Literary Fiction

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

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It’s brave if you make it, foolish if you fail.”

Hey guys!

I actually read this book a month or so ago and have been sitting on this drafts for a bit. Whoops. Sweetbitter was a highly anticipated book from Stephanie Danler and was given to me for Christmas by my roommate. I have a huge obsession with big cities, and New York was one of my favorites to visit. This novel was actually recently turned into a STARZ series and I am also excited to see how the show stands up to the book. Sweetbitter took a total of seven years for Danler to write, and thus I had very high expectations.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The bestselling novel about a young woman’s coming-of-age, set against the glitzy, grimy backdrop of New York’s most elite restaurants. Now a STARZ Original Series.

Newly arrived in New York City, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job as a “backwaiter” at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. What follows is the story of her education: in champagne and cocaine, love and lust, dive bars and fine dining rooms, as she learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing life she has chosen. As her appetites awaken—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess finds herself helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. In Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler deftly conjures with heart-stopping accuracy the nonstop and high-adrenaline world of the restaurant industry and evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, and the fragility and brutality of being young in New York.

My thoughts:

At first, I really enjoyed the book. The writing style was beautiful not only as a whole, but on the sentence level as well. It seemed so fitting for the setting, an overwhelming New York City and fine dining restaurant. But then the further I got into the book, the less I liked it.

Each time I put down the book, it was harder to pick up. I found myself forgetting what was going on between reading sessions. However, I can’t blame that on my memory. The plot was just simply nonexistent. Technically this is a coming of age book (which isn’t really my style either), but nothing really happened in Tess’ life. One moment she’s learning about wine and the next she is snorting coke with her coworkers. There’s little to no transition and development to get to that point in her life. While drugs are looked at nonchalantly (something I actually liked about this book), there is little to explain why Tess is actually doing the things she is doing. There is little to no contact with family or explanation as to why they’re really not present. It is almost as if Tess just appeared one day rather than moved to New York from a small town.

I was also extremely underwhelms by the other characters. I found myself confusing them, unable to keep them separate. They each felt underdeveloped and flat. Most of them were cardboard cutouts, only existing to further the idea of Tess rather than being individual people themselves. I was also underwhelmed by Simone and Jake, though the whole book seemed to be centered around her obsession with them. It is clear that Tess only sees them how she wants to see them, but I think the book would have benefitted more from showing that Simone and Jake are real people, not just the romanticized images that Tess wanted them to be. For a book that took so long to write, I expected much more from the plot and character development.

Final thoughts:

Sweetbitter is a hit and miss. It’s full of beautiful descriptive writing that makes it impossible to give it a completely bad review, but the characters and plot were extremely lackluster. It’s a decent book for a beach read, but I’ll probably enjoy the show better. I give it 3/5 stars.

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Non-Fiction

RALLY by Maureen Babcock Lewis

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I love you, and I will never give up on you. I will do whatever it takes, even if it seems harsh and cold. I have to. Please know that. Please fight. Please live.”

Hey guys,

This isnt going ot be your typical review. I’m not going to be rating this book or anything like that, though I am counting it as my book for February. RALLY is a short ebook, only available on Kindle. It was written by a woman I used to work with, Maureen Lewis. In 2017, Maureen’s daughter passed away due to complications of drug use. Where I come from, drug addiction is a serious problem; you wither know someone or are related t osomeone who or was addicted. It hits where you least expect it and can tear friendships and families apart.

Synopsis:

A true story that chronicles a young woman’s hospitalization due to medical complications from drug addiction. In a modern twist in story telling, the story unfolds through text messages sent between those that care about her. It raises awareness of health issues associated with the opioid epidemic that are often not detailed in the media. The emotional toll addiction issues have on immediate family and friends is illustrated through the reactions to highs and lows during the course of treatment. It is an intimate, real first hand account of ordinary people suddenly being thrown on to the front line of a battle with consequences of drug addiction.

Final Thoughts:

This e-book is only $3 on Amazon and if you have the time and a whole three dollars to spare, please give this a shot. Drug addiction is a serious issue and not many people think of the way it affects those who are sucked up into a whirlwind of consequences.

 

Non-Fiction

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

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I feel I’m very sane about how crazy I am.”

