September 2020–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   (Reminder: the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.)  I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:    

Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler (Length: 262 pages).   This is such a fun book! This is the first-hand account of Itzler’s month being trained by a Navy Seal (David Goggins), who actually moved into the apartment Itzler shares with his wife (the founder of Spanx) and his young son. I was surprised by how well-written and how GOOD it is. It’s laugh-out loud funny in many places. I would definitely recommend reading this after you read Goggins’ “Can’t Hurt me” which I reviewed in August. I was fascinated to read a third person account of Goggins and how his mind works after reading Goggins’ book. While Itzler initially kept the Seal’s identity sealed when this was first published, a subsequent edition revealed that the Seal is actually Goggins. This would make an excellent gift for a fitness buff, or for someone who needs motivation to get into shape.

Book #2:

Beach Read by Emily Henry (Length: 380 pages). This novel was on “must read” book lists everywhere so I finally picked up a copy. First, I have to say that there are a few VERY annoying errors–more than typos (for example, breaks for car brakes) as well as some continuity issues (for example, protagonist is driving the car and then magically is the passenger). I also found the female protagonist to be a bit too whiny/mopey . . . of the does he like me, or does he not variety? This made the narrative too “angsty” for me, but that may be my middle aged outlook. I did enjoy the setting (a lake house, and a small-town, complete with charming bookstore), and I think the writer’s novels will improve as she gains experience. But overall, I think this is a “No Dawg” from me. (Now am I hip?!)

Book #3:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Length: 289 pages).   This spiritual novel is another one that is often on lists of “best novel ever written” so I was excited to finally read it. I will say that the unorthodox format (the entire novel is a letter from a father to his son) didn’t bother me like it does to some. The father is an elderly reverend writing to his very young (8 years old) son about the reverend’s entire life, shortly before he dies. I will say this is a novel that is difficult to read quickly because it is very deep, spiritually as well as about life. The writing itself is excellent, with lyrical language and lots of wisdom throughout. There isn’t much plot to speak of, but I’m glad I read this, if only to experience this author’s incredible writing. There are more books based in this town of Gilead, focusing on other characters mentioned here. I’m not sure that I’ll race to read them as I have way too many other books on my TBR list, but someday when I’m in the mood for a more soul-nourishing novel, I’m sure will be reaching for them.

Book #4:

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Length: 303 pages).   This was a novel my book club didn’t pick, but a friend read it anyway and raved about it so I picked it up and I am SO glad I did. I adore this book, and I’m blown away that this is the author’s first published novel! Set in Jaipur, India, this is one of those immersive, beautifully-written novels that immediately sweeps you up into the narrative. (In fact, I picked it up to glance through it, and 50 pages later I looked up.) There is a gorgeous sense of place, a fast-moving plot and wonderful character development–the trifecta! The beautiful details of henna artistry (and the fascinating art of herbal remedies) are an interesting backdrop as well as counterpoint to the more-serious issues of the caste system, the place of women in India and unwanted pregnancies. This is an excellent book club pick, with much to discuss. I can’t wait to read anything else written by this author, and I will be recommending this to people for years.

Book #5:

Eat a Peach by David Change (Length: 294 pages).  I have a “thing” for food-based/chef memoirs, which is interesting because I don’t enjoy cooking in the slightest. This memoir by the chef/owner of Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City (as well as the creator of a few Netflix food related series) is absolutely fascinating. Chang has recently revealed he suffers from manic depression, and this is a very honest look at his mental health as well as his well-known (in the restaurant industry at least) anger issues. The first half of this book is a chronological memoir of his experiences growing up as a Korean American in Virginia, as well as his restaurant career. The second half are essays on a variety of topics. I found this book to be well-written (thanks to a ghost writer of course), as well as very compelling thanks to Chang’s very interesting personal and professional life thus far. I found it hard to put down, which is always a good thing for me.

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