Review// The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

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Author: Will Schwalbe
Series: Standalone
Genre: Non Fiction
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Book Length: 336 pages 
Publisher: Knopf
Review: 3/5

My Review

This is a non-fiction book that follows the Schwalbe family in the years after the author’s mother, Mary Anne, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I thought it was so sweet that Mary Anne and Will, her son, started a book club between one another in those final years – it definitely got their minds off of the devastating news (as best as it could) and gave them something to bond over.

As much as I thought it was beneficial for the author to explain the books they chose, at times, I felt like he would go too far off on tangents about what they were reading, and not enough content was about his mother and their relationship – both at present and throughout the years. However, I did appreciate that pretty much every book he explained did correlate back in some way to an aspect of his and his mother’s relationship or lives in general.

This was a very heartwarming book that made me realize the impact that books can have on people and enforced to me the importance of family and living life to the fullest. I am very happy that I read it.

– Catherine

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Review// Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Book Length: 229 pages 
Publisher: Grove Press
Review: 4/5

My Review:

This is definitely one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year, and not only did I enjoy it in general, but I learned a lot while doing so.

Freshwater is about a girl named Ada born in Nigeria. In Igbo traditional belief, Ada is an ogbanje – a spirit child who dies and reincarnates over and over to the same parents, often causing them a lot of grief and trouble.

However, Ada does not die as a child, but makes it through to adulthood, though it is not without behaviour – self destructive or otherwise – which allows her to flirt with death: turbulent, mentally and physically abusive relationships; self harm; suicide attempts; an eating disorder; and binge drinking to name a few.

The trauma Ada faces awakens an ogbanje which she names Asughara. Asughara takes over most of the narration after Ada finds out she is being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend in her sleep. Though at times, Asughara insists that they are protecting Ada, they are also the driving force for many future self-destructive decisions Ada makes. Another spirit within Ada, Saint Vincent, encourages her to date women and explore her non-binary identity. It is very difficult for Ada to focus in on which ogbanje she should listen to, because they are often swaying her in different directions.

This was a great book about self discovery; it was very well written and thought provoking, and I can not recommend it enough.

– Catherine

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Review// You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

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Author: Sarah Hogle
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Book Length: 368 pages 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

My Review:

What can I say, I’m a sucker for contemporary romance, and this is the perfect book version of a romantic comedy. Also, that cover? Gorgeous! 😍

I loved the tension and playfulness between Naomi and Nicholas and all the silly little games they would play to get on each other’s nerves. It was done in such a way that I didn’t dislike either character, but rather was actually rooting for them to remember why they fell in love in the midst of all their shenanigans. The last quarter of the book was adorable and left me with such a happy feeling when I finished.

If you enjoyed The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, you’ll likely enjoy this too. I can’t wait to read more from Sarah Hogle and to find more contemporary romances like this in general! Lovers to enemies to lovers is definitely my thing 🙌

– Catherine

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Review// Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

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Author: David Mitchell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 14, 2020
Book Length: 608 pages 
Publisher: Sceptre
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means ‘nowhere’ but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book overall; give me a historical fiction about music and I’m always going to be eager to read it.

The author really made me feel as though Dean, Elf, Griff, and Jasper were actual icons in the 60s, and along with all the real celebrity cameos it set the scenes well. However, sometimes, I have to admit that it didn’t seem believable that they would run into that many big names so casually. I don’t know what the music scene was like back then from my own knowledge, so I could be wrong, but the cameos felt a bit too in your face at times. I think the book got off to a really strong and promising start; I especially liked the way the author wrote all the flashbacks, and as the backstories of the main characters were revealed, I began to enjoy the book more and more.

Despite that though, there were a few things I didn’t particularly enjoy. For starters, Jasper’s backstory with the Knock Knock felt too long winded – I began to get a bit annoyed by it, and I didn’t like the magical direction it took because I didn’t think it suited the book at all. I wish Griff got more of a backstory too, because after 600 pages, I still feel like I barely know his character, despite him being one of the main ones. The biggest disappointment for me though was that I really did not enjoy how the book ended. I could tell that so much thought and work went in to writing the beginning and middle parts, but the ending felt unsatisfactory and kind of like a cop out. I do appreciate that it wasn’t predictable, but I don’t think it had a satisfying ending, and it did not leave me longing for the characters and story long after I put it down.

Even though I personally wasn’t a fan of how it ended, I would still recommend this book if you like historical fiction about music and bands. It was well written overall and kept me engaged and eager to see where the story was going to go.

– Catherine

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Review// The Collector by John Fowles

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Author: John Fowles
Series: Standalone
Genre: Classic
Release Date: May 1963
Book Length: 283 pages 
Publisher: Vintage
Review: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time.

My Review:

I went into this expecting a thrilling, twisted, gripping story, because that’s what the synopsis made me believe would come of it, but I guess I’m an outlier with this one because despite the book having a pretty high rating overall, it kind of flat-lined for me.

Fredrick is an entomologist – a butterfly collector. He has been watching and following a beautiful young woman by the name of Miranda around town; he fantasizes and dreams about her, and about one day making her his. That day soon comes, as he wins a large sum of money from a football pool and buys a large house with a cellar in a remote area in order to abduct and keep Miranda. The first and last parts of the book are Fredrick’s account of what happened, and the middle is Miranda’s, taken from the diary she kept while being held in the cellar.

The idea of the plot intrigued me more than the execution of it. Though the climax of the book is pretty obvious, it felt so anticlimactic, partially because I knew it was coming from the beginning, and partially because the book just felt that stale. I wanted so badly to care about Miranda, and maybe my rating would have been higher if I did, but most of the time she didn’t even feel like a believable person with real feelings. In most of her diary entries, she would go on and on about an unrequited love for a professor twice her age, and honestly I just did not care for it.

I do feel like I may be missing something here based on the general consensus that other people seem to have about this book, but unfortunately for me personally, it fell short of my expectations.

– Catherine

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