2/13/18

Book Reviews: February

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It's book review day! On the second Tuesday of every month I share all the books I've read in the past month along with my thoughts on them and whether or not I think they were worth the read. This month it's been five weeks since my last review so I got through a few extra books this time. I've also been cutting back on social media time (I think you'll see why based on some of the books I read this month), and I'm not into any TV shows right now, so it's been kind of amazing to see how much all that time adds up.


Fiction:

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Plot: A teenage boy goes on a shooting rampage at his high school. Through multiple narrator perspectives, we learn about the series of life events and experiences that lead up to the day of the shooting. After the shooting, we examine the impact on the lives of the surviving students, parents, and key community members.
My Verdict: This book was very well written and did a great job of giving readers a new perspective and sense of compassion for people that society might typically blame in a tragedy like this. It did take a lot of time to build the characters and their backstory, and that portion of the book didn't always hold my interest. It took almost half of the book for me to become invested in the story and the outcome, so I enjoyed the second half more than the first. As you can tell from the subject matter, this is not a happy, fun or uplifting book. It's a "make you think" book, and it does a good job of that. Would I read another book by this author? Yes, she's definitely a talented writer. Overall I liked it but didn't love it. I guess because even though I understood each character's motives and feelings, I still didn't personally connect with any of them.

Most of All You by Mia Sheridan
Plot: A stripper is approached by a client with a very unusual request...and I don't mean unusual in the way you might be thinking with regards to a stripper. The client has a tragic past and needs the help of a woman to overcome some of it, but doesn't know how to approach any other woman in his real life about his particular request.
My Verdict: Despite how it sounds, the story was kind of sweet but predictable. This is the book Kristen and I chose to read together for the month because we like comparing notes on the same book. I would probably rate this one 3.5 out of 5 stars, and Kristen asked me if there was something I didn't like about it. The answer is no, there wasn't anything I particularly disliked about it. It was a quick read that was entertaining and enjoyable enough, but it lacked any twists, turns, multi-dimensional characters or anything really extra that would make it a great read for me.

She's Not There by Joy Fielding
Plot: While a young family is on vacation in Mexico, one of their children is kidnapped out of their hotel room. The narrative goes back and forth between the present (15 years after the kidnapping) and the past as the mother deals with the fallout of the child's disappearance and her hope to find her daughter alive.
My Verdict: Recommend! This was a good page turner. If you read The Couple Next Door you should enjoy this one. It actually starts out in a very similar manner, but not to worry, the rest of the storyline is different. A bonus for me was that the main character lives in San Diego so I was familiar with a lot of the streets and locations. There were two family members who really annoyed me, but I just figured they were meant to be antagonistic. And let's face it, some people are really annoying in real life! 

Wait for It by Mariana Zapata
Plot: Diana is a 20-something woman struggling to get by as a hairstylist and raise her two young nephews after the untimely death of her brother. She moves to a new neighborhood for better schools/life for the boys and ends up meeting two of her very attractive male neighbors under some unusual and potentially awkward circumstances.
My Verdict: I loved this one. This is my third book by this author and possibly my favorite. I love the way she carefully builds the relationships between the characters. I do think she writes a lot of similar characters (e.g. the female leads could all be the same person...but then that would ruin the previous love story she just wrote so she gives them a new name), but it doesn't inhibit my enjoyment of the process. This was a really cute story that has you rooting for certain people to get together all along.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Plot: Hazel is a terminal cancer patient who meets a boy at her cancer support group and they hit it off right away. Obviously, this is not going to end well, yet the author manages to inject enough humor that it keeps the story fun and sweet rather than depressing, although it's still a tearjerker.
My Verdict: I liked this so much more than I expected! I was so worried going into it...I knew it was going to be sad and I just didn't see how I could enjoy it very much if that were the case. But the author's writing style was so fun and the story moved along quickly. Yes, I cried a lot while reading it but in this case it was worth it. I haven't seen the movie and probably won't, but I will definitely recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it.

