Top Ten Tuesday: Bucket Lists and Rabbit Holes

July 26, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 0

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About.

I was so excited to see this topic on the Top Ten Tuesday list! I’ve never consciously considered all the topics and/or things I’ve wanted to do or learn more about as a result of my reading, but once I started, it wasn’t easy to stop! There are so many topics and activities that I’ve pursued as a result of reading that this list could’ve been much longer. And, isn’t igniting your interest in something you may not have come across another way one of the joys of reading? 

Bucket Lists, Rabbit Holes

Learn to Cook

The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman…which then led to a Food Network obsession and cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education.

CTE in Football Players

Concussion by Jean Marie Laskas…which then led to following countless news stories on this topic.

How the Brain Processes Trauma

Never Leave Your Dead by Diane Cameron, All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Manson Murders

The Girls by Emma Cline…which sent me Googling the Manson Murders and got me to add Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi to my TBR list.

North Korea

Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim…which got me to add Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick and the upcoming How I Became A North Korean by Krys Lee to my TBR list.

O.J. Simpson Trial

Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne…which then led to the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary June 17th, 1994 and The People vs. O.J. Simpson mini-series and the addition of O.J.: Made in America documentary to my “to watch” list.  

PTSD in Returning Soldiers

Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel…which then led to Never Leave Your Dead by Diane Cameron.

Scientology

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright…which then led to Troublemaker by Leah Remini.

Learn to Surf

In Search of Captain Zero by Allan C. Weisbecker…which then led to actually learning to surf and spending a week at a surf camp!

Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote…which then led to Capote by Gerald Clarke and The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin.




It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (7/25/16)

July 25, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 32

Hosted by The Book Date.

After a great few months of reading, I finally had an off week. After finishing (and loving) Siracusa on Monday, I DNF’d two books before finally settling on an upcoming August release. But, listening to Tiny Beautiful Things on audio and watching the dynamic duo of The Bachelorette and Unreal (if you’re a fan of the Bachelor franchise, this Lifetime show is a must watch!) kept things interesting around here. 

Triathlon training continues: I joined a Masters swimming group for the first time last week and, despite some apprehension going into it (it’s been a long while since I participated in an organized swim practice), it was actually nice to work out with other people and have a coach tell me what to do! It also got SUPER hot and humid at the end of last week, so I was just happy to make it through my runs. Next week I have my full brick workout (13.9 mile bike/5K run), so that will give me a good sense of where I am.

I finished reading…

Siracusa, Delia Ephron


Siracusa
 by Delia Ephron (July 12, 2016)
My favorite beach/vacation-type book of the year so far! On the lighter side, fast paced, and smartly written. Plus, I like the symmetry of reading a book about a vacation while on a vacation.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue


Behold the Dreamers
 by Imbolo Mbue (August 23, 2016)
I’m over halfway through this debut novel about a Cameroonian immigrant couple trying to make a life for themselves in New York City, with the husband working as a driver for a top Lehman Brothers executive just as the 2008 financial crisis comes to a head. It probably won’t be a 5 star read, but it is working for me.

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

A Wife of Noble Character, Patient H.M.


A Wife of Noble Character
 by Georgina Puig (August 2, 2016)
I think I’ve finally had my fill of books about the wealthy for the time being. I started this novel about the Texas wealthy and, despite two tries, just could not concentrate on it.

Patient H.M. by Luke Dittrich (August 9, 2016)
I’ve randomly been fascinated with the brain this year, but this nonfiction about “the most studied human research subject of all time: the amnesic known as Patient H.M” (Goodreads) got bogged down in the history of mental illness treatment. Patient H.M. had only made a few brief appearances by the 30% mark and I didn’t want to wait any longer.

Upcoming reading plans…

You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott


You Will Know Me
 by Megan Abbott (July 26, 2016)
The author of The Fever tackles the messed up world of girl’s gymnastics…I can’t wait!




