Book Reviews–February 2019

Welcome!  I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle, as well as books on hold at the library.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here in this space, because I enjoy sharing my passion for books with 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.  (Disclosure I use Amazon affiliate links to help pay for the costs of this website.  Any and all posts on this site may contain affiliate links (which will not affect your cost).  Finally, the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.  Thank you!)  I hope you enjoy this series.

Book #1: 

An American MarriageAn American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Length: 321 pages).  This book has been on my TBR list FOREVER, and my name made it to the top of the reserve list of my local library.  I have to say, it was worth the wait!  This novel is compulsively readable, which is a huge plus for me.  The chapters in this novel alternate between the points of view of two main characters at first, and then a third character is added.  Some of the chapters are letters between the initial two main characters; this format actually works really well, in my opinion, and doesn’t detract from the plot at all.  There are a lot of African American cultural references that are new to me, which I appreciated as I love to learn, and I found these particular references to be very illuminating, not only to the plot points and character development in the novel itself, but also to today’s society.  The false prosecution that forms the center of the plot also touched a nerve to me personally, given my career history (as a criminal prosecutor).  Please read this book!  

From the publisher:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.

Book #2:  

What to say nextWhat to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (Length: 301 pages). I adored this YA novel!  I wish I knew where I first heard about this book (I REALLY need to start tracking this type of information), but I’m so glad I cracked it open.  This is another novel where the chapters alternate between two points of view of two main characters . . . in this novel, they are Kit Lowell and David Drucker.  (As an aside, I told my teen daughter that I will always remember these names as these two characters really made an impression on me).  Kit’s dad has died recently in a car accident, and David has Asperger’s.  This charming novel is about the evolution of their relationship, whilst navigating the pitfalls of high school.  The dialogue is snappy, yet realistic, and the character development is top-notch.  I definitely want to read this author’s other novels.  This novel is VERY appropriate for ages 12 and up.   

From the publisher:

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they?  I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

Book #3:  

The Eating InstinctThe Eating Instinct by Virginia Sole-Smith (Length: 285 pages).  This is an excellent book, and it is a must-read to help us change the ways we’ve been conditioned (by the multi-billion dollar food/health/diet industries) to think about what and how we eat.  This author proposes that diets such as Whole 30, FODMAP, and others are way too restrictive, and really have no real medical benefits.  Most of the symptoms that we attribute to our die, she argues, are actually just due to living busy lives and stress.  As the mom of two pre-teen/teen girls, I found this book to be a breath of fresh air, as I want my daughters to just look at food as food, and not worry so much about how much or what foods to put in their bodies.  Bottom line . . . we need to relax about food, and not give in to restrictive diets which are really only a form of eating disorders.  

From the publisher:

An exploration, both personal and deeply reported, of how we learn to eat in today’s toxic food culture.

Food is supposed to sustain and nourish us. Eating well, any doctor will tell you, is the best way to take care of yourself. Feeding well, any human will tell you, is the most important job a mother has. But for too many of us, food now feels dangerous. We parse every bite we eat as good or bad, and judge our own worth accordingly. When her newborn daughter stopped eating after a medical crisis, Virginia Sole-Smith spent two years teaching her how to feel safe around food again — and in the process, realized just how many of us are struggling to do the same thing.

The Eating Instinct visits kitchen tables around America to tell Sole-Smith’s own story, as well as the stories of women recovering from weight loss surgery, of people who eat only nine foods, of families with unlimited grocery budgets and those on food stamps. Every struggle is unique. But Sole-Smith shows how they’re also all products of our modern food culture. And they’re all asking the same questions: How did we learn to eat this way? Why is it so hard to feel good about food? And how can we make it better?

Book #4: 

Kingdom of the blindKingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny (Length: 375 pages).  This is my all-time favorite book series, ever, and I’m THRILLED with this 14th installment in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series, set in the exquisite, albeit fictional, small town of Three Pines, just outside Montreal, Canada.   This particular novel was written after the death of the author’s husband (whom she modeled Inspector Gamache after), and the Acknowledgements pages of this novel are a must read.  I thought this book died a good job of tying up a few loose ends in the series, and the central mystery is a solid one.  I didn’t mind the parallel drug/carfentanil storyline like some reviewers did, as it’s very well-written as well as very realistic and prescient to our current drug culture.  This installment is my second favorite of the entire series (with my first favorite being #8, The Beautiful Mystery, set inside a monastery).  

From the publisher:

The new Chief Inspector Gamache novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author.

When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip through his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.

2 thoughts on “Book Reviews–February 2019

  1. Thank you for these- I’ll have to add What to Say Next and the Eating Instinct to my TBR list (I don’t know how long it will take to get to them, though. I have a pretty extensive list myself).

    Liked by 1 person

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