September Book Reviews 9/12/17 | On the Daily EXPRESS

9/12/17

September Book Reviews 9/12/17

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Welcome to my September Book Reviews! This month wasn't my best in terms of reading lots of books that I couldn't wait to recommend here, but there were a couple that were very worthwhile and none that were terrible, so read on for my thoughts on each of these!

September Books:

Fiction
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
This book got off to a little bit of a slow start for me, and it also followed the pattern of alternating chapters in flashback vs. present day narrative. I think I'm getting a little burned out on that formula, but regardless I was interested enough in the story to keep going. A group of women who were friends as teenagers are asked to come back to the town where they met and went to school by one of one of the women in their friendship circle. They share a secret that they all want to protect, and any time there is a concern that their secret may be revealed they can only meet in person to discuss it for fear of being found out. This causes complications in their personal lives on many levels, and naturally their fear of being found out has been a source of anxiety in their lives since they were teenagers. Once the stage has been set and we have some idea of the secret they are keeping, the plot picks up quickly and I zipped through to the end. One of my biggest issues was that the landscape of one of the key scenes in the book ("The Mill") was very confusing to me, and it played a big role in the book. It was on the coast or a swamp and the ocean was washing it away? I just didn't understand but I tried to go along with it anyway. I've never really had that kind of an issue with a book and think it will be interesting if it ever becomes a movie so I can better understand the location visually. This currently gets an average of 4/5 stars from reviewers on Amazon, and I would rate it the same as well. If you enjoyed Ruth's book "The Woman in Cabin Ten," you'll probably enjoy this, just expect a slow start.

P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy
This was my Amazon Kindle early release book of the month, and at the time of my selection it had the most positive reviews, which influenced my decision to read this book. There are two main characters in this story: Paul and Mia. Paul is an American author living in Paris, and Mia is a British actress hiding out in Paris because she has learned that her husband has been unfaithful and she wants some time away from the public eye (she's not very well known in France). Paul and Mia meet on an accidental date of sorts, though Paul doesn't know Mia is a famous actress and Mia chooses to hide that fact from him. They continue to be friends who develop feelings for each other, and the book reads a bit like the script of a Romantic Comedy. It was an easy, entertaining, and fairly enjoyable read, though not particularly impressive to me, probably because I'm not usually big on this genre in general. If you're in the mood for a cute love story though you'll probably enjoy this.

The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens
This is my third book by Allen Eskens and it did not disappoint. The first one I read by him is still my favorite (The Life We Bury), but all three have been interesting and worth the read. Although they aren't a series and you don't need to read one to understand the others, they do have overlapping characters who make cameo appearances. As for the plot, this is a standard murder mystery. A woman is found dead, and the detective called to investigate finds out that she's the wife of his nemesis, a local attorney (Lawyer A). To further complicate matters, the two men share a friendship with another attorney (Lawyer B) who is asked to represent Lawyer A in court, which puts a strain on the friendship with the detective. Nothing groundbreaking in the plot but overall an enjoyable read, and although it comes to a satisfying conclusion, it does set the stage for another book with one of the main characters.

Non-Fiction (*Audiobooks)
Mistakes were Made (but not by me) by Elliot Aronson, Carol Tavris
This book is the most thorough explanation and examination of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias of any I have read. It's very similar to Being Wrong, by Kathryn Schulz (my review for that book here) and unless you're particularly fascinated with this topic you don't really need to read both since they cite a lot of the same research. "Being Wrong" was much longer and gave far more examples of situations throughout history where humans have been egregiously mistaken. This book tends to get more personal in explaining how cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias can affect all of us in our marriages or relationships and in other things that may have an indirect effect on us like war and police work. I enjoyed both but would probably pick this one to recommend to others since it's a bit more succinct in making the same point.

