Tag Archives: books

Book Review: Me Before You

Jojo Moyes is becoming one of my favorite authors. I reviewed “The Girl You Left Behind” not that long ago and now I’m reviewing “Me Before You” (which I keep wanting to call “You Before Me”). Both books are very different, but both very good, which makes Moyes’ an incredibly versatile author. I’ve got “One Plus One” out from the library as well, but I’ll probably be reading a couple other books first. 

Me Before YouSynopsis

Louisa Clark has lived in the same small town her entire life. At 27, she is still living at home with her parents and has been dating the same man for six years (with no sign of a marriage proposal in sight). She is forced to look for a new job when the cafe she worked at closes its doors. After a few failed job attempts, she gets an interview for a position as a caretaker for a young man, Will Traynor, who is quadriplegic after an accident. Despite her lack of qualifications, she is hired for the job.

Before the accident, Will was a successful businessman in London who traveled the globe and lived for adventure. As a quadriplegic, he constantly depends on others for his care. The loss of his former life makes him bitter, miserable, and without a desire to live. At first his demeanor makes Louisa miserable, but she is determined to keep the job in order to help support her family. Eventually Louisa is able to do something that no previous caretakers had been able to do: break down Will’s barriers, make him smile, and make him laugh. As the two develop a quirky friendship full of witty banter, Louisa becomes determined to show Will that his life isn’t over.  Continue reading Book Review: Me Before You

Book Review: Orange is the New Black

Here’s the deal…I really enjoy the Netflix show Orange is the New Black. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. I knew the show was based on a book, so I was intrigued. 

Orange is the New BlackSynopsis

If you’ve seen the Netflix show, then you pretty much know the background of the story. If you haven’t seen the show, I promise I’m not giving away any major spoilers. The premise is this: Piper Kerman graduated from a private all-women liberal arts college on the East Coast, and is unsure of the direction she wants to take her life. She ends up becoming involved with a woman who traffics drugs internationally. Paper tags along for some of her international travels, and is finally asked to assist one time by transporting money from the U.S. to Europe. Piper complies, but she finds the ordeal stressful and ends up cutting ties with the woman. She returns to the U.S. where she gets a job, meets a guy, falls in love, and generally lives a normal life. Several years later, her past catches up to her. The drug ring that her ex-girlfriend was involved with is brought down, her name is mentioned, and she gets arrested. A plea deal is arranged, and in return for pleading guilty she agrees to a 15-month prison sentence. Due to good time, she spends just over a year in prison, primarily at a minimum security federal women’s prison in Connecticut. The book is her memoir – of the people she meets in prison, her thoughts on the effectiveness of the prison system, and general stories about the time she spent locked up. Continue reading Book Review: Orange is the New Black

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left BehindSynopsis

Part One of this book focuses on the life of a woman named Sophie Lefevre who is living in a German-occupied French town during WWI. She lives with her sister, young brother, niece and nephew at the family’s hotel while her husband, Edouard, and brother-in-law are off fighting in the war. She and her sister are made to cook and serve dinner to the local Kommandant and some of his troops each night. Before the war, Edouard, an artist, had painted a portrait of Sophie. Sophie insisted on hanging the picture in the hotel, and it caught the eye of the Kommandant. Despite her antipathy towards the Germans, Sophie’s feeling towards the Kommandant eventually soften. When she finds out that Edouard has been taken prisoner, she approaches the Kommandant and requests that he help return Edouard to her in exchange for the portrait that has enthralled the Kommandant. 

Part Two of “The Girl You Left Behind” is mixed between being set in the present time and the continuation of Sophie’s story during WWI.  In the present time, the portrait of Sophie Lefevre is owned by Liv, a young widow. Her husband, David, was an architect and the painting was given to her by him as a wedding present. On the anniversary of David’s death, she is drowning her sorrows in a bar when her purse is stolen. The bar owner’s brother, Paul, is a former policeman and offers to help her. The two eventually start dating, but when she eventually invites Paul into her home he sees the portrait of Sophie. He works for a company that looks to find stolen artwork and return it to their original and rightful owners. Coincidentally, Paul is working on the case to find the portrait of Sophie for Edouard’s family, who had noted that it was missing in a recent audit of his works. The painting had not been seen since WWI, when it was presumably stolen by the Germans. After breaking the news to Liv about her painting’s history, they get into an embroiled legal battle over the rightful owner of the portrait. Determining the rightful owner means finding out everything possible about the painting’s history, including how it came to be in the possession of the woman owned it before David. The book jumps back and forth between Sophie’s life at the end of the war and Liv’s attempts to find out what happened to Sophie and the painting almost one hundred years ago. 

