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Belzhar – Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar – Meg WolitzerTitle: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Publishing Info: September 30, 2014 by Penguin
Source: BEA 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: September 20, 2014

    If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.
    She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.
    But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.
    Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

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BELZHAR is a difficult book for me to review. While I enjoyed the book as I was reading it, a few things just didn’t sit right with me in the end and it left me feeling a bit confused about what I had just read and how I felt about it. (Then again, if I actually read synopses through thoroughly AND even remembered what they were before I read the book, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had such big issues. This is, however, a THING I do since I try to leave as many twists alive in a book as possible before I start reading.)

Well, BELZHAR (the “zh” pronounced like the “J” in Jacques, for those who didn’t know!) is a bit of magical realism, which is always hit or miss for me. I’ve loved books like FAIRYTALES FOR WILDE GIRLS which has quite a bit of magical realism, but doesn’t shy away from the fantastical elements and then I find myself on the fence about books like BELZHAR which tend to stick to a mostly realistic world with a specific magical element — and I think that’s the part of magical realism that doesn’t quite work out for me. I love fantasy and I love contemporary but to mix the two in one book is a bit difficult for me. I’m more inclined to believe in the fantasy part of a story if there is more fantasy in it. If it feels too realistic, the magical elements feel too unbelievable. This of course has nothing to do with how the book was written — it was simply an element that was an important part of the book that I just couldn’t connect with as I was reading.

That being said, I actually enjoyed the contemporary romance/realistic fiction aspect of this. I actually had a lot of sympathy for Jam (well, in the beginning) because she had lost her boyfriend and she was going through such a rough time. As the book progressed, I really enjoyed getting to know her, but honestly, I liked some of the secondary characters more than I did Jam. Her despair became a bit taxing for me as I continued to read and as much as I wanted to continue to sympathize for her, by the end of the book (once we really find out the whole story with Jam and her boyfriend since she chooses not to reveal everything to her friends all at once), I was just really frustrated with the whole situation.

I just feel so CONFLICTED. I enjoyed the book as I was reading and yet, once I finished, I felt like I had all of these emotions that I didn’t feel while I was reading. It was a very confusing situation and ultimately, that really changed my overall view of the book. Those little things that just didn’t sit right with me were actually very big things once I really started to think about it so I came off totally torn.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Jam // Character Obsessions: British boyfriend Reeve, avoidance, despair, being alone.
Oh, Jam. I really wanted to like you. I really tried… But in the end, I just didn’t think you should have been the protagonist of this story.
Once I found out Jam’s FULL story, it actually changed my feelings about her entirely. I just really didn’t like her reactions and I felt like that really weakened her character for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Classics? I hadn’t read THE BELL JAR but from the book, I’m actually intrigued! I love when a book gets me interested in some classics again (though let’s be honest. I still probably won’t read it.)
Left Me Wanting More: Realism. Sigh. The magical aspect of this book just didn’t seem to fit for me. I feel like it could have been done a bit differently… but then again, I have no creative feedback as to HOW so what do I know haha. Overall, it just wasn’t something that sat well with me.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

I just feel all over the board on this one. What do you think, friends? I feel like this book incites very mixed reactions amongst readers. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!

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BOOKS LIKE BELZHAR

(Click the cover to see my review!)

        tandem   nil

Landline – Rainbow Rowell

Landline – Rainbow RowellTitle: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Publishing Info: July 8, 2014 by Macmillan, St. Martin's Press
Source: BEA 2014
Genres: Adult, Alternate Reality, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: June 8, 2014
Related Posts: Eleanor & Park Playlist, Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Attachments, Kindred Spirits

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply—but that almost seems beside the point now.
Maybe that was always beside the point.
Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her—Neal is always a little upset with Georgie—but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go without her.
When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. . . .Is that what she’s supposed to do?
Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

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LANDLINE was a breath of fresh air. I’m made my niche reading young adult fiction and I still love it but sometimes it’s just so nice to take a break from the norm and switch things up a bit. Reading LANDLINE was a sort of wonderful crossover since I’m so used to Rainbow Rowell’s young adult books and I got the same feel of her writing but in a different age range and covering different subjects.

Rainbow Rowell is just a master of her craft. Her story telling is simply exquisite in not only the way the plot comes together but also how the characters really tell a story in themselves. I got to know the story just by getting to know Georgie and her family. Rainbow’s characters and their relationships are always amazing and they always seem like incredibly real people, and it’s just amazing to sit back and watch their stories unfold.

I’ve already mentioned how much I love the characters but the relationship between each character is just fantastic as well. Every single one is complicated. From Georgie’s relationship with her husband to her relationship with her best friend and co-worker (who just so happens to be an attractive male) — even her relationship with her children, her mother, her sister… It was just so true to life because aren’t all relationships messy?

Unlike Rainbow’s previous books, LANDLINE involved a bit of… science fiction? I guess that’s what you’d call it — with the “magic” landline phone that Georgie finds at her parents house. She realizes she’s not talking to her husband in present day, but Neal in the past which also happens to be a very critical point in their relationship. I do have to say… Wasn’t quite sold on the magic phone thing. I enjoyed the book from cover to cover and I didn’t DISLIKE it but I felt like with Rainbow’s other books, there’s just a strong sense of reality that I pull from them — and I did with LANDLINE too — but the magic phone really pulled me out of that element and felt more “cutesy”. It just took away from the emotional, serious aspect of the book for me. Not a lot! Not a lot at all. But it was enough that I didn’t quite fall in love with it the way that I potentially could have without it.

I really enjoyed how everything wrapped up and really all of the loose ends were tied back together. I had just the best feeling of satisfaction when I finished the book and I know Rainbow Rowell fans won’t be disappointed! Her books always leave me with this feeling of contentment and LANDLINE is no exception.

view_from_goodreads1

I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

Landline - Rainbow Rowell

I read the majority of this on a plane so far fewer updates than usual!

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Georgie // Character Obsessions: Comedy, writing, Neal, family.
Despite the blame seeming to fall on Georgie’s shoulders for many of the issues in her marriage, I really liked her a lot. She felt really real and I was able to see how hard it must have been for her to balance a career that she loved so much and the family she loved so much, especially when her husband was willing to maintain the family when Georgie’s schedule didn’t allow it. That didn’t really mean he should do it all on his own, but through these situations, I really felt like I got to know them through every situation they went through.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Rainbow. YA or Adult. Serious or more playful. I love anything Rainbow Rowell writes. She just has that magical way with words and amazing character & relationship development that just grows with each book.
Left Me Wanting More: Heart-wrenching. The phone thing was cute. I was just hoping for something more deeply emotional like so many of her other books. Although I guess Attachments was definitely more on the cutesy side, but it was also her debut novel and I was expecting that to be more cute whereas I was expecting LANDLINE to be a bit more on the serious side.

Addiction Rating
Buy it

It’s a solid read and although it’s not my favorite of Rainbow’s books, it was still so enjoyable with all of that magnificent writing magic that she always incorporates into her books! Definitely still worth the purchase and a place next to your other favorite Rainbow Rowell books!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE LANDLINE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

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