Book Review – The Grownup By Gillian Flynn

img_0634

Do I still say Happy New Year?  Well, I guess there’s no harm in that right?  Happy New Year Everyone.  I haven’t gotten a heck of a lot of reading done but I’m working on it.  Most of you know I joined the Book the Month Club a few months ago and every month I look forward to receiving the ONE book.  This month….. TaDa!!!!! There were two …. WHAT?????? yep, as you can see in the picture above, I got a special gift from the Book of Month Club… Well, I’m not special.  We all got a special gift from them.

The Grownup – a short story by Gillian Flynn.  The author of Gone Girl.  I didn’t read Gone Girl.  Not because I have been living under a rock but because 1) the hype.  It felt as if for a while there everyone was reading it.  You couldn’t enter a subway in New York or a train in New Jersey without seeing that cover peaking at you hiding someone’s face.  Everyone was reading it and I rebelled and decided it was not for me.  I heard enough about it and there was no reason to read it now.  2) thriller and not just any type of thriller, I can handle a thriller but I had heard that this one was a scary thriller.  hmmm I’m a chicken…. haven’t you heard?  So not for me, I thought.  I decided that Gillian Flynn was not for me.

So, after receiving my January monthly box I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to read this very short story. After all, how scary can it be in 62 pages?  hmmmm I opened it…… I read the first few lines and ……What the……. seriously?  right off the bat the book was a punch in the gut.  It was gross…. my sensitive eyes could not believe what they were reading.  Was this a sex novel?  Not my type of genre, I must admit.  I’m a bit prudish for that.  I continued, imagining myself putting it down at around page 4 or 5.

I WAS HOOKED.  Good job Ms. Flynn.  You have converted a chicken.  2017 will find me reading more thrillers.  I read the book in about 1 hour — yes, ok, it was only 62 pages.  But considering I was not even planning on reading it, it says a lot for me and the book.  Yay me!!!!

The book follows a somewhat prostitute turned fortune teller.  Sounds like someone who you can’t like right?  But she’s funny, intelligent even though she lacks formal education, and loves books.  You even come to understand why she chose such careers for herself.  She tells us the story of her mother and why she got to where she is and even though her mother sounded like a winner I found myself sympathizing with her.  An single parent trying to do the best she could…. ok, maybe not!!! She learned the trade of con artistry from her mother and it has served her well.  She’s even gotten better at it.

The story takes a few twists and turns and we find ourselves in a mansion with an amazing library –yes I’m super jealous of that library – Our protagonist has somehow coned this family into letting her cleanse the house…. or did she?

The book was great.  I, of course, don’t have many other like genres to compare it to, but I had to finish it in one sitting.  The writing was super clear.  It was as if I was sitting in the library or in the kitchen with the characters.  There were points in the novel where I had so many goose bumps on my body that it hurt.  I was super hypersensitive to what was happening and THAT my friends is good thriller stuff.  I don’t like that feeling but I couldn’t stop reading almost just so I could put a stop to it.

I never thought I would recommend a scary thriller to anyone.  But, never say never right?  And it is only 62 pages…. go for it.

I gave this book 4 stars.  Why four you might ask?  Well because there were a few twists and turns that I just didn’t see the reason for and 4 because I don’t like being scared …. no seriously …. because the ending was really bad.  It was as if Gillian Flynn had ran out of words.  It felt incomplete ….

Hope you read it and if you do, let me know what you think.

Ana

Book Review – Covering Kenji Yoshino

unknown-3

Publisher:  Random House
Year Published 2006

Although I enjoyed the book. I have a few problems with it.  The book is very well written, perhaps one of the better written books I have read this year.  However, I can’t help but view “covering” as something we all do because we all need to live in society.  Another form of “Survival of the fittest.”

I couldn’t help but feel as if we keep looking for more reasons to place labels on ourselves. Why is it necessary to have a label?  Just because I choose to try to get rid of my accent doesn’t mean I feel as if I’m being discriminated against.  It can be and most likely the reason is that I hate my accent….. period.  Why is that wrong?  And why should I be made feel as if I cannot do that without questioning it or being questioned.

I don’t mean to say that perhaps in the early days of our country, immigrants felt the need to mask their accents, their way of living and any other foreign aspects of their beings.  However, I can say with 100% certainty that the only time I ever felt discriminated against or made fun of was actually by kids from my own country when I first arrived in the United States.  Perhaps due to their own insecurities.

