Friday, October 17, 2014

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

By the time Lincoln realized that he hadn't sent a warning to Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder -after who knew how many offenses, three? half a dozen? - he couldn't remember why not. Maybe because he couldn't always figure out what rule they were breakuing. Maybe because they seemed completely harmless. And nice. [...] 

And also... Also, he kind of liked Beth and Jennifer, as much as you can like people from reading their e-mail, only some of their e-mail.
-from Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

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 You guys, I'm getting married on SUNDAY! Crazy, right?! In celebration of that wonderful day, I'm sharing my review for one of my favorite romantic novels that I've read this year! Enjoy! 

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I've been trying to resist the Rainbow Rowell mania for some time now. I liked Eleanor and Park but I didn't love it the way I was told I would. I liked Fangirl a lot more, but it was really long. When I started Attachments, I figured this would settle whether I was a real fan of Rowell or not and I must say, less than 24 hours later when I finished this book, I decidedly became a HUGE fan.

Lincoln works on IT security for a newspaper, The Courier, in 1999. His main job is to read flagged interoffice emails and to prepare for the big Y2K scare. He starts becoming attached to two women in the company who email each other and get flagged all the time. Eventually he begins falling in love with one of them and begins to question his ethics with the invasion of her privacy. Bigger than just a love story, Attachments is a modern day coming of age story that also examines attachments between parents, friends and things that we depend on that might act as a crutch and prohibit us from finding out potential.

As always, Rainbow Rowell sets the bar for crafting smart, flawed, realistic characters that jump right off the page. Each character, whether a main character or supporting, has dimension to them and it's obvious the time Rowell spends developing them. Parents are never stock characters in Rowell's books, and in Attachments, Lincoln's mother (whom he lives with) can be the subject of a book all her own. Her attachment to Lincoln and the psychology of why give this story its greatest added layer that proves Rowell's superiority as a writer. I similarly noticed various characters' attachment to religion as a subtle theme throughout the book, despite most not acting "religious" or living particularly pious lives. There are plenty of examples of attachments, but these were my favorite non-obvious ones.

Another great example of how Rowell crafts her characters is how much I loved Jennifer and Beth simply based on their emails alone. The reader gets the exact same experience as Lincoln because we don't learn anything more about these women than the contents of their flagged emails. I was able to relate so much with Beth throughout the entire novel, which helped me love her and feel what she was feeling; from being familiar with an empty dead end relationship to her quirky use of sarcastic comic relief for everything and her discontent with her arms (This was one of my favorite parts of the book! Also, please God, let my arms look good on my wedding day!), Beth was so much fun. Experiencing these characters the exact same way as Lincoln really made the entire experience of this book much more fulfilling, but this method may not have been as successful without Rowell's expertise in characterization.

Finally, my most whiny complaint about Rowell's work is that often times I think the book is too long for the content. With Fangirl I still kind of hold my ground (even though I loved it), but Attachments helped me recognize that Rowell doesn't take the easy way out to end a story. She allows her characters the time and opportunities to grow (and fail), to get something right the right way. This offers the reader a more fulfilling resolution than a cheesy one. I might be happy with a cheesy easy ending, but I'll think about the book much more if a character is smart, sincere and (in the case of Lincoln) stays true to his moral compass. I'm okay with a book being a little long to get this kind of ending.

Bottom Line: This book might not hit everyone the way it hit me, but it's an absolutely fantastic romantic story with more depth than the premise lets on. I think if it sounds like something you will like, you will probably love it. 5/5 Stars

Thursday, October 16, 2014

5 Books I'm Bringing on my Honeymoon

My wedding is in THREE DAYS! I can't even wrap my brain around that! All I can focus on to calm myself down is our honeymoon in Cancun where I will finally be able to catch up on my reading! As my last unscheduled post before I get married, I wanted to share with you the 5 books I'm bringing on my honeymoon!

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Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins - I have been resisting reading this since its release because I know I'll enjoy it more when I'm relaxed! I CAN'T WAIT! It's already burning a hole in my suitcase!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Another I keep meaning to read, this time I hope I will really get a chance to start it!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty - This is a great book to read after getting married. I've already read it once, but I think it will be the perfect honeymoon re-read! 

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - I want to re-read this one in time for the movie release, and what better time to start than now!

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - I want to see the movie, but I always try to read the book first! 

What books are you reading right now?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

YA Holocaust Literature

When I was in college I did a study on YA Holocaust literature and how important it is for young people to read stories, fiction or non-fiction, about this time in history. I feel that it's important not only for historical reasons, but also to help teens gain empathy, understanding and help them navigate through their value systems. After reading The Book Thief I decided to listen to some classic YA Holocaust audio books that I hadn't ever read or that I hadn't read in a long time and I want to share them with you. For the record, I would give them all 5 stars.

 photo 562282_zps612c7b1e.jpgNight by Elie Wiesel - One of the most popular accounts of an experience in a concentration camp, Elie Wiesel tells his own story beginning with life before the war and ending with his liberation from Buchenwald concentration camp. This memoir is written very simply so that it can be understood by young readers, but its message is universal for all ages. I especially love that when asked to turn this book into a film, Wiesel refused because it would lose its meaning without the silences between the words. I highly recommend Night, but I also stress that there is very difficult subject matter. I don't think you should avoid reading this because of that, but I think you should be aware and prepared emotionally.


 photo 438930_zps18c544ec.jpgUpon the Head of a Goat: A Childhood in Hungary by Aranka Siegal - This novel is one of my favorite books. and I even performed parts of it for a theatre project in college. Aranka Siegal fictionalizes her personal experience leading up to her time in Nazi concentration camps, but all of the events are completely real. I think I remember reading that she only wrote about the time before and after her time in the concentration camps because it was too difficult of material for her to write about for children. Even without writing about her time in Auschwitz, Siegal still captures both the terror of the Holocaust and the triumph of the human spirit through her family. If you enjoy this book, you will also love the sequel Grace in the Wilderness: After the Liberation.

 photo 47281_zpsbdedf60c.jpg  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry - This book used to actually scare me when I was little and saw it in my classrooms because I was afraid of the little girl on the cover; I didn't even know what the book was about but I never tried to read it. As an adult when I found out it was actually a book about World War II, I read it and was so disappointed I never read it when I was young. This is the only book on my list that is completely fictional as Lois Lowry did not live through the Holocaust. But that doesn't detract from the power of this story of friendship. Annemarie is ten year old in Copenhagan and her family takes in her Jewish best friend, Ellen, to hide. This is a great story of the non-Jews who fought to protect their friends and neighbors and I think it's a great perspective of the good in humanity that prevailed against the evil.



 photo 48855_zps6636e4dd.jpg The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - This is probably the most famous out of the books I'm profiling today. I remember reading Anne Frank's diary in sixth grade and it inspired me to keep a super formal diary of my own, I was so impressed by her writing even though I don't think I quite comprehended the gravity of Anne's situation. Re-reading as an adult put things in better perspective. Even though Anne is unapologetically a stereotypically (let's be honest: sometimes annoying) teenager, her diary truly makes the events in World War II and the Holocaust so much more real than anything else I've ever read. It helps the reader connect the mundane everyday tasks of living with something so important as survival during a time of human extermination. Knowing Anne's fate makes this book so much harder to read, but I'm happy that her father kept her memory and legacy alive for many future generations to learn from.

Are there any historical books that have impacted you strongly?