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The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff

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I’d been wanting to read this book ever since I saw the trailer for the movie with Eddie Redmayne playing Einer/Lili. Right from the start, we find out that Einer Wegener likes to cross-dress as Lili, a name his wife called him when he would pose for her paintings. Even though we know early on that Einer likes to pretend to be a woman, it still takes him quite awhile to discover that he is really Lili on the inside, and not just on the outside.

Greta and Einer are married and both are professional painters. Greta sort of wears the pants in the family; she is the initiator of the relationship. She is the one who asked Einer out and who first accepted Einer’s cross-dressing as Lili in public. I really respect Greta because she has to go through a lot as Einer’s wife. She goes on outings with Lili and sees other men flirting with her and even kissing her. I know I would not have been as accepting as Greta if I had to see my husband transform like that. Yet Greta keeps Einer’s secret until it starts to become detrimental to his health.

The story of Lili Elbe is a true one; Lili Elbe was the first known transgender person to have sexual reassignment surgery. One of the doctors in the book wrote off Einer’s feelings as homosexual. Another doctor thought the best treatment plan was a lobotomy–which just seems horrific nowadays because we know all of the horrible side-effects. But one doctor, Professor Bolk, finally decides to let Lili blossom, and suggests sexual reassignment surgery.

I don’t want to dive into the ethical/moral stigmas surrounding transgender issues, but I would like to focus on the writing for a bit. I felt like the author, David Ebershoff, wrote a lot of Einer/Lili’s feelings from experience. I did read on his personal website, http://www.ebershoff.com, that Ebershoff is gay and has been named as one of the 100 most influential LGBTQ people by Out magazine twice. This would explain his ability to understand just a little bit of the situation Lili faces and the reactions of the people in her life.

As readers, we are taken into the mind of Einer/Lili and we clearly see how sad and tormented Einer is about living a double life. We are also given Greta’s perspective as the wife of a man who is slowly becoming a woman before her eyes. I’m glad this was written from third person point of view, so we can see both sides.

I liked this book because it gave me a new perspective about transgender issues and because it’s historical fiction–which I love!

4/5

 

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Crank – Ellen Hopkins

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I couldn’t put this book down. I bought it from Goodwill a few weeks ago for like a buck. Sometimes I like to have a quick read right after I finish a book that has taken me awhile to get through. It breaks up the monotony a little bit.

Hopkins wrote this book as a tribute to her daughter–who was addicted to “crank” or meth. There is a sequel called Glass so I’m not sure what happens to her daughter yet. I’ll definitely be reading that when I have time. The book is written in poem format–each “chapter” is a different poem, but they flow in chronological order and it’s not so abstract that you don’t know what she’s talking about. I’m not one for poetry most of the time, but I liked the way she did this one. It was a way to tell a very sad story in a very creative way.

The book is written from the point of view of the daughter–Kristina, or as she likes to call herself when she is high–Bree. For the sake of clarity, I’ll call her Bree. Bree is your typical 16 year old girl who stays out of trouble most of the time, but then she goes to stay with her father for the summer, who is an addict. She meets a guy named Adam, who introduces her to the monster. The monster is what Bree calls meth. When she returns home to her mother and stepfather’s house, she is heartbroken over having to leave Adam, and she has no access to the monster.  The rest of the story is about Bree going to any lengths to find crank and will hang out/do anything with anyone who will give it to her. This eventually leads to her downward spiral–details I won’t reveal.

As I said before, I really liked the format of this book. It breaks up your typical novel and your eyes dart all over the page, much like Bree’s probably do when she is high on the monster. As someone who has never tried drugs, I’ve always wondered why someone would want to do them in the first place–what is the attraction? I thought Hopkins did a nice job of depicting the attraction–the high highs of meth, while also portraying the crashes and burns of coming off a high. We also see the desperate need for more and more, and the effects it has on Bree’s relationships with everyone around her.

I thought this was an excellent book, especially for impressionable teenagers and high school teachers. I also think if you liked Thirteen Reasons Why, this might be a good read for you as well.

5/5

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

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I have to be honest, I didn’t much like this book. I felt like it had the same sort of idea (or reminded me of Flowers for Algernon, which is one of my favorite books–so I had a hard time liking this one. I do think it was well researched and you could tell it was clearly written from experience, as I believe Haddon worked with special needs children. (I could be wrong).

The story is told from the point of view of the main character–Christopher Boone, who is on the autism spectrum. He is a 15 year old boy who find his neighbor’s dog dead from a pitch-fork wound. The story begins with his narration of finding the dog and also his detective work to find out who did it. The book is written in sort of a diary format, so each day is titled with the next prime number in sequence, because Christopher loves math. That’s one of the reasons I disliked the book, because he’s good at math so there are a lot of complicated algorithms and math problems that he depicts in his story–most of which I don’t understand. But maybe that’s the point–Christopher doesn’t always understand social norms or puns, but he does understand things that are logical that most people can’t.

