Mar 062017
 

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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Mar 082016
 

I wanted to get this post out because it might be awhile before I get around to posting it — or reading books!! Who knows. 🙂 Here are my past book reviews:  Book Reviews. And now for some recent reads I wanted to recommend:

1 ) The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I was looking for a fast read, something kind of “mindless” and fluffy and saw good reviews of this book so I gave it a try. It’s a better than average chick-lit book. It takes place in the South — there’s socialites and old money and then a skeleton is found under a peach tree on the grounds of a majestic old house that’s being remodeled into a fancy inn.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. I felt like the “mystery” wasn’t the main focus of the story like it sounded from the description but it was still a pleasant, fun read. The “magical” aspect wasn’t necessary at all in my opinion. But if you’re looking for a nice, romantic chick-lit type of book this is a good one.

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2 ) My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

A charming story about 7 year old Elsa. Her 77 year old crazy grandmother is basically her best friend and fills her head with stories of adventure and make-believe kingdoms. Then her grandma dies and leaves Elsa a bunch of letters and asks her to deliver these letters to people. It’s another adventure and Elsa takes it on secretly, deceiving her parents in order to deliver these apology letters.

This book was not as good as “A Man Called Ove“–which I LOVED–but it was still charming in its own way. This author does cranky and crazy old people well. You just love them. The two flaws in this book — I wish the grandma hadn’t died so early on in the story because she was awesome. And the make-believe kingdom/fairytale stuff went on a little too long for my tastes. But the actual story about Elsa and all the people in her world, made up for that. The ending was really excellent, too.

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3 ) Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

I LOVE this book so much! It was such a good read. It was a definite “feel good” book just in general. It was really well written and not dry or boring like a biography can sometimes be. The way it was written was interesting and fast-paced and kept you engrossed.

Reading about Ruth Bader-Ginsberg was refreshing, inspiring and just awesome. What an amazing person. Her drive and independence started young. Her mother’s advice: “Always be independent.” And she was. She broke down barriers on so many fronts, but especially for women’s rights.

“Every time she thought she could just do her work, RBG was reminded again that she didn’t belong there. ‘You felt in class as if all eyes were on you and that if you didn’t perform well, you would be failing not only for yourself, but for all women.’ Some professors held Ladies’ Day, when they would call only on women, with humiliating questions.”

“RBG firmly believed that for women to be equal, men had to be free.”

She comes across as a thoughtful, progressive, decisive person who wants equality for all, not just women. But the amazing things she did for women? Impressive.

“This wonderful woman whose statue I have in my chambers, Eleanor Roosevelt, said ‘ Anger, resentment, envy. These are emotions that just sap your energy. They’re not productive and don’t get you anyplace, so get over it.'”

“I think that men and women, shoulder to shoulder, will work together to make this a better world. Just as I don’t think that men are the superior sex, neither do I think women are. I think that it is great that we are beginning to use the talents of all of the people, in all walks of life, and that we no longer have the closed doors we once had.”

The book was about her life, going to college and law school, breaking down barriers and becoming the first tenured female professor at Columbia, co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, and was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia before joining the Supreme Court.

The book was also about her marriage to Marty, a tax attorney who loved cooking and taking care of Ruth. They were together for 60 years before he died and you could really tell that they absolutely adored, respected and loved each other. It was so sweet.

“RBG’s use of the phrase life partner was a marriage in which the woman didn’t lose herself and her autonomy, in which two humans shared their lives and goals on equal footing.”

“Marty would tell her that if she went to bed, in the morning everything would be clearer. ‘He was right,’ RBG said after Marty’s death. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m in a maze, then go to sleep thinking about the way out, and when I wake up in the morning, I see the path. But now there’s no one telling me it’s time to quit.”

The entire book was awe-inspiring and humbling. It was humorous and serious, interesting and informative. It included some analysis of some of her decisions in court. It showed the softer side of her life, her close friendship with Scalia, and even included the fitness routine she does with her personal trainer. This teeny tiny woman that is a firecracker in all aspects of life has a trainer helping her do one-legged squats! It was such a joy to read this book and I cannot recommend it enough!

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4 ) Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller

This was a really interesting book, not all that uplifting though. It’s been on my to read list for awhile and finally read it. It was a memoir about the author’s life in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe with her parents and sister. But it was more about her marriage and the end of her marriage. So like I said, kind of dark, but still a good read.

