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Confess by Colleen Hoover

confess

Confess by Colleen Hoover
306 Pages
Atria paperback, 2015
Rating: 4/5

I dont normally read romances, but this author was recommended to me so I thought I’d give her a try. I knew nothing about the book except that it was a romance that was apparently a cover-to-cover read. I figured I’d give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised.

The writing was nothing special. There were no phrases or quotes that really stood out to me but the storytelling made me want to know what was going to happen next. The main theme of the book is about confessions, so there was always that little bit of mystery about finding out the main characters’ confessions as the book progressed. I tried to predict what the “big” confession might be, and it wasn’t what I expected, but it was still good. I guess I have a very dark sense of assuming, so the ending was actually kinda nice.

I picked up the book on Friday night at about 7:30pm. I finished reading it just before midnight. I’d put it down for a few minutes then pick it up again.

The two main characters, Auburn and Owen, were decent. Auburn didn’t really stand out to me, as she is basically inexperienced in life. Owen had more depth to him, so I ended up liking him more because I felt like I knew the character better. The POV changes between the two characters, so the pacing was really quick for me. I’m also an artist – oil paintings – so I think I connected with Owen more for that part, too.

What I really liked, was that Owen is an artist and in the book there are full coloured pictures of his art. I ordered the book online, so I didn’t realize it came with pictures. That was pretty cool and really helped the immersion.

Another thing to keep in mind, is that in my personal life I am going through a medication change for my bipolar disorder. As a result, I am extra sensitive and emotional, so I really think that this was the right book to read at the right time because I really felt for the characters and cried a bit as I read it. For that reason, and that I don’t normally read romances, I might be a bit biased in my review. However, I did really enjoy the book and I’m going to be reading the rest of her books.

Plus, omg, the cover. Isn’t it pretty? This is a book I’ll keep on my shelf. It is a quick read that is emotional, has beautiful art, and it kept me wanting to find out what will happen next.

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The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

 

 

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The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
308 pages
Delacorte Press, 2009
Rating: 4/5

It has been awhile since I last read a YA book that sucked me in so much that I just HAD to finish reading it. Looking back, I can’t distinguish anything particular about this book that consumed me so much. Perhaps it was the world building and the creepy factor. The characters were alright, the plot was smooth with a few little bumps, and the pacing was a little weird but workable. Zombies freak me out and they were really well written in this story. I was afraid of what was beyond the fence, but knew that the characters would have to face it at some point. There were some plot holes that I glossed over, but nothing to be annoyed about.

I think it was a pretty decent book. I went into it blind which I think is probably the best idea. Apparently this book was hyped quite a bit so it unfortunately disappointed some people. I feel that it needs to be read with an open mind.

It toyed with the concept of faith and hope quite a bit. Duty vs emotional choice was another common theme. The main character was quite selfish, so that put a contrast towards the rest of the characters and made things a little more interesting. Some parts the pacing zoomed by, and other parts it dragged on. There were times when I wished more time was spent on a particular “scene in time” but if I had my way, the book would have easily been 500 pages long (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!).

So why 4 stars? I wanted to keep reading. It got to me emotionally. I thought about it before I slept and while I slept. It creeped me out.

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The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

 

timekeeper

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
222 pages
Hyperion New York, 2012
Rating: 3/5

A relatively short read about time and how it affects all of us differently. It is about three characters that are about as different as you can get, yet they are all involved in the consequences of time and come together to learn some life lessons.
The tone reminded me of the Alchemist, in that it was slow, thought provoking, and yet very simple. The writing was to the point and it wasn’t flourished with adverbs and adjectives. He even used a couple of descriptions multiple times to really get the point across (i.e. “coffee coloured hair” for the jolting emotions residing with a particular boy, Ethan). Sometimes simplicity offers the most complex and thought provoking ideas. This is the type of book that Mitch Albom wrote.
Honestly, this book wasn’t my cup of tea, but I can see the significance of the writing and how it does reach out to many people. I just wasn’t one of those people. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting upon my own life and the time I have, so to me, this was nothing new or thought provoking. It was a decent read. I’m curious as to how I will react to other topics he writes.

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin

awakening

Rating: 5/5

This book was written in 1899, over one hundred years ago. What was life like back then? How does it compare to the life I am living now?

