6/12/18

June Book Reviews 6/12/18

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Welcome to my June Book Reviews! As usual I have a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and all reviews are free of any major spoilers. All of my non-fiction selections were audiobooks via Audible, which does affect my experience with the book. So with all that in mind, let's get on with the reviews!


Fiction:
This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Basic Plot: A family of five boys is in for a journey of challenges when the youngest boy decides he would rather be a girl.
My Verdict: I did not love this. It came highly rated and highly recommended, so maybe my expectations were too high, but it was a bit of a let down. I struggled to get into it and then I struggled to finish it. The middle was pretty engaging and I would even say some parts were very interesting. It just wasn't strong enough for me all throughout to put it on my "recommend" list. I did enjoy following along with how the family handled some very complicated issues with a transgender child and considering how I might handle that situation, so it gave me some worthwhile food for that. That said, the writing wandered and went on a lot of tangents that didn't really seem relevant to the core of the story. And I thought the ending was a little too neat for such a complex issue. Again, it was a decent book, just not great for me. I read this along with Kristen so for another POV on this book check out her post today.

Bright Side by Kim Holden
Basic Plot: Kate moves from San Diego to Minnesota to attend college and get a fresh start. Her life is more complicated than it seems at first glance: love, loss, and heartbreak all play a part in her story.
My Verdict: Recommend! Especially if you're a Colleen Hoover fan, this has similar elements of complicated romance. Be warned: this is definitely a tearjerker! I had to finish it in private because I didn't want anyone to ask why I was crying! I found this easy to get into and it held my interest well enough throughout, but I wasn't completely hooked or thinking it was anything special until about halfway through when some twists come into play. I won't spoil it, but do be aware the first half is more average. In fact, I was getting annoyed with Kate (the main character). For one, I thought the "San Diego Accent" was overplayed. Second, she was just too perfect: every guy wants her and every girl envies her...but she doesn't know she's beautiful. That's fine for a One Direction song but not endearing for me in a lead female. But...then things got more complicated and my opinion of Kate changed by the end of the book. That's all I can say without spoiling! When I finished it I immediately picked up the sequel (see next review) because I just could not wait to read more about the characters. Thanks to Alice for recommending this one!

Gus by Kim Holden
Basic Plot: Well, I don't want to spoil the previous book here so this review is tricky. It is a standalone book and you don't have to read Bright Side to understand it, but I don't recommend it as a standalone. This book puts one of the supporting characters from Bright Side in the spotlight
My Verdict: Recommend *only if*...you read Bright Side and want more closure. Overall this book was an easy read and fairly enjoyable to me, but it didn't measure up to Bright Side. I liked the way the primary relationship developed, but I didn't like one of the characters (Michael). He was meant to be an adversary, but his relationship with one of the main characters seemed too contrived as a plot point. Again, good enough as a follow-up/closure book, not quite so much on its own merits.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Basic Plot: Nora gets invited to the "hen party" (Bachelorette party as we call it in the states) for a friend she lost touch with a decade ago. She can't understand why she's being invited so she goes to satisfy her curiosity and things get strange from there.
My Verdict: Recommend. I've read two other books by Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game) and I liked this one at least as much as the Woman in Cabin 10, if not more. They Lying Game was just meh to me, so I definitely preferred this one to that. I had my expectations set that I wouldn't enjoy it, though. and I was happy to be wrong. It grabbed my interest from the start, the suspense built quickly and the overall the story held my interest throughout. I don't really have any complaints so I'd say this is a solid read for suspense fans.

The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
Basic Plot: Ellen is a hypnotherapist who learns that the man she is dating has an ex-girlfriend who is stalking him.
My Verdict: Recommend. Liane Moriarty is a reliably entertaining writer for me and this book was no exception. I wouldn't say it's my favorite of hers, but it grabbed my interest rather quickly and held it...75% of the way through. I think my biggest issue was that after the story peaked, it went on too long and there was too much detail given in the resolution. Aside from that, it's a fun and easy summer read.

Nonfiction:
Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
This book gives some very practical advice on how to help your children get along and how to avoid creating negative feelings between them as a parent. I didn't think my children had major issues with sibling rivalry going into it, but after reading the book I can see where I have some improvements to make. It also gave me some interesting insights into my own childhood and sibling relationships, which I wasn't expecting. Although I didn't enjoy every second of the book, it was ultimately worth my time to read since I gained some good insights and specific things I'd like to change. I also think it would be nice to have this in paperback form to highlight some specific tips that are relevant to me and review them periodically. At times I didn't love the narration of the book, e.g. the narrator uses baby/kid voices to role play conversations with children (including whining) and that got on my nerves as much as actual whining. But it was there to make it easier to distinguish between people in a conversation so I understood why they did it and can forgive that. All that said, I would recommend this to parents of multiple children since most likely you'll gain a few worthwhile ideas. Thanks to Shea for recommending this last month!

