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What I Read This Month: January 2017

January 27, 2017

Holy cramoly, y’all. It’s almost February. I cannot even begin to wrap my head around that realization. Maybe it’s because I as off for a chunk of the month, but it feels like this month has flown by. Most definitely because I had quite a bit of time off, this month is my best in a while for number of books read.  As far as whether it set a record for number of books I liked? Well, let’s find out!

Dead Wake by Erik Larson “On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.”

This one was a random last minute airport grab when I was traveling to and from Nashville. I’ve read other books by Erik Larson and really enjoy his writing style. This one was no exception. Even something as mundane as the functioning of a submarine had a page-turner style to it. I finished this one within two flights and one *really  long* layover. Definitely recommend!

The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman “An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path.”

What was most fascinating to me was that this was based on a true story! I definitely found Solange’s story more compelling than Marthe’s but both narrators had really interesting backgrounds.  The story took a few chapters to really get going, but once it did, it was a really enjoyable read.  Don’t rush out to get this one, but if you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially from WWII, add it to your list.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines The Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.”

To be completely honest, I haven’t finished this one yet, although by this time tomorrow that may have changed. I love Fixer Upper and this book is really an extension of the show. Both of them have really engaging and personal writing styles; it’s almost like they are sitting there with you having a conversation. If you’re a fan of the show, I highly recommend picking this one up!

The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot “Reed Stewart thought he’d left all his small town troubles—including a broken heart—behind when he ditched tiny Bloomville, Indiana, ten years ago to become rich and famous on the professional golf circuit.  Then one tiny post on the Internet causes all of those troubles to return . . . with a vengeance. Becky Flowers has worked hard to build her successful senior relocation business, but she’s worked even harder to forget Reed Stewart ever existed. She has absolutely no intention of seeing him when he returns—until his family hires her to save his parents. Now Reed and Becky can’t avoid one another—or the memories of that one fateful night.”

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the era of The Princes Diaries, but I will always read a book that has Meg Cabot as the author. I may not love the book, but I will read it. This was the case with The Boy is Back. It was a fluffy love story with very predictable plot points, but enjoyable all the same. The one thing I didn’t love was the way the story was told; everything is text messages, emails and so on. I like something a little meatier to sink my teeth into.

Cavendon Hall  by Barbara Taylor Bradford “Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl’s daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again.”

Y’all. This is essentially Downton Abbey as a book. It’s set in the same timeframe, deals with a very similar situation (upstairs and downstairs life) and has a similar plot. Once I accepted that and stopped wanting it to be different (just for the sake of being different), I really liked it! Time flies in this book so you have to pay careful attention to the dates in order to get a feel for the pace of the story. But I liked it so much that I already have the other two books in the trilogy sitting on my bedside table.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith “Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.”

This was a hard one for me. I wanted to like it, to get it, to see what all the critics saw, but I just couldn’t. Or at least, not for the entire book. I had a hard time with how much the narrator skipped around, sometimes between topics that didn’t seem to have a connection. It took me forever to get through, I didn’t really enjoy it and wouldn’t recommend it.

What have you read lately?

Books

What I Read This Month: December 2016

December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas Eve eve, y’all! Today officially marks the start of my holiday vacation which means I have roughly 4 trillion things to do before tomorrow. One of those things is running last minute Christmas errands, which is a bit terrifying because the stores are crazy. Just thinking about heading out makes me want to stay snuggled up on the sofa with a book and the dogs. I read quite a bit this month, far more than I would have thought possible with all the holiday craziness.

The Perfect Neighbors by Sarah Pekkanen “Bucolic Newport Cove, where spontaneous block parties occur on balmy nights and all of the streets are named for flowers, is proud of its distinction of being named one the top twenty safest neighborhoods in the US. It’s also one of the most secret-filled.”

I’m on a suburban thriller kick lately and this one was another one. The multiple intersecting plots and narrators keep the story moving, making this a legit page-turner. The neighborhood email listserv at the beginning of each chapter were definitely my favorite part; they reminded me so much of my neighborhood’s Facebook group. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending; it left me a little unsatisfied. It was a fast enjoyable read, but I don’t know that’d I recommend it.

Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy “All through childhood and adolescence, Jane, Cara, and Meg swore their friendship would stand the test of time. Nothing would come between them, they pledged. But once they hit their twenties, life got more complicated and the BFFs began to grow distant. When Jane eloped with her slick, wealthy new boyfriend and didn’t invite her oldest friends to the ceremony, the small cracks and fissures in their once rock-solid relationship became a chasm that tore them apart.”

This one hit close to home: who hasn’t drifted away from friends over time? But other than the little bit of a reality check, I didn’t love this one. It took way too long for the reader to learn which crisis each woman was facing and for them to begin talking again. Then everything was all wrapped up very neatly and way too quickly. Yes, everyone ended up happy, but it felt a bit forced. I’d skip this one.

The Singles Games by Laura Weisberger “When America’s sweetheart, Charlotte “Charlie” Silver, makes a pact with the devil—the infamously brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner—she finds herself catapulted into a world of celebrity stylists, private parties, charity matches aboard mega-yachts, and secret dates with Hollywood royalty. Under Todd’s new ruthless regime, Charlie the good girl is out. Todd wants “Warrior Princess” Charlie all the way. After all, no one ever wins big by playing nice.”

I mentioned on Wednesday that I’m obsessed with the Hallmark Channel Christmas romantic comedies. They’re short, pretty formulaic and everyone ends up getting exactly what they deserve. This book is essentially the novel version of those movies. You can tell from the very beginning how things will end, but you’re ok with that. I admit that I found Charlie a little annoying in the middle of the book, but I was happy that she got her act together by the end. If you’re looking for a Hallmark movie as a book, you’ve found your winner.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney “Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever hated book characters more than I hated the Plumb siblings. They were all spoiled, selfish and kind of awful. I couldn’t muster up an ounce of caring for any of them, although I did find myself rooting for Melody’s children. Skip this one.

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner “Spanning nearly a century, through secrets and mysteries, trials and sacrifice, this beautiful and haunting novel follows the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders who live and love on Castellamare: a cruel count and his bewitching wife, a priest who loves scandal, a prisoner of war turned poet, an outcast girl who becomes a pillar of strength, a wounded English soldier who emerges from the sea. The people of Castellamare are transformed by two world wars and a great recession, by the threat of fascism and their deep bonds of passion and friendship, and by bitter rivalries and the power of forgiveness.”

I did not like this book when I started it. In fact, I almost stopped reading it entirely, but that goes against my nature. I can’t leave a book half-read so I kept going and I’m really glad I did! The story really picked up about a quarter of the way through and I quickly got lost in the story. It was fascinating to read how the island was (relatively) unaffected by WWII, something the rest of the world can’t really say. I loved the complexity of the characters and would definitely recommend this one!

Arrowood by Laura McHugh “Arrowood is the most ornate and grand of the historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa. But the house has a mystery it has never revealed: It’s where Arden Arrowood’s younger twin sisters vanished on her watch twenty years ago—never to be seen again. After the twins’ disappearance, Arden’s parents divorced and the Arrowoods left the big house that had been in their family for generations. And Arden’s own life has fallen apart: She can’t finish her master’s thesis, and a misguided love affair has ended badly. She has held on to the hope that her sisters are still alive, and it seems she can’t move forward until she finds them. When her father dies and she inherits Arrowood, Arden returns to her childhood home determined to discover what really happened to her sisters that traumatic summer.”

I legitimately read this in one sitting. It was so good and the mystery kept the story moving quickly. I could not have predicted the ending if you’d given me 100 guesses, which is refreshing. There is an implied twist that left me surprised and more than a little horrified, but it was tempered a bit with having Arden’s life work out.

What books did you read this month?

Books

What I Read This Month: October 2016

October 19, 2016

Can you guys even handle how quickly October is passing?! I can’t. I just cannot. Halloween is less than two weeks away! Two weeks from today it’s November for heaven’s sake!

