Black Boy by Richard Wright

Black BoyBlack Boy by Richard Wright
Published by HarperCollins

From the publisher:

Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi, with poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those around him; at six he was a “drunkard,” hanging about taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resented anyone trying to rise above the common lot.

Black Boy is Richard Wright’s powerful account of his journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. It is at once an unashamed confession and a profound indictment—a poignant and disturbing record of social injustice and human suffering.

I’ve had this book on my shelves for way too long, it’s one that I kept looking at, month after month and year after year, and telling myself how important of a book it is and that I HAVE to read it. Well, now I finally have, and of course I’m having that feeling of “why did I wait so long?”

To say that Black Boy is inspiring and powerful would be a huge understatement. Richard Wright grew up in the Jim Crow south, in a time and place when a black person simply looking at a white person the wrong way could cause them to be beaten or even killed. He grew up with parents who taught him that he wasn’t worthy of an education because of his race. He grew up being taught that reading was a waste of time, that learning wasn’t useful, and that to expect any more of himself than the poverty his family lived in would lead to disappointment.

Somehow, even with all of these forces against him, Wright decided from a young age that he would become more than his family believed he could be. He decided that, no matter what the cost, he would move out of the south, he would become successful, and he would never let someone tell him he was worthless again.

A lot of Black Boy is incredibly difficult to read. The suffering Wright and his family endured is beyond what most people can imagine. The cruelty and hatred that Wright and his family, and every other black person in that part of the country at that time, had to experience is beyond comprehension. It was certainly beyond my understanding before I read this book – it’s one thing to intellectually understand what Jim Crow meant to people, it’s a whole other thing to see it through the eyes of a child who experienced it first-hand. There’s not enough words to express what Wright went through: devastating, horrifying, soul-crushing, and many others come to mind.

But this is why Black Boy is an important book. There are people in the world, in this country, who don’t think racism is a problem. IT IS A PROBLEM. It is a thing, and continues to be a thing, and it’s systematic and has roots back to slavery (obviously) and Jim Crow laws and guys, it’s not over. Just because we elect a black president does not mean that racism has magically disappeared. Reading this book helped me gain a more clear understanding of just how deep-seated and entrenched in our foundation as a country and a society racism truly is. For this reason alone, everyone should read this book.

It’s also such an inspirational story. Wright made a decision that he was going to change his life, and he did that. It’s a testament to how powerful reading and education can be – because Wright could read, and was educated, he was able to do things with his life that many others in his situation could not have dreamed possible.

There’s so much to discuss about Black Boy, but really I would just highly encourage you to read it for yourself. This is an incredible memoir, one of the best I’ve read in a very long time, and such an important historical and cultural book. Highly, highly recommended.

Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

HausfrauHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Published by Random House

From the publisher:

Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband Bruno and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters into with an ease that surprises even her. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there’s no going back.

This book has been really polarizing among readers, and now that I’ve finished it myself, I can absolutely see why that has been the case. Let’s face it, Anna is not the kind of heroine most people root for. She loves her children, but she isn’t incredibly loving toward them – in fact, she can be distant at times, and at other times leaves them for long stretches of time with her mother-in-law. She keeps busy by taking German classes she doesn’t really enjoy and seeing a therapist several times a week. Oh, and let’s not sugarcoat the affairs. Anna has sex – LOTS of sex – with different men, on a regular basis. Some of her affairs are long-lasting, and others are short and sweet. This is obviously the thing about Anna most readers love to hate, because it’s of course disgraceful that a married woman would conduct herself in such a manner. (Let’s not even discuss the fact that if this was a married MAN we were talking about, it’d just be business as usual. But whatever.)

Anyway. While I was reading Hausfrau, and immediately upon finishing it, I didn’t like Anna much myself. She’s incredibly prickly and difficult for the reader to get to know. On the surface, it seems as though she doesn’t have much of a personality – it seems that her entire life’s purpose is to have as much sex, with men she’s not married to, as she can. But this book was one of those novels that crawled into my brain and wouldn’t go away until I spent more time thinking about it. So I did, I turned it over and over in my head until I could feel okay about what I read and my feelings about it. And that time I spent mulling it over led me to this – this book is actually kind of incredible in the way that the author manages to show the reader exactly what depression looks like, at least for this particular character, Anna.

