Archive of ‘My Reading Life’ category

September Book Report

My new favorite place to read these days is on our new patio. Over the summer, we took a boring concrete slab and created an outdoor oasis. I love sitting out there during the day to eat my lunch and read the New York Times. In the evenings, the awning provides the perfect lighting to read under the stars. And now that summer is turning to fall; the cooler temperature reminds me to grab a cozy blanket and a hot beverage on the way out the door.

The patio is one of the big reasons why I was able to read so much this month. It is a new space to enjoy, and I could sit out there for hours. Here is what I have been reading in my new favorite spot.

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline 

From her weekly Chick Lit columns in the Philadelphia Inquirer to her crime novels and hilarious and often poignant essay collections, I count Lisa Scottoline among some of my favorite authors. So, it didn’t surprise me when I gave her a 5-star rating on Goodreads for her first historical fiction book, Eternal. This incredible story has it all – a romantic triangle, family drama, loss and love, food and culture. It all takes place in Rome at the beginning of World War II when Italy sided with Nazi Germany and passed laws against the Jewish people. This turn of events tragically impacts one of the main characters and ultimately changes all of their lives forever. Honestly, I don’t want to tell you much more except that the entire book is a page-turner (all 480 pages!), and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Four siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of summer. But over the course of 24 hours, their lives will change forever,” reads a description of the book.

This was the IT book of the summer. It landed on every “must-read” summer reading list, and the hype was outrageous. I mean – it’s a book, not the second coming of Christ. Nevertheless, avid readers, casual readers, beach readers, and everyone in between looked forward to buying the latest book by this incredibly talented author – including me.

I enjoyed the first half very much. Each of the siblings had interesting backstories, and it was clear that they loved each other in good times and in bad. Much of their story was told in flashbacks to their difficult childhood (an absentee father and a mother who foolishly believed he would come back someday). Each flashback added elements of strength and vulnerability to the characters that made me root for them to all have a happy ending.

And then the party started, which was when about the time that I wanted to go home. So many minor characters are introduced in the second half of the novel. I had a hard time keeping them all straight. And honestly, I didn’t want to. They added absolutely nothing to the storyline except that they were all Hollywood celebrities who were there for sex, drugs, and rock and roll. To get back to the main plot, I had to trudge through the backstories of all these new people and endure their drunken antics in graphic detail. When we finally returned to the siblings, I felt the end of their stories was rushed in an attempt to wrap it up in a neat and tidy bow for the author to meet a looming publishing deadline.

I like this author, so I will continue to read her work. Malibu Rising was not my favorite read of the summer, but I did finish it…which is more than I can say for the next book.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

You guys… I wanted to love this book! I REALLY DID. In fact, I read over 200 pages of it before I DNF’d it for good. One thing I don’t care for in my reading life is a slow burn to arrive at the action in a story. I love how characters are introduced and meeting their family and friends. I enjoy witnessing the situations that unfold that lead me to the meat of the story. But in this book – after 200+ pages – nothing was happening to keep me engaged. Sure, there were office politics and microaggressions everywhere. And then, there were flashbacks to another pair of black women who, in my opinion, did not add much to the story. I have since learned that they play a more significant part at the end of the novel. But, at the time, I found them to be a nuisance. I think this story would have been much better if the author had a much better editor. There was so much that could have been cut out to move the story along.

From reading other reviews, I understand that the explosive twist and subsequent events made the book special. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get there. There wasn’t enough for me to stick around for the big finish.

What I’m reading now

I decided to change things up and pick up a political thriller complete with racial tension, a public health crisis, and an attempt to take over the government. Yep – I’m reading a book about the Trump administration.

I Alone Can Fix It is a behind-the-scenes look at the last year of his presidency, complete power grabs, personalities, and peril all taking place in the toxic work environment that was the White House in 2020. It could probably be turned into a blockbuster movie if it wasn’t so terribly real, and we all didn’t experience it unfolding before our eyes. The only thing missing that would come in handy is an organizational chart listing all the people and their positions so I can keep track of who is who. For that reason, I would recommend reading this in hard copy or Kindle format so that you can easily go back and refresh your memory. And if you still have some PTSD from the last 18 months, maybe you want to skip this book.

Top of My TBR Pile

Katie Couric’s memoir – Going There – is coming out on October 26th, and I am here for it. I preordered the hardcover from my local indie bookstore because I want it on my bookshelf. I’ve admired her reporting skills for years and appreciate all she has done to raise awareness for many causes. But, let’s be honest, I’m also here to read about her working relationship with her disgraced co-host Matt Lauer. What did she know? How did she find out? Do they still talk to each other? I can’t wait to find out.

