Thursday, July 25, 2013


My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 49.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Summary (via the book jacket):
At 22, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything.  In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed.  Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life.  With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State - and she would do it alone.

My Opinion:
I was excited when this was our book club selection because I had heard many great things about it.  Unfortunately, I didn't like it very much.  The beginning was excellent and sucked me right in but the rest of the book dragged and I was ready for it to be over.
That being said, I wouldn't call this a "bad" book or discourage anyone from reading it.  Personally, I just didn't connect with it and can't put my finger on why exactly that was.

Quote from the Book:
"The trees were tall but I was taller..."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

With All My Love

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 48.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Atria Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date for this book is July 30, 2013.

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan

Summary (via Goodreads):
When Briony McAllister takes a trip to visit her mother, Valerie, she uncovers a letter from her long-lost grandmother, bringing to light a nearly unforgivable act her mother has kept secret for decades.  Having always believed that her grandparents didn't want to see her, she finds out the opposite is true: her grandmother had been seeking her out all along, and it was her own mother who willfully kept them apart.
Devastated that her past has come back to haunt her, Valerie realizes that her daughter's anger might cause their troubled family history to repeat itself in a new generation.  Rich with emotion and featuring magnificent descriptions of Ireland, With All My Love deftly weaves the stories of the past and present to take us into the heart of a family at war.  As the truth is revealed, so too are the complex yet enduring bonds between mothers and daughters.

My Opinion:
Not the kind of book you read in public, especially if you are prone to tears.  I am emotionally drained after reading this book; that is a compliment.  It dripped with emotion and I found myself aching with remorse over the lost years (while I felt for Valerie during the flashbacks, I found her actions unforgivable), gasping as they relived their pain, and full-on ugly crying for the last third of the book.
A climatic moment near the end was too cheesy to make it a 5 star read but this was a solid book and I will look for others by the author.
Quote of the Blog:
*Since I read an ARC, I couldn't quote from the book directly like I normally try to.  Instead, I found a quote from a different book that seemed fitting.

"No human can bury their past indefinitely.  It's only a matter of time before you crack." ~ K.A. Tucker, Ten Tiny Breaths

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Last Word

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 47.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz
Book 6 of the mystery series "The Spellmans"

The Last Word picks up 4 months after Book 5 (Trail of the Spellmans ) left off, and tension is still high between the Spellmans.
In this book, Isabel becomes the main suspect in an embezzlement investigation involving her biggest client, and she must clear her name while repairing the relationships with her family and keeping Spellman Investigations afloat.

My Opinion:
I rarely read books the minute they come out, but Lisa Lutz is one of the few authors I make the effort to a) keep track of exactly when their new books will be released and b) put my name on the reserve list at the library so I can have it right away.
The relationship between the Spellmans is why I love the series so much, and this book was no exception.  It was a slower start than the others (the beginning focused more on the cases since the tension resulted in fewer family conversations), but the writing was fresh and I still liked it a lot.
I look forward to future books by the author.
I always recommend reading series in order; the first book in this series is The Spellman Files.

Quote from the Book:
"She keeps all of her passwords on her computer in a spreadsheet called 'Passwords'.  The spreadsheet isn't even password protected."

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tell the Wolves I'm Home

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 46.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Summary (via Goodreads):
1987.  There's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss.  Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend.  So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down.  But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life - someone who will help her heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.
At Finn's funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd.  A few days later, she receives a package in the mail.  Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn's apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet.  As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she's not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

A Note About My Reviews:
While I have many, many opinions about what I read, I keep what I write brief and vague for a few reasons.  First, I'm much more comfortable talking than writing.  Second, I'm terrified of spoiling/altering someone's experience and only have deep conversations about the book if I know the person has already read it, or if I know they have no intention of reading it and I just have to vent about something.  

My Opinion:
Absolutely stunning and incredibly well-written.  Although at the beginning I made the note "does the end justify the means?" (while I loved June as the protagonist, her age added a level of "squick" to some situations), all was quickly forgotten/forgiven as her journey continued.  You must experience this book for yourself.    
Read this.  Read this.  Oh, and one more thing...Read this.

Quote from the Book:
"Don't you know?  That's the secret.  If you always make sure you're exactly the person you hoped to be, if you always make sure you know only the very best people, then you won't care if you die tomorrow."

Friday, July 12, 2013

It Takes Balls

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 45.

It Takes Balls: Dating Single Moms and Other Confessions From an Unprepared Single Dad by Josh Wolf

Josh Wolf is a stand-up comedian and a regular on Chelsea Lately.  As the title indicates (doesn't it feel like the longer the title, the shorter the summary needs to be?), these are some of his adventures while dating as a single parent.

My Opinion:
There were two or three chapters that made me laugh out loud repeatedly, and while the rest of the book wasn't on par with those stories, it was entertaining and a quick read.
While it should come as no surprise that this book is crude, use of the "f" word is minimal and he didn't use offensive slang to refer to lady parts, so the stories weren't unnecessarily crass.  I don't mind language and would've laughed anyway but I wanted to point it out as an unexpected bonus.

Quote from the Book:
There were quite a few quotes that were hilarious but completely inappropriate so I settled for this:
"Have you ever done something so stupid that you're pretty sure there should be a new word to better describe how stupid you are?"


Thursday, July 11, 2013

In the Body of the World

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 44.

