Book Reviews

As I play catch-up on my past year and a half of book reviews, I have decided to break these posts down into 10 book reviews or so per post. I think I’ll end up with six of these posts this summer as I will review ~60 of the 100+ I read (some were duds not worth mentioning). Hopefully that will be a more manageable way to do these book reviews going forward. I will be using Amazon Affiliate links, mostly because I was going to link to Amazon anyway and I wanted to include a picture of the book; judging books by their covers in an unfair manner is my favorite. You can click on the book if you want to read summaries or reviews of the books via Amazon.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

This Gillian Flynn book by the Gone Girl author is a whole new level of dark and disturbing. There are some extremely brutal scenes. It is my least favorite of Flynn’s three books and it left me feeling icky because I am a delicate fleur. However, Flynn is a very talented writer with a knack for leaving you wanting to race to the end to figure it out. Will still pick up future books by her in a heartbeat.

Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lesson in Food and Love by Ann Mah

I love the concept of this book and the foodie travel memoir is always a favorite genre but this one was a miss. Based on the title, cover and description I thought this would give me yet another chance to live vicariously through someone eating their way through France…that wasn’t the case. This was less a tale of culinary adventure and more of a memoir of someone struggling with being apart from her husband for a year due to his job. I felt annoyed as she talked far more about not coping well with life than about eating French food. I wanted to be compassionate for her [entirely first world problem] situation but she is just so whiny! Eating toast for 3 months and ignoring everything France has to offer because of feeling sad and lonely is really hard to take in a food-based travel memoir. It made me feel so frustrated. Mah also managed to hit another nerve for me by making a point to mention things like how she doesn’t often eat dessert at lunch or that her pants were going to be too tight after a larger meal. Blegh. These things are not what a true lover of food would say and again, completely inappropriate in a food memoir! Skip it.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

What a crazy little delight this book turned out to be. Almost like a thriller about middle-aged and elderly bibliophiles, which makes no sense until you dive into the book. It makes you think about the differences between real books and digital books and also brings the past and the future together in a unique and somewhat unexpected way. It’s a thinker but I still blew through it in a day. Try it…you’ll like it!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I added this after Kate mentioned it and she was spot on. LOVED this weird and extremely nostalgic book and it keeps popping into my brain even well after finishing it. It’s set in a depressing and stark future where everyone pretty much lives online as avatars in a virtual utopia. Such an interesting concept. Just as an example – consider the idea of getting teased in a virtual high school for not being able to afford to trick out your avatar – it’s easily imaginable! When the creator of the utopia dies he initiates an elaborate virtual game, essentially a real-life video game, where the winner will inherit his fortune. Smart, clever, interesting, LOVE! This book may end up being my favorite read of the year. Trying to get Max to read it so we can talk about it.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Exactly the kind of mystery I like to read. A twisty, turny psychological thriller (Who to trust? What is the truth?) but not so dark and twisted that you are left feeling completely disturbed. Some might argue the ending is a tad too neatly wrapped up in a bow but vague endings are not my fave so give me prettily-wrapped-up presents any day. Bonus points for being set in Europe.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

A big hit for me. It was a fast and fun read. The story unfolded just slow enough to keep you wondering but fast enough to keep you hooked. Great characters and I loved the dark humor. Plus I loved the Seattle setting. Full recommend!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I found this during a middle of the night search for a new book and I’m glad I landed on it. A New Yorker goes to Singapore with her boyfriend to attend a wedding and meet his family. Turns out her boyfriend is from an extremely wealthy family and suddenly she is dealing with a slew of cultural differences – most notably the culture of high society. Fun, glamorous and full of interesting characters.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Morton has earned herself a place among my top authors – maybe even top 10. She combines historical fiction with excellent writing and mysteries and does it beautifully. Once again, Morton dances between the past and modern day and is an expert and keeping you fully hooked. It’s the kind of book that you will want to read incessantly until the last page. Awesome twist at the end leaving you going, “Wait. WHAT!?”

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

Started this one as I was watching the first season so I could compare. This Piper seems both more and less sympathetic than the Piper on screen. Certainly there was less drama in the real life story, but there is still far more drama than most of us have in our lives. In the end, though, I found this memoir a tick boring.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This is the story of a brilliant woman who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s. I was reluctant to read this for fear of it being too depressing, but my sitter who lent it to me assured me it was a manageably-sad story. I agree, although seeing the movie remains iffy, seems like it would be too vivid and depressing. The story is melancholy for sure but maintains levity in the face of the situation. Makes you think about end of life decisions and also how we should be living our lives.

1 Comment

  1. Kara says: Reply

    We have very similar reading likes, so I’m looking forward to more suggestions from you. Ready Player One was the best book I’ve read this decade. Where’d You Go Bernadette is my go-to recommendation for people who won’t like Ready Player One. I haven’t been able to convince anyone else to read Crazy Rich Asians, but I loved it.

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