Oops. Not A Book Review

 

I was supposed to be doing a book review today, but I have basically not read anything this month. (Which is to say, I am right on track with my reading goal for the year but I’m behind where I expected to be). Thus far in 2019 I have read:

  • One Pill Makes You Stronger by Jill Stegman (ARC, 2 stars)
  • One Week of You by Lisa Williams Kline (ARC, 5 stars)
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (4 stars)

Now, I theoretically could write a review about any one of these books. The problem is that none of them really stuck with me. I thought One Pill Makes You Stronger was mismarketed, and could have been good if it was actually a book written for somebody like me. I thought One Week of You was a great light love story, and I had a hard time putting it down, but once I was done I realized how thin it was. And Dumplin’ was great, but I watched the movie on Netflix before even putting the book on hold so all I could do the whole time was compare it to the movie. So you see, I’ve read all these books but none of them made me feel and thus, I am not writing a review this week and I am instead going to share with you my reading lists.

I made four “priority” reading lists for 2019.

  • >4 stars on Goodreads
  • Published in 2017
  • Published in 2018
  • Older than me (based on original publication date)

Of these, I am trying to work across the lists rather than down any single list. I am currently reading Little White Lies (Published in 2018), in large part because Bad on Paper Podcast is reviewing it this month and it was 100% my cup of tea! I also have Words on Bathroom Walls (Published in 2017) checked out from the library, so that’s next up on my list. Overall, I have a total of 8 of the books in my personal library, and although that wasn’t at all a motivator when making these lists, looking at them later makes me wonder what my subconscious may have been up to ;).

Although the actual book review won’t come until later (maybe next week, maybe further delays), I am curious as to how you make your reading lists. Do you strictly go based on book club reads, do you try to work through your to be read shelf, or something else entirely? Do you just walk through the library and pick out a cover that speaks to you? Whatever it is, I am dying to know! Drop me a note in the comments, and happy reading!

Darker: My Mood While Reading

I’ve been working my way through Darker: Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian Grey and I have to say, this book sucks. I always feel like I need to justify my reading of the Fifty Shades series so here it is: I read the first book, I hated the first book. I immediately understood why E.L. James had gotten so many rejections. Then, it was summer and my roommate was reading the trilogy and she needed some solidarity so I said “what the hell.” She was going to tell me all about it if I didn’t read it, so what was the point in resisting? Well, I finished that cliffhanger and immediately got the third book. Then, when Grey came out I figured I’d give it a shot. Series don’t deserve to be unfinished. And I liked it. Yes, you read that right, I thought Grey was a good book. I felt like it redeemed this crazy man who crossed boundaries and trapped the innocent Anastasia. So when I heard Darker was out, I honestly expected it to be redeeming, and boy was I wrong.

This book is a big pile of poop, and I’m coming from the perspective of wanting to like it. There is absolutely nothing redeeming for either Christian or Anastasia and I’m sorely disappointed. The other issue I have, and I could be wrong about this, is that it feels like so much more of this book is repeated directly from Fifty Shades Darker. In Grey, I felt like I was gaining information and insight. I felt like I could see his perspective better, and so I liked him more. Now, I just hate both the main characters and I really wish that (spoiler) helicopter accident had gone differently.

I also don’t remember these books being this ungodly long. Did I truly torture myself through 500 pages? What kind of a sadist was 21 year old me? Or was I just drunk all the time (this, I know is not true but now I cannot help but wonder). If there’s one thing I can say about this series, if E.L. James can find someone to publish her book then I will have some sort of a career as an author if I stick with it.

Want to see more of what I’m reading: Goodreads

Want to see more of what I’m doing: Instagram (Personal) or Twitter

Wish this post had been about knitting instead of books?: Instagram (Knitting)

 

Book Reviews (Part 2)

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Pre-Ordered on Amazon)

Rating: 4.5 stars

Mood: Love, Perseverance

Would Recommend?: Definitely yes

Wine Pairing: Skip the wine and go straight for the bourbon

Summary: Lale voluntarily travels to Birkenau with the promise that it will save the rest of his family. He arrives and quickly contracts typhus, but thanks to the watchful eye of Pepan, the Tatowierer (German for tattooist) Lale becomes his apprentice.

Although Lale loves all women, he tattoos a woman whom capitvates him immediately. This woman is named Gita, or prisoner 34902. It is with their love that Lale and Gita fight through the terrible conditions of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In addition to the love they have for one another, Lale also has the unique ability of being (1) very valuable as the Tatowierer and (2) very valuable as multilingual. He uses his smarts to help him survive day after day.

