Tag - books

Show us your books: July 2018
Little Women: PBS Masterpiece version
Show us your books: May 2018

Show us your books: July 2018

My goal is to read 50 books this year. I’m at 40. I’ll be glad once I hit 50 because maybe then I’ll pick up some longer books. This month I made a conscious decision to stick with happier books, because some of the ones I read this year were emotional doozies (I’m looking at you, Idaho), and I need a bit of light for a while. To that end, I cancelled my hold on “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson when it came up. I’ll get to it this year, but I can’t do a death penalty/unjust incarceration book right now. I don’t want to be known as the woman who cries on the PATCO line every day.

Onto the books!

I use the Goodreads system to rate books, 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

Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine — Gail Honeyman

Beautifully written and incredibly funny, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is about the importance of friendship and human connection. I fell in love with Eleanor, an eccentric and regimented loner whose life beautifully unfolds after a chance encounter with a stranger; I think you will fall in love, too!” —Reese Witherspoon

What Reese doesn’t tell you is that you have to work through a lot of bad shit before you get to the “beautifully unfolding life” part. Eleanor had a childhood full of trauma and awfulness. But now she’s an adult and she’s fine. She has a job, an apartment, a routine. And that’s all someone needs, right?

Four stars, because things eventually beautifully unfold for Eleanor. She has a lot to straighten out first, though. Huge-ass triggers for child abuse, domestic abuse, and an “offscreen” suicide attempt. Triggers the size of tractor-trailers. And lots of cringe-worthy awkward social moments.

The Wedding Date — Jasmine Guillory

Alexa and Drew are on an elevator in a San Francisco hotel when the car gets stuck. Thankfully, they’re not stuck for the entire book, just long enough for sparks to fly. Drew needs a plus-one for a wedding he’s in town for, and he impulsively asks Alexa. She says yes, and pretends to be his new girlfriend for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding.

Alexa is black, and is the chief of staff for the mayor of Berkeley. Drew is white, and is a pediatric surgeon in LA. Can they make it work? To do that, they have to deal with a long distance relationship, their two very demanding jobs, and racism and privilege.

Five stars for a fresh, modern, HOT romance that made me smile!

Fitness Junkie — Lucy Sikes and Jo Piazza

Janey Sweet is the CEO of a wedding dress design house. She’s also overweight, or so we’re told. There is never a weight assigned to her. Her business partner Beau puts her on leave until she loses weight so she can not be seen as an embarrassment to the brand, which specializes in dresses for tiny women. Mmmmm. Okay. So Janey goes on a quest to lose weight with the help of her best friend CJ and some truly wacky people she meets along the way.

Here is my beef. Janey immediately jumps into the weirdest, most extreme exercise classes I have ever heard of. And she complains about being tired, but … she shouldn’t even be finishing these classes. She’s doing spin and climbing ropes and this is not entry-level, fat-girl, gets-winded-while-walking fitness. The plot about the company gets lost amidst the (completely over-the-top) drama with the fitness gurus.

Three stars. I liked The Knockoff better.

Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers Book 1) – Penny Reid

If you can imagine a rednecky romance book with educated characters and men-who-know-boundaries, this would be it. Our heroine, Jessica, is a math teacher who returned to her home of Green Valley, Tennessee to pay off her student loans. Once that’s done, she is OUT OF THERE, because she wants adventure in the great wide somewhere. She wants it more than she can tell. But she hooked up with our beefcake, Duane. He’s one of six bearded brothers with a no-good biker daddy and a dead librarian momma, and thus this book is first in a series. The plot points are eyerollingly nonsensical. I still don’t understand how one of them wrapped up, but the dialogue was good and the action was steamy and it’ll do to raise the spirits

Three stars, have moved on to the second book. I probably won’t make it through all six.

Young Jane Young — Gabrielle Zevin
Aviva Grossman is a college student interning in the office of the congressman from her hometown. She’s smitten by his charm and power. He initiates a relationship. She accepts and writes an anonymous blog. Oh, Aviva. Things blow up. The congressman recovers from it just fine thankyouverymuch. Aviva becomes a punchline, is unable to find a job after graduation, and her life seems to be in tatters.

This book is narrated by its women characters and I appreciated the differing points of view because each one filled in blanks in the others’ stories.

Four stars, because I do love a redemption story. By the way, you should follow Monica Lewinsky on Twitter. She’s doing just fine.

Currently reading: Beard Science, Winston Brothers Book 2, which was only $5.99 on the Amazon Kindle store.

Philadelphia Library eBook Hold list:

  • Pyramids — Position: 1 of 2
  • The Queen of Hearts — Position: 17 of 32
  • The Widows of Malabar Hill — Position: 20 of 41
  • The Female Persuasion — Position 138 of 242
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet — Position: 46 of 49
  • You are a Badass — Position: 92 of 100
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup — Position: 100 of 100

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


Little Women: PBS Masterpiece version

I first read Little Women in 4th grade. I read it every year for a long time, and I love it to bits and pieces. It’s the OG YA book. Have you read it? It’s available for free via Project Gutenberg so you have NO excuse. The book as we know it is actually two books crammed together: Little Women and Good Wives. It’s the story of the March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy — as they grow up. When the book begins, they are 16, 15, 13, and 12.

