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Recently Read vol. 1

Last year, as December was approaching, I realized I’d only read 6 books that year (apart from journals, papers, and course books). Masters, traveling, and everything else had taken life into a whirlwind where I barely had time to read just for fun. So I made a resolution to read more in 2015. How many more? Well, now I’m reading my 26th book in this year. Not as many as expected, but definitely much better than last year. I want to share a few here, and there will be many more to come!

recently read 1

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I’d heard about this book and how it was must-read for chick lit fans (I love chick lit), so I grabbed it. I was a bit apprehensive, because I’d never read anything by Rowell before, and it’s not easy to find something in this genre that is not either cliché,  cheesy or corny. Well, I was glad to find out that Attachments is none of those things.

This story is about a lonely guy named Lincoln whose job is to read people’s emails, to enforce the internet policy in the company. He comes across Beth and Jennifer, and before he knows it, he takes pleasure in reading their emails. That is, until he falls for one of them, through their emails.

Attachments is light, witty, and endearing. It’s exactly the kind of book I want to read after a long day at work, or when things in life don’t go as well as expected. Rowell sure knows how to capture hearts with swelling cuteness without being too much. Sure, it’s a happy ending so no major twist there, but it’s still a pleasure to read.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Satisfied with Attachments, I went on with Eleanor & Park, another huge hit of Rowell’s. In terms of mood, this is the complete opposite of Attachments. While the previous book is light, funny, and warm, Eleanor and Park is grim and depressing.

The book tells the story of Eleanor and Park, with alternating point of view between those two. Eleanor is the new kid at school, and she meets Park on the bus. Friendship grows, and eventually, love. So what makes it depressing? It’s the themes of the book: domestic abuse, social acceptance, and bullying. The main idea is nothing new, it’s something you could always find in high schools everywhere. But Rowell is exceptional; she writes really well. The story is written beautifully, and I was quite affected by the ending. It’s touching and heartbreaking, and also a game changer for me. I’d always hated sad books, but this one, I loved it. It’s that good.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl tells a story of twins — Cath and Wren — who start college in the University of Nebraska. Cath is an avid fan of Simon Snow books, and writes fan fiction in her spare time. The narration is told from Cath’s point of view, as she struggles when Wren wants to be more independent, resulting in the twins drifting apart. The book also highlights the problems most likely to be encountered by college students: love, academic and social pressure, and many more.

Compared to the previous two books, this one is not as fantastic. It’s still good, but I found the bits of fan fiction Cath writes were boring at times (it’s inserted between chapters, and sometimes inside the chapters as well). It’s still a good read though. I enjoyed reading about college life, reminiscing about my own (God I feel old), and half wishing I’d taken Literature or something similar as my major, so I could do something I actually enjoy for a living.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline highlights the life of Georgie McCool, a married woman who struggles to balance her career and marriage. Things are not going well with her husband, and in the midst of the havoc, she finds a way to communicate with her husband in the past. Unsure at first, she finally uses this to try to revive her marriage.

This, of course, is a brilliant concept. But somehow, I felt like I couldn’t relate to this story. I assume it’s because it follows a story of a married woman, and I read it in the time I shuddered at the idea of getting married. But I’ve read other books which character is a married woman, and I could relate in one way or another. I don’t know, but this book just didn’t do it for me. Something seemed a little off, and I found it much less interesting compared to her other books. Much fewer quotable sentences, too. If you skip this book, you won’t miss much.

Us by David Nicholls

This is a book about married life, and oh I loved it. I’ve always loved Nicholls for a start. One Day is one of my favorite books, and Nicholls seems to always write stories in an effortless yet touching kind of way, with detailed explanations of feelings and emotions.

Douglas, a nerdy, awkward father of a son, is dismayed when one night his wife tells him she wanted a divorce. To make it worse, his son also seems to dislike him. Their son is going away for college, and that summer, the family has planned a grand holiday across Europe. Determined to win his wife and son back, Douglas sets on a mission to make the vacation a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

If there’s one thing Nicholls does really well, it’s how he eloquently captures reality in such a way that even though it’s heartbreaking, it’s still painstakingly beautiful. “I could really feel the intensity of Douglas’s undying love towards his wife, yet also his insecurity. My heart really broke for him. In addition, Nicholls also has a knack for incorporating dark comedy to a story, between those poignant yet wonderful lines. Think about a combination of John Green and Nick Hornby.

I really recommend this book to everyone. And oh, I want a husband like Douglas, please.

Starter for Ten by David Nicholls

With One Day and Us sitting comfortably on the top of my favorite books of all time list, I hit the bookstores as soon as I finished Us to buy Starter for Ten (I couldn’t find it anywhere in Jakarta though, so I bought it with my Kindle). This is the first book Nicholls wrote, so I expected it to be less polished than his other books.

Starter for Ten follows a story of Brian Jackson, a freshman who’s obsessed with University Challenge, a British quiz program. This book portrays his student life in the 80’s as he adjusts to his new phase of life. As the story unfolds, Brian faces the harsh reality of rejection, lies, and difficulties to find his place in the world.

Upon reading this book, I realized the main characters in Nicholls’ books always have similar characteristics: introvert, awkward, nerdy, socially inept, and a bit desperate for love. But unlike with Douglas, I found it hard to sympathize with the protagonist. The writing is more raw than his later books, and these two things together make this book less impressive. It’s still a good read though, just not as great as One Day and Us.

That being said, I’m on the hunt for the last of Nicholls’ book I haven’t read, The Understudy.

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