Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Books

I am stoked that even with our MoviePass membership, I am still getting in a decent amount of books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;)

There were FIFTY-TWO books in the first eight months of the year, so when I add September's NINE that brings my total for 2018 thus far to SIXTY-ONE! If you're interested in what I read (and how I'd rate them) or need a suggestion on books to grab, make sure to check out my previous recaps - I try to post them on the last day of the month! {January's Books / February's Books / March's Books / April's Books / May's Books / June's Books / July's Books / August's Books}

  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight - When the hubby and I took a road trip to Mammoth Lakes at the beginning of the month we needed a book to listen to. He already had this one on his phone so we gave it a go. This is a memoir from the co-creator of Nike about how the company came to be. I will be very upfront and let you know that Nike is not a brand I'm normally stoked about, but even still, the story was engaging and captivating. We figured we'd probably get through half of it on the drive up and the second half on the drive home... I'll be honest and say I was a bit surprised that even halfway through we hadn't arrived at the point of the creation of Nike as a brand yet, but I guess there was a decent amount of back story we needed beforehand. Even though I do not expect to create a fast-growing company anytime soon, I still found it interesting (although I had heard a lot of positive things about the book, I was still a little nervous that a "business memoir" would be boring and dry). I think sports fans, economists, history buffs, entrepreneurs, etc would all appreciate this read (but you don't have to identify as any of them to enjoy this one). I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine - I didn't know anything about this book when I got in line for it at the library (normally when the line is 10-15 people long I have a feeling it has "got to be" good), but I had seen a few people I follow on social media reading it so I figured I might as well. When it finally became available I didn't even read the synopsis on the back cover - I just jumped right in. I'm sort of glad I didn't know anything about this one going into it, because it definitely kept me in suspense and guessing about where the story was going. I really enjoyed it. When I was describing it to the hubby I told him it was like a reality TV show plot - where everyone thinks the grass is always greener on the other side... and you don't realize that the green grass is actually green spray-painted cement. I think the catchphrase on the front cover "Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve." fits the novel to a T. No spoilers from me - but I really liked how the story was told from the two different perspectives so you can really get a sense of what everyone is feeling (and I actually love that the "author" is actually the pen name of two sisters who write together as one!). Although summer is coming to a close, I think this would be the perfect book to read while laying at the beach or swinging in a hammock - entertaining, suspenseful and thrilling. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

In fact, I took my copy camping with me ;) 

