October 2020–Part One

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:    

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (Length: 358 pages).   This was my second Katherine Center novel, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first. This is an easy, light-hearted, quick read. A romance with a bit more substance, and it focuses on a female firefighter who is a total badass (one-armed pull-ups?!). The central romance is cute, but the dark backstory of the protagonist is a bit too drawn-out. I found this to be a very interesting and enlightening take on sexism in the firefighting world. I would absolutely recommend, perhaps even for a book club that is looking for a romance novel.

Book #2:

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon (Length: 736 pages!).  I LOVED this book! I’ve owned this first novel in a series (of 14) for ages, but hadn’t been drawn to pick it up until now. This is a charming novel about small town life in the (fictional) town of Mitford, North Carolina. The protagonist is Father Timothy, the 60 year-old rector of the Episcopalian Church, with a fantastically different dog named Barnabas. This is very witty, extremely well-written, uplifting and has lots of depth. There are a lot of Biblical quotes throughout, but I found this novel to be more spiritual rather than religious, and they actually add to the plot. There are several different plot lines that run through the novel, with each chapter building upon the next, yet each chapter seems to have its own mini-plot. This is a fantastic beach or travel read given it’s length (twice as long as my average Kindle read). I found I was always thinking about it even when I wasn’t reading it, which is high praise, indeed.

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.

September 2020–Part One

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:    

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (Length: 302 pages).   I really enjoyed this collection of autobiographical essays after all was said and done.  Glennon Doyle is married to the former soccer player Abby Wambaugh, who she started dating after Doyle and her husband divorced.  I feel like I’ve read the essays in the first third of the book somewhere on social media before, so I wasn’t very impressed when I first began reading.  However the second half of the book the content and the quality of the writing began to pick up quite a bit.  Doyle is a very thoughtful and talented writer.  Her political and theological essays are my favorite in this collection.  I do think every reader will learn something from her, for sure.  

 

 

 

Book #2:

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (Length: 304 pages).  This is a fascinating (fictionalized) account of the Chinese immigrant experience in New York City, told from the perspective of a young daughter of a widow.  This is very plot-driven as the reader is carried along on the pair’s journey from Hong Kong to New York, and then as the protagonist daughter navigates elementary through high school, all while working for pennies in a garment factory.   The writing is just okay here, in fact I think it’s almost juvenile, but I couldn’t put it down because I “had” to find out what happened to Kimberly Chang.  This might be an interesting book club pick, especially post the American Dirt fad.  

 

 

 

Book #3:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Length: 350 pages).   This is my book club’s September pick, and I was immediately intrigued with the premise of the novel.  Black twins separated from one another on the cusp of true adulthood, both with vastly different adult experiences.  The interesting twist here is that due to their skin color, the twins both can “pass” as Caucasian women, and one does.  So the one twin passing as white is literally eavesdropping on the racist attitudes of her community, and even acts racist herself to fit in.  The writing here is excellent, especially the character development of the twins.  Obviously the novel is also very plot-driven because the reader wants to find out if the twins are ever reunited.  This is a fantastic book club pick because it will generate interesting and very thought-provoking discussions on race in America.  

August 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

Hiking Through by Paul Stutzman (Length: 338 pages).   If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you are already aware of my obsession with the Appalachian Trail, and all first-person accounts written by people who’ve actually been able to hike this 2200 mile trail, which stretches north from Georgia to Maine. I enjoyed the parts of this book where the author focuses on the actual hike. He is a very strong hiker, has a likeable personality, and he’s able to meet a variety of interesting people on the trail. He shares a lot of good details about the hike such as what type of food he actually ate, which shelters he stayed in, and his equipment that he found to be helpful. The other parts of the book discuss his desire to “save” people by them finding Jesus. It’s not overwhelming throughout most of the book, however, because it’s relevant to his personal background (he’s a Mennonite). I will say by the end of the book it became too distracting for me as I’m only interested in the nuts and bolts of the through hike. I’d recommend this to anyone who is also interested in this amazing journey. (It’s often on $1.99 Kindle sale on Amazon).

