Reading Sara Review: My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout

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Print Length: 208 Pages

Publisher: Random House (January 12, 2016)

Rating: 6/10

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I became a fan of Stroud’s writing in her book Olive Kitteridge but have not read many of her other titles. My Name is Lucy Barton was a highly anticipated 2016 book, so I picked up it quickly after its release.

To be honest, I do not want my new rating scale to deter any readers. My Name is Lucy Barton is a good book. If I were just rating it on a five scale, I would probably give it a 4/5. But, I want to be deeper with my ratings – so this is a perfect example of a book that is well-written, unique, and good. And I think many people will love it. I don’t think it will be the best book I will read this year – but I am glad that I read it.

Lucy Barton is a writer, and the book is stories from her perspective, but mostly centered around a period of time she was in the hospital. Her mother came to visit her and stay for five days; this was the first time they had seen each other in many years. While their chit chat seems minuscule, it fills Lucy with memories and questions. Even though it appears that there was substantial abuse in her poverty-filled childhood, she still seeks approval and friendship with her mother – even though they are practically strangers.

Lucy is a character that seeks love and belonging in all relationships and with all people. From her love of her doctor to her children to her relationship with her husband – she wants a tenderness that was missing from her childhood.

Growing up in poverty shaped Lucy in ways that she is only now figuring out as an adult, as she writes and attempts to be a “ruthless writer.” She never knew to be embarrassed by her clothes, or her lack of pop culture knowledge, so she simply is not embarrassed. However, because she grew up with little, she also appreciates having enough and being able to provide for her children. But she knows that money does not always make people happier, a sentiment she shares with her fascinating mother.

This story reminded me how our childhood, our upbringing, cannot be judged by others. Everyone’s is different. But the relationships that people have with their parents are not to be judged. There were so many times that I wanted to shout at Lucy for not asking her mother more – why doesn’t she show more emotion? Or build a new relationship with her? But that relationship is not for me to judge.

Strout tells this story in such a unique way, even though this is a short book (I read it in under 2 hours), it is one that will stay with me.

 

 

 

Reading Sara Review: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhink

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhink

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Hardcover: 240 pages

Publisher: Dey Street Books; annotated edition 27, 2015

Rating: 8/10

RBG Rating

Amazon Book Blurb: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she has only tried to make the world a little better and a little freer.

But nearly a half-century into her career, something funny happened to the octogenarian: she won the internet. Across America, people who weren’t even born when Ginsburg first made her name as a feminist pioneer are tattooing themselves with her face, setting her famously searing dissents to music, and making viral videos in tribute.

Notorious RBG, inspired by the Tumblr that amused the Justice herself and brought to you by its founder and an award-winning feminist journalist, is more than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg’s family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcends generational divides. As the country struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stands as a testament to how far we can come with a little chutzpah.

 

Reading Sara Review: RBG is a total badass. I am so glad that interest in her has risen through the internet, and that this book came to be. This book is not the only biography on Ruth Bader Ginsburg – but with its modern twist, it is an excellent choice if you are interested in learning about one of the great leaders of our time.

It cannot be understated how much influence Ginsburg has had on today’s political climate in the United States (and I don’t mean this extremism that seems to be floating around right now during the Presidential Primaries). She pushed boundaries, she changed policies, and she followed her dreams – had a trying career and a baby when that was unheard of for that time. Ginsburg trail-blazed for many women today. She speaks her mind, but in a kind, and compassionate way. She has friends on both sides of the aisle. And she works hard. She has earned her rightful place because of that hard work.

I am not surprised that Ginsburg has become a viral sensation, but I am glad that she has. Her life has been far from easy. She has worked hard, and is passionate about her beliefs – and it shows. I don’t have much else to say except: read this book. Learn something new. You will be glad that you did.

“RBG believes that ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made.’” Don’t you?

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Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: Modern Romance, By Aziz Ansari

Book & Wine Wednesday

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Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari

modern romanceHardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Penguin Press (June 16, 2015)

Rating: 7/10

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Reading Sara Review: I might be late to the game with this book because most Ansari fans have probably already read this book. I recommended it on my Holiday Gift Guide for your single brother – but I will also recommend it to you – because it is fun for people whether or not they are in a relationship.

Ansari partnered with sociologist, Eric Klinenberg, to take a look at how romance, dating, and relationships have changed in the digital age. The change in the dating scene is something that I talk about with my friends often (even though many of us are married!). The stigma of meeting people online has drastically reduced in the past ten years but that doesn’t make it any less stressful for single people to meet each other and make a connection. I not only love my husband but am also grateful that I do not have to be a part of the dating game in this day and age, it honestly sounds exhausting.

