Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Seventh Book Review: “The Choice” by Nicholas Sparks

I picked up “The Choice” by Nicholas Sparks because I knew the movie was coming out soon and I must read the book before I see the movie. And really, if there is one thing that Nicholas Sparks is good at, it’s making you really upset with love. And so I dug into the story of Travis and Gabby in order to find out what choice needs to be made and by whom. But that is not something I am going to give away, you’ll have to learn that on your own.

Gabby was a pretty funny character and I found myself relating to her a lot. Her determination when she thinks she is right, her strong beliefs, her parents – there were quite a few similarities. “But she couldn’t deny that family was important to her. That’s the thing about being the product of happily married parents. You grow up thinking the fairy tale is real, and more than that, you think you’re entitled to live it. So far, though, it wasn’t working out as planned.” (The Choice, pg 35). This quote really spoke to me; I’ve definitely been there. I was a little ruined as a kid having grown up with my parents that are super in love, and having watched as much Disney as I do – I really did believe that the fairy tale was a given. I certainly had to kiss my fair share of frogs before finding my own prince. I liked that Gabby had that uncertainty in her life and although she wasn’t unhappy with her life, she knew there was something missing.

Gabby’s solid attitude is part of what throws her off so much when she meets Travis. She very quickly learns that he is carefree almost to a fault, which is so different from her own demeanor. Having lived her life so safely, Gabby was captivated when learning about all the places that Travis has traveled. “But I’m different now than I was then. Just like I was different at the end of the trip than I’d been at the beginning. And I’ll be different tomorrow than I am today. And what that means is that I can never replicate the trip. Even if I went to the same places and met the same people, it wouldn’t be the same. My experience wouldn’t be the same. To me, that’s what traveling should be about. Meeting people, learning to not only appreciate a different culture, but really enjoy it like a local, following whatever impulse strikes you.” (The Choice, pg 102). I liked this quote because I think it gives some insight into Travis as a character. The way that he explains traveling around is so similar to how he behaves day to day. He spends his time really living as much as he can. He travels, he does extreme activities, and really, he does whatever he wants to. That is the carefree attitude that he has, which is part of what Gabby finds so frustrating and refreshing at the same time. It isn’t as simple as falling in love for them, which is part of what made this a good read.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, but not to everyone. It certainly was not Nicholas Spark’s best work. There were plenty of sappy moments as only Nicholas Sparks can write. It was captivating enough that I continually felt drawn to the book until it was over. And yes, I cried. Nicholas Sparks is a jerk and I should know better.

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Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Sixth Book Review: “The Jane Austen Book Club” by Karen Joy Fowler

“The Jane Austen Book Club” by Karen Joy Fowler was a very surprising read. I picked it up because I was looking for something light to cleanse my book palate after an intense read. What I got was in no way a ‘light read’ and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I felt for all the characters that we meet in “The Jane Austen Book Club” and the huge spectrum of issues that we go through with the characters.

“Each of us has a private Austen.” (The Jane Austen Book Club, pg 1). The book immediately sets the tone for how each of the six people in the book club have their own way of enjoying Jane Austen. The group consists of five women and one man and they come together to read and discuss Jane Austen collectively. I was impressed with the diversity of these characters. The story is told from various perspectives with Jocelyn as the main character. It was her idea in the first place to start the book club. She gets several of her friends together that already knew each other, convinces the daughter of her best friend to join, and the only guy in the group – Grigg to form the club. “We’d known Jocelyn long enough to wonder whom Grigg was intended for. Grigg was too young for someone of us, too old for the rest. His inclusion in the club was mystifying.” (The Jane Austen Book Club, pg 3). Although there was some resistance at first to the idea of a man in a book club (and a Jane Austen one at that), Grigg soon becomes a welcome addition to the book club.

