An Exaltation of Larks: A 2016 must read.

an-exaltation-of-larksAn Exaltation of Larks is both all-consuming and surprising.  After reading the description of this book, I was all in.  A multi-generational story of an immigrant and his journey to the United States, along with a love story–this book had all the makings of something epic.  Alejandro, a native of Chile, finds himself fleeing to the US parentless to live with his uncle.  Befriending another family, Alejandro is eventually taken in by another family, the Larks where he then falls in love with one of their daughters.  The build up to their relationship and the subsequent story building afterward is unlike any book that I have ever read before.  Simultaneously, you are also introduced to another character, Javier, whose story unfolds throughout the book.

This book is long…550 pages of exquisite character development.  I loved that this book was so long.  Once you start reading it, you don’t want it to end.  At the same time, with the multitude of characters that are introduced and developed, you will often find yourself asking how is this book going to end and how are these characters related.  It’s not often that I find myself surprised of shocked by books, however, this one is right up there. Suanne Laqueur’s details and plot planning throughout this book is something to be admired.  The details, many of which you may not pick up on (if you’re like me) won’t reveal themselves as important until much later in the book causing you to have many “aha” moments and appreciation for the author’s craftiness.  Although many books have these details, it’s not often that authors are able to do without being hokey or cute.

Another thing that I loved about this book was that many of the relationships the characters have are very unconventional.  It was refreshing to read something new that challenged the way I previously viewed relationships.  This book, although very, very different, was reminiscent of All The Ugly and Wonderful Things—both in content as well as my love for the writing.  I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone but I will leave you with this: behind All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, this was the second best book that I read this year.  An Exaltation of Larks will make you want to find someone else who has read the book so that you can discuss it.  Any takers?


The Glass Castle: Read it now

the-glass-castleAfter reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I was strongly reminded of Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle.  Not being one to usually read memoirs, The Glass Castle is a magnificent read.  Much like Wavy in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Jeannette Walls was also born with very eccentric parents who left a lot to be desired in terms of parenting.  Both grew up in extreme poverty and both became care takers of their younger siblings.  However, unlike Wavy, Jeannette’s childhood (and adulthood) was very much real.

Jeannette was one of four children born to Rose Mary and Rex Walls.  Although her mother was college educated and a teacher, she didn’t see value in working and instead preferred to focus on being an artist and a writer.  Her father, although extremely intelligent, worked odd jobs as an electrician or handyman and full time as an alcoholic.  Their family would often move around from place to place as her father lost a job or the land-lord kicked them out due to non-payment.  Jeanette’s eccentric parents would often frame their moves as “adventures”.

“How many places have we lived?” I asked Lori.

“That depends on what you mean by ‘lived,’” she said.  “If you spend one night in some town, did you live there? What about two nights? Or a whole week?”

I thought.  “If you unpack all your things,” I said.

We counted eleven places we lived, then we lost track. We couldn’t remember the names of some of the towns or what the houses we had lived in looked like.

Jeannette’s parents were so frivolous with what money they did have when they had it that the children often went without basic necessities.

A little while after we’d moved into the depot, we heard Mom and Dad talking about buying us kids real beds, and we said they shouldn’t do it.  We liked our boxes.  They made going to bed seem like an adventure.  Shortly after we moved into the depot, Mom decided that what we really needed was a piano.

Jeanette’s parents had an uncanny ability to treat life as an adventure and explain away basic needs –not for the sake of the children, as some parents might do to cover up the lack of basic necessities and circumstances of poverty, but because that’s how they chose to live their life.

The nurse declared her severely shortsighted and sent Mom a note saying she needed glasses.

“Nosiree,” Mom said. She didn’t approve of glasses.  If you had weak eyes, Mom believed, they needed exercise to get strong. The way she saw it, glasses were like crutches.

Jeanette’s parents didn’t stop at their lack of providing basic needs such as shelter and food, but also protection.  In one particular house that they lived in, Jeanette and her siblings would often encounter creepy characters that would look at children as victims.  Their house, in particular, was a haven for vagrants as it looked like an abandon house.  Because of the lack of air conditioning, her parents would leave the front door of the house unlocked.  One night, Jeanette awoke to a stranger running his hands over her private parts.   The next day, after telling her Dad (who was out drunk the night of), Jeanette, her brother, and her Dad “went out on a serious Pervert Hunt.”

Our blood up, we searched the streets for hours, but we never did find the guy.  I asked Mom and Dad if we should close the doors and windows when we went to sleep.  They wouldn’t even consider it.  We needed the fresh air, they said and it was essential that we refuse to surrender to fear.


Like All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Glass Castle is chock full of examples of people who have

Cast of The Glass Castle on set.

Cast of The Glass Castle on set.

failed Jeanette.  And like Wavy in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, somehow, Jeannette is able to preserve.  Her journey is amazing, inspiring, and unbelievable.  If you enjoyed reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, you will most certainly love The Glass Castle, but read it quickly! The Glass Castle has been adapted to a movie which will release in 2017 (date to be determined) starring Brie Larson as Jeannette Walls, Woody Harrelson as Rex, and Naomi Campbell as Rose Mary.

