Hello lovely readers!
I have (finally) compiled our poll for ethical dilemma books. This was a tough one for me to do, because I haven’t delved much into this genre before. I hope I have a few good selections for you, and if you have others you’d like to be included in a future redo of this theme, remember to submit them.
Since I put the pro in procrastination and have had a whole ton going on the last few weeks, I’m going to leave it up to you to decide when we discuss the first book; we can either do it next saturday (the 5th) or give you the usual 2 weeks and read it for the 12th. The poll will close this Saturday evening, so we’ll talk about what you’d like during the social. 🙂
There has been some talk about you wanting to do another sci-fi month, so let me know if that’s what you’d prefer next. If you have any other recommendations, get them to me whenever you can.
Finally, it’s still a ways off yet and I know there is still so much unknown about the next few months, but be thinking about our RBR meetup! I’ll set up some meetings to talk about it soon.
And on to the books!
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Giver of Stars, discover the love story that captured over 20 million hearts in Me Before You, After You, and Still Me.
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Notable Review by Emily May
As much as I like a good love story, I wouldn’t call myself a romantic. Not by a long shot. In fact, I can be pretty cold-hearted when it comes to romance books, remaining emotionless in the face of tragic heartbreak and loss. The Fault in Our Stars didn’t move me. Eleanor & Park was cute, but still an average read for me.
There’s just certain things that I don’t like. Emotionally manipulative books that feel as if the author set out with an agenda to tug at my heart strings – that would be up there with the worst. I guess I subconsciously rebel when I can see what the author’s trying to do to my feelings. I avoid a lot of adult chick lit for this reason – because experience has shown that most of these books are like Lifetime movies: melodramatic and cheesily message-driven.
But somehow – despite my reluctance to try this book because it seemed it would fall into all the aforementioned boxes – I ended up caving under the pressure and grabbing this book from my local library. I didn’t expect much. I was just going to try a little bit and see how it went, feeling confident that it would be crappy and I would be right. But hell, I got schooled.
I just… I can’t even pretend anymore, screw the book snobbery, I thought Me Before You was wonderful.
I shipped like crazy.
I stayed up most of the night.
Being proven wrong may never have felt so good.
I got the giggles about halfway through chapter one and struggled to get rid of them. Humour books are always a difficult sell because I guess it always depends on what you find funny… but I found Lou Clark to be an hilarious heroine. She’s one of those charming but unfortunate individuals that finds herself in numerous awkward situations but somehow gets through them and just warms your heart with her delightful lack of propriety.
I don’t know if there is really such a thing as a “British sense of humour” but I’ve enjoyed a bunch of British chick lit/humour with similar MCs – Bridget Jones, Confessions of Georgia Nicholson – so maybe there’s a pattern here with my tastes.
If you’re considering this book but think you’re a shameless unromantic like me, DO NOT read any quotes from it. People keep pulling up these quotes about the meaning of life and carpe diem and it makes the whole thing seem much cheesier than it is. I thought there was a pleasant lack of cheese, hehe. It’s also nowhere near as romantic as everything tries to make you think: the cover (the UK one is even worse), the blurb, the title… when actually there’s very little romance. There is a touch of finding love in unexpected places and against the odds, but the main focus of this book is about life and the importance of choices.
If you haven’t already been told, the story is about Lou who needs a job and Will who needs a carer after an accident left him paralysed. Completely unable to move anything below his mid torso, Will longs for death and wants to go to Switzerland to put an end to his misery. Horrified by this discovery, Lou sets out to improve his life and give him a reason to live and look forward to each day. The relationship between them is told in such a wonderful way and develops through several stages, each filled with hilarity.
I think people’s reactions, emotions and decisions felt completely realistic in Me Before You, even if I didn’t always like them. The whole book was filled with the funny, ridiculous situations that we expect to find in comic fiction, but balanced out with a hard dose of reality. It makes you think about things you didn’t think about before without seeming like the author wanted to make you think about them. Things like just how depressing the lack of wheelchair access is in most venues. But there’s a great balance between the funny and the serious, so the latter never becomes too much.
This book made me feel all the emotions without seeming to try too hard. Love was found in a very unexpected place and I definitely want to check out the author’s other work.
Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.
Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.
As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?
Notable Review by Emily May
“This is still an ugly world.”
I opened with that quote for a reason – while definitely entertaining, More Happy Than Not is a dark, sad book that deals with homophobia, depression and suicide. The quirky dialogue and nerdy references to comic books, Star Wars and action heroes are much needed to lighten up an otherwise very distressing novel.
Personally, I do not think the promised big twist is particularly hard to guess if you’ve read the description and
, but I don’t think much hangs on it anyway. Because this book is an overlapping of several stories and themes, each one as powerful as the last. It’s about coming to terms with ones sexuality, it’s about friendship, it’s about memory and forgetting, it’s a love story, and it’s about choosing to be happy, despite the sad.
