Posts Tagged ‘books


book reviews.

I’ve just finished reading a number of books and I wanted to give a quick recap on them while they are top of mind.  I am also in the market for a new book, so if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Worth Reading

Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris: I think I must be the only person alive who hadn’t read a David Sedaris book, but I finally got around to it while I was in Mexico. Overall I thought it was pretty good. I’d give it a B. There were parts of the book where I was literally laughing out loud and there were parts that were really boring. I wish he would have written more about his brother the “Rooster”, that was my favorite part. I’m always amazed how authors can turn a seemingly boring life tidbit into an interesting and engaging story.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand: Until I read this book, I had never even heard the name Louie Zamperini. Now I’m in complete awe of this man who endured so much. Hillenbrand takes you through his life first as a troubled youth, then as an Olympic contender, then as a bombardier in WW2 and a plane crash survivor, then as a POW and lastly as a veteran. The unforgettable story is a page turner and makes me want to read Hillenbrand’s other book Seabiscuit. I highly recommend this book and I give it an A!

 Escape, Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer: I stumbled across this book on Amazon and decided to give it a try. It’s a memoir written by a woman who escaped from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints with her eight children. Carolyn was born into a polygamous family and was later married off at the age of 18 as the 4th wife to a prominent figure in the FLDS. Her story is powerful and heart-wrenching. I give this book an A-.

Half Broke Horses, Jeanette Walls: While this story is not as memorable as Walls’ other novel The Glass Castle, it is still a good story and I enjoyed it. For those who did read The Glass Castle, Half Broke Horses details the life of Jeannette’s maternal grandmother Lily Casey Smith who was a no-nonsense, hard working woman in the American Southwest. I’d give this book a B.

The Widower’s Tale, Julia Glass: I hate to keep comparing books to the author’s previous books, but I can’t help it! The Widower’s Tale was good, but not nearly as fulfilling as Three Junes. The parts of this book that I loved: complex, real characters, interesting family dynamics, and a plot that demonstrates how people intersect and influence other lives. Overall, I found the plot to be a little lacking. I also started to get impatient with one of the storylines. If you have not read Julia Glass, read Three Junes. If you have already read Three Junes, give The Widower’s Tale a try (I give it a B+)!

Green River, Running Red, Ann Rule: I read this book because it was on my Kindle, it’s not typically the kind of book I read but I liked it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I really wanted to like it, but it was just ok. It’s interesting but boring. I wish she would have focused more on Gary Ridgeway and his motives, upbringing, lifestyle, etc. I feel like she barely scraped the surface on him. Instead she gives a biography of each of the victims, which is a noble idea, but it gets redundant to read. I also think she gave too many details on the individual law enforcement officials. I couldn’t care less what officer ABC was wearing or who he married or who attended his retirement party. I give this book a B-.

Don’t bother reading

The Blue Notebook, James A. Levine: I really didn’t care for this book. This is a fictional story about a 9 year old that was sold into prostitution in Mumbai. The book started out ok, but went bad quickly and the ending was bizarre. For me, the narrator/main character wasn’t believable and the writing felt VERY FORCED. One minute she was writing sophisticated and insightful poems and the next minute she’s talking to a stuffed tiger. It didn’t make any sense to me. I also detested how she referred to rape as “making sweet cakes”. I would not bother with this book, I give it a D+.

Room: A Novel, Emma Donoghue: This is a very fast read, but I wouldn’t say it’s a good read. I was disappointed because it received good reviews and I thought the concept had potential. The story is about a boy and his mother who are being held captive in a small room. The story is narrated by the 5-year old boy whom I found to be annoying and not believable. I also thought the plot lacked depth and the ending was rushed. There were parts of the story that the author should have explored more, but she was limited because her narrator was a young boy. I give this book a C.



I just ordered a few new books –yay!

1)      Prep – Curtis Sittenfield

I just finished reading another book by this author (thanks Halie!): it’s called American Wife and it’s loosely based on the life of a well-known political figure. For someone who detests politics, I have to say, I really enjoyed the story. I’m still trying to figure how much of the story is fictional, but regardless, it does make you think twice about the famous/public people you *think you know. It’s worth reading – I liked it.

2)      Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

I did my high school senior thesis on Anna Karenina and I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember very much of it (although I DO remember loving it). I’ve been wanting to reread it for years. I can’t wait. I hope I’m not disappointed.

