All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
(Scribner, 2014, 531 pages)
When the seize begins, Marie Laure is alone in her Great Uncle’s house in Saint-Malo. Marie Laure and her father fled there many years ago when the German’s started to take Paris. Marie Laure has been blind since she was a child but she knows the streets of Paris and Saint-Malo because of the model cities her father has constructed for her so she can be independent. When Marie Laure starts to hear the bombs going off and smells the smoke outside, she carefully places one building from the Saint-Malo model in her pocket.
Werner, on the other hand, quickly escapes to the basement of the hotel he has been stationed at. Werner is intelligent and talented, especially when it comes to radios and mathematics, since he was a small orphan trying to distract his younger sister. To escape his current situation, Werner uses his skills to be accepted to a military academy where he is eventually sent out to aid Hitler’s army. When the attack on Saint-Malo begins, Werner believes he will be safe in the basement until the hotel collapses and he is trapped underneath all the rubble.
I love how Doerr had these two separate storylines slowly circle each other and left the reader unsure of if or when they were going to meet. The book jumps back and forth between the present attack on Saint-Malo and the past leading up to the characters’ situations and adding to their dire need. I loved that Doerr spent equal amounts of time developing these two stories and then slowly started adding in a third story from a different perspective. It never felt like there was too much going on and was really well written. This was another National Book Award Nominee and it wasn’t hard to see why it was a finalist.
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
(Atria Books, 2014, 400 pages)
Allison Weiss’s life wasn’t supposed to be this complicated. Her marriage is starting to strain, her daughter is an extremely sensitive child to everything around her, her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and she has blog posts to write. To cope with these now everyday stresses, Allison starts to take some pills to relax her. But as long as they are prescription medication then she’s completely fine, right? Sure she needs to hide her new habit from everyone she knows and it’s starting to get expensive with the more pills she takes just to get her through the days. She knows she isn’t an addict, it’s not like that. But she’s starting to wonder if it’s even possible for her to stop taking them.
This was an easy book to read, or listen to in my case, and had a storyline that quickly grabbed ahold of me. Allison’s character was interesting in that she firmly believed that she was holding everything and everyone together when it was obvious she was the one spiraling out of control. I liked the idea behind the story because it felt like a modern take on drugs in suburbia. Allison kept repeating herself that she was not like other drug addicts or alcoholics so therefore she must be fine. Like I said, she was an interesting character with a serious case of denial.
You can also check out Gwen’s review of this title.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
(It Books, 2014, 329 pages)
I really like Amy Poehler as an entertainer and she seems like a really cool person to hang out with but she did not want to write this book. Maybe it started out as a really exciting thing for her to do but she quickly and often lets the reader know that writing and finishing this book was a struggle. I think that’s what gave the book kind of a dark cloud attitude. But she tells wonderful stories about her life and how hard she had to work to make it as the successful comedian she is today. I think the shining points of the book are when she talks about her kids, especially the days leading up to her first son’s birth. I thought her writing for that particular story was hilarious and really heartfelt.
I don’t know why but I have more respect for celebrities when they are upfront with their readers and say they are not going to discuss or go into details about certain aspects of their lives. For Poehler it was her recent divorce from Will Arnett. She talked about being sad and that she went through a hard time but never hinted at the cause or any strain in their relationship, pre or post-divorce. I wouldn’t want to share everything about myself so I’m glad she set boundaries for herself.
You can also check out Julia’s review of Yes Please.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
(Random House, 2014, 288 pages)
In this autobiography, Dunham recounts stories about growing up and relationships that have made her who she is today. I wasn’t incredibly excited to pick this up since I haven’t gotten into Dunham’s TV show Girls but I was interested enough. Dunham is a fantastic writer and you can hear her voice come through on each story. She is a semi-unreliable narrator though, especially when she recounts a story and then a few chapters later she retells the story as it really happened. I understand why the story was so hard for her to write about and I appreciate her honesty, but I also didn’t know what to make of her other stories. Was this what really happened or has the story been distorted over time?
Dunham has a unique voice and perspective on life. She tends to get a little scrambled as she frequently tried to tell two different stories simultaneously in one chapter. Also I was a little bothered because she just seems so young to already be writing an autobiography. Especially since she even includes a chapter on things she would write about if she wasn’t so young and didn’t care what other people thought. But if you’re offered that much money to write a book and it does as well as hers has, then it really shouldn’t matter how old you are.
You can also check out Julia’s review of the book.
Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
(Crown Archetype, 2014, 294 pages)
I was first introduced to Neil Patrick Harris when he was Barney Stinson on the show How I Met Your Mother (I was a little too young for Doogie Howser). I absolutely loved the show, and will defend its ending, so I immediately picked up NPH’s autobiography. But this celebrity autobiography is far different than any other one I’ve read before. NPH styled his autobiography off the Choose Your Own Adventure books where readers got to choose where the story goes. NPH sticks to this theme throughout the read and breaking into a first person narrative only when recounting his HIMYM days. He even included clever back stories on ways his life could have gone if he had made different choices, such as working at a deli or being eaten alive by piranhas.
I was pretty boring and read the book straight through instead of following the Choose Your Own Adventure style. I just didn’t want to miss anything but it would have been pretty fun to jump straight to the parts I was most interested in. Although there were never too many in depth stories, I did appreciate the small peeks we were given into his personal and professional life. I really enjoyed how clever NPH was with his writing and the contributions from other celebrity friends that were sprinkled throughout the read.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
(W. W. Norton & Company, 2014, 254 pages)
Doughty has had an interesting obsession with death since she witnessed a small girl fall over an escalator at a mall in Hawaii when she was a small girl herself. She decides to get into the death profession by applying to crematories in the area. She is finally hired by a crematory in Oakland, California and her career begins. Doughty takes you through her first year working at the crematory, whether its picking up corpses, caring for dead bodies, operating the cremation machine, or working with the families. She doesn’t hold anything (or any description) back.
I’ll admit this read probably isn’t for everyone but it peaked my interest. It was actually a pretty well rounded read that Doughty evenly included her own experience at the crematory, going to mortuary school, and life after mortuary school combined with history of death traditions and her own thoughts on where death customs should go in the future. While her own post-death idea might be a bit extreme, at least to me, but she brings up some good points on pondering your own plans before it’s too late.
The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand
(Little, Brown and Company, 2014, 360 pages)
Dabney hasn’t spoken to the father of her child, Clendenin Hughes, since the day he sailed away from Nantucket over 20 years ago. So she is shocked to receive an email from him announcing that he will be arriving on Nantucket the following day. With Clendenin, Dabney has always seen pink. Dabney has a special ability to see if a couple will be a perfect match by the color of their aurora that surrounds them; pink they’re a perfect match and green they should find someone else. Dabney has never seen pink or green with her husband Box but it was always pink with Clendenin. And their daughter, Agnes, who is engaged to be married, is surrounded by green.
This wasn’t my favorite read by Hilderbrand but it was easy to listen to in the car. The read was just a tad too predictable for me. I knew how the story would unfold between Agnes and her fiancé and the new boy she meets over the summer. I knew what choice Dabney would make if it came down to Clendenin and Box. Though Dabney and Clendenin had an interesting relationship, it was just a tad too predictable overall.