Book Reviews–August 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.  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: 

MIracle CreekMiracle Creek  by Angie Kim (Length: 349 pages).  I really enjoyed this book!  It’s very well-written, the plot is paced perfectly and I think all of the characters are drawn very well.  There are some flashbacks throughout the novel, but the majority is centered around a criminal murder trial (regarding arson at a hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment center).  The trial is actually pretty realistic (important for this ex-trial attorney) except for the standard hearsay issues.  😉   This would be an excellent book club pick as there is lots to discuss regarding treatment of autistic children, and how far parents are willing to go for their children (autistic or not).  

From the publisher:

The “gripping… page-turner” (Time) hitting all the best of summer reading lists, Miracle Creek is perfect for book clubs and fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng

How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?

In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.

A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?

Book #2: 

L'appartl’appart  by David Lebovitz (Length: 370 pages).  This is a very interesting (albeit frustrating at times) account written by a renowned chef/cookbook author who buys and renovates an apartment in Paris.  I found myself getting frustrated with the author’s continued refusal to listen to his Parisian husband regarding how to act more French (ie, exert his authority over the general contractor and the sub contractors).  Instead, he’s the “nice American” and is taken advantage of throughout.  Still worth reading to learn about French culture, food and home renovations abroad.  The recipes at the end of each chapter are really fun to read, and I enjoyed the journey sufficiently enough to want to continue reading the author’s personal blog for the photos of the finished renovation as well as more stories about living and travelling in France.   

From the publisher:

Bestselling author and world-renowned chef David Lebovitz continues to mine the rich subject of his evolving ex-Pat life in Paris, using his perplexing experiences in apartment renovation as a launching point for stories about French culture, food, and what it means to revamp one’s life. Includes dozens of new recipes.

When David Lebovitz began the project of updating his apartment in his adopted home city, he never imagined he would encounter so much inexplicable red tape while contending with perplexing work ethic and hours. Lebovitz maintains his distinctive sense of humor with the help of his partner Romain, peppering this renovation story with recipes from his Paris kitchen. In the midst of it all, he reveals the adventure that accompanies carving out a place for yourself in a foreign country—under baffling conditions—while never losing sight of the magic that inspired him to move to the City of Light many years ago, and to truly make his home there.


Book #3: 

The Gifted SchoolThe Gifted School  by Bruce Holsinger (Length: 462 pages).  This was such a FUN read.  It reminded me of Big, Little Lies, and I could see this also being made into a TV movie or series.  I’m not a fan of the parents in this novel, but you’re not supposed to be, I don’t think.  I see people I know in this book which is interesting.  😉  There is a well-structured plot with a surprising twist, which I always enjoy.  I found the resolution to be satisfying as well.  This would be a GREAT book club book–lots to discuss and maybe even lots to learn from.  

From the publisher:

Smart and juicy, a compulsively readable novel about a previously happy group of friends and parents that is nearly destroyed by their own competitiveness when an exclusive school for gifted children opens in the community

This deliciously sharp novel captures the relentless ambitions and fears that animate parents and their children in modern America, exploring the conflicts between achievement and potential, talent and privilege.

Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who’ve been a part of one another’s lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group’s children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It’s a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.

Book #4: 

The SilkwormThe Silkworm  by Robert Galbraith (Length: 465 pages).  I am already a true Cormoran Strike fan, just after reading book #1, and now I’m even more of a fan.  JK Rowling (the actual author) excels at creating exciting plots with many twists and turns, as well as well-drawn characters with depth and detailed backstories.  I love Cormoran and his assistant Robin even more now.  In this particular mystery I didn’t see the solution until it was revealed, which I love!  It’s very smartly done.  It IS a very long book (an 8 hour Kindle read!) but no pages, or even words, are wasted here.  This would be an excellent novel to read on a long plane ride, or even on the beach.  I couldn’t wait to pick this book up at the end of the day, and found myself thinking about it during the day–always a sign of a good read!  (I would definitely advise reading the first book in this series before starting this one, although it could be read standing alone).  