How to be a grown-up by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Krauss “Rory McGovern is entering the ostensible prime of her life when her husband, Blake, loses his dream job and announces he feels like “taking a break” from being a husband and father. Rory was already spread thin and now, without warning, she is single-parenting two kids, juggling their science projects, flu season, and pajama days, while coming to terms with her disintegrating marriage. And without Blake, her only hope is to accept a full-time position working for two full-time twenty-somethings.”

I enjoyed The Nanny Diaries so when I saw this was by the same authors, I snatched it up quickly. Even though I finished this one in less than a day, it wasn’t that great. I definitely hated Blake and part of me wasn’t a huge fan of Rory either. It was a quick, easy read, but not one I would go back to again.

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams “Inseparable throughout college, Eva, Benedict, Sylvie, and Lucien graduate in 1997, into an exhilarating world on the brink of a new millennium. Hopelessly in love with playboy Lucien and eager to shrug off the socialist politics of her upbringing, Eva breaks away to work for a big bank. Benedict, a budding scientist who’s pined for Eva for years, stays on to complete his PhD in physics, devoting his life to chasing particles as elusive as the object of his affection. Siblings Sylvie and Lucien, never much inclined toward mortgages or monogamy, pursue more bohemian existences-she as an aspiring artist and he as a club promoter and professional partyer. But as their twenties give way to their thirties, the group struggles to navigate their thwarted dreams.”

Alright, if you’re into whiny rich kids who break all the rules, act without any morals and still end up having things work out fine, then this one is for you. If not, go ahead and skip it.

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan “Frances Gerety is the real pioneering ad woman who coined the famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” and four unique marriages that will test how true—or not—those words might be. Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years, but their son’s messy divorce has put them at rare odds; James, a beleaguered paramedic, has spent most of his marriage haunted by his wife’s family’s expectations; Delphine has thrown caution to the wind and left a peaceful French life for an exciting but rocky romance in America; and Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own. As the stories connect to each other and to Frances’s legacy in surprising ways, The Engagements explores the complicated ins and outs of relationships, then, now, and forever.”

I loved how the four stories connected into each other, but wasn’t a huge fan of every character. Kate was definitely my least favorite character; she felt a little unreal and over done.  I don’t know that I would recommend this to folks.

The Games: A Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt “For millions of people around the world, the Summer and Winter Games are a joy and a treasure, but how did they develop into a global colossus? How have they been buffeted by―and, in turn, affected by―world events? Why do we care about them so much?”

This was definitely not an easy read. In fact, at times it was almost a textbook. Ok. At times it was a legit textbook. But even though it was dense, it was really enjoyable! It was super thorough and really showed how the Olympics fit into the big picture of the world at the time. It traces the history of the modern day Olympics from the late 1800s right up until Rio. The main focus is on the Summer Olympics, but he does touch on the Winter Olympics a bit. If you’re in for a longer read and are a big Olympics fan, definitely check this one out.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer “The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.”

This book was one that I’d requested forever ago and my name FINALLY came up on the list. So I added it to my October reads and I’m so glad I did. Amy Schumer isn’t my favorite comedian or actor, but she’s a dang good writer! I really enjoyed this one, laughed out loud multiple times and thought she had some really good things to say. Definitely pick this one up!

What did you read this month? Any suggestions on what I should read next month?

Books

What I Read This Month: September 2016

September 21, 2016

Happy Wednesday, y’all! I am so happy that we are halfway done with this week because that means we’re closer to the weekend and A being home! Woot woot! Even though I would much rather have him home, I sure do get a lot of reading done while he’s gone.

All of my books (with one exception) this month were random selections from the library and I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. Let’s take a look at what I read this month.

Dog Gone by Pauls Toutonghi “Saturday, October 10, 1998. Fielding Marshall is hiking on the Appalachian Trail. His beloved dog—a six-year-old golden retriever mix named Gonker—bolts into the woods. Just like that, he has vanished. And Gonker has Addison’s disease. If he’s not found in twenty-three days, he will die. The search begins.”

