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?” (Goodreads)

The final installment in what I guess I could call my “Gillian Flynn Series” is Dark Places. Once again Flynn explores the dark undebelly of humanity in the intense, sardonic way I’ve come to know and appreciate.  Libby Day has had a rough life.  Her dad was a drunk, weaving in and out of his childrens lives as it suited him (i.e. when he needed money), and her mother was an exhausted single mom of 4 children who could barely afford one of them.  Libby had always been a worrier, but one night in January when Libby was 7 years old she had good reason to worry when her entire family was brutally murdered, except her and her 15 year old brother Ben.  Libby escaped by crawling out a window and hiding in the freezing woods until the police found her. To top that all off, she then testified for the prosecution of her brother and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Twenty-some years later, Libby has been living off a fund of donations her whole life and she’s running out of money. In a strange attempt to get some money – she agrees to make an appearance at Kill Club, a sort of comic-con for those obsessed with unsovled or famous murder cases.  Turns out there is a lot of interest in her families case – and most of that comes from women who are obsessed with her brother and proclaim his innocence.  As uncomfortable as it is for Libby to face the idea that her brother may not have committed these murders, she is desparate for money and ends up going on a journey back in time to piece together what really happened that night.

As most of Flynn’s narrators are, Libby is decidedly unlikeable.  Cynical, sarcastic, blatantly rude and has a penchant for sticky fingers (she is constantly stealing the most inane items from places).  But, you feel like she deserves a little empathy after everything she has seen.  Getting the story through her point of view, you find yourself just as hesitent to believe what strangers are saying about her brother’s innocence.  The information that we are given points all fingers towards him.  However, beyond Libby’s narrative we get flashbacks from the point of view of Ben and their mother Patty – we slowly realize all is not as it seems and Libby is in for quite the shock.

Beyond Libby, there is quite a cast of characters.  From her dad, Runner – the career drunk, gambler and manipulator, to Diondra – Ben’s girlfriend who is her own brand of batshit insane, and the crowd of “devil worshippers” Ben was said to hang out with, there is once again not one innocent soul within this novel.  Even Patty, who was a well meaning mother that only wanted the best for her children has her nasty faults, and plays her own part in the massacre of two of her children. Or the young girl who accuses Ben of sexual molestation, which may or may not be entirely truthful – I’ll let you decide.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that Gillian Flynn is good at what she does and what she does best is the dark, gritty, surprising and ugly disection of the human condition. I look forward to reading whatever she puts out next – and I think she has some serious staying power in the literary world.

With twist and turns that will keep you guessing, Dark Places, will simultaneously confuse, suprise and sicken you with each coming chapter.

My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.89 Stars
Number of 1 Star Reviews: 1607

My Review on Bookdigits

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Book Review: Sharp Objects

sharpobjects

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable”

I recently read Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn and was captivated by her writing style and portrayal of awful, horrible people.  Sharp Objects is no exception, and for a debut novel it is a stunning example of literary fiction. It’s kind of funny, because looking at Gillian’s author photo and reading blurb about how she lives in Chicago with her husband and son, you would never guess that her writing would be so dark and nuanced.

I think Gillian and I actually have a lot in common, I find myself fascinated by stories that are somewhat dark.  Maybe it’s because there is a little bit of darkness in all of us. Gillian’s book delve deep into that darkness and even if you hate every single awful character, on some level you might find some little thing that you can relate to.  As with Camille, while I couldn’t understand her need to punish herself or constantly seek affirmation from her truly sick and twisted mother, there were moments where I was nodding along saying to myself “Girl, I feel you.”

“Every time people said I was pretty, I thought of everything ugly swarming beneath my clothes.”