**If you love The Glass Castle, don’t miss out on Jeannette Walls true-life novel about her grandmother, Half-Broke Horses.**


All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: Best Book of the Year

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things was probably one of the most difficult books that I have read since Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle.  Like Wall’s memoir, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things explores the ugly side of poverty and child abuse.  This book was powerful, gritty, raw, disturbing, and moving all at the same time.  There were several points throughout this book where I took a break–not sure if I could stomach what I reading, points where I stopped to think about whether or not it was even ethical for me to continue reading, and many points where I couldn’t put this book down.

I was pleasantly surprised and a little dismayed at the misleading book description.  After reading the description, I thought I was in for reading about a forbidden romance between a young girl and her father’s drug runner.  This book is so much more than that.  From the first chapter, you know that this book is unlike anything else.  As the story unfolds, we meet Wavonna, or Wavy, the daughter of a drug dealer and a mother with severe psychological issues.  Their neglect and abuse leaves Wavy to fend for herself and her little brother until she finds an ally in a man that she rescues in a motorcycle accident.

Told through a multitude of view points throughout the book of people involved in Wavy’s life, Greenwood masterfully unfolds a multi-layered story that makes you think.  One of the most surprising things about this book was the depth of story building and the time span of the novel.  I loved that this book took the reader on a journey from Wavy at eight years old to a young woman of twenty-twoof.  This book encompasses many of the ugly and wonderful things in life, the journey and perseverance that it takes to get to it, and the fact that love takes many shapes and forms.  This book will make you uncomfortable but I believe that the author’s ability to shed light on this uncomfortable subject in such an endearing way makes this worth the read.  All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is one of the best books of the year.


It Ends With Us: A book you don’t want to end

It Ends With UsI’ve always found that the best books are the ones that make you think and spur the need to talk about it such as JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You.  Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us is one of those rare books that will stay with you for days, weeks, and months after reading.  I think Hoover is an amazing writer and I always look forward to her books.  The first novel that I read of hers was Hopeless.  It was one of the first books that I had read in a long time from the Young Adult genre and it could have just as easily been found on an adult reading list.  Her most recent new release prior to It Ends With Us, November 9, also did not disappoint.  With eager anticipation of her latest release, I began to see social media hype calling this her best book.  While following her on Facebook and Instagram (follow us here), Hoover stated that this book was the most difficult book to write in her entire career because of how personal it was.  Everywhere you looked sang praises for the book but they all said the same thing—go in blind.

How do you go into a book blind?  Don’t read the summary? Avoid reviews? That is just what I did.  With promises of an amazing book, I began reading with knowing little about the premise of the book nor did I read any of the advanced reviews.  First, what an amazing testament to Hoover’s fan base that she was able to heavily promote this book without giving anything about the book away.  Secondly, I’m so glad that I listened to the warning about going in blind.  I’m not sure that I would have loved this book as much as I did if I’d known anything about the characters or the plot.  With that being said, I want you to have the same experience.  I know, I know—how do you give a book a glowing recommendation without telling the readers anything about it?It Ends With Us Heart

What I can tell you is that this book is based on a romance which you find out from the first chapter.  I can tell you that you will fall in love with the characters.  I can tell you that you will want to simultaneously devour and savor every chapter of this book.  You will feel the need to consume it all at once while at the same time needing to take a break because you aren’t sure if you’re ready to find out what happens.  Yes there is angst, but let me tell you, this transcends the typical angst you might find in a typical Hoover book.  This angst is something that you will learn from and it will make you question your beliefs.  It will make you a more understanding human being and create a new understanding that you didn’t’ know you needed.  It will also make you want to share this book with those that you love.  And after all, what more could you ask for in a book?


The ONE Recommendation for Everyone


If you could only recommend ONE book, what would it be?

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, is THE best book that I’ve read in the past two years.  I recommend this to everyone that I have a book conversation with because it is that good.  It sticks with you. Two years later, this book STILL weighs heavy on my heart. Even more, this book makes you think.


I initially saw this book pop up on the best seller’s list month after month.  I read the synopsis and was ultimately put off by the subject matter–one of the main characters is a quadriplegic.  I didn’t think I could stomach the subject matter.  However, a few months later, desperate for something to read, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  This is one of those books that has you quickly asking yourself why you waited so long to read this.


The book will make you laugh.  And cry.  And cry some more, but it is so worth it!  It’s a moving novel that will stay with for years to come and make you reconsider the life that we are given, how we choose to live it, and how we choose to end it.   Me Before You is also being made into a movie that is due out June 2016 starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.  I don’t see how the movie can live up to the depth of this book but I am anxious too see!  This is a definite must read before it hits theaters.After You


Don’t miss the sequel, After You, which is being released September 29th!


Synopsis:  They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

 If you could recommend only one book to someone, what would it be?

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