July Book Review 7/10/18 | On the Daily EXPRESS

7/10/18

July Book Review 7/10/18

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


FICTION:
Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah
Basic Plot: Sisters who were close in childhood grew apart in their teen and young adult years due to life circumstances somewhat beyond their control. Now life is bringing back together and they try to make amends.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. This was quite a disappointment for me. I've read several books by Hannah and this was the weakest by far. The characters were a bit cliché and their actions just didn't ring true for me. The sister relationship also didn't connect for me and their grievances with each other seemed forced. Overall the book just didn't hold my interest very well and didn't live up to the standard of character and story development I expect from this author. Kristen and I chose to read this book together this month so stop by her blog for another POV on this.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Basic Plot: Lucy struggles to get along with her co-worker and hates the fact that she's attracted to him even though she can't stand his personality. They compete for everything, but of course there's some underlying sexual chemistry between them, too.
My Verdict: Recommend! This is like a sexier Sophie Kinsella book, so if you enjoy her books you'll probably like this. Romance and humor and sexual tension all in one. It didn't take long to get into this at all and it was pure fun after that. I really didn't have any complaints, which makes for a short and easy review! This is my top fiction recommendation for the month, especially if you want something light and fun for summer!

The Girl with No Name by Diney Costeloe
Basic Plot: As World War II is breaking out, a German girl is sent away from her home to foster parents (complete strangers) in London for her own safety. No one's safe in London either, so her struggles to cope and survive continue there.
My Verdict: Recommend. This wasn't exactly a page-turner, but it was a really good book and it held my interest well at least 80% of the time. It really drew me into life in London in during World War II so I could really get a feel for what a terrible time that was. The character development and story arcs were excellent. It had a good love triangle and lots of other interesting relationship dynamics and development. I was primarily interested in the perspective of the title character, so sometimes when the story shifted to a supporting character I would get a little bored, but all of it did have a purpose so it wasn't like the story just wandered. If you're interested in this era I think you'll enjoy this book, and I also think it would be a great book club selection since there would be much to discuss about the various relationships and experiences of the people in the story.

Neighborly by Ellie Monago
Basic Plot: Kat is a wife and new mom who buys a home she can't truly afford just to get into a very desirable neighborhood. She quickly discovers the old adage, "if something looks too good to be true, it probably is." The neighborhood is full of dirty secrets, and Kat has a few of her own, too.
My Verdict. Do Not Recommend. If I were doing star ratings, I'd give this three stars out of five because it wasn't terrible. It generally held my interest and I didn't struggle to finish it. That said, I didn't find any of the characters likable and they weren't very well developed, so it was hard for me to care about their outcome or invest in them. The "twist" was a little hard for me to believe, and the ending was rushed and kind of ridiculous. It was free on Kindle Unlimited so if you want a soap opera-y summer read it's alright for the free price on Unlimited.

NON-FICTION:
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This is a sad and thought-provoking memoir by a brain surgeon who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He goes through the difficult process of re-analyzing his the purpose of his life knowing that he no longer has the same life expectancy he once thought, nor will he have the physical capacity to spend his remaining time in the way he would like. This certainly brought back memories of what my dad went through when he was diagnosed with cancer, only Paul was a much younger man than my dad at the time of his diagnosis, which is indeed a much crueler fate. Paul's story ends abruptly, because of course, so did his life. The afterword was written by his wife and brought on buckets of tears. This isn't one I can easily say I recommend/not recommend since its impact on any given individual probably depends on your personal experiences with grief and loss and how much you're ready to truly process your time here. I can only say it was well done and worth my time.

Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
I grew up listening to RHCP and still like some of their music, so I thought it would be interesting to know Anthony's backstory. After reading about half of this book, I've decided I'm better off not knowing and probably won't pick up any rock star bios in the future. I listened to it on Audible and it's a 14-hour book, which is quite long. (In my experience anything over 10 hours is "long.") In reading I realized it's long because Anthony has an incredible memory for detail of every drug he took, every lyric he wrote, every friend he had, and of course, every sexual encounter he experienced. Anthony's childhood was highly unusual, with a permissive father who enabled his sexual encounters and drug use starting as young as twelve. I had to stop reading (unfortunately right as the RHCP career was taking off), so this is a DNF. He and his dad and friends were constantly doing crazy, illegal stuff, but he started to describe a dare that made me so sick to my stomach I had to quit the book entirely. Even writing this is going to make me ill, but if you're truly curious highlight the next sentence to read: Anthony was sick and coughed up a disgusting ball of mucus phlegm and dared his friend to eat it. I didn't want to know anything beyond that so I stopped right there. Don't say I didn't warn you! So. If you're a die-hard RHCP fan and really want to read this...go ahead. If not, don't do this to yourself.