I was hardcore prepared to ugly cry at this one, but surprisingly, I remained dry-eyed for the full story.  I was not a huge fan of Fielding and his relaxed attitude to dog ownership, but I loved that this was a true story. It definitely gave me a little boost of confidence in humanity. I’d recommend this one for sure.

The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz “This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City. The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold’s daughter is dating one of them.”

I was kind of underwhelmed by this one. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I couldn’t help but feel like the book didn’t really deliver.  Sylvia was a bit much for me and the other characters almost felt like caricatures instead of real people.

How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings “When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else. Fast forward two years, Mele’s daughter is a toddler, and Bobby and his fiancée want Ellie to be the flower girl at their wedding. Mele, who also has agreed to attend the nuptials, knows she can’t continue obsessing about Bobby and his cheese making, Napa-residing, fiancée. She needs something to do. So she answers a questionnaire provided by the San Francisco Mommy Club in elaborate and shocking detail and decides to enter their cookbook writing contest. Even though she joined the group out of desperation, Mele has found her people: Annie, Barrett, Georgia, and Henry (a stay-at-home dad). As the wedding date approaches, Mele uses her friends’ stories to inspire recipes and find comfort, both.”

I wasn’t sure I’d like this one after reading the first few chapters, but I found that I really loved it in the end. I liked Mele and Ellie’s relationship: it was a real mother-daughter one, not a fake fairytale one.  I was definitely rooting for her friends to find happiness, although I definitely liked some of them less than others.  This one wasn’t phenomenal, but it was a fun read.

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes “Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.”

I did not see the movie before reading the book, but I definitely read the book because of previews for the movie. It was definitely more adult and less teenage sappy rom-com than I expected, but that didn’t keep me from straight up sobbing during parts. This is going to sound silly if you haven’t read it or seen the movie, but here it goes: I hated the ending, but I recognize why it had to end that way and I’m actually glad it did.  Don’t expect to wear mascara while reading this one, but definitely check it out.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley “This is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without. For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.”

SO MANY FEELS. I originally picked this one up because it had a dachshund on the cover and even though I could guess how it would end, I had to read it.  So I did. And I sobbed. And clutched B to my chest and promised that I would never let him go ever again. He grumbled in response, but I think he appreciated the sentiment.  You’re going to go on a ridiculous emotional rollercoaster, but I definitely recommend this one. Now I’m going to go over-love my dachshund.

What did you read this month?

Books

What I Read This Month: August

August 24, 2016

I consider myself fairly with it, but lately…y’all I just don’t know. Work and dogs and house and life are just wearing me out and it’s starting to show. Case in point, I don’t have a photo of the books I read this month. Why? Because I forgot to import it before clearing my memory card.

And I’m not going to lie, that makes it really tricky to share the books I read this month. I guess the good news is that you’re only going to read about the super memorable ones, because I don’t have anything to jog my memory. I read so many books this month, but these are the three that stuck out for me.

The Lost Tudor Princess by Alison Weir “Royal Tudor blood ran in her veins. Her mother was a queen, her father an earl, and she herself was the granddaughter, niece, cousin, and grandmother of monarchs. Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, was an important figure in Tudor England, yet today, while her contemporaries—Anne Boleyn, Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I—have achieved celebrity status, she is largely forgotten.”

Ok so this is not a light read by any means. In some spots, it feels suspiciously like a textbook, but I still found it super interesting.  If you’re a history nut and into a heftier book, this is a good one. I learned so much and really enjoyed the “story”.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin “Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.”

I heard amazing things about this one so I had really high expectations going in, but sadly it just didn’t live up to them.  I’m not quite sure what it was for me, but I never found myself rooting for Eilis. The plot was good, but I just didn’t connect with her as a character.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware “Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…”

My friend told me about the Book of the Month Club and I was immediately excited. For less than $18 a month, you get to choose a book from five options and it’s shipped to you. My first book was so good that I am glad I signed up for the three-month plan! It was full of twists and turns and I didn’t see the ending coming at all.  Even if you don’t sign up for the BOTM Club, I’d still recommend picking this one up from the library.

What did you read this month?