Hey guys!

I’ve been stalling on this post for quite a while now, a combination between laziness and being a bit too busy. I read (well, listened to) this book in January, so hooray for my first book of the year and being on track for my 2018 reading goals! I’m Assuming that everyone knows who Carrie Fisher is, and if you dont you seriously need to reevaluate your life but if you don’t she is an actress best known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars and recently died in 2016.

I had been eyeing this book for a while, and needed an audiobook to listen to while setting up planograms at work. I can’t listen to fiction audiobooks, as I dont pay well enough attention to them but I can’t always focus when I read nonfiction in book form. Wishful Drinking is based on Carrie Fisher’s one-woman stage show and was published in 2008.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher tells the true and intoxicating story of her life with inimitable wit. Born to celebrity parents, she was picked to play a princess in a little movie called Star Wars when only 19 years old. “But it isn’t all sweetness and light sabres.” Alas, aside from a demanding career and her role as a single mother (not to mention the hyperspace hairdo), Carrie also spends her free time battling addiction, weathering the wild ride of manic depression and lounging around various mental institutions. It’s an incredible tale – from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon, from having the father of her daughter leave her for a man, to ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed.

My thoughts:

This book felt like sitting down with Carrie Fisher for a coffee date. Until listening to this book, I hadn’t realized how little I knew about her. I had always known that her mother was Debbie Reynolds and that she was brought up right in the heart of “Hollywood Incest,” as she has called it. Her family tree is a complicated one, especially when it comes to her daughter dating. Can you imagine? Well, If you cant, Carrie outlines the whole thing for you.

She goes into detail about some funny stories from her life, some of which involve drugs, her parents, her kid, and even a bit about life after Star Wars (though some of these stories are a bit fuzzy as she was undergoing electro-convulsive therapy). I finished this in one sitting because I simply just could not get enough and desperately wish it were longer.

Final Thoughts:

Wishful Drinking was absolutely wonderful. It held the ups and downs of a hectic life with more than a touch of Hollyweird. It’s a book I can see myself revisiting when I need a laugh, but I do wish it were longer. I give it 5/5 stars.

YA Fiction

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”

Turtles All The Way Down is the newest release by John Green, who happens to be one of my favorite authors (but isn’t he everyone’s?). The second this book was release in stores, I hopped right over to my local bookstore and grabbed one. I’ve loved John Green’s books since high school and So far, I’ve read every single book published by John Green, with the exception of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

In Turtles All The Way Down, Aza Holmes and her best friend Daisy begin to pursue the mystery of disappearing fugitive billionaire Russell Picket when they stumble upon and befriend his son, Davis Pickett. All the while, Aza battles with anxiety while also trying to be everything she is expected to be by her mother and friends.

I absolutely fell in love with this book, though I went in skeptically. How could an author that I enjoyed so much manage to push out another book that I would enjoy? But I loved it. I love the way Aza’s mental illness was portrayed, in a way that didn’t romanticize it as other novels always seem to do. I love the way the relationships between characters function, and the way they have their ups and downs as no relationship is ever perfect. And I absolutely love the way in which everything comes together at the end from the title to the disappearance.

John Green has done it yet again, I definitely give it 5/5 stars.

Thriller

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen

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I believe that every experience, every wrong decision, teaches us something. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

Rizzoli and Isles is one of my favorite book series’. I got into it mostly because my mom would not let up about how much I needed to read it. At first I didn’t take her too seriously because a lot of the time we have vastly different tastes in books but once i picked up the first one, I couldn’t stop. Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen, or The Killing Place depending on which version you have, is the eighth book in the series.

In this installment, Maura is away on a conference trip when she turns up missing, trapped in a mysterious valley called Kingdom Come where all of it’s inhabitants have disappeared with no way to contact anyone for help. When Jane Rizzoli gets word of her disappearance it is up to her, along with the help of Gabriel Dean, Daniel Brophy, and Anthony Sansone.

Tess Gerritsen continues to amaze me with every book she publishes. I love her characters, the relationships they share, and the plots she creates. Ice Cold started in a way that left me confused and longing for more information, slowly revealing the truth to me bit by bit, page by page, ultimately bowling my mind with the way in which each event, person, and place tie in together. Ice Cold is impeccably planned out and structured, leaving no loose ends untied.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series! I definitely give it a full five stars.