Against Empathy by Paul Bloom
I would never have expected anyone could make a solid case against empathy, nor could I imagine why they would want to try, but this book does just that! If you don't know this from some of my other reviews I love books that challenge "normal" ways of thinking. Anything that can make me question what I thought I knew is especially attractive. This book does indeed make some excellent points against empathy. I would say it convinced me to believe that empathy is overrated and many times a very ineffective tool for judgment, but I am not persuaded to be against it. If this topic sounds interesting to you then yes, I would recommend it. It was interesting enough to be worth my time. But if the concept has you thinking, "WTF?" then pass because it will probably frustrate you.

Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards
I liked this book quite a lot and think everyone could benefit from some part of it. The author gives some very practical, research-backed ideas for how to connect with people, be a good conversationalist, and maximize all of your interpersonal interactions. She drew upon the work of other popular authors I've read (e.g. John Gottman, Dan Ariely, Gary Chapman), but put it all together in a very clear way. A lot of things she said really resonated with me, e.g. her concept of understanding your "survive" vs. "thrive" social events and "the vulnerability hangover" (this happens all the time with blogging!). She does repeatedly reference/push people to visit her own website, and at times that did get a little tedious, but it didn't take away from the fact that there was plenty of useful, worthwhile information in the book so I'll give her a break for the self-promotion.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Two parenting books in one month? Who am I? This usually isn't my favorite genre, but since Siblings Without Rivalry proved to be worthwhile and the title speaks to one of the biggest issues in my current stage of parenthood, I decided to give these authors another go. And I'm glad I did since I I got even more strategies to put into action from this book than "Siblings..." As with the other book, I wasn't riveted to every second of narration, but overall it was well worth the time spent for the number of practical, fairly simple suggestions I got out of it.

Current Reads + Up Next:
Kristen and I will be reading Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah for our July Book reviews, and my current nonfiction audiobook is When Breath Becomes Air. After that I have quite a few books that I bought on sale (like "The Hating Game" for $1.99) or that I got for "free" with my Kindle Unlimited Membership that I need to get through before I can buy any of the newer releases that interest me. I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading this month and hearing your thoughts on any of these you might have read!'

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Linking up with: Steph & Jana

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29 comments:

  1. so many great reqs, I will have to come back to this post. Captivate sounds interesting, currently reading Bright Side.

    xo
    Pinksole

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    1. I think you would definitely enjoy Captivate. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Bright Side!

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  2. Thanks for another great list of books to read! It's too bad the first one was a let down; it's a timely topic and I would have high expectations for it. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more books on this topic and that would definitely catch my attention. I am so interested in how families handle difficulties. I've read Ruth Ware before so I'll check out In a Dark, Dark Wood for sure! Bright Side sounds good too! Glad you mentioned that it really grabbed your attention about half way through, I'll keep that in mind!
    So I think empathy is certainly where it's at. It's the one tool we have to teach children that actually makes a difference in bullying situations. I can't imagine anyone being able to convince me against it but that in itself peaks my interest! Oh well now I'm curious!
    Great review as usual Gina!
    xo,
    Kellyann

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    1. To be clear I enjoyed Bright Side the whole time, it just wasn't "OMG MUST finish!!" until halfway. And if you read "Against Empathy" let me know! I would be interested in your thoughts!

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  3. How to Talk so Kids will Listen is an all time favorite parenting book of mine. We actually made a book club out of it. We read 1 chapter per week and then came together to discuss along with a parenting expert.

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    1. That sounds like SUCH a great idea! While I was listening to the book I really thought their "sessions" sounded so helpful. It would be nice to have other parents for bouncing ideas and reinforcing the strategies.

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  4. Oh I'm so glad you enjoyed Siblings and got some good ideas out of it! Although OH BOY I can imagine being annoyed by the narration--I hear enough whining at my own house, thank you! But you're right, I guess they did need to find a way to distinguish examples from narration. But that would likely have been a turn-off for me too. I think I just prefer paper/e-books for this type of book though, I need to SEE the words in order for me to remember. I read the "little kids" version of the How to Talk book, so I'm glad to know that this one is also worth the read. So many good parenting books!

    It is always so fascinating to me to read others' reviews of books I've read. For example, I LOVED This Is How It Always Is and felt just meh about In a Dark, Dark Wood. It just proves that books are so personal and no one really reads the "same" book--we all have our own tastes that go into it as well. This is like one big, online book club, which is so fun!