There is a saying “when in Rome do as the Romans do” and we should keep that in mind.  The fact that we behave like the majority of the people is not to hide who we truly are but because humans are social creatures and that’s what social creatures do….. they conform so they can live peacefully.

Although I do not live in the shoes of the author and I do not know what it is to be a gay man in his world, it cannot be any different than any other man who is gay and made it through life without winning about it.  I found myself angry with the author at times and my book wound up full of little notes and tabs ……. Very stressful reading for me.

I have to say that I heard the author speak about the book at had the same feeling during the speech. I wanted to get up and put a stop to the conversation but…. the rest of the room seemed interested so …… I behaved as the rest of the room and kept quiet because that was the polite thing to do….

The book is well written.  The author is very personable and those were reasons enough for me to give the book 3 stars.

Book Review – Talking as Fast as I can by Lauren Graham

unknown-1

Publisher:  Balentine Books
Medium:  Audio (Audible)
Date Published: November 29, 2016
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Stars

For those of you who are nutty about the Gilmore Girls this is going to be such an awesome treat.  I put myself on the waiting list as soon as I heard it was being published.  I’m really glad I go the audio book instead of the print, because Lauren Graham is the narrator and the story takes a life of its own as she reads it in the way only she can …. that fast talking way that her and Rori are so famous for.  However, I am also going to get the book in print so I can re-read it and because I want to look at the pictures she mentioned throughout the book.

So, this book is a collection of essays by Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) spanning from dating, use of social media, being an actress, having a job and in general being a human being with all our dents and bruises as well as all the smooth parts :).

As you can imagine, this book is a fun read and intertwined there are small things you can take with you as learning experiences.  I particularly enjoyed hearing about how social media and our devices in general have taken over our lives and how in the grand scheme of things, why are we so afraid to miss out on something?  Also, as a New Yorker, I related to her lesson on take life slower, another did-bit of advice from Old Lady (I can’t remember her name whaaa!!).

There were times throughout the book where I laughed out loud (LOL) literally… I’m glad to be in New York… people laughing out loud to themselves is really normal around here.  There were also times when I felt as if I could cry along with Lauren (Lorelai).  Particularly during her discussion about Richard, Lorelai’s father, whom passed away last year.  I spoil this for you but there is one particular point when she’s writing about her Emily (Lorelai’s mom) and discussing Richard …. that was a tough moment.

I enjoyed every minute of this book and am glad I commuted to the office a few days so I was able to really relax on the train and listen to it.

I gave it 4.5 stars only because I think the book speaks mostly to fans and not to everyone.  I think if you’re a fan of the show you are going to love the book but if you aren’t or you haven’t followed the show, some of the references will mean nothing to you and the dynamics of the book will be lost on you.

Now, off to the bookstore to get the print copy 🙂

XoXo

Book Review – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am usually not a fan of a book that starts at the end, but this one works. We meet Ms. Katey Kontent (yah) as she is admiring photographs at a gallery with her husband. This is the story of two friends Katey and Evie. This is also the story of a City, New York City. The choices we make and the roads we choose to take all lead us somewhere and we all have to live with those choices. What we do to stay alive. Not just in the physical sense of the word but what we do to stay alive in the metaphorical sense as well. Do we choose wealth over happiness? How we judge wealth and happiness?

At first I couldn’t help but feel as if Katey was an observer. At times it was as if she was allowing Evie to make all the decisions. However, the more I read and got to know both women the more I realized that, although it appeared as if Evie was in control, it was Katie who all along had control of the situation. She made the decisions whereas Evie although attempting to look in control allowed her circumstances to guide her decisions.

Amor Towles’ writing is hypnotic, poetic and raw. I found myself being transported to New York in 1938, and wondering what choices I would have made. Would I have been willing to put it all on the line and walk away would I have taken the easy and more comfortable road? It’s true that two roads diverge in a woods …… and whichever one you decide to take makes all the difference.

I had great time reading this book and it’s somewhat surprising to see how long it took me to read it but I think I know why. Finishing the book would have meant that I would have had to leave this characters in the past and move on….. Perhaps I was not ready for that. Now I am….. this could be telling as to what road I would have taken given enough time to assess my situation.

Five stars without hesitation.

