Monday, November 6, 2017

Hi-de-ho! Two in a row!

It is unusual for me to choose back-to-back books in which I invoke the "100-page rule"; but alas, there are too many (far, far too many) great books waiting for me to waste my precious reading time.

"The Woman in Cabin 10" by Ruth Ware is the first one. This one hit the stands in a blaze of hype, promising to be the next "Gone Girl" or "The Girl on the Train", as many do these days. And for some, it was that good. For me, not so much. My review is here.

The next one was more of a surprise because it's been on my TBR for a while, and I have looked forward to reading it. "1Q84" by Haruki Murakami, originally written as three novellas in Murakami's native Japanese, was translated to English and combined into one novel. My review is here.


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84Summary:
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.


My take: 2 looks
Even though I put this one down, I am giving it 2 looks because I did read to page 223 before deciding to abandon it. Interestingly enough, I asked fellow reader Sarah if she had read it, and she told me that she, too, put it down about 1/2 way through.

To pen a book that wraps it all up in the end is an intriguing method of writing, but it has to be interesting enough until you get to the solution in order to keep the reader. That is where this book failed me.

The characters were all very different, with developing pasts, and their trajectories were clearly going to intersect. However, none of the five primary characters had any hold on me. I was completely uninvested, but wanted so badly to like this one that I plowed through over 200 pages. Perhaps there was something lost in the translation from Japanese to English, and I was quite interested in the fact that one person translated the first two sections, with someone else translating the last section. I wanted to like the book enough to read it all and ruminate over any differences in style from the translators. However, it was not meant to be.

Not recommended.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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Summary:
In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

My take: 1 look
I put this one down after trying again and again to get "into" it. When there are excellent suspense novels ripe for the picking on the shelves of the local library, this one does not hold muster. I did a quick survey on social media when I found myself struggling with the book, and found that it is quite polarizing. People either love it or hate it. Well, count me as one of the latter.

Not recommended.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Summary:
In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.

In this smart, suspenseful, and intense literary thriller, debut novelist Iain Reid explores the depths of the human psyche, questioning consciousness, free will, the value of relationships, fear, and the limitations of solitude. Reminiscent of Jose Saramago’s early work, Michel Faber’s cult classic Under the Skin, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel pulls you in from the very first page…and never lets you go.

My take: 2.5 looks

I started this one over three times. It was so easy to put down when I needed more time or was feeling overwhelmed. However, it was also very easy to read, enabling me to start from the beginning each time. At less than 300 pages, I felt as if I had to finish it.

The story was interesting enough. I didn't get a good feel for any of the characters, and was not overly surprised by the ending. Some of the scenes felt forced, some of the dialogue choppy, and internal monologues were a bit too heavy-handed. However, because of the nature of the "surprise" ending, all of these things may have been as-designed. With a little more writing experience, I expect this kind of thing will naturally fall into place.

It read like a first novel, and upon looking, found that it is Reid's first novel, but not his first book. Because it was fairly easy to read, and because I am intrigued by the title of one of his previous works ("The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on my Road Trip with Grandma"), I am not yet crossing him off my list of TBRs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Man Booker Short List!


I have read one of these books, and loved it. Now on to the others!!

Have you read any of the six?

Below, find the full shortlist, linked to NPR's reviews of the works and interviews with their authors, where possible.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The book was better.


I'm sure you have seen this illustration before on movie-versus-book discussions. With the sudden influx of movies based on books, I feel that I have to stress again how much richer and more satisfying reading a book is over seeing the movie adaptation.

When you read, you are creating your own movie. Your brain is more engaged and invested in a book. It is a very active process, combining the words you are seeing, processing, and understanding to create a full-color, vivid, on-demand movie in your mind. You are director and producer. You are in charge of makeup and costumes. You choose the locations and scenes. All of this in a split second.

That's why reading makes you smarter. Not only are you able to learn new words, but you are also engaging so much of your brain in sequential, systematic, and parallel ways - many times all at once!

