favorite book friday

Favorite Book Friday: Valerie from Indecisively Restless

favorite book friday

Hey everyone! Another week has come, and another Friday! This one brings you Valerie, who blogs over at Indecisively Restless! This recommendation in particular is one that I’m VERY excited to share because I love this series, too! It’s one that I started reading a long, long time ago and need to read again. It’s great!

But don’t take my word for it–take hers!

Without further ado, here’s Valerie!

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Hi Caught Between the Pages readers! I’m Valerie from Indecisively Restless. Books have always been a huge part of my life so I’m more than excited to be here today talking about one of my favorites:

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty.

Sloppy Firsts is the first in a five-part series about Jessica Darling. Jessica is a junior in high school when her best friend Hope moves away. Since then Jessica has become an insomniac. Hoping that journaling will lull her to sleep, Jessica recounts her worries, pains, and hilarious observations that occur throughout the day. We’re privy to the most inner workings of her mind. From her annoyance to the girls she’s forced to hang out with now that Hope is gone; to the mysterious Marcus Flutie, the school’s bad-boy druggie who seems to keep popping up everywhere. With each day a hardship to get through, will she be able to find someone else to fill the space Hope left?

I love this book because I was Jessica. I didn’t fit in, I had a best friend who didn’t go the same school, and I had a hard time making new friends. But the cringe-worthy moments within the book remind me that everyone feels awkward every once in a while and it’s all about how you deal with it. It’s a great book to laugh and reminisce on all the things that felt so huge and life altering when you were going through them the first time. Things like boyfriends, best friends, best-friends-turned-boyfriends, parental expectations, and your own grandiose ideas of the person you’re meant to be.

McCafferty captures Jessica’s personality perfectly. She’s smart, complicated, witty, snarky, and always trying to figure out who she is. She’s so real that I wish we could be friends. I’m sure that if you’ve ever experienced awkward teenage angst, you’ll love this book. And if you haven’t, consider yourself lucky.

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Thanks so much Valerie! Everyone go check out her blog and say hello to her! 🙂

If you’d like to join in on Favorite Book Fridays, email me at caughtbetweenthepagesblog at gmail.com!

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5 stars · fiction · young adult

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

 

 The Walled City

author : ryan graudin

pages : [hardcover] 432

memorable quote Kids with roofs and hot food have better things to do than play survival of the thuggiest.

favorite characters : dai & jin

summary :

730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped.
18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible….

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister….

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She’s about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window…..

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

review :

I absolutely loved this book! From the very first page, I was hooked.

The narration switches between Dai (a boy trying to complete a mysterious, dangerous mission), Jin (a girl disguised as a boy, trying to find her sister), and Mei Yee (a girl sold into prostitution by her own father). Throughout the novel, I was trying to determine who I loved hearing from the most and honestly didn’t end up choosing. Each of them had a nice, distinctive voice, which I absolutely loved because sometimes narratives can get confusing when the characters all sound so similar. They were all brave, in their own ways, and I wanted each of them to get the happy ending they deserved.

I did really love Jin’s journey. She sneaks into this city filled with criminals, with no law whatsoever, and lives on the streets for two years just on the chance that she might find her sister again. She’s incredibly loyal and smart, fierce as anything, and she knows how to take care of herself. But she’s not so callous that she doesn’t care for those who need her.

Dai was a little harsher but I felt for him all the same. All of the characters have been through traumatizing events, obviously–no one escapes The Walled City unscathed. But he’s constantly haunted by his past, wanting to make amends for it–though he’s never sure that he’s really a good person.

And even though Mei Yee was locked inside of the brothel, in such a limited setting her story became a powerful force. Just reading about how she longed to see the ocean just once, the other girls she befriended in that terrible place, and the horror she needed to put up with on a daily basis had me rooting for her. She’s beautiful, yes, but mostly on the inside, where it counts for the most.

There’s so much action in this novel and I loved it. From street thugs fighting each other to powerful drug lords taking out the competition, there’s danger around every corner in this novel. It’s one where you think you know what’s going to happen–until you flip to the next page and there’s another twist that will completely blow your mind.

I completely loved the ending, too. As soon as I finished this book, I knew that it was going to be one that I’ll read over and over again; it’s an instant favorite and I can’t wait to see what this author puts out next because I’ll be picking it up!

5/5 stars

2 stars · fiction

This Is How It Ends by Jen Nadol

This Is How It Ends

author : jen nadol

pages : [hardcover] 320

summary :

If you could see the future, would you want to? After the disturbing visions Riley and his friends see turn out to be more than hallucinations, fate takes a dangerous twist in this dark and suspenseful page-turner.

