Book Date: 12/5/16

untitledIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

Finished this week:

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Only one book finished this week (although I did finish The Jungle and Anna Karenina on the Serial Reader app, so when you add those two I actually had a very successful week!). Parkland was over 500 pages and very dense. It was not a quick read by any stretch of the imagination and it actually took me a week and a half to read, which is longer than I typically take to read print books. It was phenomenal though (pretty much everything Bugliosi has written is great but this is definitely up there with Helter Skelter). The amount of research that went into this is astounding.

Despite the length, I did feel a bit put off by the ending. Bugliosi chose to focus on November 22-25, 1963, with the majority of the focus being on the day of the assassination and the following day. As such, the book pretty much ends with Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby. A small amount of the following interrogations with Ruby were included, but not much. And no afterword to tell us what happened years down the road. I understand why Bugliosi stopped where he did but I would have liked even more.

Currently reading:

img_2531The Fall Guy was a Book of the Month choice two months ago. I added it on a whim and then instantly regretted it. It’s a book I had never heard of by an author I had never heard of, which usually means I pass right by it. Then I saw the Litsy reviews. The title is listed twice on Litsy. On one version, it had a 23% rating, so very concerning. The other version had a 0% rating. I literally don’t think I have ever seen that on Litsy. Ever. So I was like Oh shit. And I considered skipping it all together but I had decided to spend the month of December catching up on all of my BOTM books (7 including the three I got this month). And I started it yesterday because I needed something “easy” after Parkland. And OMG I can’t put it down. I have probably 75 pages to go and I wanted so badly to just finish it last night but I tried to pace myself to avoid a book hangover.

I am still reading Fire Angels on my Kindle app. I don’t dislike it but I also don’t particularly like it. While the subject is interesting (a school fire at Our Lady of the Saints Catholic school in Chicago in 1958), I think that the book lacks a clear focus and the fact that it is told in the viewpoint of “fire” is odd to me and so far unsuccessful. I am about halfway through so hopefully I can finish it soon.

Serial Reader:

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For an explanation of serial, click here.

I have been using Serial since mid July and had yet to finish anything (and that is despite me being dedicated and reading at least one issue per day!). Until this week, that is. Last Tuesday I FINALLY finished Anna Karenina. I practically cried tears of joy. Let’s just say it wasn’t for me.

Then today I finished The Jungle. That one went much better. I loved it. In fact, had the second half been as engaging as the first half, I would have given it five stars and named it one of my favorite reads of 2016. I found the second half to be a bit tiresome though, especially as the book got more and more political at the very end. Still very good though, if not the most depressing book I have ever read.

I am now halfway through A Christmas Carol, which I have actually never read. I am a bit intimidated by Dickens after reading A Tale of Two Cities in college (and hating it), so I have stayed away from him since then. I am enjoying this one much more though.

On Wednesday I will be starting The Abbott’s Ghost: A Christmas Story, by Louisa May Alcott. Some other readers on Litsy are doing a readalong so I decided to join in. At only 9 issues, it will be a quick read.

What is eneryone else reading this week?

Book Review: I See You

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I See You

Clare Mackintosh

Sphere

368 pages

Synopsis:

Zoe Walker is on her commute home on the subway when she spots herself in the classifieds section of the newspaper. She is fairly certain it’s her, but when she calls the phone number associated with the ad, she discovers it is not a working number. Zoe attempts to brush it off but she has a nagging feeling that there is something untoward about the whole situation. As the days go on, she realizes she can’t speak of the issue without sounding like a complete nutcase. She can’t help but notice that there are other women appearing in the ads every day as well, and when she recognizes one of the women as the victim of a recent crime, she is terrified.

My thoughts:

I LOVED Clare Mackintosh’s first book, I Let You Go. I found it to be well written and captivating, two traits that don’t always go hand in hand with psychological thrillers. I often feel like they have only one or the other (or in very sad cases, none of the above). I felt so strongly about it that when I heard she had a new book coming out, I had to have it. I See You isn’t due to be released in the U.S. until 2017 but has already been released in the U.K. I found it on Book Depository for less than $12 (and Book Depository offers free shipping worldwide), so I jumped on the chance to order it before its U.S. release.

I thought the pacing of I See You was done very well.  As the reader, I always had the tingly sensation that something was amiss and that Zoe was right to be fearful. I’ve seen quite a few reviews denouncing Zoe and annoying and I agree, she wasn’t the most relatable character. She seemed a little flighty and naïve, and I certainly didn’t trust her judgment. I thought Mackintosh did a great job of subtly sketching Zoe’s romantic relationships in a way that added to the suspense of the story.

I See You didn’t quite live up to I Let You Go in my opinion. It was a great read in its own right and I thought the premise was promising. I think, in the end, the characters just didn’t strike me in the way her previous characters did. It’s definitely still worth a read though!

