Life, Reading

Show Us Your Books: December 2019

December 10, 2019

Buckle up, this is a juggernaut.

The secondTuesday of September WM was on his way back from Michigan b/c my MIL was having a health issue.
The secondTuesday of October was the day before my breast biopsy and I could barely string 2 words together.
The secondTuesday of November I had intended to participate but WM was on his way back to Michigan and I think I was dealing with refrigerator drama.

Which leaves me with many months of reading to catch up on. Despite that I am still 15 books behind with 29 days to go in the year. Looks like I won’t be hitting that Goodreads goal. And that’s okay!

womp womp

Onto the books! I use the Goodreads rating system which is…

Onto the books! I use the Goodreads rating system, which is:

  • One star: did not like it
  • Two stars: it was ok
  • Three stars: liked it
  • Four stars: really liked it
  • Five stars: it was amazing

A God in Ruins — Kate Atkinson
A ‘companion book’ to Atkinson’s Life After Life, this is Ursula’s brother Teddy’s life story. It’s beautifully written, but overall a very sad war-is-sad, aging-is-sad, loss-is-sad book. Life After Life had such a creative timeline to it that this one seemed very long and straightforward. It did finish with a WHOMP though which left me breathless. Four stars

Royal Holiday — Jasmine Guillory
This book is the fourth installment of The Wedding Date series. I didn’t realize that and skipped right over book three. It didn’t matter. I liked that this story featured a late-middle-aged couple. Three stars

Eyes to the Wind: A Memoir of Love and Death, Hope and Resistance — Ady Barkan
I first heard about Ady Barkan on Pod Save America. I started following him on Twitter. I preordered this book, expecting to be gutted. And … I guess I was expecting more of a memoir of a young activist cut down in the prime of his life by ALS. Or I’m a heartless ghoul, because he came off as an uber-privileged bro who could make waves because everyone else (mainly his wife) was doing the hard work of keeping his life going while he was jet-setting across the country. I finished the book and unfollowed him on Twitter. Two stars, and I was more charged up by the introduction by AOC.

Circe — Madeline Miller
Five stars for this gorgeous retelling of the myth of Circe, the least-loved child of a Titan god and a nymph. Banished from her father’s palace for being witch-like, Circe is dropped onto an island and told to fend for herself. And she does! While she cannot leave the island, plenty of others can visit her. That’s how we hear the stories of her siblings, of the Minotaur, of Medea and Jason, and of Odysseus and Penelope. It’s just frigging gorgeous.

The Perfect Couple — Elin Hilderbrand
The famous beach read author tries her hand at a beachy murder mystery. I became a little tired of being flogged with the economic differences between Benji’s parents (Tag and Greer) and Celeste’s parents (Bruce and Karen). There was a real romanticization of paycheck-to-paycheck working class families — I could practically hear “Livin’ on a Prayer” every time we were treated to Bruce and Karen’s stories.
I ranked it 4 stars at the time I read it in August, but I just changed it to two stars because even though the reveal could have been explosive, the ending was so flat. Oh wellsies, rich people be riching, I guess.

The Rabbi and the Hit Man: A True Tale of Murder, Passion, and Shattered Faith — Arthur J. Magida
This is the true crime telling of how Rabbi Fred Neulander had his wife, Carol, murdered back in 1994. I grew up in Cherry Hill, NJ. I went to high school with the Neulander children (Rebecca was 2 years ahead, Matthew was a year behind.). I had cakes from Carol’s bakery, The Classic Cake Company. We grew up listening to Ken Garland and his wife Elaine Soncini on Philadelphia radio. And when I worked at the Courier-Post, my job was to collect and archive all of the Neulander murder stories online. So I thought I knew everything about the crime. NOPE!
Even though the author shits on New Jersey and my hometown from page 1, he put together an amazing retelling of how cold and depraved Fred Neulander really was.
Three stars!

84 Charing Cross Road — Helen Hanff
This is an actual collection of letters written by Ms Hanff, of New York City, to the Marks & Co antique booksellers in London between the years of 1949 and 1970. Through the letters, she developed friendships with the bookstore staff. The letters were poignant and funny and I learned a lot about postwar England. If you love books (which, if you’ve read this far, you do), it’ll be a quick four star read.

City of Girls — Elizabeth Gilbert
As I’ve said a million times before, I am Elizabeth Gilbert’s target audience. And I didn’t think she could get better than The Signature of All Things but holy cow this novel was amazing. Vivian Morris begins her story in 1940 when she’s 19 years old. She was kicked out of Vassar and then sent to New York City to live with her amazing aunt who owned a struggling theater. And Vivian grows and matures as New York grows and matures. Her life is enriched by a diverse cast of friends and family. There’s a point where Men Ruin Things but overall it’s more of a character-driven novel than a woman-in-constant-peril novel. Five stars.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — Jenny Han
Sooo many people loved this one but this book hit all of my “why I don’t like to read YA” buttons. Lara Jean’s sister breaks up with Josh Sanderson, who is like a brother to the other 2 Song sisters. Josh Sanderson is on a mission — he’s grooming all three Song sisters to love him, and gaslighting them into thinking he’s a nice guy. Anyway, Lara Jean writes closure letters to all of her crushes once she stops crushing on them and keeps them in her hatbox. The letters end up mailed to the boys and that plot point that I thought would take the entire book to rectify, kind of faded with a soft pud in the first act. And then the story just … ends.
Two stars, not for me.

