Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Published: April 16, 2019

Publisher: Hogarth

Where I picked up my book: Book of the Month choice!

Key Words: growing up, Irish life, intricacies of relationships and family

My Rating: 4

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

My Thoughts:

First, I will say when I finished this book, I enjoyed it. I didn’t rave or cry when I read the last sentence, but I gave it a solid 3 stars. As soon as I finished the book I thought, ‘huh…I wonder what all the fuss is about. That didn’t blow me out of the water or anything.’ And then I gave it a few days to ruminate and I literally haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I’m still constantly thinking about Marianne and Connell (the main characters) and wondering how they are doing. I’m still reeling about things that went on in the book and wondering why these characters made some choices that they made. I’m still thinking about how class plays a role in my life, and my friends lives, on a daily basis and if we act according to our class. I literally can’t get these characters, or their story, out of my head. Because of all of this-I’m definitely bumping my rating up to a 4. So fair warning…keep this in mind when you read Normal People.

Second, Sally Rooney’s writing is amazing. This is the first Rooney book that I’ve read, but if they are all as well-thought out, intimate, and descriptive with well constructed characters and plot and scenery-I will read all of the Rooney books that make their way into this world.

Third, I just LOVE how flawed and real the characters in this book are. I’m telling you, they are almost so real to me, that I’m having trouble not worrying about them as I write this review. Both of the main characters are broken, misunderstood, often confused by themselves and the world around them. You will root for them, get angry at them, cry with them, wonder with them, and ultimately…fall in love with them. Again, all of this to say…Rooney’s writing is that good.

Fourth, this book takes all of our lives, all of our questions, all of our insecurities and achievements and puts them into this book. Through these characters, we learn a little bit more about the world around us and ultimately, ourselves. I would highly recommend giving this book a read! It might take you a minute to appreciate it, but once you do…I think you’ll be a better person for having read it.

bookishfolk…read instead.

The Dreamers

Author: Karen Thompson Walker

Published: January 15, 2019

Publisher: Random House

Where I picked up my book: Free book from publisher (THANK YOU!!)

Key Words:  Science Fiction, Love, Crisis, Illness 

My Rating: 3.5

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

My Thoughts:

From the first chapter, I was completely pulled into the story. Actually, from the description, I was enamored and couldn’t wait to dig in. There is something about a city-wide crisis situation (be in a disease, epidemic, natural disaster, etc.) that completely sucks me in. Now, don’t ask me WHY I like these sorts of novels. I’m terrified of major storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and any major weather-related crisis. And I couldn’t live in California for more than a year due to earthquake panic. Plus, I’m a bit of a germ-a-phobe. So…I guess it’s one of those cases where I like to read about it, but if it were a real-life situation…I’d probably be curled up in a fetal position somewhere waiting the thing out. Anyways…I digress. This book checked that box for me and I was ecstatic to receive an advanced copy from Random House and get reading. Plus, I loved Age of Miracles, so I was doubly pumped and it didn’t disappoint.

First, Walker’s writing is fantastic! I’m starting to learn that I LOVE third person narratives. I often find myself thinking, “Oh…I loved that movie” when in fact, there isn’t even a movie made, I just visualize third person narrative so well in my head. Walker’s writing is concise, visual, descriptive (without being overly descriptive) and pulls you along quickly throughout the chapters.

Second, it was a good look into how a crisis is handled in a small town. I found myself feeling furious with the way the government and city were handling the situation. I don’t want to give anything away, but I just kept envisioning myself being in a town where a major crisis is happening, or myself being one of the people outside of the town, and I would expect there to be world-wide camaraderie to get to the bottom of the problem and find a solution. That wasn’t necessarily happening and it was making me furious. And I don’t think that it was the narration that was off. I think it’s a possible way to handle a crisis where people don’t know what to do.  Is that a larger-picture problem in our society? Maybe so. That’s at least something I kept wondering about.

Third, I kept thinking that it read a bit like YA, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are different expectations for YA than adult fiction and that kept coming up for me during this book. I was in a buddy-read and people kept questioning why it happened, and aggravated that the author didn’t give us more explanations or reasons. I definitely heard their frustration, but in my head, it just read more similar to a YA novel. Young adult books, oftentimes, don’t need full explanations or reasons-they just exists for the readers to get sucked into the plot and to enjoy the story for what it is. That’s exactly what this book did for me. Plus, I sort of like unanswered questions in books. It leaves me to figure out what happened and it creates a perfect book to talk about with someone else!

My only caveat was that the middle of the book dragged a touch for me and then the ending seemed slightly abrupt, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. If you’re into slightly magical, infection-related city wide epidemic books with fantastic writing, pick this one up! You won’t be disappointed!

bookishfolk…read instead.

 

Beartown

Author: Fredrick Backman

Published: April 25, 2017

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: sports, contemporary fiction, trauma, community, family

My Rating: 4.5 stars

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Synopsis (via Simon & Schuster):

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: LibraryReads BookBrowse Goodreads

“You’ll love this engrossing novel.” —People

The bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Thoughts:

Ohhhh man, I really enjoyed this one! It was one of those books that when it ended, I was left with a major book hangover (thankfully, Us Against You is out right now and I immediately put it on hold after finishing this one). Although the beginning was a little slow, or maybe it just took me a minute to get past all of the sports and hockey references, I just fell in love with the writing, the characters, the plot, the struggles, and the realness of it all quite quickly. I was an athlete growing up and always played team sports. As did my brother. And growing up in Buffalo, NY-hockey and the ice rinks were 75% of our life. Seriously…it snowed a lot and the ground was iced over A LOT in Buffalo. My dad used to make us an ice rink in the backyard every winter so we could skate and play hockey to our hearts delight. I have fond memories of my dad all bundled up in his heaviest gear, hosing the ice to get another thin layer built up in the middle of the night when the weather was at it’s coldest. It was magical-and I remember thinking it was magical then too. But anyways, I digress. So I was constantly surrounded by sports, athletes, and all of the personalities that come along with that. As I was reading Beartown, I saw so many similarities to what I lived growing up. Thankfully it was the good and bad, and a lot less of the ugly that we saw happening in this fictional town. I wasn’t involved in anything similar to what happens in the book, but unfortunately, it is no stretch of the imagination for me to picture it occuring. There are so many good things about sports and taking part in sports as a child (camaraderie, friendships, learning determination, sportsmanship, how to work together, etc.) but there are some not so great things too (severe competition, jealousy, favoring players for reasons besides their athletic abilities, coverups, the athletes coming before most everything else, sexism, etc.) and we see some of that ugliness in this book. My visceral reaction felt so, so real that I actually had to pause reading at one point. The writing is that good.

Overall, this book is about so much more than hockey-it’s about community, family, friendship, love, betrayal, anger, rage and so much more. The characters are well-defined, the writing is amazing and the story line is engrossing. I don’t want to give too much away, but I would highly recommend this book!

bookishfolk…read instead.