10% Happier by Dan Harris
This author is a successful ABC News anchor, currently on Nightline and Good Morning America weekend edition. I don't watch either of those programs so I was actually unfamiliar with his news background/level of fame until I started reading the book. The book is kind of an auto-biography of his life and the experiences leading to his current success in the news business. He focuses quite a bit on his interactions with some of the religious and spiritual leaders he met through his work (e.g. Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, the The Dalai Lama, Ted Haggard), because he was also on his own personal quest for happiness and inner peace and wanted to see what he could learn and incorporate from their teachings. He came to be a believer in meditation and feels it has made him about 10% happier in life (hence the title). Kristi recommended this book to me after reading my Monday Motivation post where I referenced meditation, so it was a timely read! The only part of the book that was really slow for me was when Dan went to a ten-day meditation retreat. He went as a doubter and left as a believer, so the experience was very significant to him, but it was covered in almost painful detail. On the flip side I really enjoyed his summary of Buddhist teachings. He also explained a term I hadn't heard before: Hedonic Adaption. I personally held a similar theory about happiness but didn't know there was a name for it, so that was a highlight for me. Overall I enjoyed this book and found his experiences and journey to the top very interesting (he's brutally honest in his opinions on some big names in the news business) and I always find parallels between life in the entertainment business and life in the blogging business.

A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsum Kim
This book gets 5/5 stars and is my top recommendation of the month. Given the current social and political tension with North Korea, I wanted a better understanding of what's happening there on a human, personal level and this book gave me exactly that. It was the true story of one young woman's childhood in North Korea and her eventual escape, a process that took many years to complete. I was riveted throughout the story and amazed by her personal strength and sacrifice. The story was engaging and well-edited so I didn't ever feel like I was listening to extraneous details or a lot of political commentary. It also wasn't a terribly sad or depressing book. Yes, there were absolutely hardships and difficult times, but it's ultimately an inspiring story of survival, hard work and determination.

Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
Anytime Audible offers a sale or promotion, I check out the selections to see if anything looks interesting since the prices are always better than full audiobook/credit prices. That's how I discovered this book, and when a reviewer mentioned that it was a good follow up to Outliers (one of my favorite audiobooks this year...definitely one I want to re-read), I went for it. This book examines the common assumption that successful people (e.g. Tiger Woods is one of the case studies) just got lucky or were born with an unusual amount of natural talent. In case after case the author demonstrates that there is much more to each of those stories than either luck or natural talent. He finds some very specific factors that consistently contribute to success across many disciplines (e.g. music, sports, business). It did feel like a follow-up book to Outliers and it was interesting overall, but ultimately I'm not sure I retained a lot of new information from this one. It reiterated what I learned in Outliers, and I still prefer that one, especially the narrator.

*Love & Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain by Max Wallace & Ian Halperin
(*This is not available in audiobook format so I read the Kindle version. But I still thought it made more sense to categorize it under nonfiction.) Last month I reviewed the biography of Kurt Cobain and discussed the documentary Soaked in Bleach (available on Netflix) which goes over the troubling issues around the suicide ruling in Kurt's death. This book is everything in that documentary and then some. They carefully examine every element in his death from the improbable heroin overdose, position of the shotgun, handwriting inconsistencies in the "suicide" note, personal conflicts of interest within the Seattle Police Department, etc. They provide more backstory on some of the people in Kurt's life, especially Courtney Love, her life, and her other acquaintances who died under mysterious circumstances. I felt the authors truly made every attempt to be as unbiased as possible and examine the facts objectively. I was really impressed with this book and would love to see this case get reopened someday.

Reading List:
I don't usually choose books far enough in advance to post about them, but this month a couple of my favorite authors have new books coming out so I'll be reading those ASAP. Based on their release dates (October 3), I might not have both completed in time for next month's reviews, but either way they're on my "must read" list for the near future. Also, I've already chosen my Kindle First Book (one free pre-release book per month for Prime Members) so that's on the docket this month as well. Just thought I'd share in case you'd like to read along this month and share your thoughts in October!

Thanks for reading and I hope you found a book or two to add to your reading list!


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35 comments:

  1. What a great mix of books! I have really been trying to branch out with my reading. Definitely adding Without Merit to my list. She has been one of my fave authors to read as of late.

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    1. Same! I'm going to try to time my reading so I'm ready to start that book on October 3! Don't know how that will work out but it's on my mental calendar. :)

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  2. I do want to read The Lying Game - I really loved The Woman in Cabin 10, and I need to read her first book as well.

    The book about Kurt Cobain sounds fascinating! I hadn't heard of that one.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I haven't read Ruth's first one either. I'll be interested to see if I feel like it has the same pace as her other two.

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  3. Glad you liked 10% Happier. I also loved his honest opinions and his sense of humor!

