Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Books Books Books! (Summer)

Summer reading dump is here!
If you don't want to read this entire post, that's fair.  

Ultimate TL;DR: (links on reviews)
Definitely Read:  
  • Dear Madam President!!!  THIS THIS THIS!!!
  • Girl, Wash Your Face!!  THIS THIS THIS!!!
  • Burn for Me/White Hot/Wildfire (it's a series, if you can stop in the middle, you're stronger than me)
Maybe Read:  
  • From Lukov With Love
  • Us Against You (Beartown sequel)
    • If you liked Beartown, this follow up I think does a good job of being a not-shitty sequel, but no more after this plskthx.
  • Every Note Played
Hard Pass:  
  • 1984
  • Bad Girls Throughout History

Rating scale*:

1/5 - Hated it, DNF (didn't finish).
2/5 - Tolerated it on principle to finish, didn't like it.
3/5 - Eh, didn't love it, didn't hate it. Had some good parts/kept me interested/finished it on principle.
3.5/5 - I liked parts of it.
4/5 - I liked the whole thing.
4.5/5 - I liked it a lot, but not sure I'd read it again.
5/5 - I LURVED it and I'd read it again.

*Subject to change based on my mood, the phase of the moon, or other unpredictable variables.

Skimmers, stick with the bold text (TL;DR* parts).
PS. Possible spoilers included in reviews.

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews   4.5/5 (library audiobook)

White Hot by Ilona Andrews   4.5/5 (library audiobook)

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews   4.5/5 (own, Audible audiobook)

This is all Kristen's fault.  She raved about these books and then I got hooked and had to read all three!  I started the first one after the spring semester ended and I had to pace myself not to race through all of them.  I ended up finishing the third book while we were on our honeymoon diving expedition.  Between dives, I could be found playing stupid games on my phone while listening to the audiobook.  Even Teh German took a little bit of an interest.

Nevada and Rogan are believable most of the time.  There are times that Nevada made me want to punch her in the face, but that's a thing with strong characters, sometimes they are unlikable (remind me that about Mere Barrow).  There were also times that Rogan made me want to punch him in the face, but considerably less than wanting to punch Nevada .

The series goes through adventures that Nevada gets involved in/with and how her family is affected by her decisions and abilities.

In bittersweet news (yay more of the series, boo series that never ends!), book 4 (or 3.5 per Goodreads) is supposedly coming in Nov 2018.

TL;DR: It's a romance story, but it's not sugary sweet and there were actually parts that made me LOL.  It's got super powers, if that's your jam, and it's believable as written.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit   1.5/5 (library ebook) 

I thought this book was going to be about what the title suggested: mansplaining...  which was true, for the first chapter.. Then other topics were discussed.  At some point, I stumbled upon the fact that the book was actually a collection of essays, which made me hate it a little less.  But for me, the first essay was what I was looking for and after that, IDGAF about anything else in the book.

I probably should have, but I was disappointed by a misleading title.  Also, Solnit came across as an over-critical man-hater.  There was entire chapter on Virginia Wolfe and I was not interested so I skipped it.

TL;DR: I'm all about yay for feminism, but this book was not what I was looking for.  HARD PASS.

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World by Ann Shen   1.5/5 (Amazon free ebook)

I almost DNF-ed this one, but it was early in the year and I was, stupidly, worried about meeting my Goodreads challenge for the year.  Instead, skimmed through this drivel.  If you want to know something about a bad ass woman, do the research yourself.  These articles felt like she'd summarized a Wikipedia article and had someone draw a "cute" artsy photo of the woman and then she managed to get it published.  Ugh.

TL;DR: PASS.  Even if it's free, even if it's to bump up your total books for the year, PASS.

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova   4/5 (library audiobook)

Genova tore me apart with Still Alice, like shredded my ice cold heart.  This book was not the same.  This book was depressing and sad, but the ALS character was so unlikable that I wasn't overly concerned that he was sick and was going to die.  Also, how do you not tell your kid that you're sick and going to die?  I just... no.

