Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Game of Love and Death

The Game of Love and Death The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lovely book about love and how it shapes both our life and death. It's true that death is inevitable, but if you open yourself up to truly loving, despite the odds and the consequences, then you have no cause for regret, no matter the outcome.

It was a little hard at first to wrap my mind around the characters of Love and Death. How and why do they and the Game exist in our reality? As much as this was a story about Henry and Flora, it was also a story about Love and Death, and their relationship throughout the centuries with one another.

One of my favorite parts of this book was its setting - I love Seattle, my hometown, and hearing it described, both in atmosphere and in location, is always a joy. I was not shocked to read the author was born and raised here, as I could truly feel her love for this city.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sense & Sensibility

Sense & Sensibility Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been wanting to read this book for a while. As a rather large fan of the original sense and sensibility, I had to work extra hard to disengage the "I know this story" part of my brain, to separate the Elinor and Marianne of my memory from this new version of Ellie and M. To be honest, I think my difficulty in doing just that is proof of how well Joanna Trollope was able to update these characters into modern times and have them keep their same essential heart and soul. There is even a small part of me that wishes this was my first exposure to this story, because I am positive I would have been delighted and rushing to give this one 5 stars.

Maybe their situation could have been modernized a bit - when reading the first several pages, I wasn't even sure it was a modern adaptation, until Margaret pulled out her iPod. Lots of the main themes were translated well, though I still wonder how relevant the whole marry-for-family storyline remains. That might just be my middle-class American point of view talking, though.

(Ps, I'm suddenly curious about how this story would translate into a Korean viewpoint, as according to the dramas I watch, all this marrying for money & family is still very much relevant there.)

I love Elinor so very much, and this Elinor was no different. My heart was gripped every time her sisters or mother would talk about how little emotion she had - I wanted to yell at them, "YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HER!" These moments especially had me flashing back to the wonderful acting of Emma Thompson in my favorite film adaptation - she is such an emotionally expressive actor.

One of the main differences in character is that Lucy had never felt particularly vindictive and evil to me in the original, but in this one, it felt like every word and action was specifically done to cause Elinor the most pain possible. Was she trying to establish her "ownership" of Edward and warn Elinor off? If she was merely ambitious, she could have accomplished the same things without even getting Elinor involved. I realize as I type this that Lucy did exactly the same things to Elinor in the original, but for some reason, it just FEELS different.

The one character I always wish was slightly more developed is Margaret. Because she's younger, she's the tag-a-long sister, and we get very little of her emotions throughout.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this adaptation, and I look forward to picking up one of Joanna Trollope's original novels to see how I enjoy them with no prior knowledge or bias.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Armada Armada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I love the idea of this novel - what if all the fighting video games out there were really training simulators, teaching generations of kids (and adults) how to fight, how to fly, how to control remote drones and battle aliens? What if all the sci-fi movies and books from the last 40 years were created to indoctrinate the general public to the idea that alien life is out there, and we might have to fight it somehow?

That's exactly what happens in this book. Zack goes from being an angry, angsty teenager that happens to be really, really good at a particular video game to a key part of earth's defense against the attacks against the aliens he had unknowingly been training to fight in his video games.

I appreciated that Zack noted how weird it was that the "real" aliens behaved exactly like the video game aliens, and that both he and his father fought to discover the truth and stop the invasion before it got out of hand. What I didn't like so much was the way Zack's dad was recruited - did they really have to fake their deaths? Couldn't they have said they were joining the CIA or some other covert agency, and could only check in via phone? It felt like Xavier was made to disappear because he had to for Zack to develop into the hero the book needed. Also, it makes me angry that Xavier has to die in the end, and that the admiral pretty much just says, "Whoops! My bad! Thanks for saving us and sorry I killed your dad to try and stop you." I feel like there should have been bigger repercussions for that whole situation."