The majority of the book is about his complicated relationship with his parents, who are divorced. Christopher lives with his father, who is just trying to keep it together after his wife apparently died. Christopher and his father are more like roommates–his father feeds him but they don’t really do much together so Christopher is alone most of the time, which he prefers.

I liked the fact that this story was told from the perspective of an autistic teenager. I felt like it gave me a glimpse into his mind and what kinds of things he likes and dislikes. There wasn’t always a reason given behind why he didn’t like something–like the color yellow; however, he clearly spelled out the reactions he would have to things he disliked.

2.5/5

The Light Between Oceans-M.L. Stedman

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I was really excited to read this book because the movie looked really good. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I know by the book that it’s going to be sad! I felt like Bilbo Baggins reading this book, “I feel like butter that’s been spread over too much bread”. In other words, I felt like the story was a great concept, but it was stretched out and didn’t have enough plot points to drive it home. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked it, and thought it was well researched and written. But there are only so many ways that you can say, A couple living in a lighthouse finds a baby washed ashore and they torment themselves over what to do.

Tom Sherbourne returns from the war to Australia. He finds a job as a lightkeeper, which is perfect job for him because he’s an independent man, not wanting for much. One of the previous lightkeepers suggests to him that he find a wife or he might go mad out there alone. This is sort of foreshadowing—Tom is just fine when he’s by himself, but once he and his wife find the baby washed ashore with her father’s dead body, they slowly begin to go crazy with worry, fear, and guilt.

Tom’s wife, Isabel, has suffered so many miscarriages and one stillbirth. They’ve all but given up their dream of having a child, when they find the baby they come to call Lucy. Isabel begs Tom to keep her, despite his better judgement.

This is when the book starts to stretch and tug too tight over the conflict. I think the author did a very thorough job of detailing all the emotions Isabel and Tom experience while having Lucy in their possession—on the one hand, they want keep her for their own, but Tom knows in his heart that he needs to tell someone ashore.

The real plot twist comes when they go ashore for the first time since finding Lucy, when she’s about 2 years old. They learn of Hannah Roennfeldt, a woman stricken with grief over losing her husband and 3 week old baby. They were never found. I won’t give anything else away, but it does have an interesting ending.

I wish this novel had more plot twists in it—I think it would have held my interest better. Instead, the author focused more on details and the emotions of the characters. It’s not bad, just different. I’m interested in watching the movie and seeing if it stays true to the book.

2.5/5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking as Fast as I Can

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I have a new reading challenge that I am attempting this year I found on Facebook somewhere. One of the challenges was to read a book that I could read in one day. This book met that criteria–it was only 209 pages. I think I read the first half straight through.

Lauren Graham’s first novel Someday, Someday, Maybe came out in 2013. My review can be found here.It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, because I think I was hoping for more of a bio, like this book is. That’s why I loved this book so much more.

Everyone who’s a huge Gilmore Girls fan like myself, wants to know about the making of the show and what it was like during those 7 years. Well, this memoir will give you some insight into those years of playing Lorelai Gilmore, as well as the Parenthood years, and the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life mini-series.

I liked the way Graham wrote this book; she writes to the audience as if she is talking to them face to face. Plenty of jokes and sarcasm. I think I would have preferred her to write this book first, before Someday, Someday, Maybe but I understand why she wrote that first now. She had some spare time in between shooting Parenthood episodes and that’s where her first novel began. I certainly applaud her for putting her baby out there for everyone to read and getting a book published! I’ve never done anything like that so I definitely give her props.

My favorite part about this book was where Graham watched all the Gilmore Girls episodes and commented with her favorite scene, hairstyle/fashion, and a fun-fact for each season. It was interesting to know that she makes a point of not watching herself in shows so she had forgotten some things that happened in the show. There was one part when she was shooting Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and she had to have the part where Lorelai and Christopher get married completely hashed out to her because she forgot it had happened! Such an important detail that she had forgotten! But with how hectic actors’ lives are, I can see how you wouldn’t be able to remember everything that ever happened in a TV show you’ve been filming for 6 years straight.

I highly recommend this book if you’re an avid Gilmore Girls fan and I’m excited to read her next book!

4/5

 

Me After You

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I finished Me Before You, the novel awhile back. I wrote a review about the movie which you can find here.I didn’t bother writing a review of the book because, who wants to read a review of a book and the movie when there’s not much difference? Although I will say, I wish I had heard of the book sooner and read it before the movie, as there were parts that I had already known what would happen and got a little bored reading it.