There will never be a better movie-maker than your own imagination.

Some books to try instead of the movie:

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
One of my top 10 books, the story presents a challenge to the screen because it is primarily internal monologue. While the film and television series are true to the dystopian nature of the story, it is impossible to capture the parallel thoughts and feelings of the protagonist and the other handmaids as told in the double narrative-style of the book.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another one of my faves, this is the first book in a quartet. While the film adaptation, again, presents the general idea of the book, the fact that one character was given a much bigger part in the film (Streep's characterization of the Chief Elder) in order cash in on her star power doesn't sit well with me. The book is about exploring feelings, making decisions, and actions bringing consequences.

The Lost Weekend by Charles R. Jackson
The film version was highly acclaimed, nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning four. What is missing here, however, is the raw and visceral pull of alcohol on the main character. It consumes him, drives his behavior, and pulls the reader in opposing directions of disgust and sympathy for him. Thought of as the seminal American novel on addiction, this desperation cannot be captured on film. That, coupled with homosexual overtones, makes this 1944 novel a must-read.

These are just three of my pics for you. Let me know of other books-into-films you have experienced, and what your impression on the comparison was.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Anne's Pick for my next read: WOW!

The other day, I turned you on to Anne Bogel's "What Should I Read Next" podcast, as well as her blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. In looking through her book lists, I happened upon an intriguing proposition: The perfect summer reading for every Myers-Briggs personality type.

Thank goodness, there is a quick series of questions available to determine your type. Mine turned out to be E(xtroverted), N(tuition), T(hinking), P(erceiving). With that in mind, the recommended book for me by Bogel is:
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoSummary:
From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

There's more to the synopsis than that, but I don't like those long ones because, to me, it gives too much of the book away.

Rest assured, I WILL be reading this one!

Take a quick trip to the list linked above and let me know what your recommended book is!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Literary Matchmaking and Anne Bogel

Modern Mrs. Darcy

In my search for a new book-centric podcast when my beloved Books on the Nightstand ended its run, I came across What Should I Read Next, a podcast by Anne Bogel.

While still reeling from the end of BotN, Anne immediately caught my attention with her literary matchmaking. On the podcast, she talks with a reader, asking what they are currently reading, three books they love, and one book that didn't grab them.

See what I mean??! Brilliant!

With this, she then recommends three books to them. Almost always, each of the books discussed is new to me. I love hearing about the books, why they love them, why they didn't like them, and why Anne chooses the books she does for them. There is even a follow-up podcast (episode 46) in which she revisits seven of these readers to find out how well she did in her matchmaking picks.

Next time you are in the midst of your commute, or are sitting outside in the sun and breeze, pop in your earbuds and listen to a few of these. Be warned, though! Your TBR will more than likely grow.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother's loneliness. Believing she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York an old man called Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the lost love who, sixty years ago in Poland, inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn't know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives...

My take: 3 looks

Okay, this is weird.

My sorority sister Laura just texted me about a week ago and recommended a movie: The Words. It has Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, and Dennis Quaid, among others. I watched it last night. The night before finishing this book by the pool.

The storylines turned out to be the same. The same.

How weird and serendipitous is that? Almost scary, in a cosmic way.

If I tell you any more, I will give away spoilers. However, I will say that there is a young girl trying to find the story of a woman and the author who loved her. Was she the reason for this book, which goes on to win accolades? Is there a father/son relationship that can be healed? Will her mother find happiness with anyone after the death of her father?

I admit that I didn't give this book its fair recompense. Subjugated as a "pool book", I put it aside only when I was by the pool. With that, it has taken me far longer to read it than others. Because of that, I had to occasionally go back and familiarize myself with situations and characters. However, I never lost sight of the overall story. With that said, I was not as deeply entrenched in the text as I could have been.

I recommend this one, along with the recommendation that you then watch "The Words", and let me know how intrigued you are at the similarities in the premises.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Question: Do you think about past reads?

