1/9/18

January Book Reviews 1/9/17

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Welcome to my January Book reviews! It was a good month since I had some extra down time with the holiday break and I got through a couple of extra books. As always, I try to keep my fiction reviews free of any major spoilers for those who haven't read the book. As for nonfiction, I can't really review them without explaining the major theme of the content, so hopefully I can give you enough information to make an informed decision about whether it's something you will enjoy or not!
Top Row: Confessions of a Domestic Failure | Kulti | My Not So Perfect Life | Every Last Lie
Bottom Row: Win Bigly | Pre-Suasion | The How of Happiness  | We're Going to Need More Wine

Fiction
Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
Plot: Ashley is a fairly new stay-at-home-mom to a baby girl. She's struggling to find her way as a mom and feels like she she can never get her home as well maintained or her child as well behaved as her peers or the blogger that she idolizes. She enters a motherhood bootcamp run by her favorite blogger with the hopes that it will help her improve her situation.
My Verdict. Ridiculous. I really didn't care for this book and finished it just to see how it would be resolved and if there was any redemption. On the surface I'm sure it sounds relatable to most moms, but (in what I suppose was an attempt to be humorous), the author exaggerated the characteristics of every character. Ashley was a deliberate over-the-top disaster (of her own making in many ways), and the blogger and other friends she admired were absurd in their perfection and stereotypical mom roles. I didn't connect with any of the characters and didn't find the humor very funny...just eye roll inducing.

Kulti by Mariana Zapata
Plot: Sal is a professional female soccer player who trains hard and works just as hard at her day job since being a female pro player doesn't pay the bills. She is shocked to find out that Kulti (imagine David Beckham except German), the world famous soccer player she admired and had a crush on all through her childhood and teen years  has just been hired to become the assistant coach of her pro team. The man is nothing like she expected in person and their relationship gets off to a strained start when she has to rescue him in a particular situation that I won't spoil.
My Verdict: I ended up really enjoying this book, but there was so much detail about soccer and training as a professional soccer player that I ended up skimming because I wasn't into it. It took almost half of the book for the relationship to become the main focus, but when it did, it was worth it. There are a few minor things I could nitpick (e.g. the character of Sal's sister didn't seem to serve any real purpose and the male lead was really similar to the male lead in The Wall of Winnipeg by the same author), but ultimately it was a good read and I'll definitely read more by this author.
Side Note: This book says "Quality Issues Reported" on Amazon. I did notice that on my Kindle version there were a handful of pages (a dozen or two dozen? I can't really remember) where the line spacing was off and there was way too much blank space between some paragraphs. It didn't stay that way the entire book and it didn't really disrupt my enjoyment of the book, so don't let that stop you from getting the book.

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Plot: Katie is a girl who grew up on a farm but is desperate to leave the country life behind and make it big in London. She struggles to fit in at the office, make ends meet, find anyone worth dating, and cope with her quirky roommates. She wishes her life was a little more like her boss's life, which seems just about perfect, but Katie just can't seem to get a break.
My Verdict: This was probably my favorite book this month and one I'd recommend if you've ever read and enjoyed anything else by Sophie Kinsella. It was easy to get into, laugh-out-loud funny in so many parts, and just good entertainment from beginning to end.

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
Plot: This book opens with Clara recalling the last conversation she ever had with her now-deceased husband Nick. He died in a car accident, but in the days following the accident, Clara starts to discover things about the accident and Nick that just don't make sense with what she thought she knew. This book alternates between Clara's present perspective and Nick's perspective in the months leading up to his death, so the suspense builds as Clara tries to put the puzzle pieces together after the accident, alternated with what we know was actually going on with Nick from his narrative.
My Verdict: I would rate this somewhere between "okay" and "pretty good." The story was easy to get into and follow and there was enough suspense to keep me guessing and reading...that's the "pretty good" part. The "okay" verdict comes from the majority of the ending: it fell flat and left some unresolved issues with regards to the supporting cast of characters. Nick's narrative was a bit easier for me to believe than Clara's. Ultimately this book passed the time just fine but won't make it on to my top favorites/recommendations list.

