Size Doesn’t Matter (5): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

Size Doesn’t Matter (5): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerMe and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Published by Amulet Books on May 7, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Humor
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

Up until senior year, Greg has maintained total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time—when not playing video games and avoiding Earl’s terrifying brothers— making movies, their own versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don’t make them for other people. Until Rachel.

Rachel has leukemia, and Greg’s mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgment and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl must abandon invisibility and make a stand. It’s a hilarious, outrageous, and truthful look at death and high school by a prodigiously talented debut author.

You know, I think I expected this book to be way too similar to The Fault in Our Stars. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s about as opposite as it’s possible for it to be while still dealing with the same subject matter. Where TFIOS has a sad, bitter, sarcastic humor, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is seriously funny all the way through. It’s very much not sad in tone, though there are obviously a few sad moments. But, seriously, just a few sad moments.

What I appreciate most about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is how teen it feels. There’s no pontificating like an adult with a doctorate. Greg is awkward, judgmental, and does a lot of stupid things. When Rachel is dying, he’s as annoyed with her for not fighting harder as he is sad. That’s the thing. You truly are always the center of your own world, especially when you’re young, so that emotion reads a lot truer for me. Greg’s likable, but he has a lot of growing to do, which yup that’s on point. Also, a lot of times characters claim to be bad at flirting but then every hot person falls in love with them, but Greg really truly is terrible at that.

This one’s all about the voice. I wasn’t particularly emotionally involved with Rachel, though, unfortunately. It’s really about Greg more than Rachel. I definitely recommend it, particularly to people who enjoy dirty jokes.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (5): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Enchanted April Published by Penguin Classics on June 2, 2015
Genres: Classics, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
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two-half-stars

The charming, slyly comic novel of romantic longing and transformation that inspired the Oscar-nominated film

Escaping dreary London for the sunshine of Italy, four very different women take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur.

An immediate bestseller upon its first publication, in 1922, The Enchanted April set off a craze for tourism to the Italian Riviera that continues today. Published here to coincide with a contemporary retelling, Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen, it’s a witty ensemble piece and the perfect romantic rediscovery for fans of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love as well as of Downton Abbey and the hit movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

It’s been a shamefully long time since I read a classic. The Enchanted April has been on my list to read for a really long time, and the review copy from Penguin spurred my motivation. The Enchanted April wasn’t as romantic and delightful as I hoped, but it was fairly pleasant and had some truly hilarious moments.

Part of my problem here is that I think The Enchanted April is sort of A Room with a View for older folks. A castle with a view. British people transfigured by Italy and all that. For the first half, it was a lot of description of rather blah people and I really didn’t care. This does work thematically but it’s not the most fun to read. The characters come alive, brought back to better past selves by Italy’s magic.

A couple things did really stand out for me. The scene where a gentleman ends up greeting genteel ladies in a towel is priceless. Mrs. Wilson, the oldest of the party, was my favorite. She’s so delightfully stodgy and British but so much fun underneath; I really enjoy both sides of her character.

The ending was both good and frustrating. As I said, the novel came alive at that point. Still, I feel like, where the novel had been rather empowering for the women to that point, the ending defaulted to the men. View Spoiler »

A decent read, but overall I’d hoped for a bit more.

Size Doesn’t Matter (5): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerFinding Center by Katherine Locke
Series: District Ballet Company #2
Published by Carina Press on August 27, 2015
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 204
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Zed and ballet are my two greatest loves

It took all of Aly's strength to get them back after a tragic accident ripped them from her six years ago. A long road to recovery led to her return, dancing full-time for the District Ballet Company and carrying Zed's child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she's losing.

I'm scared Aly is broken to her core

Zed recognizes the signs, but he doesn't know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of the woman he loves, it's getting harder the farther downward she spirals. When Aly's life is threatened and Zed's injuries prevent him from saving her, he's never felt so useless, so afraid he's not capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.

With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.

Katie’s debut novel, Second Position, really impressed me. As such, I was really looking forward to Finding Center. Ultimately, Finding Center was less good for me, not because of a change in quality but because of the subject matter. I do think that Finding Center continues to be very strong in all the ways that Second Position was.