I did appreciate how the caretaker was portrayed as being the person making the sacrifices, rather than the sick person being treated as a hero.

TL;DR: Man with ALS is going to die.  Such is life.  This is the process of that monumental event.

Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World by Jennifer Palmieri   10/5 (library audiobook)

This book, written by Hillary Clinton's communications director, is a letter to the, eventual, first female president.  I listened to this book on a flight during our honeymoon and I was blubbering and crying so hard and IDGAF.  Teh German even gave me a super concerned look when I was sniffling and wiping the tears away and then I told him what I was listening to and he was even more concerned/confused.

This book handled my heart with such gentleness, showing me all the struggles that powerful women have faced, continue face, and will always face.  It hit home in many ways, as I recognized scenarios that I have directly experienced because I am a female.  It also communicated hope.  That despite a serious blow to women in 2016, there is still hope.  Despite the blow, progress was made and progress will continue to be made.  There WILL BE a female president one day.

TL;DR: Struggles of powerful women have never been in shortage, nor will there be a time when powerful women don't struggle.  This book is the calm to a storm where you feel like you're barely able to stay afloat.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton   3.25/5 (library audiobook)

I wanted this to be the story of the election and the aftermath and the odds that were stacked against Clinton because she was a SHE..  But instead I felt like it was the story of the election and how emails email emails were the reason Hillary didn't win the presidential election in 2016 (holy shit, this fucktard has been our president for almost 2 years?  WTF is wrong with AMERICA?).

I wanted to hear about how she dealt with such a MAGNORMOUS defeat and the struggles in the days after.  There was a little of that, but it was kept to a minimum to take jabs at Trump and how he was elected with Putin's help and other political scandals that I really didn't care too much for.

TL;DR: If you're interested in Hillary's opinion of why she didn't win, this is the book for you.  Don't expect much of a summary about how being a female held her back.  If you want that, read Palmieri's book (above).

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers   3.5/5 (library ebook)

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers    3.5/5 (library ebook)

A series about "nuns" who are Death's handmaidens... essentially.  They kill people who are marked by Death, by marks only they can see.  This series was recommended by Brit.  This book is set in "olden times" if you will.  It's actually based on a historical event that I didn't read enough about to fully understand.  The books were enjoyable enough but I wasn't sooo hooked that I had to start the 3rd book right away, although it does sound the most intriguing.  I used the 2nd book as a challenge book.

TL;DR: People will die.  You'll wish other people died.  Also, the struggle in the 2nd book regarding responsibility and the true desires of Death was like a "FINALLY!" type of event.

From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata   4/5 (own, Audible audiobook)

Ice skating romance (or what apparently is called a "slow burn" which is something I didn't know was a thing until I wrote this review).  Jas is the fucking queen of the oblivious and she's too stubborn for her own good and if you didn't hate her at least once during the book, you're wrong.  She was obnoxious for so much of the book.

Lucky for her, we had Ivan, who I couldn't tell if he was a dick or a dream.  Honestly, for dealing with Jas, he's a fucking saint.  Lawdddd.  The banter was silly, but got old quickly because who actually acts like that all the time?  Let's get real people.

Nonetheless, it was a good book once you ignored how obnoxious Jas was and the epilogue was the perfect bow.

TL;DR: "Slow burn" where the main characters are ice skaters, which is kinda cool.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman   5/5 (own, Audible audiobook)

Something that irritated me very much when starting Beartown felt like a welcome home hug when I started Us Against You.

When I didn't get distracted by the Swedish story telling method, I luuuurrrvveeddd this book.  It's the way of foreshadowing then writing about what happens to show you how the scene actually unravels.

This book shattered my heart into so many pieces.  We revisit Maya as she works through the aftermath of her rape, Benji who deals with coming out, and all the support characters. Someone dies (no spoilers) and I didn't realize that it would crush me like it did. It was an excellent story of town rivalry and an accurate portrayal of the human character.