YA Fantasy, Young Adult

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Or maybe it’s just that beautiful things are so easily broken by the world.”

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series. Originally, the series was meant to end with the third book, so this last trilogy is a bit of a reboot.

In this first installment to the ‘second trilogy’ (as Cassandra Clare calls it), Simon is trying to cope with life as a vampire while juggling two girlfriends along with the Mark of Cain, Clary is trying to keep her relationship with Jace afloat while a demonic force is invading his dreams and tearing them apart, and the Clave is investigating the mysterious deaths of several Shadowhunters.

When I first started reading it, it really did feel like a bit of a jumbled reboot. There was so much focus on Simon with Clary and Jace and the other characters as an afterthought (though it was a relief to not have another book centered around their ‘tragic’ love story) and the events that took place didn’t really make sense. But then, things really came together in the last 100-150 pages and really made it worth sticking it out to the finish. It was an extremely entertaining book, even though it felt like it’s sole purpose was to upstart the series again.

The Mortal Intruments is one of my favorite young adult series, and this book somewhat struggled to live up to City of Glass but kept my interest nonetheless in a fantasy world that I was familiar with. Overall, I would give it 4/5 stars.

Fiction, Thriller

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar

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Monsters are made, not born.”

I found this book as I was wandering the library looking for some light summer reading. I had never heard of it before but the title grabbed my attention. Also, who doesn’t love a cover of a woman running away in the woods?

Accidents Happen by Louise Millar focuses on Kate Parker whose terrible bad luck has caused her a lot of anxiety that is seriously affecting her and her son’s life. Kate meets a man named Jago who has decided to help her overcome her anxiety about what could happen to her or her family. However, is it really a streak of bad luck or something much worse?

Starting out, this book was effortless to read and felt pretty straight forward (minus the names of the characters that felt like they were plucked from a Top 20 names from the 90s). It is immediately obvious that Kate is actually being stalked which I found fairly interesting. I almost always enjoy when you can see the point of view from the antagonist. As the book went on though, it really seemed to feel more like a romance between Jago and Kate as the chapters from the stalker decreased.

I did, however, love the ending and the way it made me feel anxious and stressed. And by the ending, I mean the last eighty pages. I just wish that the rest of the book (which is categorized as a thriller) made me feel that way. I feel like if the pacing were done a little better  I would have enjoyed it much more. Most of the time I forgot I was reading a thriller due to the constant obsession with Jago.

Overall, It wasn’t a terrible book but it won’t be one that I read again or purchase. It’s great for some light beach reading but if you’re looking for a keep you on the edge of your seat thriller, this book isn’t for you. I would give it 2/5 stars.

YA Thriller, Young Adult

Unbelievable by Sara Shepard

There’s a lot you can’t tell about people, looking in from the outside.”

Unbelievable by Sara Shepard is the 4th book in the Pretty Little Liars series (Not including Ali’s Pretty Little Lies). This series is split up into 4 arcs, this one being the final book in the first arc.  It focuses around 4 friends Aria, Hanna, Spencer, and Emily who are dangerously close to discovering who A is after Hanna was hit by a car in the previous book.

Hanna and Mona’s friendship is revived after her near murder, Emily’s parents ship her off to Iowa to straighten her out, Spencer thinks she might have killed Ali, and Aria’s illegal relationship with her teacher sent him to jail.

This book is definitely geared more toward teenagers, but they’re my guilty pleasure. They aren’t the most amazing thing I’ve ever read but they are such a fast read and the plot is entertaining, no matter how many times you want to jump in the book and tell them to just go to the police. I guarantee the only thing I’ll remember about this book years from now is who A is in this arc. It’s an easy, mindless read (that still has a great plot) best suited for the beach or by a pool, so if you’re looking for something a little deeper to inspire some profound epiphany, I don’t suggest any book in this series. But if you’re looking for a couple of days of easy entertainment from a book that’s a little more plot driven, these could be the books for you.

Ultimately, I would give this book 3/5 stars. It was a fun read, but could be predictable at certain plot points, along with the characters seeming a little one-dimensional.

With that being said, the books are most definitely better than the TV show.