From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
The Plot: Jasmine is a professional figure skater who is down on her luck. She's competed in singles and pairs but hasn't achieved the kind of success she's always wanted. She's offered the chance to partner up with Ivan Lukov for a season, a very successful male skater who trains at the same facility and has always been her nemesis.
My Verdict: This is my fourth book by this author, but unfortunately it was my least favorite of hers.  The biggest issue for me was that this couple loves to bicker. That was their preferred form of flirtation, but for me it was really annoying. It reminded me of bickering with my brother in childhood and there was absolutely nothing romantic about that. The love story part was cute when they were actually getting along, but the constant bickering really took away from it. Also, this was less of an issue but it bothered me nonetheless...I noticed the author said the main characters blinked at each other and other characters approximately 752 times in the book (I didn't actually count of course, but it seemed like every other page someone blinked at someone else). It became distracting! Why all the blinking? I think I'm making it sound like I didn't like the book at all, and that's not really the case. It held my interest and was basically entertaining, I just didn't love it. The reviews on Amazon (ALL five stars at this point!) show that I am clearly in the minority in this.

Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil
The Plot: Emma's six year old son disappears during a flood and is presumed dead. Ten years later, he is found wandering along the road but he's unable to speak and answer any questions about where he's been all this time. Emma tries to find answers and begins to suspect everyone around her.
My Verdict: This book was okay...kind of interesting and suspenseful but a bit slow in parts. There was a lot of reminiscing about the past that had too much unnecessary detail for me so I ended up skimming through some of that. It did hold my interest enough to want to finish it to find out the answer to the mystery. But then...the ending. UGH. Without spoiling, I just thought the whole resolution of what happened to the boy was very implausible. It frustrated me so much it ruined the whole book. Ultimately I wouldn't recommend this one.

After our first book of the month (Most of All You) , Kristen and I ended up reading two more fiction books together: "From Lukov with Love" and "Silent Child." If you want a different take on either of those books (and most likely a dozen or so other books she read this month) stop on by her blog today for her thoughts!

Nonfiction

Irresistible by Adam Alter
This was my favorite nonfiction book of the month and one I'd really like to read again. A lot of times I lose focus during audiobooks and don't pay attention to every word, but this one was engaging and really held my interest. This book carefully examines the addictive nature of technology today. There was a lot of emphasis on social media (Instagram and Facebook in particular) that gave me some good food for thought on my own habits and even my strategies as a blogger. I especially liked a lot of the explanations and comparison to gambling in a casino. I can easily imagine Instagram as virtual casino where you see the person next to you winning a big jackpot and think, "Hey, I'm playing the slots just like her. Why didn't I win? Maybe if I try my luck one more time...." Whether you look at "winning" as likes or followers or collaborations, it's always easy find someone with more than you and think you just need one more thing to get there. I've certainly been caught in that trap and this helped me step back and consider how much time I really want to spend in the casino at all, regardless of how much someone else wins there. Anyway, sorry for the tangent there, but that was really the take home message for me. Overall I highly recommend this book for anyone who uses a smartphone or tablet, with an extra dose of strong recommendation for anyone who is a parent.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes
Shonda is the writer behind popular TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy and Scandal (neither of which I watch, for what it's worth). Despite her success, she felt like life was passing her by a little and she wasn't living it to the fullest, so she challenged herself to just say yes to whatever came her way for a year. This decision ended up changing her life for the better, and the book highlights her experiences and lessons learned. Personally, I felt I had already gone through a lot of these things many years ago so it wasn't the most relevant to me right now. But I did find her to be an inspiring person and I think this book would be good for people who have not tackled a lot of their fears and need some motivation to step outside their comfort zone. Shonda had a lot of good insight and I saved quite a few quotes. I have to admit her writing style was a little tedious to me at times. But hey, she's an award winning writer and I'm not, so take that for what it's worth! All in all this is in the "enjoyed but didn't love" category, mainly just due to it not being the best fit for my current stage of life. 

The Four by Scott Galloway
This book was a very interesting look at the way Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have come to dominate the market and infiltrate our everyday lives. It wasn't the most entertaining book but it was a good eye opener about just how much these companies shape all of our lives and what they get away with behind the scenes, so to speak. At times the author was rather hostile towards some of the founders of these companies, and I guess it surprised me because I expected the book to be more analysis and less opinion. And to be fair, there is plenty of analysis, the opinions were just strong and randomly interjected. It also had some good career advice in the last few chapters that I'll probably make my kids listen to at some point before they go to college...assuming the world doesn't change radically again in the next few years! Overall...I don't recommend this to everyone but if it sounds like your kind of thing you'll probably get enough out of it to make it worth your time.

Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle
If you work in a management position in a corporate job or coach some kind of team, this book will probably give you some good ideas on how to create a strong group culture. As it happens, neither of those things are part of my life so this book wasn't especially relevant for me. The author studied several successful groups (from Pixar to Zappos the San Antonio Spurs) to find out what made them click, and this book covers the key things he learned from his research. It was interesting in parts, but my mind wandered a lot because I knew it wasn't something I could really put into practice in my own life.

Did Not Finish: Behave by Robert M. Sapolsky. I'm mentioning this here just in case Amazon recommends it to you like it did for me! This audiobook is 26 hours long. I gave it ten hours of my life and gave up. I wanted to learn from it but wow, it was just over my head. The author gave a lot of terminology and definitions in the first few chapters, and then 4 hours later he expects you to recall that definition. I didn't recall that much detail so I had no idea what he was talking about. Then to make matters worse, he would say things like, "I'm sure you see where I'm going with this." Or, "if you recall what I said in Chapter 867, then I think you get the point here." Nope. I didn't see where he was going, I didn't get the point, so I would only recommend this if you are a neuroscientist.


Current Reads + Up Next:

Current Nonfiction: Alone Together. The first half was not my jam (it was about human-robot relationships) so I skipped ahead to the second half (the effect of technology, social media etc. on human relationships) and I'm enjoying it much more

Current Fiction: Hidden. The switching narratives were confusing at first (because the author doesn't tell you who is doing the narrating and you have to figure it out), but now the story is interesting and I'm hooked.

Up Next: Nemesis by Brendan Reichs is the book Kristen and I will be co-reading and reviewing in March. I also want to read The Woman in the Window per Tracy's recommendation and Kristin Hannah's latest book, The Great Alone since I've really enjoyed her other books! On the nonfiction side, I have The Power of Full Engagement on my to-read list thanks to Kristi's recommendation.

Thanks for stopping by today and I can't wait to hear which of these you've read, plan to read, or any other book recommendations you have for me!


Linking up with: Steph & Jana | Stephanie

CONVERSATION

32 comments:

  1. Irresistible was so good and I'm currently reading pre-suasion. So far so good, wait for it sounds like an enjoyable fiction. Will add it to my list.

    xo
    Pinksole

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    1. Glad you are enjoying pre-suasion! I honestly will be curious to see if you like any of the same fiction books since I only know how much our tastes overlap on nonfiction!

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  2. Putting "She's Not There" and "Wait For It" on my list of next reads! I love your book reviews <3

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  3. Your comment about all the blinking in From Lukov made me laugh! I haven't read that one but I keep hearing (mixed) things about it! I read 19 Minutes a long time ago and remember enjoying it but not being a favorite of hers for me. There are a few here I'll have to add to my list--Wait For It and She's Not There sound good!

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    1. I've definitely heard that other Jodi Piccoult books are better (I guess it all comes down to personal preferences) so eventually I'm sure I'll read another.

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  4. so, i rarely leave or read amazon reviews for books, but lots of people on goodreads agreed with you about from lukov with love, so you're not alone. i fully admit i am obsessed with her and would probably love to read her grocery list, you know? i also am a fan of hate to love books, so the bickering doesn't bother me, though i don't think the relationship was as developed as i'd like. i wanted to hear that he'd been secretly in love with her all his life or whatever. but i still loved it because of aforementioned obsession ;) but don't worry, you're not alone. oh and lots of people mentioned the blinking too. i get what she was trying to do there but it did get annoying.
    i do agree about most of all you. i feel like all the blurbs for her books sound so intense, and i know i've only read 2, but they aren't as intense as i think they are going to be and there are no big twists or angst. i am saving her most popular one for last (Archer's voice) and i really hope it's good.
    i am SO glad you loved wait for it. i think that might be my second favourite after winnipeg. i do agree about the main characters, though i think that about a lot of authors who write multiple books lol.
    i am glad you liked the fault in our stars!
    Irresistible sounds very interesting and I will absolutely check it out.
    i cannot stand when authors don't tell you who is narrating. that would drive me bonkers.
    can't wait for Nemesis! let me know when you read it. I want to read The Woman in the Window as well, I'm waiting for my bestie to finish so I can borrow her copy. I have The Great Alone on my kindle, so I'll get to that one soon too.

