August 2019 Book Reviews | On the Daily EXPRESS

8/13/19

August 2019 Book Reviews

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Welcome to my August 2019 Book Reviews! I am trying a couple of new things with my reviews this month. First, I added a "Read Via" sub-heading so you can more easily see which format I used for reading (Kindle or Audible). Second, I added an Extended Review section for a book I absolutely loved and had more to say than usual.

Sometimes we have four weeks between reviews and sometimes we have five weeks. This month was the latter and that extra week made a big difference in the amount of books I was able to get through, especially since I had 5 hours of almost un-interrupted reading time on an airplane! Here we go with the reviews!


The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Basic Plot: Irish family saga and fictional life story/memoir of Cyril Avery.
Read Via: Audible
My Verdict: Highly Recommend! It's going to be impossible for me to review this without over-hyping it and setting expectations too high, and I genuinely hate doing that since it was such a pleasant, unexpected surprise for me. If you're thinking of reading it because you've taken a recommendation from me in the past and enjoyed it, maybe just skip the rest of this review and give it a go knowing that I strongly recommend this! I ordered this on Audible after a one-off recommendation on the Amazon Book Review podcast. I went in with zero expectations and zero knowledge of the plot. While I wasn't sure where the story was going at first, it took almost no time to grab my attention and interest. From that point on I was in for laughs like I haven't experienced from a book in ages! And there were some tears in there too since Cyril's family story was full of highs and lows. If you enjoy really great character development, story arcs, family sagas etc., give this book a chance.
Extended Review Section: Because I had such strong feelings about this book, I couldn't resist reading other reviews on Goodreads after I finished it to see if others felt the same as me. And if someone didn't like the book, what possible reasons could they have?? Here are some of the main complaints and my thoughts on them: (Still no major spoilers, just a bit more detail and discussion.)
- Dialogue: Some reviewers mentioned that there were pages and pages of extensive dialogue between characters. I listened on Audible, and my feeling is that yes, there was a lot of dialogue but for me, all of my favorite scenes in the book came from the dialogue between characters! Those were the funniest scenes! Rachelle and I read this book at about the same time and kept texting each other quotes from the hilarious conversations. The narrator did a great job with distinct voices and the author always clarified who was saying what, so I was never confused. This may be a case where the audio has the upper hand on the print version because I found the narration of the dialogue incredibly entertaining. That said, I can certainly understand this critique and imagine how reading the same words on paper might not have the same comic effect. Perhaps your own inner narrator/voice just isn't as funny as a professional voice actor and doesn't do justice to the deadpan, witty, and hilarious conversations? Or it's simply different strokes for different folks when it comes to humor, but I personally loved the dialogue.
- Coincidences: Many reviewers commented that the book relied too heavily on coincidences and chance encounters. I honestly didn't notice this as it was happening because the instances would be years/decades apart in the time frame of the book, therefore hours apart as I was listening. But yes, I guess it's true. It didn't bother me at all for whatever reason since it served a purpose and was all part of such a fantastic story.
- Sex: The last frequent complaint I noticed was about characters being obsessed with sex or there being too much of it in the book, etc. This book is rated R, but there weren't especially gratuitous, explicit sex scenes in my opinion. Kind of like humor isn't one size fits all, I can't refute anyone's opinion on whether there was "too much" sex. I can only say that it didn't bother me, though it was enough that I wouldn't personally recommend it to younger readers or anyone who wants to avoid books with sexual content.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Basic Plot: A makeup artist decides to enter a psychological study and gets in way over her head
Read Via: Kindle
My Verdict: It Was Okay. This book started off pretty slow for me, but somewhere around 30% the plot gets a little more intriguing. From that point on, I was entertained and had no trouble finishing it. Like many books, this one alternates between narrators. I really did not like the way Lydia's segments were written. Anytime she was narrating, everything was in a robotic, passive voice, so instead of saying, "I put on my pajamas and ate breakfast," it was, "the silk pajamas were selected and facial cleansing commenced." (That's not an exact quote...I'm paraphrasing but you get the idea.) I understood why they did that and how it suited Lydia's character traits, but I didn't enjoy that writing style at all, so it took my overall enjoyment/rating of the book down a notch.