At seemingly odd times, a bit of text, a scene, or a character from a past read will pop into my mind. From books that made very little obvious impact on me suddenly prove themselves buried deep into my psyche, much like that lone Narcissus papyraceus that pops up in the center of my lawn each spring.

The first book that haunted me a little, but in a positive way, was Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End. I am not a huge science fiction book fan, so this is not a genre that I read very often. However, this book drew me right in. Based on an alien invasion, the "haunting" scene is where a human is trying to explain to the "Overlords" our need for sleep. It is a concept that is completely foreign to them.  
Image result for jennifer weiner then came youAnother scene in my memory is from Jennifer Weiner's book Then Came You. Weiner is an author that I do not read enough of. Her characters are always so likable, real, and the situations are familiar and completely relatable.

This "haunting" is a scene in which an adult child of long-divorced parents realizes how different the much-younger new wife relates to her father than her mother ever did. With this, she comes to understand that what her mother and father needed were very different when they married than when they divorced. It was an epiphany borne of seeing her father's wife lean into him with her body language, giving the impression that he was truly holding her up. Her mother had grown into a very independent woman and no longer needed a man in that way. Resentment for his new marriage dissipated, and the story truly turned a corner.

There are more, but this is already longer than I wanted it to be. What are some of your "hauntings"?

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Question - A New Feature


I am going to ramp up the blog a bit by posting a few more personal entries, observations, and book news. All of this in addition to my regular book reviews. To start this new journey of blogdom, I introduce a new feature to the blog: The Question.

I didn't know this, but there is apparently a comic book character named ... you guessed it - The Question. Like most comic book characters, this one has gone through lots of changes, most of which I can't follow, and am not really interested in. Sorry, not sorry.

I will make this a monthly feature, and will get started on it right away. Maybe even tomorrow.

Ooh! I feel some excitement tingles!!


Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles



Summary:

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in an elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

My take: 5 looks

A delightful book! So beautifully written, and such a nice combination of historical events, figures, and characters. I was truly sad to see it end, and yet so satisfied in its ending. I felt intimately familiar with The Metropol, which is a character unto itself. Who can resist the luxury of this famous bastion of Russian history, forging ground with its warm water and telephones in the rooms? Dining at night by candlelight in the prestigious Boyarsky Hall and slipping into the Art Nouveau Shalyapin bar for a nightcap before retiring to your room.

The author in Suite 217 with the Bolshoi in the backgroundEven today, they offer breakfast with musical accompaniment. I can imagine that Towles immersed himself in the glamour of 20th century Russia. Here is a photograph of the author in his Metropol suite, with the Bolshoi Theatre in the background.

Apart from the hotel, our protagonist, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, is a gentleman of gentlemen. Educated, well-traveled, speaking several languages, and presenting the patience and fortitude of the nobility, he is a delightful sort with the highest of morals, even if they are sometimes apt to bend just a little.

By his side is a host of colorful characters which go in and out of the story. It is a wonderful adventure through decades of Russian change, seen through the eyes of a man exiled in luxury.

Read this for the beautiful location. Read it for the wonderful characters. Read it for the beautiful writing. For goodness sake, just read it.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Summary:

A vivid and compelling novel about a woman who becomes entangled in an affair with Edgar Allan Poe—at the same time she becomes the unwilling confidante of his much-younger wife.

My take: 4 looks

I was initially disappointed in this one, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I enjoyed it.

To get my initial thorn out of the way: I wanted the main character, Fanny Osgood, to be more Scarlett O'Hara and less Melanie Wilkes. Once, in a scene involving Fanny, at the height of decorum, I thought of the quote by Scarlett about Melanie, "...silly little fool who can't open her mouth except to say 'yes' or 'no' and raise a passel of mealy-mouthed brats just like her."

