Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: My Name Is Lucy Barton + Dark Matter + Watch Me Disappear

September 7, 2017

Reading, reading, reading…especially as I came up on finishing the first draft of my own novel (which was sent to my literary agent yesterday!)

Three book reviews for you today, one of which ended up on my favorite book list.

As always, reviews are spoiler free.

PS: Couldn’t finish All The Bright Places (well written, just wasn’t in a YA mood?)…up next: The Nightingale.

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1. My Name Is Lucy Barton.

 

If You’re Looking For: Literary fiction

If You Liked: Olive Kitteridge 

My Review: Rich, moving, and emotional. A rare inside look at the raw and true relationship between mother and daughter. There is a reason Strout won a pulitzer. She is the writer we all wish to be. I read this book in a day. Truly incredible writing. Added to my favorite books list.

Their Review: “There is not a scintilla of sentimentality in this exquisite novel. Instead, in its careful words and vibrating silences, My Name Is Lucy Barton offers us a rare wealth of emotion, from darkest suffering to—‘I was so happy. Oh, I was happy’—simple joy.”—Claire Messud, The New York Times Book Review

Quote: It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it’s the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.
 

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2.  Dark Matter.

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, page turners, thrillers

If You Liked: The Martian

My Review: Compelling, original, mind bending, and fun. Reads like a blockbuster and reminded me a lot of The Martian… not because it’s in outer space, but because they both have a lot of complicated language that doesn’t bog you out + you know it could be a great movie. Really enjoyed it. Highly entertaining. 4/5 stars.

Their Review: “Exceptional. An exciting, ingeniously plotted adventure about love, regret, and quantum superposition. It’s been a long time since a novel sucked me in and kept me turning pages the way this one did.” —Andy Weir, New York Times bestselling author of The Martian

Quote: No one tells you it’s all about to change, to be taken away. There’s no proximity alert, no indication that you’re standing on the precipice. And maybe that’s what makes tragedy so tragic. Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you’re least expecting it. No time to flinch or brace.

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3.  Watch Me Disappear.

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, page turners

If You Liked: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

My Review: I’ll cut to the chase. This book is a page turner until the very end and definitely worth the read, however by the time I turned the last page I was already starring it three out of five stars in my mental Goodreads list without knowing exactly why. I think it is because while the plot and premise drew me in, the long drawn out resolution let me down. There were also some character issues that left me shaking my head. The word contrived comes to mind. Interesting story though, and some good solid writing. Almost fits into a YA genre, which is not a criticism, just an observation. 3.5/5 stars.

Their Review: Watch Me Disappear is just as riveting as Gone Girl. . . . The characters are arresting, the Berkeley setting delightfully authentic, and, best of all, the propulsive investigation may make you want to go into hiding just to finish the book now.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Quote: All people are unknowable, no matter how close you may think you are. Of the millions of thoughts we all think every day, of the millions of experiences we have, how many do we allow other people to know about? A handful? And no one willingly shares their worst, do they? The flaws you see, those are like the very tip of an iceberg. So we’re all just poking around on the surface, trying to figure out the people we love with a kind of, I guess, naïve idealism.

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Book Review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane + The Girl With All The Gifts

August 21, 2017

Two great books, one of which ended up on my favorite book list!

As always, reviews are spoiler free.

PS: Couldn’t finish Truly, Madly, Guilty. About to start My Name Is Lucy Barton.

1. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.

 

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, fantasy

If You Like: Magical realism, A Wrinkle In Time, Harry Potter (probably?)

My Review: It’s hard to say why I loved this book so much, or compare it to anything else. Instead it stands alone, set apart from most of the fiction I read, as something truly special. Not only is it a page turner, but the writing is authentic and compelling. Even though it’s fantasy, it’s hard to believe it’s not true. The story feels alive; it gets inside you and lingers. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. Highly recommend to anyone who was once a child. One of the best books I’ve ever read (and added to my favorites list).

Their Review: “Gaiman has crafted an achingly beautiful memoir of an imagination and a spellbinding story that sets three women at the center of everything. . . .It’s a meditation on memory and mortality, a creative reflection on how the defining moments of childhood can inhabit the worlds we imagine.” Journal Sentinel 

Quote: Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.

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2.  The Girl With All The Gifts.

 

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, page turners, thrillers

If You Like: Stephen King, Justin Cronin (The Passage!!)

My Review: My suggestion (as always) is to read it blind. Not look at any spoilers or summaries. Just pick it up and read it. Even if you don’t normally read this kind of book (which I don’t even want to tell you because then you might not read it!!) try it anyway. The story is gripping and the writing is moving and full of deep emotion and heartache. I could not put it down. Fresh, thorough, and ready for the box office with all its well placed pulses. It wasn’t until after I was finished reading it that I found out it’s already a movie. Not sure if I’ll watch it or not, but very glad I read the book. Incredible storytelling and painfully real. 4.5 stars.