Also, if "that's a story for another time" is foreshadowing, I'm not sure if I'm excited or disappointed. At a certain point, it's ok to just let your characters go.

TL;DR: If you read Beartown, this is what immediately follows.  PS.  I still don't dig Swedish authors.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn   3.5/5 (own, Audible audiobook)

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I felt like the beginning dragged a bit and I was over Eve's crochity-ness and Charlie's obsession with Rose. Also, I'm uncool enough to not know what a Lagonda is, so I had to Google that. That really helped me visualize more of the scenes.

The twist that tied them together in the end alllllmost felt a little far fetched for me, but it was still an interesting book.  By about halfway, I was relieved that we started to get into Eve's backstory because otherwise, this was going to be a DNF.  I was glad for the ending that tied everything up nicely.

TL;DR: WW1/post-WW2 fiction.  Female spies.  Coming of age. 

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore   */5 (library audiobook)

I really enjoyed this book. It kinda lagged in the beginning, but after the initial setup, things progressed nicely. I'm sad that I can't say this wasn't fictional truth, as the end note essentially says, "Do not tell your friends the things in this book as hard facts." Nonetheless, I probably learned more about The Current Wars that I would have known otherwise.

It was very hard for me to stay in the 1886 time frame, I wanted the book to be set in the 1900-1905 time, for a reason that I do not know.  Also, I was glad for the happy ending after all the strife.

Now I want to read a book like this about Tesla inventing the electric car.

TL;DR: A historical fiction book about the AC/DC current battle between Edison and Westinghouse.

1984 by George Orwell   1.5/5 (library audiobook)

I know WHY we should all read 1984, but I fucking hated this book.  It was dry and tedious and if it hadn't been a challenge book, a book that most people read in high school, and a hot topic item due to the currently political scene in the US, I would have put this POS down by about page 25.  I HHHHAAAAATTTTTTEEEEEEDDDDDD this. 

Winston was a bore, Julia was interesting to me, but she didn't last. The affair was the most activity of the entire book and it was so short lived. Also, reading a book within the book made me stabby.

There are interesting points the book makes about complacency within the system and not fighting for your beliefs, but the entire book was so tedious that I felt like I was being tortured.  Like someone asked on Goodreads, WHY do people rate this 5 stars?  They obviously don't enjoy reading.

TL;DR: Find the Cliff's/Spark Notes (or whatever the current era's equivalent is) and read those and don't waste more of you life than necessary on this.

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy  3/5 (own, Audible audiobook)

I struggle with authors who write the same book with different characters (lookin' at you, Nick Sparks).  I read South of Broad for last year's challenge and I felt like all the same characters were in this book, except they went to the Citadel (or the Institute, semantics).

I was disappointed that The 10 were never dealt with, the stuff with Anna Marie (or whatever her name was) seemed like a tool to pass the time and ended up being completely irrelevant, which frustrated me. As a current non-cadet student, it was no surprise to see the "not hazing" that occurs to knobs.  Obviously, the most heartbreaking thing is when Pig is shunned and I didn't see what happened after coming.

At times this book felt like a slog. Like sometimes Conroy just wanted to write big words about Charleston in endless run-on sentences, but when the action was going down, I was hooked.

TL;DR: The Citadel banned this book for a while because it casts them in a negative light, but those days are over.  I can't speak to the brutality of the plebe system, but there is obviously still a sufficient amount of difficulty to overcome your Knob year.  If you want a glimpse into the life of a military college, this does a good job.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris, David Javerbaum   3.75/5 (own, hard copy)

As a NPH fan, this book was interesting to me when he explained about his childhood and getting into acting, etc. NPH seems like a generally awesome person who didn't let fame go to his head. The choose your own adventure part of this was cool in theory, but for this OCD reader, not knowing if I'd gotten through every page or not, I got frustrated. I did try the choose your own adventure thing, because it's cool in a, my 8 year old self would luuurrrvve this.. but my 32 year old self was like, I'm annoyed and lazy and will just be moving on to the next page now, kthx.