However, I realize after reflecting on the story, characters, and writing that I was completely wrong. Fanny is acting exactly how she was raised, to be respectful, kind, and acquiescing. The fact that Virginia is emboldened in both word and deed is eventually explained by Poe by explaining that she stayed as a child.

The tension between Poe and Fanny was evident, as was Virginia's increasing awareness of their relationship. While I admit that I did want Fanny to be a little more free to allow herself these illicit feelings, the time and culture did not permit that she act on her feelings. Her concern for Virginia was yet another testament to her character.

And speaking of characters! What a wonderfully colorful collection of REAL historical figures in this story! When historical fiction drives a reader to do more reading and research, there is no greater compliment to an author. I loved reading about Griswold's penchant for hand adornments, Fuller's growing friendship and trust with Fanny, Bartlett's interest in Southern colloquialisms, and Ellet's drive to ruin anyone who wronged her.

The fact that these were real people has driven me straight to historical references to learn more.

All-in-all, when my friend Kerri recommended this book to me, she did me a favor!

Recommended.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Summary:

Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

My take: 3 looks

Dan Chaon's "Await Your Reply" sits with me still. It is one of those books that I will think of every now and again for years and years to come. Because of that, I leapt at the opportunity to get an ARC of his latest from LibraryThing.

The writing style is marvelous, as we have come to expect from Chaon. Going back and forth in time, using columns on the page to present various perspectives in the same timeline and various timelines from the same person, and presenting different points of view ... all of this added to the intrigue, breakdown of collected evidence, and confusion of our various characters. The book is full of unreliable narrators, wild goose chases, and misread assumptions. Like a mystery at its best, page after page of reading brings little solid fact.

It is so beautifully written that the ending was all the more disappointing to me. There was no explanation, no resolution, no reconciliation, no redemption. While I am sure that was part of the point, perhaps to be more like reality than a novel, I expected a more nuanced ending from an author of Chaon's caliber. There were so many avenues left unexplored that I feel there could be a series here, although I don't think that is the author's intention. In all, I was left disappointed.

Not recommended.

Thanks to LibraryThing and Random House for an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

Summary:

Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He’s always hungered for the love of the girl’s self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

My take: 3.5 looks

When your father kills your mother, tries to kill your younger sister, and himself, how does a 10-year-old girl handle the shock waves that reverberate through her life, especially now that she is all that her recovering sister has?

Dad is in jail, in serious denial of what he has done to his daughters. Meanwhile, years go by while family members shun the "murder girls", orphanage children torment them, and a wealthy family finally takes them in out of pity.

It is an easy and compelling read, perfect for those afternoons by the pool. While it is a bit formulaic and predictable, it is not high art, and the story, characters, and conclusions were all satisfying.

Recommended.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Behold the Reading Slump

I have been in a serious reading slump lately. Work is busy, yes. I am traveling more, yes. There are family events happening, yes. However, none of that has ever stopped me from reading before.

But, ALAS! It has! I looked over the blog and found that I had a slump in 2013, then again in 2015. So, it stands to reason that, after the cursory two years, it is time for another one.

I have tried to read "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett, "Mrs. Poe" by Lynn Cullen, "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" by Iain Reid, "Beartown" by Fredrik Backman, and I never finished the tome "4321" by Paul Auster.

So, I am going to read as I feel like it. There is a reason my brain wants to take a reading break, and I am not going to fight my subconscious by entertaining the myriad of articles on how to overcome a reading slump.

Embrace the slump!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Women against Abortion by Karissa Haugeberg

Summary:

Women from remarkably diverse religious, social, and political backgrounds made up the rank-and-file of anti-abortion activism. Empowered by—yet in many cases scared of—the changes wrought by feminism, they founded grassroots groups, developed now-familiar strategies and tactics, and gave voice to the movement's moral and political dimensions.