This sequel was slightly disappointing. I mean, we know what happens in the end of Me Before You…so what could the sequel be about? Well, JoJo Moyes managed to captivate my attention for the most part, but we end up in pretty much the same place we started with at the beginning; a girl learning how to live after loss.

The story picks up a few months after Clark (Louisa/Lou) has had a chance to travel and see the things Will wanted her to see before he died. She has some money as an inheritance, and she uses it to buy a nice flat in east London. She gets a crappy job as a bartender wearing a hideous green costume and wig in an airport. She’s basically wasting her life again as Will would tell her and she’s no better off than before she met him.

One night, she’s standing on the roof of her flat, thinking about Will, when a girl frightens her from behind and she falls a couple of flights. With a broken hip among several other injuries, Clark survives. She manages to reunite with the girl who scared her on the roof, named Lily. Lily turns out to be….PLOT TWIST…Will’s daughter!

Lily is just as wild and reckless as her father used to be before his accident. She is searching for answers about her father. Lily’s mother is basically a gold digger and wants nothing to do with her daughter and Lily wants nothing to do with her stepfather, Fuckface. (Her nickname, not mine). Clark tries to help Lily the best she can, but Lily constantly runs away, smokes cigarettes in Lou’s flat, and gets plastered on random occasions. She is a cyclone of a teenager and Lou doesn’t quite know how to handle her.

Clark takes Lily to meet her grandfather, Will’s father, who is divorced from Will’s mother, remarried, and has a baby on the way with a much younger woman. The meeting doesn’t go so well, as Lily has this complex that prevents her from accepting that anyone would love her, let alone like her. She has a similar meeting with Will’s mother. Clark is at a loss about what to do with Lily.

One integral part to Clark’s story after her fall is the Moving On Circle. It’s a group that meets once a week to discuss how to move on after a loss. One young teenager in the group, Jake, has lost his mother. The man who takes him every night to the group is Sam, whom Clark assumes is Jake’s father. She builds a relationship with him after she finds out he is the paramedic who saved her life after she fell.

Ambulance Sam is a good guy and someone who really tries to bring Clark out of the darkness of losing Will, but he is still a guy who needs her to forget the ghost of Will. I liked how JoJo gave Clark a new love, but I was disappointed with the ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s not as sad an ending as Me Before You.

Overall, I liked this book but I would have rather not had a sequel to spoil the first book. 3/5.

Salt to the Sea

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It took me a couple of months but I finally finished this book. It was not my favorite of Sepetys’ three novels, but certainly ranks high as far as historical fiction goes. Reading the Author’s Note at the end gave me a greater appreciation for the amount of research Sepetys does for her novels. You know she’s dedicated when she spends 3 years doing research, interviews, tours, and traveling to multiple countries for 1 novel. I don’t have the patience to finish anything I start. That’s why I will never be a novelist. Plus, as most writers I hate my own work.

This novel is unique because Sepetys tells the story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff through the voices of 4 characters. Joanna, is a young Lithuanian nurse trying to help others to appease her guilty conscience. She meets Emilia, a 15 year old pregnant Polish girl trying to survive the deathly cold alongside Florian, a mysterious Prussian who is hiding a secret from everyone. The three characters come into contact with the fourth, Alfred, aboard the Wilhelm Gustlaff at the end of World War II. All 4 characters have a story to tell of how they are trying to survive the war.

I like the fact that not all the characters are likeable, especially Alfred. He is a tormented soul, not quite all there mentally but still a three-dimensional character. He writes letters to his Hannelore in his head, to keep himself sane and boost his ego about being an important soldier serving Hitler.

Joanna was probably my favorite. She is a young woman full of emotions but trying to hide them all. She is interested in Florian, whom Emilia calls “the knight.” She tries very hard to help others as best she can, to make up for all the needless guilt she feels. I related to her the most.

Emilia is a quiet, young girl with a strong will to fight all through all of the suffering she has endured. She stays close to Florian because she views him as her savior, literally and figuratively. She looks to him as protection and safe-keeping from the war.

Florian was a hard one to figure out. You don’t quite know his whole story until the very end. He is on a mission to save an important artifact but pretends to work for Hitler most of the time, to save his life. He doesn’t open up to anyone until he meets Joanna. I like him because he is the romantic figure in the book without trying to be.

Although I liked this novel a lot, I will say the shipwreck portion was a bit disappointing for me. I have seen the movie Titanic a hundred times and this has some of the same descriptions and lines as the movie. I will say she did do her research and got the time period very accurate as to what would have been available in case of a ship sinking and the realities of imminent death. I just wished for something a little bit different I suppose.

I would highly recommend this book, especially if you like historical fiction/ or World War II accounts.

I give this one a 3.5/5.