Oh, and it’s also one of the most diverse books I’ve ever read. And, unlike other books that try to do many things at once, all the many themes are executed well.
“From the shapes cast by the green paper lantern, you would never know that there were two boys sitting closely to one another trying to find themselves. You would only see shadows hugging, indiscriminate.”
The story is about Aaron, who is trying to pick himself up after both his father’s suicide and his own attempted suicide. He can’t turn to his family or guy friends, and his girlfriend tries to be supportive but Aaron doesn’t really feel able to talk to her either. When sweet, eccentric Thomas comes along, he’s everything Aaron needs in his life and more. Suddenly, Aaron has to deal with the realization that he’s gay in a place where being gay isn’t welcomed, or choose to not deal with it – by going to the Leteo institute and having his memories taken away.
Obviously a book about depression, suicide and homophobia would be sad, but I think it’s the other little things that make More Happy Than Not an emotional read. Like the suggestion running behind every event in the book that sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to and you don’t always get what you longed for, and the message that wiping it all away (either through suicide or memory loss) isn’t the answer. And the fact that wiping away memories doesn’t change who you are.
And the love story. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is another cute teen romance, though it definitely is cute at times. It’s built up gradually through friendship, geekery and mutual understanding, until it’s something else…
“He rubs his face and his eyes squint; a tear escapes. “You didn’t have to take my side, Stretch.” I kind of, sort of, definitely always will.
I’m serious, though, this isn’t a nice book. You’ve been warned. The teens might have cute moments, but they’re also real teens who masturbate, watch porn and curse (though there’s not a lot of profanity if that bothers you). And ALL the characters are well-developed, confused and often funny.
In short, More Happy Than Not is a blend of light and dark, happiness and not-happiness, and it’s incredibly effective. If I were cheesy I’d call it unforgettable. Ah well, it’s nearly Friday so… it’s unforgettable. Go read it.
Some stories live forever . . .
Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t, and they become companions.
Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shameful secret—one that nobody else in town would ever suspect—and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With her own identity suddenly challenged, and the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. When does a moral choice become a moral imperative? And where does one draw the line between punishment and justice, forgiveness and mercy?
In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths we will go in order to protect our families and to keep the past from dictating the future
Notable Review by Malvina
Jodi Picoult has tackled yet another ‘big issue’ (forgiveness) in The Storyteller, but as in all her books things are a little more complicated than usual, and there’s her wow-didn’t-see-that-coming twist as well. Sage Singer is a loner. She works as a baker through the night, only befriending a few people, hardly ever talking to the customers, always staying behind the scenes in the store where she works. She has terrible scars on her face from a frightful accident, something she’s struggling to cope with – psychologically as well as physically – every day of her life. But it doesn’t stop her baking. Throughout the book I could almost smell Sage’s breads, the beautiful breads taught to her by her Jewish grandmother – and desperately wanted to taste them. Over time an unlikely friendship grows between her and an elderly customer in the store – Joseph Weber. And then, in a completely unexpected moment, Joseph asks Sage to kill him. He can’t live with the memories of what he’s done in the past… and tells her why he deserves to die. His story – and Sage’s grandmother’s story, a survivor of Auschwitz – are confronting and shocking.
You might think that this is ‘just’ another book about the Holocaust, but it isn’t. It is a privilege to read it; an honour to remember those whose lives were abruptly terminated in such terrible circumstances. We must not forget them, and we must learn from the mistakes of history, even if this means we metaphorically ‘gird our loins’ to read on, saddened and horrified and, yes, sickened at times. So is it worth the angst, the reader pain? Yes it is. Of course it is.
Woven through Jodi Picoult’s book is a fable, as it were, of fiction imitating life – or is it life imitating fiction? It’s told by Sage’s grandmother, and the ending is both confronting and unusual. It adds to the richness of the book, and it weaves the story of her grandmother and Joseph Weber together.
This is not an easy book to read, simply from the subject matter. And yet Jodi Picoult’s arresting and easy style of writing means the book will keep you riveted and make you think in the end…. I wonder what I would have done? Thank you Jodi Picoult, for making me think. And remember.
Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written debut novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
Notable Review by Gaby
The Light Between Oceans is an incredibly moving novel about what happens when good people make bad decisions. The story takes place in the town of Point Partageuse, Australia during the 1920s. The story begins when a light house keeper and his wife find a life boat containing a live baby (and dead man) on the shore of their isolated island. Through a mixture of misplaced intentions and unsupported superstition they decide to raise the child as their own — deciding not to inform the authorities of the child’s existence.
