The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

TheOppositeOfLoneliness Ok, so I am a jerk.  I saw this book on the NYT Bestseller list, requested it from the library, and picked it up one Saturday.  I glanced at it, threw it in the passenger seat of my car, and wondered what this young woman could have to say.  I expected something fluffy or self-indulged.  Then I opened the book and read about the author.  I saw two dates, 1989-2012. I stopped and stood in my hallway, absorbing and reading.  I read about Marian Keegan, a talented, accomplished, intelligent young writer who died 5 days after her college graduation in a car accident.   I felt like a terrible person, forgetting the first rule of reading; don’t judge a book by its cover.  Then I sat and read and read.  Marina had incredible things to say, profound, witty, endearing, humane, hopeful, lovely things to say.

This compilation was published after her death.  It is a compilation of short stories and non-fiction pieces.  They are full of longing to change the world, and joy in the journey of life.  She was a writer that could capture human experience succinctly and make you think, “I have felt that, I have done that, I know exactly what you mean.”   A college girl writing about college boyfriends, those are stories one can pound out from their own recesses of experience.  However, Keegan wrote a story about a middle aged woman adopting a baby.  It was sweet, funny, poignant, and very well done.  I was impressed with her ability to capture life stages far beyond her own.

The essay I connected to the most she wrote about her high school car.  Her coming-of-age experiences in it, and the storage unit her care transformed into. A co-worker once laughed at my random collection of things in my car, a can of diet coke, one shoe, and detachable straps from a bridesmaids dress.  My car was my extra home on wheels for many years; it saw me through a lot of happy and sad.  Keegan encapsulated this feeling, I related so well to her depictions.  I believe this is what great writing does, reassures you there is someone else who has felt and experienced the exact same things.  Marina Keegan is a voice gone way too soon.

To Purchase on Amazon, click here:

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

5 Love Stories Better Than 50 Shades

Today a sweeping best seller turned into a movie will be released.  It has become a phenonmenon that sadly twists an abusive relationship into love. There are better books and more talented authors.

Let’s get back to good books, to well written stories, to authors who have honed their craft, and gifted storytellers.  Please give rise to these authors and their works of fiction that are well written, tender, moving stories.  As long as consumers keep devouring books like 50 shades, they will keep getting published.  Jane Austin would swoon over these stories, give them a go.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowellattachments

If you have not yet discovered the delightful Rainbow Rowell, you are in for a treat.  This is a  novel told primarily through company emails.  Rowell is a master at quick, smart dialogue.  The lives of a night computer security worker, and daytime employees connect through secret email reading without meeting face to face.  Lincoln, the main character is hired at night to ensure the employees are following standard procedures. He reads through emails and checks on employees computer activity.  Situations get  awkward when Lincoln starts to fall for a woman through her email prose.   The voices in the novel are witty, crass, and unbelievably awesome.  You will adore the banter between the characters and the odd love story that unfolds.  I wish there were more books like hers.  Wonderful, wonderful read.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

Attachments: A Novel

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The storied life of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Zevin writes a story of true and sacrificial love.  She shows us that blood is not always thicker than water, and love can shake you free from a painful stupor gone on too long.  The main character A.J. is suffocating under grief and hardship.  He runs a bookstore on an island (yes, it is as charming as it seems) and is struggling in modern day book selling in the midst of e-readers and online shopping.  He drowns his sorrows in wine in the evening, and his world turns upside down when his prize possession, a rare Edgar Allen Poe original, is stolen from his home.  As quickly as the book is taken from him, a mysterious baby is left in his care with a note explaining her parents are not up for raising a child.  The rest I will leave to you to read for yourself.  The characters are all quirky and lovable, flawed,and oh so  human. I truly believe there should be a special genre of  books only written about people that adore books.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry would shine in such a genre.  Many more events unravel in this story, I felt like I had moved onto the Island and gotten to know all the characters.  When the book was over, I was sure I would miss all of them.  It is not all happy, but it is sweet, and real, and worth your time.

To purchase the book from Amazon, click here:

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project

A character driven novel is one in which the character would say and do the same things regardless of the time or circumstances the author places them in.  The Rosie Project is the most charming and heartwarming novel of this kind that I have stumbled across in recent months.    Don Tillman is successful in his job and many endeavors, however love and relationships is not one of them.  Don has autism and does not grasp human relationships or social interactions in the slightest.  He concludes that it is time to find a romantic relationship; but decides leaving to chance meeting someone compatible randomly is unlikely and inefficient.  He comes up with a compatibility measurement test to approach the quest from a logical and scientific angle.  Of course, we all know there is no science to love, so Don’s world gets turned upside down and back again.   The author captures the mind of an autistic person with precision, compassion, and humor.   This love story is quirky and wonderful; I am praying they do not turn it into a movie.

To purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

The Rosie Project: A Novel

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 

A Maa man called oven called Ove is quietly brilliant and utterly charming.    Ove is a man of unchanged routine, from his home, to his Saub, to his job, he holds onto the familiar with clenched fists.  He is an angry, prickly old man, and has settled into a life of despising most people.  Ove is pushed out of his job of thirty years and he is left without purpose.  To add insult to injury, new neighbors arrive across the street, he is grumpier than ever.  He irritably helps the Iranian neighbors through a medical emergency and a tentavtive friendship is born.  This story unfolds like a tapestry, telling the reader the story of Ove’s life as it has merged with the residents in their neighborhood of row homes.  This book captures the joy and pain of true sacrificial love, friendship with roots as strong as family, and forgiving the past.  The best thing about this book is how it makes you feel as you read, compassion for sweet old Ove, and hope that good can reign over bad.  Rich storytelling and subtle humor make it a moving novel.  I loved every up and down, from the beginning to the end.

To Purchase this on Amazon, click here:

A Man Called Ove: A Novel

Longbourne by Jo Baker

LongbourneLongbourne is reminiscent of Jane Austin’s story telling.  You will like it If you are looking for a book will elements similar to Pride and Prejudice.  However, it is not a retelling of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  Let Longbourne speak for itself and tell its own story.  It is classic in its theme, tension, and hierarchy between servants and higher class.  It is romantic in its story of love hoped for, but unspoken and uncertain.   As a reader you need to attentively tune into the tension and longings of the characters.  The things that go unsaid are almost as important as what is said.  Longbourne takes you into old England, carriages, foggy mornings,  stone houses, and quiet romance.  I enjoyed this book, it is not a page turner, but a story that unfolds with quiet reserve.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:

Longbourn

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

big little liesPirriwee Public school on the peninsula of Sydney, Australia is a mix of power moms, surfer dads, high finance bankers, and blue collar workers.  This mash up of parents and their children make for a fantastic cast of characters to keep you engaged in the life of this little town.  When Pirriwee Public throws a costume trivia night, drinks are too strong, issues surface, and something terrible takes place. However no one can recall exactly what happened or who was involved.  Three women are the heart of this novel, their lives twist and connect unexpectedly.  Celeste and her husband Perry are perfect in the outside, wealthy and put together.  Madeline is her loud, bossy, and unapologetic best friend.  Jane is the new mum at school, young, and not ready for the world of intense school politics.  These three women are multi-dimensional characters, as a reader you can’t help but empathize with their challenges.  Moriarty does a fantastic job of building intrigue through snatches of interviews from parents and teachers about the legendary trivia night.  She pulls you in with mystery, but weaves in the stories of these three women’s lives.  If you liked ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette’, you would like this book.  However, the characters are deeper, more relatable, with a more suspenseful plot.  If you liked ‘The Husband’s Secret’, I think you will like this more.  If you did not like ‘The Husband’s Secret’, give this a chance, it is a stronger book over all.  I loved the reader on Audio, the Australian accent adds to the story. Read it before the movie comes out. One of my favorite reads so far this year.

To Order this book from Amazon, click here:  Big Little Lies

2014 Best Book Awards

Well, everyone has their top ten lists of 2014 out, so here are some best awards I created for some favorite books of 2014.  I gave awards to 10 books I found true delight in. If they have been reviewed here before, I gave a truncated version of the review. Put some on your list for next year, or just enjoy reading my bests.  What did you love reading this year?  Please tell me in the comments.

Best Book about a Long WalkThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: The Unlikely Pilgramage of harold fryA man learns an old friend is dying on the other side of England.  He literally just starts walking to her without even changing his shoes or grabbing a sack lunch.  A good read all in all.

To Order click here: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel

Best Non-Fiction Book:  Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.

dad is fatA man loves his wife and children and makes their daily lives extremely hilarious in the written form.   When Jim Gaffigan was asked as a child why he was so white, he would reply, “My Dad was a Q-tip.”  That is funny people.

