books to read

Books #13

I have been reading! Actually a lot, but a read some not great books that I didn’t feel like reviewing or sharing with you guys. So here is a post with a few good ones I’ve read in 2017 so far!

 

1 ) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.”

I don’t know where to start with this book because SO much happens in it. It’s a story that starts in the 1920’s in Greece…an unexpected love story with the couple fleeing the country amidst war and fire, where they travel to the United States. The story spans three generations and you are definitely interested in every single character in this story. The character development is brilliant and beautiful. The writing is like poetry–absolutely gorgeous and you don’t want to stop reading. It’s an epic read, but never feels too long or too wordy.

“Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin. Eugenides’s command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie’s shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor.”

I cannot recommend this book enough. It might be one of the best books I read in 2016.

2 ) American Assassin (Mitch Rapp #1) by Vince Flynn

This book was recommended to me and I really liked it a lot! If you are a fan of Jack Reacher, you will probably like this book. The story is about Mitch Rapp becoming a spy and assassin loosely associated with the CIA. The Cold War is over and Islamic terrorism is the new thing–and these mysterious (CIA) operatives are creating a group of spies that “don’t exist.”

Since this was the first book in the series it was a lot of set-up and backstory but it didn’t feel bogged down or boring. It was interwoven well with the action of the story.

Spy novels can sometimes get tedious with too many details, or too much “spy” stuff that is sometimes over my head, but this book never fell in that trap. I will definitely keep reading the series.

3 ) The Wrong Side of Goodbye (Harry Bosch #21) by Michael Connelly

Books by Michael Connelly are ones that I wait for each year (same with the Jack Reacher series). The books are SO good and I devour them in a matter of days (sometimes hours). So I was very excited to see that the new Bosch book was out.

Harry isn’t a detective anymore, but don’t worry, the book is still good. He’s a reserve detective now, and also doing private investigation cases on the side. This book was about two stories–a serial rapist cold case investigation he was assisting with, and a private investigation case to find an heir for a very wealthy man in LA.

Both stories were excellent and fast-paced. The ending was unexpected and very fulfilling and I was bummed when I finished the book! SO GOOD!

4 ) Hidden Bodies (You #2) by Caroline Kepnes

Joe Goldberg is back. The story takes up pretty soon after where “You” left off. But this time Joe is double-crossed by Amy, his new love, and he leaves New York to chase her out to Hollywood and find her. He wants revenge.

I read some mixed reviews so I went into this book without high expectations but it was actually pretty good. I love the fast, crazy writing style and the first half of the book is great. It sucked me in right away and I couldn’t stop reading, much like “You.”

The second half of the book lagged a little bit and I didn’t really like the ending, but that didn’t necessarily ruin the book for me. I will say that this book wasn’t quite as dark as the first one–and less shocking–but maybe that’s just a magic that you can’t repeat once the shock is over. It was still a fun (and twisted) read.

 

5 ) Sideways by Rex Pickett

Sideways is easily in my Top 10 favorite movies. I absolutely love it! It’s so funny and fun and perfectly cast. So when my book club decided to read the book for our February choice I happily bought the book. I mean–how on earth had I not already read this book?!?!

The book is just as good as the movie, and pretty darn close to it. So if you’ve seen the movie you can hear the actor’s voices in the book. (I usually read books before they are movies, so it was weird to do it this way!) Sideways is a fun, hilarious and fast read. I read it in about two days and loved every minute of it.

6 ) The Royal We by Heather Cocks

I loved this book so much! It’s a modern fairy-tale about Bex, an American, who is studying abroad at Oxford and she falls in love with Nick, who will be King someday. (The story sometimes sounded like it was copying aspects of William and Kate.) Their secret romance goes on for years, with the normal ups and downs of relationships and the not-so-normal royal problems.

I devoured the book in just a few days. I didn’t want to stop reading it. It was so romantic and fantastical and it’s fun living in that fantasy world for a bit. There were a few things I didn’t like about the book: I felt like it needed some editing in places and I did not like the story line with Bex’s sister–I felt she was unnecessary. But other than that, I loved it and was so bummed when I finished the book!

7 ) The Beach by Alex Garland

I saw this movie years ago and remember it being really good. It’s been so long that reading the book now it felt fresh and new; I didn’t really remember most of the story so it wasn’t “spoiled” for me.

The book is a fast read and you’ll have a hard time putting it down. The chapters are short, too, so that also makes it easy to just keep reading…One more chapter, one more chapter…

Richard is a 20-something (I think) British backpacker in Thailand who is given a map to a secret beach from a stranger he meets in a hostel (who dies mysteriously–suicide??) the next day. He pairs up with a couple of French travelers and they find the beach….This story is basically a modern version of Lord of The Flies. The ending it pretty dramatic and brutal. The experiences on the beach with the community is also an interesting look into group dynamics, ego and people breaking from reality. Very very interesting read.

