Thursday, December 29, 2016

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin - Reshelved Books

   Hello everyone.  Jessica here, giving you my final book review for 2016.  Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year.  I can't wait to see what everyone is reading in 2017!
    This book was given to me in a Secret Santa gift exchange at work by a co-woker who had tried to get me to read this novel earlier in the year.  Brooklyn follows the story of a young Irish woman named Eilis, who leaves Ireland for America in the hopes of getting a job and a degree in bookkeeping.  With the help of the church, Eilis succeeds in this, while also falling in love with and developing a relationship with Tony, an American-Italian man, whom she secretly marries.  When Eilis' sister suddenly passes away, Eilis returns to Ireland to be with her mother, and begins to have feelings for an Irish man named Jim.  
    This novel brings up the theme of duty both in the familial, personal, and romantic sense.  It also allows for discussion in terms of what constitutes love.  Could Eilis learn to love Jim if she stayed in Ireland and never moved to America?  Would Eilis stay happily married to Tony if she never went back to Ireland?  Will she ever be truly happy, always wondering "what-if"? And because of this, is it safe to say that Eilis truly loved neither?  
     While I enjoyed reading this novel, I wanted more.  I wanted to see more of what happened between Eilis and Tony once Eilis returned to America.  I also wanted to see Eilis' mother possibly visit America, or have Eilis suggest to her mother that she should visit and meet Tony.  Toibin purposely leaves the ending vague, sort of mimicking the back and forth thoughts that Eilis has herself, not really knowing her own heart or her own path.  Eilis is just moving forward in the direction of duty, even though duty pulls her in two different directions.  For this reason, I am giving Brooklyn by Colm Toibin a For the Love of Dewey Rating of 3.5 coffee beans.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Between Friends by Debbie Macomber: Reshelved Books

**Attention For the Love of Dewey Readers! 5 out of 5 coffee beans for this book!!!***

Between Friends is unlike any of the other Debbie Macomber books I have read, which at times can be a little sappy, homey, and Hallmark Movie-esc.  On the other hand, this novel is deep, powerful, and tear jerking in a way that touches your soul, makes you think about life, your values, the world, and the role you play in it.  The closest book that I have read which I can compare this novel to is Kristin Hannah's Firefly Lane.  (Which is one of my favorite books.)

      To give you a bit of a summary, this novel is written in the form of both letters and journal entries between two best friends, Jillian Lawton and Lesley Adamski.  I thought that a novel written in this format would make me feel disconnected to the characters, but I have never felt like I was present in a novel quite as intensely as this. The novel begins in 1948 with the birth of Lesley, and follows the girls up into 2010, showing them first as young girls and how they mature and grow.  Jillian is strong willed and independent, and is perhaps the character that I most identify with.  She very pro-women's rights, pro-choice, yearns to advance in her career, and follows her own heart and dreams - even if these dreams disagree with others.  (This next sentence may be considered a spoiler.) Jillian falls in love at a young age with a man named Nick, who tragically dies in Vietnam and leaves her heartbroken for many years.  This untimely loss of what she believes to be her soulmate, effects her deeply.  Part of Jillian's story is learning how to become whole again, to live her life, and not let life slide by wasted.
     Lesley may be considered to be the weaker of the two girls, and for me personally, Lesley symbolized the parts of myself and even of life that scare me.  I think that as women, we often feel pressured to be able to do it all.  From young girls, we are told that we can be anything we want to be.  We go to school to have a career, but we want a family of our own, and even sometimes feel pressured to have one.  There's a certain balance that we strive to find between independence, a successful career, and raising a family. And there's a lot of guilt that get's thrown into the mix.   Lesley grew up in a poor family with a mother who became pregnant at a very young age, only to marry the father who became an abusive alcoholic.  When Lesley becomes a teenager, she was raped by her boyfriend (newly ex-boyfiend), ends up pregnant, and marries him, thus sort of reliving her mother's mistakes.  While reading this novel I wanted Lesley to be strong.  At first I wanted her to get an abortion.  Then I wanted her to raise her child, go to school, and leave her husband.  However, she kept giving her marriage another shot, and giving her family all that she had and who she was. Lesley came close so many times to leaving her husband, but just about every time she did, she always returned.
     This novel tackles to many topics such as war and the importance of supporting men who dutifully go to war (even if you don't believe in the war yourself) so that loved ones do not pass away in vain, marriage, alcoholism, rape, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, female reproductive health, birth control & abortion, career & family, cancer, etc.  I honestly feel like I could talk about this book forever, and delve into all these topics so deeply it could take up the entire blog space.  But rather than do that I'm just going to beg you all to read it.  And when you do read it, let's talk!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Reads

Christmas is around the corner, and that means ‘tis the season for delectable peppermint mocha lattes and snuggly holiday romance novels.  But, do you feel compelled to read Christmas books like it’s a chore? (I kind of do.)   
      On one hand I love these books, especially those by Debbie Macomber.  They touch my soul and make me want to wrap presents, spread kindness, cheer, love, and all that good stuff.  They’re also pretty short, which makes me meet my yearly Goodreads Challenge so much faster.  This year I’m shooting for 125.  Will I make it?  Maybe if I throw in a few more Macombers… 
      But while I love these books, I also feel guilty for wanting to read other books.  Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is one I have been dying to get my hands on.  But it’s not Christmas.  So I’m constantly struggling between getting in my Christmas books, while still making time for others.  And really, making time for any reading other than books that have gripped me to the very core of my existence is hard during this stressful – I mean magically giving and wonderful, time of year.

