Monday, December 2, 2013

November Reads...

November was a good month for reading, even though I've probably never felt more overwhelmed in my entire life! Somehow I managed to escape into the pages of some really good books. Here they are, the good and the not so much. Here are my Goodreads reviews, and some additional thoughts in parenthesis:


4 Stars on Goodreads.
My Goodreads Review:  
WOW, that was INTENSE. I haven't felt that uncomfortable reading a book since The Shining. Mariah, Emma, and Anna told a big lie. And this is what happened. I was so uncomfortable reading this because I WAS a teenage girl, and I'll soon HAVE a teenage girl. And these girls were not bad girls. I or you or anyone could have a lapse in judgement as a teenager and make such a mistake, and then not have the maturity to correct it. The three different points of view made the story really strong. Anna was by far the most immature, having the least amount of guilt or understanding about the events that she directly put into motion. She had the most to gain. Emma was the most haunted by the lie they told, the most devastated, and the most effected. She had the most to lose. Mariah is an interesting character. She was levelheaded, trying to explain it away, but bothered by it despite her attempts to put it behind her. Mariah was intelligent and street smart and gritty. She was the one the girls looked to. She was the one who kept things cool. I would encourage my daughter to read this book when she gets older. I think it was really well written and the characters rang true. It is completely relate-able. I wish I had read this at age 14. I think it would have spoken to me as a troubled teenager. Not that I ever did something like this, but I don't think something like this couldn't have happened. And I feel the same way for my daughter.

(This is very good.  Unexpected.  The dialogue rang very true.  This is the way real teenage girls talk and act. )

An American Bride in Kabul

5 Stars on Goodreads.
My Goodreads Review:
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this part of Phyllis Chesler's life. It was fascinating. I think it was even better than it would have been if she told her story shortly after it happened, because she now has decades of feminist experience to draw upon. I equally appreciated reading her thoughts and beliefs on the political ramifications of these subjects. Much of her book reads as an almost train-of-thought narrative (though highly organized and thought out), and I loved having access to that authentic voice. I would give my eye teeth to take Phyllis Chesler out to dinner and pick her brain. So Ms. Chesler, the invitation is open if you're ever in Connecticut and feeling a bit peckish. It would be an honor.

(Could you imagine being in this situation??? Even though I knew Phyllis Chesler gets out of Afghanistan, I was holding my breath the whole time.  Thank goodness she got out!  And came home to kick some ass!!!)

After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story

1 Star on Goodreads.
My Goodreads Review:
I heard such amazing reviews on NPR of this book, but it's just not for me. I don't care for the writing style at all. I hate the sentence fragments: Mom at the table. Playing card. Us watching. I think this book was meant for a male audience, and a pretty specific male audience at that. In fact, I'm thinking this book is meant for a very, very niche audience. Oh well, back to the lib.

(In hindsight I can see that this wasn't the book for me.  I love memoirs, but memoirs written by women.  This is about a guy written by a guy, and I think that's the first thing that lost me. The writing was just too stylized.  It didn't feel like an authentic voice to me.  That just never works for me.  And it just never seemed to go anywhere.  A lot of words just for the sake of words, I felt.)

Just What Kind of Mother Are You?

4 Stars on Goodreads.
My Goodreads Review:
Probably should have spent the baby's nap doing much needed chores, but this would not take no for an answer! Very fast paced, good characters, nice suspense. It's not without it's holes, but I'm happy to overlook them because it was such a gripping read. I won't write what exactly the holes were, because I don't want to write a spoiler, but would love to discuss, send me a message if you thought so too! All in all, a very impressive debut novel. I would steer you towards this one if you are going through Gone Girl withdrawal! 

(Yes, this was good.  I was instantly hooked.  I picked it up in the bookstore with Megan and started reading the first page, and I just couldn't put it down. I forced myself to put it back after about 15 pages and requested it at the library instead.  After a long month, I got my turn, and it was worth waiting for.  It was very suspenseful and well written.  A true page-turner.)

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1-2)

5 Stars on Goodreads.
My Goodreads Review:
I couldn't put it down. I can't believe I haven't read it before now. A work of art.

(How did I miss this one all these years? Anyway, I'm glad that I read this now, having the knowledge I do of Iran and its history.  Had I read it when it came out, a lot would have been lost on me.  I need to find the sequel now!)

Her Fearful Symmetry

2 Stars on Goodreads.
My Goodreads Review:
Just too much of a downer for me. Really nothing else to say...

(Yes, just such a downer, from the very first paragraph.  Who on earth wants to read about such depressing people in such a depressing way?  All set.)

How the Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #9)

5 Stars on Goodreads.
My Goodreads Review:
I haven't read a mystery this good since the last time I read Elizabeth George. I love the village of Three Pines. I imagine it to be like the village my father's family is from in Quebec. I love the way Penny describes the cold and the snow, and the calmness of village life, and then upsets it all with the crime. This is the first Inspector Gamache novel I've read, but I'm so eager to start at the beginning. Of course my library is taking forever to get the first book for me, but they did have the second, so I'm starting there for now. I had been meaning for some time to try a Gamache novel, but just hadn't gotten around to it. But I couldn't resist this cover. Gorgeous! If it's set in the snow, I can't resist. There's plenty of snow in this one, and plenty of coziness and intriguing mystery. It deserves all five of these stars!

(I can not tell you how thrilled I am that I found this book, and that it's the 9th in the series, meaning I have EIGHT books I get to read with these characters in this setting.  I am over the moon. This was GREAT. I want to live in Three Pines (minus the murders, of course...) and go to Myrna's bookstore and stay at the B&B and go to the bistro and sit by the fire, and I want to do it with Cara and Ruth and Olivier and everyone all while switching randomly between English and French!!!! I am in love with these characters and the little village of Three Pines and completely in love with Louise Penny's writing!  I am a big fan of Elizabeth Geroge. I think her mysteries are more sophisticated and literary than most out there, and whenever I read a mystery I always compare it to EG.  A big compliment is, "It was almost as good as EG." BUT, get THIS!!!! This was AS GOOD as EG!!!! AS GOOD!!!!! I am reading reading another on right now,  and it is perfection. It will be in my December reviews, so stay tuned!) 

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)

Gemma Doyle, student at the Spence Academy of Young Ladies - turn of the century England - tells her story of finding her ancestral link into a secret, super-natural realm and the power it holds. I give the book four stars, but I give five BIG stars to Josephine Bailey who did an amazing job reading (performing is more like it) this book for the audio version. Well done.

(I really loved this one when I listened to it a few years ago, and so I got it again, and gave it another listen, but it just didn't thrill me this time. Josephine Bailey really does give an outstanding performance, and I think that's what makes this one worth checking out. But as far as the story and the writing, it was better than fair but not thrilling, at least on a second run.)