August 26, 2016

Life lately, according to my iPhone



I can't believe it's been 4 months since I've done one of these posts! Granted, I've been sharing my summer adventures pretty regularly but it was fun to go through my phone and pick out random pictures I had taken recently.

In addition to my list of ice cream places I want to go to, I also have a list of NYC indie bookstores I want to visit. Argosy focuses on rare and old editions, which I loved. They have a copy of Anne of Green Gables that's worth $22K! (I asked to see it but unfortunately, I wasn't allowed.)
Alexa and I checked out the Women Artists in Fantasy & Science Fiction exhibit at the Society of Illustrators Museum. It was a fantasy lover's dream. We loved all the art! Some of my favorites include this Beauty and the Beast one by Kinuko Y. Craft ... 
and these illustrations by Tran Nguyen (left) and Julie Bell (right).
I recently started contributing to Books on the Subway! I love the concept and it's a great way to pass along books (and clear my shelves!). Then last weekend, I had a family lunch at Joe's Crab Shack with my parents, cousins, aunt and uncle. We tend to eat in after church on Sundays and it was nice to go out for a change. 
Alexa and I recently saw An American in Paris and it was amazing! I wasn't sure what I expected but I loved the story. Plus the heroine of the story is a ballerina so it was a perfect blend of dance, music and feeling invested in the characters. The final Broadway performance is early October so definitely watch it if you can. 

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What have you all been up to lately?

August 24, 2016

Review: Us by David Nicholls

Us by David Nicholls
pub 9/30/14 by Hodder & Stoughton
Adult - Contemporary Fiction
Us is my second David Nicholls book and I've got to say, the man has a talent for writing stories that are simultaneously hopeful and downright depressing. But always engaging. We follow Douglas Petersen as he's just found out that this wife of almost thirty years, Connie, thinks she wants a divorce. However, they, along with their moody seventeen-year-old son Albie, are about to embark on a month-long tour of Europe together. We go back and forth between the past, when Douglas and Connie first met, and the present as he optimistically hopes this trip will solve all their problems.

Both the past and present were very interesting to me. In the past, it's clear Douglas and Connie are completely differently people who should not make sense together. He's this really reserved and awkward physics nerd who randomly expresses very dry humor. Whereas Connie is this total bohemian free-spirit who loves all things art and creative. But against all the odds they fell in love and married one another. We learn how they met, what they were each going through at the time and what led them to where they are now. In the present, there's still warmth and affection between them but is that enough? And Connie wonders what's left of a marriage once your child is about to leave the nest. Not to mention, Douglas and said child do not have a bond whatsoever and it's really sad to behold.

That said, there were a lot of times when I didn't like either Connie or Albie very much and I found them to be quite unfair to Douglas. Maybe it's because I could see a little bit of my own dad in him. (My mom and Connie are absolutely nothing alike though.) But then Douglas would say or do things and I'd want to yell at him and ask, what is wrong with you?! And I realized, that's what makes this book so good. No one character is perfect. There's no good or bad guys. It's just three people looking for happiness in completely different ways. The book evolved from being about a marriage falling apart to an honest look at all the kinds of love and relationships in your life. Exes, spouses, parent-child and the one you have with yourself. The last few chapters in particular really got to me and the last page was just perfect.

Do I recommend?
I do! It's nothing I'd necessarily return to and re-read but I enjoyed it a lot.

August 23, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Thing about Jellyfish + The Last Leaves Falling

pub 9/22/15 by Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers
MG - Contemporary
WOW. I very rarely pick up middle grade books unless it's a childhood favorite so when Estelle gave this to me, I was skeptical. Next thing you know, I'm crying over it on the bus ride to work! (Good thing I carry extra concealer in my purse.) It's beautifully written, honest and had a level of innocence that made the subject matter that much more heartbreaking. Suzy is this precocious young girl whose been having trouble coping. With change, with growing up and more importantly, with the recent death of her best friend in a drowning accident. She's retreated into her mind and has barely spoken a word to anyone since. She's convinced her friend must've died from a rare jellyfish sting and puts all her efforts into trying to prove it's true. As she sets out to find "proof", we learn more about Suzy's friendship with Franny, which was on the outs at the time of her death. They used to be two peas in a pod but the popular girls took an interest in Franny and vice-versa. She started noticing boys and getting into clothes. But not Suzy. She's a bit awkward but also just not there yet which I could understand. As much as the story is about grief, it's just as much about friendship and the growing pains young girls experience not only with those relationships but with themselves. I can't say enough how impressed I was by how the author handled this story and message.

Do I recommend? I do! If you love MG, you have to pick this up. And if you're usually not a MG reader like me, you still have to pick this up.

pub 5/5/15 by Simon & Schuster Books
for Young Readers
YA - Contemporary
Coincidentally, this is another book I picked up as per Estelle's recommendation. It's also another heartbreaking one. The Last Leaves Falling is about a teenage boy named Sora who has been diagnosed with ALS. It's rare, affects nerve cells in the brain and spine and it's incurable. His body is slowly deteriorating and he struggles not only with the changes in his body but loneliness as well. He's not in school. It's just him and his mom. So what does he do? He turns to internet chat rooms and develops friendships that spill over into real life. I have to say, that really surprised me! The book takes place in Japan (loved the peek into this culture!) so maybe it's a little more common over there. But I was quite surprised at how quickly the transition happened but also happy to see it. Because one, I do think it's becoming more common and two, Sora truly met two wonderful people and I loved watching their friendships blossom. Even though their individual situations are different, it's clear they entered each other's lives at a time when they really needed someone to get them. I will say that the book does take many sad turns and doesn't shy away from the medical and personal struggles Sora faces. It was tough at times for me to read because I was hyper-aware of how young he is but so worth taking the time to pick up.

Do I recommend? It's a powerful story and if you're interested, I would definitely recommend picking it up from your library.