Tag - show us your books

Show us your books: August 2018

I eked out five books this month. My Seattle trip was heavy on the socializing, and I actually watched a movie on the flight back instead of reading. It was Game Night. It was funny enough and had my problematic boo Jason Bateman. Two of my books required a bit of digestion which slowed me down.

The reading I’ve been doing lately.

As always, I have many magazines to keep me busy. O Magazine continues to delight this middle aged lady, but sadly Magnolia Journal has become a bit of a hate read and I’m not going to renew it. I want to see pretty things and learn about decorating, but I’m getting preached to instead. Chip’s column this issue comes really close to declaring themselves as Quiverfull Christians and … not my cup of tea. But they have millions of adoring fans who share a belief system so they won’t miss my subscription. Funny enough, I buy items from their Hearth & Home line at Target, but only if they go on clearance. If they can save money by re-purposing old doors and windows, they’ll be okay with me not spending full price on their stuff.

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

Men Explain Things to Me — Rebecca Solnit
I needed to top off my rage meter and this little ditty did it. It’s a collection of Solnit’s essays about feminism. The first essay (and source of the book’s title) is probably her most famous. It touches on how men feel the need to explain things to women, even if the man clearly knows less about the subject than the woman does. It’s the source of the term “mansplaining” even though Solnit didn’t coin the phrase.

The essays are, frankly, depressing, and I had to put the book down in between each one. Women are hated. Women are silenced. Women are disbelieved and abused and killed. It was true hundreds of years ago, it’s still true today as evidenced by domestic violence statistics and how at least once a week I have to say something like, “yes, I know. I was the one who told you.”

“Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being.”

Four stars and when’s the next march?

Behold the Dreamers — Imbolo Mbue
What is the American Dream? For Jende Jonga, it’s providing opportunities for his children that they wouldn’t have in his native Cameroon. For his wife, Neni, it’s the ability to get an education and be rich. For Clark Edwards, it’s making as much money as he can to provide for his family. For his wife, Cindy, it’s the ability to rise above a rough start. For their son Vince, it’s freedom to escape.

These two very different families and their futures intertwine right before the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The story was pretty simple but the feelings ran deep. It made me think a lot about class, race, and privilege.

Five stars!

Grin and Beard it #2 — Penny Reid

I started this in July, but because I owned it, I put it aside when Behold the Dreamers finally became available. I know that main characters don’t always have to be likable, but it really helps in a romance novel when you don’t find the heroine annoying. Sienna Diaz is an intelligent, funny, Latina Academy Award winning actor with no sense of direction. She’s in Green Valley, Tennessee to shoot a movie. Jethro Winston is a bad-boy biker turned park ranger, trying his best to make up his past transgressions to his family and the community. Of course, his nose is so far on the grindstone that he hasn’t heard of Sienna, so their meet-cute is pretty cute. I found Sienna to be too “extra” as the kids today would say. The sizzly parts made for uncomfortable train reading, but everything ends up (inconceivably) fine in the end.

Two stars which means it’s not bad, just okay. I’ll get the third one if it hits $1.99 and features one of the more-fun Winston brothers.

Also, I am in awe of the readers on Goodreads who review romance novels and provide collages of how they’d cast the main couple.

Pyramids (Discworld #7) — Terry Pratchett

Pteppic is next in line to the throne of Djelibeybi, Discworld’s version of Ancient Egypt. He spends his youth at the Assassin’s school in Ankh-Morpork and on the day of his final exam, his father dies. Pteppic goes home and finds out that being a God means a lot less freedom than being an assassin. The story diverts into some metaphysical and mathematical weirdness which seemed to function as padding. I had to go back and reread a key part to figure out what actually happened. I think this is probably when fans started referring to him as Pterry.