Why did I not like this one as much? View Spoiler »

Aly’s struggles with her mental health, and Zed’s to a lesser degree, continue to be my favorite part of this series. New adult loves the whole “tortured past” thing, but so often doesn’t deal with it. In Locke’s books, it’s clear that love is not the solution to psychological issues; in fact, it can make dealing with them more difficult sometimes. Support obviously helps, but you have to worry about the other person’s issues and how your issues affect them and on and on. Though Locke retains a new adult, rather melodramatic tone, it is this that makes her books feel so much more realistic.

Also, if you were disappointed by the lack of sexy times in the first book, there are many more to come in Finding Center. Pun intended.

Size Doesn’t Matter (5): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerEnchanted August by Brenda Bowen
Published by Pamela Dorman on June 2, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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three-stars

On a dreary spring day in Brooklyn, Lottie Wilkes and Rose Arbuthnot spot an ad on their children’s preschool bulletin board:
Hopewell Cottage
Little Lost Island, Maine.
Old, pretty cottage to rent on a small island.
Springwater, blueberries, sea glass.
August.

Neither can afford it, but they are smitten—Lottie could use a break from her overbearing husband and Rose from her relentless twins. On impulse, they decide to take the place and attract two others to share the steep rent: Caroline Dester, an indie movie star who’s getting over a very public humiliation, and elderly Beverly Fisher, who’s recovering from heartbreaking loss. If it’s not a perfect quartet, surely it will be fine for a month in the country.

When they arrive on the island, they are transformed by the salt air; the breathtaking views; the long, lazy days; and the happy routine of lobster, corn, and cocktails on the wraparound porch. By the time of the late-August blue moon, real life and its complications have finally fallen far, far away. For on this idyllic island they gradually begin to open up: to one another and to the possibilities of lives quite different from the ones they’ve been leading. Change can’t be that hard, can it?

Given my rather whelming experience with The Enchanted April, I wasn’t that thrilled to start Enchanted August, but it turned out to be thoroughly pleasant and more compelling than the story it retells.

One of the big strengths of Enchanted August is that Bowen spends more time on the characters and less time on description. Also, it doesn’t take a full third of the novel for the lost souls to actually travel to their destination as it did in April.

Bowen makes a few really interesting changes to the narrative, like changing the oldest woman, Beverly, to a gay man mourning the loss of his beloved and his cat. Overall, I think Bowen really captures the spirit of the characters from April, while making them American and modern. It was very much the same concept rewritten but still felt fresh despite the fact that I’d just read April.

My only concern is that Bowen did a bit too good of a job making the husbands seem like rather shitty humans. It does fit, but I’m left hoping Rose will move on, which isn’t what I’m supposed to want for her. They’re rather too like the Emma Thompson story line in Love Actually, which always kills my feels. On the other hand, Bowen improves upon Von Arnim’s instalove romance. She sets up a more believable foundation for the instalove at any rate; she worked with what she had.

Enchanted August is a solid retelling. Good work, Bowen.

Size Doesn’t Matter (5): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief #1
Published by Greenwillow on December 27, 2005
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Mystery
Pages: 280
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads
two-stars

The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

For years, I’ve had Megan Whalen Turner’s books on my to-read list. I bought all four and left them unread. I really dreaded actually trying them though. It looks like there maybe was a good reason for that.

I know, I know. Everyone’s warned me that the first book was slow, but I still didn’t really think I would be so bored. There were glimmers of greatness, mostly right at the very end, but that just was not enough. SO BORED.

The problem is that nothing in the narration grabbed me. Gen’s fine, but Gen, even at the end, could have died a nasty death, and I wouldn’t have cared a whit. That’s just not good. Plus, the only thing I ended up caring about at all was Sophos/Gen, but that ship so obviously isn’t going to happen.

I’m going to read the other three, because I do have them all, but I sure as hell hope everyone was right about them picking up, because I’m not sure how many long, boring chapters I can withstand. Sorry, internet.

 

2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (5): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger”

  1. Lyn Kaye says:

    What I loved about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is that the author did a bang up job writing a satire. It didn’t hit you over the head with the message that TFioS was cheesy and corny, but instead set up the novel with enough subtly to make it brilliant. This is one of my favorite books, and it will always be a favorite. I’m just sad that they changed the cover for the movie. The first cover was brilliant.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Blog Tour: The 3rd WomanMy Profile

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t love The Thief as much as the Internet said I should!
    Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings recently posted…The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán {Just Hatched}My Profile

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