Moving Pictures (Discworld #10) — Terry Pratchett
I didn’t enjoy this one compared to all the others. It screamed “look how clever I am” and was very heavy handed with how the movie industry sucks. It was also missing the moments of warm and fuzzy that I enjoyed from the previous books in the series.
Two stars. I did enjoy the cameos from prior characters. The Librarian continues to give me life. Oook!

(takes a breath)

The Proposal (The Wedding Date #2) — Jasmine Guillory

I liked it but didn’t love it like I loved The Wedding Date. The main characters were great but the chemistry wasn’t there. I think that’s because a good 20% of the book was dedicated to a minor character’s pregnancy. I wish I had that time with Nik and Carlos instead.

Jasmine Guillory does love food though. I was hungry through the entire book. Three stars.

The Unhoneymooners — Christina Lauren
When the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only 2 who weren’t — the sister of the bride and the brother of the groom — take the nonrefundable honeymoon in gorgeous Hawaii. And by the way, they hate each other. And her new boss AND his ex-girlfriend are at the same resort, so they have to pretend that they’re a newly married couple. It’s a fun romcom take on a “they hate each other but have chemistry” trope. Four stars and only 3 more years until I get to go to Hawaii for Christmas.

Today Will Be Different — Maria Semple
** spoiler alert ** (language warning)

I couldn’t concentrate on most the book because of fucking Eleanor leaving the goddamn DOG AT THE STORE ALL DAY !(^(*@!^&(! That thrummed in my head the entire time – was that just an oversight that the editor didn’t pick up? Nope, it was on purpose.

I’m okay with books where I don’t like the main character but all I could think of is how she didn’t end up arrested for all of the shit she pulled. Eleanor, Joe, and annoyingly precocious Timby all deserve each other. Two stars and Yo Yo deserves better.

Gingerbread — Helen Oyemi
Helen Oyemi’s books are difficult to read because there is so much depth and allegory and weird magic. For me to enjoy them, I have to stop trying to understand them. Kind of like those old weird magic 3D images where you have to lose focus to see the picture. Gingerbread is a story of family love and dysfunction and magic. Four stars. But if you’re new to Oyemi’s works, start with another one of her books, maybe Boy, Snow, Bird.

Uncommon Type — Tom Hanks
Yes, that Tom Hanks. I grabbed the book (a collection of short stories) because of Mindy Kaling’s blurb and I think of Mindy Kaling as a sharp and witty writer. But this collection wasn’t sharp. It was pleasant enough but kind of boring. The author likes: typewriters, stories about manly men, women as long as they’re seen through the lens of men or are helped by men, the wide-eyed innocent past, the adventurous future, as long as it worships the past.
Two stars.

Currently reading: Reaper Man, the 11th Discworld novel

All of my book lists and reviews are on Goodreads.

This a part of the Show us Your Books linkup from Jana Says and Life According to Steph. If you want to read more bloggers gush about the books they’ve read this month, click the button below and have fun!

Life According to Steph

Other SUYB posts:

April | May

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October
February | March | Spring/Summer | September | October | November | Year-end review
January | February | March |April | June | July | August | December
January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

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  • Jana @ Jana Says December 10, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    I FORGOT about the Fred Neulander case. Holy shit, that was some messed up stuff.

    I did not like Today Will Be Different at all.

  • Confuzzled Bev December 11, 2019 at 3:14 am

    I loved Life After Life. I might get to A God in Ruins at some point.

    I hope you like Reaper Man. Death is one of my favourite Discworld characters.

  • ShootingStarsMag December 11, 2019 at 8:41 am

    I really want to read Circe and 84 Charing Cross Road – both sound great, so I’m glad you enjoyed them. I don’t think I know the Neulander case but I’m so curious now and how crazy you sort of knew the family and that’s your hometown!


  • Dara December 12, 2019 at 8:26 am

    I know a few people from Cherry Hill, though I grew up in Central NJ. I feel like I remember that case but maybe not as well as you! I liked The Unhoneymooners this month too.

  • SMD December 12, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    I absolutely adored City of Girls.

    This is the first description of a Circe reading experience that made me want to read it.

  • Kristin Darhower December 13, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    A God in Ruins wasn’t *as* good as Life After Life to me, but I agree with your assessment of how it was oddly different. Also, I forget what you’re referencing at the end! I read it in maybe late 2016? (geez, I don’t even remember).
    I loved To All the Boys on Netflix and thought it was perfect teen rom-com so I would never likely go back and read any of them.

  • Becki December 21, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    There are movies of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before too. I’ve seen one, and the second one is out? Or maybe I’ve seen two and a third one just came out? Whatever it is, my 12-year-old is excited 😉

  • philosophymom December 29, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Reaper Man is my favorite novel — not just in the Discworld series, but period. Okay, well, I also say that about A Canticle for Leibowitz (minus the Discworld comment), so maybe RM is my *co*-favorite novel. Anyhow, I hope you like(d) it.

    Have you seen the 1987 movie version of 84 Charing Cross Road? Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judy Dench. It’s the sort of film that Anglophiles swoon over (I am and I did), but don’t hold that against it. 🙂