Three stars – I liked it just fine.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand — Helen Simonson

I purchased this a while ago, waiting for the inevitable gap between library holds. It’s a sweet book about a 68 year old widower, Major Ernest Pettigrew, and his love affair with 58-year old widow Mrs. Ali. He’s English, she’s Pakistani. Their cultures, families, and friends clash, but our couple keeps their heads up high through the whole thing. Subplots include the fate of a pair of shotguns, a developer encroaching upon the small English village they live in, and a disastrous country club gala. Growing old is a bitch, but it’s easier if you have love.

Four stars because I’m a sucker for sweet love stories and can I have this as a movie, please and thank you?

Currently reading: Let’s Talk about Death over Dinner, by Michael Hebb. This is my first-ever Netgalley book. And The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, because my Kindle died in the middle of my nightly sitting-outside session. Rude!

Stupid purchase: Hope Never Dies, a fictional (natch) Obama/Biden murder mystery. WM sent me this NPR story about it and I bought it right on impulse. How could I resist this cover?

Philadelphia Library eBook Hold list:

I’m using Libby, the new Overdrive app, to manage my holds now.

  • The Queen of Hearts — Position: 10 of 28
  • The Widows of Malabar Hill — Position: 7 of 33
  • The Female Persuasion — Position 86 of 211
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet — Position: 41 of 55
  • You are a Badass — Position: 70 of 102
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup — Position: 65 of 145
  • There There — Position: 171 of 185
  • From the Corner of the Oval — Position: 64 of 99
  • So Close to being the Sh*t — Position: 35 of 38
  • Guards, Guards! — Position: 6 of 9

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

What are you reading?

January | February | March | April | May | June | July

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


Show us your books: June 2018

If you’re a library patron, then you are surely familiar with the panic that occurs when you have physical books checked out, purchased ebooks waiting to be read, and THEN your holds that have been languishing for MONTHS start becoming available one by one. That was my May-June.

I am cruising to handily beat my Goodreads goal – 33 of 50 books are in the can. Even if I get waylaid by non-book activities for a little bit *glares at Diablo III* I should still finish the year strong.

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

Own It: The Power of Women at Work — Sallie Krawcheck

I checked this out because I was looking for a bit of a pep talk. I have *pulls out abacus* at least 23 more years left to work and sometimes that weighs on me.

Sallie Krawcheck was CEO of Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. She’s one sharp lady. She also owns 2 companies — Ellevest and Ellevate — and this book does mildly plug those companies, which is what kept it from being five stars.

In this book, Krawcheck gives us plain advice on how to succeed as women at the office by being … ourselves. Which is a different take from the usual “act like a maaaaaan” business books. She uses real-life examples from her career to back up her theories.

She convinced me to be be more aggressive with investing and networking. I actually have an unfinished Ellevate application, because I’m debating if it would be worth the $25/month.

Do any of you belong to a professional networking group? Are they worth it? Would you pay for one?

Four stars, because it was the pep talk I needed without high-level “woo.” Next time I get to a bookstore, I’ll buy the hard copy so I can refer back to it.

Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends — Martin Lindstrom

Ehhhhhhh. Not what I thought it would be. It’s a brand research guy telling Sherlock Holmes/Gregory House type stories of the one small thing he finds true about an entire culture (really,dude?) that helps him create successful branding and rebranding.

I was tired of the “ALL women” in Russia/Saudi Arabia/the United States/India chatter and the mobile phone hate. And the repetitiveness. Yes, I remember about the fridge magnets, dude. You mention it all the time.

But what made me close the book was the revelation of how he redesigned a cereal box in India with colors to cater to the bad eyesight that ALL Indian women 50+ have, colors that appeal to their daughters-in-law who ALL want to be more Western AND and image that appeals to both (because ALL women love babies) … and didn’t even show a picture of the box!

I wanted a more data-driven book. This one has many good ratings, it just wasn’t the book for me.

Did not Finish.

Wishful Drinking — Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher was smart, funny, and a fantastic writer. This is a short memoir that touches on her life, the crazy love lives of her crazy celebrity parents, and her mental illness and addiction.

It was laugh-out-loud funny in some parts (the flow chart!), sad in others (failed romances, and I will always maintain that Paul Simon is an asshole), and I wished it was three times longer.

