Book Review: Paper Towns

s3jKcKqzhoj1r2la6h8YuZ6Ko1_400Paper Towns

John Green

Audiobook

8 hours

Let me start off by saying I really loathe this cover.  On its own, it is fine, but when I realize it is supposed to be Margo Roth Spiegelman, I’m not a happy camper.  That is not how I picture her in my head AT ALL.  So I prefer the cover with the map and the pushpin on it.  But anyway . . .

Paper Towns is the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen.  Q is part of the nerdier crowd.  He used to, as a child, play with his neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman, but she has moved onto the more popular crowd so Q must watch her from afar.  Until one night a few weeks prior to their high school graduation.  Margo has discovered that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with her best friend.  Not only that–she believes that her other best friend, Lacey, has been in on the secret and purposely keeping it from Margo.  So Margo decides to seek revenge.

Margo shows up at Q’s window one night in full black face paint and requests that Q escort her on her revenge mission.  Q aquiesces and the two spend a long night playing over the top pranks as well as breaking into Sea World.  Q wakes up the next morning itching to get to school so he can see Margo, but she never shows.  Turns out she’s gone.  Q is convinced she’s left clues for him so he tirelessly tries to discover her whereabouts.

The synopsis above probably sounds trite.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t convey it in the way I wanted to, because this book is anything but trite.  It is one of the most thought provoking YA novels I’ve ever read–in fact, I would say it read more like an adult novel.  From the start of her disappearance, Margo is an enigma.  We get all these glimpses of her from different people–her parents, Q, Lacey . . . and all seem vastly different.  The reader really starts to question the idea of perception.  The way I see myself may not be how she sees me or he sees me, etc. etc.  This idea is really driven home during the end of the book.  Unfortunately, by that time, I was admitedly getting a little annoyed with the book.  The first few chapters, with agloe164-highlight-300x269Q and Margo on there one night adventure was stunning–some of the best fiction I have read all year.  But then Margo disappears.  And Q starts looking for her.  And you think he’s discovered her.  And then he hasn’t.  But then maybe he has.  But he hasn’t.  The whole thing became very repetative to me and I ended up getting bored with the story.

There is, however, a lot to be gained by listening to the book on audio.  Margo is awesome.  I fell in love with her right away.  The narrator was a man, but he was able to convey Margo’s voice in a way that worked well for me and I loved listening to his rendition of her.  Radar and Ben, Q’s two best friends, really shone through as well on the narration.  They added a comic element that really spiced things up.

As much as I loved Margo at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t too sure about those feelings by the time the book ended.  Did I like her or did I not?  And if I didn’t like her, was that really any fault of her own?  Or was it because she didn’t live up to my expectations?  It was almost as if I myself became a character in the book.  I felt like I had invested almost as much as the others had in their search for her.

I haven’t read Green’s other books yet, although I plan to.  I’ll be interested to see how they compare to Paper Towns.

Other reviews:

Fizzy Thoughts

Teen Book Review

Things Mean a Lot

Book Addiction

Young Adult (and Kids) Books Central Blog

Liv’s Book Reviews

Look at That Book

Becky’s Book Review

Dreadlock Girl

Em’s Bookshelf

Just Listen Book Reviews

The Book Pirate

il primo

YAnnabe

Au Courant

Confessions of a Bibliovore

Casual Dread

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

YA Reads

Random Thoughts From a Random Teen

Reader Rabbit

Regular Rumination

Book-Lover Carol

And Another Book Read

Harmony Book Reviews

Bookshelves of Doom

Book Review: Magical Thinking

magical-thinking-true-stories

Magical Thing: True Stories

Augusten Burroughs

MacMillan Audio

8 hours

Apparently Augusten Burroughs and I are very similar to one another.  We both like dogs.  We both have TMJ.  And we both sleep eat.

Sleep eating is a condition where you wake up in the middle of the night to eat.  Sometimes you’re not even conscious.  What’s more, Augusten and I even have the same sleep eating snack of choice—M&Ms. Now I will admit my sleep eating habit has improved over the past few years, but if you entered my apartment five years ago, you most assuredly would have discovered peanut M&Ms in my refrigerator.  The bad thing about sleep eating is you may not even my able to control it—sometimes you wake up in the morning with M&Ms melted in your palm and no recollection of how they got there.  So hearing about Augusten’s sleep eating in Magical Thinking really hit home for me.

