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.

img_2190Serial Update:

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!

 

Book Review: Good as Gone

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Good as Gone

Amy Gentry

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

288 pages

Synopsis:

As a young teenager, Julie was abducted from her family’s home in the middle of the night. Hiding in the closet as the kidnapping took place, younger sister Jane witnesses the entire ordeal. For years the family does everything they can to search for Julie, but they eventually realized that the chances of her being alive were very slim. So imagine their confusion and shock when she showed up on their doorstep one night.

As they struggle to create a new “normal” with Julie back, her mother Anna can’t get rid of the sneaking suspicion that there’s more to Julie story than meets the eye.

My thoughts:

This was Liberty’s Book of the Month choice for the month of October, meaning she was the judge. Fangirl alert: I very rarely pass up Liberty’s book choice. If she is the judge, it is pretty much a sure thing that I will enjoy the book. So even though this was not the book my family chose for our family book club for October, I added it to my box anyway.  I ended up reading it during Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. It was the perfect readathon book–great length and great pacing.

I thought the way Gentry laid out the story was innovative and interesting. She revealed Julie’s past in a backwards chronological fashion, so that the reader was always wondering what had happened and where her story would go next.

This wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but definitely a great read.

Book Review: The Wonder

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The Wonder

Emma Donoghue

Little, Brown and Company

304 pages

Synopsis:

Lib Wright is an English nurse who is sent to observe an 11 year old girl. Anna O’Donnell is a devout Irish Catholic who has claimed not to eat for the past few months. Convinced she is a miracle, tourists swarm her home for a glimpse of this chosen girl. Lib becomes involved when a few skeptics want to prove, one way or another, whether Anna and her family’s claims of not eating are true.

Lib is convinced that there is no possible way that Anna has survived for months without being sustained by food. She is determined to prove that Anna’s fasting is a hoax, but as more and more time elapses, she is unable to discover Anna’s story, one way or another.

My thoughts:

Every month, my family gets together and chooses which Book of the Month option we are going to choose to read together. I was thrilled to see this as an October option, because I adore Donoghue’s writing. She is a must read author for me, and although some of her books have been a little lackluster for me, I loved Room and Slammerkin so much that I can overlook her books that I didn’t love. My family quickly decided that this was the book they wanted to read for October. So what did we all think . . . ?

I actually probably liked it the least, which is not to say I disliked it. I thought it was an interesting story and I was intrigued to find out after I finished it that it was based on historical events, where there were actually girls known as “fasting girls”, who claimed they could live without food.

I think, for me, I just got a little bored with the setting. The entire story takes place in a small town, mostly in Anna’s own cottage. It just seemed like the pacing was a little to slow and there wasn’t much going on to distract me. So while I enjoyed the book, it certainly wasn’t my favorite from Donoghue. But it also wasn’t my least favorite.

Meanwhile, my mom absolutely loved it. She described it as the type of book you can’t put down. And my two sisters that read it with us also gave it high marks. So if you’ve noticed the buzz around this book, it is worth the read.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Date 11/7/16

untitled It’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_2096Print books:

I finally finished got to one of my most anticipated Book of the Month selections, The Mothers. This one is deserving of all the hype, and I found myself agreeing with a lot of the sentiments that the characters struggled with. It is one of those books that really makes you re-examine your life’s choices, and how they affect others. At times it made me very uncomfortable.

Frida Kahlo is one of the four books in the Library of Luminaries series. I had requested that my library order these a few months ago and I am so thrilled they finally did. Apparently others were too, because the other three books were already checked out! I absolutely loved this book. The illustrations are such a sweet addition and I enjoyed the bite sized information that is included. It only took me 20 minutes to read, so I feel like I am cheating by adding these to my book count, but I think they would be a great addition to readathon stacks as a palate cleanser. I look forward to reading the other three.

A few days ago I had realized that the end of the year is fast approaching, so I posted on Litsy about the five books that I am determined to read before the end of the year. Shelter was one of the five books, and so I made sure to grab it at the library over the weekend. The praise everyone was heaping on it, along with the fact that it is about a dysfunctional family, made me certain that I would love it. I am about 2/3 through and up until this morning, it hadn’t really grabbed me, to be honest. I wasn’t really connecting with the main character, Kyung, and I was wondering what I was missing. But then I picked it up this morning and discovered that all of a sudden, I’m hooked. So I look forward to finishing this one in the next few days.

img_2097Ebooks:

I have to admit, I have been having difficulty finding any ebooks recently that grab my attention. I am much more fickle with my ebooks and find the format difficult to engage with.