So, that’s it for September. Don’t forget to support your local independent bookstores. By doing so, you help dollars, jobs and taxes remain in your community and meet book lovers like you who can introduce you to your next great read. If you are in the Philly area, check out some of my favorite indie bookstores in person or like them on Facebook. Here is a quick list:

  • Reads & Company in Phoenixville
  • The Doylestown Bookshop – Doylestown borough
  • The Lahaska Bookshop – Peddlers Village
  • Words Matter Bookstore in Pitman, NJ
  • Open Book in Jenkintown

Happy reading!

Elisa

August Book Report

I love a good podcast, and lately, I’ve been listening to episodes about the ’70s and ’80s nostalgia. One of my favorites is “The Pop Culture Preservation Society,” which recently dedicated an entire episode to ranking Barry Manilow songs. Whether you are a Fanilow or not, I highly recommend it. And if you are a child of either of these decades, this podcast is worth checking out.

So, what does this have to do with my reading life? I also came across some podcasts that were just plain awful. The topics were interesting but misleading, including one that took a deep dive into books turned into movies. When one of the hosts declared that books were “a waste of his precious time,” I immediately banned him and his podcast from my playlist.

You can imagine the horror I felt when I heard these words. And if you agree with him, then maybe this blog post isn’t for you. But, if you are a casual or a voracious reader, or at the very least feel that books are gifts that keep on giving, keep on reading!

God Spare the Girls

The Nolan family looks good on paper. A husband who shines as the beloved young pastor at a Texas Evangelical church with an incredibly supportive wife by his side. Two daughters, Abigail and Caroline, were born into his spotlight and grew up under the constant watchful eye of members of the congregation. When the community learns of an affair between the pastor and a congregant, scandal erupts in their seemingly perfect life. And his wife, their daughters, and the congregation must decide if he can be forgiven and what that means for their own faith and family values.

I’ll get straight to it. I LOVED this book. I’m a sucker for a good family drama, and basing the story in a fire and brimstone church setting brought the stakes to an all-time high. The story centers around the pastor’s daughters – one relying on her faith in the wake of the scandal and the other questioning everything she was ever taught about living a moral, Christian lifestyle. However, the reader also watches the community’s reactions unfold – from their mother to the senior pastor to their significant others. The ending was pretty predictable but getting there made for a fun and fascinating read.

The Other Black Girl

I am only about three chapters into this summer bestseller, but I am immersed in this story about a young Black woman working as an associate in a publishing company. Having worked in publishing myself for the first 10 years of my career, I can totally relate to everything from the tedious manuscript prep to author and editor meetings over fancy dinners that I could never afford on my salary alone. But, you guys, there is something seriously messed up about the office politics at this company! Diversity is a joke across the board, and bosses are condescendingly sweet, but I am anxiously awaiting the backstabbing to begin.

This book is due back at the library on Tuesday. I should finish it by then, but if not – I’ll happily pay the late fee.

Up Next

I’m so glad our book club selected Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is another summer smash hit that many people have on their TBR list. I can’t wait to dive into this one. It will make for a nice end to the summer reading season.

A Not-So-Little Book Shopping Spree

So, you know that self-imposed book-buying ban I announced last month to focus on the books I own and not be tempted by shiny new titles? Yeah, that’s officially over. 😉

In the middle of the month, I fell off the wagon when I attended HippoCamp 2021 and accidentally left my Kindle at home. I was so mad at myself but quickly realized that one of the best things about a writing conference is their bookstore.

It started innocently enough. My first visit to the bookstore yielded four books specifically about my craft. Come on – that’s not a shopping spree; it’s a tax write-off!

But then I went back. Twice. And picked up five more titles from the table written by some of the amazing writers and brilliant speakers attending the conference. How could I not buy these books after I met them face to face? These are my kind of people, and I want to get to know them better. What better way than by buying their book. 🙂

I wish I could tell you that the end of the writers’ conference was the end of the shopping spree. However, I’d be lying. I went home, picked up my Kindle, and proceeded to purchase several titles. I’ve lost count of how many I downloaded, and I don’t want to know. Let’s just say that I have been an excellent literary citizen this month.

Final thoughts

I typically end these book reports for a plea to buy from independent bookstores. I’m sad to say that I have done the opposite this month and bought many cheap titles from that big box store that I don’t like to speak of.

So, PLEASE – do as I say and not as I do and support independent bookstores. I will do better when I am ready for my next shopping spree – but that won’t be for a while.

July Book Report

I don’t understand what happened this past month, but sadly, my reading life has been disappointing lately. And it is not because I haven’t been reading. I think I picked the wrong ones. This is a bummer for me because I enjoy summer reading more than any other season. I like beach reads and summer book lists and everything that is associated with sitting on my comfy chair with a glass of wine and a good book.

