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A Man Called Ove

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Summary:

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness.  So, when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” and “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand”, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This is a book that made me laugh as much as it made me cry.  There are so many things that Ove presents so very matter-of-fact that does make you wonder why things are simpler in life.  The book overall is a bit gloomy, but not in a depressing way.  Instead, the tone of the book is set my Ove himself and he tends to be a bit of a cynic. 

In book club, we all had trouble articulating just why we loved the book so much and I think it’s because we all identified with different aspects of the characters.  Although overall about Ove, the book is also about transitions in life and how people adapt to the challenges they’re presented with.  This was one of the few books that had me staying up extremely past my bedtime to finish and I’d highly recommend to anyone.

Warning: Contains violence, references to suicide and will make you cry.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone who can appreciate a cranky old man in their life.

Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air

Summary:

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more--including Krakauer's--in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for “Into Thin Air”, Krakauer's epic account of the May 1996 disaster.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This is a book that I had postponed reading because I have heard a lot of opinions from family and friends around me who are passionate fans of mountaineering.  If you look at the historical accounts, Krakauer is a little more contentious and I’m planning on reading Boukreev’s counterpart to the story soon.  (Note: I have heard his book is not quite as accessible to the casual reader.)  But this is all a side note, onto the review!

The things that is undeniable about Krakauer’s account is that it’s extremely compelling.  It’s fascinating storytelling and he does an amazing job introducing the topic of Everest with history, why people are drawn to the mountain and he himself ended up with the ill-fated climbers.  I was fascinated with the build up of the book just as much as the events that followed.  The tension portrayed through the final three days had me pausing to stop and take a walk around the room before going back to it.

One thing I found extremely annoying, however was the tendency to alternate between calling people by the last name and their first name.  It made it confusing when switching back and forth and meant that I made ample use of the first few pages that described each respective climbing party.  I would highly recommend reading this book, but if you enjoy it, also encourage you to check out some other accounts as well.

Warning: Contains repeated violence of people’s own choices as a side effect of dangerous climbing.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone with interest and enthusiasm into the type of climbing that happens on the top of the world.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter #7)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Summary:

It's no longer safe for Harry at Hogwarts, so he and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, are on the run. Professor Dumbledore has given them clues about what they need to do to defeat the dark wizard, Lord Voldemort, once and for all, but it's up to them to figure out what these hints and suggestions really mean.

Their cross-country odyssey has them searching desperately for the answers, while evading capture or death at every turn. At the same time, their friendship, fortitude, and sense of right and wrong are tested in ways they never could have imagined.

The ultimate battle between good and evil that closes out this final chapter of the epic series takes place where Harry's Wizarding life began: at Hogwarts. The satisfying conclusion offers shocking last-minute twists, incredible acts of courage, powerful new forms of magic, and the resolution of many mysteries.

Above all, this intense, cathartic book serves as a clear statement of the message at the heart of the Harry Potter series: that choice matters much more than destiny, and that love will always triumph over death. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

In the final book in the series, it’d be impossible to try to address all of the developments that happen throughout the story.  The book alone is almost 800 pages! The thing that comes through shining more than anything is the power of love and the power of facing your fears.  Ron, Harry and Hermione all are forced to face things they certainly would rather not and somehow manage to stick together throughout it all.  There are so many stories that are weaved together in this book it’s absolutely stunning to imagine how Rowling had conceptualized it all.

The final battle of this book brings together so many amazing characters in the story and there are some truly fantastic moments of redemption.  For one certain character let me just say – I KNEW IT!  This is the book that makes getting through the series all the more worth it and I’d highly recommend the experience.

Warning: Contains repeated violence, heartbreak and a book hangover that will last for months.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Don’t you dare consider it unless you’ve read the others in the series! 

Want to read the whole series?

The Martian

The Martian

Summary:

A mission to Mars.

A freak accident.

One man's struggle to survive.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark's not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive.

But Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a book I’d been meaning to get around to for a while, but it was when it was chosen for my book club that I decided to finally go for it.  Right off the bat I’ll say – I wasn’t expecting it to be funny! There were moments I was chuckling out loud simply because it was unexpected in the context.  I appreciated Mark’s sense of humor lasting throughout his struggles.  I particularly liked his “survived something that should have killed me” meal.

Weir does a fantastic job portraying urgency without creating suspense fatigue.  I find my main struggle with books like these is that I can only be nervous so long before I disengage so I don’t bring stress over to my real life.  Weir creates a compelling and fantastic story without me ever feeling like I needed to take a step back.  I will admit – having an engineering background I think I was more intrigued by the book than some others might be.  If you’re not interested in the “whys” of making things work, the book could get a little repetitive or long.  I’m not sure the nonstop optimism is completely realistic for a character in that scenario, but nonetheless this was a fun read that I enjoyed.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone with a slightly nerdy bone in their body who also would enjoy some humor to mix it up.