April 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Taste by Stanley Tucci (Length: 304 pages).  I listened to this audiobook (read by the author), and it’s fantastic! It’s his memoir based around his love of food. I enjoyed his details about various movie sets and his life in London (even during the pandemic!). The audio is a bit weird when he reads the recipes at the end of each chapter out loud, but they’re great recipes so I didn’t really mind. This is an absolutely charming memoir, and a must read and/or listen!

Book #2:

The Abominable by Dan Simmons (Length: 673 pages).  This is a thriller/mystery based on one of the earliest known ascents of Mount Everest. There is some type of monster (a yeti?) that’s killed several men and Sherpas, and what actually happens is truly abominable. This is VERY detailed (over 600 pages long) and could’ve used some serious editing, but if you enjoy reading about climbing techniques and equipment (I was fascinated by felt hiking boots!) you’ll be in heaven. You can also skim a lot of those sections without losing the thread of the central mystery. There are trigger warnings needed too if you’re a parent of small children. I will absolutely read this author’s other thrill novel set in Antartica (“The Terror”) because he is a strong writer and the plot is very propulsive once he focuses on that.

Book #3:

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten (Length: 184 pages).  This is an absolutely delightful collection of short stories translated from the original Swedish, written by a popular author of crime fiction. These stories all feature the same 88-year-old serial killer named Maud, who deals with annoyances in a very straightforward (and deadly) way. The murders aren’t gory, and it’s a lot of fun seeing the world through the eyes of this cantankerous, straightforward long-time resident of an apartment building in a city in Sweden. It’s a must read!

Book #4:

Lobizona by Romina Garber (Length: 416 pages). This is a YA fantasy that I heard about on a podcast. Geared toward 7th-12th graders, it’s also perfect for adults because I adore this book! Based on Argentinian folklore about witches and werewolves, think Harry Potter Hogwarts set in the Everglades. It touches on cultural topics such as immigration, gay rights, and in a beautiful way. Gorgeous imagery, strong writing, and a propulsive plot make this a book any fantasy-loving teen (and adult) will truly enjoy. I’ve already downloaded the sequel.

April 2022–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica (Length: 319 pages).  I’ve had this psychological thriller on my Kindle forever and finally picked it up. It’s set in Chicago and begins when a young woman wakes up and discovers her roommate Esther is missing. She begins to realize she didn’t really know her roommate that well, and things go from there. This is a pretty good thriller as they go, but none of the characters are at all likable. The writing is strong, the plot is propulsive and the central mystery is relatively easy to figure out. I won’t remember the plot (or resolution) of this in a few months, but it was a fast read that I kept wanting to pick back up, so I consider that a win.

Book #2:

Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan (Length: 301 pages).  This is a character-driven novel set in the near future (2027) in a Long Island neighborhood. A sinkhole develops in the park across the street, thanks to global warming, and a child disappears in it . . . this book is about the aftermath. This is very dark, disturbing and no character is truly worth rooting for, and I loved it. Excellent writing, and I couldn’t put it down (I read it in a single afternoon). Readers are very polarized about this book in online reviews, and I can see that you’ll either love it or hate it. But I obviously vote yes, this is absolutely worth a read (if you don’t need to care about the characters).

Book #3:

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (Length: 331 pages).  This is a book of autobiographical essays that I listened to on audio (because it was recommended that way). The author narrates and I really enjoyed her voice, as well as the essays. If you enjoy her writing (and I do), you’ll also love this collection. She writes about her family, friendships, writing novels and operating her Parnassus Books bookstore in Nashville (which I someday hope to visit). My favorite essay(s) are the ones involving her friendship with Tom Hanks’ personal assistant Sooki. This is a don’t miss–whether you read it or listen to it.