I would have liked more about HIMYM and maybe even the Dougie days, but there was more focus on magic, Broadway, being gay, and some other random stuff. Overall, I finished this book having enjoyed it though

TL;DR: If you're interested in the life of NPH, this book is for you.

War Storm (Red Queen #4) by Victoria Aveyard   3.5/5 (own, Audible audiobook)

WHHHYYYYYYY did this series not end?  We were SOOOO close and thennn Maven.. and now I have to wait on another book, which is the WORST.  For the 4th book, Cal and Mere have split up because Cal chose the crown and this book deals with that fallout.  Evangeline is a "slow burn" for me and as much as I dislike her, I also like her too, so it's complicated.  It didn't surprise me that she and Mere drifted towards each other more and more.

Maven.. That's So Maven.. is Maven.
Iris had me curious what was going to happen (since I'd mostly forgotten what happened in books 2/3 regarding her and her family) and I was glad in her Maven betrayal.

Mere was a lot less annoying in this book, but there were also 5 different perspectives so we didn't have to spend as much time with her. *praise hands*

TL;DR: I'm invested in this series and NOW I have to wait on another installment of the series and this is exactly why I hate series.  I hate waiting.

The Rising Tide (World War II: 1939-1945 #1) by Jeff Shaara   1/5 (returned, Audible audiobook)

Jeff Shaara writes as accurate as you can get historical fiction.  He does a lot of research on his characters (letters to/from them, journals, anything he can find) to make the characters as authentic as possible.  Yet, sometimes, that doesn't make a good story.  This book starts out in Africa during WW2 and not only was the desert dry, so was this book.  I endured about 4 hours before I finally said NO MAS!, informed Erin I was DNFing this book and would have to change 2 challenge category selections, AND went so far as to return this book to Audible because there will be NO wasted credits.

TL;DR: Did not finish because it was boring.  I never made it out of the desert.  Much like many soldiers.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley   3.5/5 (own, hard copy)

I'd heard a lot of good things about this book and as as dog person, I kinda knew where we were going to end up... what with dogs not having lifespans longer than humans.  I struggled with this book because the main ADULT character acted like a child in so many ways.

I did appreciate an accurate portrayal of weighing cost of pet care vs end results of said pet care.  I wasn't really into this book for a long time... and then I almost just gave up around 75% through because of octopus hunting and how fucking stupid it was.. and then it was just a dream, so if you read this and think, WTF this is stupid, just skip that chapter.  You're not missing anything.

Obviously when Ted had to take Lily in for her final vet visit, it shattered me.  We were actually driving back from NC and I went ahead and prepped myself with a tissue in hand because I knew I'd be crying.  Teh German was like, "WHAT IS HAPPENING???" and I explained that it was Lily's last vet visit and she wasn't coming home and he was like, "Ooooooohhhhhhhh."  With Phil, it was too soon, AND one of Lily's nicknames was Monkey and he kept referring to her as Monkey, which is one of Meri's nicknames and holy Lawd all my soft spots!

The final chapter/epilogue was sweet and really helped make up for the heartache of the final chapters, but not for the stupidity of the dream chapter and everything before.

TL;DR: It's no Art of Racing in the Rain, which will forever be the BEST book about dogs.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis  10!/5 (library audiobook, own -hard copy)

I wasn't expecting to love this book.  I had read a trusted review and just didn't think this was going to be my jam.  In fact, WHILE I was listening, this was more like a 3.75/5.  There were chapters that didn't apply to me (mom related), there were things I don't really care about (setting these HUGE goals like owning a business, etc), but Rachel made such poignoit points on SOOO many #GirlPower things that this book just touched my soul.  Also, she encouraged people to do a Disney run, obviously we'd be friends.

I loved this book so much that I posted about it on FB.  I went and found jpgs of quotes since I only had listened to the audiobook and couldn't remember the exact quotes I wanted and I couldn't find them on the internet to recreate them myself.  I even went and bought a hard copy... and when it arrived I cracked open that book and underlined my favorite lines.  The lines that I want to stick with me FOR FOREVER.