Magical Thinking is Burroughs’ first collection of personal essay which was published a few years ago and followed by the essay collection Possible Side Effects, which I have also read.  In fact, I have read everything published by Burroughs with the exception of A Wolf at the Table and his new book You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas, both of which I hope to read in the near future.  I decided to listen to Magical Thinking on audiobook rather than read it, which I haven’t done with any of Burroughs’ other books.  This was an excellent choice for two reasons.  One, because Burroughs’ read the book himself, which is always a treat and lent more hilarity to the stories being told.  Secondly, there was an interview at the end.  Now, I will say I wish the questions had been more probing—I wanted some dirt!!  Especially when it comes to all the wonderfully outrageous circumstances in Running with Scissors.  Alas, the interview only mentioned RwS, along with Sellevision and, of course, Magical Thinking.  Mostly it was word associations and an in-depth look at Nicorette gum, which was fascinating.  He goes through an insane amount of Nicorette gum a week!

There were a few stories in Magical Thinking that rose above the rest.  One was “The Rat Thing’.  If you are sensitive towards animals at all, you may want to skip this chapter, or at least 6a00d8341c730253ef00e5520f114f8833-640withe ending.  It was hard for me to listen to, quite honestly, but I could empathize so much with the situation that I was also laughing insanely as I listened.  Like me, Augusten has to wake during the night a few times to pee (see—I told you! The similarities abound!).  So in his sleepy stupor, he’s relieving himself when he discovers a huge rat in his bathtub, trying mightily to escape.  I can only imagine how I would react in the same situation.  I am sure it would probably involve tears, to tell you the truth.  So Augusten spends the next few hours (yes, HOURS) attempting to get the “rat thing” out of the tub.  He finally succeeds, much to the detriment of the “rat thing”, which is now discovered to be a small mouse.  Later on, this is one of the few stories in the book Burroughs’ goes into detail about in his interview.  He ended up feeling guilty in how he treated the “rat thing”, which made me feel a bit better about the ending.

The only stories I didn’t enjoy as much were the ones about Dennis, the boyfriend.  They just didn’t include the same level of hilarity that is achieved in the other stories.  They display a bit of sappiness.  Ok, you love Dennis, I get it.  Now on to the funny stuff!  But maybe some readers need a break from all the craziness that is Augusten Burroughs.  The Dennis stories give you some breathing time.

In closing, I just want to say that if you have yet to read anything by Augusten Burroughs, you must.  I would recommend starting with Running with Scissors.  Such a great, unbelievable book.

Other Reviews:

Book Nook Club

Bibliolatry

Bookphilia

Library Loot

library-lootLibrary loot is a weekly meme hosted by Eva over at A Striped Armchair and Marg at Reading Adventures.

My boyfriend was nice enough to run to the library for me–I had The Graveyard Book audiobook on hold.

graveyard-book

He also picked me up two books that I decided on at the last minute.

Goldengrove-PBKnifeNeverLettingGo_82764s

Goldengrove, by Francine Prose

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

I’ve been noticing both of these books around the blogosphere a lot recently and they both look good.

What did you get from the library this week?

Book Review: Love the One You’re With

400000000000000085460_s4Love the One You’re With

Emily Giffin

Audiobook

Playing time: 11 hours

I’m not exactly sure what inspired me to pick up Love the One You’re With, by Emily Giffin.  Don’t get me wrong, I used to have quite a penchant for “chick lit” back when I was in high school and during my first years at college.  However, I eventually grew tired of the formulaic plots and sickenly sweet love stories.  I haven’t picked up any chick lit in years, but I decided to go for Love the One You’re With when I was choosing audiobooks to try out.  I’m new to the whole concept of listening to books, and I was thinking that, with my attention span, perhaps I should pick books that are easy to follow along with, at least in the beginning.  I think maybe I sold myself short!  Anyway, I loved Something Borrowed as well as Something Blue, so I figured if I was going to read chick lit, Giffin would be a good choice.

The whole idea of the book is “the grass is always greener” syndrome.  Ellen Graham is a newlywed married to Andy, the brother of her best friend and college roommate Margot.  Andy seems to be somewhat vanilla.  He and Margot grew up with silver spoons in their mouths and are part of the country clubbing, debutanate attending crowd from Atlanta, Georgia.  Meanwhile, Ellen was raised in Pittsburgh in a middle-class, hardworking family.  She has a hard time fitting in with the Graham’s crowd and adapting to her new lifestyle.

Ellen and Andy are living in New York City when Ellen runs into her ex, Leo, on the street one random afternoon.  Up until that point, Ellen thought she had a wonderful marriage, but suddenly she feels stuck in a passionless relationship with her husband.  She and Leo ended things abruptly and Ellen starts to wonder what if?  Maybe Leo is her true love and she made a grave mistake in marrying Andy.  Ellen and Leo begin to meet up sporadically under the guise of working together (Ellen is a photographer and Leo a journalist) and Ellen must decide Emily Giffinwhether to stay in a boring marriage or risk losing everything to be with Leo.

