Book (and movie) Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Well it took a little longer than expected to see the movie as it was sold out the first time I tried to see it.  Do you know that you have to go online and reserve your seat number now? And at the concessions, they give you an empty soda cup that you fill up at a Coke computer with thousands of flavors? This is too much advanced technology for this Granny. But anyhow….!

I did eventually see the movie and I have to say it faired pretty well all things considered. Usually the movie adaptations of books fail to translate for me, but overall I really enjoyed it. But before we get to the movie let me tell you about the book.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a memoir about the author’s hike (literally) to self-discovery. Consumed by the loss of her mother while she is still in college, Cheryl’s life starts to spiral out of control as she drops out of school, derails her marriage, and starts abusing heroine. It is not until she finds herself having to terminate a pregnancy from a drug induced one night stand, that Cheryl realizes she has reached rock bottom. In a twist of events she then discovers the Pacific Coast Trail, and decides she must “walk herself back to the woman her mother wanted her to be.”

The Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) stretches from Mexico through California, and up into Canada.  Cheryl sets out to conquer 2,600 miles of it. With no hiking experience and no idea of what the trail will bring, Cheryl sets out on the journey of a lifetime.

A story of someone hiking for 2,600 miles could be as long and as dry as the deserts the author passes through. But,  Strayed does a good job of interweaving her hiking adventures with stories of what lead her to the trail. I did feel though that at some points she did repeat herself too much, retelling the same scene more than once. This really only happened in the first few chapters, so if you can get past that small hiccup, the book is very enjoyable. I would give it 4 stars.

The movie stars Reese Witherspoon (how can you go wrong?) as Cheryl. It did a good job of integrating her stories of her past without focusing to heavily on this aspect, allowing the viewer to enjoy the struggles and triumphs of Cheryl hiking the trail. This impressively did not cause the movie to lack the substance that the book had.

Overall both the book and the movie are worth the read and worth the view.

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Book Review: The Way Life Should Be

I finished reading Game of Thrones, but I figured I wouldn’t bore anyone with that review. Great book, but by now everyone but me has seen the show and can kind of get the gist of it; gore, sex, gore, gore, sex. So after that nice dark slice of drama I figure it was best off to read something a bit more lighthearted.

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline follows the life of Angela, a misfit of a character who hasn’t quite found her place in the world, even though she is in her early 30’s. Living in New York and working as an event planner, a career she never intended on to begin with, she longs for the quiet coastal life of Maine. She has never  been to Maine, but she just knows that it must be as idealistically rustic and full of cookie cutter cottages, as the photo she keeps tacked by her desk.

Encouraged by her footloose and fancy free friend, Lindsey, to begin online dating, Angela goes out on a limb and goes in search of her “Maine Catch.” After just one date with the seemingly perfect Richard, Angela is smitten. After things take a turn for the worst at work, Angela risks it all to follow Richard to Mount Desert Island.

The journey that reader’s will follow Angela on is a quirky one, filled with a host of new friends that each are on their own journey. Through cooking classes inspired by Angela’s Italian Nonna, they will all come together to help Angela (and themselves) find a purpose.

While certainly not a Pulitzer Prize winner, The Way Life Should Be is a delightful rom-com for anyone who loves food or New England.  Overall I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Book Reviews!

Before I start another book, I figured it was time to catch up on my reviews of the two books that I recently finished.

The first, is Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand.

In Barefoot, the summer has just begun as Josh watches three women descending from the steps of an airplane on the tarmac at the Nantucket airport. He doesn’t know what it is, but the ever inquisitive Josh, feels like there is a story to be found within these three women. First there is Vicki, the reason the women are all really there in the first place. A young mom of two boys, Vicki has been diagnosed with lung cancer, and this summer she has decided, along with her sister and best friend, to get away from it all (although the kids are in tow!) and try and heal herself, by getting a little Nantucket sand between her toes at her late aunt’s beach house. Brenda, has come along to support her sister, but she is also in need of an escape from some demons of her own. And Melanie, Vicki’s best friend, is finding it hard to focus on her friend as she deals with the emotions of being cheated on by her husband in the midst of finding out she is pregnant.

Josh has no understanding of the tangled web he is entering  when by a strange array of events, he takes on the duty of babysitter to Vicki’s boys for the summer. He quickly realizes that he is not to be disappointed and that there may be more of a story behind these women than he could have even imagined.

The book touches on each individuals’ stories and makes you really feel at times for the problems they face. Parts of the story are slightly overdone and a little cheesy, but that can be expected from a book that screams beach read. However, this is not at all your typical beach read, with characters who are much more developed and in depth than is often associated with the genre.

Overall I am so glad a friend recommended this one to me and I give it 4 stars! I am actually very much looking forward to reading more of Hilderbrand’s books.

 

The second book that I recently finished is Delicious! by Ruth Reichl. Let me just say, the title speaks for itself! This book, though it starts of unassuming and pretty basic, turns into a juicy, flavorful romp of mystery, history, love, and of course food.

Billie Breslin has just moved to New York to be an editor’s assistant at the mecca of food magazine’s, Delicious!. On her own for the first time, Billie starts off nervous and unsure of the big city and her new job, especially when right off the bat, her boss expects her to cook for him. She is also put to the test when she it thrown out on a quest to receive a specific ingredient for the executive food editor. But, both these obstacles are just her initiation into what will become the most memorable experience of not only Billie’s career, but her life.

The adventure does not begin though, until Billie is left behind as the only remaining employee of Delicious!, when the magazine unexpectedly folds. Billie has the Timbers Mansion, the publications defunct headquarters, all to herself as she is kept on to take questions and complaints from readers. In her free time, Billie decides to explore the mansion’s library which was once used to catalog past issues of the magazine as well serve home to a myriad of reference texts and cookbooks, but has been locked up since the late 80’s.  While exploring, Billie comes across a secret that will lead her on a treasure hunt of sorts.

