Book Review: Every Day

A friend recently recommended a book to me with an intriguing premise: Every Day by David Levithan.  And it was every bit as intriguing as I hoped–and then some!

Our narrator, A, wakes up in a different body every day.  And it’s not that their body is changing–they’re entering a different person’s body every day, though always someone their own age, sixteen.  They’re still themselves, but they have control, can access their host’s memories, and generally try to live that person’s life for that day.  A has always been this way, and never known anything different.  There are drawbacks, but they do okay–until they fall in love, and want to have their own life.

Weird, right?  But SO interesting!  I listened to this on audiobook, and pretty much played it every spare minute I could until I got to the end.  I was just totally hooked to find out how A/the author would navigate the next complication to arise, and to see what life A would be visiting the next day.

This was also a very nicely done love story.  I am usually not a fan of instalove romances (they’re a pet peeve, in fact) but this was one of the rare ones that really made it work.  When A meets Rhiannon (while occupying the body of her boyfriend Justin), A is pretty immediately smitten.  But it was such a nice blend of physical attraction, really seeing who she is as a person, and sharing a very meaningful, magical afternoon together, that it worked for me.

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Book Review: London

My book consumption, in terms of quantity, slowed down significantly in March, because I spent weeks reading just one book: London by Edward Rutherford.  1,200 pages of fairly small print, this is pretty much the definition of an epic tour de force.  It was a big undertaking (and I didn’t realize it would be so long until it arrived on the library’s hold shelf!) but it was definitely worth it.

London is historical fiction, with a little more emphasis on the “historical” than I usually like.  It begins, technically, four hundred million years ago with the formation of the Thames river valley.  It begins properly (on page 4) in 54 BC, in the Celtic village of Londinos on the Thames, where word has come of an approaching conqueror: Julius Caesar.  Starting with one family and gradually adding on more, Rutherford traces the history of London and several interlocking family trees down through the centuries.  The last chapter, an epilogue, is set in 1997, the year of the book’s writing, although the last proper story is during the Blitz.  I loved this way of telling a story, of a city and of its people.

It may have helped that I love London–I’ve never lived there, but I’ve visited five times and I miss it when I’m away.  I also enjoy British history, so most of the major developments I had some initial familiarity with.  There was still plenty in here I didn’t know and, more importantly, Rutherford brought it all to life with a beautiful balance of individual lives set against sweeping developments.

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Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Agatha Christie is one of my go-to authors for audiobooks–I’m not sure how that happened, but there it is.  The only downside to audio is that I can’t really flip back and see just what Dame Agatha said early on after a twist emerged, to decide if she lied to me or not.  Reading (listening to) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was particularly interesting because I happened to know the twist of the ending–it turned out to be fascinating to see how she built it all up.  And she definitely withheld information, but she didn’t actually lie!

This is the third Hercule Poirot mystery, the fussy Belgian detective best known (I think) for The Murder on the Orient Express.  In classic Christie fashion, wealthy Roger Ackroyd is found murdered in his study, rendering everyone else in the house a suspect.  Poirot sifts through the web of motives, alibis and deceptions with the help of Dr. Sheppard, our first person narrator for the story.  Everyone has something to hide, and the final twist truly is magnificent.

This was my favorite kind of mystery–an intricate puzzle with piece after piece gradually fitting together until the entire picture makes sense.  There are many layers of narrative here, as most characters have something going on unrelated (but we don’t always know that) to the central murder.

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Book Review: NPCs

I love it when I get a good book recommendation from a friend.  I recently heard about NPCs by Drew Hayes, and was very happy to find to find it every bit as fun as promised.

The books opens with a group of tabletop gamers playing Spells, Swords & Stealth (more or less Dungeons & Dragons).  They promptly make a dumb decision and all four of their characters die in a tavern at the very beginning of their quest.  The story then shifts to the other inhabitants of the tavern–the NPCs, or non-player characters.  Fully-developed people, they have their own lives and concerns.  And a new problem–the four dead adventurers, whose deaths (though accidental) could bring the king’s wrath on their entire village.  Gnome Thistle, half-Orc Grumph and humans Eric and Gabrielle decide the only solution is to take up the adventurer mantle themselves and try to complete the quest.