How to Break Up with your Phone by Catherine Price
This book is excellent and is exactly the motivation I needed to make some additional changes with my phone time. The first half outlines some of the damaging effects we are experiencing as a society due to our smart phone addiction. The second half of the book is a specific 30-Day Plan to help individuals re-define their relationship with their phone. One thing I will say is that listening to it on audiobook had some pros and cons. Pros: The narrator was excellent and the material was presented well, so it was an easy listen. Cons: There's no way I can recall the steps for the 30-Day program without having them written down. So I ended up pausing the book a lot to take notes, which was pretty inconvenient and meant I couldn't listen to the entire second half of the book in the car or at other times when I normally listen to audiobooks. At any rate, if you are looking to reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone and get a high level summary of some of the research about the damaging effects of our societal phone addiction, I highly recommend this. The author summarizes some of the key findings of other books I've already read, e.g. Irresistible by Adam Alter and The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, so my nerdy side felt validated for having read those and I was nodding in agreement with her analysis. I will say that in order for me to do the actual 30-Day Plan, I think I would need a support group or person...Phoneaholics Anonymous or something. But on my own I've done some of her steps out of order and it's already made a positive change, so two thumbs up for this book.

How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett
Calling all neuroscience and behavioral science nerds! This is a good one! The author disputes the Classical View of emotion theory (which basically states that emotions exist in our mind/brain and are universal in all humans) and instead argues for the Constructed Theory of Emotion (i.e. we create emotions through language, society, etc.). I can't really say I'd thought too deeply about the existence or creation of emotions prior to this book so it was truly fascinating and thought-provoking. The first half is definitely heavy on the science and the minute I started thinking, "I'm getting lost...this is too advanced" the author would bring me back in with her analogies. She was a pro at making complex things easier to understand via entertaining analogies. (I especially loved all the baking analogies since they're right up my alley!) I also loved learning how different cultures have different emotion words that we lack in Western culture, and since reading the book I've been constantly viewing my past and present life experiences through the lens of Constructed Emotion and thinking of all the different emotions I've experienced that don't have a specific name. So it's not a light read and not for everyone, but it will be a memorable one for me. Thanks to Heidi (my sister-in-law) for recommending this!

Quick Picks: 
If you just want a quick recommendation without the specifics of what I did/didn't like in a given book, here are the ones from this month that I'd be most likely to recommend to friends and family in real life!
Fiction: The Hating GameThe Girl with No Name.
Non Fiction: How to Break Up with Your Phone, How Emotions are Made

Current Reads + Up Next:
My current fiction selection is All of It by Kim Holden. It's free if you have Kindle Unlimited and entertaining so far. This is my third book by Kim Holden. I especially liked Brightside (also free with Kindle Unlimited) so I hope this will be nearly as good. In non-fiction I'm listening to The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely and also enjoying it so far. Full reviews on those coming next month! Also, Kristen and I usually pick a book a month to read and review together, and for our August reviews we're going to pick one of the Kindle First/Prime Reading selections so we can have the reviews up while the book is still free (if you have Amazon Prime, that is!).

Prime Day Coming Soon!
In case you do not already have a Prime Membership, it's worth noting that you can sign up for a 30-Day free trial to see if it's worth it for you. I'm a huge fan of Amazon Prime. And yes, in full disclosure I have worked with them as a Fashion Influencer for about two years but I've been a Prime Member since 2006. So the love goes way back and this is a very organic brand partnership for me. That said, I still pay for my own Prime Membership, Kindle Unlimited, Audible Membership etc. and genuinely love and constantly use those services. Prime Day is coming up on July 16 and there will be all kinds of amazing deals for Prime Members. Even if you're on the Free Trial plan you'll be able to take advantage of those deals! I'll definitely be blogging some of my favorites on Prime Day, click here to sign up now and thank me later when you're scoring the best deals on Prime Day and enjoying the benefits of 2-Day Prime Shipping and free returns on all the things!

Thanks for stopping by to check out my book reviews and I can't wait to read your thoughts on this month's selections!

Linking up with: Steph & Jana

CONVERSATION

40 comments:

  1. great review I'm picking up those two non fiction your recommended.

    xo
    Pinksole

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    1. I can't wait to see what you think! Hope you enjoy them. :)

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  2. I always love these posts! The Hating Game sounds like a fun read. I read Neighborly - because it was free on my Kindle and pretty much felt the same way - I didn't hate it but didn't love it. That's usually the case for me with the freebies.
    Too bad about the RHCP book, I was never a huge fan of theirs. It's sad when something makes you so sick to your stomach you have to step away - even worse it really happened, ugh.
    When Breath Becomes Air has caught my eye but it sounds so sad. I'll need to be in the right place emotionally to tackle that one.
    Thanks for such a comprehensive review, I appreciate all the hard work!
    xo,
    Kellyann

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    1. Thanks so much for the kind words! And I'm glad you felt the same about Neighborly! And that's a good plan for When Breath Becomes Air. :)

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  3. Oh that how to break up with your phone sounds like such a good book! I am trying to use my phone less, after doing a technology detox a while ago I made some good progress with it, but it would be nice to get more tips for how to manage it!

    Hope you are having a lovely start to your week! It's a cold one here in Brisbane!

    Away From The Blue Blog

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    1. I highly recommend it. Even if you don't do the 30-day plan in order, there are so many good tips and tricks in there it's still worth it!