To make everything even more tense, Ellen can’t even confide in her best friend, since Margot also happens to be Andy’s sister.  Speaking of which, Margot was probably my favorite character in the entire book.  She was affable and endearing, and I don’t think Ellen gave her enough credit.  As for the other characters, I found them to be boring and lackluster, even the character of Leo, who seemed to be the stereotypical “bad boy”.  Ellen especially grated on my nerves.  This wasn’t helped by the narrator, whose voice was so sugary smooth I could hardly stand it.

As for the ending, I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to turn out.  Did I want Ellen to be with Leo?  Or should she realize what a mistake she was making and patch things up with Andy?  I won’t spoil it, for those of you who plan on reading this book in the future, but I will say that I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the ending and by the time I got there, I was ready for the book to be over.

So I guess it would be safe to say that I’m still not a fan of chick lit.  But, for those of you who are, I would recommend Giffin’s books Something Borrowed and Something Blue over this one.

For other reviews, read the following:

Dear Author (this review includes a hidden spoiler at the end for those of you who want to know who Ellen ended up with)

A Novel Menagerie

Book Hangover

The Luscious Literary Muse

Me, My Book, and the Couch

S Krishna’s Books

Book Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin2We Need to Talk About Kevin

by Lionel Shriver

Audiobook (17.75 hours)

If you’re looking for a completely shattering, gut wrenching read, look no further than We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver.  It is one of the most hideously real books I have read in months–possibly years.

The premise immediately sparked my interest.  School shootings have become almost passe here in the US, but two of the biggest victims of these tragedies are the parents.  Not only have they lost a child as well, but oftentimes they are shrouded in stigma and unable to grieve in a conventional way.

We Need to Talk About Kevin is told from the viewpoint of Eva Katchadourian, mother of protagonist and crazed killer Kevin Katchadourian, aka KK.  The format is epistolary, with the recipient being Eva’s husban (and Kevin’s father) Franklin Plaskett.  It is almost two years after the fact and Eva is desperately alone; Kevin is imprisoned in a juvenile facility and Franklin has gone, along with their daughter Celia.  Eva starts off her letters to Franklin rehashing the years before Kevin’s birth.  She then proceeds to outline Kevin’s childhood an adolescence.  Kevin is a diffucilt child to love, and Eva has had trouble empathizing with him from the start.  Kevin grows from an angry boy to an angry young man, eventually taking out his fury on his peers in April 1999.

Eva and Franklin had the ideal marriage before Kevin was born, but right from the start Eva is unable to bond with her son, an issue that drives a wedge between her and her husband.  Franklin is disgusted with the lack of maternal feelings Eva has for Kevin, as is Eva.  She expects to fall in love with her son the first time she holds him, but instead the moment is anticlimactic.  If there was ever a book that caused me great worry about the possibility of impending motherhood, it was this.  Kevin acted like a hellion throughout his childhood and seemed very hateful.  How much of that was Kevin’s behavior and how much was Eva’s preception I was never able to figure out, but regardless of it’s source, the chasm between Kevin and Eva continued to grow throughout the book.

With Kevin’s behavior, it was difficult to tell if he was the product of nature or nurture.  Was he so hateful because his lionel_shrivermother felt towards him the way she did?  Or was he born an angry person, thus evoking his mother’s reaction.  Again, I wasn’t able to figure out one way or another why Kevin was the way he was.  No matter what the answer is, it’s still disheartening, either because there are actually people born infused with such rage or because lack of maternal love turned Kevin into the boy he was.

This book was my first audiobook and although it started off a little slow, I eventually came to love this book, and I think listening to it added to the experience rather than detracted from it.  I was not a fan of the narrator at first.  She seemed so coarse and unbelievable because I expected someone bereft and emotional.  I had to fight through my instincts at first and as the story wne ton, I realized I had interpreted Eva wrong right off the bat.  While empathetic, she was a little rough around the edges, which the narrator captured perfectly.

The audio version of the book contained a lengthy interview with Lionel Shriver at the ending, which was perfect.  Hearing her explanation of the novel tied up some loose ends for me and gave me a better understanding of the characters.  Anyone who has read this book can tell you that there are circumstances in the book that are quite shocking, and Shriver helps to soften those blows.

Overall, I would recommend this book time and time again.  It would be an excellent book club choice, although a bit lengthy.  If you’re looking for a novel that will leave you felling as though you’ve been punched in the gut, We Need to Talk About Kevin will do just that.

Other reviews:

Book Addiction

Books on the Brain

The Magic Lasso

My Cozy Book Nook

Presenting Lenore

Farm Lane Books Blog

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