Book #4:

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth (Length: 344 pages).  I am a huge Sally Hepworth fan. She’s not the most talented writer ever, but I adore following her on IG and she does know her way around a psychological thriller. My favorite of hers thus far is The Mother-in-Law (which I’ve reviewed here previously) and while this one doesn’t quite measure up to that one, it’s very well-done. It’s not as scary or as twisted as most psychological thrillers so it’s a safer bet for those who don’t enjoy getting freaked out by their literature. Set in a suburban neighborhood in Melbourne, Australia, it revolves around five households on one street, essentially. Sally does an excellent job of capturing motherhood (especially the early days) and of marriage. This is a fun, gentle read that’s not a nail-biter because the central mystery is quite easy to figure out. I did keep picking it up so I thought it was an enjoyable novel. (The Kindle version has some errors which is a bit distracting–not sure who is editing her books?).

March 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (Length: 637 pages).  This incredible novel was my book club’s pick for the month of March. I’m OBSESSED! Comprised of five different story arcs of five people in various locations and time periods, it’s a bit difficult to follow in the beginning 100 pages or so (I cannot imagine listening to this one on audio given this). However, all five stories are tied together with a series of ancient Greek text, and these disparate characters and settings all come together at the very end to create magic. All of the characters are fully drawn, the writing quality is incredible (he IS a Pulitzer Prize winner, after all), and it’s sad AND witty. While some time periods are more interesting to me than others, I enjoyed all of them and I was sad to end this novel . . . all 600 plus pages of it.

Book #2:

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (Length: 335 pages).  I was in the mood for something more light-hearted after the previous novel, and this fun, well-written romantic comedy about the protagonist who is proposed to at a Dodgers game on the Jumbotron (against her wishes) fit the bill. The man who rescues her is then a part of her life going forward. She’s a journalist and he’s a pediatrician, giving them both more depth than typical romantic interests. This novel is the next in the series after The Wedding Date, which I haven’t read, but I may check it out someday. I enjoyed this novel–it’s not too angsty and has more depth than typical romances, which I appreciate.

Book #3:

A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost (Length: 320 pages). I listened to this memoir on audio specifically because I heard it’s a fantastic listen, and that recommendation was spot on. I LOVED this book! Read by the author, Colin Jost describes his childhood (and all of its travails) as well as his stand-up comedy career, his travels and his stint co-hosting The Weekend Update on SNL. I’m not super familiar with him (other than knowing he’s married to Scarlett Johansson) but I really enjoyed this on audio. It’s LOL funny, endearing, clever, well-written and very interesting to listen to. I never got bored and it made my morning commute much more bearable. I’d definitely recommend as an audiobook.

Book #4:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (Length: 234 pages). I don’t recall how this came onto my radar but I’m really glad I finally picked it up. It’s a steampunk-ish fantasy novel set in 19th century London, and features a young woman who apprentices to a paper magician. It’s similar to Harry Potter but much more gritty (and gory). The reviews of this book are very polarizing but I quite enjoyed it. The battle scenes between the excisioners (magicians who remove body parts) and the “good guys” are pretty graphic but I didn’t think they were gratuitous at all. The plot is very propulsive and I found the writing quality to be very good overall. I’ve read that the series gets progressively better so I’ll absolutely keep reading the next time I’m in the mood for a fantasy novel.

March 2022–Part One

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Becoming Trader Joe by Joe Coulombe (Length: 332 pages).  I listened to this non-fiction book written by the founder of Trader Joe’s, my favorite grocery store. This is a fascinating memoir about how he conceived, executed and tweaked earlier incantations of the Trader Joe’s stores. I really enjoyed his conversational tone and I learned a lot about the grocery business. This book made me even more of a Trader Joe’s fan, and as an audiobook, the book really works well for the format. (There’s a fantastic podcast for fans as well, called Inside Trader Joe’s).

Book #2:

Breath by James Nestor (Length: 301 pages).  This book is seriously life-changing. This is another non-fiction book I listened to on audio, and I was fascinated from start to finish. The author shares all of the existing research on how mouth breathing (as well as shallow breathing) are some of the major causes of medical issue such as asthma, ADHD, cavities, etc. and he makes a very convincing case. He shares several concrete steps on how to increase your own nasal breathing and breathing rhythm to benefit your health, your physical fitness and your mental well-being. I’m a convert! (The audiobook is fantastic–but be aware that you may feel silly doing the various breathing exercises if you also listen to books during your daily commute 😉 ).