Non Fiction:
Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter by Scott Adams
Last month I read a book by Scott Adams (reviewed here) and enjoyed it so much I immediately ordered this one without knowing much about it. If I had read some of the reviews...I probably wouldn't have picked this because even though it's about the psychology of persuasion (which I do find fascinating), it's also completely about politics and how elections are won and lost on the persuasion game of the candidates. Most specifically it's about how Scott Adams predicted a Trump win in the 2016 election despite all odds and when practically no other pundits were making the same prediction. He was watching the election on a persuasion level, and he breaks down each maneuver and step or misstep by both the Clinton and Trump campaign in that regard. He quotes heavily from Robert Cialdini's Influence (which I've read twice and highly recommend) and Pre-Suasion (reviewed below) as the foundation for his interpretation. It was a fascinating read, but not entirely my cup of tea because of the heavy political analysis. If you are interested in going over the 2016 campaign with a fine-toothed comb and analyzing it on a completely different level than you've previously considered, then yes, read this book. Otherwise just read the two books by Cialdini and skip this.

Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini
As mentioned above, Influence by this author is one of the best books I've read on behavioral science, so the follow-up was a must-read for me. The gist of the book is that if you want to influence someone to think or act a certain way, there are critical steps you need to take just prior to making your move/request in order to get the desired reaction. The author gives some very specific and interesting examples or how pre-suasion has been used from a small level (a salesman gaining your trust) to a major level (why some people were more willing than others to risk their lives to hide Jews during WWII). This book was good and certainly enlightening, but I didn't find it as eye opening as the first. Probably because I've read so many other books with similar themes since then that the information just didn't feel as new. It's a good book but I would recommend mainly to people with a particular interest in psychology or a career in sales.

The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky
Similar in theme to one of my favorites from last year, The Happiness Hypothesis, this book is essentially list of lessons we can learn from the scientific research on happiness along with recommendations of how to act on those lessons to improve your happiness. This book had some really great quotes and ideas - I especially loved the chapter on goals and found that to be great motivation for this time of year. That said, I didn't like it quite as much as The Happiness Hypothesis for a few reasons. 1) A lot of the information wasn't "new" to me (I'm seeing a trend here and this is something I'll have to watch with my nonfiction selections in 2018). 2) Many of the suggestions for action-toward-happiness involved some kind of writing assignment. I don't doubt that it would be an effective strategy in many cases, but I felt like I'd been asked to write a 4,000 autobiographical novel by the time I finished the book. And 3) I felt the author repeated the terms "research shows" over and over without going into many more specifics of the research. Maybe the print version would have footnotes and references to said research, but on the audiobook version it just didn't click for me.

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union
After the three previous books, I knew I needed something completely different and refreshing for my next nonfiction pick. This one came recommended by Kristen so I gave it a go even though I really didn't know much at all about Gabrielle Union's personal life or career to think that she would be of interest to me. But what a fun read! I repeatedly find that actresses make the best audiobook narrators and this was no exception. I felt like I was on a long, personal phone call with Gabrielle and she was spilling all of her life secrets and most valuable lessons via personal stories. Some were funny, some were sad, but all of them were entertaining and rang true. I definitely recommend this one if you want a girlfriend-gossip type book. I will also note that she shared some very frank sexual experiences that made me uncomfortable at first. When it happened early in the book, I was thinking in my head, "I don't know you well enough yet for you to be telling me this!" Something about hearing personal experiences felt different and more intimate than reading about the encounters of fictional characters. But by the end of the book I felt closer to her so the sharing seemed more natural. Regardless, all of her stories did have a point and a lesson so it didn't just seem like over-sharing. I enjoyed this book a lot and recommend it if you like chick lit or have enjoyed other celeb books like Lauren Graham's.


Up Next:
If you want to read along with me or share your thoughts on any of these selections, here's what I'm currently reading or planning to read this month:

I've heard so many good things about Jodi Picoult from so many people but for some reason never picked up one of her books...until now. I asked for recommendations on my Instagram stories and whoa! Lots of Jodi fans! I made a list of all the suggestions for future reference, but Nineteen Minutes by got the most recommendations so I went for it first. I'm about 20% into it and it hasn't grabbed me immediately, but I can see that we're still in the building phase so I'm trusting everyone that it will be worth the time.