There have been quite a few movie and tv adaptations made of the story. My favorite version is the 1994 one, which starred Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Samantha Mathis, Christian Bale, Eric Stolz and Gabriel Byrne. It’s lovely and faithful to the text.

When I learned that there was going to be another adaptation on PBS, my first reaction was, “UGH WHY??!?” But I wanted to give it a shot, so I watched the whole thing. Episode 1 was 60 minutes on its own, Episode 2 was 120 minutes. Taken in whole, the first 2 hours covered the “Little Women” half, and the third hour was “Good Wives.”

With a three hour presentation, you’d think it would really cover the book. Instead, many plot points and a crapton of character development was left out.

What I liked:

  • The humanization of Marmee (the girls’ name for their mother). 2018 Marmee laughed, cried, got angry, and despaired like a real mother. In the book she was pretty stoic.
  • The music. It seemed pretty faithful to the time period.
  • The multiple batches of kittens born, and Hannah’s (the housekeeper) increasing anger about them all.
  • Angela Lansbury as Aunt March.

What I disliked:

  • In the book, the youngest daughter, Amy, is 12 years old. In this adaptation, she’s older with a full face of makeup. Amy starts as a little kid, doing bratty things. So seeing a grown woman acting petulantly was offputting.
  • So many missing plot points! Pilgrim’s Progress! Plays in the attic! The special mailbox! Laurie promising Amy her first kiss! Meg adapting to married life! Jo’s entire courtship with Professor Bhaer! The four trunks in the garret! Amy and Fred Vaughn!

Let’s talk more about Amy, and I’m going to spoil the plot points but the book is 150 years old so, sorry not sorry.

Laurie is the girls’ next door neighbor. He’s rich but lonely, and becomes a surrogate brother to the girls. He falls hard for Jo. Jo doesn’t feel the same, and knows she wouldn’t make a good wife for him so she turns him down. Multiple times. Bluntly.

Amy, now 16 or 17, is asked to travel abroad as a companion to another young lady. Heartbroken Laurie also goes to Europe to try and heal his post-Jo feelings. He drinks and carouses and when he meets up with Amy, she is repulsed by the lazy guy he’s become. He goes away, becomes a better person, comes back to her after Beth dies. (Again, spoiler, but come on) In the meantime, Amy was asked by a rich acquaintance to marry. She decides to marry for love instead of money. She spends time with Laurie, they fall in love, and they decide to marry.

In the adaptation, Laurie shows up in Europe, sees Amy.

L: “hey”
A: “hey”
L: “you look great”
A: “thanks, Europe and all.”
(a week later)
L: “Amy, sorry about Beth.”
A: “I’m frozen.”
L: “Let’s frolic!”
A: “Frolic!”
(smooching, marrying)

That’s it! No courtship, no maturing, nothing! NOTHING! And no smolder:

Such hotness.

(I’ve always been #TeamAmy, btw. Jo said no and Laurie was desperate to marry into the March family. Amy is a much better match.)

Jo’s courtship with Professor Bhaer (who’s supposed to be older and rumpled, but is played by a young hottie) is given similar short shrift. When he shows up at the March house, it seemed more creepy than romantic.

Maybe the producers could have trimmed some of the multiple cut scenes that established the seasons (baby chicks! sunflowers! falling leaves! snow! more chicks! more flowers! leaves! OMG ICICLES!) and put some plot back in, that’s all.

I’m glad I watched it but I’ll stick with the 1994 version, thanks.

Show us your books: May 2018

I was a voracious reader as a child. Magazines, cereal boxes, and any book I could get my hands on. And then I entered high school. Being forced to read the assigned books crushed the love of reading right out of me and it took years to get it back.

The current haul.

But it did! I’m at 28 books read of my 50 book goal this year. The only explanation I have is that reading is a muscle — the more you exercise it the faster and easier it becomes.

With that bit of philosophy out the way, let’s review the books I read since I returned from Austin.

As always, I use the Goodreads scale, 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

Option B — Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

I read Lean In a few years ago and really liked it. A lot of the criticisms lobbed at Sandberg was that she was coming from a position of privilege and not everyone has the resources at home to take care of families like she did. I get it. But she did make some very valid points about women in the workplace. Now I ALWAYS sit at the conference table rather than the chairs around the perimeter and use the phrase “I want a seat at the table” in every self-evaluation.

Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg died three years ago, leaving her with two young children to raise on her own. Yes, I know, she has the resources wealthy people have at their disposal to raise children. But not a partner. Everything she and Dave had planned together had to change. This book details her (and occasionally her children’s) journey of grief and having to take many, many option Bs. Along the way she tells stories of others whose lives changed dramatically and how they embraced their Option Bs.

Three stars and I dream of a day that Sandberg becomes CEO of Facebook.

The Hate u Give — Angie Thomas

Starr is 16 and lives two lives. She is the Starr who is one of only two black kids at her fancy private school, and she is the Starr that lives in a poor neighborhood and works in her father’s store. Starr’s oldest friend Khalil is shot and killed by a white police officer during a traffic stop while Starr was in his passenger seat. And Starr’s life begins to slowly come to a boil as the news that she was the eyewitness reverberates through her family, her neighbors, the local gangs, the activists, the police, the lawyers, the reporters, her friends, her boyfriend and most importantly, herself. It’s a YA book and you know how I feel about YA but the kids weren’t all perfect literary-quoting critical thinkers and the adults were competent and helpful.

I read books to learn new things and for enjoyment. Ideally, I get books that satisfy both of those urges at once. This book was eye-opening and gave me insights into lives and issues that I don’t have exposure to. But it was a hard read. Time after time, I cried at the unfairness of it all because even though it’s fiction, it’s real. I don’t know what I can do to even try and make these things better, except to continue to tell my own pears (edit: PEERS dammit) that it’s not as easy as shutting up when cops pull you over/jailing gangs/etc.

Starr’s family includes a dog. Dog spoiler at the bottom of the post.

Five beautiful stars.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land – Monica Hesse

This is the non-fiction account of a series of fires in Accomack County, Virginia which reads like an amazing fiction novel. It’s not a mystery who set the fires — you’re told in the first or second chapter. This book goes through the who, what, when, where, and why objectively, but with heart. It’s a smooth read for a nonfiction book.

Four stars.

The Sunshine Sisters — Jane Green

Let’s have a look at the cover, shall we?

Happy ladies on a beach! Yes! I shall read this book, for I have just read books about 1) a grieving widow, 2) a grieving teen girl, and 3) serial arson and I’m in desperate need of a pick me up. And Jane Green says, “HA! PSYCH!” Because … HIT THE MUSIC!

Here’s the story of unlovely Ronnie,
who was bringing up three very troubled girls.
All of them had loveless lives
like their mother
And all four lives unfurled…

‘Til the one day Ronnie found out she was dying!
Tests confirmed it was much more than a hunch
So she summoned all three daughters to her beside
For a docu-drama ’bout the Sunshine Bunch!

The Sunshine Bunch!
The Sunshine Bunch!
Ronnie wants to be euthanized by the Sunshine Bunch!


A dying, narcissistic, B-list actress calls her 3 daughters to her bedside to be there while she dies. We get to see through flashbacks how much Ronnie (and to be fair, the girls’ father was no prize either, but this isn’t his story.) messed these kids up. But now Ronnie wants to make things right as best she can with her now-grown daughters. Nell is a farmer, Meredith is an accountant and Lizzy is a celebrity chef. They don’t get along with their mother or each other.

Despite all of the baked-in drama, it ends nicely, if a bit too neatly. Three stars and a hearty BOO to the cover.

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End — Katie Roiphe

Apparently I was on a death kick in April, because this book is a collection of stories of famous writers’ last days. To pad the chapters — because it would have been a damn short book otherwise — Roiphe researched how each writer felt about death as they lived their lives. Through that biographical work, I learned a bit about Susan Sontag, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, Sigmund Freud, Maurice Sendak, and James Salter. Sontag’s death is just awful. Yeesh.

Three stars and I have GOT to stop reading about death for a while.

A Thousand Mornings — Mary Oliver

Poetry? Poetry! April was National Poetry Month and since I haven’t read poetry since Emily Dickinson back in high school I decided to give it a shot.. I heard nice things about Mary Oliver via Book Riot’s All the Books podcast, so I dove in. The poems were refreshingly modern, no “Lo! Forsooth my Love that ye dithered ‘ere” language that always immediately turns me off.

My favorite of the collection is “Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness” which I’m going to use as my new outlook for the crapfest that is fall and winter. There are also 2 poems about her dead dog Percy that choked me up fiercely.

Four surprising stars. Poetry!

The Wife Between us — Greer Hendricks

A rich, handsome man who turns out to be emotionally and physically abusive? Check.
His drunk ex-wife who can’t get her life together? Check.
His young, hot fiancee? Check.
Twists? Check. Check. Check.

It had everything that Gone Girl and Girl on the Train had, but I think I’m just tired of unreliable narrators and omgTWISTS and the like. The last twist had me saying, “srsly?” instead of “WOW!”

Two stars, I had to push myself through.

Currently reading: Own it: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck. I am in need of a feminism in business pep talk.

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


Dog spoilers:

The Hate U Give: The dog lives, but I actually cared more about the people which is a testament to the writing.

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