Missing Molly by Natalie Barelli
Basic Plot: Rachel works for a newspaper that wants to stay relevant by starting a true crime podcast about a cold case for a missing girl, Molly Foster. The trouble is, Rachel is Molly Foster and doesn't want to be found.
Read Via: Audible
My Verdict: Entertaining. I really liked the premise of this book and it kept me entertained. I listened on Audible when it came up as a deal of the day, and I had no complaints about the narrator. But there were many times throughout the book when I was irritated with Rachel's choices and actions, and that tends to make me a little annoyed with a book. Especially since I'm not sure they were necessary to further the plot. But the fact is, plenty of people behave irrationally so even if I didn't agree with her actions they weren't totally unrealistic so it was okay. Overall I still liked the plot and the pacing. The ending felt a bit rushed, but all in all it was a fun concept and enjoyable read.

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Basic Plot: Marriage is hard, y'all. A young couple copes with marital challenges in a somewhat unconventional way.
Read Via: Kindle
My Verdict: Recommend (if the subject matter interests you). This wasn't a "best of all time" novel for me but it was good and easy summer entertainment. I was quickly drawn into the story, I liked the contemporary writing style and the pacing of the story so I had no trouble cruising right through this in a couple of days. I could easily relate to the ups and downs of a long term relationship, and I thought the author did a good job of bringing those to life in the story.  I can't say I know any couples who have chosen to handle their differences quite like this one did, but that's part of what made the story interesting and it wasn't impossible or unrealistic so I didn't mind it.

Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Basic Plot: Letters between a man and woman who have discovered their spouses are cheating on them with each other.
Read Via: Audible
My Verdict: Too Short.  Honestly this was entertaining so I can't really complain about it. It's well written and engaging, but I just felt cheated (pardon the pun) out of getting to know each of the characters better and having their stories more developed. It's actually considered a short story rather than a novel, so it's under 1.5 hours on Audible. And the narrators were great too, but I just wanted more! But it was free on Audible with my Kindle Unlimited subscription so I guess I got my money's worth regardless!

As You Wish by Cary Elwes
Basic Plot: Behind the scenes of the making of The Princess Bride (the movie)
Read Via: Audible
My Verdict: Fun and Entertaining. If you've seen this movie and liked it, you will probably enjoy this book. I liked hearing more of the backstory on the casting, the production, the actors, the challenges of finding a niche to market the movie, etc. I learned a lot of fun little trivia that I hadn't know before. In general I do like this type of behind-the-scenes in Hollywood memoir, and this one didn't disappoint. I listened on Audible and Cary (the actor who played Wesley in the movie) narrated it himself, along with cameo narration performances from several other key players in the making of this movie. As is usually the case with professional actors, Cary was a great narrator. (Side note: I'm watching Stranger Things S3 and did not even recognize him in the show! My husband noticed ans said, "Hey, isn't that Cary Elwes?" You'd think I would have caught that since I had just read his memoir!)

The Trespasser by Tana French
Basic Plot: A Dublin detective seeks to solve a case that she suspects is not as cut and dried as it looks. Meanwhile she deals with personal issues and hazing from her squad members.
Read Via: Kindle
My Verdict: Good but challenging to read. I've wanted to check out Tana French for awhile and this is my first novel by her. I am not sure if I'll pick up another for a few reasons. First, even though the characters were speaking English, at times it seemed like another language because they used a lot of phrasing that was unfamiliar to me and slang I'd never heard. (Gaff? Gaffer? I had to look those up. I think there was even a character named Gaffney or something, adding to my confusion.) Once I started to get the hang of the language, I did enjoy the mystery, suspense, and carefully built story. It was a really well done book (good character development, decent pacing, carefully built storylines that tie together and wrap up nicely), it was just slow going for me and didn't become a page turner until over halfway through. I found out after the fact that this is part of series, but it's completely standalone so you don't need to read other books in the series to read this.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Basic Plot: An experimental medical treatment results in tragedy due to arson. Courtroom drama ensues in the trial of the woman accused of arson, but many participants in the treatment have secrets and perhaps the person on trial isn't the guilty party after all.
Read Via: Audible
My Verdict: Recommend. I'd read mixed reviews on this so I went in skeptically and was pleasantly surprised! I thought it was a really well done courtroom drama. The nuances of each person's story and which facts they shared vs. kept to themselves plus family/relationship dynamics each playing their part all made for an interesting read for me. I found it fairly easy to get into with a few slow parts here and there, but all in all an enjoyable read. Side Note: when I finished the audiobook I listened to the author interview at the end. I was really impressed to find out she's Harvard-educated trial attorney. Many of the characters and experiences in the book have a personal connection to her, so she obviously took the "write what you know" advice to heart and I think it worked well.