These are the questions I asked myself upon my second reading of The Awakening. My actions today, seemingly innocent and plain, would be shocking if recreated when this novel was written. As a privileged, 28 year old, unmarried, Caucasian woman, I have to also ask myself: What differences in my life, in my current socio-economic situation, are there to the life of the protagonist of the Awakening? The familiar actions I take for granted were considered shocking and even rude to the society of 1899.

What am I talking about? Here are some examples:

  • leaving the home without informing someone of the exact details of where, when, why I was going
  • being away from home without worry of some higher status individual coming to see me and being turned away due to me not being home
  • Partaking in hobbies for the sake of having fun, for nonsensical reasons and feeling no remorse
  • being an agent of my own agenda, without relying on a husband to inform me of what it is I should be doing every waking moment of my life
  • Doing things because I feel like it, not because I should be expected to partake in what society expects me to do.

Does that sound a little bit ridiculous? Today we take for granted all the freedoms and sociological expectations that we have so much wiggle room we don’t even notice it.

This book is about feminism in the definition that I prefer, the first wave, in which women sought for equality in regards to gaining political power (the ability to vote, which came much later) to make changes on an economic, sociological, psychological, and reproductive levels. It is about basic human respects, embracing independence, and challenging what has been ingrained in our minds.

To me, this book is about feminism and the individual seeking freedom and independence. It is told through a summer vacation, with mini scenes that show the challenges of the time in very subtle ways. We really need to analyze each scene, to dig deeper into actually seeing what has been written. A scene is a scene, but it can also be as dramatic or as plain as the reader decides.

For example, there is a scene where our protagonist goes to the beach and visits with another woman. This other woman does not enjoy swimming. Regardless, our protagonist decides to go swimming alone anyways. She lingers out in the sea but eventually returns to the house with the other woman whom had waited for her.

On the surface, this looks like a scene of two friends in which one decides to take a dip, then they retreat back to the house. But if you dig a little bit deeper, you will find the following:

  • Our protagonist ditched the woman to go swimming. Instead of respecting what the other woman’s wishes were, she was selfish and decided to go do what she wanted, not what she was expected to do (stay and chat with the other woman)
  • She lingered in the sea, hoping that the other woman would get fed up and leave. This did not happen. This contrast shows that the woman on the beach was much more familiar with sociological expectations than our protagonist. Even though our protagonist was selfish and went into the sea, the woman stayed on the beach even though she probably wanted to be elsewhere.
  • These two women don’t seem to like each other. Yet one of them is firm in sticking to societal norms whereas our protagonist does not seem to care about the consequences of her actions.

All in all, I would recommend this book if you are looking for a classic, something to challenge your beliefs and what you take for granted, a literary exploration of themes, and an introduction to the beginning of feminism in 1899.

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Tiger’s Promise

 

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Tiger’s Promise by Colleen Houck
109 pages
Colleen Houck
Rating: 3/5

I was really looking forward to this book, as it is a prequel to Tiger’s Curse. In Tiger’s Curse, the timeline is hundreds of years after the prequel. I was hoping to get more backstory on the curse, the characters, and the other specific important things from the series.

What I got was a nice, slow build up… and then suddenly an ending. The ending was dramatic, but it seemed forced and rushed.

The character Yesubai is our protagonist and we did get to learn a lot about her. I was pleased at her strong, noble personality compared with Kelsey from Tiger’s Curse. The facts and personality traits revealed about her were very subtle but lend a feeling of awe and beauty.

Mainly, this was a book about abuse, love, sacrifice, and faith. I think it could have been a lot better if it wasn’t a novella. There is no mention of tigers at all, which gives you an idea of where the story cuts off compared to the history learned in Tiger’s Curse. I feel like I got half the story that I wanted. I really like this series but this one was a little underwhelming for me.

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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
September, 2012
Little, Brown & Co. 
My Rating: 3/5

 

Description (from Goodreads.com):

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

My Review:

I should start this review off by saying my opinion on the book is heavily biased through my experiences. Pagford, the Fields, and the people involved all resonated with me. I could connect with almost all the characters in a way that so-and-so reminded me almost perfectly of someone I know personally and bits of myself were in some characters. However, all these connections are part of a time in my life that I really hated. I hated the people that I was reminded of, and all the bad situations I have either experienced or known someone close to me that had experienced them.