In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler

Summary (via Goodreads):
Playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler has devoted her life to the female body - how to talk about it, how to protect and value it.  Yet she spent much of her life disassociated from her own body - a disconnection brought on by her father's sexual abuse and her mother's remoteness.  "Because I did not, could not inhabit my body or the Earth," she writes, "I could not feel or know their pain."
But Ensler is shocked out of her distance.  While working in the Congo, she is shattered to encounter the horrific rape and violence inflicted on the women there.  Soon after, she is diagnosed with uterine cancer, and through months of horrific treatment, she is forced to become first and foremost a body - pricked, punctured, cut, scanned.  It is then that all distance is erased.  As she connects her own illness to the devastation of the earth, her life force to the resilience of humanity, she is finally, fully - and gratefully - joined to the body of the world.

My Opinion:
This book had a very lyrical quality to it and reads like poetry.  Her heart and soul were bared in these pages; it would be impossible not to be moved by her words.  Although she will never rest as long as there are women who need her voice to speak for them, I hope this writing was therapeutic enough to give her some peace from her inner demons because she certainly deserves it.

Quote from the Book:
"So much of life, it seems to me, is the framing and naming of things.  I had been so busy creating a future of love that I never identified the life I was living as the life of love, because up until then I had never felt entitled enough or free enough or, honestly, brave enough to embrace my own narrative."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Swift Justice

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 43.

Swift Justice by Laura DiSilverio
Book 1 of the "Charlie Swift" mystery series.

Summary (via Goodreads):
Charlotte "Charlie" Swift prefers working alone.  That's why after eight years as an Air Force investigator she became a PI rather than a cop.  She lives alone, she works alone, and aside for the occasional flirtation with sexy cop Connor Montgomery or her hunky neighbor Father Dan, she likes it that way.
Then her silent partner flees the country, leaving his wife Gigi with nothing but the house, the Hummer, and a half interest in Swift Investigations.  Charlie ends up with a heap of debt and Gigi, who has decided to be a not-so-silent partner.
This change comes about while Charlie is trying to find the mother of a baby abandoned on a client's doorstep.  While following leads, she sends Gigi out on crazy assignments, hoping that the pampered socialite will be driven to quit.  However, when the baby's mother turns up dead, there's a murderer on the loose and Charlie will need all the help she can get.

My Opinion:
Well written with enough twists to keep the plot entertaining, this was an easy breezy mystery perfect for summer reading.
Recommended to someone looking for a light mystery.  I will definitely read more by the author, including the continuation of this series.

Quote from the Book:
"Sometimes it's easy to know what the right thing is but hard to make yourself do it."

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Journal of Best Practices

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 42.

The Journal of Best Practices: a Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to be a Better Husband by David Finch

The title sums it up very well.  About 5 years after David marries Kristen, he is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  While this helps explain his frustrating behaviors that are causing problems with their marriage, the diagnosis itself doesn't improve their marriage.  For this, he creates a "Journal of Best Practices" filled with such notes as "apologies don't count when you shout them" and "don't change the radio station when she's singing along".  This journal, along with conversations/performance reviews from his wife, helps him try to be a better husband and father.

My Opinion:
I think anyone in a relationship would be able to relate to aspects of this book.  I was surprised by the similarities I found to my marriage (as was my husband when I read parts aloud to him; I had to reassure him that I wasn't trying to diagnose him), especially concerning the struggles my stereotypically logical engineer hubby has with empathy.
I admire David's willingness to try.  Instead of sitting back saying, "you can't expect me to do that...I have a disorder", he genuinely tries to find the tools necessary to support his wife.  That being said, I also have to give plenty of credit to his wife for a) not strangling him during the five years before there was a diagnosis and b) helping him so much afterwards.
As his behaviors improved, I was afraid I was reading a "look, I cured my Asperger's with willpower and you can too!" book, but I was able to relax as David went on to explain that some of his selfishness and unwillingness to help around the house were due to chauvinistic tendencies.  By altering his view on gender roles around the house, the changes he was able to make (such as helping his wife with the laundry since he no longer viewed it as a woman's job) were able to offset somewhat the aspects of his disorder he can't change (such as the necessity of his morning routine).  
David's writing style is very conversational and this book would probably translate well on audio, especially if he does the reading himself.

Quote from the Book:
"Do all that you can to be worthy of her love."

Monday, July 1, 2013

I am the Messenger

My goal is to read 100 books by the end of 2013.  I just finished book 41.

I am the Messenger

Summary (via the book jacket):
Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future.  He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman.  His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.  That's when Ed becomes the messenger.
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?

My Opinion:
It's inevitable that when an author writes a book that many people not only love but would rank as one of the top books they've ever read, anything that follows will be compared to that book and will often pale in comparison (what a great problem to have, right?).  This likely letdown didn't worry me because I'm apparently one of the few people that didn't loooove The Book Thief (don't slaughter me - I liked it, and I'm planning on rereading it since there may have been external factors that influenced my opinion), so now that I've addressed the elephant in the room, on to I am the Messenger with a clean slate...

What a beautiful story.  This is the kind of book that sneaks up on you may be able to put the book down during the first few chapters but be warned:  use the bathroom and grab a snack before the messages start.  You won't move again until the book is over.
But the ending?  Ummm, no.  Deflating.  I don't know what would have been a successful resolution to the book, but that wasn't it.
Read this book.  The brilliance of the story and the opportunity to know such characters as Milla (my favorite message by far) makes the last few pages worth it.  Read it.

Quote from the Book:
"There's an aura to this card, and it's been given to me."