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    1. Yes, and funny, I've seen him on TV a couple of times since I read this book even though I never had (or noticed) before!

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  4. Mistakes Were Made sounds really interesting...and relevant! As a psych major, I've studied this a bit and it's crazy how most people don't realize how incredibly untrustworthy our minds/opinions are.

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    1. Oh gosh, yes. If there's one key lesson I've learned from these books is never to insist that I'm right or that I remember certain events or instances more correctly than anyone else. I'm wrong a lot and that's okay because so is everyone else even if they don't know it yet! Ha!

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  5. Nirvana is one of my favorite bands and I loved Kurt cobain so I really want to read the book you mentioned. 10% happier also sounds like it's right up my alley!

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    1. Ah, yes!! You need to read this book...or at least watch Soaked in Bleach on Netflix!

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  6. I didn't like Cabin 10, and I plan on skipping this latest Ware.

    I really enjoyed The Life We Bury so I will check out his other two books.

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    1. Ooh yes, def skip The Lying Game if you didn't like Cabin 10!

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  7. I have to get mistakes were made, I have so many books I need to catch up on already.

    xo
    Pinksole

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  8. I haven't read any of Ruth Ware's books, I am sure I will get to them eventually though. honestly, i'm a sucker for a romantic comedy (or romance in general) but that P.S. From Paris sounds meh. also, as horrible as this sounds, i rarely like any kind of romance if it's written by a man. i don't go into it hoping to hate it, i just tend to prefer female authors especially when it's romance.
    adding A Thousand Miles to Freedom to my list. and a new colleen hoover?! sold.

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    1. That's an interesting point about it being written by a male vs. female! I am pretty sure this is my first Rom Com by a man as well. Might be my last! LOL!

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  9. I love Allen Eskens and adored The Life We Bury and did not realize his next book was coming out next month! Thank you for the head's up! I enjoyed Heaven's May Fall too. Ruth Ware has been on my TBR for sometime and I need to pick up a book of hers.

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    1. I don't really love her books as much as some people do but I enjoy them well enough. Definitely trying at least one!

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  10. I am adding A Thousand Miles to Freedom to my list of books to read, it sounds very interesting.

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    1. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It really helped give me some useful perspective!

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  11. I despised both Cabin 10 and Dark Dark Wood so the newest Ruth Ware is a hard pass for me.

    I read 10% Happier and found it to be okay. More of a commercial for meditation than an actual memoir which got on my nerves.

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    1. Ha, I can definitely understand your POV on 10% happier! And yes, if you despised both of those other books there's no hope for this one.

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  12. I read P.S. from Paris because it looked like the best of the selection and definitely agree with your thoughts. It was cutsey and an ok story. I felt bad that Paul was such a sucker for being fooled, but he sure seemed to get over it all pretty well. I picked the I am Watching You book, too. It's next on my list!

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    1. Glad to hear your thoughts on P.S. from Paris! I'm about 33% in to I am Watching You and liking it so far!

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  13. 10% Happier sounds really interesting. P.S. From Paris was also the free book I picked out so I'm glad you gave a little review on it! I haven't read it yet!

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    1. It wasn't a top favorite or anything but enjoyable enough. :)

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  14. I'm definitely adding A Thousand Miles to Freedom to my shelf. I feel the same. I seriously don't know what is going on there and I don't even know where to look and while there are many resources out there, this book intrigues me. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Also, my mom's name is Gina and she spells it the same so you're officially cool! Haha :)

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    2. What a funny coincidence about your mom's name. :) (And glad that's a positive thing for you, LOL!) Really hope you like A Thousand Miles as much as I did!

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  15. I have that Ruth Ware book on my list, but it's good to know it's a slow start!

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    1. Yeah...all in all it won't be one I highly recommend in the future but I enjoyed the suspense and story well enough once it got going.

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  16. So much non-fiction! That's awesome. I really hope to read more as the year goes on. I like it, but tend to gobble up the fiction and forget about it. XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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    1. I only started reading this much nonfiction when I started listening to Audiobooks! They're much easier for me to digest in that format.

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  17. Your description of he Lying Game reminds me of Pretty Little Liars. Did you watch that show/do you agree?

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    1. Unfortunately I haven't watched that show! I've heard of it but now I'm really curious!

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