Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

35504431Title: Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9780525555360

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 


Although I haven’t been a huge fan of John Green’s books in the past, I really connected with Turtles All the Way Down. Aza struggles with debilitating anxiety. She falls into these catastrophizing  spirals, overcome by the fear of infections and germs. Green writes Aza’s anxiety in a way that is so consuming and emotional. I found myself crying more than once in this book as Aza struggles to understand herself and to connect with others. She works to gain an understanding of her self and her self in relation to others, Aza struggles to get through school, to connect with her friends, and to give dating a try. She’s looking towards her future, but it’s difficult for her to imagine how she’ll get there, where she’ll end up, and how she’ll survive. Past the anxiety, there is the mystery of Davis Pickett’s missing father. Aza’s search for her self is paralleled by her physical search for Davis’ father.

This portrayal of mental illness is raw and honest. It’s a struggle to read because of the thick emotion and the feeling of being trapped that Aza experiences. It is often overwhelming in it’s realness because it can bring up a lot of feelings in the reader. I could feel the anxiety well up in me as I read through. Aza faces a lot of OCD and obsessive thoughts. She feels a lot of pain and hatred towards herself for being unable to stop her compulsions. I feel like a lot of readers out there will really relate to Aza. Her story is one of struggle, but there is also hope and triumph. She is able to find contentment and strength in this story. She is able to see light at the end of the tunnel. As much as this story is heartbreaking, it’s also inspiring.

My biggest complaint is the awful cover of this book. It’s a terribly hideous cover and is definitely not one that I would pick up. A friend of mine recommended this book and gave me her copy to read, along with the highest praise. I would not have picked it up in the store. Despite the ugly jacket, this book stands out as an incredible and moving read with a protagonist who is flawed and struggles–she is so very  human. I’m very glad to have enjoyed a John Green book.


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Review: Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

33584812.jpgTitle: Mrs. Fletcher

Author: Tom Perrotta

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date: August 2017

ISBN: 9781501144028

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence. Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.


Mrs. Fletcher is a story so far out of my reading comfort zone, and I think it was just a bit too much for me to really enjoy it. I found this a bit disappointing because there are many interesting explorations of topics such as gender, adulthood, selfhood, and sexuality. But this is a very sexy book, to the point where it really takes away from these fascinating themes. This book was a bit of a flop for me.

Eve is exploring a new phase in her life as she becomes an empty nester. She’s an incredibly interesting character. As she attends a weekly Gender and Society class, she begins to explore and question her own sexuality, trying to discover who she is in this new role. Her story is the more fascinating of the two. I think Eve really faces some big struggles and some large life changes that she’s trying to make sense of. She’s not sure who she is when she isn’t a mother.

On the other hand, her son Brandon is a chauvinistic jerk. He experiences very little growth. He’s rude to women, self centre, judgmental, unforgiving. He’s hurtful and has no redeeming qualities. I didn’t find his part of the story enjoyable or relatable at all. He’s gross and his story isn’t funny or endearing in the end. He’s a complete mess.

I think this is a book that people will either love or hate. I don’t think there is any in between. I didn’t really get the humour of this book. It thought it had a lot of emotion behind it and there were a lot of intelligent themes, but it fell flat for me. Not into it.


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Review: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

35297339*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Asymmetry

Author: Lisa Halliday

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

ISBN: 9781501166761

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, “Folly,” tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, “Folly” also suggests an aspiring novelist’s coming-of-age. By contrast, “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.


One of the most commonly used words to describe this book on Goodreads is “clever.” I can attest that this book is indeed clever, as well as masterfully crafted, astute, observant, tender, and stimulating. It’s an intelligent book with characters who are so honestly created that the pages breathe with their life. It is a novel to make you think and to provide a different perspective on our ever-changing world. This book challenges it’s reader to accept situations that are atypical and perhaps outside of ones comfort zone: a relationship between a  young editor and a geriatric author, and inside a Customs office as an Iraqi-American man is detained by an immigration officer who questions his sincerity.  Halliday highlights inequalities that exist in our world–the judgements people impose, the lack of acceptance, the unfounded stereotypes. Her novel addresses ideas of faith, culture, wealth, memory, and age. Although the stories appear tenuously connected, Halliday ties her novellas together into one novel through these themes.

On a personal level, I did not connect with the characters in this story, however I found this story to be incredibly stimulating intellectually. The characters are thoughtful and witty. Each sentence of the story is purposeful. Halliday doesn’t waste words. Her writing is artful and intentional, leading the reader into a very reflective and contemplative work.

