Monday, July 17, 2017

Book Review: A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal
What do you do when you discover that the person you've built your life around never existed? When "it could never happen to me" does happen to you? 

These are the questions facing Jen Waite when she begins to realize that her loving husband--the father of her infant daughter, her best friend, the love of her life--fits the textbook definition of psychopath. In a raw, first-person account, Waite recounts each heartbreaking discovery, every life-destroying lie, and reveals what happens once the dust finally settles on her demolished marriage.

After a disturbing email sparks Waite's suspicion that her husband is having an affair, she tries to uncover the truth and rebuild trust in her marriage. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment from the last five years that isn't part of the long-con of lies and manipulation. With a dual-timeline narrative structure, we see Waite's romance bud, bloom, and wither simultaneously, making the heartbreak and disbelief even more affecting.
Just beautifully done.  It helps that I identified so much with the subject matter of the book.  Not that I was married to a psychopath, but I was in a marriage to a person who had a life I didn't know anything about.  I could greatly identify with a lot of what Waite goes through in the book and having recently been through my own difficult divorce made it a very emotional read for me.  In terms of the writing, I do wish that rather than flipping back and forth between before and after Waite learns of her husband's affair, the book had been divided into two distinct sections.  I found the constant switching between timelines to be a bit of a distraction.  Other than that, I had absolutely nothing but raves for the quality of the author's writing.

Entertainment Value
Again, identifying with so much of what the author was going through really made this book a winner for me.  I devoured it over the course of a weekend and just couldn't make myself put it down.  Waite's story is both heart-wrenching and hopeful, which is exactly what I was looking for and really spoke to me and my own situation.  I think I would have enjoyed it even had I not identified so closely with the author, but having recent commonalities with her made the book even more real for me.

I highly recommend reading this one.  It's beautifully done, but you'll want to read it with a box of tissues handy.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Summer Reading Syllabus

I've always been obsessed with summer reading and the idea of having a checklist of books to read in the summer while school was out.  I loved having assigned reading, but I also wasn't afraid to give myself assignments if I didn't feel like we were being given sufficient reading material to last us the summer.  I recently found this self-created summer reading list from my high school days, complete with commentary from my friends, who thought I was nuts for making my own checklist.

Things haven't changed much since high school.  One of the things I miss the most about high school and college is having a list of things to read in the summer.  I first tried out the idea of creating my own summer syllabus last year, but the implosion of my marriage meant that things went off track pretty quickly.  So this year I'm trying again, this time with the help of my bullet journal, which I've recently become obsessed with.  Here's what I've got:

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  What would you put on your summer syllabus?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Book Review: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped. 
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. 
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. 
Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…
Wow.  Um, this was bad.  Really bad.  I hate to just say it that way, but there's no other way to put it.  I knew immediately what was going on and who was responsible.  I hoped for the entire book that it was a red herring, but it wasn't.  It was exactly what I thought it was from the very first page.  I was so disappointed.  In addition to being absolutely, straightforwardly predictable, the details of the book just don't make sense.  It ventures into spoiler territory to say more, but suffice it to say that Paris's characters are dumb as rocks.

Entertainment Value
Knowing the whodunnit from the first page kind of ruined the suspense, but even if there was a question of who was behind the threat, the threat itself was so mild that there was no real sense of suspense or terror through most of the book.  Cass's fear largely revolves around silent phone calls.  We don't get a good explanation for why she doesn't stop answering the phone, call the police to have the calls traced, or just unplug the phone.  But when the most threatening thing happening is answering the phone to silence, it's hard to feel like anyone is in any real danger.  I was expecting a lot more tension than I ever got.  A lot of the book consists of Cass crying and falling to pieces over and over and over.  

I absolutely don't recommend it.  I appreciate NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with review copies, but I was really let down by the reading experience and glad that it at least read quickly and didn't take up a large amount of time.  If it hadn't been a fast read, it would have been a DNF.   

Monday, July 3, 2017

What I Read in June

June was such a beautiful month for my family.  My youngest brother, the baby of the family, married his college sweetheart in a beautiful ceremony in east Tennessee.  We got to see all of our extended family and some Arkansas friends that we haven't seen in years.  It such a special trip and such a blessing to add another sister to our family.  A lot of people asked me if, given my recent divorce, it was hard on me, but the truth is that Andrew is kind of my pet sibling and I was so happy to see him happy that it wasn't difficult at all.  My older brother and his wife and children came and it is always a treat to see them.