Spoiler Discussion: All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

July 21, 2016 Mysteries/Thrillers 8

All Is Not Forgotten is a book I really don’t have that much to say about without discussing spoilers. So, I’m going to talk about all the nitty gritty details! Stop reading here if you don’t want to know…

All is Not Forgotten, Wendy WalkerFiction – Mystery/Thriller
Released July 12, 2016
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press) via NetGalley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before I get into all the spoiler-y details, I should say that I could not put this book down. I wasn’t sure I actually liked it…and am still not sure to some extent, but I could. not. stop. reading. It’s incredibly twisty, dark, and deeply unsettling. And, I was fascinated by all the psychology/science about how the brain processes memory and trauma, especially given this Author’s Note:

[…] the altering of both factual and emotional memories of trauma is at the forefront of emerging research and technology in memory science. Scientists have successfully altered factual memories and mitigated the emotional impact of memories with the drugs and therapies described in this book, and they continue to search for a drug to target and erase those memories completely.

What is All Is Not Forgotten actually about?

The publisher’s blurb would have you believe it’s about Jenny, her rape, the controversial treatment she receives and the effects on her family and community:

Now, after reading it, I think Dr. Alan Forrester (the narrator and Jenny’s psychiatrist) is the center of the story. Jenny and her family end up as merely cogs in his wheel of deception and personal issues. So much so that a more apt title for the book could have been The Puppeteer…if it wasn’t somewhat of a spoiler.

What did you think of the narrator/psychiatrist (Dr. Alan Forrester)?

  • At first, I thought the narrator was just a random father of one of the other kids in town. This gave the book a creepy feeling and I couldn’t figure out why a random father would be narrating this story. It actually made me dislike the book at first. Thankfully, someone told me the narrator was Jenny’s psychiatrist well before it was revealed in the book and knowing that immediately improved my reading experience. That being said, the book itself didn’t reveal the narrator’s full identity until Chapter 7 (the 19% mark). I don’t understand what waiting that late added to the story.
  • Dr. Forrester comes off as creepy, arrogant, and manipulative…even before the extent of his machinations are fully revealed. He goes on long tangents about his views on life, his patients, and his own family and is willing to say things most regular people probably wouldn’t…which reminded me a bit of Dr. Marc Schlosser in Herman Koch’s Summer House with Swimming Pool. I was never a fan of Dr. Forrester, but I truly hated him by the end (which I suppose was the author’s intent).
  • I also didn’t buy his final justification for his actions:

    I am guilty. Hate me if you must. I have tried to show you the mitigating facts. Charlotte, Tom, Sean. I gave them back their lives, and none of that would have been possible if we had not had the collision. If I had not told my story to an unstable patient. If Jenny had not been in those woods with him. If I had confessed the moment I learned the truth. Hate me. Despise me. But know that I have weighed everything on the scales. And know that every night I fall asleep. And every morning I wake up and look in the mirror without any problem whatsoever.

  • The only person who truly benefited (without incredible cost) from all this was Sean because he was the ONLY person whose trauma was not set in motion by something Dr. Forrester did. Tom and Charlotte may have gotten their marriage back on track (and Charlotte was able to reconcile her two internal identities), but at the cost of their daughter’s rape and attempted suicide. 
  • Finally, the entire fact that the Kramers chose Dr. Forrester as Jenny’s psychiatrist is unrealistic. I think it’s highly unlikely that a teenage rape victim would feel comfortable seeking treatment from the FATHER OF A CLASSMATE for such a personal trauma, regardless of the doctor’s particular expertise.

How far should parents go to protect their children?

  • First, Dr. Forrester’s dilemma reminded me of the choices the Lohmans faced in Herman Koch’s The Dinner. And, it astounds me that I just compared parts of All Is Not Forgotten to not one, but two Herman Koch books! I want to be clear that I’m not saying All Is Not Forgotten is a great choice for fans of Herman Koch…I’m just comparing small pieces of each book here.
  • I understand how the Forresters would want to protect Jason if a truly unfortunate coincidence tied him to a high-profile crime he didn’t commit…and the subsequent media storm and damage to his reputation that could result. Even if he is innocent, his name and reputation could get dragged through the mud (i.e. the Duke lacrosse case). 
  • But, Dr. Forrester went down an incredibly intricate path to protect Jason that harmed Sean and all the Kramers (not to mention Bob Sullivan!) while a part of him believed Jason was guilty. 
  • It’s easy to label Forrester as evil because of all this, but do we truly know how far we would go to protect our own children? I hope I never have to find out.

What did you think of the ending?