Ansari is hilarious, which makes this book enjoyable. When I first picked it up* I was not sure how it could be so long. How long can you talk about the current dating world? Isn’t a lot of it obvious? People base their opinion of people off of text messages; people are often looking for something better than the person they are dating, and with all of the choices out there – how are people supposed to choose just one person? Luckily, Ansari keeps the reader engaged through his humor, his constant talk of food, and his insight that he gathers through focus groups across the world.

Read this if you are interested in sociology, the dating world, or Ansari himself – you won’t be disappointed. But, as a heads up, there are some parallels between his new Netflix show Master of None and this book and some of his more recent stand-up comedy. A lot of the same points are made, or similar storylines – but that did not make it less enjoyable for me. I have enjoyed watching Aziz Ansari evolve and grow up. His humor is still excellent; it has just matured as he talks about important issues (feminism, relationships, and family).

*I recommend the actual book of this one (hardcover now, or you can wait for a paperback).  I have multiple friends who have listened to the audiobook (which Ansari reads himself) and said that it was funny, and he makes fun of the reader quite a bit for listening and not reading it. However, there are graphs and charts throughout that you miss out on via the audiobook. I have not personally had good luck with reading charts on my Kindle, but an iPad or another device might be better.

Wine Recommendation

If you are single in this world, I hope that you like wine. I bet you need it. If you are not single, I hope that you like wine too, because wine is delicious. Ansari travels a bit for his research to LA, Wichita, New York, Argentina, Japan and France. I think that this book calls for a spicy Malbec, and not just while you are in the Argentina chapter.

I love Malbec because you can have a really great bottle for under $20, and it is still more exotic than a Cab or Merlot (to impress friends or dates with, naturally). The 2011 Tilia Malbec is a classic in my book, and I have found it for as low as $11.  Whether you have this glass before a date, or with your date, it will be interesting enough to be a conversation starter.

Reading Sara Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

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Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Delacorte Press (September 1, 2015)

Rating: 7.5/10

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“Just because you can’t experience everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience anything. Besides, doomed love is a part of life.” – Nicola Yoon, Everything, Everything

Reading Sara Review: Everything, Everything is simple in its premise: a young adult story about a bubble girl, a person isolated from the world – her world is only discovered by reading, conversations with her full-time nurse, and her doting mother. Luckily for the reader, Yoon weaves a story that is so much more than simple. The story is about friendship, first loves, discovery, and forgiveness.

I know people who shy away from young adult novels, but I would encourage those people to give this book a try if you want to dip your toes into the genre. Similar to I’ll Give You the Sun, it has themes that go much deeper and characters that we readers understand through their pain. Critics of this book will say that it is just another cheesy YA love story (ala Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor & Park, etc.). YA literature is not as deep – and this book is not perfect. But it is a quick, lovely story that I highly recommend.

“I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.” We get to fall in love with Madeline, our sick, near death central character. And we get to watch her fall in love with Olly, the neighbor who quickly becomes fascinated by the girl in the window that never comes outside. We follow her adventures, her daring challenges, the ups and downs of her relationship with her mom – who has always loved her deeply and protected her above all else.

“Sometimes you do things for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones, and sometimes it’s impossible to tell the difference.”

Everything, Everything is definitely on my list for best books of 2015. Have you read it? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Reading Sara Review: Girl at War, by Sara Nović

Girl at War, by Sara Nović

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Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (May 12, 2015)

Rating: 9/10

Girl at War Rating

Reading Sara Review: This is the best book that I have read in past couple of months, and I cannot stop recommending it to people. Sometimes it feels like the stars align for certain topics to be repeated in our lives, and in this case, in things that I am reading or hearing about, and this is an example of that. Stay with me, though this may seem a little complicated. A few months ago, I saw the movie Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo. The film documents a love story between Admira, a Bosniak, and Boško, a Bosnian Serb. It is a heartbreaking story, and not just because of the star-crossed lovers, but was a stark reminder of the atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian War in the early 90s.

After watching that film, the conflict stayed with me – I was young in the early 90s, and remember seeing and hearing about the struggles in Yugoslavia on the news, but it is something that I had not thought about in years. The humanitarian crises occurring in our world, specifically in Syria, has brought back a lot of these emotions and feelings and has been a constant reminder this year of what others in the world are going through every day. While I am safe in my warm home, writing on my laptop, others are not sure where they are going to sleep tonight or whether they will ever see a loved one again.

So, with all of this floating through my head, I stumbled upon Girl at War by Sara Nović. It felt like this book came to me at just the right time to appreciate it and love it as much as I did. Girl at War is about Ana, who is a regular 10-year old biking around, playing games and enjoying her childhood – until civil war breaks out in Yugoslavia and her world completely shatters. Nović expertly goes back and forth in time telling Ana’s story in a sensitive, compelling and moving way. I could not put this book down and read it in one weekend.

