Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

It isn't as important to feel great about all the things we do, [...] but how we feel toward the end when we look back at everything we've done.
-from The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen

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I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe it's that I wanted to like Ella and Micha despite my experience reading The Secret of Ella and Micha; maybe it's my obsessive compulsive need to finish a series that I've started; or maybe I just wanted to understand why so many people were finding my thoughtful review of the first book as "unhelpful" despite being honest and respectful. I mean, clearly I missed something in the first book, right? So I decided to give the sequel, The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorensen a try with an open mind. Unfortunately I should have listened to my intuition.

Picking up right where its prequel left off, The Forever of Ella and Micha chronicles the relationship struggles of Ella and Micha, two dysfunctional kids from the wrong side of the tracks whose love for each other work to make them whole. Already knowing where Ella and Micha came from in the first book, I was willing to overlook the things I disliked there and read this book as a fresh start. Initially I enjoyed seeing the character growth of both Ella and Micha, their struggles, and ultimately their fidelity toward each other despite their trust issues. However, there was nothing to really keep me hooked into this story for the long run.

Basically a bunch of back-and-forth drama, this story has no strong arc and repeats the same themes of trust and communication over and over until I was so bored with these self-made victims that there was no more room for empathy. I'm glad that Ella was responsible in getting professional help for her problems and I want to really stress that I gained a lot of respect for her as a character for this, but I was bored with her trials nonetheless. It kind of reminded me of the storyline/arc of 50 Shades of Grey, or rather, the lack of one; just endless cycles of drama. I did like Ella and Micha both a lot more in this book than in the first, but overall the book still flopped for me.

While this book was an easy read, I didn't care enough about the outcome to read it as quickly as I should have; in fact, it took me weeks to read it which is an indication of how little I liked it alone. And similar to the first book, this one is so replete with grammatical errors and simple typos that I was soooo frustrated!!! Typos are a given for anything (yes, including this blog!), but for a series as a whole to have as many typos as this one is just inexcusable. There are too many cheap online editors available for me to pay money for a book and feel like I'm reading high school fan fiction. I know I'm harsh with this, but it really is inexcusable. This is a responsibility of the author or publisher when selling a product and as a reader, the book loses so much credibility when there are so many of these errors.

So I guess I just don't get it. This is also what frustrates me about the whole "New Adult" genre. I want to just take ownership that I don't like this genre, but there are other similar books that I do like that are categorized as "New Adult" fiction. I have tried in my review to break down why I disliked this book so that you can distinguish if it's a sub-genre you might enjoy or not enjoy. If you loved this book, I'm totally happy for you! I don't judge you, I'm just happy that you enjoy reading as much as I do! So please, no hating on reviews that aren't like-minded to yours, mmmkay?

Bottom Line: Unless you were absolutely obsessed with The Secret of Ella and Micha, you really don't need to know what happens to them. And I don't need to know what happens in the third (unnecessary IMHO) book of this series. 2.5/5 stars - only because I knew what I was getting myself into.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (audio book)

I don't know what's more exhausting about parenting: the getting up early, or acting like you know what you're doing.
-from Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

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Jim Gaffigan's parental memoir Dad is Fat is a hilarious account of his experience thus far as the father of five young children. Gaffigan, a stand up comedian, and his wife, Jeannie, live in a tiny two bedroom apartment in New York City with their five children ranging from five-months to eight-years old. In what can only be described as self-help meets stand-up routine, Gaffigan explores the thankless job of parenting young children including everything from the deceivingly difficult tasks like taking five children to the park to how his family is able to live in a 2 bedroom New York City apartment and so much more. Gaffigan exposes himself with hysterical transparency that anyone can appreciate, whether they have children or not.

Personally, I do not have children but I've participated in the lives of enough babies to be able to appreciate this novel on a very special level. I guess I can't speak for readers who have no experience with kids whatsoever, but I'd like to think that this memoir is funny enough that it can be enjoyed by all. Gaffigan supplies a healthy mix of advice with personal anecdotes about his children to keep this book from sounding like a dad bragging about his funny kid-related stories. I'm sure it's a talent he's perfected through his years of doing stand-up comedy, but it was definitely not lost on me as a reader. The pacing of this book was definitely on point.

I listened to Dad is Fat on audiobook, read by Gaffigan himself, so it was actually just like hearing him do stand-up for five hours. The only complaint I have is that near the end I was growing a little less interested in the stories about family vacations. While I think traveling with small kids is an important facet when exploring life with children, all of the stories weren't as interesting to me as earlier segments of the book. It's possible I was just burnt out on listening to the audio book (I finished this in two sittings), but that's the only part I would skip in the book if I had to.

While I didn't have any strong opinion of Jim Gaffigan before reading this book, I definitely have a positive feeling for him now. Through this memoir, he admits that he's not a perfect dad, but he's spending every day trying to be the best that he can be for his children and finding the comedy in every step along the way. I think if more parents had such a good balance of easy-going yet sincere, we might have more positive parents and, in effect, more positive children.

Bottom Line: Read this, especially if you have and/or love children! This would make a great gift to any fathers to-be; in fact, they should pass these out instead of cigars in hospital waiting rooms!  4/5 stars

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Finding It by Cora Carmack

I wondered if I would ever be able to stop pretending. This was how it started last time. First, you pretend for others, then you pretend for yourself. Then you pretend because everything is a lie, and you have to keep the cycle going.
-from Finding It by Cora Carmack

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The third companion in Cora Carmack's Losing It series, Finding It follows rich party girl Kelsey Summers as she traipses around Europe upon graduating college. Dressed in her uniform of tight jeans and stilettos, armed with her dad's credit cards, and on a mission to lose herself in fun before facing real life, Kelsey still can't seem to fill the void in her heart. When she keeps bumping into hot American Jackson Hunt during her travels, everything begins to change. He challenges her on a week-long adventure where Kelsey learns more about herself and wants to learn more about the mysterious Jackson.

To be honest, I wasn't planning on reading Finding It because I didn't care for the character of Kelsey in the previous books in this series. However, I'm a sucker for finishing a series and knew that if nothing else, Carmack's spunky writing and quick wit would entertain me. I was pleased to discover that Kelsey actually is a likable character underneath the facade she maintains. While this story is overall fairly predictable, what set it apart from other New Adult romance novels is observing Kelsey slowly remove the layers she's built up to protect herself.

Based on the title of the book, I asked myself, "Finding what?" The simple answer in a New Adult romance is love, and while Kelsey is definitely on track to find that, this novel is also about finding a lot more. It's about finding adventure, finding hope, finding independence (emotional and financial) finding your history and, most importantly, finding yourself. Kelsey has a lot more depth than I anticipated and she's not nearly as obnoxious once she starts stripping away her layers.

As with all of her novels, Cora Carmack has a wonderful talent for being laugh-out-loud funny. Her characters each have their own individual voice and Kelsey is by far the sassiest. As I've said, it was fun to watch her grow on me when I expected to be annoyed. This book definitely delivers the pleasantly unexpected.

Bottom Line: A great finale to the Losing It series; Kelsey is fun, sassy and her metamorphosis is much more in-depth than I anticipated. If you enjoy New Adult, this book is a winner. Contains strong sexual content. 4/5 stars.