I really liked how each character in this novel was so completely different from the next. That was part of what was so intriguing and well done about this book. Fowler takes the time to develop her characters so thoughtfully. The more we learn about each person, the more you understand why that particular Jane Austen book was associated with him or her. It was a whole new way to read – following characters as they read and discuss their favorite books. It is part of why I picked up this book in the first place. I was surprised at how much depth there was.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – I think it would be a great read for anyone. I was thoroughly impressed by Karen Joy Fowler’s writing. I am looking forward to reading more of her works. I also have an overwhelming desire to go read some more Jane Austen, so I might just do that too.

 

Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Fifth Book Review: “Promises to Keep” by Ann Tatlock

“Promises to Keep” by Ann Tatlock was a free eBook I received. It took a little while for me to get around to picking it up and reading it, but the more I read, the more captivated I became. This was a very enjoyable book.

The novel is narrated by Roz, a young girl that is struggling to understand why her mom moved her and her siblings far away from their dad, despite the fact that most of the memories that Roz has of her father are tainted with fear. It was interesting to see how idealistic she could be, despite having been witness to the terror that her father inflicted on her family. She just has a complete blind spot when it came to her father.

After moving to this new town, Roz and her family soon find their home being invaded by a crazy old lady named Tilly. She was an outrageous character that you couldn’t help being fond of from the very beginning. “The strange woman’s profile was framed in the passenger window, and for a moment I almost felt sorry for the old lady who was being hauled back to the home against her will. It seemed a sad way to finish up a life.” (Promises to Keep, pg 15). We learn that Tilly’s husband and herself built the house Roz and family moved into and when Tilly broke her hip, her son sold the house and put her in assisted living. Tilly refuses to accept that she no longer owns the house, and eventually everyone stops fighting against her and just lets Tilly do what she is going to do.

Tilly is a great character. She brought a different perspective into Roz’s life and a wisdom that you only develop after spending a lot of time living. “People look for greatness only in the extraordinary and completely overlook the wonder of the ordinary. That’s why those moments are all forgotten, counted as nothing. It’s a terrible loss.” (Promises to Keep, pg 116). I liked how Ann Tatlock used Tilly to bring up faith. I have my beliefs, but I tend to steer away from books that spout parts of the Bible like a geyser. It just gets to be too much. But Tilly is a character that I very quickly liked, and so when she expressed her thoughts and feelings on faith, it didn’t feel forced – it was just part of who Tilly was, and that is missing from a lot of other books that try to write a story about God. This was a story about a broken family trying to pick up and start again – the people they encounter afterwards are part of the natural flow of the story and Tilly and her faith go hand in hand with that.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that this was a great read. I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially someone with a bit of a crisis on his or her hands. There was something calming about following these characters, and Tilly especially was such a great character. I was very impressed and would definitely pick up more of Ann Tatlock’s work.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Fourth Book Review: “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

The thing about Scarlett O’Hare is that you love to hate her. She is a royal pain, but at the same time she is one of the strongest female characters ever created. She’s mean and she lacks self-awareness – but at the same time she is unstoppable. “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell follows Scarlett in and around the Civil War. Having grown up in the South, she eventually finds herself on the losing side of the war and experiences quite a lot of collateral damage. She loses friends, beaus, slaves, family, property, and all throughout the novel, she picks herself back up and forces everyone around her to get up too. Scarlett refuses to let the war defeat her.

““Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything,” he shouted, his thick, short arms making wide gestures of indignation, “for ‘tis the only thing in this world that lasts, and don’t you be forgetting it! ‘Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for – worth dying for.”” (Gone with the Wind, pg 38/39). I liked this quote for a few reasons, but especially because it demonstrates how passionate Scarlett’s father is about his land. This is an opinion that Scarlett later inherits herself. Gerald O’Hara is a great character and so very different from his wife. The more we learn about Scarlett herself, it is clear that she is more Gerald’s daughter than Ellen’s. Her Irish temper gets her in trouble more than once and she never portrays the quiet dignity that her mother does. But the way that Scarlett finds strength within and carries her burdens and those of family and friends – that is all Ellen.

