Review: Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

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

25614984Title: Spark Joy

Author: Marie Kondo

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

ISBN: 9781607749721

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Marie Kondo’s unique KonMari Method of tidying up is nothing short of life-changing—and her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has become a worldwide sensation. In Spark Joy, Kondo presents an in-depth, illustrated manual on how to declutter and organize specific items throughout the house, from kitchen and bathroom items to work-related papers and hobby collections. User-friendly line drawings illustrate Kondo’s patented folding method as it applies to shirts, pants, socks, and jackets, as well as images of properly organized drawers, closets, and cabinets. This book is perfect for anyone who wants a home—and life—that sparks joy.


I really wish I could have enjoyed this book, but this turned into one that I could not finish. I will admit right off the bat that I have not read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and perhaps if I had, I would feel a little differently about Kondo’s book. I will also start off by saying that I am a very tidy person to begin with. I clean on a weekly basis and my fiance and I are constantly bringing loads of goods to Value Village or Goodwill. Purging is a part of our monthly schedule. I love nicknacks that tell a story, but I hate clutter and I strongly dislike having to dust many thing. So our home is tidy. It’s not minimal, and I’m sure there are things that we could get rid of, but we’re neat and comfortable.

Kondo’s book for me was so basic, that I couldn’t read it all the way through. I did end up putting this one back on the shelf. I had such a hard time taking the advice seriously and I couldn’t help but see the approach to be a little juvenile. A few of the anecdotes refer back to the authors childhood tidying habit to add a bit of colour to the over all advice. It didn’t hold my attention and I really can’t get on board with the KonMari Method of holding each object in my home to feel if it brings me joy. I’m sure for the person who does not enjoy or is not able to stay on top of tidying, this book is a very good guide, starting with the very basics. Kondo will walk you through each part of the process, step by step. The illustrations are helpful and kind of cutesy but they’re a little too young for my taste.

Not one for me, but I can see why people like it. Perhaps you’ll have more luck with it than I did.

Review: Arcadia by Iain Pears

25614934*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Arcadia

Author: Iain Pears

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: August 2015

ISBN: 9781101946824

Arcadia

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Henry Lytten – a spy turned academic and writer – sits at his desk in Oxford in 1962, dreaming of other worlds. He embarks on the story of Jay, an eleven-year-old boy who has grown up within the embrace of his family in a rural, peaceful world – a kind of Arcadia. But when a supernatural vision causes Jay to question the rules of his world, he is launched on a life-changing journey. Lytten also imagines a different society, highly regulated and dominated by technology, which is trying to master the science of time travel. Meanwhile – in the real world – one of Lytten’s former intelligence colleagues tracks him down for one last assignment. As he and his characters struggle with questions of free will, love, duty and the power of the imagination, Lytten discovers he is not sure how he wants his stories to end, nor even who is imaginary…
—–

Right off the bat, Pears’ Arcadia reminded me of Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. This story spans time, but each story is linked so tightly. As you read through, Pears shows how each seemingly separate story and universe feeds into the others. There are so many moments in time that we get to see and many different characters. We have the future where the world is over populated, most animals are extinct, and select intelligent scientists are developing advanced technologies; there is the mid-twentieth century where one scientist finds a safe haven during the time spanning from WWII right into the Cold War; and then there is the world of Anterworld that is devoid of all technology and has quite a fantastical element to it with its simplicity.

This dystopian tale explores the idea of time travel and varying universes. It’s interesting in that it explores the theory that only one universe can exist at a time, and a through technology, you can create a parallel universe that, as it grows, will stretch until it becomes the new reality for the universe that humanity resides in. It’s a really fascinating concept. Angela Meerson is the perfect character to introduce us to this world. She’s one of the most intelligent people to exist in this world and many of her own colleagues write her off as crazy because of the way that she harnesses and channels her intelligence, but when she speaks to the reader–although sometimes fanatical–she’s well informed.

It’s a complex page turner with compelling characters and so many twists and turns. You won’t know what’s going to come next. Characters appear to be one thing and then you find out in an instant that they’re someone so much more that you thought. People disappear and show up in various universes, not knowing what to expect. It’s supposed to be read as part of an app that allows you to move freely between storylines. You can read each character’s story linearly or you can jump between tales as you wish. I read the physical copy as provided by Random House CA and it was still as suspenseful, exciting, and unique as I imagine the app is.

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905 Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: September 2013

ISBN: 9781447263227

Fangirl

 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


I’m a true Rainbow Rowell convert now. Fangirl has been recommended to me in the past, and I never really took the time to check it out. I wasn’t sure what it was about and I wish I’d taken the time to look into it sooner because I really enjoyed this novel! Cath is such a relatable character. She and her twin sister Wren are off to their first year at college, their first year away from home. Cath has quite a bit of social anxiety. She is introverted, struggles to meet new people, and has difficulty make new friends. It doesn’t help that there’s a bit of distance between her an Wren that they haven’t really experienced before. It takes her over a month before her roommate, Riley, finally takes her to the cafeteria. But Cath has a wonderfully creative mind. She’s a writer. She’ LOVES fanfiction and is an extremely populate fanfic writer. She’s super unique! I love her character. I think that many readers out there will relate to her.