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  4. That breaking up with your phone book is on my list...I've heard good things. When Breath Becomes Air was amazing to me but I don't have any personal experience with cancer really. It would be a whole different book the way you read it, I would imagine. I was sobbing by the end.
    LOVED The Hating Game. Did not get to that Kristin Hannah book in time to chat with you guys about it but sounds like I did not miss that much! haha

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    1. LOL yes, be glad you didn't get to it in time. Definitely saved yourself some frustration. And totally agree with your thoughts on When Breath Becomes Air. It will have very different effects on different people.

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  5. Im probably going to pick up the hating game. Sounds like a good one!

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  6. Yay so glad that you loved The Hating Game! One of my favorites that I’ve read this year. What a disappointment about the Kristin Hannah book, I can’t even imagine her writing something that we don’t all enjoy lol.

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    1. I know right? I guess that's the problem when you set the bar too high as an author!

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  7. Bummer about Neighborly - I get your it's fine but vibe - because the cover is awesome!

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    1. LOL! Well...you know what they say about don't judge a book by its cover. ;)

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  8. Love your book reviews! I loved When Breath Becomes Air. My mom died from cancer 7 months ago, and I've been reading a lot of books about grief and death lately. I would also recommend Being Mortal to anyone who is interested in the topic as I know its not for everyone. I also read How To Break Up With Your Phone. Such a quick, easy read!

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    1. Thanks for reading my reviews! And I have also heard good things about Being Mortal but definitely have to space out my "heavy" book reads to protect my own heart. Glad you liked How to Break Up with your Phone! It was a good one.

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  9. I am soooo not a reader. As a matter of fact you'll probably die when I tell you I read maybe 1 book a year. I just ordered an Elin Hilderbrand book last night to take to the beach. I so wish I was a reader, but never have been. I love the way you did this post though with a short outline and then recommend/don't recommend. Keep on reading friend!! XO

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    1. LOL, that's okay! We can still be blog friends. :)

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  10. dancing in my seat that you enjoyed the hating game haha. love love love. bummer about our fail this month, it just did not compare to her other books. i have heard amazing things about when breath becomes air but i 100% know who i am and i would not enjoy it because of what it's about and what it makes you think about lol. omg i highlighted that thing with scar tissue and almost threw up. EW. not my kind of book at all.
    wow, i had no idea prime had been around so long! lol. that's kind of amazing.

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    1. I warned you! :) And I can always count on your Rom-Com recommendations to be worth my time!

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  11. How emotions are made definitely sounds interesting! I'm a science nerd, so books like that peak my interest!

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    1. If you're a science nerd it's 100% up your alley. :)

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  12. I always love hearing about what everyone is reading, I might have to check out the hating game, sounds fun!
    Chic on the Cheap

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  13. I enjoyed The Hating Game. I read Between Sisters years ago and according to Goodreads loved it. Not sure if my opinion would be the same today, but I do enjoy reading Kristin Hannah.

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    1. LOL, that's funny about checking your Goodreads review for your own opinion! :) I am sure my opinion was influenced by recent Hannah books I liked much more.

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  14. I feel like a lot of people would benefit from How to Break Up with Your Phone.

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    1. LOL yes...practically the entire adult population of the US!

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  15. Ohh I'll have to check out The Hating Game! I read When Breath Becomes Air last year and it was quite a read. Very emotional.

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    1. Definitely check out The Hating Game and def agree about the emotional toll of When Breath Becomes Air.

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  16. I like the occasional Sophie Kinsella book (or something similar) so The Hating Game sounds like a good, light summer read! I like historical fiction too and have been reading a lot of WW II novels so I am putting The Girl with No Name on my list for sure!

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    1. I thought of you when I read The Girl With No Name! I really think you'd enjoy it.

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  17. I'm not that attached to my phone but How to Break Up With Your Phone still sounds really interesting. I like non-fiction books like that. :)

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Even for those not too addicted to their phones, I think the first half is a really good overview of the problems phone addiction is causing in our society.

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  18. Hmm might have to look into the Breakup with Your Phone book! You may be be aware, but it took me a LONG time to realize that some audio books come with PDFs attached...so if it refers to pictures or graphs, maybe it is there- downloadable through Audible. Apologies if you know this- but it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out, haha.

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    1. That's a really good point and I'm glad you mentioned it! This particular book does not come with a PDF attachment. :( I would have a liked a brief outline of the 30-Day steps but no dice.

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  19. I always love your book reviews Gina! I have been wanting to read When Breath Becomes Air but I feel like I need to be in the right mood for it, I know it will make me reach for the kleenex box! Bummer about the Kristin Hannah book. I've only read a couple by her, one I've loved the other that I felt just okay about--she seems to be hit or miss.

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    1. I do recommend being in the mood for something a little more heavy when you dive into When Breath Becomes Air!

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  20. I LOVE your book reviews! I appreciate your pointing out the books on Kindle Unlimited. Reading Neighborly now :)

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  21. I enjoyed The Hating Game. It was a great vacation read! I'm adding How to Break Up with Your Phone to be tbr. Pam :)

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