Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Author: Gail Honeyman
Page Count: 327
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 9, 2017 by Viking/Pamela Dorman Books
Review: I can safely say that in my long illustrious career as a bookworm, I have never read a book quite like this one. When I first started reading it, I was not sure how I felt about the first person style, but by the end of the first couple chapters I was hooked. This author has an incredible way of revealing so much of the story through subtext. It is clear that the narrator does not understand when she is making a social faux pas, yet the reader is acutely aware of her blunder. There is some argument among readers about whether this lack of awareness is attributed to undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder or internalized trauma. I think both explanations are plausible, and perhaps it is a mixture of both. I think part of the brilliance of the writing is that Eleanor is clearly an unreliable narrator, and yet so much can be gleaned about Eleanor’s motivators by reading between the lines. I was perfectly happy to bumble along with Eleanor, who’s actions and reactions to situations were both cringey and oddly relatable. The full extent of Eleanor’s trauma is not revealed until the end of the book, but the real value is in watching Eleanor’s personality slowly unfurl past her carefully constructed barriers. This book demonstrates the power of unconditional love and the importance of relationships, both of which Eleanor sadly lacked in her life up until this point. I found Eleanor’s character to be charming in her own way, and sometimes her inner monologue made me laugh out loud. She is extremely intelligent and her perception of the world is unique and unencumbered by social norms. All in all, I loved this book and I think it is well deserving of the attention it has garnered.
Title: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Page Count: 320
Series: The Kiss Quotient, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 7, 2019 by Berkley
Review: The Kiss Quotient set an impossibly high bar as one of my all-time favorite romance novels. I was ecstatic when I found out that Helen Hoang would be publishing another love story following a periphery character from her stunning debut.
The story, which follows Michael’s cousin Khai and the delightfully independent Esme, is undeniably sweet, but somehow lacked the same swoon-worthy quality that made the The Kiss Quotient so unforgettable. It’s hard to say exactly what it lacks, but it just doesn’t have “it”. The characters were likeable, and the plot was cutesy, but it felt to me like it was just running in a very predictable circle.
I appreciate that this romance is focused on somebody with autism, and if you read the first book, it was nice to see that Khai’s autism isn’t portrayed exactly the same as Stella’s. There is so much diversity on the spectrum, and it is refreshing to see this represented.
I hope this book is going to be part of a trilogy, and I suspect that if it is, the third book will focus on Khai’s brother, Quan. He is also a very likable character, and it would be great to follow his story next.
Title: On the Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Page Count: 464
Publishing Date/Publisher: February 5, 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Review: This is an exceptionally well-written coming-of-age story about staying true to yourself and following your dreams. What I really loved about it is that Thomas was able to touch upon a lot of hot topics without this book feeling like it was issue fiction. A Blade So Black touched upon a lot of the same issues, but as I noted in my review, I did not like that the controversial topics were laid out in a very one dimensional fashion. Angie Thomas managed to avoid this pitfall by exploring the issues from many different angles. I think this is a very socially responsible approach, and gives the story more power with a wider audience. I, for example, grew up with very different challenges than the main character, Bri, and though I do not agree with all of her choices and opinions, I can completely understand how her life experiences have shaped her perspective on and reaction to the events that take place in the story. I think this speaks volumes about Thomas’ skill as a writer, and it makes me very excited about whatever projects she may have coming up in the (hopefully) near future.
Title: It’s Not Summer Without You
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 6 hr, 45 min
Series: Summer, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Recorded Books
Review: I was not quite as enamored with this book as I was with the first one, but it was still a great read. Han captures the feelings of grief, angst, heartbreak, regret, and guilt so so well. As with many trilogies, the second book hits the peak of conflict, so there really is no resolution at the end. I imagine the feelings of resolution will come in the third and final book, and I am really hoping that Belly chooses the brother that I feel is better suited for her.
I certainly experienced some feelings of frustration while reading this book. The characters are so young and impulsive that sometimes I just wanted to shake the selfishness right out of them. I think though that Han’s depiction of how the characters react to tragedy is realistic. It is hard to know exactly how you will cope with something until it happens to you, and sometimes in our hurt we push away the people that matter most and make rash decisions.
That said, I am really looking forward to the final book!
Title: The Lightest Object in the Universe
Author: Kimi Eisele
Page Count: 336
Publishing Date/Publisher: July 9, 2019 by Algonquin Books
Review: For people who enjoy realistic dystopian fiction, this would be a great book recommendation. There is nothing unique about this book that sets it apart from other books I have read in this genre, but I did find the setting and backstory to be very plausible. I also thought it was very romantic to have one character trekking across the United States to be reunited with his faraway love.
There was nothing particularly surprising about this story (no plot twists); however, it kept a steady pace and was a pretty quick read. I had a little bit of trouble at times following the plot because the formatting was off in my ARC copy (it would switch POV without warning), but I assume this will be fixed when the book goes through its final edits.
Title: The Summer I Turned Pretty
Author: Jenny Han
Performer: Jessica Almasy
Length: 7 hr
Series: Summer, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2011 by Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books
Review: There is a lot of hype right now surrounding Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series due to the delightful Netflix movie adaptation that was released last year (if you haven’t seen it already, go watch it immediately!). I will probably get to that book series eventually, but her Summer trilogy has been on my “To Read” list for years, so I finally decided to check it out.
Jenny Han’s writing has a way of transporting me back in time. I literally felt 15 years old again as I was listening. The angst and anguish of first love and the end of childhood innocence was conveyed so incredibly well. It made me wish desperately that I had had a summer home in my youth. Seriously who doesn’t long for carefree days filled with waves and sun and ice cream! As someone who had many unrequited crushes in my youth, I could also completely sympathize with Belly’s longing to be noticed by the object of her affection.
Although this book is part of a trilogy, I almost wish it was a standalone. The ending of the book was very sweet, but I could sense that there was going to be a lot of heartache in the next book (which I of course checked out immediately upon finishing this one). Just like Belly, I did not want the summer to end!
They selected a great reader for this series. Her voice sounds age appropriate, and she infuses the story with a lot of emotion with the inflection and tone of her voice.
Title: The Psychology of Time Travel
Author: Kate Mascarenhas
Page Count: 372
Publishing Date/Publisher: 12 February 2019 by Crooked Lane Books (originally published August 9th 2018 by Head of Zeus)
I don’t think I can accurately describe just how much I love this book, but I will try.
It had me hooked from the start, grabbing me instantly with the strong, smart, vulnerable women, and kept me hooked through the entire story. The relative lack of men was an added, welcome, and refreshing change of pace from most books I’ve read. I’ve also noticed that most books and movies/television shows involving time travel make the reader/viewer do some mental gymnastics in order to wrap their head around the whole concept, however Mascarenhas does all that for you, leaving your brain free to try to dissect the murder mystery.
I also loved how the story is woven together and how organized it is, despite it being about a very disorganized subject. This made it easy to read and impossible to put down.
I have already started telling all my friends about this book and will continue to bother them until each and everyone of them reads it. I was utterly blown away and loved every minute of it.
Review: This book thoroughly boggled my brain. The concept of time travel makes absolutely zero sense to me. This book is technically a murder mystery, but oddly it didn’t feel to me like a murder mystery at all. The mystery itself became more of a subplot as I struggled to wrap my head around the various concepts detailed in the book pertaining to time chronology, “genies”, and other time travel concepts. I liked the book, but I was honestly too confused by it to love it.