June was also a very good month for me in terms of reading.  I got a lot accomplished and I'm feeling like I'm finally getting my feet back under me when it comes to reading and enjoying books.  Here's what I read:

Clean My Space by Melissa Maker
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Brave New Girl: How to Be Fearless by Lou Hamilton
Snow Blind by Ollie Masters
Best Enemies by Jane Heller
Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
Hello Tokyo by Ebony Bizys
The Blessing of Humility by Jeff Bridges
The Only Child by Andrew Pyper
Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (for the second time this year)
Drawing Calm by Susan Evenson
My Secret by Frank Warren
A Lifetime of Secrets by Frank Warren
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Penance by Kanae Minato
The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett
Sex Object by Jessica Valente
Relish by Lucy Knisley

What did you read in June?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Book Review: Strange Contagion by Lee Daniel Kre

Strange Contagion: Inside the Surprising Science of Infectious Behaviors and Viral Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves

Social contagion. We all know that ideas, emotions, and actions are communicable—from mirroring someone’s posture to mimicking their speech patterns, we are all driven by unconscious motivations triggered by our environment. But when just the right physiological, psychological, and social factors come together, we get what Kravetz calls a "strange contagion:" a perfect storm of highly common social viruses that, combined, form a highly volatile condition. 
Strange Contagion is simultaneously a moving account of one community’s tragedy and a rigorous investigation of social phenomenon, as Kravetz draws on research and insights from experts worldwide to unlock the mystery of how ideas spread, why they take hold, and offer thoughts on our responsibility to one another as citizens of a globally and perpetually connected world.  
I love nonfiction that reads like fiction, and this title certainly falls into that category.  You can tell that Kravetz is a journalist at heart because he reports events in such a gripping and straightforward manner that is both easy to read and interesting.  It avoids the danger territories of dry and overly academic and sticks with being what I would consider popular social science - strongly researched but very readable for the common reader.

Entertainment Value
Again, the research here is strong and well cited, which is always a plus for me.  It's also an interesting topic that the author reports like a story, rather than a textbook, which keeps the reader moving from chapter to chapter without being dull or dry.

If you enjoy a good pop social science along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell, this is one you'll want to pick up.  Kravetz has great insight into the social phenomenon of contagious ideas and how they spread and what it means for people.  I appreciate that he looks at how it can be used positively as well as the negative consequences.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour and providing me with a copy to review.  Click here to see a list of all the stops on the tour and click here to see the publisher's page for the book.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mid-Year Book Survey, Just for Fun!

June marks the halfway point of the year, and I thought it would be fun to do a little mini-survey about what I've read so far and how the year is going in terms of reading and books and literary loves and disappointments.  I found this via Shout at Me, a book tuber I particularly enjoy.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017
    Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren - I actually read this one twice in 2017 alone, so yeah,     it's earned it's spot as my favorite of the year.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2017.
    March, Book Three

3. New release you haven't read yet, but want to.
    Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez - I actually have this one sitting on my desk waiting         for me to pick it up, I just have to make myself do it.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.
    A Beautiful Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite - seems like it's going to         be both a difficult book to read and also one that could be healing and meaningful to my own life.

5. Biggest disappointment.
    Before the Fall by Noah Hawley - I was very excited to read this one, and it just didn't live up to the           rave reviews I'd heard it receive.

6. Biggest surprise.
    My Lady Jane - I didn't expect this to be my kind of book at all, but I listened to it on audio for book         club and was delighted by how funny and charming it was.

7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)
    Marilynn Robinson - I can't wait to dive into the Gilead Trilogy after finishing Housekeeping last week

8. Newest fictional crush. 
    I always hate this question because it's one that I just don't seem to connect with.  I can't think of a           fictional crush.  They're all...fictional and I am just a boring pragmatist.

9. Newest favorite character. 
    I feel like this is cheating, but without having read much fiction this year I'm going to have to choose a     real person.  Congressman John Lewis from the March series.  What an inspiration.

10. Book that made you cry.
    I've had several of those this year, but the first to come to mind is The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.

11. Book that made you happy.
     Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year. 
     Haven't seen one yet, but I do want to see My Cousin Rachel

13. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year (or received)
     I just received a copy of The Essex Serpent in the mail and it is absolutely gorgeous in hardback.  I          can't rave enough about how beautiful it is and how much fun it is to touch.  I haven't read it yet, but        man is it nice to have on the shelf.

I'd love to know all about your reading years and how they're going.  Feel free to copy and paste this in the comments or leave a link to your own blog or youtube or instagram or wherever you post about books!  I'd love to see other readers tell what they've been up to this year!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.
This is my first book by Joe Hill and I'm quite pleased with the quality of his writing here.  I have a few quibbles, but overall I found the book to be well done.  I loved the characters, particularly Harper, who has a Mary Poppins obsession.  I also thought the world building was very well done.  The worldwide reaction to the pandemic is believable and fascinating and everything I wanted it to be.  My biggest problem with the writing is that I felt like the story built to something major and then ended quickly without quite living up to the level of tension created in the rest of the book.

Entertainment Value
I couldn't get enough of this one.  It was another car trip audiobook and kept me fully entertained while driving.  It's quite long, so listeners should be prepared for a bit of a commitment but know that the story won't let you down.  Again, the ending had me a bit disappointed, but not enough that I regretted any part of the experience.

I thought this part was just ok.  It wasn't my favorite narrator and I definitely didn't love the accents she used.  It could have been worse, but I've heard better.

The book itself is a must read for fans of dystopias or pandemic novels, although I think whether your read it in print or listen is just a matter of preference.  The narration isn't great enough to make it specifically preferable on audio.

I listened to this one via Hoopla, provided by my local public library!