Review

LOVED this book! I enjoyed reading Part One, but it honestly left me wondering why people had given this book such wonderful reviews. While it was enjoyable and interesting, it wasn’t particularly special on its own. Part One is basically there to provide you with the basic background of the story, while Part Two is where all the drama and suspense occurs. However, Part Two would not be nearly as amazing without all the character development done by the author in Part One. By Part Two I was so engrossed that I couldn’t put the book down…which is how I managed to read the thing within 24 hours!

I’m usually annoyed when a book has a predictable ending. This book was interesting because some parts of the ending were very predictable while others were a complete surprise. I also liked that some parts of the story don’t have a perfectly happy ending. I hate when books tie up all their story lines with wonderful happy conclusions because it makes the story seem too perfect and unbelievable. Unless it’s a fairy tale, it shouldn’t all end happily-ever after. That said, I don’t like books that are gruesomely depressing either. This book leaves you feeling happy overall at the end, but there are enough solemn moments to make the story realistic. If you look at the entire cast of characters, you end up feeling bad for several of them. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so I’ll just say this: if you haven’t read this book, move it to the top of your reading list!

One little thing about this book that took me aback for a second was how the narrative is written. Everything about Sophie is written in the first person and the past tense. However, the parts about Liv are written in the third person and the present tense. Did that stick out to anyone else who has read this book? I’m assuming that was completely intentional by the author, but it kind of threw me for a loop when I started reading Part Two. I know Kate Morton switches between first person and third person when switching between the past and the present in her books, but I’m pretty sure Morton writes her “present time” narrative in the past tense. I think most novels I’ve read are written in the past tense, because I’m having a hard time thinking of one written in the present tense. My point is – I found it a little jarring at the beginning of Part Two to go from the first person past tense to the third person present tense. I felt like I kept having to reread some of the sentences because my brain kept wanting to put everything in past tense and that wasn’t what I was reading! It was fine after a while, but it did interrupt the flow of the book a little bit. But, if that’s your biggest complaint about a book….it’s got to be pretty good, right!?

This is the first book I’ve read by Jo Jo Moyes. My mom told me she had read “The Last Letter from Your Lover” and had a “meh – it was ok” review of it, which kind of surprised me because I thought “The Girl You Left Behind” was fantastic. That said, my mom and I have slightly different book preferences. I’ve added “One Plus One” and “Me Before You” to my reading list. I’m hoping that I find Moyes’ other books are as good as this one!

Until later, Ashlen

Book Review: A Walk Across the Sun

A Walk Across the Sun

Synopsis

“A Walk Across the Sun” starts off with two completely separate story lines. The first is of Ahalya and Sita, teenage sisters who are suddenly orphaned and lose everything when a tsunami rips through their home in India. In their attempts to return to the safety of their convent boarding school, they are essentially kidnapped and sold into slavery. The other story line is of Thomas, a lawyer from Washington D.C. When his personal and professional lives crumble around him, he decides to take a one-year break to work with an NGO in India that fights human trafficking. Thomas’ work in India is where the stories intersect, as he works to rescue and get justice for Ahalya and Sita. 

Review

I’m going to preface my review with this: I don’t usually enjoy depressing books. Fictional stories involving human trafficking and the abuse of children would normally fall into the category of being too depressing for me to read. I had heard good reviews of this book, but I was skeptical when I first started reading. However, the author (Corban Addison) does a good job of portraying the horrors of modern day slavery without being overly graphic. While some books may be more realistic in their graphic portrayals of issues like rape and slavery, sometime’s it’s too much…to the point where I need to put the book down. If I can’t get through the book, then the author cannot successfully convey their message about the issues they are trying to depict. Addison did a good job walking that fine line. 

While I found the conclusion of the story to be somewhat predictable, the plot had enough twists and suspense to keep me engaged throughout the entire book. The time it takes me to read a book is usually directly correlated to how much I’m enjoying the story (in other words, how much I’m willing to put the book down to do other things!) and I read “A Walk Across the Sun in about 2 or 3 days. 

Overall:  4 Stars (4 / 5)

Want to see what else I’ve read? Be my friend on Goodreads! I love to see what books other people have enjoyed, and I would appreciate any and all book recommendations.

my read shelf:
Ashlen Mathew's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Until later, Ashlen

Five on Friday

It’s time for Five on Friday again, and I’m not quite sure where this week went! I’m pretty sure it was just Monday yesteday…right? Apparently not. Anyway, here’s my Five on Friday list for you this week…

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Let’s start out with Blogger Love this week….

Responsible Blogging: An Introduction – Seriously, Sarah?