What I Loved This was based on a true story, and yet it was such a light read considering. Lale is such a brilliant man, and he knows how to use people in ways that ensure he survives. He also looks out for the best interests of Gita and tries to keep her safe as well. Although Gita is far more guarded than Lale, I feel like they are a perfect compliment of a couple. Also, for once I didn’t look into the spoilers to see how this book ended, so I was legitimately surprised as events were unfolding.

What I Disliked As weird as it may sound, I didn’t like how light of a read this was. I totally powered through the book and the most difficult parts were those that mentioned Mengele. It was absolutely shocking to me that a story that takes place entirely in Auschwitz-Birkenau would be so light hearted. Don’t get me wrong, there were some very real things speckled in, but it was very minimal in comparison to other books.

Who Should Read It I think this is a great story for anybody. I would recommend it more heavily towards those who have read a few WWII era novels in their day. I found that the knowledge I had floating around in the back of my head popped up when I needed it, and I think that was good. As I mentioned, it was a very light hearted version of events, and as such having an understanding of the references was helpful.

—————————————————————————————————

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (Audible Audio)

Rating: 4 stars

Mood: Motivational

Would Recommend?: Yes

Wine Pairing: Water, definitely drink water

Summary: Most people prefer the ability of somebody to work hard despite fighting the odds over innate intelligence or talent. It is great if you have both, but it is not necessary.

What I Loved As a PhD student who had to fight to get to graduate school, this book speaks to me on a deep level. I have always thought that being able to work hard is a skill, but let me tell you, the amount of times people tell you that is very minimal. So, hearing the perspective based on someone’s career and actual research was wonderful. Additionally, this book is read by the author, which means that all of the tones and feelings are still true in the audiobook as the author intended. Always a plus.

What I Disliked It’s non-fiction, and it’s about as boring as your average non-fiction. I enjoy listening to non-fiction books, particularly those that make me a better person. I started this book on a morning that I had a long to-do list head of me and I really needed it. It was legitimately wonderful to have, but every time I stopped listening (except when I was in the car) was because I realized that I zoned out.

Who Should Read It Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest here. My husband loved Outliers and I hated it. I loved Grit and my husband will hate it. What I’m trying to say is, as much as I wish this was a book for everybody, it definitely is not.

Book Reviews (Part I)

Ghosted, Rosie Walsh (July Book of the Month)

Rating: 4 stars

Mood: Light, Intrigue

Would Recommend?: Yes

Wine Pairing: Rose (Barefoot Pink Moscato)

Summary Sarah and Eddie meet while they are both out for a walk and start a beautiful relationship for one week, just one week, but they’ve fallen for each other hard. But then, suddenly, Eddie stops responding to Sarah’s messages. He unfriends her on Facebook. Someone makes a mysterious call to Sarah’s phone warning her to stay away from him. What went wrong? What did Sarah do to deserve this? In addition, we learn very early on that there was a terrible car accident in which Sarah lost her sister. We don’t know the details of the accident, and throughout the book little hints are dropped. {Potential spoiler sentence} The book is divided into three parts, the first two are narrated by Sarah and the last is narrated by Eddie.

What I didn’t like I am starting with what I didn’t like because I finished this book and I just needed to find somebody to discuss it with. Fortunately I had the ladies of the Bad on Paper Podcast to listen to and give me some closure. (Warning: That episode contains spoilers). So here’s the thing: I thought because I was power reading, I was missing little hints that you normally find in a mystery novel. However, it would appear that I am not the only one. So now I’m here wondering what the author did or didn’t tell us. I am also wondering if there was misleading information that sent me towards a path that I didn’t particularly enjoy.

What I did like I cannot put this book into any specific genre, and I love that. The fact that Walsh wrote a novel that cannot be easily characterized proves that she has a creative mind. I also enjoyed how the story unfolded. There was always more information on the horizon, and that kept me intrigued in the book. I liked that it was a romance novel that didn’t center around the couple falling in love or making love. It was more about how their lives moved alongside one another, and a lot about Sarah’s life specifically.

Other Notes When I sit down to rate a book that I really liked, I think about how realistic the book was and how consistent the book was before anything else. I try to decide if I think that it could have happened in real life, and the answer is an honest yes. I have seen several reviews that claim the book is very unrealistic, and I can understand those viewpoints but I also think that this book is feasible. Among the top complaint is (1a) you cannot fall in love with somebody in just 7 days (1b) you cannot feel hurt if you are ghosted after one week. I’ll be honest, I saw 1b mainly from people who never dated in the social media dating age, so I kind of disregarded it. As for 1a, I have definitely fallen for a friendship in that short amount of time, so why then because their relationship is romantic (read sexual) can this not also be true? If you spend every hour for 7 full days with somebody and still like them at the end of it, don’t you deserve to feel hurt if they decide you aren’t worth it anymore?