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    1. ha! That's funny that we are opposites on Dark Wood/This is How it Always is! Book tastes and experiences really are so personal. I feel a little bad for the authors when I write a "negative" review of their book. It doesn't usually mean I think they did a bad job or that it wasn't a respectable piece of work. It just wasn't my favorite...in the way that I might prefer mocha over vanilla ice cream and someone else will be the opposite!

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  5. You’re the only other person I know who has read Bright Side, and I couldn’t agree with you more on your review! The whole accent thing was getting old as hell, and it’s a good thing it picked up halfway through because I was losing interest. I definitely cried a little, too at the end!

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    1. So glad to hear you agreed about Bright Side! I live in San Diego and yeah, I do say "dude." But...enough was enough. Glad you thought the second half picked up too!

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  6. I love that you read a mix of fiction and nonfiction. I do that too, but I need to read some more non-fic! Sorry to hear you didn't really enjoy This Is How It Always Is; you're right, a lot of people seem to love that one. I really want to read In a Dark Dark Wood. I've only read The Woman in Cabin 10 but Ware but I really loved it!

    -lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. "This is How it Always Is" was my toughest review to write! I didn't dislike it but it just didn't live up to the hype for me. Hope you like Dark, Dark Wood!

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  7. phew, like i sad, glad we felt the same about this is how it always is. what will we do if we have different opinions on a book we choose?! that's why i'm glad you read them first hahaha. Bright Side is on my list! i've not read anything by Ruth Ware but i do want to, regardless of how people seem to love or hate her. i don't read a lot of books in that genre, so i'm easily pleased lol. i quite liked The Hypnotist's Love Story - super cute. i just love her books though. did you see she has a new one coming out? yay!
    i am terrified of you hating the hating game lol

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    1. I didn't know she had another coming out! I still need to read Truly, Madly, Guilty, but your review (and others) weren't glowing so I haven't made it a priority. We'll have to pick a more agreeable joint book if we have one where we don't align! Ha!

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  8. In a Dark, Dark Wood is on my TBR but I hear such mixed things about Ruth Ware that her books are never priority. I just need to read one and figure out if she's a yay or nay for me. I really thought I'd love Liane Moriarty but I have not liked any of her books thus far. Also I didn't realize Hypnotist's Love Story was an actual love story. I thought it was a thriller so I was confused through most of it too. :D

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    1. You know, RW isn't my favorite and I can see why she gets mixed reviews. I went into this one with very low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised, so that will probably work to your advantage. If you don't usually like LM...this one probably won't change that since it's very true to her style.

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  9. I also did not love This is How it Always Is.

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    1. Phew! It's always a relief to know I'm not alone with books that everyone else seems to love!

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  10. I enjoyed in a Dark, Dark, Woods as well!! I'm excited to read her newest book that just came out as well! I'm on the wait list at the library!

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    1. I really want to read the new one too! I just hate buying books when they're new and expensive and I'm terrible about using the library.

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  11. Captivate sounds like such a great book! I am putting Bright Side on my list too. I always like seeing what you have read!

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    1. Captivate really was good! Definitely recommend that. Thanks for stopping by, Laura!

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  12. I'm very vocal about my dislike for Ruth Ware's books but I'm glad people enjoy them.

    I enjoy Liane Moriarty and I know this one is on my TBR.

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    1. Ha, I can understand why RW wouldn't be your favorite. I do think she's a little overhyped but I have mostly enjoyed her books.

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  13. I added Bright Side to my to read list. I'm super disappointed to find out that my library system doesn't have it or any Kim Holden books. I wasn't a big fan of the Lying Game. I may have to check out Siblings Without Rivalry. Is it geared toward younger children? My children are 12 and almost 10. They don't have major issues, but I feel like parents can use all the help we can get!

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    1. It covers toddlers through teens, so yours are definitely not too old for it. My kids are similar ages to yours (they are 11 and 12) and I still found quite a few helpful tips and ideas. I also didn't think they had major issues going into it, but it was still worth the read for me.

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  14. Looks like a great month!! I love that you compared Bright Side writing to Colleen Hoover, it was already on my TBR but now it's moved up. Just requested Captivate from the library and Between Sisters. Thanks for the great recs!!

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  15. I really loved This is How it Always Is, but I read 60% of it while waiting in the ER last spring with nothing else to do...so looking back on it, that sort of impacted my enjoyment because it kept me company ;) I loved their marriage in particular. I totally see what you are saying too though - it was likely much longer than it needed to be, and I have not sought out any of her other books yet either, which I usually do when I love a book.
    I might try to read that Kristin Hannah book with you guys!! I love her books. I haven't read The Hypnotist's Love Story yet but it's on my list - she is one of my favourites. I hope you LOVE The Hating Game - I just re-read half of it last night, it is so cute. Also agree with you about those two parenting books...such valuable information in them.

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