I’ve long aspired to be a regular book reviewer. I’ve also started and stopped on more than one occasion. But I also know all the cliches about starting over, falling off the horse, and if at first you don’t succeed… you know the rest. So at the risk of beating a dead horse – once I start the cliches, I can’t stop – I’m starting again with some weekly suggestions of books I love.
I received these advance reader copies from Net Galley for a fair review:
This Could Change Everything. I’m torn on what to say about this book. On the one hand, it tends towards formulaic and predictable. On the other hand, it has some really fun characters, a great underlying theme and even its predictability couldn’t stop me from rooting for the happy ending. So what I’m landing on is this: sometimes I watch an action flick because it’s familiar and fun, not because it will win Oscars. And sometimes, I read a book, because it’s familiar and fun, not because I expect it to win a Pulitzer. There’s nothing wrong with writing for a certain niche and hitting the mark perfectly, and that’s what Jill Mansell has done here. It’s a fun, flirty, predictable rom-com that makes you feel good, has a ton of enjoyable and well-rounded characters and guarantees a happy ending. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, if it’s the mood you need to hit.
Us Against You. Last year, Beartown became one of my all-time favorite books. This development, honestly, shocked me since I am not a sports-er. This year Backman does it again with Us Against You, a book about people, motives, relationships, brothers, enemies, love, survival…and oh yeah, hockey. I am fascinated by Backman’s ability to take any character and show the spaces between the actions and the words, to make things a little less black and white. People are not good, or bad, they are people. They make choices and do things because of the million moments that came before this one. Each one of us is only a step or two from greatness or disaster. And love, love, love weaves through it all – through the grief, through the pride, through the pain. We are the bears. The bears of Beartown.
When Life Gives you Lululemons. Should I feel guilty about enjoying a book that is the moral equivalent of reading the National Enquirer while watching the Maury Povich show? Maybe I should, but I don’t. This book is laugh out loud clever, scandalous, sharp, and just flat out fun. It’s not groundbreaking or illuminating, it’s what you read in the bath with a glass of wine after a long day, or on the beach while trying to forget your own problems and issues. It’s a make-believe gossip-fest with girls you can’t quite believe you are actually hanging out with. I enjoyed it immensely, right down to the predictable, yet still satisfying ending.
I warn you, you’ll learn more about cosmetic surgery than you ever wanted to know. But if you don’t laugh so hard you’ll nearly wet your pants (there’s a procedure for that), then you’re taking this book too seriously.
On shelves now.
I’m lucky enough to have unlimited access to my library shelves. Here’s what I read straight off my library’s new release shelves, and you can too.
Educated: A Memoir. There are times when you finish a book and you know the visceral reaction will likely never leave you. Tara Westover’s story is one of extreme fundamentalism, abuse, ignorance, and poverty. It is also a story of immense courage, incredible forgiveness, heartbreaking self-awareness and nearly unbearable sacrifice. What did it cost her to be educated? Nearly everything. It also likely saved her life. Once I started this book, I could hardly make myself put it down, so badly did I want to see her escape and achieve wholeness. The echoes of fundamentalism resonated with my own unlike and yet occasionally similar experience so that I sometimes had to stop reading and breathe in order not to fall into panic. Tara’s writing is so clear, gorgeous and unrelenting, even a lesser story would have captivated me, but her story, her real-life story is nearly beyond imagining.
My one caveat to this is how filled it is with triggers for those who have suffered emotional, physical or spiritual abuse. Be aware there are no soft edges to this narrative, and yet to soften even a moment of it would be to coat it in a lie. Tara Westover is done lying in order to normalize the actions and effects of abuse.
From the Stacks
I don’t just read new releases. There are plenty of books that have been sitting on my to-read book for years. Here are a couple that were worth the wait.
The Devil Wears Prada. I’ll be honest, this isn’t a book I ever really expected to read. But I have the opportunity to read the third installment in the series as an ARC and I can NOT read the third book in a series first. But, despite my total ignorance and perhaps a bit of disdain for the haute couture culture, I did really enjoy this story. Alex is a likable and endearing protagonist and Miranda, of course, is the ultimate antagonist. There isn’t anything groundbreaking or provocative in this book, it’s just a well-written story with good, complex characters and an ending that doesn’t rely on tropes.
PS The kindle edition is $1.99 today.