August Book Reviews 8/14/18 | On the Daily EXPRESS

8/14/18

August Book Reviews 8/14/18

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Welcome to my August Book Reviews! As usual I have a mix of fiction and nonfiction, and all reviews are free of any major spoilers. My nonfiction selections (plus one fiction book as I'll note below) 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:
All of It by Kim Holden (free on Kindle Unlimited)
Basic Plot: Veronica is a high school student who meets a new boy in school and their love story takes off. He seems too good to be true and he also seems to know more about her than possible.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. While this was a short and fairly easy read, it just didn't work for me. The plot might make it sound creepy but it's mostly a fluffy teenage love story with a too-perfect boyfriend and a dollop of tragedy. It reminded me a little bit of Twilight since it was clear there was Some Different Thing going on with Dimitri (the boyfriend), but that's not revealed until the very end. So of course, I had to finish it to find out The Thing. Ultimately I think the concept with The Thing had potential, but the execution wasn't very engaging and much of the book was told in passing, e.g. "we went to prom and then the next fall we went to college." I'm paraphrasing of course, but it's hard to care about characters or a story in that kind of narrative. Highlight next sentence for a spoiler if you're curious about The Thing: Dimitri is reincarnated and always remembers his past lifetimes. He always meets Veronica and they fall in love, but she doesn't remember their past lives together. That should save you from having to read the book to find out!

Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller
Basic Plot: Sheldon is an elderly man (a Jewish-American Korean War veteran...trust me, this is key) who moves to Norway with his grandaughter and her husband. He witnesses a crime against their neighbor and gets caught up in the middle of protecting the innocent.
My Verdict: Recommend if...you are in the mood for an action-adventure sort of novel. The character development and plot were both good in this, so props for that. But there were times when it was a page-turner and other times it rambled a bit with Sheldon's flashbacks and "visions." Sheldon was quirky and cantankerous, but the author really made me care about him and root for him (as well as some supporting characters), so for the most part I really did enjoy it and think it was well written. The ending was intense! I can't quite give it a carte blanche recommendation only because of the slower parts and because I have the feeling odds are that only 50% that my regular blog readers would enjoy this. Beartown might be a good litmus test...if you liked that, you'll probably be in the 50% that appreciate this book. If not...it's probably not for you.

The Thinnest Air by Minka Kent (free on Kindle Unlimited)
Basic Plot: Meredith is living that trophy wife life...until she goes missing. Her sister tries to find her and unravels a lot of secrets Meredith has been keeping. 
My Verdict: Recommend if...you're in the mood for a light, chic-lit-meets-suspense read. This was easy to get into and a quick read. The suspense wasn't dark or especially intense, but it held my interest from start to end wanting to see what happened to Meredith. To be honest, I could copy and paste this plot line (Person X goes missing and Person Y looks for them and discovers many secrets they've been hiding) into about a dozen novels I've read over the past year, so there wasn't anything especially original here. But it was fun and entertaining so no complaints especially since it was free!

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
Basic Plot: A look at a couple struggling with infertility in a Then vs. Now Format. We see their life "Then"...when they were dating and falling in love, juxtaposed with a chapter of their life "Now," when infertility is putting a huge strain on their marriage.
My Verdict: Recommend! This was one I just couldn't put down. I will say, it's pretty sad and disheartening reading the "Now" chapters because of the marital tension. So don't go into this expecting a happy, fun love story. But just when you're really frustrated with the marriage (and I was especially frustrated with Quinn, the main character in the "now" portion), you get a peek at their happier times and you just cannot wait to see if and how they weather the storm.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Basic Plot: Four siblings see a fortune-teller who tells them each the date of their death. Then we look into each of the four sibling's lives one section at a time to see how this fortune affects them and whether it will hold true.
My Verdict: Recommend if...you like family sagas or books like The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. I didn't 100% love this, but I did think the concept was interesting and would give it about 3.5 stars. I don't usually recommend books unless I think they're 4+ stars, so this is on the border. At the beginning of each sibling's section, the pace of the book slowed down as the author sets us up their individual story. But it picks up a bit as we approach The Date, and usually by then I was more invested in their outcome. So if the concept appeals to you, give it a read but don't expect it to be the best book you've ever read.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
Basic Plot: Samantha is a top London attorney who suddenly finds her life falling apart. She takes drastic measures to get by, doing some work for which she is entirely unqualified.
My Verdict: Recommend if...you like fun, cute, witty chick lit. If you've read any of Sophie Kinsella's books then you know exactly what to expect from this. It's an easy, upbeat read with plenty of humorous circumstances and lovable characters. I needed something to put a smile on my face after The Immortalists (that one was a little depressing), and this did the trick.