From the publisher:

Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the #1 international bestseller The Cuckoo’s Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days–as he has done before–and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives–meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.
When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…
A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, THE SILKWORM is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant, Robin Ellacott.

Book #5: 

Maybe you should talk to someoneMaybe You Should Talk to Someone  by Lori Gottlieb (Length: 433 pages).  I’ve had this book on hold at my local library for ages, and it was worth the wait!  It’s SO good!  It’s a memoir of sorts, written by a psychologist, and she talks about both her life as well as a handful of her clients and their actual therapy sessions.  I enjoyed reading about the juxtaposition between what she was dealing with personally as well as professionally.  She also discusses and explains some psychology theories which I find fascinating.  This book is SO interesting, and very well-written.  I can absolutely see why it’s being developed into a TV show.  

From the publisher:

From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world–where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose of­fice she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives — a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys — she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Book #6: 

RecursionRecursion  by Blake Crouch (Length: 324 pages).  I was very excited to finally get my hands on this book, as I really enjoyed Dark Matter by this author.  This novel is similar to the previous novel as it’s got a fast-paced plot with lots of forward (and backward) movement.  It’s enjoyable so long as you don’t get bogged down into the “how” it’s all happening.  Lots of theoretical physics, time travel, neuroscience and wormholes . . . all of which is WAY above my head, but I was able to suspend any disbelief (of what I actually understand is possible) and just go along for the ride.  The two major characters in this book are pretty likeable but don’t read this for any major character development.  

From the publisher:

“A time-twisting, mind-bending novel, perfect for summer reading.”—The New York Times Book Review

Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

Book #7:

The White DarknessThe White Darkness  by David Grann (Length: 142 pages).  I’m not sure where I first heard about this novella but I’m glad I picked it up.  I’m a sucker for any type of adventure memoir, and this one fits the bill.  I remember reading (and loving) Endurance by Alfred Lansing, about Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to reach the South Pole.  This is a modern-day version of that journey.  While not written by the adventurer himself, this author does an excellent job of sharing Worsley’s story of why he wanted to finish the cross-Antarctica journey started by Ernest Shackleton all those years earlier.  This book ends with Worsley’s solo attempt to cross Antarctica in 2015.  Definitely worth a read if you’re an armchair adventurer like me!

From the publisher:

Henry Worsley was a devoted husband and father and a decorated British special forces officer who believed in honor and sacrifice. He was also a man obsessed. He spent his life idolizing Ernest Shackleton, the nineteenth-century polar explorer, who tried to become the first person to reach the South Pole, and later sought to cross Antarctica on foot. Shackleton never completed his journeys, but he repeatedly rescued his men from certain death, and emerged as one of the greatest leaders in history.

Worsley felt an overpowering connection to those expeditions. He was related to one of Shackleton’s men, Frank Worsley, and spent a fortune collecting artifacts from their epic treks across the continent. He modeled his military command on Shackleton’s legendary skills and was determined to measure his own powers of endurance against them. He would succeed where Shackleton had failed, in the most brutal landscape in the world.

In 2008, Worsley set out across Antarctica with two other descendants of Shackleton’s crew, battling the freezing, desolate landscape, life-threatening physical exhaustion, and hidden crevasses. Yet when he returned home he felt compelled to go back. On November 13, 2015, at age 55, Worsley bid farewell to his family and embarked on his most perilous quest: to walk across Antarctica alone.

David Grann tells Worsley’s remarkable story with the intensity and power that have led him to be called “simply the best narrative nonfiction writer working today.” Illustrated with more than fifty stunning photographs from Worsley’s and Shackleton’s journeys, The White Darkness is both a gorgeous keepsake volume and a spellbinding story of courage, love, and a man pushing himself to the extremes of human capacity.

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