October Book Reviews | On the Daily EXPRESS

10/10/17

October Book Reviews

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Welcome to my October Book Reviews! As usual I had some hits and misses, some fiction and non-fiction, so here's what I read along with my thoughts on each book (minus spoilers)!

Fiction:

I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
Suspense lovers you will want to check this one out! A woman observes some high school girls on a train acting "inappropriately" with some men they just met and debates whether to step in or mind her own business. She chooses the latter but regrets her decision the next day when she learns one of the girls on the train has gone missing. Family secrets begin to come to light among the remaining friends, their families and even the train-ride witness as police investigate the case and try to find the missing girl. I don't have any complaints on this book. It was an easy, entertaining read that held my interest well and kept me guessing until the end!

The Alibi by Sandra Brown
I read and loved Mean Streak by Sandra Brown (reviewed here) but this one and "Sting" (reviewed here) just fell flat for me and I could have stopped reading in the middle and not cared. In this book, two people meet and have a one night stand, but the woman disappears from the man's bed in the morning so he thinks he'll never see her again even though she is the most amazing woman he's ever met (yes, I'm rolling my eyes here). Shortly after, the man who is a lawyer by trade, discovers that the woman he slept with is now the lead suspect in a murder case he will have to prosecute. He's also effectively her alibi because they were together at approximately the same time the murder took place. I liked the idea of the plot, but the chemistry between the main characters just didn't work for me. Nor was I able to accept that this man was willing to throw caution to the wind and put his career at risk over a one night stand. I think this will be my last Sandra Brown...at least unless I get a recommendation from another reader I trust for a specific book.

Wish You Were Here by Renee Carlino
Funny, I just realized that this book and the previous one have a couple of things in common. First, they are both the third book I've read by the author. Second, they both start off with a one-night stand between two people who just met. That's where the similarities end, though. In this romance, Charlotte and Adam are unable to reconnect after their one night stand due to a variety of misunderstandings, even though they both wanted to get to know each other better. Charlotte moves on to Seth, who seems almost too good to be true. I can't say much beyond that without spoiling too much of the plot, but some tragedy comes into play and complicates things for everyone. I picked this up because I wanted something easy to get into that I could zip through in a couple of days, and this delivered exactly that. It had fun references to contemporary pop culture (it came out in August 2017 and takes place in the current day). Part of the story also took place in San Diego so that was fun for me also. Since this is the second book I've read by Carlino with San Diego as part of the setting, I had to look up her bio to find out that she does in fact live here! I'll have to keep a look out to for a local book signing or something. Anyway, if you enjoy contemporary romantic fiction I do recommend this one.

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
I have enjoyed all of Colleen Hoover's books that I've read (some more than others but that's to be expected!) so I was very much looking forward to Without Merit, which just came out on October 3. Ultimately I did enjoy this book, but for anyone familiar with this author I think it's worth knowing in advance that this one is different than her usual fare.  Colleen's books are usually heavy on the romance, whereas in this book Family Drama was the main course and romance was just a side dish. This is a story of a family with a lot of secrets, and a unique dynamic, not to mention unique names, such as Merit, the main character. Merit knows a lot of the secrets that her family members are keeping from each other and and it creates a lot of unhappiness for her, along with her ongoing frustration over their peculiar lifestyle arrangements (e.g. her mother lives in the basement of her house where she lives with her dad and current stepmom). Along the way, Merit makes a new friend who helps her start to see that her perspective is more narrow than she realized. For me, the character development was good and the whole quirky family was entertaining and engaging. I could easily see spinoff books happening for some of the other characters in this story. I don't think this will stand out as one of my favorites (and I suspect a lot of Colleen's fans might be disappointed in this one), but it was still a fun read, and if there were spinoff books I would read those too!