Happy reading!

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Books #10

I’ve actually been reading lately! It’s just taken me awhile to read enough to write a post about them. So here are some books I recommend:

1 ) The Ex by Alafair Burke

Publishers really need to stop comparing every book to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. It just sets books up to fail. However, this book was pretty good, even if I had high expectations because of the comparison.

Olivia is a defense attorney and her ex-fiance’s teenager daughter calls her for help. Her ex has been arrested for murder. Despite the conflict, she takes the case and does what she can to build a defense and clear him.

The book is well-written and moves quickly. The characters are well-developed and I enjoyed reading it. I didn’t feel like the “surprise” ending was all that ground-breaking but it was still a satisfying read.

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2 ) The Widow by Fiona Barton

Another book compared to Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. Publishers–stop doing this! Not every book is going to be like those two! And this book, while good, did not have a shocking twist at the end.

Jean is a dutiful wife who stands by her husband, Glen, when he’s accused of kidnapping (and worse) little Bella. The story is told from the point of view of the detective investigating, Jean, and the reporter trying to get Jean’s story. The story is nothing ground breaking but it is told in a unique way and I liked the book.

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3 ) The Wonder Weeks by Frans Plooij and van de Rijt Hetty

I’ve been using the Wonder Weeks iPhone App for a few months now after reading about it on a baby message board. I found it really interesting and pretty spot on for identifying the changes and development in my baby’s life. I decided to get the book from the library to read more about it.

The book is somewhat unnecessary if you already have the app. The app covers all the developmental “leaps” pretty well and in a more concise way. I felt like the book was redundant and as I read each chapter it was a lot of repeating. BUT if you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to buy the app (I think it was $4 or so), the book is good enough to tell you what you’re baby is going through at each stage. It’s all very fascinating and cool to see in person!

 

4 ) The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett

This is a memoir about three friends in their mid-20’s who are at a crossroads, one I think many people have at that point in their lives. One is dissatisfied with her career, the other loses her job and another loses a relationship. So they decide to go on a trip around the world together for a year.

They go to South America (where they party like it’s Spring Break, and then realize they want more out of their travels), volunteer in Kenya, study at an ashram in India and then go to Asia. They stay in hostels, they backpack, they stay in nicer places too and meet all kinds of people on the road.

I love these types of books. I love exploration and travel memoirs and I had high hopes for this book. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book. It was just not quite as good as I had hoped it would be. Part of that was that the three girls were very–blah. I couldn’t tell the difference between the three of them or which story belonged to whom (like was Holly the one that got dumped? Or was it Amanda? Couldn’t remember!).

It was trying to have kind of an Eat Pray Love vibe to it but didn’t quite make the mark. So even though it fell a little flat and felt a little soulless, I enjoyed reading about the places they traveled and the things they discovered. The main “characters” just weren’t very compelling or memorable. Don’t let that deter you from the story, though.

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5 ) Lets Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell

I loved this book. It was written in such a beautiful, poignant way. The author’s writing style was just beautiful–but not in a flowery, pretentious way. It’s a memoir about friendship. Caroline and Gail meet each other because of their dogs and it turns into a deep, loving friendship that sadly gets interrupted by cancer. I wanted to share a few moving quotes from the book:

“What they never tell you about grief is that missing someone is the simple part. [pg 9]”

“Maybe this is the point: to embrace the core sadness of life without toppling headlong into it, or assuming it will define your days [pg 111].”

The themes of the book are friendship and grief. I think anyone could read this book and relate to it.

How dare you, the body and mind felt in furious accord. I’m in the middle of a life here. I was outraged because I had been working on this story line for years, and I knew it was not yet finished. [pg 111]”

“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures [pg 182].”

The book does not feel negative or sad, perhaps a little bittersweet because of the heavy topic, but I never felt depressed reading about their journey. It was a really wonderful book.

 

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6 ) Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I really really liked this book! Ethan is 17 and his life is thrown into turmoil when he and his mother walk in on his dad having an affair with his secretary (the 20-something secretary that Ethan had a crush on). His father moves from their Manhattan home to the middle of nowhere to live in a cabin in bear country! Unexpected circumstances happen and Ethan is forced to go live with him, even though he doesn’t want to.

His dad is an ultra runner and every day goes for long runs. Ethan is trying to adjust to living with his dad, whom he kind of hates, when his dad doesn’t come back after a run. After a day of waiting, Ethan is suddenly worried something is wrong. He contacts the authorities and Search and Rescue go out looking for him–unsuccessfully. So Ethan decides to go out with two neighbors to find his dad on his own.

It’s a really well-written book about relationships and healing, anger and overcoming fears. I highly recommend this book.

What have you read lately that really stuck with you?

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