You see, Anna suffers from chronic depression, the kind of debilitating depression that leads people to crawl in bed for days and weeks at a time, to neglect family and friends and self-care, to turn to drugs or alcohol or to hurt oneself or others. Anna did none of those things; instead, she had lots of sex. And each time, it made her feel a tiny bit better, and also a tiny bit worse, and just like someone addicted to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate depression, Anna’s addiction to sex as medication for her depression helped her at times but deeply hurt her in the long run.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a novel that deals with depression to this degree. And I don’t know if all readers will even recognize what Anna is going through as depression – many readers just see her as an awful person who makes awful choices and therefore write her off as someone they might be able to understand, sympathize with, even have empathy for. But after spending a lot of time thinking about the book and about Anna, I get it. And I think what Essbaum did was kind of brilliant.

The ending was really tricky for me, and I am of two minds about it, but rather than include spoilers here, I’ll invite anyone who wants to discuss it to email me (please!). Also, the writing – Essbaum is an incredibly talented writer whose prose is gorgeous, almost too gorgeous for the tale she’s telling here. It was a bit much for me, honestly, but I can see the care she took in her writing and it’s definitely an important aspect of the novel overall.

So basically what I want to say is this – immediately after I finished the book I gave it 3 stars, and at this point I’m going with 4.5 or even 5 stars. The time I took to reflect upon Hausfrau really enhanced my appreciation for it, and I’m pretty impressed with what Essbaum did here. Do yourself a favor and pick it up so you can draw your own conclusions. But for me, this is fiction at it’s finest – the kind that makes you question your own initial reactions, the kind that makes you examine your own prejudices and beliefs, and the kind that does not let go long after you finish the novel. In a word, excellent.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Published by Bond Street Books
Review copy provided by the publisher

From the publisher:

“It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon.” This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959. The whole family–their two daughters and two sons, their grandchildren, even their faithful old dog–is on the porch, listening contentedly as Abby tells the tale they have heard so many times before. And yet this gathering is different too: Abby and Red are growing older, and decisions must be made about how best to look after them, and the fate of the house so lovingly built by Red’s father. Brimming with the luminous insight, humor, and compassion that are Anne Tyler’s hallmarks, this capacious novel takes us across three generations of the Whitshanks, their shared stories and long-held secrets, all the unguarded and richly lived moments that combine to define who and what they are as a family.

When I received an unsolicited, surprise copy of A Spool of Blue Thread in the mail, I almost tossed it aside without a second glance. After all, I’m not officially accepting books for review anymore, and I didn’t have my eye on this one before its publication date – it was completely off my radar. I chose to take another look at it, and eventually read it, because I realized that I had never read any of this prolific author’s work before. I thought, everyone raves about Anne Tyler and I don’t even know what the fuss is about, I might as well give her a try. So I did.

And now I don’t know what to think. Because, on the surface, this is a wonderful novel, one I should have fallen in love with. I love these family stories. I love getting inside the seemingly insignificant details of characters’ and families’ lives and truly getting to know a fictionalized set of characters. Anne Tyler gave that to me here, so I should have loved it. But I didn’t love it, which makes me sad, so let me at least try to explain why I gave this book three stars instead of four or five.

Some things I didn’t love: There were several plot points that I thought were going to mean something and they ended up fizzing out to nothing (including one big one that I particularly hated). There was a Big Event in the middle of the book that I wasn’t prepared for and am not sure I like where it took the direction of the novel. The characters felt a little fake to me – and by that I mean, several of them were “good” and one was “bad” but when it came down to it the good guys were really superficially good and actually kind of crappy, and the bad one ended up being the most normal, most genuinely good person of the bunch. But you really don’t see that until towards the end of the book, which was marginally annoying. I’m not sure I liked how nonlinear the story was, although it wasn’t horrible. And there was one particular plot line, involving a young girl and a much older man, that was just inappropriate, I felt it was entirely unnecessary and added nothing to the story.

BUT. Anne Tyler can write. Holy crap can she write, and wow can she create characters that are interesting and complicated and raw and people who many of us know in our real lives. So overall, I didn’t love A Spool of Blue Thread but I do see the merits of it. And I think there’s going to be a lot of people who love it. I just don’t have to be one of them.