On the plus side, I will say that I’m sort of glad I finished them all and didn’t play the DNF (did not finish) card. And I learned that I must stick to my rule of DNF-ing a book that I can’t get into within the first 75 pages. If I’m not invested by chapter 5, I’m putting it back on the shelf.

There are too many good books out there and never enough time to read them.

On the bright side, I’m four books ahead of schedule on my Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. If I keep this pace up – 3-4 books a month – I’ll finish the year at around 30 titles. But, it isn’t the number of books that matters; it is the quality of the stories that I am reading that counts.

And, If you have read this far into my blog post, you are probably wondering what books I read. So, let’s dive in!

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker 

The basic premise of this book is that several women are working their way up the corporate ladder. At some point in their tenure, they each get involved with their boss – a married man who likes to hire younger women and manipulate them with opportunities and promotions in exchange for certain favors. Now that their boss is about to become the next CEO of the company, they don’t want to stay silent any longer. So, can they all come together to take him down once and for all? Sound like a good story, right?

I decided to listen to this book on Audible, but the narrator did not do these characters justice. I had a hard time telling them all apart and after a while, I just didn’t care. A murder mystery subplot does develop about three-quarters of the way into the book, but at that point, I’ve completely lost interest.

I had high expectations for this book mainly because the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace interests me. It also came highly recommended by Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I’ve enjoyed several of her selections in the past, so I thought this would be no different. Also, the book was advertised as a thriller and a satisfying beach read, but to me, it was neither of those things.

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

“A gripping domestic page-turner…” was how this book was advertised. But unfortunately, this was another story with several female characters that the author didn’t differentiate enough for me to keep the stories straight. Basically, three women live on a suburban street where everyone knows each other’s children and business. A new neighbor moves in and because she is single, successful, and childless, the other women are intrigued. What is she doing there? Why would she move there? They were all intrigued by this woman and a little jealous. I was about to DNF this book, but an unexpected twist happened so I had to see it through to the end. I liked the ending but wished the book was more of the “page-turner it promised to be.

I picked this book for our August book club and looking forward to discussing it to see what the others thought of it. I think someone else should pick the next book though.

The People You Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

The next book I picked up is one that appears on almost every 2021 summer reading list. It promised a story that was a modern-day “When Harry Met Sally”. I actually rather enjoyed this book, but I wouldn’t say that I’d highly recommend it.

It’s your basic – Boy meets girl. Boy is aloof. Girl is cute but can be a little annoying. Boy and girl fight and spend 10 years of their lives trying to convince themselves they don’t love each other even though (spoiler alert) they really do.

Don’t worry, I didn’t give away the ending there. It is so obvious from the get-go!

Poppy and Alex are adorable and their witty banter kept the story moving along. And yes, there was a Harry/Sally-esque theme to the story. For me, there was way too much hype around this book – a sophomore novel by Emily Henry, who wrote “Beach Read” last summer. I really liked that book, and this one was good too, but it didn’t knock my socks off. And, after being so unhappy with the first two books I read this month, I was hoping this would turn things around for me.

Ending Parkinson’s Disease: A Prescription for Action

The last book I read – “Ending Parkinson’s Disease” – was written by four esteemed doctors and experts who are affiliated with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. I’m learning a lot about the genetic research and environmental factors that are behind this disease which has affected members of my own family. It was an interesting read, and I finished most of it. I wouldn’t say it was entertaining, but it was a solid read and one I will keep on my bookshelf as a reference when I start writing my own book (whenever that is ?).

Upcoming Books

As I said, I’m not sticking with any books that I can’t get into within the first 75 pages. I have already DNF’d Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson. I hear this book is fantastic, but because it is a book of essays about mental health issues, it doesn’t say “summer reading” to me right now. Luckily, I got it from the library and can easily access it again when I’m ready.

I keep picking up and putting down The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali. I’m going to give it another go because I love historical fiction novels. And if this one doesn’t work out, I have a backup that fits nicely into this genre – Eternal by Lisa Scottoline. You won’t find this book on any 2021 summer reading lists, but that’s fine with me. I love her books and her column in the Philadelphia Inquirer. She has yet to disappoint me and from what I’ve read about the book – this is the one she has always wanted to write.

I also have a nonfiction book called Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. It is a short book about approaching your goals with a productive mindset. This is something I need to tap into right now.

I’ll save room on my list for whatever my book club wants to read next. I’m hoping for something light and easy.

Regardless of what I read – Above all, I am determined to have a much better reading month in August!

The Last Word

As always, I’m happy to offer up these book reviews to you. The only thing I ask is that you do not buy these titles from a big box company and support your local independent bookshop. I don’t about you, but I’d much rather support a family business than a man who uses my money to fund his personal space travel. Just saying…

Happy Reading!

Elisa

 

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