Book Reviews–August 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: 

Say You're SorrySay You’re Sorry by Melinda Leigh (Length: 338 pages).  This is the first book in the Morgan Dane series.  Bottom line, I thought the writing in this novel is a bit cheesy, but I’m hopeful the quality of the writing will improve as the series progresses because I did enjoy reading this book.  There’s not much character development in this initial book, but the plot progression is very fun and exciting, to the point that I pictured the movie in my head as I was reading.  This series is reminiscent of the books by Greg Iles (who is a much more talented writer, to be honest).  I will read more by this author and in this series when I’m in the mood for a fast-paced, fun read.  

From the publisher: In this thrilling series from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh, former prosecutor Morgan Dane faces the most personal—and deadly—case of her lifetime.

After the devastating loss of her husband in Iraq, Morgan Dane returns to Scarlet Falls, seeking the comfort of her hometown. Now, surrounded by family, she’s finally found peace and a promising career opportunity—until her babysitter is killed and her neighbor asks her to defend his son, Nick, who stands accused of the murder.

Tessa was the ultimate girl next door, and the community is outraged by her death. But Morgan has known Nick for years and can’t believe he’s guilty, despite the damning evidence stacked against him. She asks her friend Lance Kruger, an ex-cop turned private eye, for help. Taking on the town, the police, and a zealous DA, Morgan and Lance plunge into the investigation, determined to find the real killer. But as they uncover secrets that rock the community, they become targets for the madman hiding in plain sight.

Book #2: 

I'll be Gone in the DarkI’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (Length: 340 pages).  Whoa!  This is the best true-crime book I think I’ve ever read (right up there with In Cold Blood by Truman Capote).  This book was meticulously researched, but with an incredibly well-written narrative woven throughout.  The author’s life was cut short way too soon, and I’m so sad about that . . . her sense of empathy shines through each and every sentence.  Be sure to Google the Golden State Killer after you finish reading this amazing book.  

From the publisher:

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer

Book #3: 

The Lost GirlsThe Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, et al (Length: 564 pages).  I’m a fan of first-person travel books, especially at this stage of my life when such travel isn’t a real possibility.  However, I’m not a fan of this particular book.  Firstly, the writing style is very juvenile; it is almost like a teenager’s diary written in three different perspectives.  However, the content itself is fascinating, and armchair travelers (like me) will enjoy visiting far-flung locales via this trio’s escapades.  I enjoyed reading specific details about the various modes of travel, the cultural differences and where not to visit.  Worth a library check-out!

From the publisher: Three friends, each on the brink of a quarter-life crisis, make a pact to quit their high pressure New York City media jobs and leave behind their friends, boyfriends, and everything familiar to embark on a year-long backpacking adventure around the world in The Lost Girls.

Book #4: 

LessLess: A Novel by Andrew Sean Greer (Length: 273 pages). Ugh.  I tried.  I read the first 15% of this book on my Kindle (via a library check-out, at least).  Then I gave up, because honestly, there are over 100 books on my TBR list and only so much time to read them.  While the writing itself is excellent (and I’m assuming Pulitzer-Prize worthy), I didn’t care for the (dare i say, whiny?) narrator/protagonist, and there was not a sufficient plot hook to keep me engaged and continuing to read.  Maybe you’ll have better luck?

From the publisher: WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
National Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of 2017
A Washington Post Top Ten Book of 2017
A San Francisco Chronicle Top Ten Book of 2017
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, the Lambda Award, and the California Book Award
Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world. QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town? ANSWER: You accept them all.
What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.  Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.

Book #5: 

When Crickets CryWhen Crickets Cry by Charles Martin (Length: 336 pages).  I really loved this book!  This is the second book I’ve read from this author (check out my June review of A Life Intercepted), and I enjoyed it as much as the first one I read.  While Charles Martin is known as a faith-based author, I don’t find his writing to be overtly religious (which I appreciate as I’m not an organized religion fan).  As in his other books, this novel contains great factual details about a few subjects, namely the human heart and open-heart surgery techniques, as well as carpentry and boats.  I love learning something while I’m also being entertained.  I also enjoyed the strong character development as well as the excellent plot pacing.  While there is a smidge of emotional manipulation in the plot, in my opinion, I’m not annoyed enough to not continuing to seek out and read more of this author’s books.  Let me know what you think if you read, or have read it!