Camille has a LOT of issues.  She is a cutter – in a semi-recovered state.  She has carved hundreds of words into her skin and they are used throughout the novel to accentuate her feelings.  When she is feeling something particularly strong – those words “flash” or “burn”, and it’s quite interesting because sometimes they are really inane words like “cherry” or “castle”, but the most telling is the last word she ever cut into herself – vanish, at the nape of her neck.  It’s telling because that is what Camille wants most – just to vanish, to evaporate and never have existed at all.

Upon returning to her small hometown on a work assignment from the Chicago paper that she works for, she sets out to uncover the mystery behind the murder of two young girls, not realizing how wrapped up in the mess her family is and underestimating the manipulative powers of her mother.  Her mother, Adora is a real piece of work.  Master manipulator, emotionally needy and hypocondriac, she is a typical southern bell on the outside and an ugly, sick, demon underneath.  Everything that happens to anyone in the world is happening to Adora, and she take responsibility for nothing.  In conjunction with that she is absolutely and competely clueless about her younger daughter, Amma who plays up the needy 13 year old at home and is a skanky little shithead outside the home – another piece of work.

What I like about Sharp Objects, is that there is no grand journey – there is no hero, there’s no winner.  There’s just this sad town full of horrible, grieving, manipulating, angry people and no clear reasons for it.  The bigger message – sometimes things just suck and that is all there is to it.  Sometimes people are awful for no reason at all other then they don’t know how else to be. That’s how I feel about Adora – she’s truly horrible, but in her mind she means well.  She craves love and affection, something she did not get from her own mother and goes the wrong way about getting it.  She forces people to need her in ways you could not imagine (and I don’t want to spoil for you!), and as you can imagine it doesn’t turn out the way in which she hopes it will.

If you are fascinated by darkness, if you find yourself entranced by stories of bad people doing bad things, if you are looking for a book that will leave you feel like the whole world might be a dark and twisted and unhealthy place – then this is a bood you need to read.

My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.87 Stars
Number of 1 Star Reviews: 1635

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Book Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer

retribution

Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.
Retribution has arrived. (Goodreads)

This will be a short one, because even though I have a LOT OF FEELINGS about this book, I don’t want to give out too many spoilers for those who have not read UNBECOMING or EVOLUTION, and I also don’t know quite how to word all these feelings I have.

While I’m certainly pleased that we (finally) got some answers on to whether what was happening was all in Mara’s head or if it was real – I’m not sure that those answers satisfied me.  I’m on the fence.  I liked that there was a lot of history given to us in this book, we learned a lot more about how Mara came to be, about her grandmother and what Mara’s abilities really meant in conjunction with Noah.  However, it did feel a little cheap.  Where some authors have recently chosen to take a harder road by not giving readers what is expected – I feel like Hodkin may have played a little bit into what her fans wanted and gave them the ending they thought they deserved and for some reason, it just didn’t feel right.  While it was still an action packed and spine tingling ending (seriously, if you read it, that last chapter will leave you a little breathless),  I rolled my eyes a little bit because it was just too much.  It didn’t feel authentic, and even though the obvious raciness of it didn’t really bother me (after all, teenagers do take part in those types of things), it just wasn’t a very realistic interpretation of it.  It was too perfect and I fear that it might set up some unexperienced readers for dissappointment because from my experience – yeah… no.

Reading that paragraph again I realize how vague that all is…but you know, I want you to read it for yourself!

Hodkin’s writing remains strong and the characters voices shine through.  Mara is still Mara, and Noah is still Noah – I liked that we got to see a little bit from both perspectives and she arguably pulled that off a little bit better thant Veronica Roth did in ALLEGIANT. Still, we ended up with 3 distinct stories.  Mara, her Grandmother, and Noah.  It was a lot to keep straight.  So, this book gets a rare 3 stars from me, because as much as I was pleased to reach the end of this journey and get some answers, I was left just a little bit dissapointed. Still though, if you haven’t read the series, I urge you too – it’s a good one.

My Goodreads Rating: 3/5 Stars
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.48 Stars
Number of 1 Star Reviews: 61

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