Disclosure: I purchased this book for my own collection.

 

 

Book Review: My Name is Lucy Barton

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My Name is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout

Random House

193 pages

Synopsis:

Lucy Barton is a young mother recuperating in the hospital in the 1980s. Her mother, with whom she has had a contentious, cold relationship with her entire life, comes to the hospital to care for her and the two share memories and gossip from their quiet hometown. Her mother’s presence gives Lucy the opportunity to reflect on the relationship she has with her mother.

My thoughts:

I don’t have a lot to say about this one.  As I was reading it, Lucy’s experiences really resonated with me and were a cause for introspection. However, now that it has been some time since I have read it, I find that most of it has slipped away from me. I can barely grasp onto my initial thoughts, and that is disappointing.  Do I think it is worth a read? Absolutely. It is SHORT–the publisher may call it 193 pages but it reads at less than 100 because of page breaks, etc. I read it in two sittings and could have easily read it in one had I planned accordingly.

This was my first Strout and I do think I want to give her another shot. Maybe Olive Kittrdge? I would love suggestions from my blogger friends!

 

Book Date: 11/28/16

untitledIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

Finished this week:

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Last week, I gave my husband the option to choose my next read out of my TBR pile. It was just spur of the moment, I wasn’t sure what to read next and he was right there and offered his help. He choose Kindred for the sole reason that it was a library book, so “it will probably be due back soon.” Gotta love the pragmatism. I really enjoyed it and it was a nice change of pace from what I normally read, with having a time travel element and being written in the 70s. However, it was also a very difficult book to read because it dealt a lot with slavery and racism. I discovered it on Litsy, as it was the November choice for the Litsy Feminist Bookclub (@litsyfeministbookclub).

As I mentioned last week, The Couple Next Door was not my favorite of the year by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, if I had a list for books I disliked the most this year, it would probably find its way on it.  I just didn’t care for the writing style at all. It felt very remedial to me. The ending did nothing for me one way or the other because I just didn’t care by that point.

Currently reading:

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First off, Vincent Bugliosi. That’s truly all I need to know in order to pick up one of his books. But I have been fascinated by JFK’s assassination since I read 11/22/63 so when I saw this, I added it to my TBR right away. I was afraid that, being nonfiction, it would be a slow read for me. It’s not. I cannot put it down. Bugliosi is so great at including every little detail.

Fire Angels is my current ebook. I found it on Netgalley, and it isn’t a book I have been seeing around but I took a chance on it anyway. I am not very far in but so far I am intrigued. It is the fictional account of a deadly fire that killed 92 children at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic school in Chicago on December 1, 1958. I can tell just a few chapters in that it is very well written. Kern took a risk in writing the book from the perspective of the fire, which is very odd to me and a choice I really have to fight against because it doesn’t appeal to me at all. So far I have been able to ignore the viewpoint because, for the most part, it has been very unobtrusive. Luckily.

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For more information on the Serial Reader app, click here.

Guys!!!! Do you see that?!?! Only two more issues left of Anna Karenina!! I did it!! And I am so thankful it is almost over. So so thankful. I am not a fan. I found pretty much the entire novel to be pretty torturous. I know I am in the minority, but I truly can’t understand the appeal. I really can’t.

I don’t have much left of The Jungle either. I will be sad to see this one end. I enjoyed almost every part of it. It will likely be one of my favorite books of the year, as well as one of my favorite classics of all time.

What’s everyone else reading this week?

Book Review: The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper

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The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper

James Carnac

Corgi

432 pages

Synopsis:

This is the alleged manuscript of the “real” Jack the Ripper. Written in the 1920s by a man calling himself James Carnac, it was only discovered recently in a lot of memorabilia purchased by a vintage toy dealer.

The manuscript is divided into three parts. The first part deals with Carnac’s childhood, which was quite brutal and culminated with a heinous crime. Part two is specifically focused on the murders in Whitechapel and explains the initial catalyst as well as why they ceased abruptly. The third part is decades later, with Carnac detailing an odd circumstance he has found himself in with his landlady.

“Ripperologists” have had a difficult time ascertaining whether this manuscript is the real deal, not to mention confirming whether James Carnac was a real person. The general consensus is that Carnac is most likely a pseudonym, as no records can be found of anyone with that name given the details the author provided.

My thoughts:

I was hesitant about this book at first. I love true crime but Jack the Ripper has never been a case that truly interested me. I think it is mainly due to the fact that it was so long ago. In my mind, if it hasn’t been solved yet, what are the chances it ever will be? In fact, I read this only because my mom read it last year and passed it on to me. It sat on my shelf for a long time and I picked it up only because I was trying to keep up with a spooky/creepy/bloody Halloween theme during the latter half of October.