I had trouble rating this story on Goodreads. On the one hand, I was increasingly engaged with this story the more that I read. On the other, I did feel a sense of disconnect with the characters and started to fade as I got closer to the end of the story. In the end, I’ve decided that this book deserves 4 stars, although personally, I’d place it at 3.5. It’s a singularly unique and inventive story. It certainly requires some time and thought to read, but overall, it was thoroughly enjoyable to read.


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Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

32223884Title: The Child Finder

Author: Rene Denfeld

Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: September 5, 2017

ISBN: 9780062659071

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too. As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?


What a wonderfully moving and emotional story about pain, loss, fear, as well as hope, recovery, and strength. Denfeld’s The Child Finder is about a dedicated and persistent woman, Naomi, who works as a private investigator specializing in finding missing children. Noami is a woman with a mystery past. She knows she showed up in a field one day in her childhood and was taken in by her foster mom, but prior to that, her life is a blank slate. Her dreams hint at something terrifying, but what that thing is, Naomi doesn’t know. When she returns to Oregon to work on a new missing child case, Naomi is confronted by her past as well as by the possibility that perhaps not all cases are solvable.

We also get to see into the life of the Snow Girl who lives a devastating life in captivity. She spends years in his home facing unimaginable horror, but as such a young child, she knows no differently. She learns to love her captor and they communicate in silence, forming an unnatural bond in an incredibly unnatural situation. The Snow Child grows and becomes conflicted with her life. She understands that something is off with her situation, but she has learned how to achieve relative safety in her current environment and the world beyond is foreign and unknown.

Denfeld’s writing is breathtaking. The stories she weaves in this book are both devastating and beautiful. Her plot is so intense, you feel as though her world has come alive in front of you. Even when she writes about the most unspeakable things, her writing is artful in its description so that her story breaks your heart. She does not dwell on things to terrible to name. She leads you in and out of the horrors of this story so that hope is found in between the words. Her writing is always hinting at recovery and restoration of good. This is a story of true love and deep pain and is absolutely alive in these emotions.

Denfled has earned a solid place on my roster of favourite writers. She’s an artist with a pen and each of her books is gorgeously written. She addresses tough topics and difficult situations with an empathetic mind, opening the pages of her novels to explorations of both sides of a troubling situation. I would encourage you to read her books and open your mind to reading something that isn’t flowery and isn’t easy, but is entirely beautiful in a very different way, to discover the emotional worlds that she creates.


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Author Q&A and Book Review: American Panda by Gloria Chao

BlogTour_AmandaPanda.jpg

35297380*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: American Panda

Author: Gloria Chao

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication Date: February 6, 2018


Synopsis from Goodreads:
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies. With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese. But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?


Author Q & A

A huge thanks to Gloria for taking the time to answer my questions below. She gives awesome insight into her experience writing this wonderful book and what her future books might look like. Take a look below and see!

What inspired you to bring the story of American Panda to life?

I wrote American Panda when I switched careers from dentist to writer and was having a hard time communicating with my parents. I wanted to write the book that I needed then and also the book I needed as a teen.
I hope American Panda can show readers that they aren’t alone, that it’s okay to not feel wholly one thing or another, and that cultural gaps can be difficult. I wanted to capture the struggles I went through as a teen that were difficult to explain to my friends, and I wanted to write a character that was relatable to many but also specific enough to show a window into another world. I also wanted readers to know that things can get better, as they did for me in real life.

2. What has been the most exciting aspect (so far) of publishing American Panda?

The most exciting part of this journey so far has been hearing from readers (of all ages and backgrounds) who connected with Mei and her story. These readers are the ones I wrote the book for and knowing they found each other has been a dream come true. Thank you, everyone, for all the tweets, messages, and fan art that have brought tears to my eyes! It was also so wonderful receiving starred reviews from Voya magazine, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly!

3. What does your writing space look like?

Drafting:

drafting

Revising:

revising

I am very spoiled and have a view of Lake Michigan.

4. What book do you have on your nightstand right now?

I don’t read in bed, but the book I’m currently reading that’s on my desk right now is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Her writing is gorgeous and I love that she writes about secrets. My second book, which I’m currently revising, is all about family secrets and the dangers of not communicating, and it’s been fun reading Little Fires Everywhere as I edit!

5. Who are some authors who inspire you and why? Did any of these authors have an influence on you as you wrote American Panda?

J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer’s books made me fall back in love with books during dental school. As I revised American Panda, I was inspired by Amy Tan and all the amazing, brave POC Own Voices writers including but not limited to Jenny Han, Nicola Yoon, Zoraida Còrdova, Angie Thomas, Anna-Marie McLemore, Marie Lu, Adam Silvera, and Jason Reynolds. I’m also inspired by Jason Reynold’s story and how he didn’t read growing up, which I relate to. He’s amazing for what he’s accomplished, and he’s also one of the nicest authors I’ve ever met!

