8/8/17

August Book Reviews 8/8/17

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Welcome to my August Book Reviews! I had a lot of reading success this month, with only one book on this list that doesn't get a recommendation from me, so let's get on with the reviews!

August Books:

Fiction:

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
I chose this entirely because it was Reese Witherspoon's July Book Club selection and I thought it would be fun to read along with others and compare thoughts on the book. The story goes back and forth between a woman (Eve) who was a spy during World War I (roughly 1915-16) and another woman (Charlie) in the present day (1947 for this story) who is looking for a cousin she lost touch with during World War II. The two women cross paths in the present day as Charlie believes Eve could have information to help her find her cousin. Personally I was more interested in Eve's segments of the story (i.e. the flashback chapters with all of her experiences as a spy during World War I) than I was in Charlie's story. Judging by comments on Reese's post, I don't think I loved this book as much as others did. It was an enjoyable read, well written, etc., but just not one that will make my favorites list. One of my favorite parts of the book was the very end where the author shared the true stories that inspired her work and her characters. It's truly amazing what women did and went through "behind the scenes" in World War I!

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
This book was easy to get into and easy to follow. The plot moved along quickly and the character development was sufficient. In this story, a girl (Riley) goes back to her childhood home after the death of her father (her mother had already passed away many years earlier) to clean out the home in preparation to sell the house, settle his estate and so forth. In this process, she learns that her father and her family had some very well kept secrets and unsolved mysteries. One in particular relates to the suicide of her oldest sister, and Riley is determined to uncover all of the truth. My only complaint with this book is that one plot twist was pretty obvious early on due to some not-so-subtle hints, but it took Riley much longer to figure it out. I also wasn't entirely satisfied with the somewhat unresolved ending, but I can't say much more than that without spoiling it. Despite those critiques, it was still an enjoyable read so if the plot sounds interesting to you I would say go for it.

A Beautiful Poison by Lydia Kang
This was a fun read! It kept me guessing and just when I thought it was going to be an obvious ending, I was in for a couple of twists and surprises! It takes place during World War I and opens with three estranged best friends who are reunited for an engagement party. At the party, one of their acquaintances dies in an accident, only the friends suspect that it was poison and not an accident. As they set out to examine the case, other people close to them also begin to die in suspicious ways that look accidental, and it becomes a race against time (in more ways than one) to find the killer. The plot and characters were all enjoyable, and there wasn't really anything I disliked about this. I will say the Amazon plot summary was a little misleading in that it made it sound like the plot revolved more around whether the deaths were caused by flu vs. poison, and in the story that wasn't the case. (Don't worry, that's not a spoiler.) The flu didn't really become a factor until much later in the book. So that's nothing against the book, but I did keep wondering for a good portion of the book if they were completely off in the summary or why they chose to mention that. Regardless, I still recommend this one for a fun historical fiction style whodunit. (And again, I really enjoyed the author's note at the end with her explanation of the elements in the story that were based on real people and places as well as how she became inspired to write this book.)

BTW, A Beautiful Poison was my free Amazon Prime Kindle First selection for July. If you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle you get a free preview book each month! I gave a better tutorial for this in my July recap, but for quick reference on how to get your book, from the Amazon homepage go to Accounts & Lists > Your Prime Membership (found on the right side of the list under Your Accounts) > Kindle Books.

The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent
I read this book on my trip to Oregon last week and it was the perfect vacation read! It was fast-paced, easy to get into, easy plot to follow and interesting characters. It also provided some interesting food for thought on what people share on social media, since it's about a woman who tends to obsess over people and families she follows on "InstaFace."  When one of her favorite accounts de-activates their InstaFace account she goes to great lengths to get involved in their real life so she can find out what is going on with them. She's also in for some surprises about how their perfectly staged life isn't quite what it seems on social media. Thanks to Megan for recommending this one. It easily gets my recommendation as well.