Ana

View all my reviews

Book Review – The Sellout by Paul Beatty

img_0337

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Yep… two stars. I think that’s being generous. I thought about the prospect of giving it just one star but I know the author must have really put some effort into at least finishing the book so that deserves something.

I couldn’t help but feel as if the author was talking down to me the entire time. I understand satire and comedy but I do not like to be put down. It’s obvious the color of my skin and perhaps I am not able to understand what it’s like to be a different color, heck I can’t even understand what it’s like be a different sex. I didn’t think this book was funny, as a matter of fact I felt it was racist and in a dangerous way. It felt argumentative and it felt like it was generalizing the way everyone felt about each other. How blacks feel about whites and how whites feel about blacks.

Lastly, I will be the first one to admit that I do not have a large vocabulary. First English is not my first language and second …. well I just don’t have a large vocabulary so I couldn’t help but feel stupid while when I so often I had to stop reading to look up some of the words used. I get it…. the author is highly educated but does it have to be so much in my face? If the reader cannot understand what the author is trying to say, then in my mind it’s a bad book.

All I have to say. I’ll just add that I’m not really sure how this book won the Man Booker Prize but perhaps race had a part to play.

Thanks for reading this rant….. I hate that it sounds that way.

View all my reviews

A Gentleman In Moscow – Amor Towles

img_0339

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Viking Publishing 2016
462 Pages $27.00 Hardcover

What would you do if you had just been sentenced to spend the rest of your life indoors? albeit at a very nice and posh hotel, but nonetheless indoors? This is exactly what happens in the most recent novel by Amor Towles, A Gentleman In Moscow.

We come to find the Count or Alexander Rostov when he is leaving his room at the Metropol in Moscow to go to his sentencing. The Count bids the room good-bye and walks out fully prepared to never see the room, or the hotel, for that matter, again. However, because of his past, apparently the Count is some sort of Russian hero the tribunal sentenced him to house arrest that the very hotel he just bid good-bye.

Throughout the book we learn of what I will describe as the Count’s obsessive compulsions and his need for rigid traditions. As an aristocrat the Count is used to certain things with which he will not part even during his house arrest. His books, his chair and his schedule. Right from the start we can see Amor Towles sense of humor the same way as it was presented in Rules of Civility. When the Count returns to the Metropol he assumes he will still be living in the same manner to which he was accustomed, including the same extravagant room he had left just a few hours prior. However, he quickly finds that he will be living on the upper floor of the hotel and …… nope…… not the pent house. In fact he is going to living in a very small room and not just that, he will have to earn his keep and in order to do so, the Count becomes a waiter. Although he is moved to a small room he makes sure that all his things from the very large room on the third floor are moved up to his new room. When we next see the Count he is contemplating his need for such possessions now that he is in this much smaller room.

Throughout the story we learn about bits of the Count’s life including his relationship with his family. Especially his relationship with his sister of whom he has a picture hanging in his new “bedroom.”

The book is a sociopolitical story of Russia and for those of us who know very little about Russia (would love to learn more) I couldn’t help but notice that as the Count changed and matured through the years so was Russia, outside the doors of the Metropol changing as well. It is true that the book is told during some of the most difficult days of Russia, maybe event he most difficult years but as well are human years difficult between the 30s and the end of one’s life. This is when we learn the most…. this is when we, as humans, get our bruises and learn to cope with disapointment. It felt to me as if the book was talking about a metamorphosis we all must go through to become the people we ultimately become. The same goes for Russia. It is time, and it appears that they all felt it, that she too should change. We come face to face with these thoughts as we listen in on a conversation the Count has with one of his friends who came to see him at the Metropol. A poet who paces about non-stop was trying to explain to the Count that Russian people were not less than anyone just because they felt the need to destroy or better yet, reconstruct the past. “We turn the gun on ourselves not because we are more indifferent and less cultured than the British or the French or the Italians. On the contrary. We are prepared to destroy that which we have created because we believe more than any of the in the power of the picture, the poem, the prayer or the person.”