Question – for those of you who have read more of Tyler’s work, is there another book of hers that I might enjoy more? Or perhaps one of her short story collections? I’m open to whatever suggestions you have, because I did like her writing.

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle

The Whole Golden WorldThe Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
Published by William Morrow

This novel begins in a courtroom as high school teacher TJ Hill stands accused of having an affair with his seventeen-year-old student, Morgan. Morgan’s parents, Dinah and Joe, are shocked when Morgan walks into the courtroom and ignores them in favor of sitting behind TJ in support. Told from the points of view of Morgan, Dinah, and TJ’s wife, Rain, The Whole Golden World handles an extremely delicate and complex issue with maturity and finesse.

Wow. This book is something else. You would think it would be difficult to write a book about a teacher having a sexual relationship with a student and make not only the student, but also the teacher’s wife, be complex characters the reader can really sympathize with and understand. Well, Riggle accomplished that and more with this novel.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no gray area here, what TJ does is wrong: he clearly took advantage of Morgan, despite what Morgan thinks for most of the book, but Riggle paints the picture in such a way that the reader can see, from Morgan’s perspective, how a teenager could believe that this is a real relationship. She made Morgan such a sympathetic and realistic teen and got in her head to such a degree that it becomes perfectly understandable why Morgan would think that what she was doing with her teacher was appropriate and okay (nevermind the legality of it – that was a whole other issue).

I don’t know who I felt more sorry for, Morgan or Rain. In the end I would have to say Morgan’s eventual realization of what TJ was doing to her – and how he was able to manipulate her – was more heartbreaking than Rain’s discovery of the truth about her husband. But this is just one of those books where no one really has it easy; truth has to come out and people have to grow from their awful experiences. Morgan’s mother, Dinah, has an incredibly rough time in the novel too – her daughter was involved with a teacher and she had no idea, imagine how that must tear apart a mother’s conscience. How could this have happened without Dinah’s knowledge or even an idea that something out of the ordinary was happening in her daughter’s life? I think the book is an excellent reflection of how teenagers can be so good at concealing things from their parents and other authority figures when they really want to – it forces parents to question whether they really do know what they think they know about their teens.

The Whole Golden World is just such a great novel. It deals with an issue that you’d think is black-and-white, but treats it with such respect and truthfulness to make it as complicated and messy as life truly can be. Highly recommended.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl AliveLuckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Published by Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by Netgalley

On the outside, Ani FaNelli seems to have it all – she’s engaged to a wonderful (rich) man, has an incredible job, good friends, and maintains a perfect size two under her designer clothes. But Ani has a huge secret, something that happened to her as a teenager, and she’s considering airing it out there for all to know about. She’s worried, though, that if she’s honest with herself and others, the revealing of her secret might come at the expense of her perfect life.

The first thing I have to say is, please ignore anyone who tells you that this book is anything like Gone Girl. IT IS NOT. Also, why do books keep having to be “the next Gone Girl?” Why can’t they just stand on their own as the originals they are? Ugh.

Anyway. Luckiest Girl Alive is its own novel with its own story and characters. This book was difficult for me to get into at first. Ani (formerly known as TifAni) had a terrible thing happen to her in high school, after which she completely reinvented herself, became a successful professional, and got engaged to a gorgeous guy, Luke, who comes from a wealthy family. The thing is that Ani is incredibly difficult to even tolerate, much less like. She is marrying a man she doesn’t really like because of his money, she’s obsessed with her appearance to the point that she definitely has an eating disorder, she’s incredibly judgmental of others, and she’s just not a very nice person in general. I couldn’t figure out what I had gotten myself into with this miserable character and considered abandoning the book early on.

Luckily, it gets better. Ani is selfish and annoying and self-obsessed, but she’s also got a rough past and is full of self-loathing and intense guilt because of that past. It takes quite a while to get to what actually happened to her, but once things are revealed, her behavior and personality make a little bit more sense and I almost felt sorry for her. She did experience a traumatic event, she blamed herself, and she lived with the guilt for years. Re-inventing herself didn’t help the self-hatred she experienced on a daily basis because of this horrible thing that happened.