Non-Fiction  (Audiobooks)

Heavier than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain by Charles R. Cross
I loved Nirvana back when they were popular and had both of their major label albums (okay, my brother owned the albums and I would "borrow" them from him), but I never knew much about the band beyond their music. (Remember this was before the Internet was everywhere so unless you had a subscription to Tiger Beat, you only got what you saw on MTV!) I guess I was feeling nostalgic when I chose this, plus after living in Seattle for many years I became more interested in that music scene since I got a more personal feel for the culture there. This got started a little slow, and it was almost too detailed for me in the beginning of the book. (e.g. giving the exact street address of Kurt's first house, the specific salary his dad made in a particular year, etc.) But I will say it made me respect the amount of work the author put into his research even if it wasn't the most compelling information. As the book went on though, I was completely engrossed and found myself not wanting to turn it off when I was driving and had arrived somewhere and needed to go in! Kurt's life was really interesting, and it helped me finally understand how successful musicians could still be broke. (e.g. Kurt was living out of his car when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" became popular.) One thing this book did not go into was the question of the nature of Kurt's death (suicide vs. murder). It presented his death as a suicide with no discussion at all of the many issues with that conclusion, which I think is an unfair and biased conclusion to Kurt's life story. But as far as how he told the story of Kurt's life (and not his death), it was really well done and informative. I would definitely recommend following this up with "Soaked in Bleach," the Netflix Documentary to get the other side of the story about his death.

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
In this book, the author makes the case that no matter what kind of job you have, we are all in sales. Some part of our lives is involved in motivating others to action: whether you're a parent who needs to get your children to clean up their room, or an office worker who needs to persuade your boss to sign off on an expenditure. We all need the ability to motivate others to action, and some techniques are more effective than others for doing just that. While the overall concept of the book was interesting to me and I did glean some new ideas, I felt the author spent too much time in the book making his case that we are all in sales. I got the point in five minutes and wanted to move on to the motivational techniques and behaviors. When I finally did get to that part, nearly all of his techniques were things I had read in other books. So while it was a good reminder of some things, all in all this wasn't memorable or a favorite that I'll recommend as much to others. For reference, I've read (twice!) and highly recommend Influence (Daniel Pink refers to this book in "To Sell is Human" quite a bit) and The Like Switch. Those two covered covered the key points in this book and were more interesting to me.

Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza
Science was always my worst subject in school, so the fact that I felt this book explained concepts such as quantum physics and neuroscience in a way that was simple enough for me to understand is noteworthy! Mind you, I don't understand them well enough to explain them to anyone else at this point or recap them clearly here, but they made sense while I was reading the book and I had a lot of "a ha!" moments where things about life and human nature just made more sense. If you want a clear understanding of how the brain works, how our brains and thoughts profoundly influence our lives, and why we fight against ourselves and find it so incredibly difficult to change our habits...this book is excellent. I will say he lost me a bit in the final third of the book. Meditation is a key concept of the book, and the author recommends a 40-50 minute daily meditation session. Ain't nobody got time for that! There were about 2.5 hours left in the audiobook when this came up, and I was tempted to not even finish it since the rest of the book was going to be about how to specifically perform that 40-50 minute session, which I already knew I wouldn't be doing. But I decided to keep it on as background noise, and I'm glad I did because there were still some positive-thinking concepts shared in that part of the book that were worth hearing and incorporating into my life, even if it's not during extended meditation. I do recommend this one if you are a believer in positive thinking or actively seeking to become your best self.

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, PhD
I have often heard the term "sociopath" thrown around in the media, especially in criminal cases like the Jodi Arias trial. But I never fully understood what it meant until I read this book. According to the author, one in twenty-five people are sociopaths, so there's no doubt that we all know someone who is a sociopath! This book was very enlightening and had some very good tips for identifying the sociopaths among us and dealing with them (I need to re-read that part!). Thanks to Rachelle for recommending this one. If you're into human psychology, this is a great read, and fairly quick, too, for what it's worth.

Currently Reading:
If you want to read along with me this month, I'm currently reading The Lying Game by Ruth Ware and listening to Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. So far so good on both of these books, but I'll be sharing my final thoughts in my September reviews

As always, I'd love to hear if you have recommendations for books you think I would enjoy! Or if you've read any of these books I'd love to hear your thoughts on them!


Linking up with:

CONVERSATION

34 comments:

  1. Happy you loved the sociopath next door, I still have one credit left and I'm trying to figure out what my next read should be.

    xo
    Pinksole

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    1. I still think you should read Influence. :) It's very enlightening!

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  2. I always love your book reviews and am impressed by how much you read on top of all the other things you do. I'm glad you enjoyed Memory Watcher. I'm actually listening to The Alice Network right now and can't get enough of it. The narration is very good and that may be making a big difference. I put Beautiful Poison on my Audible Wish List, but I'm now interested in Influence and The Like Switch. I've never thought of those as being useful in parenting or in non-sales-type jobs. Thanks for the recs.

