Book Review: This Is Where I Leave You + Eleanor & Park

September 10, 2014

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Have you ever read a book, loved it, and then had a friend hate it? Or worse, have you ever read a book, loved it, and then read a scathing review that makes you reconsider your basic human intelligence and emotional depth?

It’s like a punch to the stomach. It’s also good to get a little perspective.

The other day I finished a book, loved it, and immediately texted a friend who said, “Are you kidding? That book was a piece of trash! Do you hate women?” Okay, she didn’t actually say that. In fact, all of her critiques were fair, valid, and most importantly–hilarious. It made me rethink the book and my response to it, which is always a good thing.

Like any book hoarder, people are always asking me, “What should I read? What novel mightn’t I order? What can you specifically recommend to me according to my personal reading history and unique taste?”

It is hard to recommended books to people. Everyone has different standards they use to measure a book’s worth, different ways they receive a story. Here are two books I read last week and really enjoyed. Both are simultaneously loved and hated, torn apart and highly praised on Goodreads and Amazon. Of course they have their faults (formulaic plots and flawed characters), but I was entertained, charmed, and most importantly–kept awake by both stories.

At this point in my life, if the book keeps me awake–I consider it a good one.

Have you read these books? Tell me your thoughts (I can take it). Have you ever read a book everyone else despised?

Happy reading.

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1. This Is Where I Leave You

this is where I leave you

If You’re Looking For: Comedy, dysfunction, dark humor, inappropriate giggling

If You Like: Running With Scissors, Death At A Funeral

My Review: This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. There were times I thought, “Well, he obviously wanted this to be a movie…” and “Stop objectifying women, you Hollywood clown!” But I also laughed enough to make me text a half dozen friends and say, “You really need to read this.” Bottom line: The main character (Judd) is a misogynistic juvenile, but the punchlines are worth the read.

Their Review: “The novel is artful and brilliant, filled with colorful narratives and witty dialogue. … [Tropper] can find the funny in any situation.” -Associated Press

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2. Eleanor & Park
Eleanor and Park

If You’re Looking For: Coming-of-age love stories, to feel feelings

If You Like: Age Of Miracles, The Fault In Our StarsWe Were Liars

My Review: This book shot me straight through my sappy, sentimental, young adult fiction heart. I couldn’t get enough of Eleanor’s dry perseverance and Park’s quirky, heartfelt love. Heavy with sadness and light with love, the writing is clean and well presented despite some dark themes. Bottom line: Dynamic characters with a well driven plot makes this teen romance fit for adults too.

Their Review: “I’ve often said that nobody should write for teens who doesn’t remember what it was like to be one. Rainbow Rowell remembers, and has captured it beautifully in this book.” -Some lady on Goodreads

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Up Next

Favorite Books

Raising A Son In A World Full Of Daughters

September 9, 2014

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Edited from the archives. Originally published March 26, 2013.

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For my son

We learned you were a boy on a cold day in February. Your dad hoped for blue, but I longed for a girl in the way girls do when they’ve grown up without brothers, playing dolls instead of trucks and Barbies instead of legos.

When the ultrasound technician showed us your tiny profile, it took exactly ten seconds for my heart to reattach to someone else, a whole different person than who I’d imagined. Not an Elsie or Liesel or Evangeline but a Jack or Tucker or William. A boy.

You, my son, are so lucky. A man in a man’s world. You will be a white, educated, son of a doctor with American parents and your dad’s skinny genes. Congratulations! The tricky part is being a decent human in spite of those things. Do the best you can and remember to be kind.

Assuming you grow up to be a man who loves the ladies, let’s remember a few basic romance tips. For example, remember there is a difference between being assertive and being an asshole. Remember no means no. Remember when you are trying to woo a lady, do not tell her how she feels. Instead: ask, listen, repeat. Also remember to never be the kind of guy who throws punches or puffs out his chest to “defend his territory.” She is not your territory. You’re just a guest who’s been invited to stay until you screw things up.

Ways you can screw things up:

1) Assume she loves all the same things you do (she does not).

2) Assume she only enjoys salads (she does not).

3) Be jealous.

4) Be lazy.

5) Sabotage her self worth with commentary on women’s bodies.

Use your head. Use your best jokes. Men and women are different, yes, but we are also very much the same. We all want to be heard and understood. We all want meaningful relationship and a connection beyond texting and holding hands. We all want someone who sees us as an equal; in the workplace, in the home, in the voting line, and in the bedroom.

Finally, remember that every woman is a daughter. Every tall brunette and petite blonde with nice teeth and tight jeans is someone’s baby girl who has survived childhood and is trying to figure out life and all its beauty and misery, just like you are.

I never pictured myself a mother of boys, but here I am, starting with you. You made me both a mother and a mother of a boy the moment you took your first breath and for that I will always be grateful.

We’re in this together. 

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