I love this premise so much.  One of my favorite story angles is to tell the story from the traditionally overlooked characters (as you might be able to tell from my books…)  I love the concept that all those people just passing in the background have lives and personalities just as complex as the people the camera/story happened to be focusing on.  Hayes explores that beautifully without getting too heavy-handed about it.

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Book Review: The Golden Road

I never closed the loop on this one from the January L. M. Montgomery reading challenge.  I reviewed The Story Girl, then went on to reread its sequel, The Golden Road.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the first book…and then got more clarity of my earlier impressions by rereading the second book.

The sequel picks up much where the last book ended, and continues in the same style.  The children of the King family ramble around their family farm and orchard: Dan, Felicity and Cecily, hired boy Peter Craig, neighbor Sara Ray, Toronto cousins Beverly (a boy, despite the name–also the narrator) and Felix, and cousin The Story Girl, so nicknamed because of her telling of stories.

On a surface level this book matches the previous one, but once you scratch said-surface it isn’t really the same after all.  It’s still a lot of light-hearted stories about a group of children in Prince Edward Island, and the stories still centered around Montgomery staples like family gossip, school trials, the local colorful character Peg Bowen (who the children are convinced must be a witch), and the raptures of nature.

Despite all that, I rather think the sequel has been letting its predecessor down.  I’ve always read these books as a unit before, never stopping to analyze them separately, which I think is why I never realized how good The Story Girl is…because The Golden Road doesn’t live up to it.

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Movie Review: When We First Met

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c7/When_We_First_Met.pngI was lately looking for something fun to watch on an afternoon, and decided after browsing Netflix to give When We First Met a chance.  Partially the premise was interesting, but also I wanted to see if I could repeat the magic of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.  And while I think that was a better movie, I was pleasantly impressed by this one too.

A time-travel romantic comedy, I freely admit this premise had the potential to be a little bit skeevy.  Noah has been carrying a torch for his friend Avery for three years, and hits rock bottom at her engagement party to Ethan.  He’s convinced that if he could just go back to the night he and Avery met, a Halloween party where they shared an instant connection, he could get it right this time to start a romance instead of a friendship.  Thanks to a time-travel photo booth, he gets the chance to try, traveling back to that fateful night.  Repeatedly.

There’s a little bit of Groundhog Day here, in that Noah keeps reliving the same night and trying to do something different each time, but with a very cool twist.  After each Halloween party, Noah bounces back to the present, the morning of Avery’s engagement party, and gets to see the effects of the choices he made.  His life (and Avery’s life) becomes radically different each time depending on how that crucial night went.  Not too surprisingly, he makes everything worse the first time.  And the second time.  And…  You get the idea.  I loved seeing the (admittedly slightly exaggerated) effects of his choices as each possibility plays out.

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Book and Movie Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

As part of my goal to read more love stories in 2019, I decided to give To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han a chance.  I really enjoyed the movie version, so I figured it was worth trying the book–even though I wasn’t really a fan of The Summer I Turned Pretty, also by Jenny Han.  Well.  It turned out this was one of the rare times when the movie really was better than the book.

The fundamental premise of both the book and the movie is slightly absurd–teenager Lara Jean writes love letters to her crushes, not to send them, but just to put her feelings into words.  She writes them, addresses them, and then puts them away to save.  But then her letters get mailed by mistake–including the one to Josh, her sister’s (very recently) ex-boyfriend.  In a panic to hide her feelings for Josh, Lara Jean tries to convince him that she’s really in love with Peter, one of her other letter recipients.  Peter just broke up with his long-time girlfriend, and suggests that he and Lara Jean pretend to date, to make his ex jealous and to throw Josh off the track.

Like I said, it’s kind of absurd, but worth going along with.  At least in the movie, which had a lot I liked.  It’s a cute, funny teenage romantic comedy, with a silly premise but believable and likable characters.  I like that it has a lot of diversity–Lara Jean and her two sisters are biracial, Korean and Caucasian; besides their parents’ interracial relationship, none of the guys she crushes on are Asian.  Mostly white, one is African-American (and gay).  But what I liked best was that Lara Jean used her words, a lot.

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