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    1. I will let you know when I start Nemesis! Thanks for mentioning the Goodreads reviews on Lukov. I read a few with 3 stars or less and felt a lot better about my opinion! I do understand why people loved it, I just didn't for all the reasons stated. I also don't write reviews on Amazon books, and I've learned not to read them until after I read a book. I just look at the star rating if I need help deciding but I try not to read the reviews because they affect my experience.

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  5. That's great you really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars. I love John Green - my favorite by him is still Looking for Alaska though. :)

    I read Year of Yes when it came out, and I liked it. I think those year long type of memoirs are fascinating.

    -lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Looking for Alaska is on my list...just a bit further down since I need some emotional reprieve after The Fault in our Stars! (Actually, I don't even know if all his books are sad...I'm just protecting myself anyway!)

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  6. I always love your reviews, Gina! Reading Hannah's The Great Alone now, but only 50 pages in. You had me with the description of Lukov With Love, but I'm not so sure now after your review! You had a great reading month!

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    1. Thanks Laura! I wanted it to be like The Cutting Edge but the chemistry didn't pan out that way for me. Some people loved it though...so you never know. Might depend on how much you see bickering as flirtation vs. behavior that calls for parents to step in! LOL!

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  7. Irresistible sounds very interesting! I'm going to look into it!

    The Fault In Our Stars was amazing!! The movie is terribly sad, but it does have Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort .. and I think a cameo by John Green, but I might be remembering that wrong. the book stays pretty true to the movie.

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    1. Oh that's fun that he has a cameo in the movie! Still don't think I'm ready to go through the emotional trauma all over again though! Ha.

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  8. Yay I loved Wait for It and I really liked From Lukov with Love too...I know what you mean about the blinking although I think I kind of tuned it out after awhile. Most of all you is on my list!!

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    1. Apparently I exaggerated the blinking count. Someone on Goodreads counted 152...but it still felt like a lot! LOL!

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  9. She's Not There sounds really good, adding it to my TBR. I loved The Year of Yes. Like you, I don't watch her shows but I could definitely relate to her because I was in a similar place.

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    1. She's Not There wasn't life-changing-amazing or anything, but I did like it and had just the minor complaints rather than major irritation like I did with several other books this month.

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  10. I definitely want to start reading more non-fiction books and the Year of Yes has been on the list forever!

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    1. Oh that would be a great one to start with if you're trying to get into non-fiction! Shonda just seemed so likeable.

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  11. Sounds like you read some good books this month! She's Not There and Wait For It are definitely going on my ever-growing list of books to read!

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    1. Oh man, you are in such a busy stage! Books took backseat in my life when my kids were age 0-5. :)

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  12. The Fault in Our Stars is SUCH a sobfest, but I loved it! And Jodi Picoult always rocks my world with her writing.

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  13. 19 Minutes is on my TBR and so are all of Mariana Zapata books. Can you believe my library doesn't have any? So rude. I am adding Irresistible to my list, sounds interesting.

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    1. Whaaat?! Are they banned or something? As far as the romance genre goes they are honestly pretty tame! But maybe she's just not that well known outside of internet book circles/Friends of Kristen?? Ha!

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  14. The Zapata books sound like something that would be good for me to read on the beach.

    I love Jodi Picoult and have been reading her for almost 20 years. If you liked her writing, try some more!

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    1. Yes...Zapata's books are perfect for a vacation read! Except from Lukov with Love...read that one only if you're going on a ski vacation and don't mind a lot of arguing.

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  15. Nineteen Minutes is one of my favorite Jodi Picoult books and I have read every single one. I highly recommend most of them. Except The 10th Circle. Don’t read that one.

    And I have a massive crush on John Green.

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    1. LOL, thanks for the tip on The 10th Circle! I'll skip that, and so far no one has recommended that particular one to me.

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  16. I have The Fault in Our Stars on my to-read list, but I haven't gotten around to read it yet.

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  17. Wow, looks like a great reading month! I read Year of Yes last month too and enjoyed it quite a bit. I don't watch any of her shows, but I liked the conversational tone and some of the ideas - I'm at the point where I DO need to be tackling a few similar things in life :)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I sincerely appreciate each and every one and always do my best to answer questions promptly!