I thought that the sprinkling of the various characters was very well done. There was Mina, the young girl the Count met early on during his house arrest. Nina is a curious child and she and the Count got on numerous exploration trips with thin the hotel. Nina possesses one of the hotel’s skeleton keys and she shows the Count where they can stand to listen in on some of the meetings going on in the ballroom. She is fascinated by decorum and political coverations and we come to meet her again later on in the story. Miskha is also another character who helps the Count overcome stability and helps him see how he is set in his ways. The narrator tells us that this is not whom the Count whats to be and so he begins to change……. As is Russia as well.
throughout the book Towles sprinkles in some history of Russia, literature and art….. Ok, so one of the books the Count really likes is Anna Karenina —- I have not read it and there is a spoiler in this book — Just FYI 🙂

This novel is without a doubt one of the best this year. I thought that the history lessons were great and have made me want to learn more about the Country. I thought that the relationship between Russia and the Count were very well told especially as we see the parallels between Russia coming of age and the Count becoming less rigid. I though the contrasts were very well made. Throughout the story I could feel the pain of the people and their love for their Country. As always, Amos Towles writing is poetic without being boring and his descriptions are so on point that I cannot help but feel that I was sitting in the lobby of the Metropol while all this was going on.

Other books by this Author:

Rules of Civility
Published by Viking, 2011
335 pages

My November TBR

fullsizeoutput_1acf.jpeg

Yep, it’s already October 31st and it’s time to figure out what I think I want to read in the month of November.  As the weather gets colder I tend to want to stay inside more and hopefully spend my time reading.

Unfortunately, I am still getting through A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  It’s a great book and I love his writing but for some reason I am having a hard time making it through the book.

I’m half way through it and on vacation the next couple of days so I’m hoping to be done before I have to get back to work.

img_0339img_0340

I just picked up The Sellout by Paul Beatty, at the library and I have to return it on November 11th, I will most likely pick it up next.

If you haven’t heard, The Sellout is a satirical.  It takes place on the outskirts of Los Angeles and our protagonist is a black male who is raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist who is killed in a police shootout.  His hometown has been literally wiped off the map due to all the chaos with poverty, unemployment and crime.  Now his father has been killed by the police.  Our protagonist wants to right all kinds of wrongs as much so he decides to reinstate slavery and segregation in the high school.  His actions land him in front of the Supreme Court.  This book sounded really good to me.  It’s a mixture of the new, the old and the political :).

I have been waiting for this book to be available at the library and there is no way in hell I’m not going to read it.  I can’t wait to start.

img_0337

The next book on the list The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.  This was my October pick from the Book of the Month Subscription Box.  I’m so far behind on my reading.  It sounded interesting.  Emma Donoghue is not an author I have read before so I’m looking forward to learning about her.

Lib, our protagonist is a nurse with a simple.  She is to take care of a girl who has refused to eat for four months.  Lib expected to find out that the girl was a fraud and was looking forward to expose both the girl and the town where the girl lived for taking advantage of the situation.  This is a psychological thriller about good and evil and about relationships between people from different cultures and worlds.

img_0338

So these are the books I am challenging myself to get through.  I have one more on my Kindle but if I don’t get to that one I won’t feel too bad.

What’s on your TBR this month?

Book Review – The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first Ruth Ware novel and I’m so glad I chose this book from my Book of the Month book club. Not only was it my first Ruth Ware novel but it was also by first book from Book of the Month…. two great firsts.

The story starts when the protagonist, Laura, wakes up in her home as it’s being burgled. She suffers a minor injury but as we can all expect the emotional scars are a much more difficult to hide or cure. Laura, has been working at the same magazine for over 10 years and has recently gotten the opportunity to review a new luxury yacht during its maiden voyage. Hopefully the emotional scars and the lack of sleep from her burglary experience 3 days earlier will not impact this great opportunity at a promotion.

The story was so well written that thought it all I could not get myself to stop thinking of “what could be happening.” More than wanting to know who did it, I wanted to know most of all I wanted to know what happened and to whom. The style of writing kept me turning the pages. It was possible the short chapters, which I will admit most of the time feel as if they are interrupting my reading, but in the case of this book they served as a way for my brain to absorb what had just happened in the previous chapter. I found myself wanting to get to the next chapter ….. Just one more chapter mommy 🙂

It was not until almost the end of the book, and only because Ruth Ware took mercy on me and decided to explain what happened, that I was comfortable with what had taken place on that ship….. But still I was asking myself as I reached the last page “Is Laura paranoid?”