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Book #2

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (304 pages). I really enjoyed this book! Such a fun read that is so different than what I typically read. It’s very spooky and dark, with a splash of melodrama. I could picture the scenery so well thanks to the author’s beautiful writing. The atmospheric writing is boosted by the setting, a remote estate in central Mexico, adjacent to an old silver mine. There are many supernatural elements, along with some eugenics, which makes for an interesting and unusual combination. Excellent character development, but this is also very plot-driven which makes it difficult to put down. This novel is currently being developed for a series (or movie?) on Hulu, and I will definitely be interested in watching. I highly recommend this read! (A good book club and a good travel/vacation read).

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Book #3

Love Lettering by Kath Clayborn (307 pages). I was excited to read this one because I thought the premise was an interesting one . . . a woman in New York City works as a hand-letterer, meaning she is paid to create planners and chalkboard walls and stationery for wealthy customers in the city. However, there is entirely too much navel-gazing in most of the book, and very little plot/conflict. I adore novels set in New York City, and the parts of the book where the author describes all of the little neighborhoods the protagonist visits are my favorite parts. The plot does pick up in the last quarter of the novel, with an interesting (albeit tangential) detour into the world of financial fraud, but it was a little too late for me. The protagonist is altogether too whiny and introspective, but perhaps my opinion is based on my perspective as a woman in middle age, and a twenty-something person can relate much better.

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Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins (366 pages). This is a memoir written by a Navy Seal (AND Army Ranger AND Air Force Tactical Air Controller), plus he’s also been called “The Fittest (Real) Man in America” due to his incredible performance in many endurance races. The purpose of his writing is to motivate the reader to excel in all areas of their lives, not just in areas of physical fitness, and I’d say he succeeds. I came away very impressed by his achievements given his very difficult childhood with almost-insurmountable obstacles, and his writing is relatively strong given the genre. His talent and sheer grit are astounding, but it’s his mental game that I think we can all learn from. Some of his achievements are a bit idiotic (ie, running a 100-mile race with zero training) but it’s a lot of fun to ride along with him as he recounts these exploits. I found many of his rules to be worth taking note of, especially the 40% rule (most of us only work to 40% of what we are capable of doing, and don’t tap into the remaining 60%). This would be an excellent book for anyone to have in their personal library.

August 2020–Part One

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:

Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton (Length: 226 pages).   This is a combination of a memoir with essays on parenting. As a parent of two teenage girls, most of the essays are not relevant to my current parenting life, but I would have enjoyed reading these even five years ago. The author is a good writer, and I did identify with many of her parenting philosophies, so this book was enjoyable to read. If you are a parent of younger children (10 and younger), this would be a great read for you, or a new parent as a gift.

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Book #2:

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover (321 pages). I really enjoyed this romance novel. I had read that this was the favorite of many readers who enjoy Hoover’s books, so I was excited to finally read it. It is definitely a romance novel, but it’s not cheesy at all. The construction of the plot makes it a little more interesting as the author alternates the past and present in chapters, switching between the start of a romantic relationship and the demise of that same relationship years later. As the chapters progress, the reader sees how this happens at the same time the characters themselves are being developed. I really enjoyed this writing technique. I wasn’t crazy about the female protagonist as I found she was unbelievably dense and out of touch with the crux of the issues of the relationship, but overall I would definitely recommend this book. This would be fabulous to read on a raft, in a pool, with a fruity drink.

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Book #3:

Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple (335 pages). I’ve had this book on my Kindle FOREVER. I finally picked it up because I wanted a light, easy to read novel, and this fit the bill. I found the format to be interesting, as it is comprised of emails, report cards, letters, all of which tell the entire story of the mother, Bernadette, who leaves her husband and daughter. They journey to find her, and we join them for the ride. I’m not a fan of Bernadette at all, as a mother or a person, but I adored the character of Bee, her daughter. The resolution of the plot is excellent here. This is a fast, easy read, that isn’t too deep. But, sometimes, that’s just what we need!