3)      The Unnamed – Joshua Ferris

This is a bookclub book. And when I say “bookclub”, I mean getting together with a group of friends so we can drink, catch up and not discuss the book. 🙂  LOVE IT!


books, books, books

I was just updating my book log for 2009, and I thought I’d share my favorites and those I don’t think are worth reading. I highly recommend Lonesome Dove, Into Thin Air, Columbine and Three Cups of Tea (in that order). The weird part about my recommendation is that 75% of it is non-fiction – which is very unusual for me. You can skip the following books – they weren’t anything special: In The Woods, Vinegar Hill and Sarah’s Key. There are so many other good books out there, don’t waste your time with these duds.

Does anyone have any good book recommendations they want to share?


guest blog: intriguing book list

Being a lover of books, I’m forever searching for book blogs and book recommendations. Yesterday I came across Newsweek’s most recent book lists.  Now, I realize some of you will stop reading this immediately at the mention of Newsweek, but, if you want to broaden your view of the world we live in through books, read on. Last month they published two lists: 50 Books for Our Times and Top 100 Books: The Meta-List.

The list of 50 is a collection meant to help us expand our understanding of the world today. This fascinated me as it’s a departure from the typical book lists I encounter. It appears to be a mixture of fiction, history, religion, science, politics, and so on. I am embarrassed to admit, that of this list, I have only read ONE, #44!  I can say that #31 has been on my list to read, but that’s it for me and this list. Honestly, I have never even come across most of them before.  I plan to read at least a handful of these and I would love it if any of you could recommend ones you have read.  

P.S. The list of 100 is much more predictable as it is the result of a compilation of top books lists.  I have actually read many of these and, at least, have heard of them.


book review: The Pillars of the Earth

I am happy to announce that I just finished The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I feel relieved to be finished with it because the book has completely monopolized my free time (and sleep time) for the past two weeks.

Pillars takes place in 12th century England when the Catholic Church shared power with the tumultuous English Crown.  It was also a time of great cathedral architectural innovations. The story follows several characters living in Kingsbridge during the construction of a cathedral and presents the age-old struggle between good and evil.

Overall, I really enjoyed the novel; it was a total page turner.  Follett knows how to write a complex plot and successfully intertwine multiple characters.  I also thought it was interesting how he allowed us to see the characters grow and develop over a 40 year period; it gave them more depth.

I do have a few criticisms.

  • At some points, it feels like the story is a string of plot twists, misfortunes, evil characters, hardships, rapes and disappointments.
  • The architectural descriptions of the cathedrals are very detailed – and I found myself grazing over them.
  • Follett is an extremist with his characters. They are either good or bad; you either love them or hate them. And there isn’t any in between. I prefer more complex characters – they are more relatable.
  • I wasn’t impressed with the ending; it didn’t feel believable to me.

I know I said more negative things than positive, but I truly did enjoy Pillars. I would recommend this novel. Talk about a page turner!

Book Stats

Title: The Pillars of the Earth

Author: Ken Follett

Notable: Apparently Ken Follett is known for writing thrillers – this was his first historical fiction.

Pages: 973

Reading Level: Easy – it will go fast

Do I feel like I need to re-read it? No.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely


two new pages

Greetings loyal bloggees! I’d like to introduce you to my two new blog pages (upper right hand corner in blue): books and gym. I decided to delete my “bookclub” page because it wasn’t very exciting (don’t get me wrong ladies – I love y’all and I have a great time at “bookclub”, but as a whole we are better at drinking than reading)! I still need to write reviews on Water for Elephants and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. And I guess I need to start going to the gym!


book review: the last days of dogtown

I read The Rent Tent by Anita Diamant about six years ago, and while I don’t remember very much about it, I do remember LOVING it. When someone at bookclub lent me The Last Days of Dogtown, I was anxious to read more of Dianant and see if she is a “one hit wonder”. Good news – it turns out she’s not!

Both novels were loosely based on historical research – but that’s about the extent of their similarities. I remember The Red Tent as an in-depth and colorful story that centers around the characters. The Last Days of Dogtown is a dreary, yet hopeful story. It’s a tribute to a dying town and attests to neighborly compassion and responsibility. The focal point of the story is on the town and only allows a glimpse into its handful of residents. I think this was intentional on Diamont’s part to center the reader’s attention on Dogtown and less on individual characters. It was an interesting approach. The characters that she did present were endearing and I found myself sympathizing with them – especially the women. Their lives were hard and unfair and it made me grateful to not live in Dogtown in 1814.