Having said all this, I will have to admit that there were things about the book that really annoyed me. I found Laura to be really whiny and frustrating. If I were on that ship with her I would have slapped her to make her snap out of it. Between her drinking and her headaches…. Take a pill already. She seemed to be ok with taking medication but why wasn’t she taking headache pills and stop complaining already.

I’m also not sure if the burglary at the beginning of the story is necessary. Sometimes I thought it was so there could be another suspect….. worked. But sometimes I feel as if it made the story less believable. So many things happening to one person…… Perhaps there was a different way. It was almost two stories in one and I kept waiting to find out how the two things tied together…. Maybe I missed something.

Otherwise, I thought Ruth Ware handed us a novel tied up in a little bow. This is a great read but beware, you will be thinking about it all the time….. I know I was trying to figure out what happened and to whom even when I wasn’t reading it.

XoXo
Ana

View all my reviews

Book Review – Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Vinegar GirlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my second book by Anne Tyler. For those who may not know, this book is the retelling of the Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare which I never read and perhaps that’s the reason I was a bit underwhelmed by this book.

This is the story of Kate Battista and her family, her father and a younger sister. We find out that the mother passed away “died” as Kate Battista, the oldest daughter seems to prefer at some point after Kate’s sister, Bunny was born. Kate’s father is a scientist, Dr. Battista. I got the sense that he was not a good one…. I’m not sure why I thought that. I don’t believe Anne Tyler wanted that to be a fact, but … throughout the book I kept trying to like him and completely failed at that. Dr. Battista’s lab assistant, Pyotr, an immigrant, in the United States on a Work Visa was on the verge of perhaps being deported which would have put Dr. Battista’s research in jeopardy so the only solution was for Kate to marry him and help him get his green card.

The writing is beautiful as we all know Anne Tyler can do. The scene description made me feel like I was completely familiar with my surroundings and gave me the sense of being there, standing next to Kate when she told her co-workers about her impending marriage, or when her and Bunny talked to each other on the morning of the wedding.

As expected from Anne Tyler, each character was very well developed. None of them felt two dimentional at all. There was substance to who they were. Kate, although not very likable, was a good person and wanted to do right by her father and her family…. Dr. Battista, although a jerk, in my opinion, did the best he could and knew how, and even Pyotr, who may be as much a victim as he the aggressor. The only problem I had was the predictability. Once I got to know the characters the only one that surprised me was Bunny. There was very little Anne Tyler could do to make me believe, from the beginning that Pyotr was not going to turn to out to be who he was, or was he?

The story develops normally, as expected and then the end was a let down. It felt as if it was cut short. it didn’t flow and it didn’t fit the personalities of the characters. it felt fake and I felt as if I missed something.

Having said all this. I still thought the writing was very much worth it. I never once felt as if I needed to put the book down that stop reading. As a matter of fact I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. The hardest question is whether or not I would recommend it. I think the answer would be; if you like reading about families and the intricacies within a family unit…. what makes people who they are and how they get that way and if you like reading and feeling taken to the place you’re reading about, I would recommend the book. I would caution you that you will not be reading an award wining book (at least I don’t think you are). You will probably be disappointed at the end, and if you’re not I would love to speak to you about it…..what did I miss?

Ana

View all my reviews

Book Review – The End of Average by Todd Rose

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values SamenessThe End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is for all of us who, at times, have felt let down by being compared to an unattainable average. Perhaps I’m not good at something but that certainly doesn’t make me below average. I enjoyed every aspect of this book and the author makes some really good points. I found it interesting that not only did he make an argument for the end of what we call average (which what exactly is that) but he also makes a great argument for individuality.

Why can’t we celebrate our differences without being made feel like if we don’t measure up to some preconceived idea there is something wrong with us? The author makes the point for this with a story about a baby crawling and how we, in the West, think it’s normal for a baby to crawl. We never stop to think that our normal is someone else abnormal.

One of the things I found refreshing about this book is its lack of “tooting his horn.” Most of the books within this genre always make me feel as if the author is trying to show me how much he/she knows and how important he/she is. There is short passage where this author mentions his credentials but it’s appropriate where located and then that’s it. I don’t particularly care about the author (well, I do but not for my enjoyment of the book). However, I’m super interested in what the research in this area has to teach me.

I couldn’t recommend this book more. I’m not swearing but it may wind up in one of my Most favorite of 2016.

XoXo
Ana
The End of Average How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose

View all my reviews