November 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:

A Knock at Midnight by Brittany K. Barnett (Length: 315 pages).   This is an absolutely incredible book that every American should read, especially those still in high school or college. The author is an attorney who grew up in a small town in Texas, and she discusses the inequities in our justice system, specifically the federal sentencing guidelines that a 100:1 ratio of powder cocaine to crack cocaine. Not all sentencing reforms of the old, racially unjust laws are retroactive, resulting in over 30,000 inmates (80% of whom are people of color) who are serving life sentences for minimal drug possession crimes. This is infuriating and needs to be changed (likely via an act of Congress as the only current remedy is clemency). The writing here is excellent and the author paints a vivid story, humanizing all of the inmates she helps. This would be an excellent book club choice!

Book #2:

Replay by Ken Grimwood (Length: 322 paperback pages).  I thought this science fiction novel was really interesting a la the movie Groundhog Day, but over the span of 25 years. The protagonist relives a 25 year section of his life over and over again. The premise is novel, but the writing is a bit graphic in parts, so if you’re sensitive, beware. The writing is excellent, and the character development is fantastic (but how could it not be, with the narrator being re-invented repeatedly?). The plot obviously makes this one a hard one to put down, as you have to find out how it ends, and throughout, you’re going to be thinking of your own mortality. I would recommend this for sure.

Book #3:

The Lazy Genius by Kendra Adachi (Length: 228 pages).  I have listened to this author’s podcast and have enjoyed it, so I checked out her book from the library. There isn’t much new information here that the author hasn’t already published on IG or on her podcast, but I do enjoy her philosophy (focus on and put energy into only the things that matter, and use hacks or shortcuts for everything else). This book delineates all of the author’s suggested shortcuts as wells as how you can implement this philosophy in all areas of your life, so for those reasons this is absolutely worth a (quick) read.

Book #4:

Under a Gilded Moon by Joy Jordan-Lake (Length: 409 pages).   I purchased this for my Kindle upon reading a review that called this historical novel Downton Abbey meets Crawdads. While I wouldn’t quite go that far, I really enjoyed this read. This novel is set in the time period of 1895-96, at the newly-completed Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. There is a murder mystery at the center of the novel, and that aspect reminds me of Agatha Christie a bit. The setting is very scenic, the writing is beautiful, and the character development is relatively strong (without being too deep as this is primarily plot-driven). I did find the plot drags a bit in the middle, but the resolution of the mystery is very satisfying overall. There is an interesting character arc of a man named Madison Grant, who was based on a real-life land and wildlife conservationist (and the founder of the best zoo in American–the Bronx Zoo) who was also a eugenicist. I absolutely would recommend this book, and it would be another fantastic book club pick.

November 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:

Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin (Length: 320 pages).   This is a well-written thriller set on a fictional Caribbean island called Saint X. The plot is very remiscent of the Natalie Hollway case but where the body is found ASAP. The rest of the novel recounts how the victim’s family members, fellow tourists and a few islanders deal with the aftermath of the death. The focus is mainly on the victim’s sister, with a plot twist at the end that is a bit unusual but makes sense in retrospect. The writing here is VERY good, but there was a bit too much navel-gazing for me when it comes to the sister, and the novel drags a bit too much in the middle, for my liking. You will not like all of the characters, but you aren’t supposed to like them. Race and privilege are a bit part of this novel, which would make it a great book club choice.

Book #2:

Eat to Beat Disease by Dr William W. Li (Length: 414 pages).  This is another very specific book choice which (hopefully) doesn’t apply to you.  However, unlike the last book on colon cancer that I reviewed last month, this book should apply to anyone who is looking to stay healthy, and wants information on how to heal their body through diet. The author is very well-qualified to educate on which foods help to heal which diseases, specifically via antigenesis (blood vessel growth). His writing is straightforward, scientifically-based and he provides all of the resources for you to verify the information provided, if you wish. He has a Ted Talk that is worth Googling as well. This is worth a purchase to keep in your personal library as it’s a fantastic reference.

Book #3:

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Length: 352 pages).  I have tried to read this twice before, and gave up. This time I couldn’t put it down! The writing is lyrical, and the author conveys a gorgeous sense of place (Manhattan in the late 1930s), snappy dialogue and I adored the protagonist (Kate Kontent). This is a polarizing novel with reviewers (some call it pretentious, others call it amazing), and I’m decidedly in the second camp. The resolution of the “love story’ is excellent here, with a twist that I just didn’t see coming. I’m looking forward to reading this author’s novel, A Gentleman in Moscow next.

Book #4:

The Two Lila Bennetts by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (Length: 315 pages).   This was a freebie Amazon Prime read that I downloaded this summer, and I was pleasantly surprised with this well-written thriller! The format is interesting here–a la the movie Sliding Doors, where the protagonist (criminal defense attorney) comes to a fork in the road and the alternating chapters reveal each of the two paths. I thought the plot here is excellent–very fast-paced and believable. The character development is sufficiently deep to understand the mindset of the protagonist, so the reader is able to at least understand why she makes the choices she does. I didn’t figure out the underlying mystery until the end, which is always makes for a satisfying read. I highly recommend this fun thriller, and I plan to check out the authors’ other novels (namely, Girls’ Night Out and The Good Widow).