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
Basic Plot: Polly's dad picks her up from school one day, which sounds normal except that he's supposed to be in prison and she hardly knows him. There's a hit out on both of them so they experience life on the run together.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. This book was okay, and really not bad at all. I just don't think I'll recommend it to most people because I don't see it as being something most of my real life friends or family would enjoy. I wouldn't have picked it myself except that I was trying to find an audiobook that my family could listen to on a 4-hour round trip car ride. This sounded like it might entertain my boys, and it did somewhat except there was quite a lot of language so we didn't finish it as a family. It came up for me in a search for "teen books that adults would enjoy" or something like that, but I think it's best suited for 15/16 and up. For what it's worth, the audiobook narrator did a great job, and overall the book was entertaining enough. Just not something that I think any of my blog readers need to run out and read right now!


Nonfiction:
The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely
This was a good one! This book goes into great detail about "just how honest are you?" Of course, we all like to think of ourselves as honest people, but the author really made me question a lot of things and my overall definition of an "honest person." He has done dozens of behavioral studies testing people in different circumstances to see if they will lie or cheat and by how much. The segment on golf was entertaining and I made my husband and sons listen to that since they all play golf. There was also an segment about knockoff designer goods and how/whether they affect your behavior and integrity. That portion certainly made me think about my own opinions this matter. The line between "inspired" and "faux" can be thin, that's for sure. This is an easy one to recommend, and bonus points for the audiobook narrator who was very entertaining.

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
This book was narrated by the author and he did an okay job, but coming on the heels of the previous book he didn't measure up to that bar. He also told a lot of corny jokes, which had me rolling my eyes and reduced my enjoyment of the content. That said, the substance of the book is worthwhile. This book goes over seven principles of happiness: specific things that we can control in our lives to choose a life of greater happiness. Because I've read other books on this topic, a lot of it was repeat information for me, however I enjoyed it anyway because the reminders help me stay in a more positive mindset. For me, happiness is not a destination...it's something that requires regular "practice" and books like this are are great help. Overall I would recommend it to others since it does have great points and solid research behind it even though it's not an all-time favorite in this genre.

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane
This book proposes that charisma is not something inborn, contrary to popular belief that people either have it or they don't. The author teaches that charisma is actually a set of specific, learned behaviors. Some people happen to learn them early in life and utilize them consistently, which is how they become known as being charismatic. Others can be taught the skills and improve their charisma. I found it a little ironic that the author/audiobook narrator had a rather uncharismatic voice (in my opinion). She sounded more like a meditation coach or yoga instructor, which didn't help pursuade me to believe in her findings. But overall, she had some interesting points and I gleaned some good ideas from the book that I'll be putting into practice in my own life. This book also had some discussion about apparel, brand names, and how they influence others perceptions and behavior around us, which again was of particular interest to me. If the overall topic sounds interesting to you, it's probably worth the read to glean a few practical ideas, but don't expect to be riveted the entire time. She wasn't always concise in making her points, and paired with the soothing voice tones it just didn't feel especially dynamic or charismatic.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Peterson
This book came recommended as a life-changer on par with You are a Badass. Since that's a solid favorite of mine, I had to read this. Unfortunately it was a mistake for me to link the books two in my mind because they're nothing alike and this one didn't measure up to Badass for me. This one is an opinion piece on the brutal scrutiny of women in the public eye. Sometimes I agreed with the author's opinions, other times...not so much. The "not so much" times kept me from loving this book, so it won't be one I recommend to everyone. I should also note I skipped the chapter on "too gross" because it started off...too gross and that's not my thing. I also skipped the chapter on Caitlyn Jenner because the person who recommended it to me didn't like it, so I couldn't imagine I would like it more than she did. That aside, the author goes into detail about the careers and criticism levied at women like Venus and Serena Williams, Melissa McCarthy, Madonna, Nikki Minaj, Roseanne Bar, and Kim Kardashian. I was impressed she made me sympathetic to Kim Kardashian. The chapter on Jennifer Weiner was my absolute favorite because it could alternately be titled, "In Defense of Chick Lit." And clearly, if you read my fiction reviews you know I enjoy chick lit!