My take: 2.5 looks

Well-written, but a bit on the dry side. There are lots of facts, accounts, and supporting info, but nothing that ever draws a reader in and makes her (or him) a member of the debate. Would have been perfect for a research paper, but to read a compelling account of the trajectory and growth of the movement was missing here. If I were writing this, I would have treated each chapter as a stage in am embryo's cycle, moving it along and growing it with the anti-abortion movement. Include more word-pictures to make it real to any reader. That was missing, for me.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Summary:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”


My take: 2.5 looks

There was a great deal of hubbub surrounding this novel upon its release. It was on library waiting lists all over, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. After reading it, I highly recommend Crouch's publicist.

It took me less than 24 hours to read it. That should be seen as a testament more to simple, easy-to-follow writing than an intriguing story.

As a matter of fact, this story, of parallel dimensions, is not a new one at all. From Kate Atkinson's "Life After Life" and Katherine Webb's "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August", where lives are replayed over and over; or alternate realities like Stephen King's "11/22/63"; or even films like "Sliding doors" and "Groundhog Day"... my point? It's been done before, and it's been done better.

Jason, our protagonist, at one point becomes so narrowly focused on "love" that it is almost like watching a 16-year-old boy try to get his girl.

"He knew he shouldn't open the door, but..."

"He new he shouldn't leave Amanda, but..."

This irritating dependency on feeling rather than thinking, or irrationality versus rationality,... I didn't buy it coming from a physicist. If the book had been longer, or written at a more complicated reading level than about 6th grade, I would not have wasted my time finishing it. As it was, I knew I could blow right through it and mark it from my TBR.

Not recommended.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

Summary:
 Nothing ever happens in the town of Long Thorpe – that is, until sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson disappears without a trace. No family or police investigation can track her down. Spending months inside the cellar of her kidnapper with several other girls, Summer learns of Colin’s abusive past, and his thoughts of his victims being his family…his perfect, pure flowers. But flowers can’t survive long cut off from the sun, and time is running out….

My take: 1 look

Ugh. I had high hopes for this one based on a review I read. However, I know now that the review must have been from a middle-school-girl. 

It has been a few months, but I recently read "The Butterfly Garden" by Dot Hutchison, which is a story along these same lines. Abducted girls who are deemed "perfect", kept by a seemingly normal older man, and the latest addition is very young. When I got to the part where he names them after flowers and eventually has sex with them, I stopped. There was nothing compelling that I could read, especially at 347 pages, that would interest, intrigue, or captivate me that I had not seen a thousand times. It's practically every third "Criminal Minds" episode.

So, skip this one. Read "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" instead. It's better written, more visceral, and you will be more apt to read the series than anything you will find here.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Good News from GoodReads!!


After what must have been a kitten-ton of comments, GoodReads has added a ReReading feature!

From the GoodReads blog:

How Do I Start Using the Rereading Feature?
Next time you decide to reread a book that you've already marked as Read on Goodreads, simply mark it as Currently Reading. When you are done, just mark it as Read. You can do this from the Goodreads iOS and Android apps and on Goodreads.com, as well as in the About the Book feature on Kindle (if you have connected your Goodreads and Amazon accounts - click here to connect your accounts). We take care of marking it as a reread for you. Bonus, it will also automatically be included in your Reading Challenge.

Rereading Rolling Out In Stages
While it sounds like a simple thing to add, rereading turned out to be a complex engineering challenge that involved our entire database. To give you a sense of that scope, our 60 million members have added more than 1.7 billion books to their shelves! That's why we're rolling out rereading in stages. So, if you're not seeing it yet, you will soon!

How Do I Add All The Times I've Reread My Favorite Books?
On Goodreads.com on desktop, use the brand-new "Add read date" button in My Activity on the Book Page to enter when you read the book; then hit save! (You don't have to have a start date, but you must have a finish year for the book to count toward your Reading Challenge.)

What Happens If I've Been Keeping Track of My Rereads With The "Number of Times Read" Option?
If you previously used the "Number of times read" field, don't worry, we've already done the work for you and all your rereads are still there. If you added a number, it automatically shows in the new feature. If you used text, we've included it in the private notes section of your review. Simply click on edit Review, to change any dates or add more information.