I enjoyed reading this one, and it seems like there could potentially be a sequel, which could be interesting. There's lots we haven't learned about those aliens, including everything about them. If you're looking for more books like this, I would recommend Cline's first book, Ready Player One (which I happen to prefer over this one), or Redshirts by John Scalzi, which has similar themes of "why am I always the center of the story and miraculously survive all the time?" Very meta and funny.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love this style of narration, and the switching of narrators. It almost felt like we were reading someone's diary, and when we got thrown into an entirely different diary, it changed our perspective. Throughout the book, we aren't sure whose version of events was true and whose was false. In the end, though, I suppose no one is unbiased towards any story, especially their own. I was very sympathetic towards Rachel (and not just because we share a name), and as the book went on, I grew quite defensive of her, especially for those short segments when we lived in Anna's perspective.

All 3 women in this story have a lot in common once everything plays out, as much as Anna refuses to admit it. Rachel and Megan in particular have many similarities. They both desire love and closeness, and are searching for something to fill the void in their hearts. Losing someone so young (for Megan, her brother; for Rachel, her father) puts you in a vulnerable position that can end in heartbreak if you choose the wrong person to be your support and lifeline.

Some people in the book were terrible, but no one was perfect. Really the best person in this book was Rachel's flatmate, Cathy. Not only did did she give a depressed alcoholic divorcee a place to stay for more than 2 years, despite the fact they were never that close, it sounds like Cathy put up with a lot from Rachel, and only asked her to leave once things got truly unacceptable. And even that request she eventually took back. Cathy was immensely supportive of Rachel's sobriety and tried to help her along that path in any way she could, and even helped find her a job once she finally learned she'd been fired. It's hard to ask for a better friend, actually.

Here's hoping Rachel can stick with the good people in the future and ignore the ones with bad intentions.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I Was Here

I Was Here I Was Here by Gayle Forman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There's something intrinsically sad about a book that starts off with teenage suicide. What's even more sad about this book is trying to figure out with Cody how exactly her best friendship with Meg fell apart over the course of just a few months, so much so that she wasn't even aware that Meg was depressed enough to be seriously considering suicide.

Of course Cody had her reasons for drawing away from Meg - it seemed like Meg had everything and was getting the life they both always wanted, but Cody could only dream of. Of course, things often aren't how they seem. It comes as a shock to Cody when she finds out that Meg had been battling depression and suicidal thoughts since high school, but we as readers can see it coming a mile away. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy to look back and say, if Meg and her parents had been more honest with Cody about Meg's early struggles, maybe she would have seem more warning signs along the way. But it's possible that things would have turned out exactly the same.

I have mixed feelings about Cody and Ben's relationship. First of, I am a skeptic. Their relationship was way too deep too quickly, and I was actually a little relieved when she broke of contact with him. In the end, though, I was grateful that Cody had someone like Ben to be there for her when she was spiraling in her obsession with catching the guy whom she blamed for Meg's death. Yeah, their relationship started messy, and had a lot of messy, confusing moments. But nothing is perfect.

Also, how awesome was Cody's mom in the end? She spent so much time not being a very good mom, but she sure pulled through when it mattered most.

Cody's hunt of the online predator (I can think of nothing else to call him) who encouraged Meg towards suicide was almost scary at times. She didn't seem to have any regard for her own safety, and in her attempts to attract his attention, there were times when she seemed to teeter right on the edge of her own depression. The only positive that came of Cody's hunt is that hopefully __ will be held in some way accountable for Meg's death, and he at least won't be able to talk anyone else into doing something similar.

I guess the main thing to take from a book like this is: hug your loved ones. Pay attention to them and listen to them. Be there for them. Don't live life with regret. For those who are battling depression, please remember you have people that love you. Life is worth living. Just make it one more day.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book definitely surprised me, and that's always a good thing. When I finally figured out what was going on, I actually flipped back and re-read sections of the book. It's hard to even write about it, because the things that frustrated me about this book, like wanting to yell at the sisters for not just sucking it up and talking to one another, were rendered inapplicable at the end. I can't really say anything more without majorly spoiling the book, so if you've read this already, click on through to Goodreads and see my thoughts there. All in all, I definitely enjoyed this one. I read most of it on a plane ride from LA to Seattle, and then stayed up to finish it that night, because I wanted to know what was going to happen. And I totally cried at the end.

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