Their Review: “Original, thrilling and powerful.”―The Guardian

Quote: When your dreams come true, your true has moved. You’ve already stopped being the person who had the dreams, so it feels more like a weird echo of something that already happened to you a long time ago.

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Book Review: Dark Places + The Sisters Chase

July 30, 2017

Two dark books with two similar and intriguing protagonists. Both page turners. Both great. I could not put them down! As always, reviews are spoiler free.

Have a great rest of the summer!

PS: Currently reading: Truly, Madly, Guilty. Would love to hear what you’re reading!

1. Dark Places.

 

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, thrillers, page turners

If You Liked: Sharp ObjectsVernon God LittleWe Need To Talk About Kevin, Luckiest Girl Alive

My Review: I swore I’d never read another Gillian Flynn novel after Sharp Objects, but like a moth to a flame–I can’t quite give her up. Like her other novels, this book is dark, gritty, and sometimes hard to read. It’s also complex, well developed, and gripping. According to the acknowledgements, Flynn did extensive research before writing this book, and it shows. The writing is assured, well paced, detailed and full of deep emotion. If you’re okay reading about dark things in dark places, I fully recommend this mystery and another look at the disturbing but incredible mental workings inside Gillian Flynn’s brain. I could not put it down.

Their Review: “Flynn fully inhabits Libby—a damaged woman whose world has resided entirely in her own head for the majority of her life and who is prone to dark metaphors: ‘Draw a picture of my soul, and it’d be a scribble with fangs.’ Half the fun of DARK PLACES is Libby’s swampy psychology, which Flynn leads us through without the benefit of hip waders.”
Time Out Chicago

Quote: I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it.

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2.  The Sisters Chase.

 

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, suspense, page turners

If You Like: Fates and FuriesLuckiest Girl Alive, Dark Places

My Review: Unsettling. Lovely. Gripping. This is a story about two sisters surviving on the run after the death of their mother. Very easy to read and full of suspense and intrigue. A great book to pick up for a long plane ride or vacation when you have a lot of time to binge read into the night. There is sadness and a certain heaviness throughout, but it is also charming and beautiful. I could not put it down.

Their Review: The Sisters Chase is a deliciously compulsive read, a miniature mystery of love, survival, and sisterhood written on the scale of the human heart. Deceptively simple, gracefully realized, and occasionally wicked, it lingers like a summer dream after the last page is turned.” —Amy Gentry, author of Good as Gone

Quote: The onslaught of the truths would be like relentless waves, knocking and knocking and knocking her down the moment she found her feet to stand back up.

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Book Review: A Man Called Ove + This Is How It Always Is

July 17, 2017

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1. A Man Called Ove.

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If You’re Looking For: Fiction, humor, light

If You Like: Good stories, Grumpy Old Men, Up

My Review: Sweet, thoughtful, well written, and funny. Not oh that was funny funny. Laugh out loud while you’re reading funny. Have you ever seen the movie Up? It’s kind of like taking him (the grumpy old man) and hearing his story all laid out into a charming and well worth it novel. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. 5/5 stars.

Their Review: “This charming debut novel by Backman should find a ready audience with English-language readers… hysterically funny… wry descriptions, excellent pacing… In the contest of Most Winning Combination, it would be hard to beat grumpy Ove and his hidden, generous heart.” –Kirkus Reviews

Quoted: Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves.

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2.  This Is How It Always Is.

If You’re Looking For: Fiction, page turner, family & marriage

If You Like: Contemporary fiction

My Review: I finished this beautiful novel today. It’s about family, marriage, and the changes and learning curves in parenthood. I prefer reading books without any spoilers or overviews (I almost never read the flap), and this book especially reads better without introduction. Trust me and try it. The only critiques I read on Goodreads (after the fact) is that it isn’t darker. So if you’re looking for something dark and deep–you might try one of Gillian Flynn’s novels (I recently read Dark Places after swearing I’d never read another after Sharp Objects). This book is lighter, but full of enough depth and plot to keep you turning the page. A warm (but often heart wrenchingly sad) story on a topic most of us know nothing about. But most of all–it’s about family.

Their Review: “Deeply satisfying…An intimate family story…Day-to-day parenting dilemmas are where Frankel shines.” –The New York Times Book Review

From the author’s note: The novelist in me is inspired by how much raising children is like writing books: You don’t know where they’re going until they get there. You may think you do, but you’re probably wrong. Corralling and forcing them against their will to go where you first imagined they would isn’t going to work for anyone involved. Never mind you’re the one writing and raising them, they are headed in their own direction, independent of you. And scary though that is, it’s also how it should be. […] For my child, for all our children, I want more options, more paths through the woods, wider ranges of normal, and unconditional love. Who doesn’t want that? I know this book will be controversial, but honestly? I keep forgetting why.