Kristen has been doing a great job of sharing book deals on her Instagram stories every day, and I bought these two recently because of her. I never used to buy a new book before finishing the one I was reading, but it's such a great way to save on books so I don't mind having a bit of a backlog now. Up next on my Kindle: Most of all You by Mia Sheridan and Wait for It by Marianna Zapata.

And finally, for nonfiction I'm just starting  Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping us Hooked.  With my current Time Management goals I thought I could use some positive reinforcements. After that I plan to read  Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes thanks to many great reviews on this book!


Linking up with: Steph & JanaStephanie

CONVERSATION

33 comments:

  1. I've had Confessions of a Domestic Failure on my Audible Wish List for a while now and have always hesitated to actually choose based on reviews that echo yours. You've confirmed it for me. I've replaced Confessions with My Not So Perfect Life. I always appreciate your thorough reviews.

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    1. I think that's a smart trade! Maybe "Confessions" will speak to some people...just not me! LOL.

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  2. I had been meaning to read The Year of Yes for awhile and bought it as a Kindle deal for like $1.99. I love some strong nonfiction but haven’t been able to get into behavioral science as much as I hoped (with a few exceptions like Laura Vanderkam and Gretchen Rubin)

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    1. Yeah, I know it's not going to be everyone's thing. It's a particular area of interest/fascination for me but my large appetite for this topic is probably in the minority!

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  3. I love all of Kristen's book deals and I am so happy I found out about Mariana Zapata through her. I read Kulti last week and loved it :) Wait for It was good too though!! Next up for me is Dear Aaron by her, I think.

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    1. I never would have tried Mariana without Kristen's recommendations! The covers and titles do not speak to me at all, so I'm glad she INSISTED. LOL!

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  4. I felt the same way about Kubica's book. It was just, meh. I had thought about reading Confessions of a Domestic Failure, but I think after your review, I will pass!

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    1. Glad I'm not alone in my feelings on Every Last Lie! I enjoyed it enough while I was reading it, but then after it ended and I was thinking about how to review it, I got more and more frustrated with the way things happened and certain characters didn't really get any resolution.

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  5. I still need to read My Not So Perfect Life. I want to though! I really loved Year of Yes, so hopefully you will too. I'm a fan of those type of nonfiction books.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I've heard great things about Year of Yes from a few people so I'm looking forward to it!

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  6. hahaha i laughed so hard at your review for Confessions of a Domestic Failure. when i saw that you were reading that one, i wanted to warn you i hadn't heard great things haha.
    glad you liked Kulti! the sister was weird. i did not have those same issues with my kindle version, not that i remember anyway? that's weird though. i think i remember more spelling/grammatical errors in that one.
    so so glad you liked My Not So Perfect Life! i really enjoyed it. she has a new one coming out called Surprise Me, hope it's as good. it's on netgalley, but doesn't come out till... late jan or early feb?
    i totally agree about feeling like i was on a long personal phone call with Gabrielle and yeah when she started talking about the super honest stuff i was like wait, hold up. TMI. but then i appreciated it.
    you have created a monster with me sharing book deals haha. and i'm glad you have a bit of a backlog and don't mind. i have an obscene backlog. when mia sheridan's book went on sale, i happened to be at the gym with my friend and i was like i have to buy it. it's on sale and her books never go on sale. my friend was like you have 200+ books on your kindle, don't you? and i was like.. well, yes. but i don't have *this* one and it's 50% off, don't you see? I NEED IT.
    you mentioned we both read/reviewed gabrielle's in the same month, so we should try and do that with mia sheridan's book. let me know when you start to read it lol

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    1. It was so fun to read your thoughts on the same book! I sent you an email about planning for next month! And thanks for the news on a new Kinsella book! I will be on the lookout!

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  7. Love your book rec's- and I'm a huge Sophie Kinsella fan!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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    1. She's a go-to for me. I think I like her non-shopaholic books better than that series because the characters were more relatable!

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  8. I have zero interest in reliving any of the hell of the 2016 election or its horrific outcome so I'll skip that one.

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    1. Haha, good choice. I would say it's a hard pass for most people!