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: All Your Perfects, The Undomestic Goddess
Nonfiction: The Honest Truth About Dishonesty

Current Reads + Up Next:
I'm just over halfway through with Believe Me by J.P. Delaney (Fiction) and Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives - How Your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do (Nonfiction). I'm really enjoying both so far but didn't finish them in time for today's review so look for all of the details next month. I've already purchased Educated: A Memoir (by Tara Westover) and An Unwanted Guest by Shari LaPena (author of The Couple Next Door) so you can expect to see those in my reviews next month as well.

Usually Kristen and I try to pick a book to read together each month and we were going to pick something from the free Prime Reading options...but none of the August selections appealed to us so we decided to just skip it for this month. But we did both watch The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie (based on the book) on Netflix and really enjoyed that. Definitely worth checking out if you have Netflix!

That does it for this month! Thanks to the relaxed summer schedule and a few hours spent on an airplane I had time for a couple of extra books this month. Unfortunately with back to school upon us I don't think next month will have as many books, but that's okay. I'll enjoy it while I can!


Linking up with: Steph & Jana

CONVERSATION

36 comments:

  1. Another great round up, I have to pick up the honest truth about dishonesty.

    xo
    Pinksole

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  2. The Thinnest Air was so good, but I'm curious if you felt the same way about the ending as I did. The "innocent" character was still SOOO flawed. I just did not like the way they tried to slap a bow on it and end the book lol. Rant over :)

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    1. Ha, I just re-read my review and I said "no complaints." Okay, well, yes. To your point, most of the characters were not very likable! And yes, the ending was a bit tidy but I guess I expected that from the pace and overall fluffiness of the novel if that makes sense!

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  3. I always look forward to these posts and this one did not disappoint! I give you 5 stars, lol! I must read the Colleen Hoover book, sounds so good. I haven't read a Sophie Kinsella book in ages and I don't know why - they are always so enjoyable! i just ordered some books from the library and once I'm done with those I'm grabbing All Your Perfects!
    Thanks for the reviews!
    xo,
    Kellyann

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    1. Oh I'd love to know what you think if you read it! Hope you get a chance to grab it after this round of books.

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  4. I do love chick lit so plan to get to the undomestic goddess soon. Its on my kindle. I really want to read that Colleen Hoover as well. Always good!

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  5. So glad liked the Colleen Hoover book. I just got it from the library and can't wait to read it! I recently read Everything is Horrible and Wonderful and Castle of Water and would definitely recommend both! Trying to get in all the reading before I go back to work in a couple weeks!

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    1. Thanks Kristine! I will add those to my list! And you're lucky to get the new Hoover book from the library so soon! I'm surprised there wasn't a long waiting list!

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  6. lol i will skip all of it. i highlighted the spoiler though, and see i would *love* to read a book with that as the plot, you know? that sounds fabulous to me. Norwegian by Night sounds really interesting!
    totally skipping the colleen hoover book for now :) maybe one day.
    i'm on the fence about The Immortalists.. it sounds good but.. eh.

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    1. Yes, I thought the concept for All of It could have been cute, but then it just wasn't executed well. For you I'd say skip Immortalists, but I do think you would enjoy Norwegian by Night!

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  7. I'd recommend checking out My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares. Same concept as All of It, but sounds like it was done much better. It was supposed to be a series so the ending is a bit of a cliff hanger, but it's still worth reading.

