Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: a Novel.

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I’ve just read the oddest book, and I adored it. It’s been such a long time since I last truly loved the voice and feel of a novel (admittedly though, I have only been binging romance novels – which, while necessary and very enjoyable, are rather anemic when it comes to solid plot and characterization).

Eleanor Oliphant is narrated by Eleanor herself, and according to the blurb it’s about ‘when Eleanor and a stranger save an old man’s life, and they rescue each other’. But it’s so much more than that. From the get go, Eleanor establishes herself as one of the oddest voices I’ve read in narrative fiction, both incredibly grown-up and reflective, but naive and emotionally neglected. I’d say it’s a little like if an alien had to navigate the real world, but that would be undermining her incredibleness. It’s just such a pleasure as she grows and develops through her interactions with the world – indeed, her navigation of the beauty and fashion industry is a particular joy. One of my favorite bits was when she visits a Bobbi Brown store multiple times and seems very confused as to where Bobbi is.

The plot of the book follows Eleanor as a series of chance meetings inspire her to shake up her existence and venture out into the ‘real world’, although I’m sure she’d take umbrage at my words (isn’t all the world ‘real?’).  Watching her manage the changes to her set schedule (hour for lunch, crossword, repeat) doesn’t ever feel tedious or boring. Instead, the reader is left with a sense of natural development and her journey towards loving herself is so well written, there’s never any sense of dragging.

The revelations of her past – and her attempts to deal with it – are also very well handled, and it never feels like emotional trauma porn for the sake of it. Yes, you do ache for Eleanor, but it never feels like the author wants you to wallow in it. Indeed, it’s one of the more refreshing and (although this may not be the right term) healthy takes on trauma and moving on with your life.

All in all, this was one of the most charming books I’ve read in a while. It was delightful getting to immerse myself in the voice of Eleanor, and figuring out exactly what happened to her was legit anxiety inducing, in the best way. It also featured one of the nicest developments of friendship I’ve seen in a while. There’s no character that really stands out as amazing, and it’s honestly part of the charm. Every person who exists within Eleanor’s world feels like a real person. Which, while not always fun to read (one needs some romance novel men after all), it’s certainly one of the most refreshing books I’ve read.

I’m so glad I picked it up on a whim. It’s the first book in what I’m hoping is going to be a long spell of reading for pleasure again. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an unusual, well-written character piece.

Xx

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Code Name Verity

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Blurb:

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York TimesCode Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

Review:

This book. This book was so good y’all. At first I was a little apprehensive to read it, because I will be honest with you – I am a complete pansy when it comes to reading books where the outcome isn’t assured. It takes me a while to psych myself up for books with plot twists, but I am so so glad that I read Verity.

The book opens with the chilling announcement that Queenie (a civilian ambassador) has sold her country’s secrets for the return of her clothes. From there it turns into a harrowing account of life under her German interrogators and how Queenie struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. I don’t really want to give away much (which makes this review so hard to write, because this book is filled with twists and turns, keeping you on the edge of your seat every minute you read) but I’ll just say this; a new and compelling view into the minds of those who actually suffered under torture during WW2. It flips between Queenie’s life under the germans and her recollections of her best friend Maddie.

The relationship between Queenie and Maddie is one of the greatest parts of this book, and it was so refreshing to read a female driven action and suspense story. I also loved that their relationship was the core of book, as strong female relationships are incredibly important. The memories that Queenie has of her best friend makes the book equal parts melancholy and up-lifting. The descriptions that Queenie gives us are uncompromising and at times extremely uncomfortable, which adds to the impact of the story. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone looking for a suspenseful and riveting read. You might want to keep some tissues nearby though.

XX

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson.

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Blurb:

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

Goodreads Score: 3.92/5

Amyliabedelia score : 4/5

Review:

Okay, Jenny Lawson is one seriously funny lady. If you are looking for a book to escape the stress of college then this is a good one. There were moments reading this book when I was full on ugly laughing – doubled over and snorting and everything. Chronicling the events of her life (beginning with her childhood in Wall, Texas) all through her marriage and children, Lawson manages to treat everything in her life with a degree of irreverent humor and general attitude of ‘Whattaya gonna do?’. Sure, there were moments when I was reading this that I went ‘Okay, that is…messed up, to say the least’ but it didn’t matter, because I was far too busy giggling over the absurdity of what had happened to care. Fun fact: trying to stay quiet because it’s 2 AM and your roommates are sleeping is not as easy as it sounds.

Obviously the book isn’t perfect. There are moments where the stream of consciousness style Lawson invokes gets tiresome and babbly. There’s also a weird chapter where Lawson writes imaginary post it notes to her husband, which I found boring and unnecessary.  Despite this however, Lawson manages to deliver an account of her life that is hilarious. While I wish she had spent more time on her childhood, which was probably the funniest part of the book for me, Lawson also manages to tactfully acknowledge her social anxiety, depression and rheumatoid arthritis in a way that managed to add some punch to the book. I wish that she had taken a step back with the jokes during those moments though. Yes, laughter is a good way to ease the pain – and Lawson is certainly good at invoking the giggles – but there were times when levity wasn’t required.

That being said, this book is a definite read again for me. I spent most of the days after reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened remembering stories from Lawson’s life and attracting weird looks because I was giggling to myself. If you’re looking for a book to cheer you up, then this is definitely a good one to go to. Just make sure that you don’t drink a lot of water beforehand.