  • Were you surprised that Glenn Shelby had raped Jenny? I guessed it when Forrester mentioned that Shelby’s post-prison apartment was in nearby Cranston. What I couldn’t figure out was the how or why.
  • That ending was quite an intricate web! It certainly went far beyond just who raped Jenny and I appreciated the more complicated layers. However, I think some plot points were too farfetched.
  • I didn’t buy the crux of the ending…
    A) that Forrester would tell the personal story of his own rape to a prison inmate who is also a patient. 
    B) that Glenn would then try to recreate Forrester’s experience by raping Forrester’s own son as revenge for “abandoning” him.
    C) that substituting Jenny for Jason at the last minute would fulfill Glenn’s weird fantasy (assuming you bought B). Why not find another opportunity to go after Jason?
    D) that Forrester would’ve kept his own scar and/or experience a secret from “the reader” until the very end given how much he revealed along the way about his own life.
  • And, I HATED the part about the killing of Bob Sullivan. It was way too farfetched that not one, not two, but three men (Sean Logan, Tom Kramer, and Lila’s father) reacted to their individual beefs with him by seriously considering killing him and that two of them took action/attempted action at the same time.

All that being said, are thrillers farfetched by nature?

  • There has to be some level of outlandishness to ensure a thriller’s plot is sufficiently surprising. But, I think there’s a fine line between “delightfully surprising, yet still makes sense” and “so over the top it leaves you rolling your eyes.” 
  • This ending leaned toward “so over the top it leaves you rolling your eyes” for me. There were too many fantastic coincidences and unrealistic elements. 
  • I always maintain that Gone Girl has the perfect ending (totally shocking, but fit all the pieces together perfectly)…and yet it does have elements that are completely unrealistic. So, it’s possible I’m being overly critical of the unrealistic elements in All Is Not Forgotten. Sometimes maybe it’s better to suspend reality for a bit and just enjoy the story!

Let’s talk! What did you think about all this?


Ten Books Set Outside the U.S.

July 19, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 38

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books Set Outside the U.S.

As I was reviewing my reading spreadsheet for this post, I realized I read very few books set outside of the U.S. until the past two years. I have no idea why that is, but I’m very glad I’ve broadened my horizons lately and will continue to do so! Hopefully this Top Ten Tuesday will give me some good adds for my non-U.S. TBR list!

Ten Books Set Outside the U.S.

Asia

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Japan

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
India

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
Hong Kong

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer
Myanmar, formerly Burma

The Caribbean

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Haiti

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
Barbados

Eastern Europe

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Lithuania

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra
USSR

North America

Sweetland by Michael Crummey
Canada

Western Europe

Tender by Belinda McKeon
Ireland

What are some of your favorite books set outside the U.S.?




It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (7/18/16)

July 18, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 19

Hosted by The Book Date.

Note: I apologize for the image alignment issues on the blog at the moment. I’m having an issue with WordPress and working on resolving it…

I officially started training for the West Point Triathlon last week and it was nice to get in some hard workouts after letting things slide while on vacation. I’m trying a couple new things this time around: substituting an extra running workout for a swim workout and adding some hills work on the bike and the run. I’m hoping these changes will help the nauseous feeling I’ve gotten on the run during my past two races. On to the reading…

I finished reading…

How to Set A Fire and Why, Jesse Ball


How to Start A Fire and Why
 by Jesse Ball (July 5, 2016)
I loved Lucia’s take on high school and life (there are an incredible number of great quotes from her), but I could’ve done with just that as I wasn’t as big of a fan of the Arson Club storyline.

I’m currently reading…

Siracusa, Delia Ephron

Siracusa by Delia Ephron (July 12, 2016)
I’m almost three quarters of the way through this novel about two couples vacationing together in Italy and it’s a fantastic light, but smartly written read so far.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

Upcoming reading plans…

A Wife of Noble Character, Break in Case of Emergency

A Wife of Noble Character by Georgina Puig (August 2, 2016)
This novel about the Texas wealthy (my second one this year…how did this become a trend?!) was inspired by Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.

Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter (July 12, 2016)
“An irreverent and deeply moving comedy about friendship, fertility, and fighting for one’s sanity in a toxic workplace” (Goodreads) and another Catherine recommendation. Describing a book as “irreverent” gets me every time! I meant to get to this one last week, but I got distracted by Siracusa. Am still planning to give it a try.