Themes/issues in the book include drugs, poverty, prostitution, LGBTQ issues, spousal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, the different parenting types, self harm, achievement vs failure, power, revenge, love, racism, and many, many more.

So let’s talk about the characters. There are plenty (a whole town’s worth, really), and at times it was very difficult figuring out who was related to who and what shop they worked at and why did all of this matter anyways. That run-on sentence highlights my thinking process while reading this book. Gossip is what brings the characters together (or tears them apart).

Krystal Weedon stood out to me immediately because she has a rocky relationship with her mom, has to look out for her little brother, and shares the same name as me (Crystal). Not to mention, her best friend is Nikki, which is the same name as my childhood best friend. I would argue that Krystal is one of the main protagonists of the story. She really captured the phrase ‘your actions have consequences for others,’ both as the perpetrator and the victim. She was tough, swore constantly, always tried to find a solution, and always was looking out for her little brother. She reminded me of myself, 10 years ago. She built up this defensive wall to protect what was most important to her – her brother.

Parminder was another character that captured my attention. As a woman of colour and a doctor, she was an interesting character. Her husband was also a doctor (heart surgeon) so together one could argue they held a certain amount of power over the community. Despite that, Parminder was constantly criticized and these accusations were further propelled through small town gossip. I was happy to see a family that wasn’t white, but I wish there were more in the story. There were two black families in the small town I grew up in, so I understand there is an element of realism here. I liked her character because she was a very intelligent person that made rational decisions. As pure small town virtue, because she was so smart no one bothered to listen to her. I think we have all been in the same situation – trying to convince someone ignorant that they are wrong is next to impossible.

Moving on, the pacing was very slow. The book is 500 pages and it felt excruciatingly slow up until the last 150-200 pages. The rest of it was just build up, and frankly, I don’t think the end result was all that shocking. I could see the ending coming a mile away, but I don’t think I would have changed anything about it. It is realistic and ties everything together. Although it wasn’t a “wow” moment for the reader, it was in the book and that is all that matters… right?

The writing was not what I was expecting. JK Rowling must have had a thesaurus open next to her because so much of the writing had awkward words that the average person wouldn’t know, and the descriptions were tedious and long. I remember there was a thick paragraph devoted to stating that it was raining outside. Some could argue that this was a literary device used to set the mood of the chapter or whatever, but the same could have been said in much less – i.e. ‘It was raining.’ I have heard people complain that she made the book ‘too adult’ in that the writing contains vulgar language all over the place. I found it realistic from my experiences, so that didn’t bother me. I guess it depends on how you grew up.

I’ve been harsh on JK Rowling, but the truth is there are a lot of redeeming qualities about the book. She managed to create an entire community and its inhabitants. Not to mention, all of these inhabitants felt like real people with real problems. It is understandable that she needed the space to build it all up. The idea behind the book is one that I hadn’t come across before and it made it feel like the same could have happened in my own town. The intricate nature of the plot line must have been extremely difficult to flesh out, and I commend her on her efforts.

All in all, if a different author had written this book I would have probably stopped reading 50 pages in. I kept going until the end because it was JK Rowling and I wanted to believe the end would pay off. In a way, it was satisfying but overall my impressions are a bit bleak. I don’t loathe the book, but I definitely don’t love it. It brings back a lot of bad memories for me, and I suspect that is why I cannot find myself loving it.

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Crystal’s Classics

I started a new feature on YouTube called “Crystal’s Classics.” The idea is that I want to read more classics and since there are so many, why not let others point me in a direction? I have several on my shelf but no idea where to start. I have read some this year (mainly some Jane Austen works) but I’d like to read at least 2 more before the year is up. So I asked people on YouTube which of the following they would like me to read and review. I think I may add a discussion as well, because many of these are books that people study in school and  I want my videos to be helpful. 🙂

Here are the books I have been thinking about:

  • Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
  • Emma – Jane Austen
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  • Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  • David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Feel free to vote on a book if you are interested! I’ll probably tally them up in about two weeks.

Are there any classics that you are wanting or needing to read soon?

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