There is more info on the blog post, so I encourage you to visit.

This calls for a toast to GoodReads for listening, responding, and just being awesome! CHEERS!

Monday, January 30, 2017

BOTNS: Winning Reads 2017



It's so difficult to let go of my favorite podcast when they string me along like this. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness send a monthly email to their faithful followers with a book recommendation from each. Here is what we have this month:





 
A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

In A Really Good Day, Ayelet Waldman writes about her experimentation with micro-dosing LSD in an effort to cure her debilitating mood swings that had been difficult to control with conventional psychiatric medicine. Micro-dosing (taking a tiny amount of LSD every few days) does not give the kinds of psychadelic effects that we tend to associate with LSD, and Waldman explains, with the help of experts, the history of LSD and its potential uses that may never be made available because of governmental regulations about research.

This is also a memoir of how Waldman's marriage (to novelist Michael Chabon, though she never names him in the book) was strained by her mood disorder, and how her experiment with LSD may be the thing that saves it.

This book is truly fascinating and, I confess, had me wondering for a moment if maybe I knew a guy...


I love that Kingman, before introducing the book, prefaces with this:

I debated whether or not to include this book in our prize package, since I don't know the winners personally and I didn't want them to think that I was advocating for the use of illegal drugs. But in the end, I loved it so much, and it's not really about illegal drug use in the standard way, and most readers are open minded, so here we are.

She is sensitive to her readers, but also acknowledges our reading maturity, ability to decide for ourselves, and in general, gives us the power to choose. That is respect. Thanks, Ann.

Kindness is next with this suggestion:

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsay Lee Johnson

Though I think The Most Dangerous Place on Earth had its title early on, the plot was a mystery to me. That's a good thing because I think if I had known what it was about beforehand, I might not have read it. And that would have been a shame.

Lindsey Lee Johnson's debut novel is the story of a group of teens at a high school in affluent Marin County, CA. At first, the characters appear to fit into the usual high school stereotypes: the A-student, the athlete, the bad-boy screwup, the once-popular, now-ostracized girl. But in this novel, no one is quite what they seem, making them all the more real.

But back to why I wouldn't have wanted to read it if I'd known the plot. At the heart of the story is Tristan Bloch, a shy outcast and the target of online bullying. As a parent, the tragedies of this book were nearly too much to bear. But Lindsey Lee Johnson's writing makes this book worth the pain.


Again, a simple yet poignant warning to the reader that this will not be an easy journey, especially if you are a parent. However, if you choose to, you may just be a better person for it.  

And with that, you can see why I still miss this weekly podcast from these two exceptional readers. I have downloaded both of these, and added to my TBR. Let me know what you decide!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Himself by Jess Kidd

Summary:

When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.
My take: 4 looks

For a debut novel, this one hits it, if not out of the park, at least to the wall. The opening chapter is a combination of all of my favorite genres: mystery, action, magical realism, and fantasy. You see, there is a young mother with her child running from a murderous cad. She doesn't make it, but the forest hides the child so the cad won't find him.

That's right! The forest hides him!

Fast forward thirty years, and he is back. With the help of some very interesting and colorful characters, as well as more than a few undesireables trying to thwart his efforts, he returns to Mulderrig to unearth the truth.

Oh, and did I mention that he sees dead people?

Highly recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley for this copy in exchange for my honest review. Published in October 2016, the book is available through Canongate Books.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Summary:

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab.

Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

My take: 2 looks

Egad. This book read like a season of Dallas or Dynasty, two prime time television soap operas in the 1980s. The story follows four siblings straight out of a caricature: Melody is an overachieving helicopter mom, Bea is a talented writer with no self esteem, Jack is quintessentially gay, and Leo is a larcenous cad. Cue the close-ups of each face as they discover that Leo's latest antics have siphoned their inheritance, and let the games begin.