Alcohol & Advil: Mudbound and Dinner with Edward

July 14, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 19

Alcohol and Advil Literary Style
Alcohol & Advil, where I pair a book likely to cause a “reading hangover” (i.e. the alcohol) with a recovery book (i.e. the Advil) is back! Chalk up the long hiatus to a lack of books that left me sufficiently hungover to warrant a post. For me, the “alcohol” is usually a book that I either absolutely loved or one that punched me in the gut in an emotionally depleting way…and, in this case, both.

The Alcohol

Mudbound, Hillary JordanMudbound by Hillary Jordan
Southern Fiction (Released March 4, 2008)
354 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Algonquin)

Plot Summary: Shortly after Laura McAllen’s husband (Henry) moves their family to an isolated farm in the Mississippi Delta, her brother-in-law (Jamie) and the son of one of their tenant families (Ronsel Jackson) return from fighting in World War II to the Jim Crow era South.

My Thoughts: This award-winning 2008 debut reminiscent of Pat Conroy (the story itself more than the writing style), begins with a city girl trying to adjust to a spartan life of backbreaking farm work and becomes unputdownable by the end. A sense of foreboding hangs over everything and I could feel the tension…in Laura and Henry’s marriage, between the McAllens and the Jacksons, between Laura and her hateful father-in-law (Pappy), and within Jamie and Ronsel upon their returns from World War II. Something was definitely going to blow. The writing is simple and down-to-earth…with a cadence that takes you right to the Deep South.

When I think of the farm, I think of mud. Lining my husband’s fingernails and encrusting the children’s knees and hair. Sucking at my feet like a greedy newborn on the breast. Marching in boot-shaped patches across the plank floors of the house. There was no defeating it. The mud coated everything. I dreamed in brown.

Mudbound is centered around the themes of racism and women’s role in a marriage. There is a keen perspective of what it was like for a black war hero, having been celebrated abroad, to return home to be treated like a lessor class of human:

Ronsel

I never thought I’d miss it so much. I don’t mean Nazi Germany, you’d have to be crazy to miss a place like that. I mean who I was when I was over there. There I was a liberator, a hero. In Mississippi I was just another nigger pushing a plow. And the longer I stayed, the more that’s all I was.

And what it was like for a wife to have little say in the direction of her life, to be expected to defer to her husband always, and to serve her father-in-law as if she were his employee. These themes lead to some barbaric events that are not for the faint of heart. Mudbound is the best piece of Southern fiction I’ve read all year and one of the best I’ve ever read and would be a great choice for fans of Pat Conroy.

The Advil

Dinner with Edward, Isabel VincentDinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Nonfiction – Memoir (Released May 24, 2016)
224 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Algonquin)

Plot Summary: As a favor to her friend, Valerie, Isabel begins having dinner with Valerie’s elderly father, which turns into far more than just dinner and far more than just helping out Valerie.

My Thoughts: New York Post reporter Isabel Vincent’s memoir was a perfect follow-up to the brutality of Mudbound because it was completely different, it was short, it was sweet and hopeful…and because it focused on food, an innocuous and comforting topic. It’s a weird mix of food memoir and self-help book, with a splash of New York City history (particularly about Roosevelt Island, where Isabel and Edward live), but it miraculously works.

When Isabel shows up for her first dinner with Edward, she’s working herself to death and her marriage is in trouble, while Edward is trying to recover from the death of his beloved wife, Paula. One dinner turns into many, which then turn into a rescuing of the soul for both Isabel and Edward. It turns out Edward is a true gourmande, creating elaborate, multi-course feasts and imparting his culinary wisdom to Isabel (and me – I’ve already tried his trick for fluffy scrambled eggs!) in the process. Dinner with Edward combines the comforting feeling of Our Souls at Night with the delectable food focus of Sweetbitter…and is going on my 2016 Summer Reading, Cooking/Food Books, and Great Books Under 300 Pages lists.

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Ten Non-Bookish Things About Me

July 12, 2016 Top Ten Tuesday 56

 

Ten Non-Bookish Things About Me


Top Ten Tuesday
 is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that asks bloggers to create Top Ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This week’s topic is Ten Facts About Me.

I decided to go the non-bookish route because this prompt reminded me of US Weekly‘s 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me feature, which I love, and because I’m pretty sure there aren’t many bookish things about me that would be news to most people reading this blog.