“Why, she had never had to do a thing for herself in all her life. There had always been someone to do things for her, to look after her, shelter and protect her and spoil her. It was incredible that she could be in such a fix. Not a friend, not a neighbor to help her. There had always been friends, neighbors, the competent hands of willing slaves. And now in this hour of greatest need, there was no one. It was incredible that she could be so completely alone, and frightened, and far from home.” (Gone with the Wind, pg 358). Scarlett was just beginning to learn her strength at this point in the book. Her motto becomes “I’ll think of it tomorrow” when it comes to all the burdens she has to bear, and this dismissal is part of how she copes. In reading “Gone with the Wind” we are privy to the growth and development of Scarlett. The way the she behaves before the war is so strikingly different from how she behaves afterwards. Gone are the pretenses that she once faked. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Scarlett finds strength within herself that was once used to woo as many beaus as she could and instead takes charge to save her family and her land. The real love in this book is the love Scarlett develops for Tara and the strength that Scarlett finds within herself, which make her an amazing character.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely – I think this is a book that everyone would enjoy and more people should read. Not only does “Gone with the Wind” follow Scarlett, who is a great character, but it gives the readers a better understanding of the devastation of war. It’s not something that is often discussed to the extent that it is covered in this novel. It was interesting to read about how completely shattered the South was after the war – and how it continued to be crippled for years and years. Once they were able to rebuild, they still had to fight for their way of life. Just because the war was over, the fighting hadn’t stopped. That’s part of what is so amazing about Scarlett. She never stops fighting. There’s so much that can be said about this book, so many different parts to dissect and analyze, and so much to enjoy. This is a book that is entertaining and educational. It’s a great read and I’ve already convinced my dad to pick it up and he is really enjoying it. Take it from me – read it!

 

Becky’s Two Hundred and Forty-Third Book Review: “Crazy Love” by Emma Keene

“Crazy Love” by Emma Keene was one of the worst books that I have ever read. You know how when you see a car accident that you can’t help but watch as you drive by? There is just an innate curiosity and you find yourself fixated on something that you really shouldn’t? That’s why I kept reading this book.

First of all, when you’re writing a book getting the words out on paper is an important part of the process. Another VERY important part is to have someone else read those words and help you edit out mistakes. If anyone was wondering, there’s = there is. So when you’re talking about multiple things, you should use there’re. Because you wouldn’t say there is ten tables. You would say there are ten tables. Basic grammatical rules – if you don’t know them, you need to have someone who does know them read your work before you publish. That’s just a stupid mistake and it was made over and over again in “Crazy Love”.

But for a really good story, I can overlook those things. The difference being that “Crazy Love” was not a really good story. What makes a really good story? Well to start, you need characters. When you are writing a novel, your characters are the most important part of your story. If no one likes your characters, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that likes the book. People like characters that they can relate to or that they will love to hate or that remind them of someone in their life. So to make a solid character, you need to develop them. This is where Emma Keene failed epically. Her characters were barely one-dimensional. It almost seemed like after writing the first few chapters, Keene decided to go a completely different direction with the book but didn’t want to bother changing the characters to reflect that. For example, in the beginning of the book Amy’s parents appear to be on the rocks with each other, but good parents overall. Then all of a sudden, her mom leaves her dad and her to move to Hollywood with a guy she met. So now Amy’s dad is depressed all the time. Then without any provocation, her dad is suddenly drunk in the hall trying to break into her room, becoming physically violent when he never has been before. I felt like this was something that Keene threw in there for a shock value. She didn’t take the time to build up to anything, it was just all of a sudden Amy’s dad tries to break down her door and do God knows what. Same with her boyfriend. They were on great terms and she calls him after her dad’s scary behavior and he leaves football camp to come get her, arranges for her to stay at his parents house if she wants, and then ultimately helps her pack her bags and move in with him for a few days. Then suddenly, he dumps her and that’s the last you hear from him. It was like instead of having anything naturally occur between her characters, she forced the story along with shock value hoping that no one would notice.

Would I recommend this book? Maybe as an example to aspiring writers on what not to do, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a good book to read. It was awful. I would never pick up anything by this author again. This was one of those situations where the free ebook was totally not worth it. Never again.