I don’t know why someone hasn’t done a series like this before. Maybe someone has, but I haven’t seen it. Sarah blog a lot about her medical conditions, primarily cervical dystonia. She does a great job bringing awareness to the condition, describing her personal symptoms, and explaining what therapies she’s tried and how they’ve worked for her. It’s obvious from her writing that she’s done a great job educating herself about her condition, and she’s very clear that she’s talking about her personal experiences, and that her experience might not be what everyone else experiences. That’s responsible blogging. Unfortunately, other people who blog aren’t always as responsible, and it can be dangerous. The sad thing is that we both happened to come across two different posts this week that were prime examples of irresponsible blogging. Their original content contained content that could hurt people if they followed the advice or suggestions given in the post. That is irresponsible blogging. In my opinion, there are many kinds of irresponsible blogging, but posting any kind of medical advice without finding (and preferably citing) good scientific sources is probably the worst kind of irresponsible blogging. Ok, there….end rant. Here’s a great quote from Sarah’s post that pretty much sums things up:

“If you want to write something controversial or even insulting, that’s your prerogative, but there are a few things that you can do to prevent dangerous,  irresponsible, and potentially damaging posts.”

What to say when someone’s told you they’ve miscarried – The “Florkens”

Is it just me or have there been a lot of people in blog-land posting about infertility and miscarriages lately? I feel like I’ve seen as many infertility / miscarriage posts as I’ve seen pregnancy announcements lately. While it’s unfortunate that so many women and their families are struggling with these issues, the fact that I’m noticing something like a 50/50 ratio of infertility to pregnancy announcement posts probably sheds some light on how common infertility and miscarriage problems are for women. Kate’s post about what not to say (and what to say) to someone who miscarried is enlightening, especially for those of us who have never tried to get pregnant and have no first-hand experience. 

All The Joys Friday Favorites

Continue reading Five on Friday

#Blogtober14 – My Favorite Book

I’ve got a quieter day today, so I’m back to linking up with #Blogtober14 and using their prompts! Today’s prompt is “your favorite book.”

Helene in Between Blogtober

Picking one favorite book is tough, but the one I’ve re-read more times than I can count and am always recommending to people is “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Beredt. It’s an absolute “must read” if you ever plan on visiting Savannah, Georgia. The movie is also really good, and it stars Kevin Spacey and John Cusak. Kevin Spacey uses the exact same southern accent in House of Cards that he used in Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil. As good as the movie is, the book is better, so make sure you read it first. 

The other book that I absolutely have to recommend is “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. It’s all about Dr. Paul Farmer, the found of Partners in Health (PIH), and his work in Haiti. It focuses a lot on his fight against tuberculosis. I think it’s one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. 

It wasn’t that long ago that I posted a list of my 10 favorite books of all time, so I’ll re-post it again in case you missed it and are looking for a few other options

My Favorite Books

You can find most of my favorite books, along with the books that I’m currently reading, over on my Goodreads profile. If you’re on Goodreads, add me as a friend because I love to give and receive book recommendations from anyone and everyone!

Until later, Ashlen

My 10 Favorite Books

About a week ago my mom was challenged on Facebook to come up with a list of her 10 favorite books of all time, and then challenge 10 people to do the same. Of course I was one of the people she challenges, given that I’m her only child and I spent the vast majority of my childhood with my nose in a book. Instead of challenging 10 people on Facebook to list their 10 favorite books, I’m challenging all of my blog readers to come up with a list and share it in the comments sections! I’m always looking for a good new book to read, and I would love to hear your suggestions. 

I’ll start off with sharing my mom’s list with you:

Mom's Favorite Books  Continue reading My 10 Favorite Books

Friday Favorites

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Goodreads Account Link Up – Seriously, Sarah?

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What a brilliant link up idea – I love recommendations made by my fellow bloggers, so why wouldn’t I want to get book recommendations from them!? The idea is simple: link up your Goodreads account, and friend some of the other people in the link up on Goodreads, and leave a comment about your favorite book recommendation. FYI – I seconded a recommendation for “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton and added my recommendation for “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt. If you don’t have a Goodreads account (although you should, if you like to read) you can still join in on the discussion. I have a feeling that I might have a few more books on by “Want To Read” list in the next few days!

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Continue reading Friday Favorites

Live Life: February Edition

Live Life

My friend Kim inspired me a couple months ago by creating a “30 before 30” list. Essentially, she’s created a list of 30 things she has committed to completing before she turns 30 later this year. Her list includes things like “read at least 1 new book a month,” “explore 3 cities I’ve never visited before,” and “learned how to crochet or knit.” I’m not turning 30 anytime soon so if I made a “30 before 30” list it would need to have more of a long-term vision. It did make me realize that I need to make a conscious effort to step out of my comfort zone and really LIVE LIFE. There are always things that I tell myself I would like to accomplish, but I never hold myself accountable. I’ve decided to take Kim’s idea and downscale it to make it more manageable to try a few new things every month. I decided to start recording it to keep myself accountable, and to increase my accountability I’ve decided to share all my new experiences with you. I hope you find a few things of interest so that you too can LIVE LIFE to its fullest.

Continue reading Live Life: February Edition