Not compelling in any way, the story is a tired one, full of shock, lies, betrayal, and slight-of-hand. Of course, it is tied up neatly in the epilogue so that everyone lives happily ever after. That gives me some hope: there will be no sequel.

Not recommended.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Image result for nutshell ianSummary:

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John's not here. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy's womb. 

My take: 3 looks

Brilliant premise: the story is narrated by an unborn child. He can hear what goes on around him, as well as feeling his mother's feelings, and noting her heart rhythm and adrenaline surges. He is also very aware of her alcohol consumption and none-too-happy with the high activity level of her sex life.

Writing: I found the wiring to be a touch verbose, overly descriptive. However, at less than 200 pages, the editor of this one was probably hesitant to cut too much.

Overall: It was a fast and easy read, albeit unexceptional. I recommend it if you need a quick "palate cleanser" to assist in getting over a book hangover. Otherwise, look past this one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

David Bowie had a reading list?

Heck, yes! Superstar musician and brilliant performer David Bowie was a prolific reader. As a matter of fact, it is said that he took all 400 books in his then-collection when he went on location to film "The Man Who Fell to Earth."

That set a pattern of taking a travelling library on tour and Bowie said: "I had these cabinets – it was a travelling library – and they were rather like the boxes that amplifiers get packed up in. . .  because of that period, I have an extraordinarily good collection of books."

When Vanity Fair asked him “What is your idea of perfect happiness?” he responded simply “reading.”

In 2013, Bowie posted his 100 favorite books on his public Facebook page. The list is a characteristically eclectic list featuring everyone from Junot Diaz and George Orwell to Angela Carter and Muriel Spark.

To find the complete list, look no farther than his official site. I can think of no better tribute on this one year anniversary to The Thin White Duke than to delve into the list, and then into one of the books.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2)Summary:

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

My take: 5 looks

Again, any book read in one sitting gets an automatic 5 looks. I was a little hesitant to read this one without refamiliarizing myself with the first in the series, "Sleeping Giants", but no fear. While it would have been a bit richer to build on the characterizations of the main players, it was not necessary to dive right into the story. Enough background was provided to jog my memory. However, I do recommend reading these in sequence.

I remembered the first book being quite the exciting rollercoaster ride, and this was the same. Written in epistolary form, the science fiction-heavy story is made personal and easy to follow. I am not a huge fan of science fiction because I get bogged down in the science, unfamiliar words, and implausibility of the scenarios. Neuvel makes this science fiction feel very real and possible, and brings the genre home to readers like me.

A few of my fave lines:
Scientists are like children: They always want to know everything, they all ask too many questions, and they never follow orders to the letter.
Believing you're the only person with their head on straight is usually not a sign of good mental health.

This is highly recommended, and is available April 4th, 2017, by Del Rey.

Many thanks to NetGally for an advance copy in exchange for my review.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Lillian Boxfish Takes a WalkSummary:

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

My take: 5 looks

My first finished book of 2017 was a winner! I was dazzled and intrigued by the title, and the fact that Lillian is an octogenarian, taking a walk through Manhattan on New Year's Eve, made it that much more compelling. Rooney's writing is fluid and strong, witty and poignant. I very much wanted to meet Lillian at the beginning of the book, and I felt as if I had met her when I finished the last page. Lillian's personality, retorts, perfect timing, and sense of style came together to paint quite a character.

Imagine my surprise and delight upon discovering that Lillian Boxfish was patterned after a real person! Margaret Fishback Antolini (March 10, 1900 – September 25, 1985) was a published writer of prose and poetry, worked for Macy's in the advertising department, was reportedly the highest-paid female ad copywriter during the 1930s, and married the chief rug buyer from Macy's, which whom she had one son.

Because of the strong writing and compelling characterization of this fictionalized night in the life of a real person, I am looking forward to reading Fishback's books, and finding out more about this intriguing woman. A book that springboards to additional reading and research is the best kind of book!

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.