Review: The Memory Book by Lara Avery

25988934*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Memory Book

Author: Lara Avery

Publisher: Poppy

Publication Date: July 2016

ISBN 9780316283748

The Memory Book


Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way–not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan. So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart–a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship. Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it’s not the life she planned.


I love books that create an intense connection between the reader and the protagonist. You can’t help but connect with Sammie as she goes through one of the most devastating illnesses that a young adult could imagine. Sammie is sweet, full of life, and determined to reach her goals. She set on chronicling her journey, every good experience and even every bad one. She doesn’t want to forget. These traits are perhaps what makes her fate even more tragic. We read her story through her own words, right up until the very end, and even when her words no longer make any sense. Trust me, this one’s a tearjerker.  I loved Sammie as a character. I identified so much with her pre-diagnosis self, so it was easy to put myself right in her shoes.

I took issue with a few things in this book. Firstly, if my life was ending, I think that I’d be more interested in those more longterm and pure friendships, rather than actively pursuing a new romance. Sammie indulges in her long time crush, Stuart, and he becomes ingrained in her daily life so quickly in a way that made me quite uncomfortable. He partakes in her healthcare and is trusted by her family in a way that someone new to the picture really shouldn’t. I’m a Cooper girl all the way. Cooper and Sammie have a history and he see’s her for who she is. He knows her history and loves her for it. His motives are genuine for the most part.

The second things that I struggled with was Sammie’s dad. He doesn’t have a prominent role in this story, but it seems like his main function is to fight, argue, and bring anger into his family’s life at one of the most difficult points. I suppose this was meant to add strain to the familial relationship, and to create even more turmoil in an already tumultuous time. But I found it so selfish on his part to pick fights with his suffering daughter, and it was a bit aggravating.

I did enjoy this story overall. Sammie is a strong enough character to carry this story and to spark joy and life into these pages. By letting secondary characters fall to the wayside, the ready can really enjoy the story’s protagonist. It’s an emotional book that’ll no doubt, have you in tears by the end.

Review: Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle

24612127Title: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age

Author: Sherry Turkle

Publisher: Penguin Press

Publication Date: October 2015

ISBN: 9781594205552

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves. Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.  The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other. 


I was quite intrigued by what Turkle had to say about how conversation is adapting as we become more and more reliant on our devices and our digital world. As someone in her mid-twenties who bought her first smartphone at 18 and received her first tablet at 20, I feel like technology and digital conversations has never been integral to my sense of self, nor to my conversations with my friends. It has certainly acted as an aid for connecting with other when I am not physically present, however I have always preferred face-to-face conversation with family and friends, opting for coffee or a long chat on the phone to texting or email.

Turkle brings up many valid points about how our phones and staying “connected” has changed the way we interact and converse with one another. It has always been a huge pet peeve of mine to be hanging out with someone, especially someone who I may not have seen in a while, and their cell phone has to be present, as though my presence and conversation is not enough to hold their attention or to appease their anxiety about being connected to others. I firmly believe in setting technology aside in social situations, trying to avoid using it as a crutch for social awkwardness or discomfort. There is nothing like a face to face, meaningful conversation with another person. Social media and technology cannot replace this.

Now, Turkle’s book certainly takes a strong stance in order to argue her point. Her conclusions can come across as being one sided.  The reader must keep in mind that there are two sides to the coin. Turkle barely touches upon the vast number of people who do not rely on their devices for connecting with others. I do think she discusses something that is a problem in our world as we embrace and adapt with technology, but there are other perspectives to consider. I would have liked to see some hard statistics to support the material and I would have liked Turkle to discuss those who reject reliance on technology and why they are doing so in a world where technology is so ubiquitous.

I really thought Turkle took the time to thoroughly explore how our devices have permeated most aspects of our life: family life, romance, friendship, work, etc. It’s a well-rounded approach that leads the reader to consider the involvement of technology in every aspect of his/her life. It’s easy to envision yourself as a witness in nearly every situation and scenario that the author discusses. Additionally, Turkle’s points on technology and child rearing were shocking, but also very real. I’ve witnessed for myself the effect that constant connectivity to a device can have on both a parent and a child.

It certainly is a thought provoking book, though, and well written and argued. It’s very topical with our ever-changing technologies and our involvement with social media. Certainly food for thought.

Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

16085481Title: Crazy Rich Asians

Author: Kevin Kwan

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: January 2013

ISBN: 9780385536974

 

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1)

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.


This book was a lot of fun! It’s ostentatious, blinged out, full throttle craziness with unlimited budgets, incredible opulence, and decadence galore. It’s divided into varying perspectives, so we’re able to hear what each character thinks. It’s a great way to get all sides to the story. We hear the scheming of Nick’s family, the down-to-earth love between Rachael and Nick, the support of Rachel’s family and friends, and the accompanying story of Astrid’s own family drama.

This story is full of comedy and drama. The wealth is absolutely ridiculous, you can’t help but laugh. I also found the perspectives of Nick and his friends to be quite comical. Rachel brings the story back down to reality with the purity and honesty of her feelings for Nick. There are so many twists and turns in this story. It’s really lively and unique, and nearly impossible to predict.