Her parents were hilarious and one of the highlights of the book, for me. Her dad was funny and often had insightful comments to share:

“The problem with most people, is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live. [pg 9]”

How true is that statement?? And then her mother, who was bipolar, made this comment about the author’s epic long birth of her first child:

“About once every three hours, Mum looked at her watch and said, ‘This has been a biblically long pregnancy, Bobo. Why don’t you drink some Epsom salts and hop up and down?’ [pg 149]”

The author met her husband, Charlie, in Africa. He was an American who was living there as a river guide. They met and fell in love, got married (where the author came down with Malaria on her wedding day) and they lived in Africa together for a few years and had a baby together. Then they moved to the States.

“Motherhood – the way too many of us do it alone now – without an exaltation of female relatives, without a heft of knowing matrons to buoy us up, is unnatural. [pg 156]”

That quote made me a little sad. She was comparing the difference between giving birth to their first child while still in Africa and having the support of other women in the village, to their second child after they were in America.

Things were not great in America. Work was scarce for both of them and I think the author both missed her parents and the African life she had grown up in. She never really felt like she adjusted to living in Wyoming, where her husband was from. This is where the book turned into more about the decline of her marriage to Charlie. She compared her own marriage to that of her parents:

“Together they had lost three children, a war, a few farms, and for awhile my mother had seriously lost her mind. And yet they incorporated these losses into their marriage along with what they had gained, assigning very little in the way of either blame or praise almost anywhere. They put no more weight on despair than they did on joy. The way they did love was also the way they did tragedy, as if it was all an inevitable part of the gift of being alive. [pg 74]”

“Ours had contracted into a grocery list relationship – finances, children, housekeeping. We concentrated on logistics, cautiously withholding, careful of what we said to one another in case it was used against us later. And instead of disclosing our souls, we recounted complaints and kept score of the ways in which we had irritated one another or let each other down. After that we had nothing left to say. [pg 81]”

They were married nearly 20 years and had three kids, and things weren’t always bad. She wrote about the good times, too. But as their careers started to improve and things got a little better for them, it seemed like they were growing apart quickly. One time Charlie went back to Africa for a little while for work as a guide again and he called her with this story:

“‘I was almost eaten by a lion last night,’ he said. I said, ‘Oh.’ ‘Two of them. I was stalked. They followed me into camp.’…and perhaps there was more to the story than that, but none of it seemed to matter then because the fact of Charlie having been stalked by lions changed nothing. He sounded no more alive, or grateful, or excited for having been nearly dead. And his inability to get hurt by animals had long ago ceased to impress me. [pg 209]”

As a reader, that was pretty much the turning point in my eyes. I read that and the lack of emotion from both parties said to me: this relationship is doomed/over.

Despite the book being about the end of her marriage, it wasn’t entirely depressing or negative. There was enough positivity in it and enough interesting anecdotal stories about Africa that I didn’t feel bummed out reading the book and I found it really, really fascinating. So don’t let the theme of divorce turn you off from reading this memoir!

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5 ) Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant

Same author that wrote “Under Your Skin” — which I LOVED and was really, really good. In comparison this one was not as strong, but still worth a read. The concept is creepy and the villain of the story is super creepy as it all unfolds. It makes your skin crawl.

The story is about Lizzie, a widow who is starting to wonder if maybe her husband isn’t really dead. As you read you feel sorry for her and the tragedy of losing her husband…until things start to come out and you slowly realize it wasn’t the love affair/tragedy you think it is.  You really like the main character as you read it and it kind of keeps you guessing until the very end.

A lot of books these days compare themselves to “Gone Girl” and this is the first one like that that actually did feel reminiscent of Gone Girl.

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6 ) Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this book. Reading the summary it sounded like an upper-middle class married mom from Chicago rescues a homeless teen from the streets who has an infant that is clearly suffering from an illness and malnutrition. Of course, the girl and baby are not what they seem… But the book is so much more about that.

Heidi brings Willow and baby Ruby home to her posh condo in Chicago, where her 12 year old daughter Zoe and husband Chris are, saying that they are going to stay with them for just one night. It turns into a lot longer and each chapter is told from either Chris, Heidi or Willow, and the REAL story unfolds. Little by little you realize there is more to the story–both Heidi’s and Willow’s stories–and by the end you are both shocked and saddened once the story is told. It was an excellent story, very well-written, and kind of haunting!

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