Overall, a good read – I’m looking forward to more Anita Diamant in the future!

Book Stats

Title: The Last Days of Dogtown

Author: Anita Diamant

Notable: Author of The Red Tent

Pages: 261

Reading Level: Easy and Quick – I read it last weekend while at Lake Las Vegas

Do I feel like I need to re-read it? No, but I do want to re-read The Rent Tent now

Would I recommend it? Yes

My overall rating: A


book review: three junes

I’ve decided I’m going to start writing short book reviews on the books I read. Two weekends ago, while we were camping at Silver Falls, I read Three Junes by Julia Glass. It was recommended by my mom.

Overall, I really enjoyed Three Junes. It’s a warm story that weaves together realistic and compelling characters. The story is told over “three Junes” by three different characters: a newspaperman, a bookstore owner and a book designer. I think what I liked best about the novel is that it presented complex and intimate family dynamics – full of imperfection and miscommunication. Even though it’s nothing like my own immediate family relationships, I felt like I could relate to each character and I appreciated their perspective. My only complaint is that the ending left me wanting more!

Books Stats

Title: Three Junes

Author: Julia Glass

Notable: National Book Award Winner

Pages: 353

Reading Level: Easy and Quick

Do I feel like I need to re-read it? No

Would I recommend it? Yes

My overall rating: A


a few of my favorite things

This weekend has been one of the best in awhile – here are a few of the highlights.

The Sun Came Out – Just when I was ready to lose all hope – the sun came out in full force.  It was wonderful and made my weekend.

Cooking for Friends – Sara and Nate came over for dinner on Friday night. This was our first “double date” with them and I’d say it was a success. While I think it’s invaluable for couples to each have their own friends, I also think it’s important to have “couple” friends. Other couples who you have good chemistry with and enjoy being around. The evening consisted of tons of food, several rounds of drinks and many, many stories.

Saturday Morning Laziness – Derek and laid around Saturday morning and basked in the glory of not having any immediate plans. In a world where everyone is overbooked – no plans is a luxury.  We decided breakfast was definitely in order and we invited Derek’s brother Gabe over to join us. Eggs, hash browns and bacon – delish.

Coffee in the Park – After breakfast, the three of us set out to the top of Queen Anne for a coffee at Peet’s and then Derek took us to Marshall Park. I had never been there – it was gorgeous. What a great day to sit out at the park!

Reading in the Sun – On Saturday afternoon when I opened my book, I was 17 pages into it. Now, I’m finished. I sat out on my balcony and read-away most of the weekend. To some of you, this might seem like a waste – but to me, it was perfect. I was reading Atonement by Ian McEwean. I liked it. I didn’t LOVE it, but I liked it.

All in all, I’d say this has been a pretty fantastic weekend. I hope everyone was able to get out and enjoy the sun.


two stories of sisterhood

Last week while on vacation, I read two books The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and After Long Silence by Helen Fremont. These books are both very different. They take place in different centuries and they detail different tragedies, but they do have one common theme. They are each narrated by a sister and they each explore the relationship between sisters.

The Other Boleyn Girl is about the friendship, loyalty and betrayal between two sisters. “We’re sisters. And therefore born rivals.” It portrays sisterhood as a constant struggle of love, devotion and competition.

After Long Silence tells a different story of sisterhood.  A story that explores two sisters who thought they were very different growing up and who come to realize they have more in common than they thought. They discover they need each other.  “Lara and I were opposites in every way until we grew up, left home, and discovered that we were more alike than we’d thought. Sisters only get to be opposites within the family, separated by the world, they become practically identical.” I love this quote and I agree with it completely. Encompassed by the unique setting of family life – each child has to differentiate themselves.

I have a younger sister. In my experience, sisterhood hasn’t been a competition, nor have we ever doubted our need for each other. I have been lucky. Our relationship has morphed throughout the years, but it has always provided companionship, love and support. Yes, there have been hard times. I think much of my experience stems from my role as the eldest. Naturally, I’ve always been compelled to protect and guide her. I haven’t always understood her decisions, and I’m sure there have been times where she’s resented me for constantly butting in. Now that we are both adults, I have to be confident that she will make the right decisions for herself. And celebrate with her when they work out. And console her when they don’t.

Everyone’s version of sisterhood varies. I’m sure my sister’s story is different from mine. But I will say that my version doesn’t follow The Other Boleyn Girl or After Long Silence. It’s my own story – maybe someday I’ll have a chance to tell it.

a blog for anyone, but mostly for me.