Archive of ‘My Reading Life’ category

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

 

June Book Report

I know I haven’t posted a blog for a while, but I have been busy catching up on my reading life. I wonder if scientists can go back to working on cloning ourselves now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available. This way, I can work at my day job, feed my family, clean my house, read, and blog.

Is that such a tall order? I guess so.

But I digress. My reading life has picked up quite a bit over the last month. I completed my book-buying ban in May and, I learned a lot about myself and my reading habits. First, I really can survive a month without buying books. I have the most amazing stories at my fingertips, and I am thoroughly enjoying them. I’ve read four books in June, and I’m halfway through two more titles which should be completed by the weekend.

The second thing I learned is that once I lifted the ban, I found out that I cannot be trusted in a bookstore or a library. And my Kindle has been getting a lot of extra attention lately. So here it is… the moment of truth. I borrowed four library books, downloaded eight titles, acquired two novels as gifts, and bought one from Amazon.com.

Yes, I know—15 titles in total! YIKES! I’m so ashamed.

(Well, I wouldn’t go that far… it was fun to buy books again).

But, now that I’ve had my fun, I am putting the book-buying ban back in place starting tomorrow for the rest of the summer. That’s right, no more book purchases until September 1st. I promise! And to show that I’m serious about this, I canceled my coveted subscription to the Modern Mrs. Darcy Bookclub and stopped following several FB and Instagram book blogs so that I won’t be tempted. But, I am hanging on to my membership to the Unread Shelf online community. Like Weight Watchers, I need to be surrounded by people with similar goals – in this case, reading the books we already own instead of buying new ones.

June was a productive reading month for me. It turns out that when I get serious about turning off Law & Order and tuning into my reading goals, I get a lot accomplished. I finished another four books this past month. Here is what I thought of them – (all book titles are linked to Goodreads to learn more).

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist – Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox wrote this book back in 2009 after his best-selling memoir, Lucky Man. Fox takes a deeper dive into his family life, his faith, and his acting career and activism for stem-cell research and a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. I have read three out of four of his books and find them all to be well-written and engaging. He is candid about his good fortune as an actor and how he feels about the cards he has been dealt with this debilitating, progressive, and incurable disease. His attitude for living his best life is both contagious and inspiring.

Brat: An ’80s Story – Andrew McCarthy

Speaking of 1980s heartthrobs, this memoir by Brat-Packer, Andrew McCarthy, was the first book I bought following my book-buying ban, and it did not disappoint. McCarthy offers up the perfect mix of stories about his difficult family life, his personal struggle with drugs and alcohol, and the behind-the-scenes look at some of my favorite movies – St. Elmo’s Fire, Weekend at Bernies, Mannequin, and of course, Pretty in Pink. His writing is both sincere and entertaining. His “good-guy” persona comes through the best when he writes about balancing success with his anxiety and imposter syndrome. I would have liked a few more juicy details from the movie sets, but he isn’t the kind of guy to kiss and tell. However, he does give just enough for me to want to watch those movies again, experience his talent and charm, and melt at his sexy smile.

Next Year in Havana – Chanel Cleeton

If you are looking for a good beach read, this is my pick of the month. This family saga takes place over two lifetimes – one in Havana 1958 during the rise of Fidel Castro, and the other in Miami 2017, where a freelance journalist travels to Cuba to spread her grandmother’s ashes and fulfill her dying wish. Family secrets are uncovered, and romance and adventure ensure all against a backdrop of a revolution and a dangerous political climate. I learned more about Cuban history than I ever knew from this novel. Cuban culture, food, and traditions jumped off the pages and into my vivid imagination. I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott

I mentioned this one last month and have since finished it. If you ever wanted to take a creative writing class but don’t know where to begin, this is the book for you. Anne Lamott is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. For years, she taught a writing class at an esteemed university, and all of her words of wisdom for aspiring writers are in this book. She is a brilliant teacher and writer, and I have no idea how long this book has been sitting on my shelf before reading it. But, it is my new writing bible for when I need motivation, inspiration, and when I just need something to light a fire under my ass and start writing. There were a lot of wonderful lines that I highlighted throughout the book. Right now, one of my favorite quotes from her is this, “We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Up Next

I am still working my way through Sally Hepworth’s, The Family Next Door. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and it is keeping my interest. I’m still waiting for the moment when the storyline is so good that I can’t put it down. I also want to read Jenny Lawson’s Broken (in the best possible way) – a collection of humorous essays about the writer’s mental and physical health journey. The next book on my radar is Emily Henry’s People We Meet On Vacation. I’ve heard it is a When Harry Met Sally-like tale set in the 21st century. I’m down for that! Stay tuned for my review.

As always, I hope you will buy books from an independent bookstore this summer instead of a big box company. Since I am going back on my self-imposed book buying ban, I need your help keeping these wonderful places in business.

Thank you, and happy reading!

Elisa

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