Although the book was a quick read, I never once felt that it was forced or lacking in anyway. The plot is compact — never wavering from its central theme. I enjoy this kind of focused writing. Irrelevant or distracting side plots would have pulled me away from Tom and Isabel’s narrative and weakened my investment in their turmoil.
The story is highly emotional. Stedman crafts a perfectly gray scenario that forces its readers to question their own moral standing. This truly is reader manipulation at its most powerful. Allowing the reader to sympathize with morally ambiguous characters is a difficult task, however, Stedman presents her narrative in such a way that the reader can’t help feeling the same inner conflict as Tom and Isabel.
Considering this is Stedman’s first published novel, I am incredibly excited to see what she produces next. This was a masterpiece in storytelling.
Filled with grace, sensitivity and compassion, The Promise of Stardust is an emotionally resonant and thought-provoking tale that raises profound questions about life and death, faith and medicine, and illuminates the power of love to divide and heal a family in the wake of unexpected tragedy
Matt Beaulieu was two years old the first time he held Elle McClure in his arms, seventeen when he first kissed her under a sky filled with shooting stars, and thirty-three when he convinced her to marry him. Now in their late 30s, the deeply devoted couple has everything-except the baby they’ve always wanted.
When an accident leaves Elle brain dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear the thought of life without her, he knows Elle was afraid of only one thing-a slow death. And so, Matt resolves to take her off life support.
But Matt changes his mind when they discover Elle’s pregnant. While there are no certainties, the baby might survive if Elle remains on life support. Matt’s mother, Linney, disagrees with his decision. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive on machines. Linney is prepared to fight her son in court-armed with Elle’s living will.
Divided by the love they share, Matt and Linney will be pitted against each other, fighting for what they believe is right, and what they think Elle would have wanted resulting in a controversial legal battle that will ultimately go beyond one family . . . and one single life.
Notable Review by Larry H
Wow. Here’s a book that will make you think, and make you want to discuss it with others.
Matt Beaulieu has known his wife, Elle, since right after she was born when he was two, as their families were close friends. He’s loved her since he was 17 and she was 15, and although they weathered many challenges to their relationship (there were years they barely spoke), they finally had everything they’ve always wanted—except a healthy baby.
One day everything changes. Elle sustains a severe brain injury in a freak accident and will never be able to recover. Knowing how much she feared being kept alive by machines after watching her mother die of cancer when Elle was a teenager, Matt prepares to take her off of life support. And then he finds out Elle is pregnant again, despite her inability to carry a baby to term. He knows how much this child would have meant to Elle, and how much she would have wanted to fight for it, but he faces a difficult decision—should he keep her alive on the off chance the baby is able to survive, despite the fact she never wanted to be kept alive in this way, or should he let her—and their unborn child—go?
Matt’s decision is further complicated by the fact that members of his and Elle’s families come out on both sides of the issue. Some want Matt to do everything he can to keep Elle alive, especially if there’s a chance the baby can survive, while others feel he is contradicting Elle’s most fervent wishes and is simply blinded by his grief. No one feels as strongly toward the latter than Matt’s mother, Linney, who was Elle’s godmother and her mother’s best friend. Convinced she knows better than Matt what Elle would have wanted, this emotional battle is taken to the courtroom, where the case becomes a bellwether for pro-life and right-to-die advocates, and the effects ripple far beyond one family.
Switching back and forth between the present and reminiscences of Matt and Elle’s relationship through the years, this is a thought provoking, emotionally powerful book. While it clearly leans toward one point of view on this issue, it doesn’t discount the views of the other side, and it illustrates how the issue blurs the lines between whose interests should be thought of first and foremost in cases like this. Priscille Sibley has clearly done her homework, and she also has created a beautiful love story between Matt and Elle, one that choked me up from time to time.
Many of the reviews I’ve read of this book have likened it to a Jodi Picoult novel. While I don’t think that’s a necessarily negative comparison, I don’t think it’s entirely accurate either. Sure, at the heart of this book is the question about whether or not a woman should be kept alive if there’s a chance she could deliver a healthy baby, but I feel that Matt and Elle’s relationship, how they nurtured and challenged each other, is as much a focus of this book as the controversial issue.
In the end, I don’t know if this book breaks any new ground, but that doesn’t matter. For me, it was tremendously compelling (I read the entire book on a flight from Albuquerque to Washington, DC) and beautifully written, and that’s more than enough. I don’t know where you stand on this issue, but I’d encourage you to read this with an open mind—and a full heart.
Which books would you like to read next? (Choose 2)
- More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (25%, 6 Votes)
- The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley (25%, 6 Votes)
- The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (21%, 5 Votes)
- The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (17%, 4 Votes)
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (13%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 12