Riley and his friends are gearing up for their senior year by spending one last night hanging out in the woods, drinking a few beers, and playing Truth or Dare. But what starts out as a good time turns sinister when they find a mysterious pair of binoculars. Those who dare to look through them see strange visions, which they brush off as hallucinations. Why else would Riley see himself in bed with his best friend’s girlfriend—a girl he’s had a secret crush on for years?

In the weeks that follow, the visions begin to come true…including a gruesome murder. One of Riley’s closest friends is now the prime suspect. But who is the murderer? Have Riley and his friends really seen the future through those mysterious binoculars? And what if they are powerless to change the course of events?

review :

I read through the entirety of this book, even though I was tempted to not finish it. Unfortunately I’m disappointed that I pushed myself to finish because the ending was set up like there might be a sequel to this, which I definitely wouldn’t read. There weren’t many things that I ended up liking about this book; the good portions ended up being few and far between.

First of all, I didn’t really like the characters. They were distinguishable from one another, which was nice, but for some reason I never really ended up caring for them. Even when events in the book finally began to escalate, I still wasn’t concerned for the characters. That’s something that can definitely break a book for me and because the plot was slow to build, with lots of blank space between moments of intrigue, this was a big thumbs down for me.

The summary of this calls it a ‘page-tuner’; I’d say that it’s anything but. It takes a long time in the book for the characters to actually get to the binoculars that give them visions of the future. That part was interesting, but then there was a lull in the action for a while. The characters were often repeating themselves and having uninteresting conversations in between the binocular scenes, too. They’d take several pages to talk about something, broach a subject that could go nowhere because none of them have any answers, and I’d find myself skimming the pages because it was a whole lot of text where nothing was coming out of it.

I don’t know who to recommend this book to. Perhaps there are people out there who’d liked it more than I would but no specific group is coming to mind. This book reads like it’s a half-formed idea. There’s a chance that if I pick up another of Nadol’s books, I’d have a different or better experience with it, but at this point I’m not sure if I’ll try reading more by her.

2/5 stars

2 stars · fiction

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong

The Book of Salt

author : monique truong

pages : [paperback] 272

memorable quote I am forced to admit that I am, to them, nothing but a series of destinations with no meaningful expanses in between.

summary :

Binh, a Vietnamese cook, flees Saigon in 1929, disgracing his family to serve as galley hand at sea. The taunts of his now-deceased father ringing in his ears, Binh answers an ad for a live-in cook at a Parisian household, and soon finds himself employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

Toklas and Stein hold court in their literary salon, for which the devoted yet acerbic Binh serves as chef, and as a keen observer of his “Mesdames” and their distinguished guests. But when the enigmatic literary ladies decide to journey back to America, Binh is faced with a monumental choice: will he, the self-imposed “exile,” accompany them to yet another new country, return to his native Vietnam, or make Paris his home?

review :

This book wasn’t very interesting to me, though I think that it had a lot of potential because the characters were fairly intriguing. Much of it talks about cooking, which I don’t have much interest in, so many of the metaphors were lost to me there. While I think that there are other readers who may enjoy this book more than I did, I won’t be recommending it.

Binh has been training to be a chef since he was six years old. Throughout his entire life he’s been looking down on and told by his father that he was a worthless disappointment. Because he only serves French people, either in his homeland of Vietnam or in Paris, he’s looked down on for his race as well. Never in his life has he been treated well or even as an equal. He also faces inner turmoil as he is gay, yet obviously in that time he couldn’t openly express himself. Instead it is another aspect of himself that he must hide, keeping him forever the outsider in any social circle.

While the writing was fairly interesting, it could get confusing. Truong would introduce one point that Binh would talk around for a while before circling back to the original purpose of the story, the conversation or thought that sparked his little tirade. Half of the time it was difficult for me to find out whether he was situated in Vietnam or Paris. He skips around his timeline when telling these stories of himself and I couldn’t keep track of what was happening where.

Thus this book needs a little patience, though that patience ended up taking me nowhere. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending of the book, though it did provide another quirk of character that I really enjoyed. The plot just wasn’t up to supporting the characters that this story could have held. Perhaps if it had taken a different approach, I would have loved it.

2/5 stars

 

3 stars · fiction

Wandering Son Volume 1 by Shimura Takako

Wandering Son

Volume One

author : shimura takako

pages : [hardcover] 208

summary :

The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy.
Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Book One introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders, with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men. Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.

review :

I recently read a whole stack of graphic novels to try to get me into the genre. While I feel like Wandering Son had some interesting concepts, it certainly wasn’t the best book for me.

I liked the characters but felt like they were a little unrealistic. I feel like they were always pushing for these situations that kids would typically treat in a cruel way, not how they’re dealt with in this manga. While I know that there’s still a lot more of this story to go, I’m not sure that much actually progressed in this book, even with those situations present. I do think that I’ll pick up the next installment because I’ve seen that it’s considered one of the best of the series.