This should be three stars, but I gave it four because I am extremely biased in favor of the author. She’s my General, after all.

This Must Be the Place — Maggie O’Farrell

I should have strongly disliked this book. Why?

  • It jumps around through different time periods and different narrators.

  • I thought it was going to be a story about Claudette, but it’s actually Daniel’s story.
  • And Daniel is a jerk for most of it.
  • But darn if Maggie O’Farrell made this hot mess of characters work.

    Marriage is tough, tough work, even if you are a mostly-balanced person. It’s harder still if you’re Daniel, a linguistics professor with alcohol and womanizing problems. Or Claudette, an actress who, with her small son, literally ran away from her starstudded life. The story begins with the Daniel and Claudentte raising their 2 kids in rural Ireland.

    And then we begin to jump around and learn Daniel’s backstory: his ex-wife, their 2 kids, his mother, his friends. From Claudette we get her backstory: her ex-lover, her mother, her son, her brother Lucas and his wife Maeve. Maeve’s storyline is small but especially potent. Maeve exists in a world where every person around her is amazingly fertile. And she is infertile. And oof that’s a hard thing to live through.

    Five beautiful stars. I gulp-sobbed at the end.

    Invisible Ellen — Shari Shattuck

    This was a freaking tough read. Ellen Homes was an abused child who aged through the foster care system and now lives alone. Overweight and scarred, she has perfected the art of being invisible. Until one day, she meets a blind woman who can’t ignore her because she can’t see her. Ellen takes one courageous step, which leads to a friendship that changes her life.

    This book is triggerlicious. Abusive parents, abusive foster parents, abusive boyfriends, shoot-first-ask-later cops, births, deaths, you name it.

    There is a cat and two dogs in this book. Spoilers below.

    Idaho — Emily Ruskovich

    I. Wow. Probably not the best book to follow Invisible Ellen with. The writing is gorgeous. The subject matter is bleak af.

    Ann is married to Wade. Wade had a family before Ann, but it only took a second for that family to be lost to him forever. Wade has what I believe to be Alzheimer’s. This story dips back and forth through time as Ann tries to figure out what happened while Wade declines.

    It’s also full of triggers: murder, domestic abuse, assault, animal abuse, solitary confinement, piles of snow. Dog spoiler at the bottom.

    Making it to the end gives you an ending that you didn’t expect, but not any of the answers you wanted. That’s about all I can say without spoiling everything.

    Three stars and I think I need to read happy books for a while.

    Highlighted line on my Kindle: The result, of course, of the cheap and carefully placed clutter was the transformation of their spare and cozy house, little by little, into a house where old people lived.

    The Blue Bistro — Elin Hilderbrand

    Adrienne is looking for a fresh start from her nomadic life of disastrous relationships. She goes to Nantucket and lands a job as an assistant manager at The Blue Bistro, the best restaurant in ON Nantucket. She is in no way qualified for this job, but gets it anyway. Because as the book tells us DOZENS of times, Adrienne is beautiful.

    I have discovered the key to enjoying Elin Hilderbrand’s books: realizing right off the bat that every character is flawed, and all of the plot could be solved in 3 pages if people just freaking TALKED to each other. Adrienne makes bad decisions. Thatcher is controlling. Caren is jealous. Adrienne’s father is conflict-adverse and enabling. All of the other men are womanizing jerks who turn out to have hearts of gold EXCEPT that one guy. (There’s always one guy.) Fiona is … the most special snowflake ever.

    This is basically a much gentler Sweetbitter. Reading it in 2018, Thatcher is a bit creepy – think Christian Grey without the erotic beatings. When it was written in 2005, I probably would have just accepted him as a typical rich dude.

    Four stars. All I wanted was a book where nobody freaking died.

    Currently reading: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

    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


    Pet spoilers:
    Invisible Ellen: Surprisingly, the cat and two dogs end up okay.
    Idaho: Time passes in this book, so the dogs die of natural causes after good lives.

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