Run Away by Harlan Coben
Basic Plot: A father gets in deeper trouble than he ever anticipated trying to bring home his run away teenage daughter.
Read Via: Kindle
My Verdict: Recommend. This was my first book by this author and won't be my last! This was fast paced, action packed, and entertaining from start to finish. I really liked the author's writing style and generally didn't have any complaints about the book. If you enjoyed the movie Taken with Liam Neeson, you might enjoy this book as well since it had a similar "Father pulling out all the stops to save daughter" theme, albeit with a completely different set of circumstances and adventures along the way.

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone
Basic Plot: A wife is a bit suspicious of her husband who miraculously discovered and rescued a little boy who had gone missing in the woods.
Read Via: Audible (Free with Kindle Unlimited)
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. I really enjoyed Jane Doe by this author so I wanted to try another book by her, but this one just did not deliver. It was easy enough to get through but it was so predictable. Plus, none of the characters were very likable, including the main character. That usually means I don't ultimately enjoy a book, which was exactly the case here. The more we got to know the main character the less redeeming qualities she had, so I was left with no one to root for in this book and minimal plot progress from start to finish. I'd skip this one and save yourself the frustration.

Recursion by Blake Crouch
Basic Plot: A police officer investigates "False Memory Syndrome," a condition that's wreaking havoc on people's lives and seemingly spreads via social networks. Meanwhile a scientist seeks ways to preserve memories.
Read Via:  Kindle
My Verdict: Recommend. First, let me tell you the plot of this one is hard to summarize. It goes so far beyond what I wrote. This is a sci-fi thriller, and I don't usually go for sci-fi, but this author has a way of writing them that's a little more approachable. I enjoyed Crouch's other book (Dark Matter) and this was just as well done. This was easy to get into and fairly fast paced throughout. My only minor critique is that for me, at the end of the book it starts getting more complicated and harder to understand with some of the specifics and science-y elements. I had this same experience with Dark Matter. I still understood the big picture of what was happening, but not the more complex specifics. Science was not my best subject in school so take that for what it's worth. But all in all it's a great thriller with a cool, interesting concept.

The Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Great
Basic Premise: This book is best summarized by the title! It takes a closer look at how people and businesses (household names like Martin Luther King, Jr., Seinfeld and Polaroid are used as examples) succeeded or failed in changing the world (or just their own personal success) based on specific factors like who they selected to evaluate their work, birth order, etc.
Read Via: Audible
My Thoughts: I don't like to put a final verdict on this type of informative nonfiction book because I've learned from past experience that it takes a few months for me to see what value it adds to my life. Does it shed new light on experiences or decisions going forward? Does it become relevant in real life conversations and I find myself wanting to recommend it to others? That's why these are just "My (initial) Thoughts" on this rather than "My Verdict." Overall the book had some interesting points and segments but I'm not immediately wowed or rushing to recommend it. That may change in time I suppose. I also thought the narrator was a bit drab, and that didn't help with engaging me in the content.

Quick Picks:
For quick recommendation without the specifics of what I did/didn't like, here are the books from this month that I'm likely to recommend to friends and family in real life:
The Heart's Invisible Furies
After I Do
Miracle Creek
Run Away
Recursion

Current Reads + Up Next:
I'm currently reading Someone We Know by Shari LaPena (author of The Couple Next Door) and really enjoying it! Odds are good I'll be recommending it next month. I'm listening to Hello Lovelies on Audible and it's very blogger-ific. (A small-time Michigan mommy blogger aspires to meet her #goals mommy blogger.) It's amusing albeit complete fluff so far.

Can't wait to hear what you've all be reading or which books from this month you'll be adding to your list!


Linking up with: Steph & Jana

CONVERSATION

34 comments:

  1. I'm definitely going to try The Heart's Invisible Furies and probably a few others too. I always look forward to your book reviews.

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  2. Well I am going to find The Heart's Invisible Furies! Those you highly recommend are always my favorites.
    You read so many books this month - I'm going to load up my Kindle before we head to Europe at the end of September!
    xo,
    Kellyann

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    1. Ooh yay for a Europe trip to give you plenty of reading time! Hope you enjoy Heart's Invisible Furies. If not...sorry for over-hyping it!

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  3. Your review of JB book is spot on and I loved Miracle Creek too.


    xo
    Pinksole

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    1. Thanks Rachelle! Loved reading it "with" you! :)

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  4. I am currently reading Recursion and loving it and I can't wait to read Miracle Creek next! I always love your reviews because you have so many good recommendations!

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    1. Recursion was such a mind bender!! And thanks so much for the kind words!

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  5. I thought evidence of the affair was too short also.