I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m new to this genre that the characters felt flat to me. No one was fully fleshed out and I couldn’t predict how anyone would react to anything because they had dull personalities. I was interested to see where the plot was going to go with this, though, so that kept me pushing through. Perhaps future volumes take the bare bones laid out here and capitalize on them in a way that’s even better than I could imagine.

I’d recommend this book as an unconventional read. The style was interesting and while the art wasn’t something that I’d rave about, it was cute and fit with the narrative. I think there are others out there who’ll enjoy this more than I did!

3/5 stars

3 stars · fiction

A Sister to Scheherazade by Assia Djebar

 

A Sister to Scheherazade

author : assia djebar

pages : [paperback] 176

favorite character : hajila

summary :

Isma and Hajila are both wives of the same man, but they are not rivals.

Isma – older, vibrant, passionate, emancipated – is in stark contrast to the passive, cloistered Hajila. In alternating chapters, Isma tells her own story in the first person, and then Hajila’s in the second person. She details how she escaped from the traditional restraints imposed upon the women of her country – and how, in making her escape, she condemns Hajila to those very restraints. When Hajila catches a glimpse of an unveiled woman, she realized that she, too, wants a life beyond the veil, and it is Isma who offers her the key to her own freedom.

review :

Sister to Scheherazade is a fascinating story of female oppression framed by the story of Scheherazade. She is a woman who escapes death every morning by refusing to tell the end of her story to her husband, who wants to kill her but keeps delaying her death so that he might hear the end of her tales. Eventually he falls in love with her and she isn’t in danger of being murdered any longer. Hajila is in danger as well but from a different kind of death. Because she is forced to veil herself completely, because her family wishes and expects for her to remain inside her home like a proper woman would do, she will suffer a kind of death from the world and also lose a sense of self.

I really liked how the story was narrated. Isma is telling Hajila’s story; it’s symbolic in itself that Hajila has no say in what is told about her life. Hajila is the ‘you’ of the book while Isma remains the ‘I’, having freed herself of her husband who would have controlled and restricted all of her movements. While of course I hate reading about women who are treated so terribly, I can appreciate this book for it’s presentation of this flawed society in which little freedoms can seem like enough to live for. It’s terrible that women need to live their lives this way, completely under the constraints of men.

I don’t think that the writing was strong enough to carry the characters. While there were many short, powerful lines, I feel like the style didn’t do enough to make up for a rather passive plot. Isma is telling her story but she needs to make up much of it for Hajila because she can only imagine how the other woman might feel. There aren’t many incidents or exciting things that happen in this book.

I would certainly recommend it, not for a pleasurable read but something that will be thought-provoking and promote helping women around the world find equality and freedom.

3.5/5 stars

 

3 stars · fiction

The Dark Bride by Laura Restrepo

 

The Dark Bride

author : laura restrepo

pages : [paperback] 368

summary :

Once a month, the refinery workers of the Tropical Oil Company descend upon Tora, a city in the Colombian forest. They journey down from the mountains searching for earthly bliss and hoping to encounter Sayonara, the legendary Indian prostitute who rules their squalid paradise like a queen. Beautiful, exotic, and mysterious, Sayonara, the undisputed barrio angel, captivates whoever crosses her path. Then, one day, she violates the unwritten rules of her profession and falls in love with a man she can never have. Sayonara’s unrequited passion has tragic consequences not only for her, but for all those whose lives ultimately depend on the Tropical Oil Company.

A slyly humorous yet poignant love story, The Dark Bride lovingly recreates the lusty, heartrending world of Colombian prostitutes and the men of the oil fields who are entranced by them. Full of wit and intelligence, tragedy and compassion, The Dark Bride is luminous and unforgettable.

review :

The Dark Bride is an intense book that will definitely keep you interested, though it isn’t the best novel that I’ve ever read. I needed to read it for class and found myself needing to push through it because I wasn’t very connected with the characters. I thought that the setting was interesting and was depressed about the lack of possibilities for the men and especially the women living in this area. I haven’t read much about Colombia so in itself I thought that it was a good experience to read more about a place that I’m not so informed about.

I think that the writing in this book is great! I really liked it, though I realize that this is a translation. It’s impossible to tell what the author would have chosen to say if she’d written the novel originally in English. I’m glad that I read a good translation, then, that got me interested in the book. I think that plenty of people who wouldn’t normally reach for this type of book would like the writing and get into the plot because of it. I definitely don’t read fiction like this when I typically read for pleasure but I’m trying to expand my horizons. I think that this is a good novel to pick if you’re looking to learn more about the world and read something outside of your typical box.

I’d recommend this book but I wouldn’t say that it’s one you should push yourself to read. If you’re looking to read something not so mainstream and that’ll make you more informed about another culture, try out The Dark Bride.

3/5 stars