To Order, click here: Dad Is Fat

Best Book Where Bunnies Wear Platform Shoes:  Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath  mr and mrs bunnyThis children’s mystery is delightful, odd, and very funny.  Adults should read it, and if you have children in your general vicinity you should read it to them, together.

To Order, click here: Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinaire!

Best Book Written from an Animal’s Perspective: The One and Only Ivan  by Katherine Applegate.  

the one and only ivanThis is the true story of a gorilla kept in the Tacoma mall for most of his life.  Most Northwest natives know this history, but I missed out on this by growing up in the Rocky Mountains.  I only saw old abandoned gold mines when I was a kid.  However, most locals know the story of Ivan and his rescue from the mall to a zoo in Atlanta.  I loved it; it speaks of the dichotomy of human nature, and how we care for and sometimes miss-treat animals.

To Order, click here:  The One and Only Ivan

Best Book with a Genius Female Character: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson the girl who saved the king of sweden  Girl lives in Africa and manages the latrines; it is gross job with grosser male co-workers.  She is a secret genius and ends up traveling across half the world, and out-smarting a ton of pompous men along the way.  She meets a very nice twin named Two, and helps save the King of Sweden.  It is quirky, indescribable, creative, and full of twists and turns.  I loved the quiet genius of it, a bit of an off-the-beaten path book.     To Order, click here: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden: A Novel

Best Book About Women Having Cool Jobs During World War IIThe All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg.  the all girl filling stationListen to Ms. Flagg read this to you on Audiobook, I love her southern drawl and charm.  This was a sweet little read; it makes you want to eat some fried chicken and hug your lady friends.  Also, it is fun to hear about women taking over men’s jobs when they are away at war and rocking it hard core.

To Order, click here: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion: A Novel

Best Historical Fiction:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer  All the light we cannot seeAnthony Doer deserved all the praise and accolades he received for taking ten years to write this novel of World War II.  It was sweet, hard, engrossing, and a fantastic book.  If you liked The Book Thief you should read this.  Most likely my favorite read this year.

To Order, click here: All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

Best Book with a Grumpy ProtagonistA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backmana man called ove      Ove is old and angry, however, his heart is wide and caring in the most unexpected ways.   I loved this book; it has subtle humor and very rich characters.  It is hard to describe the beauty of it, except to say I missed it when it was over and it made me feel deeply as I read.  Some of it is sad, but I found it a superb read.

To Order click here: A Man Called Ove: A Novel

Best 80’s Love Story:  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.    Eleanor and Park If Pretty in Pink morphed itself into a young adult novel, this would be it.  Girl feels awkward, boy feels awkward, and they meet on the bus.  It is awkward and then they listen to 80’s music and it is not as awkward.  Two people that feel unlovable fall in love with each other.  Swoon.

To Order on Amazon, click here: eleanor and park kindle edition

Best Book about a Book Store:  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry byThe storied life of A.J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin  Man runs a book store on an island.  Woman from a publishing company comes to sell him books, he is rude to her.  He gets a baby dropped at his front door and his whole life changes.  Loved it.

To Order, click here: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel

A Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen

a Blind spot for boysA Blind Spot for Boys is young adult as its best.  It has romance, adventure, mud slides, heartache, but it is so much more than a fluffy love story.  The main character Shana, hell bent on protecting her hurting heart, has sworn of boys. Sometimes life serves you exactly what you do not want, so of course Shana meets a boy.  Taking photographs one morning at the gum wall in Pikes Place Market leads her straight into the path of a mysterious and witty boy.  He is precisely what she is working so hard to avoid.   Meanwhile, her family is struck with an unexpected turn of events which leads her to a hike in Machu Pichu with her parents and a tour group of hikers. Shana and her family have to take of the blinders and wrestle with life in the midst of beautiful ruins.

The characters in this novel are rich and multi-dimensional.  I appreciated the layers of complexity with family struggles, learning about life through crisis, and personal triumph.  Well written young adult novels are packed with hidden gems of depth and wisdom.  This book is definitely a jewel, Justina Chen writes smart and relatable young women.  She never dumbs them down or over-sexualizes them.  You can feel confident letting your daughter read this book, and you will enjoy the journey even if you are far beyond adolescence.  I declare it a good solid read.

To order this book on Amazon, click here:

A Blind Spot for Boys

Justina Chen is a local Seattle author with other great books worth your time.  Her other works include:

Girl Overboard

Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) (A Justina Chen Novel)

Return to Me

North of Beautiful (A Justina Chen Novel)