Book Reviews

Have you read a book where you can’t really decide whether or not you like the character? That’s how I felt with Olive Kitteridge.

Olive Kitteridge (the book, not the character) is a collection of short stories. Some of them are focused on Olive. Other stories, where Olive makes brief appearances, are about different characters.

I obviously can’t talk about every short story in this book, but I will talk about Olive Kitteridge. She’s definitely one of the most interesting and complex characters I’ve ever read about. She’s sharp-tongued, mean and paranoid, but she’s also misunderstood. I can’t say that I hate the character, but I can’t say that I like her, too. I do know that I pity her.   

All in all, I liked the book. It was depressing and touching at the same time. The stories in here are just like Olive – unforgettable.

Meet the Carterets, a wealthy family who seemed so perfect until Pony, the youngest daughter, was killed in a drowning accident. Or was it really an accident? William Carteret, the eldest and only son, believed that his favorite sister was murdered. Later, he discovers another shocking secret in the family that will change their lives forever. 
The Perfect Family was just okay for me. The plot was solid. I liked how it was part mystery and part literary fiction  at the same time. I loved the how the author described the settings – whether it was in Vermont or in Idaho. However, I failed to connect with the main character – William. For reasons I can’t say and because I’ll ruin  the suspense, I thought he was an ungrateful jerk. I thought the other minor characters were more interesting – particularly Mira – the middle sister.
I enjoyed this book. Readers who enjoy mysteries may appreciate it.

Rating: 5 out 5
First of all, I’m going to say that I’ve enjoyed the books written by John Steinbeck that I’ve read so far: Grapes of Wrath, The Pearl and Of Mice and Men. However, I believe that East of Eden is the best one. In fact, it’s the best one so far I’ve read this year, and I’ll add it to my favorite and must read list.
East of Eden is about two families – the Hamiltons and the Trasks. It’s the story of their struggles and triumphs together. The majority of the story, however, is all about the Trasks. John Steinbeck adapted the Cain and Abel story and used this on his characters – Adam and Charles Trask and then later on Adam’s twin sons – Caleb and Aron. I won’t go into details about the plot but I will tell you that Steinbeck’s adaptation worked so well. The characters were well developed. They were dynamic. Each can be both strong and weak at the same time. They weren’t perfect. Because Steinbeck gave them contrasting human qualities and emotions such as the brothers’ love and jealousy for each other made them so interesting and so complex.
Complex is one just one of the words I will describe Catherine Trask – the mother of the twins. She’s the character that one would love to hate. She’s the villainess in this story. Selfish and sadistic, Cathy destroys those who hate her and those who love her. But while Cathy was pure evil, Steinbeck also created the characters Samuel and Lee. I thought they were the most beloved characters in the book.
I cannot recommend this book enough. With its unforgettable characters and excellent storyline, East of Eden definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Rating: 4 out 5

Have you ever wondered about the “what ifs” in your life? I know I have. Jillian Westfield (the main character of the Time of My Life) certainly has. Interestingly enough, she was actually given a second chance to fix a certain part in her past life that apparently caused her unhappiness in her current life.
I love the book cover, and I think I mentioned before that beautiful book covers impair…I mean affects my buying book ability. When I read the synopsis at the back of the book, I got the impression that Time of My Life was a chick lit. That should have made me put the book back into the shelf, because I’m not into chick lits at all. But the cover was just so pretty. 🙂
So fast forward to a couple of months later…I finally got the courage take it out my bookshelf. I figured that since I bought it, I might as well read it.
I was prepared to dislike the book. First of all, I thought of how whiny and selfish Jillian seemed to be. She was married with one child. She hardly saw her husband Henry who was always away on business trips so she was horny. She does love her daughter Katie but then she was always daydreaming about her ex-boyfriend – Jackson. One day she wished she was still with Jackson…and then voila! She went back in time (seven years prior)…back to the time when she was still with Jackson… back before they broke up…back before she met her husband Henry…back before she had her daughter Katie. Since Jillian knew how unhappy she was after she and Jackson broke up, she decided that she was going to fix things in their relationship. Things just seemed to be sailing smooth…until she meets Henry again.
The several twists in the story made me stick around and finish the book in one day! It was amazing. I grew to love it…and yes, even the character Jillian because the author developed her into someone I could easily identify with. The story actually reminded me of some of the words in Sheryl Crow’s song, Soak Up the Sun. “It’s not having want you want. It’s wanting what you got.” It’s the perfect description of what this story is all about.
Extremely fun read. Even if you’re not a chick lit fan (and trust me, I’m not), you might enjoy this.

Rating: 4 out of 5

As I Lay Dying (which was published waay back in 1930) is about the Bundren family who goes on a long and difficult journey to bury Addie, their wife and mother.

This was my first William Faulkner book. At first, I really didn’t get into it. It was a little challenging. The story was told in many viewpoints not just by the Bundren family (and yes, that includes Addie), but also by their friends, neighbors, and even by the community. So yes, it can be a little confusing because I was trying to figure who was who and who was related to Addie. Of course, that really didn’t ruin the book for me. The different point of views ( especially how the family viewed Addie’s death) and the character voices were enough to hold my attention.

Recommended? Yes, if you like Southern Gothic literature, or if you like gothic stories. I actually look forward to read more of William Faulkner. I’m adding The Sound and the Fury to my to be read list.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I was trying to find a book to give as a birthday present for my niece who’s about to turn 16 years old this month (Kids sure grow fast, don’t they?) when I came across 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher at the Hastings bookstore. I’m not really into YA novels, but something about the cover just made me want to pick it up and buy it. Yes, I am a sucker for nice covers.

At the beginning of the novel, high school student Clay finds a bunch of audio tapes sent to him. These tapes were recorded by Hannah, Clay’s crush. However, Hannah is also dead. She committed suicide weeks before. With her voice reaching from the grave, Hannah tells her story and why she ended up committing suicide.

This is a very sad story. At first, I thought Hannah’s reasons seem petty and selfish. Then I decided to put myself in her teenage shoes. That was when I began to understand her. It really wasn’t until the end when I realized how she lost her belief in humanity. I’m not saying that what she did was right, but her suicide could have been prevented. I’m a healthcare worker so I’ve seen cases of attempted suicide and suicide. It’s really easy to judge a person without knowing what’s going on in their life. This book showed just that.

I breezed through this book. Even though the story was depressing, it was still good. While I recommend it, I don’t think it’s for everyone.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I love thriller books. It’s no surprise that even after I lost interest in In the Woods, I picked up Child 44. When I bought this book, I promised myself that I will read it right away. It took me a whole year before I plucked it out of my bookshelf where it was collecting dust. Oh, well.

In Child 44, Leo (the main character) is on a mission to find a serial child killer and bring him to justice. I think what really caught my interest in this story is that it’s set in 1950’s Russia (then called the Soviet Union) where fear and paranoia gripped the society.

Sometimes my reading schedule gets interrupted because I have something important to do like work, errands, and etc. There have been times when I don’t get back to my reading because I lost interest, or I want to start a new book. Not so with Child 44. Even after a three day interval, I was eager to get back to the story, and my interest in it stayed.
Kudos to Mr. Tom Rob Smith. This was his first novel, and it became a bestseller, which I thought was well-deserving. Character development was right on the money. The actions scenes were great, and the descriptions were super. I really felt like I was in the scene with the characters. Some scenes were graphic, and I did cringe while reading them. That didn’t stop me from reading though. I also loved how the story paced along nicely. It didn’t drag. The whole story was exciting from beginning to end.
If you’re looking for an excellent thriller/mystery, I would definitely recommend Child 44.

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