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Book Review: Fates and Furies + Perfect Little World

March 26, 2017

Hello readers! Two book reviews for you today. One was fine, the other was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Surprise!

Their reviews below. As always, they are spoiler free.

Sidebar: I also recently started All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood and loved it so much (gripping story, great writing), but couldn’t finish it because the content was making it hard for me to sleep at night (child abuse). But if you can stomach it (or don’t have young children the same ages), I definitely recommend. I still keeping wondering what happened!

Happy reading! And thank you to those who recommended these books! Suggestions always welcome.

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1. Fates and Furies.

If You’re Looking For: Literary fiction

If You Like: I don’t know what to compare this to. It’s like a mix of Gone Girl, Margaret Atwood, and a long, beautiful poem.

My Review:  I stopped and started this book over a dozen times until a friend encouraged me to keep going as the perspective shifts from one character to another halfway through the book (think: Gone Girl, but then stop thinking Gone Girl). And so I pushed through, partly because I trust this friend and her taste in books, and partly because I did enjoy the first part. I was simply unsure of where it was going and how it could possibly keep up the rhythm and tone without becoming boring. And I’m so glad I did. This novel unfolds and reveals itself slowly, making it all worth the wait in the second half. Even more striking is the language itself. Lauren has a way with words that may be hard to accept (at first), but soon becomes so perfect and real and right. (And if you are a writer yourself–will make you want to throw your whole manuscript in the garbage). The subjects of this novel are well worn; marriage, career, broken childhoods–but Lauren Groff makes them new and compelling. Here’s my advice if you start this book: keep going, keep going, keep going. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. 5/5. No wait, 6/5. Outstanding.

Their Review: “[Fates and Furies] is a stunning 360-degree view of a complex relationship… There’s almost nothing that [Groff is] not interested in and her skill set is breathtaking…It’s an incredibly ambitious work, she writes like her hands are on fire.” Richard Russo, NPR’s Morning Edition

Quoted: She was so tired of the old way of telling stories, all those too-worn narrative paths, the familiar plot thickets, the fat social novels. She needed something messier, something sharper, something like a bomb going off.

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2. Perfect Little World.

If You’re Looking For: Fiction

If You Like: Utopian novels

My Review: I was very excited about the premise and first few chapters of this book, but ultimately found it less than thrilling by the end without understanding why. Fortunately the internet has blessed us with lots of opinions on Goodreads, and I found Joshua R.’s review a great summation of my exact feelings (see below). I understand this is a cop out, sharing someone else’s review of a book you’re supposed to be reviewing yourself, but I am very tired and grouchy and have little desire to discuss this book in any other fashion. As an aside, if I ever publish a book that ends up on Goodreads, I will never, ever read the reviews. How horrifying! I will say this about Perfect Little World: Anytime I finish a book instead of tossing it into the “return to library” pile, I know it deserves at least three stars for holding my attention over sleep, snacking, or Netflix. And really this book had all the makings of a great read. Utopian millennial cult premise with a Wes Anderson writing vibe? Sign me up! But then see Joshua’s review below. 3.5/5 stars.

Their Review:  “A perfect little premise with a cursory, yet at times enjoyable, execution. I was excited about this book, a crazy experiment where 10 children are raised by 19 adults in a communal-like home. The book’s first pages outlines the complicated tree of adults and children. This should have been the first clue that this book would have to embrace brevity over depth, given that it is just over 300 pages.

The book starts out the first 150 pages following “Izzy” and sometimes Doctor Preston Grind who is in charge of the family experiment. While the background is nice, it left only 150 pages to discuss 18 other characters and the actual premise of the book, which is the family experiment.

Once you get into the family experiment, there are twists and turns that are enjoyable. However, I was confused which character was what, and nor did I care because they are introduced with very little detail. Maybe the idea is that all the characters get muddled together to make it feel more like a community to the reader. That’s a positive outlook anyway. From my perspective though, by the time I got to the climax(es) that takes place during the experiment, I felt like I neither knew most of the characters nor cared too much what was happening to them.

Overall, it’s a decent, but perhaps overly simplistic, read. Expect to get to know two characters in some detail. But don’t expand a grand adventure into the premise of the book.” – Joshua R. on Goodreads

“Charming. . . . Wilson pulls off his sweet-and-tart tone. . . . The novel delights in the project’s Willy Wonkaesque sense of antic chaos.” – Washington Post

Quoted: It amazed Izzy the way the children rushed through so many complicated emotions without space between each one. Everything rose so quickly to the surface and then subsided, like firecrackers, and what had originally been so jarring to her, their unguarded emotion, now filled her with great comfort, that anything, no matter what it was, would eventually give way to something else.

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