The best thing about Luckiest Girl Alive is that when it gets going, it becomes impossible to put down. I liked it a lot because the structure and pacing were just done so well. And also, when I feel so strongly against a character, it kind of makes me respect the author in a weird way. Like, if she can create this character that pulls out of me such deep negative emotions, good on Knoll for doing that. Does that make sense?

Please don’t compare this book to any other books and you’ll have a great reading experience. Stick with Ani through the beginning and things will clear up towards the middle and end of the novel. Overall I thought Luckiest Girl Alive was a very strong novel and I’m looking forward to more from Jessica Knoll.

Weekend Cooking: Cooking from Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Get Real Meals

30-Minute Get Real Meals: Eat Healthy Without Going to ExtremesBack when Trish hosted the Cook It Up Challenge, which focused on using one cookbook each month, I decided to start with 30-Minute Get Real Meals by Rachael Ray. I chose this particular cookbook because it’s the cookbook I’ve had the longest (my mom bought it for me when I moved from a dorm room to an apartment in college and could start cooking in an actual kitchen), and I had only used it once or twice. I also feared I wouldn’t find much to cook since it’s focused on low-carb which I don’t really believe in (pasta, please. All the pasta!).

The book is divided into chapters for snacks, salads, soups, fondue, burgers, main dishes, pastas (I know, right!), and desserts. The first thing I made was the Indian Summer Turkey Chili. This chili was SO GOOD and possibly my favorite chili I’ve ever made (I love chili and have made many kinds). The kicker with this one is it literally tastes like summer, probably because barbecue sauce is a prominent ingredient. The one thing I can tell you about this dish is that if you make it, choose your BBQ sauce wisely – the taste REALLY comes through in the chili. I’ve made it twice since the first time, truly this was delicious and I will make it lots more times. And it makes GREAT leftovers.

The second thing I made was Pumpkin Sage Pasta. Here’s where it gets tricky because this recipe is the closest one I can find online to the one in the cookbook, and it’s slightly different. But it’s close enough that you get the idea. Yes, there’s pasta and cream in a low-carb cookbook, but she uses such a small amount of each that it’s still pretty healthy overall. I liked this okay. The taste was really good but because of the huge proportion of pumpkin puree to cream, the texture was a little off. I made it a second time using about twice the amount of cream, and while it obviously wasn’t as healthy that way, the texture was way more creamy and delicious. I REALLY liked the use of fresh sage, a herb I had never cooked with before.

The third dish I made was a white chicken chili that I can’t find online. Which is fine, because this chili was nothing to write home about. It was okay the night I made it, but it lacked that something special and wasn’t very good reheated the next day for lunch.

In the end, while I liked one thing I made and loved another, I ended up donating this cookbook. There are just too many things in here that don’t interest me – I don’t make fondue, am not a huge fan of burgers, and never make salads at home (my hubby doesn’t eat salad). While I’ll definitely be making the chili again and again, and will experiment more with pumpkin puree in my cooking, overall I’d only recommend 30-Minute Get Real Meals to people looking for fresh and new low-carb options to add into their cooking repertoire.

Weekend Cooking is a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Stop by and check out other posts related to food and cooking!

Thoughts on Re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books

It was a sad, sad day when I closed this book and thus ended my re-read of the entire Harry Potter series. It has actually been kind of a while since I finished, but I’ve been having trouble articulating any kind of real thoughts about this final book so I’ve put off talking about it. Here are some brief thoughts that are running through my head at the current moment about the final book in the series.

I remember that the first time I read this book, it seemed that Harry, Ron and Hermione did a LOT of camping and worrying and talking and thinking but very little actually DOING something. I must have felt that way because I was so anxious for them to get to some real action, I wanted to hurry through the slower parts. This time around, I didn’t feel that way at all; instead, I relished the time spent on trying to figure out the Horcruxes and it didn’t seem like overkill to me at all. It felt perfect.

The first time I read this book, I furiously read through the battle scene at the end, and I’m sure I missed a lot, but this time I read slowly and relished every moment – which probably made me enjoy it more. And Neville. Oh, Neville, how I love to see an underdog succeed – and in such a big way here. Made my heart sing.

I remember thinking, the first time I read this book, that when Harry sacrificed himself he was really going to die, and being so pissed off at Rowling for that entire scene. This time, I had so much more peace in my heart because I knew how it all turned out so I was able to relax and enjoy the creativity in the scene, and enjoy how the love that Rowling has for these characters and this story flow through her writing.