This story is really great because it takes the reader on this incredibly relatable coming-of-age journey. Cath moves from the security of her father’s home to the unknown world of college. She really comes to understand herself so much better, along with her relationship with her father and her sister. Cath is able to make new friends and even find a bit of romance. Through it all she never pretends to be anything other than who she is. She avoids situations that make her uncomfortable, but she slowly expands her horizons as she makes new friends and encounters new situations. It’s not a story that focuses on just one thing. There’s a bit of romance, a bit of friendship, and many family relationships. Every relationship is complicated and realistic. I think this honesty and believability is what makes this such a great story.

Any other Rainbow Rowell fans out there? What are your thoughts?

 

Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

18079804Title: Half Bad

Author: Sally Green

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: 2014

ISBN: 9780670016785

Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy, #1)

Synopsis for Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?


What I really loved about this story was it’s conflict between white witches and black witches. It calls into question the idea of nature vs. nurture. Are we born terrible or are we products of our environment. Nathan is half white witch and half black witch, but he might as well be entirely black. As the son of the world’s more notorious black witch, Marcus, Nathan never stood a chance. He is treated as though he’s a criminal. He is told that he is awful and evil and not worthy to be in the company of white witches that are not family. He has no idea how to change or escape his situation.

He is treated in horrific ways, and so he begins his journey to track down the father he’s never known. The counsel of white witches are always expecting the worst in him, although he never gives them any reason to doubt his goodness. He is capable of deep love and friendship, but he’s never given a chance. It’s infuriating how unfairly he is treated. He is considered bad before he’s even given a chance. The judgement cast on him results is terrible acts of torture and mutilation.

I was completely shocked at how Nathan is treated, but it had me turning the pages, desperate to know what happens to him. I was rooting for him the entire time, willing him to succeed. As the reader, I was never sure who to trust and who to be suspicious of. Although I’m a bit late to the game on this series, I’m so excited to check out book 2.

Review: I’m Still Here by Clélie Avit

28472120*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: I’m Still Here

Author: Clelie Avit (translated by Lucy Foster)

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: August 2016

ISBN: 9781455537624

I'm Still Here (Je Suis Là)

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support… They don’t realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she’s there. Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault’s emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa’s room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping. Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can’t help feeling that she can hear his every word… For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for… And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives…


I found that this book was too short for the tough issues that it deals with, and I would have been totally happy to have an extra hundred pages to read. This book addresses so much: euthanasia, drunk driving, suicide. It brings up the tough choices that families have to make when their loved ones are hospitalized, and potentially unresponsive.

Thibault is an interesting character. He discovers Elsa in his search to find a little bit of peace, and he finds so much more. Although she is in a coma, he finds a confidante in Elsa as he deals with his brother’s crimes. He cannot forgive his brother, but he begins to heal as he shares himself with Elsa. I’m quite impressed at the lax hospital security and his ability to sneak into Elsa’s room so frequently with very little questioning. Through his visits, Thibault falls in love with Elsa, although one has to wonder if he’s just falling in love with the idea of her. Regardless, his devotion and his visits help to lead Elsa on a positive path that ultimately saves her life.

What I struggled with the most was the decision of the doctors that Elsa was no longer responsive. It states that the last tests that had been done were months prior. As the reader, we know that Elsa is progressing forward and does have brain activity. Yet, the hospital decides that it’s best to shut down her life support and let her die without conducting more recent tests that surely would have yielded more positive results. Perhaps this is the way it works, but as a reader, this seems incredibly unrealistic. I couldn’t believe that the doctors would shut down her life support without first ensuring that Elsa was 100% gone.

This wasn’t a story that I loved, although I feel like it has a lot of potential. There are a few problematic issues as I mentioned above, that need to be worked out, but I think this story could have been really great. For me, it was only ok as it is right now. It certainly sparks a lot of thought on really tough issues, but it fell short in its exploration of these issues.

Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

25814512*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Author: Chris Cleave

Publisher: Bond Street Books

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 9780385685023

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

Synopsis from Goodreads:
It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin. Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.


I’ve always wanted to read Cleave’s Little Bee but it’s never made it to the top of my to read pile. Everyone Brave is Forgiven is my first foray into this author’s writing, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It is certainly not a fast paced novel and it’s not going to have your heart pounding. This is a story that unfolds quietly and boldly into a tragic tale of love, loss, and survival. I quiet liked each of the characters in their own way. Tom is quiet and devoted. Alistair is determined to fight for his country and is irrevocably changed by the war. Mary wants to do what she can to contribute to the war effort, even if it means that she’ll see and experience the most horrific of things. These characters find themselves brought together and torn apart by the war.

It’s a story that sneaks up on you, moving slowly at first and unfurling into an emotional and moving tale about people who are simply trying to survive. Cleave brings the second World War to life in these pages, sharing the experiences of soldiers abroad, and civilians back at home. It deals with the war effort in Malta, the struggle with morphine addition after the drug is used to treat the pain of injury, the conflict of race in a city ravaged by bombs, and the difficulties of friendship in a time when the looming possibility of death calls everything into question.

I hope you enjoy this books as much as I did. It has a lot to offer in terms of story and character. It brings unique viewpoints to the discussion of World War II, which is always appreciated. I loved it for it’s quiet unfolding and it’s large emotions.