6. Do you have any other future writing projects in mind?

I’m currently drafting Misaligned, which will be out fall 2019 with Simon Pulse. The book follows a teen outcast who is swept up in a forbidden romance and down a rabbit hole of dark family secrets when another Asian family moves to her small, predominantly white Midwestern town. In this book, I explore race, identity, and the dangers of not communicating.

I have ideas for 2 other books that also feature Taiwanese protagonists struggling with the cultural gap, so it’s safe to say I will be exploring similar themes for a little while!


And what did I think?

I absolutely loved Chao’s book! It thought it was an intense, heart-wrenching, emotional journey of a young woman who is not only trying to discover who she is, but is also trying to navigate the strict traditions of her family and her culture. She is struggling to find her place on the vast campus of MIT–denying many of the things she loves out of her sense of loyalty and duty to her parents. When that duty becomes too much, Mei is sure that everything she’s ever known and love will come tumbling down. Her story is one of great strength and bravery. She fights for what she feels is right, even if that means going against the people who mean the absolute world to he. Chao’s writing brings Mei and her experience to life. Although my experience as a young woman is vastly different–not even comparable–to Mei’s, I felt as though I was her. I connected with her frustration and her anxiety. I understood her desire to be the perfect daughter and to work as hard as possible to be successful. Chao’s book is infused with life and realness. Her story is tangible, visceral, and so relatable. In my opinion, this is a definite must-read!

Review: The Revenge of Analog by David Sax

34220715.jpgTitle: The Revenge of Analog

Author: David Sax

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Publication Date: November 2016

ISBN: 9781610398213

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A funny thing happened on the way to the digital utopia. We’ve begun to fall back in love with the very analog goods and ideas the tech gurus insisted that we no longer needed. Businesses that once looked outdated, from film photography to brick-and-mortar retail, are now springing with new life. Notebooks, records, and stationery have become cool again. Behold the Revenge of Analog. David Sax has uncovered story after story of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even big corporations who’ve found a market selling not apps or virtual solutions but real, tangible things. As e-books are supposedly remaking reading, independent bookstores have sprouted up across the country. As music allegedly migrates to the cloud, vinyl record sales have grown more than ten times over the past decade. Even the offices of tech giants like Google and Facebook increasingly rely on pen and paper to drive their brightest ideas. Sax’s work reveals a deep truth about how humans shop, interact, and even think. Blending psychology and observant wit with first-rate reportage, Sax shows the limited appeal of the purely digital life–and the robust future of the real world outside it.


As a lover of analogue, this book really struck a chord with me. My home is filled with books, records, stationary, board games, and film. I love Poleroids and vinyl, and I’m sure you can guess, the delicious pages of a freshly opened book. Sax discusses the recent trend of people turning away from digital products to seek the analogue–looking for products that are tangible and engaging in a way that scrolling across a glass screen is not. Sax addresses the move away from e-books and digital cameras, and explores how various industries are looking to de-tech, even to a small extent, to give people room to breathe and be creative. He discusses how analogue items like notebooks and whiteboards allow for limitless creativity while digital programs limit thought to the confines of the program or website one is using. Physical objects open up the minds of the users to discover the depths of their own minds by offering a place of peace and quiet, and simple encouragement.

Sax sticks with a simple formula in each chapter, which I did find a bit repetitive. Each chapter introduces a company or product, discusses it’s rise, fall, and comeback as each triumphs over a technological world. I thought it was a very neat set of case studies, however I think they could have been condensed into fewer chapters, combining a few perhaps so as not to reiterate the same argument across the first set of chapters. When Sax switches gears to work and education, things get even more interesting and his arguments switch gears a bit, re-engaging the reader. He talks about companies that have moved away from automated processes and have brought skills back into North America to hire workers in a skill-learning environment. He discusses the flowering of children’s creativity in the classroom as teachers reject the fleeting and brief displays of digital technology in favour of the classing whiteboard where lessons remain for longer periods of time, allowing children to read, digest, and absorb knowledge.

I would definitely recommend this one. Even if Sax’s chapters are repetitive, his thesis seeks to define the triumph of analogue products in a digital world. If you love anything analogue, this book will hit close to home. The book highlights how analogue products are truly a creative outlet and an art form for those who create them and appreciate them. These products are not just about acquiring something, they are about an experience both physical and emotional. This is something I truly connect with and I hope you will too with this book.