Book #3:

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (Length: 351 pages).  I LOVE this book! It’s an utterly charming romantic comedy about a woman who works in an independent bookstore and has a full, very organized life complete with a daily planner (the pages of which are shared before each chapter). She’s a bit odd, book-obsessed and is a trivia superstar. She is very likeable as a character, which is nice, and there is a found family (for real) angle that makes this a bit deeper than the average romance. The central romance isn’t overly saccharine or cheesy and I enjoyed the ins and outs of the bookstore and its various book clubs. This is a must read if you enjoy romantic comedies. I’ll be checking out more by this author for sure.

February 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Length: 363 pages).  I have had this mystery on my TBR for a while and it was worth the wait. This is the first in a series (of 3 so far) and from what I’m hearing in the book podcasts I listen to, the others are even better than this one, so I’m excited to check them out. This novel is set in a luxury retirement village in a small town in England. A group of retirees gets together (on Thursdays) to review and try to solve cold cases. This novel features 1 cold-case murder and 2 murders which occur in present day. The cases are interesting enough (albeit simple) but the characters are the draw here, including the police detectives. I laughed out loud in a few places and kept smiling throughout. There are some serious issues tackled here, but there’s a whole lot of heart, which, along with quality writing, will keep me reading further.

Book #2:

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid (Length: 392 pages).  This is the first in a series of 8 (!) rom-com books featuring the Winston Brothers, a family of six brothers who live in TN and are bikers, mechanics, outlaws, et al. This particular novel features Jessica, a high school calculus teacher and Duane Winston, an auto mechanic who has an identical twin. Having grown up together they have a love-hate relationship, so that’s the basis for their romantic chemistry. There is a TON of open-door romance, a little bit of relationship confusion (again, just TALK to one another) and there are some dark edges here. Scary biker bars, with bikers doing and dealing drugs while abusing and sharing their “biker babes”. This isn’t really what I look for in a rom-com at all, but this series has a lot of fans so I may not be the target audience here. I did really enjoy the brother Cletus (a nerd on the spectrum) as well as the relationship among the brothers. The writing is of decent quality and if you like an edgier rom-com this may be right up your alley. I, for one, won’t be continuing on with the series.

Book #3:

The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celest Fletcher McHale (Length: 299 pages). I have had this book on my Kindle forever, and picked it up because I thought it was a light-hearted romance. It is NOT. This is actually a tear-jerker story about a friendship among a trio of girls who grew up in a small town in Louisiana. The writing is very strong with well-developed characters. It is a teensy bit emotionally manipulative (I can’t tell you why because it would give too much away) but overall it’s a good read (if you don’t mind a few tears).

Book #4:

Dories Ho! by Matt and Karen Smith (Length: 265 pages). I’m obsessed with this travel series, and I will be sad when I read the last book. This book is the second book in this couple’s self-published series (with at least 3 editing errors). This travelogue is written solely by the acerbic-witted husband Matt, and is about the couple’s six-day raft journey down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, with several other couples. This is very detailed (which I love) and very funny, just like the first in the series. Lots of interesting factoids and historical details are sprinkled throughout. (In fact, all the couples on the trip read the non-fiction book The Emerald Mile, which prompted me to pick it up–look for my review of that book next month). I read this book in one day because I literally couldn’t put it down.

Book #5:

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers (Length: 353 pages). I listened to this fantastic non-fiction book, as it was recommended to listen to. However, it appears it’s a great read as well, if that’s your preference. This is a riveting account of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a young Yemeni immigrant to CA who single-handedly creates a thriving coffee export business from Yemen to the US. I really enjoyed hearing about how coffee is grown, and I enjoyed following along on Mokhtar’s heart-stopping journeys in Yemen, which was in the middle of a civil war. Mokhtar was kidnapped by the Houthi rebels at one point, and the audiobook was as exciting as a movie at that point. This book is well-written, propulsive as well as continually optimistic . . . Mokhtar refused to give up on his (ludicrous) dreams. I highly recommend this one!