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    1. I can see how The Alice Network would be very entertaining in an Audiobook form! FWIW I think Popular by Mitch Prinstein is the most useful as a parenting book (even though it's not about parenting! LOL). But the other two books are just very useful in every day life and dealing with people in any situation.

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  3. i totally added the alice network because of reese witherspoon as well. i haven't read it though - isn't it going to be a movie too?
    i didn't love the silent sister. it was okay. i think i felt the same as you.
    definitely checking out A Beautiful Poison. sometimes i wonder who writes the blurbs or whatnot for goodreads/amazon because i've come across some really weird ones that don't make sense for the book at all.
    oooh the memory watcher sounds pretty nifty. adding it.
    the sociopath book sounds kind of terrifying. ha. i'm not sure i want to know that i know a sociopath? what if i'm the sociopath?!

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    1. LOL, I am 99% sure you are not a sociopath! I Googled and didn't see anything about The Alice Network becoming a movie, but I do think it would make a good movie! (And it's the type I could see Reese producing/starring in so I guess we'll see!)

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  4. I was checking out The Beautiful Poison on amazon and now I think I should get it! It sounds really interesting!

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  5. I am reading The Two-Family house by Lynda Cohen Loigman and I am really enjoying it! Have you read Behind Closed Doors- terrifying but couldn't put it down. Another better book about sociopaths is Without Conscience by I believe Dr.Robert Hare, who is the leading authority on the subject. It's a scary book but one everyone should read.

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    1. I did read Behind Closed Doors! (It's in my January Book Reviews in this post. Unfortunately it was not my cup of tea, but I feel like the only blogger who did not love it! I will check out your other suggestions, though! Thanks so much!

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  6. The Sociopath Next Door sounds really interesting!

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  7. I've realized that I don't always jive with Reese Witherspoon's picks. I have outright hated some.

    I had no idea about Kindle First for the longest time, until someone said something to me over a year ago.

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  8. I am aware of Reese Witherspoon's book club but I pay absolutely zero attention to it. See also: every celebrity book club ever, including Oprah.

    Growing up in the grunge era and remembering the day Kurt died, I'm intrigued by his and Nirvana's story yet never watch or read anything about it. True Crime Garage (podcast) did a couple of episodes on his death if you're interested. They also did a couple about Tupac which was fascinating as well.

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    1. LOL yes, this was my first celebrity book club selection so I guess I learned my lesson! And thank you for the podcast suggestion! I'll definitely check that out since I'm really fascinated with that story.

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  9. I already read a couple of books dealing with WW2 this year and need some more space before I can go back to that time and place again. It always breaks my heart. A Beautiful Poison sounds interesting to me. And I hate it when blurbs are completely misleading because it definitely affects my judgment of book when I expect something different, even if what it delivers is still good. I still tend to rate it lower than I probably normally would.

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    1. Yeah, I had two books in that era this month and it was completely by accident! Normally I like to break up my eras/genres a little more as well. In general though, A Beautiful Poison was much lighter than The Alice Network!

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  10. I read the Silent Sister a few years ago and although I don't remember it being a favorite, but Diane Chamberlain is one of my favorite authors. Her new book comes out in October and I can't wait!

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Laura! I enjoyed it enough to check out another book by Diane. I'll have to keep a lookout for her new one!

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  11. Great reviews! Thanks for the tip of prime access to kindle books!

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    1. Thanks Nicole! I'm glad I wasn't the last to know about the Prime books!

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  12. The Alice Network is on my list for someday!!!

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    1. It's definitely worth reading before it becomes a movie! Ha!

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  13. I'm an absolute sucker for celebrity biographies and 90s alternative rock, so I can't believe I haven't heard of or read the Kurt Cobain book!!

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  14. The Alice Network sounds really good. I haven't heard of it at all. I'll have to add it to my TBR! Here from SUYB. :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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  15. Just added A Beautiful Poison and The Memory Watcher to my To Read list. Thanks!

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    1. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did! :)

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  16. Wow the Sociopath Next Door sounds so interesting, but almost scary too read! I'm impressed by how much you are able to read!!! I am currently listening to Firefly Lane on audiobook.

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    1. Ha, I can see why you might think that if you're thinking "Dexter," but it's really not that bad. :) And I do a lot of waiting for my kids at their activities so I try to read while I wait instead of scrolling social media, plus I try to read when they're doing their assigned reading time for school. It adds up when I make the time for it!

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  17. The sociopath next door sounds like a very interesting book. I think I could read something like that. Stopping by from the Carpool Book Club :)

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