From the publisher:

A man with a painful past. A child with a doubtful future. And a shared journey toward healing for both their hearts.

It begins on the shaded town square in a sleepy Southern town. A spirited seven-year-old has a brisk business at her lemonade stand. But the little girl’s pretty yellow dress can’t quite hide the ugly scar on her chest.

Her latest customer, a bearded stranger, drains his cup and heads to his car, his mind on a boat he’s restoring at a nearby lake. The stranger understands more about the scar than he wants to admit. And the beat-up bread truck careening around the corner with its radio blaring is about to change the trajectory of both their lives.

Before it’s over, they’ll both know there are painful reasons why crickets cry . . . and that miracles lurk around unexpected corners.

The Mysterious World of Closing Costs

Unless you’ve been involved in several real estate transactions, or you work in the field of real estate, you may not understand exactly what closing costs entail.  You’re not alone, as these costs can be confusing to understand.  Not to worry–here’s a breakdown of these real estate transaction fees:

Simply put, closing costs are the additional fees associated with processing the mortgage.  These fees, however, are not paid to the mortgage company.  The bulk of closing costs is comprised of lender’s fees.  These fees include the appraisal fee, which is an independent assessment of the value of the property being purchased, as well as the credit report and any property taxes.  Lender’s fees also include mortgage and homeowner’s insurance, as well as any flood certification and pre-paid interest charges.  These fees may also include origination and discount points depending on your lender, as well as loan application and loan processing fees.  As a general rule, closing costs are assumed by the buyer of the property (VA mortgages are one exception to this rule) and are paid at the time of closing of escrow.

HOA transfer fees and HOA dues are typically also included within closing costs.  Title fees are also part of closing costs.  These fees include the title service fee, which covers the handling of title documents and funds, as well as half of the settlement and escrow fees, which cover the fees for the title search and examination.  Finally, title fees also include any title insurance.   Recording fees are another part of closing costs and include recording fees, transfer taxes and an affidavit of property value.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list of the transaction fees considered to be closing costs, I hope this has shed some light on this part of real estate transactions.  While every transaction is different, I look forward to helping you navigate your own real estate transaction as easily and simply as possible.

 

Book Reviews–July 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 ImmortalistsThe Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Length: 352 pages).  This book has been on so many recommended book lists, and I finally was able to get it off the Reserved list at the library.  Not sure it was worth the wait.  This book is VERY well-written, but it was too depressing for me (and I LIKE dark books!).  Essentially this is about four different siblings who have knowledge of the day they will die.  Each sibling is a dysfunctional human being, and each isn’t inherently likeable, which made it difficult for me to get emotionally involved with the novel.  The quality of the writing here is clearly why this book was an instant bestseller, but sadly, it’s not my cup of tea.  

From the publisher: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

Book #2:  

Force of NatureForce of Nature by Jane Harper (Length: 329 pages).  This novel is a bit of a sequel to “The Dry” which was a bit annoying to find out after  I received it from the library, as the repeated references to the protagonist (Federal Agent Aaron Falk) were oblique in nature.  The plot (five women are on a team-building hike for their company and one goes missing) is interesting enough that I wanted to keep reading further.  The writing in this mystery novel isn’t exactly “stunning” or “breathless” per the reviews, but it’s definitely worth a library check-out.  In my opinion, this novel is more about the relationships among the various characters than the mystery-driven plot, so if you read this with that proviso in mind, you’ll enjoy it as well.

From the publisher:

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path. But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

Book #3:

Death of Mrs WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware (Length: 384 pages).  This is the fourth novel by this author (I’ve read all three of her previous books:  In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, and The Lying Game).  I’m a fan of British authors and settings in general, but while I haven’t been overly-impressed with Ms. Ware’s first three novels, I really enjoyed this fun read!  As Meredith Gray would say, “It’s very dark and twisty.”  I loved the setting and scenery in this book (Gothic manor in England), and I’m now eager to read my copy of  Rebecca  by Daphne du Maurier as this book apparently was influenced by that classic novel.  The author’s character development really shines in this book in comparison to her first three, but I was also pleasantly surprised at how difficult it was (for me at least) to solve the mystery at the book’s center.  Definitely check this one out!  

From the publisher: On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Scorpions–Arizona’s Favorite Insect

             Residents of the Midwest don’t have to worry about such things as scorpions, black widow spiders, rattlesnakes and packrats.  However, taking a few simple steps will make it much easier for you to coexist with the less desirable desert inhabitants without having to resort to chemical removal. 

