Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Thoughts: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

My grandfather, whom I lived with along with my grandmother, fell ill when I was around 10-years-old and remained in a wheelchair until he passed away when I was 19-years-old. My grandfather was a quadriplegic.

I can remember days missed from school helping my grandmother take him to doctor's appointments, helping to feed him, reading to him, emptying catheter bags, etc. These things never seemed out of the ordinary for me to do, but there were always those moments of self-consciousness. Not because I was embarrassed of my grandfather. Never! It came from the fact that there was always that sorrow or pity in the eyes of others. That is absolutely something that my grandfather did not want. It was such a relief to bring home my husband to meet my grandfather (while he was still my boyfriend) and have him look my grandfather in the eye, man-to-man, and to shake the hand my grandfather offered where most people were unsure or felt awkward with the gesture.

As someone who has perspective, this book was quite the emotional journey for me. Readers meet Louisa "Lou" Clark, a 26-year-old cafe worker living at home with her parents, her disabled grandfather, her younger sister, and her younger sister's son. Her life takes a sudden change when the cafe closes, and after a series of odd jobs, she becomes the companion to Will Traynor. Will is a former business executive and adrenaline junkie who becomes a quadriplegic after a tragic accident. He's hard to get along with and has allowed his bitterness toward his situation to fester over a course of years. They're an unlikely duo who goes from tolerating one another to forming a solid bond.

If Will is a quadriplegic, what about the romance? I see you asking it. I've seen some people say this book is misleading because it is not what they'd consider a romance. On one hand, I say, that is an unfair and limited view of what a romance can be. Romance is not limited to people able to express physical desire toward one another and that thinking precludes that romance can include romantic partners who may not have sex because one, or both partners, may not be interested in sex for whatever reason and romantic/passionate friendships, which are (usually) non-sexual, and includes friendships of all gender makeups.

On the other hand, I concede that romance is largely defined by an individual's feelings and intentions toward another person. Where one person may see it as romantic, the other personal may not feel the same. It doesn't necessarily mean that one person may be more invested in the relationship just that their ideas of romance differ from the other person's. With this book, I think both the romantic and aromantic POVs regarding this book are valid, but I feel like some dismiss the romantic possibility in this story because their ideas of romance are bound tightly to a "sexual" aspect, that there can be no intimacy outside of what many consider the "typical" romance. I even feel like the book challenges this idea by having a character say that Lou and Will's relationship is false intimacy, that it's "not real." It denies intimacy to people because they don't fit society's standards of who should receive it. Personally, I do see a romantic aspect to Lou and Will's friendship, and there is even some attraction there between both of them. I wouldn't say this is a romance book as the romance genre would typically define it, but there is a romantic aspect to this, in my humblest of opinions.

The story is largely told from Lou's view, but there were singular chapters told from the POV of Will and other people in his life, which are voice by different narrators. This is an instance where these outside POVs were not needed outside of Will's. I really didn't need a justification from people like Will's parents and felt the book performed fine without that filler. My biggest peeve with this book is I didn't like the minimizing of Lou's feelings. Lou doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, so characters spend a great deal of time trying to decide for her, telling her that interests aren't good enough. She's often ridiculed by those who love her most in a way that can feel emotionally abusive. I think, much of it was supposed to be funny, but there's little funny about Lou having to endure name-calling and negativity that can hurt the most coming from the people you love. I hated that Lou never really did stand up for herself. She was usually cowed into agreeing with whatever was being thrown at her. She had her moments, but she was mostly resigned to take the ridicule in relative silence and acceptance.

This book is heartwarming, funny, and touching. It also poses ethical questions in regards to the disabled and their wishes concerning their own life. Many things Louisa experienced as a caregiver, I could picture a corresponding moment in my own life. I could nod knowingly at many of the triumphs and frustrations that this book presented. Even to this day, it's hard not to get choked up about all the good and bad times. Believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to seeing how this one is presented on the big screen.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Thoughts: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Mackenzies & McBrides, #1)The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Prior to listening to this book, I hadn't read a historical romance in quite some time. I think it's safe to say that it's probably been a few years. It's a little harder for me to get into historical romance than some other romance genres, but sometimes, I get the itch to read one. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie introduces us to the MacKenzie clan, a group of Scottish brothers who are the scandal of London. In London, Ian meets and subsequently begins having an liaison with the widowed Beth Ackerley after warning her away from a dubious suitor. Surrounding their affair is a bit of mystery as an inspector begins hounding them due to the death of a woman with connections to the "mad" brother, Ian MacKenzie, who has spent some time in an asylum. Despite their status and wealth, the brothers grew up with an overbearing, abusive father. We get to dip into some of Ian's torment at the hands of his father and again at the asylum he was confined to and see how these events have shaped him as a person.