I reached out to several women I know to tell them they should read this book.  Before I could figure out how to send the audiobook to Teh Running Bestie, she'd already purchased it.  As soon as I finished underlining my favorite things, I delivered my copy to Teh PT Wife.  I feel very strongly about this book.  I did NOT want to feel so strongly about a "self-help" book.  I just didn't.  BUT I DO.  Her situation isn't going to be everyone's situation and some of her stories need to be edited and she's realistic about the fact that most of the time, things don't work out like they worked out for her, butttttt she was REAL about those truths, which made me appreciate the stories and situations.

I will say that if you are not a super religious person, this might not be your jam.  But even though I've drifted away in the last few years, the religious parts of this book didn't take anything away for me.

TL;DR: YOU WERE NOT MADE TO BE SMALL.  If you don't read this book, just take away that SINGLE sentence.  Take it to your heart and let it blossom.  You were not made to be small.

In Progress:

    On Deck:


      YAY for books!
      *TL;DR = too long, don't read


      1. I actually really liked 1984. I hated Brave New World though, which most people like better than 1984.

      2. Girl, Wash Your Face has been on hold for me FOREVER. Ugh I hope it comes soon. I saw you add the Kate Daniels series on your Goodreads and picked it up on a whim........I'm HOOKED. So thanks for that!

      3. I am so glad someone else was like Eghh about From Lukov with Love its still the only Zapata book I am just not a fan of.

      4. MWAHAHAHAHAHA evil laugh. i'm just glad you liked them!
        there is no 'sometimes' with Mere. she is always unlikable. i really don't know if i can handle war storm AND another book.
        the little novella coming out and the next few books in the series are going to be about one of the sisters, not nevada. ilona andrews let a spoiler slip when i went to see them, it's nothing crazy but.. let me know if you want to know it haha.
        i did not love every note played.

      5. I liked 1984 but it's not happy or filled with life, that's for sure.

      6. South of Broad was my least favorite Conroy book. Prince of Tides & Beach Music are the best. Girl Wash Your Face & Us Against you are going on the TBR.

      7. I liked Lily. I had read it when I was pregnant and filled with hormones and it was one month before I lost my Gracie. I knew she wasn't going to make it until Zoe was born. I had ALLLLLL the emotions. Man it was rough! Why did I read that then, I dont know???? I agree the whole hunt was dumb....but damn....that ending. I have Girl Wash Your Face on my TBR, happy to see another positive review. Beartown was alright, but I got bored a lot through it. I dont plan on reading the second.

      8. I felt the exact same way about 1984. I hate-read it because of it's significance, not because I actually enjoyed it.

      9. I have girl was your face on my list but Im waiting for the hype to die before reading it hehe

      10. I read Red Queen and liked it but did not love it and then picked up the next book, which I never even opened before returning it to the library. I just wasn't feeling it anymore and I honestly I didn't realize it was going to be that long of a series (I thought it was a trilogy) so I'm sorta glad I didn't continue the series. And I love a good series but I HATE the wait too. Sometimes I like finding out about a great series once it's complete so I can just binge it.

        1. I was good with 3 books, but this undetermined number makes me stabby.
          I am also this same way with TV programming. I like watching a series after it is complete so I don't have to wait. Just call me a millennial since I like immediate gratification.

      11. I read 1984 in college, along with Brave New World, and I liked them well enough. However, I hate-hate-hated Animal Farm.

        Also, I can't read Lily and the Octopus because of the dog thing. It wouldn't end well for me.

      12. I read the nun assassin series last month as well. I quite liked book #2. I wanted to love #3 but did not. She has a book in the same world publishing next year on Netgalley. I have it and am excited to read it. I want to read the Ilona Andrews series as well. Glad you liked it. I liked From Lukov with Love, but it was my first romance novel... so I feel like I should re-read it because I didn't really get the genre. The love-to-hate, the slow-burn, etc. haha I want to read a lot of these. That's a ton of reading! :) XO - Alexandra

        Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things


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