Friday, August 18, 2017

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Title: Odd Thomas (Odd Thomas #1)
Author: Dean Koontz
Released in 2003
Borrowed from Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary

"The dead don't talk. I don't know why." But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.

Maybe he has a gift, maybe it's a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd's otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo's sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it's different.

A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world's worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd's deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15.

"His heavy face indeed had the quality of
a fungus, but a meaty variety. Very portobello."
Today is August 14.

In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock 'n' Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere (Summary from Goodreads).

Review

This is one of the few fictional books my brother has ever read, and had been pushing me to read it for the last few years. Me, a stubborn panda, had my own plans. Even after seeing the film adaptation a few years ago, which I loved btw, I only just decided to read Odd Thomas.  Side note: I tagged this as "adult," but I think it could be considered "new adult" since Odd is only 20 years old. It makes me feel weird being a year older than this character!  

Odd (Anton Yelchin) being a cute little shit. 
This is such a comfy book to read. It is written like a memoir by Odd, and I adore his "voice." The great characterization is one of the reasons why I loved this book so much. Odd is a likable, quirky, and funny character. Despite his upbringing with two parents that don't seem to care about his well-being, he is amazingly positive. I couldn't help but be charmed by his humorous dialogue and thoughts even in the most suspenseful and serious situations. Despite his macabre humor, you can tell how deeply affected he is emotionally by the traumatizing events throughout the novel. I think his humor is a coping mechanism for dealing with his sixth sense. In fact, he admits he would be emotionally unstable if he didn't lead his life as simply as possible in the small town of Pico Mundo as an amazing short-order cook with three of the same pairs of shoes.

"It takes a while to realize what a lonely world it is, and when you do...then the future looks kinda scary."

Although Odd is the only one with such an "odd" name, every side character in Pico Mundo is quirky in one way or another, and Koontz builds up every characters' background so you feel the same familial connections with them that Odd does.  Even if Odd didn't have his sixth sense, I would still consider him a hero by the way he genuinely cares about the other denizens of Pico Mundo and his overall humbleness.


Gorgeous Stormy Llewellyn portrayed by Addison Timlin.
His relationship with Stormy is beautiful *sobs*. Their dialogue is wonderfully cute, and the chemistry is real. I actually felt so sad after finishing this book for reasons that would be spoilery, but also because I just loved the writing and felt like I was truly experiencing Odd's strange life. I'm looking forward to continuing the series so I can experience more Odd.

RIP Anton Yelchin. When I heard of his death, I was deeply saddened. His performance as Odd in the film adaptation was memorable, and I couldn't imagine anyone else portraying his character. I just bought the DVD so I could watch it again with fresh eyes after reading the novel.

Amazing performance by Anton, and also
my feelings after reading the novel and seeing the film.

Monday, July 24, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Released May 30, 2017
Bought on Kindle
Rating: 3.5/5

Summary

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways (Summary from Goodreads).

Review

This book is hard to rate because I REALLY loved the first 75%, but the last quarter was just okay.  As you guys know, I love a good ship.  The building of Dimple and Rishi's relationship was so freakin' cute that I had feels for days! As you can see by the summary, Dimple and Rishi's parents arranged for the two to eventually get married.  While Rishi is 100% on board with this, Dimple has other plans to pursue her dream of becoming a successful web developer and creating a life-changing app (yaaas you go girl).  I won't spoil anything, but the scene where the two meet for the first time was so cute, and I knew from then on that this would be an adorable ship.

The writer did such a great job of building the romance between Dimple and Rishi.  Despite Dimple's goals and initial unwillingness to date Rishi, she could not resist how nice and supportive he is.  I need to seriously stop reading books like this because it gives me unrealistic expectations of men. A lot of reviewers thought the romance built too quickly.  I didn't think this while reading the book, but in hindsight, it did seem rather fast.

I tend to rate higher when I experience a lot of feels, even if I know the writing isn't the best. However, I ended up at 3.5 because some things felt a little off.  For instance, a random talent show in the middle of this app contest supposedly makes winner more likely to win the app contest.  I just think the app contest should be solely based on the app, not the talent show.  The talent show was probably placed in the story just to incorporate an Indian dance between Dimple and Rishi.

