Book Review | Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I read this book last fall, after seeing it recommended on the Instagram feed of my favorite bookstore. Once I picked it up, I hardly put it down... I went deep in this one. 

The novel is about marriage, but more specifically it's an examination of personal perception, how outsiders perceive a couple to be, how the couple perceives themselves to be, and how they see each other. 

The beginning of the novel is told from the point of view of Lotto, the male protagonist. You get a good chunk of his childhood, and more importantly insight into his relationship with his mother, aunt, and sister.  Lotto marries Mathilde, who, by all accounts of friends and family (well, save Lotto's mother), is a catch. 

Much of the novel follows how Mathilde supported Lotto's acting and eventually playwriting career, how in love Lotto and Mathilde are, describes their various friends and family relationships, and how difficult marriage and life can be. I got about 300 pages in to the book and felt confident I knew what this book was about, and loved it.  Then the narrative changed to Mathilde's point of view and completely blew me away. 

There is so much disparity between the two points of view, even though they shared their lives. Despite the discrepancy, there is a glorious beauty in both perceptions of their marriage and I truly loved it, in all its harsh reality. People are imperfect, therefore marriage is imperfect... but it's incredibly rewarding. The end of this book is compelling, depressing, relatable, surprising... ugh - it's a lot. But I would definitely recommend it.

Collaboreads | The Crossroads of Should and Must

This month's theme for Collaboreads was "Back to School" and Rachel and Amber left it pretty wide open for interpretation; anything you find educational, fiction or non-fiction, or related to school would suffice.  I had started this non-fiction book a few weeks ago, but I haven't finished it yet since I tend to read non-fiction a little bit at a time in between novels. I decided instead to take this opportunity to share a book I found a few months ago that I absolutely love, and it is especially educational for me because I am taking the author's Skillshare class online right now. Without further ado, I give you The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna.

I discovered this book through the Design Matters podcast, of which I have been an avid listener for a few years. If you have time to listen to this episode with Elle Luna as guest, I would highly recommend it. She gives great insight into why she wrote the book and how her journey has lead her to this point in her life, immersed every day in the work she loves and feels compelled to do.

Everyone can relate to this book in some way or another. We have all felt the nagging dissonance between what we "should" be doing that what we actually want to be doing in our everyday lives. It is a very quick read - very visual, filled with beautiful abstract art & hand lettering, and has an incredibly inspiring message about finding your true calling. Luna breaks down the differences between your "should" and "must" and illustrates the most common questions and fears people have when finding their "must", like time, money, failure, etc. and breaks down her suggestions to address these fears in easily digestible parts. 

Personally, I feel as though I have been stuck at this crossroads for quite a few years now. I am fortunate to have a great day job that pays the bills and allows me to live in this paradise, but I would be remiss if I did not admit that I feel fairly unfulfilled by my daily work. Most days I just focus on how lucky I am to get to wear casual clothing, bring my dog to work, and take yoga class on my lunch break, but in the end I miss being lit up by something I am passionate about every day. I really wish I was accomplishing something bigger, more meaningful, or getting to do more creative work. I often worry that someday I will regret not having pursued my creative gifts more, and spent more of my life doing what I love.  This book was a great reminder for me to take 10 minutes every day to honor my "must"... whether it be a quick dive into my sketch book, writing in my journal, or editing my photos or videos, I need to make sure I go to bed feeling good and as fulfilled as possible in this balancing act of life. 

Beyond the immense inspirational message in this book, it is also visually gorgeous. Honestly, every page is a work of art. Luna's words and ideas paired with her use of bright color and quirky handwriting is the cherry on top of this absolutely decadent book. I can also recommend taking the time to do her Skillshare class after reading this book, since they go hand-in-hand.  I am through phase one of the class and am really enjoying myself so far. I am sure I will read this book at least three more times this year... I give it five stars, without question! I hope you will take the time to read this one and will enjoy it as much as I did.

#Collaboreads: The Goldfinch

I had been intending to read The Goldfinch for a while when I ran across an online book club starting on this blog.  The first assignment was to read a book on the NY Best Seller List, so it was a perfect fit! Here is my first #collaboreads review... I'm following the acrostic from this post.

I had really high expectations for this book since it won the Pulitzer Prize last year in Fiction, but I have to be honest... I didn't really like it.  Overall I felt like the message could have been conveyed in about 350 pages (HALF of the length of the book), and the story filling the rest of the pages was pretty depressing not engaging enough for me to really connect to. 

The story is told in first-person by a boy who, in the beginning of the book, loses his mother at a young age to a very random act of violence in Manhattan.  The rest of the book tells the story of his life following the event, and is filled with more and more grief, frustration, and sadness.  I felt like there was little to no contrast to these emotions - I felt a heavier burden every time I opened the book to read more.

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of? 

I did enjoy the protagonist's best friend, Boris.  They met while in high school in Las Vegas, and were both living an unsupervised teenage lifestyle as neither had much parental guidance present in their lives. Although that part of the book was too long and fairly depressing in my opinion, I did enjoy this character thoroughly. He had an interesting duality in his character having raised himself in a rough environment with an abusive, alcoholic father, but he still somehow developed a strange moral compass unique to his life's experiences.  I thought he was the most interesting of all of the characters in the novel.

How did you relate to/care for the characters?
What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns? 

The main character, Theo, really did not sit well with me. I wanted to feel empathy for his tragic life but he honestly just frustrated me to no end with his constant anxiety and poor choices. It felt like he never came up for air in the real world... he seemed constantly buried in negative emotions.

The plot didn't take many twists and turns except for the very beginning and then again towards the end.  About 500 pages of this book is slow-moving and fairly depressing.

What other books are like this one?
If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with its themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? 

I can't say I have ever read another book similar to this one. As I read it, I imagined it definitely could be adapted for a dramatic movie, and the terrorist attack in the beginning of the book will of course always feel familiar with real-life events. 

You know you judged this book by the cover.
What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 

The cover popped out at me on the bookstore shelf for about a year before I finally decided to pick it up. It's a mostly white cover that appears torn, revealing only a peek into the painting of The Goldfinch, which is a cornerstone to the entire story.  The beautiful cover was my favorite part of this book - ha!

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?

2.5 stars - right down the middle. There were definitely parts that sucked me in and once I got emotionally invested in the characters it moved more quickly, but there were tedious and boring sections in the book in equal measure. As for recommending to a friend, ironically, my friend Loni and I both decided to read this book - she read it first and then gave it to me to read and didn't seem too enthused about it... I should have known what was coming!