Nonfiction: (*Audiobooks):

Opening the Door of Your Heart: And Other Buddhist Tales of Happiness by Ajahn Brahm (Audible Version)
The book is a collection of short stories and allegories designed to help the reader (slash listener) develop a more positive, "big picture" perspective on life.  Rachelle recommended this book and it's really very sweet. There are some stories that gave me peace and I find myself reflecting on a lot. A few I'm sure I've already forgotten, and I can see myself listening to the whole thing again in a couple of years. I'm also making my husband and kids start listening to it anytime we have a slightly longer car ride somewhere.  It's provided us with some laughs together and reminders that we all need, plus it's given us some good discussion topics after we listen to each story and discuss what we learned or how we felt about that particular lesson. I think most people would enjoy this and relate to the stories, regardless of spiritual or religious leanings.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
Generally I'm interested in social psychology, but this one was tough to get through. It read a lot like a textbook and didn't hold my interest 50% of the time. The book itself is about the moral judgments we make about other people, whether these are innate or learned, and it explains why "morality blinds and binds." (i.e. it blinds us to the flaws in our own beliefs, but also binds us to others who share our beliefs.) It also talks about the importance of those binds for the success of humanity, despite the blinding flaws. I was tempted to give up this book 2/3 of the way through but I'm glad I finished it because the last few chapters ended up being the most interesting to me, particularly the section about religion and the author's "hive switch" theory. It also had a quote about happiness that I especially liked, and I talked more in depth about that in this post. That particular quote also made me go on to read The Happiness Hypothesis by the same author since I wanted to dive deeper into that topic. I wouldn't recommend this one to most people unless you have a strong natural interest in new theories and studies about human psychology and morality.

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
This book is essentially the ultimate study and analysis of happiness. If you are up for deep-diving into the tested, studied and analyzed facts and theories of what really makes people happy, then this is the best and most thorough book I've read so far on this topic. This article about the Economics of Happiness quotes extensively from the book and serves as a good summary of the book, so if that interests you and makes you want to learn more, definitely get the book because it goes deeper into every topic. There are a few books I've read this year (especially by Malcolm Gladwell) that I know I want to read again every 1-2 years because I learned so much and it's impossible to retain everything, and this will be one of those books for me. Unfortunately I do have to say that the narrator for this was not my cup of tea. At all. Jonathan Haidt narrated the previous book himself, and I wish he'd done so for this one because the narrator's voice didn't do the topic justice. His tone was like a grandfatherly news anchor and it wasn't very engaging, especially compared to Jonathan's own narration, which was dynamic and more engaging. Kind of funny that I found the content of this book more interesting despite the drab narration, and the previous book a little boring despite the preferable narrator!

Millionaire Influencer by Yuli Ziv
This was another good recommendation by Rachelle. (By the way, she mainly posts her current reads and reviews in her weekly newsletter so sign up for that if you're interested in getting her recommendations.) This book is written for bloggers/Instagrammers etc. who have been at it awhile but haven't taken their platform(s) to the next level. (Sound familiar?) This book contained very practical advice and if anything, I wouldn't say it inspired me so much as gave me an extra dose of contentment with my current level of being a non-mega-blogger. Their trips and brand collaborations all look amazing and envy-worthy, but the way the author broke it down on a business level was a good reminder of the fact that nothing comes for free. She recommends making your blog/digital platform #1 priority for a full year (scaling back on other activities, your full-time job, family time etc. if necessary) along with several other specific steps if you want to go "next level." I know I prefer a more balanced lifestyle approach and more personal time/privacy than she advises, so after reading I'd say odds are not in my favor for becoming the next millionaire influencer.
*This is not available in audiobook format so I read the e-book version.

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And that's it for my reviews this month! But I have a question for you all! Does anyone know what happened to the Amazon Prime Book Deals? In July I posted the steps for Prime Members to access their free pre-release book each month, but when I went to access my book for this month, I found that the menu options have changed and I can no longer find Kindle Books/Kindle First. I can only get to Prime Reading, and it's not the same. I can't find any news on the discontinuation of this benefit either, but I'm sad if it's gone so soon after I only recently discovered it! If any of you have found it elsewhere or know what happened to it I'd love to hear about it!


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25 comments:

  1. getting the happiness hypothesis now, love these reviews.

    xo
    Pinksole

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    1. Thanks Rachelle! I think that book will be right up your alley. I learned a lot!