This week, therefore, has been a homerun for me as far as ebooks are concerned. I am reading both of these titles through Netgalley, and they are both from Diversion Publishing. Not Just Evil is true crime, and it is the story of the brutal killing of a 12 year old girl by William Edward Hickman in 1927. Hickman was obsessed with watching gilms at the theaters, which was the impetus behind his crime (he literally kidnapped the girl in order to get a ransom to pay for his habit). The author did a fantastic job of tying in filmmaking and how the culture was influenced by Hickman’s crime.

The Purple Diaries is my current read and even more compelling. It’s the story of the sensational custody case between film star Mary Astor and her husband in the 1930s. Astor had chronicled her entire life over the course of years in her diaries, which her husband discovered and attempted to use against her in court proceedings. I can’t put it down.

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Serial Reader:

For my post explaining Serial Reader, click here. I am still reading Anna Karenina and The Jungle. I am 86% through Anna and I have 23 issues left!! The end is in sight. I have to say, I have found it to be a pretty tedious read and I’m not sure I understand why most people seem to like it.

As for The Jungle, I absolutely love it. It is heart breaking, devastating, and traumatic, but I can’t stop reading it and often read ahead. I am 48% through, with 34 issues to go. This week I read probably the most disgusting passage yet, which involved dead, poisoned rats being tossed in the sausage machine with rotten meat. My best friend confirmed that this book was a large part of why she decided to become vegetarian.

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

 

Book Review: One True Loves

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One True Loves

Taylor Jenkins Reid

Washington Square Press

352 pages

Synopsis:

Emma Blair was a free spirit. She and her husband Jesse met and fell in love in high school and are living out their dreams of traveling and seeing the world. Emma is an up and coming travel writer and she and Jesse have made their life together in California when Jesse suddenly disappears in a helicopter crash over the Pacific. Presumed dead, Emma has to come to terms with the fact that she is now a widow.

As she battles her grief, Emma decides to move home to the small town on the east coast where she and Jesse grew up–the town they couldn’t wait to escape once they graduated high school. As Emma settles in to her parent’s home, she slowly starts to ingratiate herself into her old life. The life that once seemed claustrophobic and stifling now brings Emma great comfort.

As time passes, Emma is becoming more stable, and she runs into a man named Sam that she had been close to as a teenager. Sam has held a torch for Emma since they met as young teenagers, but Emma’s never reciprocated those feelings. As she spends more and more time with Sam though, Emma realizes that she’s falling in love with him. They begin dating, which leads to a proposal. The two are in the midst of planning their wedding when Jesse resurfaces. Stranded on a Pacific island for three years, he is very much alive, and has spent the past three years battling his way back to his wife.

Emma is faced with the biggest dilemma of her life–who should she choose?

My thoughts:

This was my second book by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I am now convinced that I love her books and need to read them all. They read like chick lit but are a little more substantial and are great palate cleansers. I would call it a “dessert book” because they’re quick and sweet, despite the heavy subject matters.

One True Loves really struck a chord with me. Emma’s love for both Jesse and Sam was so genuine that I felt so conflicted as to which one she should choose. And that made me feel horrible for her. If I felt sick over her choice, how must she feel. She had spent three years dealing with the grief over the loss of her spouse and now she had to deal with those traumatic feelings all over again, not to mention having to experience the grief of losing someone she loved a second time, whether she be losing Jesse or Sam.

As the book wore on, it became more clear to me who Emma should be with. I was worried for a minute–would she see it as clearly? In the end, she did, although she made some questionable choices along the way, even after she had made her choice. In fact, I’m kind of angry with how she handled herself, but then on the flip side, no one is perfect. She was literally stuck making the best in a horrible situation.

In the end, I love all of the emotions One True Loves made me feel. I finished it almost a month ago and still feel as strong of a connection with the characters and the story as I did the day I finished it.