A lot of people hate the epilogue but I really love it. In an ordinary book I might not have liked it so much, but in this case, I was SO invested in these characters for such a long time, if I hadn’t gotten some peace over where they ended up in their lives the end of the books would have been a lot more difficult for me to handle. Also, if that epilogue hadn’t been there, I would have hoped and prayed for YEARS that Rowling would keep writing more. So for me, the epilogue is pure perfection.

I’m sad that these are over but I can always read them again another time! I have so much love for this series it’s not even funny. If you are a Harry Potter virgin, please do yourself a favor and check out these books. You won’t be sorry.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the TalibanI Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Published by Little, Brown and Company

From the publisher:

In 2009 Malala Yousafzai began writing an anonymous blog for BBC Urdu about life in the Swat Valley as the Taliban gained control, at times banning girls from attending school. When her identity was discovered, Malala began to appear in Pakistani and international media, campaigning for education for all. On 9 October 2012, Malala was shot at point-blank range by a member of the Taliban on the way home from school. Remarkably, she survived. In April 2013, Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

I Am Malala tells the inspiring story of a schoolgirl who was determined not to be intimidated by extremists, and faced the Taliban with immense courage. Malala speaks of her continuing campaign for every girl’s right to an education, shining a light into the lives of those children who cannot attend school. This is just the beginning…

Since the first time I heard about this courageous girl Malala, I wanted to learn more about her and hear her story. I Am Malala gave me the chance to do that, and what an amazing and inspiring story this girl has to tell.

Words cannot properly express the difficulty I had in comprehending that the story Malala was telling me was happening in today’s world. Intellectually I understand the Taliban exist, that they are oppressive and violent and hate women and require them to submit and don’t believe in equality and education for women, and all kinds of other awful things that make me want to cry and stamp my feet and fix all the world’s problems, but hearing it from the point of view of an actual person who is living it, right now, is not easy. What’s so crazy is that the things the Taliban are scared of – women being educated and having equal access to things that men have – are the exact things that caused Malala to believe that she deserves better, that her country and her world deserve better, than what the Taliban believe is the proper place for women and girls. So basically, she’s proving them right by showing that to educate a girl is to make girls stronger, more intelligent, more capable of doing exactly the things the Taliban is terrified they will do.

And that is exactly what is so empowering about Malala’s story. She grew up in a family that believed in equality of the sexes. She has a father who believes girls can do anything boys can do; in fact, he encouraged his daughter to speak up for her rights and represent women and girls in the public sphere. She is proof that education is truly the key to power, to equality, to peace, to rising above the place where a repressive society wants to keep women and girls. As powerful and inspiring as Malala’s story is, it is horrifying and disturbing, too. She was shot in the head – literally – for daring to want to be educated. Shocking and horrifying doesn’t quite begin to cover it.

That is why this book is such a difficult one to read but also to write about and recommend. It is a must-read, I truly believe that. There are so many things going on in the world around us that need to be understood and recognized, paid attention to. Malala’s book is just one piece of writing that illuminates something for those of us lucky enough to live in a place where the idea of something like this happening is atrocious. But if we don’t educate ourselves and at the very least have an understanding of what’s happening in countries where groups like the Taliban and ISIS are taking over, how can we expect young girls like Malala to risk their lives to stand up to these groups for something as seemingly God-given as the right to an education?

Anyway. I found this book incredibly thought-provoking and very inspirational. Oh, I forgot to say that I listened to the audio, narrated by Neela Vaswani, and it was very good. I Am Malala is a fantastic, and important, choice in print or audio.

(More) Mini-reviews

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday LivesBetter Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin
Published by Crown
Review copy provided by Netgalley

I loved The Happiness Project so I knew I’d pick up this book as soon as I could get my hands on it. Overall, I really liked it and can see a of people getting something out of it. This is one of those kinds of books where people either like this kind of thing, and will therefore enjoy the book, or find discussing boring stuff like habits, well, boring, and will definitely not enjoy the book at ALL. I find myself in the former camp so it was endlessly fascinating to me to learn about all the different ways our personalities can be sorted and how that has an effect on how we best develop good habits and ditch bad ones. Better Than Before is, generally speaking, exactly what i was expecting and so – it was great, I enjoyed it and if you’re like me, you will too!

