Tag - show us your books

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.

  • 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!

    (ba DA! Ba DA DA DA DA DAAAA DA DA!)

    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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