Because much of the story is from a child’s perspective, it gave me new empathy for the innocence that was being disturbed by the conflict that circled Ana and her family and her friends. When Ana picks up a gun for the first time, I was horrified, but understood too, because she instinctively knew that those on the other side of the conflict would kill her, regardless of her age. Ana’s past shapes her so much that the reader cannot help but invest in her outcome, her trials, tribulations, growth, and discovery. Ana’s story is in stark contrast to her sister, who left Yugoslavia as a baby and remembers nothing of the war. She grows up as an American teenager without all of the guilt, memories, and horrors that Ana carries with her for through her teenage and young adult life. Is her sister lucky for this? Or was she robbed of the childhood memories that include people and places she should have known, but never got the chance to know?

Girl at War is a beautiful book, regardless of your memories of the Bosnian war in the 90s. It will challenge your views of right and wrong, make you thankful for a warm, safe place to rest your head each night. Most importantly, though, it is an incredibly well-researched story of a girl, finding her way home and you will be rooting for her and with her the entire way.

Reading Sara Review: Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

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Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Riverhead Books; F First Edition edition (September 15, 2015)

Rating: 4/10: There were things that I liked about this book, and I guess I get what all of the fuss is about, but I didn’t love it.

fates and furies rating

Amazon Book Description: Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

Reading Sara Review: When a book has a lot of hype, I am hesitant to read it – but more often than not, I end up loving it, and glad that the accolades brought me a great read. And this book has received A LOT of hype – just google it. Unfortunately, I did not feel that way about Fates and Furies. I thought that the writing was good, the story written in a creative and untraditional way, but I did not feel for the characters in the way that I usually do. I did not care for the storyline. There are some plot twists and surprises in the second half, but they did not move me or emotionally involve me enough with the characters to feel anything besides wanting to finish this super dense and long book.

I had not read Groff’s work before this book but heard that her prose was incredible from the many reviews. I thought her characters were a little pretentious and too (dare I say) hipster for my taste. The extremely long time span of the story was supposed to make the reader further invested when instead it just made the characters feel out of reach and in an alternate world.

There were good parts of the book for me. Mainly, the concept to split the story into two halves, one told from Lotto’s perspective, and one from Mathilde’s perspective kept the story interesting. There were surprises and mysteries to be solved, certainly. I do not think that the story would have been as attention-grabbing had she not written it in this format. I think that the male vs. female reality that she exposes we can learn from – and how others perceive us vs. how we perceive ourselves.

Honestly, there were better books that came out in 2015. But, this book has received many, many accolades and some people loved it – so I give it a 4/10 on my new rating scale. Not for me, but maybe you will like it.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

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Print Length: 386 Pages
Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (August 16, 2011)
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10 – A Good Book!

 

Ready Player One Rating 2

Reading Sara Review: Ready Player One came highly recommended from friends whose book recommendations I trust, and they certainly did not let me down. This book was exciting, full of surprises and a creative look at the post-apocalyptic world. Our protagonist, Wade, comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He lives in 2044 and is an orphan, poor and hungry. His solace is similar to those around him – an online world called the Oasis. While the world around them is falling apart, most humans spend their days, money and time in this alternate universe. The story picks up when the Oasis founder passes away, leaving his fortune to whoever can find clues hidden within the Oasis, his “Easter egg.”

For fans of the 80s or kids who grew up playing classic video games, this book will bring back many memories. I have never been much for video games, but still enjoyed the plot full of friendship, betrayals, suspense and fun. There is a deeper, underlying message of what our world could potentially be going toward – the world where people are always plugged in, addicted to computers, and let our world crumble around us (cough, global warming, cough). This world that Cline created is easy to imagine. But not all of it is bad – kids can attend an online, virtual reality school where they get experiences that just aren’t possible in today’s classroom, not to mention that in this virtual world, there is no fear of violence in while in a classroom.

For those readers who did play these games (likely young men now in their 30s and 40s), this book will be great fun. Don’t shy away from it even if you weren’t the one geeking out to these games, it’s still a good read. There are questions of humanity, heroes vs. villains, who we are, what we believe in and much more. The book is deeper than just the quest for the Easter egg and the creator’s fortune.

In today’s world, we thrive on our identity – what clothes we wear, what career a person has, who our friends are, what we believe. In the Oasis world, they can create their identity – their avatar, names and friendships. What does that freedom allow that people desire? Perhaps, it is simply a connection to others in the world that is falling apart, or maybe a second chance at a life that you weren’t born. There are some moral dilemmas in this book, and a philosophy of life and the true purpose of our lifetime (spoiler alert, the answer isn’t just living in this other world – humans desire real connection).

If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend adding it to your TRB list, and then let’s talk about the future of humanity.

Final note: the Ready Player One movie is scheduled to come out in 2017, so get a head start and read the book first!