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    1. Oh cool! Thank you for the recommendation. It would be interesting to compare with something with a little better execution.

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  8. Perfect timing! Just finished The Good Widow yesterday and needed a new read!

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    1. Oh good - hope you found something that sparked your interest!

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  9. I have the Minka Kelly on my kindle, looking forward to reading it.

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    1. It's entertaining but not amazing so hopefully you'll enjoy it. :)

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  10. I hope you like Educated. It was fascinating!

    I read a mix of nonfiction and fiction every month, too. I like the balance it brings into my reading.

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    1. I've heard great things about Educated so I'm looking forward to it! And I agree...I like the balance of fluff with stuff that makes me feel smarter. :)

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  11. I felt the same about The Immortalists - it got soooo much hype when it came out, but I thought that beyond the really fascinating concept/premise, there were parts of it that were just slow/a bit weak in my opinion. And I was one who really enjoyed Norwegian by Night (and LOVED Beartown). I'm always up for some kind of mystery story that also involves figuring out a secret or something from a character's past. I just found out that there's a sequel to Norwegian By Night, actually, so it's on my list to check out!

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    1. My Sister in Law recommended Norwegian by Night to me and she actually thought the sequel was better! I am planning to read that too eventually.

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  12. All Your Perfects really sounds like a tear jerker! I'm sure there are so many emotions wrapped up in that book! The Immoralists sounds like an interesting concept for a book. I think I will have to check it out!

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    1. You know...All Your Perfects wasn't really a tearjerker for me but it was emotionally intense. But it might be for some!

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  13. I can't wait to read the Colleen Hoover book. I've loved all the ones of hers that I've read. Like you mentioned, the plot of the Thinnest Air sounds like so many other thriller type books that I've read. So even though it's one of my favorite genres, I'll likely pass on this one.

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    1. I know...every time I start a book with that plot I'm thinking, "Oh...this again." I usually hope the author will have some twist to make it really original, but usually they don't!

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  14. I read your highlighted bit from All of It and the way it was revealed at the very end would have annoyed too but known from the beginning(ish), it probably would have worked for me. It's weird how things like that can make or break a book. I really enjoyed She Rides Shotgun but I would not have recommended for young teens either. I also liked Immortalists as Simon and Klara's stories broke my heart. It probably also helped that I read it before it got hugely hyped because super hyped books rarely live up to their reputation for me. I still haven't read After You from JoJo Moyes because of the hype. I can't bear to dislike it, which is just weird.

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    1. That was the the issue with All of It...there was NO reason for him to keep it a secret from her for so long. It made no sense! And I haven't read any Jojo Moyes books for just for that reason! I just son't see how it can live up to the hype!

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  15. All your perfects sounds Amazing and insightful albeit incredibly heart breaking. I just ordered sharp objects (I’m watching the series at the moment and am loving it) as well as one by Sylvia Plath. I’ll be reading on my plane ride in a couple weeks. Great reviews Gina!

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    1. I think you would really enjoy it, Noelle! It was really well done. I read Sharp Objects years back - didn't even realize it was a TV series now!! Hope you enjoy your upcoming trip!

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  16. Added Norwegian by Night to my TBR. I need to get around to finally reading some Hoover! :) XO- Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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    1. Hope you enjoy Norwegian by Night! I wasn't ready for a sequel right after I finished it but I think I may end up reading it this month. I'm ready for a more substantive novel after a couple of lighter picks.

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  17. I've definitely heard a lot of good things about Colleen Hoover, but haven't had the chance to pick up any of her books yet. All Your Perfects sounds like a really good read though, and I'll have to try and read it soon!

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    1. Oh yes, definitely give her a try! She knows how to pull you in right away. Without Merit is the only one of hers I didn't care for quite as much.

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  18. I always love seeing your mix of fiction and non-fiction. I try to read a bit of both as well and always get good ideas from you. I have The Immortalists on my list, but otherwise a lot of these are new to me. I thought it was kind of funny that the book about charisma seemed less than charismatic :)

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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!