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  2. I always love your book reviews and I Am Watching You is in my list to read. Kindle First should still be there for you. I got A Tangled Mercy for October. If you go to the Kindle eBook category and look under "More in Kindle" on the left hand side, you should see Kindle First. I hope that makes sense and you find it. But if you can't, contact them.

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    1. Ahh!! Thank you so much! I was able to find it through your instructions! For anyone else reading this I'll update the post with some screenshots for navigational assistance in case anyone else had a hard time tracking it down!

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  3. I Am Watching You sounds fascinating! I'm glad to hear you liked it. I also need to read something by Colleen Hoover; some of hers sound really good.

    Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Oh yes, definitely give her a try! November 9 and It Ends with Us are two of my favorites.

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    2. Those are my favorites of Hoover's too! Think I'll probably pass on Without Merit after reading your review.

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  4. I like the two books I've read by Renee Carlino. That was one of them!

    I Am Watching You is still on Netgalley. I'm hoping I can get it.

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    1. I neeeed to sign up for NetGalley. This link up reminds me of it every month! LOL.

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  5. ohhhh I am Watching You sounds terrifying.
    such a bummer about the sandra brown book! i will probably give that one a go just to see. she has a new book out called seeing red, i have it on my kindle and am hoping it is as good as mean streak, or at least better than the other flops.
    Wish You Were Here is on my kindle so yay! glad you liked it. so cool the author lives there, i would love to go to a book signing or something. so cool!
    i am not good with unique names in books. Merit, seriously? lol. i'm pretty sure i read a book once where the main character was named Honeysuckle so i guess Merit isn't too bad.

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    1. LOL, I read your book reviews this month and I'm pretty sure you had some way more "out there" character names! Actually, "I am Watching You" wasn't that scary to me. Just...a good amount of suspense!

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  6. I have I Am Watching You already, and it sounds like it'd be a good book to pick up soon! I also think that Wish You Were Here sounds very interesting! I always love reading books that are set in current times, and that are in a city that I've visited before too. I bet that it's even cooler if you live there!

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    1. Yeah, it was fun to know a lot of the local things she talked about! And the current pop culture was fun, too.

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  7. I am Watching You and Wish You Were Here sound really good, adding them to my TBR. I used to love Sandra Brown back when romance was my favorite genre. She is a really good writer but definitely has a formula that can get a bet stale and predictable if you binge her books. I need to give Colleen Hoover a try. I see her books all the time but haven't picked up one yet.

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    1. Okay, if you loved Sandra Brown definitely give Colleen a try! Colleen's books don't really have the mystery element that Sandra's do, but I think her character development is better.

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  8. Just added some of these to my TBR - and I'm bummed that I've been a Prime member for almost two years and only found out about Kindle First last month. Oh well ... 🙂

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    1. Well I only found out in July if that makes you feel better! And I think I've had Prime since it first came out! But definitely better late than never!

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  9. Man its been a hot minute since Ive read a Sandra Brown book and I used to love her!!

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    1. Well, if you haven't read Mean Streak that would be my top/only recommendation!

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  10. I've been hooked on reading about how to grow my blog lately, so thanks for another resource!

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    1. Depending on how long you've been blogging you might enjoy her first book too. i read that one awhile back and it was pretty good too. :)

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  11. I might have to check out that Colleen Hoover book. I've been hesitant to read more of her because the romance doesn't do it for me but this one sounds like I'd enjoy it

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  12. I have I am Watching You on my kindle and can't wait to read it! It's been a busy month for me and I wasn't able to get as much reading done as I normally do. I am glad to see you thought it was a good one!

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  13. Glad you found The Happiness Hypothesis meaningful! I have loved studying it in depth. Been so great for me. I plan to keep the book too and will refer to it for years. Have you read Thinking Fast and Slow? I can't remember. Just listened to Kahneman's interview with Krista Tippett on "On Being." Definitely makes me want to move it up on the list. Thanksgiving break!

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  14. I love books on happiness. Just added The Happiness Hypothesis to my TBR. I haven't read a ton of thrillers, but always say I want to.. and then rarely do read them. Maybe someday I'll get more into them. I really want to try some Hoover as well, I've heard great things. I love short stories, so I am excited about Opening the Door to Your Heart, so cool that you are listening to it with your family. :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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