A Small PlaceA Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The publisher describes A Small Place as “A brilliant look at colonialism and its effects in Antigua”, which it is, but it’s so much more than that. It is Kincaid’s love letter to her home country, complete with lush descriptions of beautiful scenery and daily life on this island. It is a confronting essay about what colonialism and rich white people have done to this beautiful, formerly perfect and majestic place. It is something that should challenge the reader, make you take a hard look at yourself and what you do and say and experience when visiting another country or culture (it did for me). It should make you examine your innermost thoughts and ideas about race and other cultures and why and how people can live in poverty on the very soil millions of tourists pay a LOT of money to visit every single year (it did for me). A Small Place is powerful and should be read by everyone.

Hammer Head: The Making of a CarpenterHammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin
Published by W. W. Norton & Company

After spending years working for a newspaper, MacLaughlin decided one day that she wanted to spend her days in a more physical, challenging and exhausting work environment, so she applied to be an apprentice to a female carpenter. Throughout this memoir, she describes the grueling and difficult work, complete with physical, emotional and mental rewards, and the lessons she learned along the way.

This is a book that I caught mention of scrolling through Twitter and thought it sounded really interesting and different. I was right – I really liked this book and it was totally an unexpected fun surprise for me. Becoming a carpenter is something I have absolutely zero interest in, but I am interested in reading about people making transformations in their lives and that’s exactly what the book entails. I found the carpentry work fascinating (which was a shock to me), but even more was the relationship MacLaughlin built with her new boss and the things she learned about herself throughout this process. I highly recommend Hammer Head to all kinds of readers!

Mini-Reviews

Somebody Else's DaughterSomebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage
Published by Viking Adult

This book was HUGE when I first started blogging (it was published in 2008) and I’ve had it on my shelf since that time. I finally picked it up, and wow, what a story! Basically the book is about a high school girl named Willa who was adopted as a baby by a somewhat affluent couple. Unbeknownst to her, her biological father decides to accept a teaching position at her high school, triggering all sorts of events, dramatic and shocking and some heartbreaking.

This novel is definitely one of those books where the author means to shock you, and there’s no limit to the craziness that the families depicted in the novel are up to. I mostly liked this book simply because I couldn’t put the thing down. I really liked Nate (the biological father) – even though he’d made some huge mistakes in his life (including going back to the town where he put his daughter up for adoption to teach at her high school), he was really trying to get his life together and grow as a person. The book’s summary suggests that the book is mostly about Willa, but in reality it’s more about the people in her life – her parents, Nate, her best friend and her best friend’s parents – and yes she’s the center of it, but the novel is about so much more than this one girl. So yes I liked Somebody Else’s Daughter, but the subject matter is not for the feint of heart and there’s serious drama going on. If you like those kinds of books, it’s a good choice.

HerHer by Harriet Lane
Published by Little, Brown and Company

Emma is a stay-at-home mother who meets a new friend, Nina, who is just a bit older than she, has a grown daughter, is super focused on her career, and seems more put-together than Emma thinks she could ever be. At first it seems like the women have nothing in common, but they quickly develop a friendship despite their differences. What Emma doesn’t know, though, is that Nina has an ulterior motive for this friendship, and Nina is simply not what she seems to be.

UGH. I did not like this book at all. I was annoyed by both characters, didn’t like either one, didn’t understand either one really, and all I wanted to do the entire time I was reading was find out Nina’s secret. In the end, it was revealed, and oh my goodness what a let-down. I know others have liked Her quite a bit, but it was just not the book for me.

Big FishBig Fish by Daniel Wallace
Published by Pocket

Most people are familiar with the movie that was based on this book, starring Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, and Helena Bonham Carter, among others. The book is almost exactly like the movie, except I actually feel like the movie took the story and theme from the book and made it even bigger and better. That being said, reading the book was a good experience, and I liked it, but I was expecting more. Usually the book is more detailed and better than the movie, in this case the opposite was true. But I do like the way Wallace writes, I like the magical realism and the way he turns a simple story into an inspirational tale. I think I’ll read more from him, but in this case I definitely liked the movie a lot more than the book.

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