After Dimple and Rishi got together, the story slowed down for me.  After all, the best part of a ship is the chase! I did like that we got to see what their relationship was like as a couple, because a lot of YA books end when they get together.  I liked seeing how they made decisions together and worked through problems.  The rest of the story just dragged for me and was a bit predictable.  Something causes the two to fight and split apart, both decide to pursue their dreams, both realize they still love each other, and they live happily ever after.

Overall, it was nice to read another cute and fluffy contemporary with diverse characters.  I liked googling the Indian references and traditions to get a better idea of Dimple and Rishi's backgrounds. I feel like there is more I wanted to say, but this book took me a month to read for some reason and I honestly can't remember a lot of the details.  I think fans of Anna and the French Kiss would really enjoy this!
Monday, June 19, 2017

Saga, Vol.1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Title: Saga, Vol. 1
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrator: Fiona Staples
Released October 23, 2012
Bought Paperback from Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults (Summary from Goodreads).


Review

So this book reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones. They aren't similar in any way whatsoever in terms of story-line, it's just that both had me hooked because of how, ahem, "adult" some of the scenes were, as well as the violence and overall dark tone set by the illustrations. The art, by the way, is so colorful and captures all my attention.

There are so many weird things in this book.  We have people with wings, people with horns, people with TVs as heads, hipster ghosts, a lynx that senses when people are lying, etc.  I mean, it's weird as hell, but somehow it works.

The characters are witty and multi-faceted.  There are hints in the book that they have history and I feel there is a boatload of info that I can't wait to learn about them.  Already, a potential adversary for our main characters shows he can kill without a thought, yet tries to save a 6-year old from being a sex slave.

The bad thing about graphic novels is that they are too short! I can't tell if I will really like this series until I read more. I definitely want to read the next one, though!! I'm keeping this review short and spoiler-free, but future reviews for this series will probably have spoilers.
Friday, June 2, 2017

Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money


Title: Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money
Author: Dave Ramsey
Released March 3, 2015
Bought from Amazon
Rating: 5/5

Summary

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money covers the A to Z of Dave’s money teaching, including how to budget, save, dump debt, and invest. If you’re looking for practical information to answer all your “How?” “What?” and “Why?” questions about money, this book is for you. You’ll also learn all about insurance, mortgage options, marketing, bargain hunting and the most important element of all—giving. Now let’s be honest: This is the handbook of Financial Peace University (Summary from Goodreads).


Review

This is actually the first self-help book that I've read in its entirety, because the writing was easy to understand and this book made me feel excited, actually excited, to follow Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps.  Personal finance is a topic that interests me, but I often feel overwhelmed by all the information out there.  I'm always wondering if I'm really reading the right information, or if I'm getting sucked into a scam.

I don't even remember how I suddenly decided to look at Dave Ramsey's books, but I asked my dad if he's ever heard of him.  My dad meets the definition of Nerd in Dave Ramsey's book when it comes to finances, so when my dad told me he liked him, I thought this could be a good guy to learn something from.  You see, when I ask my dad about financial stuff, he just says "I'll get you set up right when you graduate college." But all I can think of is, God forbid, what if he dies tomorrow? I need to know this stuff now or I might not have anyone as financially literate and trustworthy as my own dad to teach me (okay, there are others I trust in my family, but my dad is my go-to person for advice).  I decided to read this book now so I can get some of my dad's input to verify what I was reading.

So, if you are in a similar situation as me, in college or starting a career with little knowledge of how to handle your personal finances, I think this book is an excellent starting point.  You don't have to follow his steps if you don't trust them, but it's great for learning the basic options out there for insurance, retirement, and mortgages.  Personally, I think the thousands of great reviews from the people he has helped is a testament to his advice.  His advice may seem simplistic, but I think over-complicating things is what gets us into messes in the first place.

One of the things that I really liked about Dave is that he stresses giving.  Although he presents it from a Christian perspective (as a Catholic this resonated with me), I think that giving is something that can make most people feel good about themselves and give some purpose to life. Not only that, but he challenges the notion that being financially well-off makes you selfish.  After all, you can't give to others if you have nothing to give!

After finishing this book, I felt empowered.  I'm a big-time worrier, so having a basic plan (the Baby Steps) to follow after college has eased my mind greatly.  If you don't want to purchase the book, but are curious about the Baby Steps, you can find information on his website. There are also several nice infographics floating around on Pinterest.
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