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  9. I wasn't a huge fan of Kubica's book. Mostly I felt like the main character needed a 5150 psychiatric hold and child services to be called. I enjoyed My Not-So Perfect Life. Kinsella always knows how to make my laugh. I'm definitely interested in Gabrielle Union's memoir. While I'm not a diehard fan, I've been really impressed with what I've seen from her book tour.

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    1. Oh definitely give Gabrielle's book a chance! I couldn't say I was a fan of hers at all before picking it up (I was just...indifferent...only vaguely knew of her from a few movies like Bring it On and 10 Things I Hate About You) but I grew to really like and respect her. And YES to Clara's issues in the Kubica book! I just couldn't believe that she would repeatedly leave her kids in the car for extended periods of time...in the summer. Among other things I don't want to spoil much. But let's just say the baseball bat scene was another WTF moment for me.

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  10. I really loved My Not So Perfect Life!!! I had Domestic Failure on my TBR but I am thinking I might just take that right back off after reading your review. I have Kulti on my list and I am glad to see you liked it. I havne't read any of her books, but hear so many good things I am pretty sure I will enjoy it!

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    1. Kulti did take awhile to really get me hooked, but in the end I do really appreciate the way the author carefully develops the relationships.

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  11. Another great review, fun fact for the longest time Gabrielle Union lived in South Florida she is married to Dwayne Wade a basketball player, I've known her since she was a teen, she's in the movie Bring it on.

    xo
    Pinksole

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    1. es! She talked a lot about living in Florida and her experiences as a step mom to his sons (and a lot of other stuff!). I think you would REALLY enjoy her book, especially if you already followed her career/life.

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  12. Oh no, I have Confessions of a Domestic Failure sitting on my nightstand! It's due back to the library next week, so maybe I'll pass. My Not So Perfect Life has been on my to read list. I read Kubica's other three books. Not sure I knew that she had written Every Last Lie. Based on your review, I may pass on that one too.

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    1. I know everyone likes different things so you never know...either one of them could be your thing. But...I just didn't love them. :/

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  13. I always like seeing what other people are reading! The Sophia Kinsella book sounds like exactly what I am looking for right now! Hopefully my library has it!

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  14. it is always great to visit your site.great blog.
    http://aplusdigitizing.com/

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  15. Ooh I love a book review post :) The happiness related books sound interesting to me, as one of my favorite non-fiction reads is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I really loved the mix of research and personal anecdotes in it, as you see her doing tangible things to improve happiness, focusing on a different area of life each month for a year. Have you read it?

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    1. I have only read "Better than Before" by Gretchen and I did not love it, which has made me a little hesitant to read anything else by her. :/ That said, it did have a couple of highlights for me (I especially liked the part about moderators vs. abstainers), so depending on the contents of the Happiness Project I could get on board with it. If it's mainly research + her personal experiences, that would be interesting. In "Better than Before" she had this theory of four different personality types and I felt she really tried to force the data to fit that theory and it just didn't work for me no matter how much she belabored the point. I'm taking a break from happiness books for a bit, but if I need a reminder/motivation boost I might look into her book again because I have heard good things about it. She did have good insights in "Better than Before" so I haven't written her off completely, I just haven't bumped her up on the reading priority list!

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  16. I need to see if My Not So Perfect Life is on my TBR!

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  17. You read a lot! I was going to say the first one sounded good until I read your synopsis. I like Sophie Kinsella so I'd like to read that one. I just recently read a Mary Kubica that was pretty good. I love Jodi Picoult. Nineteen Minutes is pretty good but not my all time favorite by her. That's either Perfect Match or Keeping Faith or Plain Truth!

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    1. Yeah, I think this was my least favorite of the three Kubica books I've read! I enjoyed it while reading it but the ending put a damper on all that! Ha. And I finished Nineteen Minutes recently! I agree with you...pretty good but I didn't love it. I liked it though and do see that Jodi is a very talented writer. I'll definitely keep your suggestions in mind for the next time I want to give her books a try! And yes! Definitely get the Sophie Kinsella book if you've like her others!

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  18. I love Sophia Kinsella so I am glad her newest novel did not disappoint! Happy Reading! Jess at Just Jess

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