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A couple years ago, I watched Never Let Me Go and was struck by how wonderful it was. I’m not one to read a book after I’ve seen the movie, so I looked into other books that Ishiguro had written. By far, The Remains of the Day was the most recommended and highest reviewed. I bought it, and then promptly forgot about it until… about three days ago.

Though it didn’t take me long to read the book (it’s fairly short), I have to say that I just didn’t quite get it. It’s incredibly well-written, of course. Ishiguro does an excellent job of painting a picture of the English countryside and Darlington Hall, but I couldn’t get past how robotic Mr. Stevens was – and, yes, I understand that this was the point.

Mr. Stevens is your stereotypical English butler. He prides himself on his dignity as a butler, aiding his employer in every way possible, even when he ends up insulting himself or doing something counterproductive in the process. He fails to understand why one would ‘banter’ with one’s employer, devoting several long, tedious pages to trying to determine what situations might call for banter and how one is to determine the appropriate level of banter in a response while avoiding offense. (He also always refers to himself as ‘one,’ sometimes several times in one sentence. It is very frustrating.)

At the beginning of the novel, Mr. Stevens has just received a letter from Miss Kenton (now Mrs. Benn), the former housekeeper at Darlington Hall. In her letter, he feels that she’s expressing regret at the path she chose for her life, maybe even regretting her marriage and hoping for her former job back. He takes a road trip through the English countryside to meet up with her, philosophizing on what it means to be a good butler and reminiscing about the political events his former employer was involved in.

In the end, nothing really happens aside from tangent after tangent after tangent. I felt like the hours I’d spent reading this book had been wasted due to the lack of plot. This book is extremely well-written, but unfortunately, that’s about all I can say for it. Maybe I’m just missing something, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why so many people love this book.

Final rating: ★

The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield

After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for thirteen years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death. A place where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. The place where Kate would spend the entirety of her childhood. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, Mayfield draws the reader into a world of Southern mystique and ghosts.

Kate’s father set up shop in a small town where he was one of two white morticians during the turbulent 1960s. Jubilee, Kentucky, was a segregated, god-fearing community where no one kept secrets, except the ones they were buried with. By opening a funeral home, Kate’s father also opened the door to family feuds, fetishes, and victims of accidents, murder, and suicide. The family saw it all. They also saw the quiet ruin of Kate’s father, who hid alcoholism and infidelity behind a cool, charismatic exterior. As Mayfield grows from trusting child to rebellious teen, she begins to find the enforced hush of the funeral home oppressive, and longs for the day she can escape the confines of her small town.

Interested?  This title is currently available for request on Netgalley and through the Goodreads First Reads program.  It will be available for purchase on January 13, 2015.

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Finding Mr. Brightside is an unconventional romance featuring two teenagers who bond over a shared tragedy. Abram and Juliette have known each other forever – but they never really knew each other until they accidentally met at a CVS one night. What starts out as an awkward encounter featuring some prescription drugs slowly turns into an easy friendship, until Juliette and Abram realize that it’s becoming something more. Their developing relationship is complicated by the fact that Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad were having an affair – which ended in a deadly car crash.

The story is sweet and heartfelt, and the writing feels very realistic. The perspective frequently changes between Abram and Juliette – something I generally dislike – but their voices are so distinct that there’s no confusion. Many YA books have conspicuously absent parents, but Juliette’s dad and Abram’s mom are present throughout the book, dealing with issues of their own.

Although the story takes place over a fairly short stretch of time – it can’t be more than a couple months – the progression of Juliette and Abram’s relationship feels natural. The characters are perfect for each other: Juliette helps Abram regain control of his life, and Abram helps to break down the walls Juliette has built around herself.

I was pleasantly surprised with Finding Mr. Brightside, and I look forward to more from the author. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.

Final rating: 

Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark

Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.

Sound like something you’d be interested in?  Goodreads has one copy available through December 19.  Request it now!