    I enjoyed miracle creek (although as a lawyer courtoom dramas are always a hit or miss for me as some really unrealistic crap always happens). Anyway I liked it.

    I cant wwait to get to recursion.

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    1. Oh that's good to hear that Miracle Creek held up to actual lawyer standards! :P And yep...Evidence was just TOO short!

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  6. Well, I guess I need to add The Heart's Invisible Furies to my TBR! You've never steered me wrong with your recommendations, so I'll totally take your word for it how good it is. After I Do was one of TJR's first books, so it's crazy to me how much her writing has evolved since then, but I remember it being a pretty okay read. I felt the same way about Anonymous Girl, too!

    Just sayin',
    Karly
    https://www.whatkarlysaid.com

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    1. Aw, I'm so glad to hear you've had good luck with my recommendations! I hope you enjoy it! And I didn't realize After I Do was an early TJR! She was a solid writer even then!

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  7. the heart's invisible furies is 100% on my list to read asap after we talked about it! hopefully my next audiobook. i don't remember the anonymous girl book in great detail but i remember liking it well enough. After I Do is the only TJR I haven't read and it's honestly not jumping out at me, so I think I'll continue to skip it. I loved As You Wish! I didn't notice it was him in Stranger Things either, it wasn't until KC pointed it out. oh such a bummer about False Step! after Jane Doe was so good. womp.

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    1. I'm so excited for you to read THIF!! I think it will help break you out of your slump. :) And Anonymous Girl was okay...not bad but not great. After I Do is also okay...it was a quick and easy read so I'd say don't write it off completely. But you don't have to rush out and grab it.

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  8. Missing Molly sounds like a fun read- I love the idea that Rachel is Molly. And a good airplane ride = LOTS of reading time! :)

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

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    1. It was a good read! The execution and characters could have used some adjustments but all in all it still held my interest and had me turning the pages.

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  9. Thanks for sharing, I always love hearing others book recommendations! I loved 'as you wish' and Cary Elwes - I enjoy stranger things castings of 80's Icons!
    Chic on the Cheap

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    1. It really is so fun to see who shows up in Stranger Things! Maybe it was the accent that threw me off with Cary. Or the fact that I haven't seen him in many other movies in the past decade or so!! LOL!

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  10. Loved Recursion and the Coben book.

    Tana French books are very slow builds but they are pieced together very smartly.

    I added Missing Molly to my list and I'm waiting on The Heart's Invisible Furies to come in at the library.

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    1. Molly has major character flaws but I still really got into it and liked the plot so it was still worth the read for me. Sorry for hyping Invisible Furies - hope you enjoy it regardless!

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  11. I'm definitely adding The Hearts Invisible Theories and After I do to my list! I loved the Princess Bride movie and As You Wish sounds really interesting!

    Jill - Doused in Pink

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    1. As You Wish was definitely a fun behind the scenes book!

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  12. I really enjoyed Recusion too but did have to put on my thinking cap a few times. And maybe re-read a few passages a few times before all the ligh bulbs clicked on too. LOL! Honestly, it's why I'm generally not a huge sci-fi fan but Crouch is so dang good and typically not too science heavy where you get lost. The Heart's Invisible Furies is on my TBR.

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    1. Okay, glad I'm not the only one who felt a bit challenged by Recursion! It was a really cool book and he's a great writer. But definitely not a super easy read!

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  13. I enjoyed Run Away and Anonymous Girl. I also liked After I Do and am questioning how I have not read Evidence of the Affair yet!! Miracle Creek has been on my to read list and I still haven't read a Blake Crouch book yet - but I want to start with Dark Matter.

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  14. If you liked Harlan Coban's book(s) he also created a couple miniseries for Netflix that were very good! They were called Safe and The Five!

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    1. Oh! Yes! Thanks for mentioning those! I watched those last summer (or fall?) and that was actually my introduction to Harlan Coben. I'd never even heard of his books before if you can believe it! I enjoyed both of those shows and hope there will more. I think they're also a good indicator of whether you'll like this book!

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  15. There are quite a few on here I'm really interested in reading! I've never read a courtroom drama and I'm always up for anything Irish! Can't wait to put a few of these on my list!

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  16. I am undecided about reading Blake Crouch's books as well as Miracle Creek!

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    1. If you haven't read anything by Crouch it's definitely worth giving him a chance. Based on your other selections I think you'd like him!

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  17. Lots of good books on this list! Can't go wrong with a TJR, and the Heart's Invisible Furies was excellent.

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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!