Billie’s hunt to uncover the mysteries of the library, which happen to involve the famous American chef James Beard, will delight you as you flip the pages in dire need to see where the journey will take her. While the book is a work of fiction as clearly stated by the author, it is easy to get lost in the idea that James Beard was actually a part of this grand mystery.

I had not heard of this book until it was sent to me by my mother, but it turned out to be a true gem! I give it 5 stars. A light-hearted read  with just the right amount of suspense, and a dash of food whimsy.

Happy reading everyone!

I am tackling my first Stephen King novel next! Hopefully Mr. Mercedes won’t frighten me too much!

Book Review: Cinder (Book 1of the Lunar Chronicles)

So after reading Hilary Clinton’s Hard Choices, I figured that my brain needed a break and chose to read a YA novel, hoping for something light and easy to read. Cinder by Marissa Meyer was a perfect candidate.  From its description is sounded like nothing more than Cinderella re-imagined as a cyborg. Going off that assumption, I didn’t even think I would enjoy it, but a lot of people around me had been reading it, so I figured I would give it a shot.  To my pleasant surprise, I was proved wrong. This book was much more than expected.

The book takes place in the future, 126 years after the  Fourth World War, in New Beijing.  Linh-Cinder, is  a teenage cyborg (half human, half machine) whose story is that she was adopted by a man while he was traveling through Europe, and whom found her in the wreckage of a terrible accident, saving her life by replacing her maimed human parts with mechanical ones. The man, Garan, has since passed away from a terrible plague that has  been attacking the Commonwealth. Cinder now is the lowly step-daughter of Adri, a bitter and severe woman with two daughters of her own.  Being the lowly step daughter is about the only real similarity to the original Cinderella tale in the book. I mean, there is a prince who takes a liking to Cinder, and there is a royal ball that takes places, but it is not what it seems.

The real story is Cinder trying to find a cure for the plague and also helping the prince overthrow the villainous Moon queen Levana. Along the way Cinder discovers secrets about her past and her importance in the future of the Commonwealth. While some of those secrets begin to be revealed at the end of the book, you are left on cliff hanger, especially when you find out that the next book is about a different set of characters.  You are left wondering how exactly they will all come together, if at all, and what is to become of Cinder after she learns what she must do to save herself and the Commonwealth from Levana.

Overall this book was not what I expected, which was a good thing! I give this book 4 stars, because  is it a timeless work of literary greatness? No, but it is definitely well written with great characters and a surprise ending, making sure you read the rest of the series.

Book Review: The Rosie Project

Professor Don Tillman is the quirky main character in Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. Don has a touch of Asperger’s, making it a bit hard to latch onto his personality and him as a character at first.  If you can get past his initial awkwardness, you will follow him on his journey to find a mate, via an extensive survey he concocts  known as the Wife Project. Due to his poor social skills, Don has never been successful in love or even interacting with women. Hence why he develops the Wife Project, in order to determine if he is even able to love at all.  Don employs the help of his friend Gene to weed through applicants, resulting in Gene throwing in a curve ball that will change Don’s life.

Rosie is not a match at all for the Wife Project.  She is smoker, a semi-vegetarian, and has no belief in schedules or order. However, due to an awkward misunderstanding, Don ends up taking her out to dinner. The pair ends up developing a quirky relationship based around Don helping Rosie find her biological father.

Overall I give The Rosie Project a 3. First, because for many, Professor Tillman is not an easy character to get attached to and may throw  people right from the start. Also I felt that the end of the book was rushed and could have had more detail to it about the characters futures and the results of  the DNA tests leading to the determination of Rosie’s father. But the sweet changes that occur in Don as his relationship with Rosie grows and his social awkwardness begins to fade, save the book and make it a fun read.

Pick my next read!

So I will be reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion next, but after that I have so many great choices lined up that I can’t choose.  So help me pick! Don’t forget there will a book review afterward so  maybe pick the one you want to hear the most about? But, vote however you like! I will read the winner after I finish up the Rosie Project, which of course will have a review as well. Go to it!

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

So some of you may have heard of The Fault in Our Stars because they have started releasing the movie trailer. But before it was an anticipated summer block buster, The Fault in Our Stars was a novel by John Green. And let me confirm that it was a fabulous one at that! While heart-wrenching at times, this book was almost impossible to put down. The book is focused around a teenage girl named Hazel Grace, who happens to be battling cancer. Her parents push her into attending a support group, as her illness has caused her to have to be home-schooled and they want her to be able to interact with other kids. Hazel is angsty towards it, as any teen might be, but the meetings bring her something she wasn’t expecting.

That something is actually a someone. His name is Augustus Waters and he is the most gorgeous boy that Hazel has ever seen. He too has had his own battle with cancer. The pair end up developing a bond unlike any other, finding comfort in each others quirks, especially their eclectic reading choices.

What I think is the best part of this book is that it is not some sappy book that tip toes around the cancer patients and makes you feel bad for them. It is a real life take on the emotions of adolescents who are dealing with pain, disappointment, sickness, love,  and loss.  The book is at times heartbreaking, you will cry. But, it is worth the read. For me it was especially poigent as I have a close friend who is only in her mid-twenties and battling cancer. It helped me kind of get inside her head a bit, because some days as much as I want to be there for her, I just cannot wrap my head around what she is going through.

The book is not all doom and gloom though. It has some laugh out loud moments, and some moments that you wish you could put in your pocket and take with you forever.

Overall the book is absolutely wonderful! A 5 star for sure! I highly recommend reading the book before you see the movie. And have tissues ready!