              Scorpions are one of the most common, and most dangerous, pests that homeowners in the desert will encounter in and around their homes.  One of the most crucial steps you can take as a homeowner is to seal off any openings to your home.  Scorpions can enter cracks as small as 1/16th of an inch, so caulk and seal any cracks, pipes or wiring outlets on the exterior of your home.  Doggie doors are a very common method of entry so check that these exits are sealed when your animals are inside the home.  Put tight mesh screens on any and all return air or heater ducts that are on floor level. Be sure to clear any shrubbery or piles of wood that are next to your home. 

              Scorpions are also attracted to moisture, so repair any drips that result in standing water. Keep all interior drains (especially in bathrooms) closed or sealed when not in use as scorpions have been known to come up through the drains on occasion.  Also, keep outside lights to a minimum as scorpions, and other pests, are drawn to lights.  These other pests are food sources for scorpions.   

             As Arizona natives are aware, never walk around barefoot after dark!  Always shake out shoes and piles of clothing before wearing, as scorpions like these hiding places.  Periodically inspecting the interior of your home with a black light (flashlights are available at any hardware store) will reveal any scorpions who have made entry into your home. The exoskeleton of scorpions contains a fluorescence that causes it to glow under UV light. 

           Taking a few of these simple steps should make it much easier for you to enjoy the beauty of our Sonoran Desert surroundings where it belongs, outdoors!  I’d be happy to give you referrals to recommended pest control experts as well. 

Book Reviews June 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: 

NorthNorth by Scott Jurek (Length: 305 pages).  I really enjoyed this read about the setting of a new speed record northbound on the Appalachian Trail (47 days!) in 2015.  I’ve read two of Scott Jurek’s previous books and I am a fan of his writing style, and of his ultra-running abilities.  Very impressive guy!  In this book I enjoyed his  anecdotes regarding his vegan diet and the race support his wife provided.  This was a bit stressful to read whilst lounging on the couch 🙂 but definitely worth the library check out.  

From the publisher: From the author of the bestseller Eat and Run, a thrilling new memoir about his grueling, exhilarating, and immensely inspiring 46-day run to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

Scott Jurek is one of the world’s best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he’s finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning’s elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him.

Book #2: 

One in a Million BoyThe One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood (Length: 338 pages).  This is a really charming book about a friendship between a 104-year old woman and an 11-year old boy.  I’m a fan of character-driven novels, with excellent writing and witty dialogue, and this book meets all 3 requirements in spades.  This book is reminiscent of A Man Called Ove, so if you’re a fan of that type of novel, definitely check this one out!

From the publisher: The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don’t they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who’s been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she’s confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.

One Saturday, the boy doesn’t show up. Ona starts to think he’s not so special after all, but then his father arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son’s good deed. The boy’s mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that the world can surprise us at any age, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find ourselves again.

 

Book #3: 

Crazy Rich Asians 1Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Length: 546 pages–a LONG one!).  SUCH a fun read!  I’ve had this one on my Kindle for the past 4 years, and just now got around to reading it (after a few false starts).  With the movie coming out, I thought it would be a nice summer read, and I was right!  The chapters are organized by characters, all centered around one plot line.  The plot is a bit flimsy, and the characters aren’t very well-developed, so don’t expect an award-winning read.  However, I enjoyed learning about the culture in Singapore/China, as well as the lives of the mega-rich young billionaire society.  Very interesting and fun read!  

From the publisher: The acclaimed international bestseller (“A dizzily shopaholic comedy.” —The New York Times) soon to be a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh and Gemma Chan!

When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

Book #4: 

Our Little SecretOur Little Secret by Roz Nay (Length: 256 pages).  I couldn’t put down this thriller because it was well-written, with strong character development.  I kept reading to find out what happened with the characters I came to know.  However, be warned that the protagonist isn’t likeable, and the ending isn’t very surprising, but it is an interesting plot to follow throughout.  The plot construction itself (a flashback from inside a police station) reminded me of the movie The Usual Suspects.  

From the publisher:  

A cracking read…Our Little Secret builds to a deliciously dark conclusion.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10

Roz Nay’s Our Little Secret is a twisted tale of love, pain, and revenge that will stay with the reader long after they turn the last page.