October 2020–Part Three

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:

All the Devils Are HereAll the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny (Length: 443 pages).   If I had to choose only one author to read for the rest of my life (God forbid!), it would be Louise Penny.  I adore all of her work, and her as a person (her Facebook page is a delight).  This novel is #16 in her Three Pines/Inspector Gamache series, and be still my heart, it’s set in Paris!!  Having had the good fortune to visit Paris for 2 weeks over 20 years ago, this novel’s depictions of the beautiful sights in Paris made it seem like I was there yesterday.  The setting is the best part of this novel, as the mystery and the plot aren’t the strongest in Penny’s canon, in my opinion.  There are some technical and continuity issues in this mystery centered around corporate espionage.  (For example, what happened to the second security guard in the apartment in the final standoff??)  There are many plot holes which require the reader to suspend disbelief, and given Penny’s typically intelligent narratives, this is a bit disappointing.  In terms of character development, the reader is finally able to learn why Armand and his son Daniel have been estranged for so long, and quite simply, the reason is LAME.  However, given all of the above, I LOVED the fast pacing of the plot (ridiculous as it is), the incredible setting and the quality of Penny’s writing.  I am still a fan, and will always be a fan of her work.   

Book #2:

Chris Beat CancerChris Beat Cancer by Chris Wark (Length: 296 pages).  This is a very specific book choice which (hopefully) doesn’t apply to you.  The author is a stage 3 colon cancer survivor of 15 years, who advocates against adjuvant (clean up) chemotherapy to prevent a recurrence of cancer, and instead promotes a diet and lifestyle change. While his tips are obviously specific to cancer prevention, I found this to contain excellent information for anyone who wishes to lead a healthier lifestyle.  Main point:  animal products are one of the biggest drivers of disease in our bodies.  The author does include a ton of scientific studies to back up his main points (which is great on the Kindle because you can just click on the link immediately).  I am not a fan of the more radical alternative therapies as I believe science plays a huge role in medicine, and we can’t discount all that scientists have discovered.  However, given how much we are brainwashed by the meat and dairy industries, I think the author has some excellent points here that would benefit even the average reader who isn’t fighting or seeking to prevent cancer or other diseases.  

Book #3:

Too lateToo Late by Colleen Hoover (Length: 395 pages).  Ugh.  Just NO.  This is awful.  This is the third novel by this author that I’ve read, and picked it up because it was recommended as a “read next” choice.  The plot here is trite, centered around a college student who lives with an extremely abusive boyfriend who is also a drug dealer.  Yet she falls in love with an undercover cop who inexplicably falls in love with her as well.  The protagonist is clearly brainwashed, which typically would be understandable given that she’s an abuse victim, however her actions don’t make sense even within this emotional framework.  The abuse scenes (sexual and physical) are very exploitative and don’t advance the plot in a way that the reader can forgive the exploitation.  There’s enough forward momentum that I wanted to keep reading to see how it ends, but I felt gross the whole time.  Only true Colleen Hoover fans will enjoy this book, and after this one, I’m not ever going to be one of them.  

October 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:    

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister (Length: 316 pages).   This was my book club’s selection for October, and I really enjoyed (most of) it. I was reminded quite a bit of the book Where the Crawdads Sing in terms of the (island) setting. I thought the author here nailed the trifecta–setting, plot and character development. But here the setting is the most effective, especially for the first 2/3 of the book. My least favorite parts of the book occur on the mainland, or in the “city”. I found the subplot on scents and how they affect us to be fascination. The plot or central mystery is good here, and the character development is excellent (whether or not you love the main characters is another thing). Definitely would recommend this book. 

Book #2:

A Happy Catastrophe by Maddie Dawson (Length: 378 pages).  This is the sequel to the author’s novel Matchmaking for Beginners (which I reviewed in January of this year), and follows up on the characters of Marnie and Patrick. I enjoyed the first novel much more than this continuation, mainly because the middle, or the meat of the novel dragged on for way too long, thanks to Patrick’s depression. As a reader, I was initially sympathetic to his plight, but once the point is made, do we need to belabor it at the expense of the plot? This was not what I was looking for in a novel in this genre. Having said that, I still believe that Matchmaking is one of the best “romance” novels I’ve ever read. Read that one instead.

Book #3:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Length: 272 pages).   I have had this book on my TBR list for ages, and when I was loaned a copy of it by a good friend, I was excited to finally read it, given all of its hype (that it’s a very polarizing read). Written by the award-winning author of The Remains of the Day, this is a short novel initially set in an English boarding school. The central mystery is alluded to immediately, but it takes almost the entire novel to be entirely fleshed out. This is very well-written, with a plot that is a tad bit too drawn out. The character development is excellent (but don’t expect likeable people), and the plot will give you a LOT of food for thought. This is a fantastic book club pick because it will generate interesting and very thought-provoking discussions on medical ethics and morals in our society.

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.