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?

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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!

 

 

Book Review: Listen to Me

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Listen to Me

Hannah Pittard

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

191 pages

Synopsis:

Married for years, Mark and Maggie are at a disconnect. Listen to Me follows them as they take their annual road trip to Mark’s parent’s house. Spanning just a day, the book magnifies the issues in their marriage. A few months prior, Maggie had been robbed at gunpoint and she is finding it increasingly difficult to view the world through the same lens she did prior to her attack. Once accommodating, Mark can no longer accept the new version of his wife. He perceives that she is no longer the strong woman he once thought she was and he is unsure of how to go forward but is hoping that a summer away will give them time to reconnect.

My thoughts:

I knew going into this that Listen to Me is more of an introspective book. I love books that deal with marital issues and examine the relationship between spouses. I thought this was very well done. I tried to be empathetic towards both characters and what they were experiencing but man, Mark definitely came across super douche-y at times. I thought his expectations of Maggie were completely unfair, especially the passive aggressive way he went about dealing with his resentment. I could understand why he felt the way he did but it was difficult to see the assault drive a wedge between the two instead of bring them together.

SPOILER*** (kind of)

I won’t go into detail about the ending, but will say that it is a doozy.  I could see it angering some people (Mom, you are one of those people. Do not read this book). It punched me in the gut–I didn’t see it coming and I was heartsick over it. But it appeared to bring Mark and Maggie together and so I will use that as the silver lining.

If you have any favorite fictional books that deal with the intricacies of marriage, I’d love to hear them!

 

Book Review: The Accursed

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The Accursed

Joyce Carol Oates

Ecco

688 pages

Synopsis:

Turn of the 20th century, Princeton campus in New Jersey. The town suddenly becomes afflicted with a curse that induces mass hysteria. Nobody can put their finger on what is happening or why, and it gets a little outlandish with demons and creepy gothic manors.

Involved in the tale are many notable figures: Woodrow Wilson (meek a afflicted, he is the president of Princeton), Grover Cleveland, Upton Sinclair, and a few more.

My thoughts:

I realize I failed miserably in giving a thorough synopsis, but this is a difficult book to pin down. JCO is a master story teller, and rarely, I imagine, could any other author take on such an enormous undertaking and create what she did here. I picked it up because I want to love JCO and the setting and subject matter made it a perfect Halloween read. But JCO has a tendency to either blow me away (Blonde and My Sister, My Love FOR SURE) or let me down. This one kind of fell in the middle of the spectrum.

I enjoyed a lot of things about The Accursed. The historical characters she included really added an extra element to the story. Upton Sinclair, in my opinion, was added unnecessarily, considering the length of the narrative. I was constantly questioning his purpose in the story, but I am glad she included him because the constant references to The Jungle convinced me to pick it up and I am enjoying it immensely.

Overall, this was quite the undertaking. At almost 700 pages, it was not a quick read. Initially, I really enjoyed the story. The time period and the gothic setting was really something special. I enjoy when historical figures are used in fiction and I thought JCO did it perfectly. I did start to lose momentum mid way through, and although JCO, to me, is always very verbose just for the sake of it, it eventually did become to much for me and I wish the book had had a little more editing.

I would absolutely check this one out if you are looking for a book that really transports you to a setting. Just be prepared for the investment.

I purchased this book for my personal library.

Book Date: 11/14/16

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!

img_2188Finished during the past week:

I finished Shelter shortly after my post last week. Overall, I was impressed with Yun’s ability to flesh out a flawed, realistic character. The book was very well done, but something about it failed to resonate with me completely, so I won’t be including it as one of my favorites of the year.

I was having difficulty deciding what to pick up next, so I posted a picture of my TBR pile on Litsy and asked them to choose for me. The resounding response was that I HAD to read Homegoing ASAP. So I did. And I am glad I did. It deserves all the praise it has received and I am so interested to see what Gyasi does next.

img_2189Currently Reading:

The Purple Diaries is still on my ereader. I move much slower with ebooks. I am still enjoying this one and I have just finished the portion that deals with the child custody case between Mary Astor and Franklyn Thorpe, so I am very interested to see how their lives pan out once the court case is behind them. I found this one on Netgalley, so if you love salacious celebrity tell alls and the glitz and glamour of the 1930s, check this one out. It also includes a ton of pictures, which is such a great addition.

I am about 25 pages in to The Trespasser, so I have barely started it. Unfortunately, yesterday did not lend itself to as much reading time as I had hoped. This is book #6 in the Dublin Murder Squad series from French. Faithful Place (#3) was my favorite but since then, the books have lost some of their magic for me. Even though I have barely read any of The Trespasser yet, I can already tell that I love Antoinette Conway, so I am hopeful that I will love this one as much as French’s earlier books.

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For an explanation of the Serial Reader app, click here.

I read 7 issues of Anna Karenina and 12 issues of The Jungle over the past week. Anna is getting good, but it’s a case of too little, too late for me. All the political passages, combined with dealing with Levin recently, have been more than enough for me. I honestly just want to finish it at this point.

The Jungle has had me rapt from the first issue, so much so that I actually read five extra issues this week. But man, Yurgis is really pissing me off at the moment. He’s off doing his thing right now and I’m like WTF Yurgis, seriously?! Easy for me to say though, I know. This is by far the most depressing book I have ever read, ever.

I would love to hear what everyone else is up to this week!