     So, what’s in your Holiday To-Read Pile this season? And why?  Share with us below in the comments, and check out our GoodReads group for more holiday and wintry reads!         

P.S. I Still Love You, by Jenny Han: Reshelved Books

Lara Jean, Lara Jean, what are we going to do with you?

     P.S. I Still Love You is the adorable sequel to Jenny Han's novel To All The Boys I've Loved Before. (And thankfully a third book will be coming out in April of 2017 *yay!*)  This book takes on so many different subjects such as first love, virginity, losing a parent, the bond of sisterhood, and the detrimental role that technology can play in everyday life i.e. bullying, making this a really profound sequential young adult novel.  

     To give you all a bit of a synopsis- no spoilers, I promise! Lara Jean has entered into an exclusive relationship with a boy named Peter.  A video of Lara Jean and Peter is uploaded to a nasty Instagram account that exposes teenagers in their lowest and embarrassing moments.  The caption of this video describes it as a moment of sexual intercourse, which is not true.  This whole issue opens up discussion about double standards between women and men when it comes to sex, as well as how information found online can be misinterpreted, and how online bullying follows the victim everywhere.  To me, this part of the book held the most depth and emotion.  It was a nice warning call to young adult readers about being careful with how one acts on the Internet, gossiping, and information credibility. 
       When the Instagram drama gets resolved, Lara Jean begins to have problems with Peter, especially when a boy named John (who moved away in book #1) comes back.  Lara Jean may have feelings for John.  She's unsure.  She's also not fully trusting of Peter, thinking that he may still have a relationship with his ex-girlfriend Genevieve.  As Lara Jean explores what it means to love and to be in love, there is a whole lot of charm, humor, and cuteness thrown together, which out of the two books makes this one definitely more enjoyable and more apt to stick with the reader longer.  Did anyone who read To All The Boys I Loved Before know or remember (because I didn't) that Lara Jean loved to bake?  And how about Lara Jean's sister Kitty?  She is so adorable and funny.  Definitely my favorite supporting character!

I read this book super quick, within one day!  I really wanted to give this book 5 coffee beans.  However, I am only going to give it 4.5 coffee beans, because I found a typo on page 316 which reads, "I don't walk to talk about this anymore" (Han, p. 316).  

Edition Referenced: Han, Jenny. P.S.I Still Love You. New York: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2015. Print.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Between Friends by Debbie Macomber: Currently Reading

I am so in love with Macomber's Between Friends so far!  This novel is different from the other novels by her that I have read in the past, those of which I think can usually be seen as neat little happy ending stories inside cute Hallmark movie towns.  However, right from the beginning this novel appears to dive so much deeper, following the lives of two best friends, Lesley and Jillian, and their journey from young girls to grown/aging women.  This novel tackles topics such as woman's rights & birth control, the Vietnam War, love, cancer, and so much more.  This novel is also written in the form of journal entries and letters, which I found to be quite different.  I thought that this letter correspondence would make me feel disconnected from the characters, but I am actually so absorbed in their lives and thought processes, that putting it down to type this little blurb is painful!

I can't wait for this review! Happy Reading!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner: Reshelved Books

      When I first started this book I had so many questions.  I had promised you answers, but now I wish I could take that promise back...because figuring out the answers were half the fun of reading it!  

     Who Do You Love is a coming of age novel, which encompasses the genres of both women's fiction and new adult fiction, with new adult fiction being part of the fiction genre with characters who are primarily in their 20's-30's.  This can sort of be thought of as an "older" version of the young adult genre because this book begins with the two main characters of Rachel and Andy meeting at 8 years old, and follows their growth up until their 30's, with a large amount of space devoted to their 20's. 
      So, for those who have been eagerly anticipating this review, having read our last "currently reading" post, Rachel and Andy do fall in love.  But do they marry and is he the one who broke her heart?  Yes and no.  I feel like saying more than that will spoil it for you.    
This novel reads like a mixture between a Nicholas Sparks love story and Kristin Hannah novel.  It explores love and heartbreak, both in the physical because of Rachel's genetic heart disorder, but also in the metaphorical, and for this reason, is very similar to How I Came to Sparkle Again.  However, what I think makes this novel stand out is Weiner's focus on exploring not only the difference between love and lust, but also the difference between true love / soulmates and a love out of respect and duty.  Rachel's first marriage was built on this later love.   She loved her husband, but not in the way needed for it to last.  Rachel's other love was first variety.  They were once best friends, but perhaps had met at the wrong time.  
    The ending of this novel opens with a new chapter of Rachel's life moving forward, but as I sit here reflecting on what I just read, I also wonder if Rachel is simply falling back into the comfort and her old practices.  Rachel has made a career out of social work, working with single mothers who often fall back into bad habits of drug use and domestic abuse.  Could the reopening of this chapter actually be Rachel falling back into her "bad habits," or is it genuine and real?

I am going to give this novel 4 out of 5 coffee beans! 
I'd also love for you to read this book and share with me what you think below in the comments!