  • The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han - After reading the "To All The Boys I Loved Before" series last month, I noticed that the author had another series (and our library happen to carry the books - whoo hoo!) so I knew I needed to grab them. Once they became available I rushed over and nabbed them. This is the first book in the series, and, I have to admit, I had high hopes. I really enjoyed her other series and was hoping I would love this one just as much. Well, let's just say it didn't live up to the other books. Now, I am not saying this was bad, it just didn't hook me as deeply (maybe it's because this series was written earlier in her career and she hadn't honed her craft as much, who knows?!). I am still a sucker for YA romances so gobbled this one up on a gray afternoon (when I had plenty of other things I should have been doing but flew through this book instead). Don't get me wrong, I am still planning on smashing the series, but from the way it currently looks, the other one will still rank higher for me. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han - The second book in the series, and it is exactly what I was expecting. The main character, Belly, is struggling between two loves and deciding which is the right one to go with. (I'll be honest, her flippant and somewhat immature behavior is a bit annoying, but, hey, at 16-17, I'm sure we were all a little silly like that, right?!) Like I mentioned with the previous book, I definitely liked the author's "To All The Boys I Loved Before" series better, but I still am enjoying this one. I wouldn't say it would be one that I would necessarily recommend to others (unless you are really a huge fan of YA romance books and have already read all of the other ones I would recommend ;)), but it is engaging and entertaining enough that I will still with it through the final book of the series. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han - Another series coming to an end, and I'm a little sad about it. I think this might have been my favorite book in the series because you could really sense the struggle and conflict in the characters. I was a little bummed when I got to the end (or maybe when I was 30-50 pages from the end) because I felt like there was so much more to the story that I wanted to know... but I guess that is sort of how much books end... letting the reader finish the story with their own imagination. I did appreciate having some of the chapters be from Conrad's perspective because throughout the series I thought he was a little aloof and not too likable, but seeing events from his viewpoint changed my opinion of him. If you are looking for a cutesy teenage summer romance type series, you'll fly through this one. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - I'll be honest, I had no idea what this book was about when I got "in line" for it at the library - I just knew I had a ton of friends who were reading it, loved it or had it on their "must read" list so I figured I'd just on the bandwagon. Let me start off by saying I am so confused as to all the comments (both in reviews online and on the back cover of the book) that state this is "humorous, funny and hilarious". This is a dark story with very serious themes. I have never thought that rape, child abuse, depression, assault, murder, mental illness, etc were amusing. I actually spent the first half of the book thinking that maybe the main character had Aspergers and wasn't sure why a reader would consider laughing at the character's somewhat odd social interactions. With that said, I do believe this was a well written book (especially seeing as it is the author's first novel). It is a great reminder that we have no idea the demons others are battling and to engage with everyone from a place of love and respect. I think had I not read the notes mentioning how "amusing" this book was I probably would have gone in with different expectations and might even have liked it a little more. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • The Power by Naomi Alderman - I swear, I should probably just the first few sentences of my synopsis on loop... This is yet another one that I don't remember where I got the recommendation from, but have been on the wait list at the library for a long while now. I didn't know anything about the book going in and I guess I didn't know what to expect. After seeing some of the reviews, I thought the comment that mentioned it was a mix of Hunger Games and Handmaid's Tale was pretty spot on. The premise of the novel is that females develop the power to electrocute people and subsequently seize control of society. The idea of a society in which one sex is systematically oppressed through the threat (or use) of physical and sexual violence seems outrageous, until you realize that is the society we live in on the daily. I really liked how all of the characters' stories eventually intertwined. At the beginning of the book I felt emboldened for being a woman and by the end I was scratching my head and wondering if in fact women would let power corrupt them just as much as men have. I know this is just a fictional story, but overall it was powerful and thought-provoking. There were a few parts that left me confused (who the end package was mailed to, why the author kept the letters at the beginning and end of the story, etc), but overall I really enjoyed it. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - I was on the wait list for this book for quite a while (a few weeks before the movie was set to hit the theaters) and it FINALLY became available. Although I normally prefer to read the book prior to seeing the movie, it didn't work out like that this time. Even still, I think I prefer the book to the movie. Seeing the film first stifled my imagination a little than normal because I was picturing the events how the looked on screen rather than letting my mind create the scene, but I still appreciated reading the book. And, surprisingly, there were even a few parts of the movie that I preferred over the book (such as Astrid's character and the ending of the film). I also didn't realize that this book was part of a trilogy (although, from the reviews I saw online, it sounds like this was definitely the best book of the three), so I might just have to add the remaining two books to my "for later" shelf at the library. If you've seen the movie, I wouldn't say you need to read the book, but if you haven't seen the film and are looking for an easy, entertaining read, this would definitely be enjoyable. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • The Girl Who Smiles Beads by Clemantine Wamariya - This is a memoir written by an activist who grew up during the war, atrocities and genocide in Rwanda. She left her home with her older sister when she was six and migrated through seven African counties before being granted asylum in the US when she was twelve. Her story is eye-opening. Not only was growing up during the conflict unimaginable, but everything she had to endure afterward is something many people don't mention or take time to think about. This memoir is powerful, maddening, thought-provoking, impactful, heartbreaking and so much more. It is about humanity and inhumanity. So often we are fed news about war or genocide and then move on with life, but for so many people "moving on" is not an option. This is not a "happily ever after" type story, it is real and raw, but it is a story that needs to be told. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

With that, September has come to a close. My reading may slow, but I definitely hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my queue if our library offers them!

What was the best book you read this month?


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

About "The Power" by Naomi Alderman...

I am not sure, but you may have missed the vital importance of the letters at the beginning and end of the book.

"Neil" and "Naomi" live 5000 years from now when, not only are women the obvious dominant gender, but "common sense" in their world is that it could never even have been otherwise.

Neil's occupation is ambiguous, but he likely is an historian or archaeologist. Implied are that his previous books are dry non-fiction, but that this new book that he has written, "The Power", is historical fiction that he hopes will help make the case for the consensus theory that archaeologists believe in which is that:

1. Before "The Cataclysm", women did not have their skein organ and shocking ability, so men, being physically stronger, were the dominant gender.

2. The Cataclysm occurred shortly after women gained their skein organ and shocking ability.

This is not the conventional wisdom of Neil and Naomi's time as it is believed that women have always had skeins to protect the family while men are more muscular to be better at doing domestic chores. Conventional wisdom is that The Cataclysm was due to an apocalyptic world war among (female dominated, of course) nation states of that time (our present).

Notice all the images in Neil's book: that is evidence of their past. The images themselves do not have anything directly to do with his historical fiction, but the images:

1. Helped motivate that historical fiction. For instance, the image of the Mother with raised hands illustrating their power is the motivation for telling Ally's story of becoming Mother Eve.

2. Help convey to the reader (5000 years from now) of his book what the archaeologists believe happened to cause The Cataclysm.

Something else that is important in the letters between Neil and Naomi is that we see a glimpse into their world 5000 years from now. For instance, even if the archaeologists were correct, both Neil and Naomi do not believe that men would be as hostile as women are if men were the dominant gender and that such a world would be kinder and gentler.

Please consider re-reading this book in the big-picture context of that I have described above. It makes the Naomi Alderman's book that much more interesting.

Thanks for your blog entry!