Book Reviews–May 2018

I often post short reviews of books I’ve read in my personal social media pages, as I love to share my passion for books with others.  I’m listing the books I’ve read each month here on this blog, with my thoughts on each as well as whether I’d recommend them to others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  (Most, if not all, of the books below include links to the Kindle store on Amazon, and the page numbers reflect the number of Kindle pages).  I hope you enjoy this series on my blog!

Book #1: 

The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin (Length: 348 pages).  I LOVED this book!  So much fun!  I had read that this was the book version of the TV show Gray’s Anatomy, and I’d have to agree . . . if we’re talking about the show’s early seasons with a splash of comedic timing and adding very high-quality writing.  I thought the character development in this novel is excellent, and I enjoyed the “surprise” ending.  The novel is a touch confusing with chapters alternating between the two main characters, as well as alternating between past and present, but after reflection, I think this was a somewhat necessary narrative device.  TWO enthusiastic thumbs up for a fun, well-written beach read!

From the publisher: Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Southern Living, Elite Daily, and Writer’s Digest

A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

Book #2: 

Mastering the art of french eatingMastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah (Length: 270 pages).  This book is an interesting memoir of a three-year period in Paris, written from the perspective of a lonely diplomat’s foodie wife.  I’m not a foodie (at all!) but I adore Paris, traveling and history, so this read was definitely worth it in those aspects.   The author is a very strong writer, and I enjoyed reading the many descriptive passages.  This one is a worth checking out from the library.    

From the publisher: 
When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down.

So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city.  Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.

Book #3: 

Bachelor NationBachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman (Length: 320 pages).  This was a guilty pleasure read for me.  The subject matter (the history of The Bachelor TV show franchise) is very cheesy but the writing quality is really good.  The author includes dozens of little factoids about the show and behind the scenes action that I wasn’t aware of previously.  This book is a great look at reality TV overall, and it was worth a library check out.  

From the publisher:  For fifteen years and thirty-five seasons, the Bachelor franchise has been a mainstay in American TV viewers’ lives. Since it premiered in 2002, the show’s popularity and relevance has only grown–more than eight million viewers tuned in to see the conclusion of the most recent season of The Bachelor.

The iconic reality television show’s reach and influence into the cultural zeitgeist is undeniable. Bestselling writers and famous actors live tweet about it. Die-hard fans–dubbed “Bachelor Nation”–come together every week during each season to participate in fantasy leagues and viewing parties.

Bachelor Nation is the first behind-the-scenes, unauthorized look into the reality television phenomenon. Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise–ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show’s inner workings: what it’s like to be trapped in the mansion “bubble”; dark, juicy tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the fantasy suite.

Book #4: 

PachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee (Length: 496 pages).  I picked up this 2017 National Book Award Finalist to see if I’d like to read it next.  An hour later, I looked up and realized, yep, I want to read this book!  😉  The storyline sucked me in, with its sweeping saga of a Korean family in Japan in the 20th century (from early 1900s to present day).  This book is very lengthy with dozens of characters, but the chapters reminded me of a daisy chain, with one character linking to the next.  This method reduces confusion for the reader, and makes the plot easy to follow.  The writing is excellent (I should hope so!) and this novel is more plot/narrative driven than character driven, but the characters are still fleshed out sufficiently to make the reader care about what happens to them.  I LOVED this book!

From the publisher:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * #1 BOSTON GLOBE BESTSELLER * USA TODAY BESTSELLER

In this gorgeous, page-turning saga, four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family fight to control their destiny in 20th-century Japan, exiled from a home they never knew.

“There could only be a few winners, and a lot of losers. And yet we played on, because we had hope that we might be the lucky ones.”

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant–and that her lover is married–she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters–strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis–survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.

 

 


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