I could not put this book down. It hooked me from the start, with Carnac’s childhood being far more fascinating than I anticipated. If I remember correctly, I finished the book within 24 hours. The main question that lingered in my mind was Is this a true account? And over a month later, I still don’t know how I feel about it.

On one hand, I agree that there is a lot of information in the manuscript that would likely only be known by the killer. On the other hand, the fluidity and the unlikeliness of certain situations had me second guessing. I can see why there are questions about the validity of the manuscript, but I don’t know that the truth about Jack the Ripper will ever be known.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Purple Diaries

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The Purple Diaries: Mary Astor and the Most Sensational Hollywood Scandal of the 1930s

Joseph Egan

Diversion Publishing

300 pages

Synopsis:

Mary Astor was a well know Hollywood actress that started her career in silent films in the 1920s and continued to have a career all the way until the 60s. Somewhat of a romantic, Mary fell for men easily. From a love affair with John Barrymore when she was 17, up through her marriage to Franklyn Thorpe, Mary shared her thoughts and dreams and exploits with her diaries. Despite being a well know actress, it never occurred to Mary to safeguard the diaries. Her husband, Dr. Thorpe, became irate to read of her true feelings towards him in her diary. He used them to negotiate a divorce that was beneficial only to him. Mary went along with his demands to insure that her diaries wouldn’t be publicized, but came to the conclusion that in order to protect her daughter, she would be forced to file for custody in court.

The Purple Diaries focuses mainly on the custody case between Mary Astor and Franklyn Thorpe. The trial that ensued, and Franklyn’s attempts to have Mary’s diaries submitted into court as evidence, were front page fodder for the local newspaper for quite some time, not to mention the impact that the trial had on Hollywood and Mary’s career, as well as the careers of those mentioned in her diaries. Although we are used to celebrities these days having their personal business shared worldwide, this custody case was a trailblazer as far as leaking the personal details of a Hollywood star’s life.

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My thoughts:

The Purple Diaries was everything I want as far as non fiction goes. It was intensely readable and–BONUS–there were TONS of photographs included. The author and publisher truly did a phenomenal job of including personal photos and incorporating them in the text in a way that really enhanced the book. I wish more non fiction books would follow suit.

I had heard of Mary Astor prior to reading The Purple Diaries but really didn’t know much about her. I was very impressed with her ability to handle the stress and pressure of the custody case, which was only exacerbated by her ex husband’s malicious behavior and her private words not only being used against her but also being shared with the entire world. She shared that the diaries becoming public was one of the most shameful moments of her life, and I can only imagine the heartache she went through.

This book was extremely well researched and well written.

For a chance to win a copy of The Purple Diaries, please leave a comment or like this post. A winner will be chosen at random a week from today.

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for my honest review.

 

 

Book Date: 11/21/16

untitledIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date. And here we are!

Finished during the past week:

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Only one book this week, but man was it a good one! If you haven’t read Tana French’s Dublin Murder squad series, you must. There is a reason they are so popular. For “mysteries” they are so incredibly well written. Faithful Place (book #3) was my favorite until this point, but I think The Trespasser surpassed it.  Antoinette Conway, the lead D in this book, is one badass female and although she is definitely abrasive, I love her kick ass attitude.

This was my family’s November Book of the Month choice.  It was an obvious choice for us, as we have all enjoyed French’s books in the past. I am the only one who has read all five of her previous books, so it is nice that they are able to be read as standalone novels as well.

Currently reading:

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I typically read two books at once, an ebook and a print book. Because I finished The Trespasser yesterday evening, I haven’t started a new book yet. I actually should have finished this one last night as well but I just couldn’t stay awake.

So yeah, The Couple Next Door. Good story, horribly written. I feel bad saying so, but geez. No matter how many times the story hooked me in, I was contemplating quitting because of the lack of character development. The only reason I have continued on, besides the fact that the story is pretty interesting, is because the book is also short.

Serial Reader:

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For an explanation of the Serial app, click here.

The end is in sight for Anna Karenina!!! Four months after I started it, I now have only 9 issues left.  Things are coming to a head with Anne and Vronsky and we all know what’s about to happen.

I don’t have many more issues of The Jungle either. I am still enjoying it but I haven’t found it as interesting since Jurgis struck out on his own. It’s starting to ring a little false for me. I am curious though as to where Jurgis is going to end up though. Since this is the most depressing book I have ever read, I am hoping for a happy ending.

Also, I am 1 book away from reaching my amended reading goal of 100 books this year!

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I read 58 books in 2015 and that was a big improvement from the few years prior. My reading started going to shit at the end of 2011 when I got pregnant with my 4 year old and only started recovering last year, which was the first year in a long time that I haven’t been pregnant.

I made my goal for 2016 60 books, and quickly blew that out of the water. Then I increased my reading challenge to 80 books, and finally 100. I’m excited to see where I end up!