I’ve just started on the second book in the series, China Rich Girlfriend, and I’m really looking forward to it. The writer’s voice in book one draws you into the story with it’s clarity and joking edge. I’ve never read the Shopaholic series, but Kwan’s story is much like what I imagined the Shopaholic series would be like. It’s fun and light and was a quick read for me! Add this one to the summer reading list, because it’s perfect to enjoy in the warm days to come. 🙂

Review: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

17838528*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Unexpected Everything

Author: Morgan Matson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 9781481404549

The Unexpected Everything

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Andie had it all planned out.  When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks). But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life. Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected. And where’s the fun in that?


Matson’s The Unexpected Everything is a great, light read, perfect for the warm days of summer. This is a book I’d want to be reading in the sun at the beach or in the backyard enjoying a cool drink. It’s full of friendship, family, and romance that shows the struggle of being a teenager, discovering one’s first love, and learning to navigate changing familial relationships. The characters are quirky and fun. They’re silly enough in a way that makes them relatable and they’re really just out to have a fun time with their summer.

My favourite bits included a hilarious scavenger hunt where Andie’s dad (a Congressman) joins impromptu, the dorky t-shirts worn by Clark (the leading man) that make him seem incredibly adorable, a lost bet that results in Toby–a friend of Andie–only being allowed to text solely in emojis for the duration of the summer, and Andie really learning to admit her wrongdoings and accept responsibility for her mistakes. I hope these don’t spoil too much for you, but I hope they give you a glimpse into this endearing story.

My only complaint is that Andie, while wonderfully developed as a character, exhibits a characteristic of not knowing pop culture (i.e. Star Wars, Dr. Who, and John Wayne although due to her age I can forgive the last one). It was a stretch to believe that a 4.0 honours student set for the Ivy League doesn’t at least have the faintest sense of at least two of those three things. I understand it’s supposed to be a fun trait that perhaps makes her a more silly or down-to-Earth character, but for someone with this many academic goals, she’d have to be living under a rock to not know these references. My complaint is minor though! It’s not enough to take away from the story or diminish it in any way.

Overall, a lovely read to kick off my summer reading. I hope beach-goers everywhere will grab a copy of this book to read and enjoy. It’s the perfect thing to put you in the mood for summer fun!

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

15745753Title: Eleanor & Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: 2013

ISBN: 9781250012579

Eleanor & Park

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Two misfits. One extraordinary love. Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor. Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park. Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

—–

I haven’t enjoyed a story so much in a while! I’ve held off reading Eleanor & Park for a while, not sure if it was something that was really up my alley. But I loved it. I found this book to be so open and honest. It doesn’t try to hide and it doesn’t run from tough topics. It confronts difficulty head on, and that makes it tough to take sometimes, but brings the characters to life. I feel like this is a story that so many different teens and readers can relate to. It approaches unlikely friendships, broken families, abuse, bullying, love, self-discovery, self-esteem, and so much more.

It’s a story about love that’s true and pure. The kind of love that you drop everything for. A life-saving love. Park saves Eleanor’s life in so many ways, and Eleanor brings Park nothing but joy. Their relationship is unconditional and stems from the most unlikeliest of meetings. Eleanor is trapped in her life, the same way her mother is trapped, and her siblings too. She’s only just in high school and she faces the wrath of her step-father, the abandonment of her father, the relentless teasing of the kids at her new school. But she makes the best of it. Her friendship with Park blossoms into something more–although she can’t quite believe it–but their relationship teachers her how to love both herself and others. Park shows her that she is deserving of love and kindness and helps show her that there is so much more to the world. She learns to help herself and to take control, as scary as that unknown is.

I was instantly hooked on this story. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it too! How did you enjoy this read? Did it affect you in any way? How do you feel it compares to other YA?

Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

27276262* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Lily and the Octopus

Author: Steven Rowley

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 9781501126222l

Lily and the Octopus

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride. The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. —–

I’ll try to avoid spoilers as much as possible. This book hit me with all the feels. Reading this last Sunday morning I was a blubbering mess of jello. So many tears, so much love. Lily and the Octopus is sweet, emotional, funny, and so much more. It will absolutely break your heart, so be forewarned. It’s a story that anyone who’s every owned a pet will love. Ted Flask’s love for his dachshund (my favs!), Lily, is above all else in his life. They are companions. They eat pizza together, play Monopoly, talk about boys. They’ve seen each other through everything, but things can’t stay perfect forever. The trials in this novel help our protagonist, Ted, to open his eye and to see that he’s set living aside for so long and that he’s comfortable. This is his journey towards life, and learning to love again.

Ted is a middle aged writer who has recently been unsuccessful at finding love.  His companion, Lily, is lively and so enthusiastic. HER! WAY! OF! TALKING! BRINGS! ME! SO! MUCH! JOY! She has a strong voice, for a dog. She loves and trusts Ted unconditionally. Ted and Lily’s bond is a refreshing take on the true beauty of friendship and life together. They are a pair that’s devoted to being there for each other.

There is a touch of whimsy and the fantastical in this book. It does require it’s reader to be open of mind. This creative approach creates a more human touch as Ted tries to cope with difficult hurdles in his and Lily’s life. It’s unique, it’s incredibly moving, and it’ll be one of the most emotional stories you read this year.

I’ll sing this book’s praises for a long time to come. A big thank you to Mr. Rowley who has shared such a humorous and touching tale.