Recommended For This was a light read, with multiple layers. I thought it was a great book for summer and I am really glad that I picked it for my July Book of the Month box. I think you need to have some understanding of modern dating in order to understand this book fully. I also think you need some concept of “real life” in that Sarah’s life is far from perfect and the more you can relate to her, the easier it will be to enjoy your read.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Love and Ruin, Paula McLain (Audible Audio)

Rating: 2.5 stars

Mood: Love?

Would Recommend?: Maybe

Wine Pairing: Sweet White (Riesling or Chardonnay)

Summary Martha Gellhorn, the third wife of Ernest Hemingway recounts their love as it buds, grows, and ultimately falls apart. Gellhorn is a headstrong woman, and an incredible journalist. Her love to Hemingway is secondary to her individual success, but don’t read this book if that’s what you want. This book delves heavily into the romance of Gellhorn and Hemingway. From her resistance to be with a married man, to her insistence that they belong together, and even on to her understanding that it wasn’t meant to last. Throughout it all, Gellhorn holds strong to her career, including using her maiden name rather than use her husband to reach success. It’s almost a story about how a behind every strong woman… there’s willpower keeping her going.

What I didn’t like I have read The Paris Wife, and I just felt like this novel was a few beats short of that one. There is still the classic woman falling for a man and getting hurt. Something about this strong woman protagonist just bothered me. It isn’t that I have a problem with a strong woman protagonist, not at all. But it felt unnatural. Maybe it’s the time period (1937) that makes it feel weird. Or maybe it’s just the way it’s written. I am completely unsure right now.

What I did like January LaVoy is a wonderful narrator, so much so, that I searched to see what books my library has narrated by her.

Other Notes It’s a lighter read. I wouldn’t call it light, and I definitely enjoyed the audiobook version.

Recommended For I honestly have no idea. But, by all means, read it if it sounds interesting.

Book Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Mood: Excited, haunted

Would Recommend?: Yes

Wine Pairing: Full-bodied red, such as Alamos Malbec

***

I really wish I could recall how this book popped onto my radar. I do remember that the second I read the description I was hooked. The average review on Goodreads isn’t great- less than 3.5- and the reviews are either “I loved it” or “I hated it.” Clearly, I am one who loved it, so this is my disclaimer.

This book was chilling, which is hard to evoke through words, so for that alone I think the book deserves recognition. I found it incredibly difficult to put down. I read the bulk of it while I was on “vacation” (wedding prep week), and even picked it up in the middle of the night while having trouble falling back to sleep (perhaps not the best decision I’ve made this summer). I needed to know what was going to happen to my precious narrator! I needed to know what the mystery was, what was wrong, what wasn’t wrong, all of it. Ugh, I’m getting so emotional typing this.

This was the debut novel for Iain Reid, and I am going to be honest and say that I think it’s going to be incredibly difficult to match with his upcoming novel, Foe, with a release date set for September 4, 2018. Don’t get me wrong, I am toeing the line with pre-ordering his second novel ridiculously hard, but I still think the challenge of giving himself a run for his money remains. 

What I loved most: The narrator. The book is narrated by a female who is thinking of ending things with Jake. Jake is taking our narrator to visit his parents on their farm, it’ll be the first time they meet, the narrator and the parents. Throughout the book, the narrator asks Jake questions, overhears Jake’s parents, wonders what might be going on that she’s missing. Her mind is so beautifully crafted by Reid. I was able to relate, I was able to feel. It was simply wonderful. I also enjoyed the simple fact that it was a female narrating the book, I think the importance of the female stereotype (more sensitive, listens better, understanding, etc.) was important for this novel. Normally, this is something that would bother me, but again, it added something here and that’s important. 

What I loved least: The supporting characters. I didn’t feel like the supporting characters added much. The one that stands out the most to me is the girl in the Dairy Queen who tells our narrator to watch out. She’s really the only one, including Jake’s parents, that I feel warn us as to what’s to come. Sure, Jake’s parents have some important dialogue that probably shouldn’t have been left out, but it also could have been more clever in my opinion. This could probably be extrapolated to a loose plot. I don’t think going to the parents’ farm was really necessary for this story. It helped that Jake was back at home, but aside from that, there were so many little details that had potential to be stronger, but they weren’t.

Who should read: Fans of psychological thrillers and plot twists should definitely read this book. I had an idea about what the ending would be before I even added the book to my to-read list (and I was correct), so the element of surprise was cut short for me. That being said, I also abandoned my theory only about 5-10% into the book based on how it was written, so I was still surprised. As I mentioned, there are a group of people that hated this book, so I would advise that you abandon it if you’re not feeling it rather than push through.