They say you never forget your first love. What they don’t say though, is that sometimes your first love won’t forget you…

Angela Petitjean sits in a cold, dull room. The police have been interrogating her for hours, asking about Saskia Parker. She’s the wife of Angela’s high school sweetheart, HP, and the mother of his child. She has vanished. Homicide Detective J. Novak believes Angela knows what happened to Saskia. He wants the truth, and he wants it now.

 

Book #5: 

A Life InterceptedA Life Intercepted by Charles Martin (Length: 328 pages).  I stumbled across this author (and novel), discovered he has many, many fans, and now I know why.  This particular book is about a football quarterback, and clearly has been written by someone who loves the game of football.  While I do not, I did enjoy learning about the intricacies of the sport.  This novel features very well-developed characters, with a bit of a surprise ending.  The resolution of the plot is a bit too pat, but overall, it’s well-constructed and makes me want to read more from this author.  

From the publisher: Twelve years ago Matthew “the Rocket” Rising had it all. Married to his high school sweetheart and one of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of college football, he was the number one NFL draft pick. But on the night of the draft, he plummeted from the pinnacle of esteem. Falsely accused of a heinous crime with irrefutable evidence, it seemed in an instant all was lost–his reputation, his career, his freedom, and most devastatingly, the love of his life. Having served his sentence and never played a down of professional football, Matthew leaves prison with one goal–to find his wife, Audrey, whom no one has seen since the trial. He returns to an unwelcoming reception from his Gardi, Georgia, hometown to learn that Audrey has taken shelter from the media with the nuns at a Catholic school. There she has discovered a young man with the talent to achieve the football career Matthew should have had. All he needs is the right coach. Although helping the boy means Matthew violates the conditions of his release and–if discovered–reincarceration for life, he’ll take the chance with hope of winning back Audrey’s love.

 

Book #6: 

Just MercyJust Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Length: 354 pages).  Wow!  This book is officially on my top 10 book list, and it’s a MUST-READ for every citizen of the United States, regardless of your political beliefs.  As a former prosecutor, I have my own stories about the justice system, and I’ve seen a lot that I’m not proud to have seen, but this biographical account from a fellow attorney just blew me away!  His account of the various injustices on death row are heart-breaking, and must be heard for things to changes.  While this book follows the case of one individual who was wrongfully-convicted, in alternate chapters the author reveals other individuals (even children) who should not be on death row, and even individuals who were executed who were later found to be innocent.  Even as a member of the legal profession, I wasn’t aware of those cases.  This isn’t a sad or depressing book, but it is an important read.  

From the publisher: Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction | Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction | Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award | Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize | Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize | An American Library Association Notable Book

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time
 
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Buyer Inspection Report Explained

Congratulations!  You’ve negotiated with the buyer, and have entered into a contract to sell your home.  Now what?  The buyer will set up and pay for an inspection of your home, and based on the inspection report, will send you a BINSR.  This is a Buyer Inspection Notice and Seller Response, and is the document the buyer uses to notify you, the seller, about the issues that exist with the home and the property.  The buyer typically has ten days after the inspection to deliver this BINSR to the seller.

Generally speaking, there are three directions in which the buyer can go after the inspection, per the BINSR.  First, the buyer can indicate that they accept the premises completely, which means no further work needs to be done.  The second option is the buyer can reject the premises, which means the real estate transaction is cancelled.  The third option, which is the most common scenario, is the buyer “elects to provide the seller an opportunity to correct” whichever items from the inspection the buyer wants corrected before they take possession of the property.

This third option is where the buyer wants the seller to either repair, replace or change something based on the inspection report.  The seller, you, will then have 5 days in which to respond to the BINSR.  As the seller, you have three responses available.  The first response is that you agree to correct all inspection issues.  Your second available response is that you agree to no repairs.  (The buyer then will have the option to accept the property as-is, or to cancel the transaction altogether).  The final response is that you can itemize which items you are willing to repair, replace or change.  For example, you may agree to fix 75% of the items on the inspection report, but not a few of the other items because you disagree with the inspector’s conclusions.

At this point, the buyer can then choose to either accept or cancel based on the seller’s response to the BINSR.  While this is a very simplified explanation of the BINSR process, this is generally how this often-complicated portion of the real estate transaction proceeds.  I look forward to answering any questions you may have about any real estate related matters.

 

 

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.