I liked both Beth and Ian. Beth was warm, funny, and assertive when she needed to be. I appreciated that she wasn't an 18-year-old virgin, but a woman who'd been with a man, enjoyed sex, and while she had decorum, she eschewed convention for happiness. Ian obviously had Asperger's, which would be seen as defiance and madness in 1881. Ashley was consistent in his actions. His "eccentricities" weren't just conveniences needed for certain scenes and then forgotten. The decision to write Ian on the autism spectrum is probably something you'll never see in a historical romance again. Be warned. This is a fairly steamy book. You're not going to find as much bawdy language in the descriptions as books that take place in modern erotica, but it manages to slip in a few laugh-worthy words and phrases that had me shaking my head a bit. This book doesn't overwhelm you with sex on every page, so it's easy enough to skip over if you don't enjoy reading explicit sex.

A couple of things I wanted to point out that hindered my reading experience a little. Beth flip-flopped between believing Ian's sincerity and questioning it at the strangest times, which was a little odd because she seemed to maintain that she believed him to be a man of his word. I guess she was supposed to be put-off some because Ian wouldn't meet her gaze or always pay attention to what she was saying (all due to his being on the autism spectrum), but Ian was straightforward about his intentions and never wavered in what he wanted from her. Also, even though there's a hint of mystery, this doesn't overtake the romance portion of the story. It's not supposed to, but what I mean is that, despite the fact that Ian stands accused of murder by an inspector, there's not really much official about the investigation. The accusations come from an investigator who has a personal vendetta against the family and uses his own time to "investigate" the matter.

Angela Dawe narrated this story, and this was the first time I've listened to anything by her. She did an admirable enough job even with a few production hiccups in the story, such as sometimes not changing her voice until she caught herself mid-dialogue for the male characters. Overall, I enjoyed the story for what it was, and of course, it ends with happily ever after because of course it does. I don't know if I want to continue reading more about the MacKenzie clan, but I think this has scratched my historical romance itch for a while. When the urge pops up again, I'll certainly consider these books to sate that need.

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This blog is a mishmash of thoughts, pictures, and rantings among other things about games I've played, games I will play, and games I am currently playing. From time to time, I may post book reviews that I've written that are about different games and/or game worlds. Feel free to recommend games or add me on the platforms I've listed. I don't do competitive multiplayer much anymore, but I'm always down for some co-op these days. I'm usually DigitalTempest everywhere unless otherwise specified.

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2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Tiara has read 6 books toward her goal of 52 books.
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Tiara's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Elfstones Of Shannara
tagged: upcoming-reads, currently-reading, 2016-audiobook-challenge, classi...
Gardens of the Moon
tagged: currently-reading, fantasy, z-narrator-ralph-lister, 2016-audiobook...

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Tiara's bookshelf: read

Deceived
really liked it
Review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge and 2016-audiobook-challenge
The Girl from the Well
liked it
More reviews @ The Bibliosanctum TL;DR Review 2.5 to 3 stars. Not badly written… I’m just disappointed by the squandered potential. I’m going to reread Anna Dressed in Blood to make myself feel better about this Longer Review: T...
tagged: 2016-women-of-genre-fiction-reading, horror, and young-adult
Thirteen Reasons Why
I don't think this quite captures the complexity of bullying and suicide, and some of the issues that Hannah started facing toward the end of the novel really seemed to detract even more from the feelings she was going through by having ...
tagged: young-adult, popsugar-2016-reading-challenge, 2016-audiobook-challe...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
liked it
Spoiler free review to come.
tagged: 2016-star-wars-reading-challenge
The Phantom of the Opera
really liked it
tagged: classic-horror, classics, audiobook, 2016-audiobook-challenge, horr...

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