Ten Non-Bookish Things About Me

I was an ESTJ on the Meyers-Briggs test in high school…
But, I’m now 100% confident that I’m an I (introvert).

I love going out to eat alone…
Well, if “with my Kindle” counts as alone.

I initially fought tooth and nail when my husband insisted on getting me a Kindle years ago…
OK, I cheated a little on the “non-bookish things” part of this list.

I volunteered at the 2000 Sydney Olympics…
And, I’d like to get to another Olympics in my lifetime.

I’m a terrible singer…
Ask any of my high school friends.

My married name is the same as my mother’s maiden name…
But, I swear my husband and I aren’t related…

I love trashy reality TV…
My current favorites are The Bachelor/ette/Paradise and Southern Charm. Don’t judge.

There are only a few foods I don’t like…
One of them is grapefruit.

My brain shuts down at 7 pm…
Clearly, I’m a morning person.

I hate shopping…
Which my husband thinks is fantastic!

Tell me something interesting about yourself in the comments!




It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? (7/11/16)

July 11, 2016 It's Monday! What are you reading? 34

Hosted by The Book Date.

We spent last week settling back in from vacation. Both kids started camp and they come home nice and worn out! I also decided to sign up for one more Sprint Triathlon this summer – the West Point Triathlon in mid-August – which gives me about 5 weeks to train. It’s less time than usual for me, but I’m hoping the base I built up training for my mid-June race will help me out. 

One more random happening from last week…I was mentioned on the Book Riot podcast, which was both awesome and embarrassing in this case! I wish I could say they were talking about how much they love my blog (yeah, right!), but instead they’d asked listeners to send in their Amazon Anti-Trust Settlement rebates to see who’d gotten the biggest one. I tweeted mine to them…thinking it was higher than some they’d mentioned on the broadcast, but never in a million years thinking it would be the biggest they heard about…but, it was! So I (and my Twitter handle, but not my blog…go figure) got a little on-air shout-out. Sadly, I’ve now been knocked out of the top spot, as they heard of two higher rebates following the broadcast.

I finished reading…

Dinner with Edward, Isabel Vincent


Dinner with Edward
 by Isabel Vincent (May 24, 2016)
Such a perfect follow-up to the emotional turmoil of Mudbound. Mini review to come.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

I’m currently reading…

All is Not Forgotten, Wendy Walker


All Is Not Forgotten
 by Wendy Walker (July 12, 2016)
I’m almost finished with this one and I cannot seem to put it down…even though I’m not sure if I actually like it. It’s incredibly plotty, dark, and unsettling…and I can see why Reese Witherspoon’s production company has acquired the film rights. 

Affiliate Link: Pre-Order from Amazon

I tried, but wasn’t feeling…

Heavenly Table, Donald Ray Pollock


The Heavenly Table
 by Donald Ray Pollock (July 12, 2016)
This is the first time I’ve read Pollock, so I’m a little uncertain about my decision to put this book down at 15%. I kept zoning out, but a part of me feels like I should give it a better shot since I’ve heard so many great things about him. Before deciding whether to continue, I’m either going to wait for some other reviews of The Heavenly Table or borrow The Devil All the Time (since this book has gotten raves from people I trust) from the library to see if it’s Pollock in general or this particular book that’s not working for me.

Upcoming reading plans…

How to Set A Fire and Why, Break in Case of Emergency


How to Start A Fire and Why
 by Jesse Ball (July 5, 2016)
I’ve been wanting to try Jesse Ball and Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books had good things to say about his latest release about a struggling teenage girl. Plus, I was able to borrow it from my library!

Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter (July 12, 2016)
“An irreverent and deeply moving comedy about friendship, fertility, and fighting for one’s sanity in a toxic workplace” (Goodreads) and another Catherine recommendation. Describing a book as “irreverent” gets me every time!




Read One, Skip One: Never Leave Your Dead and Listen to Me

July 7, 2016 Mini Book Reviews 21

I’m a bit shocked at which books ended up in which slots for this installment of Read One, Skip One. I picked up Never Leave Your Dead thinking I’d take a peek, but probably not end up reading the whole thing. And, I really expected to love Listen to Me based on my feelings about Hannah Pittard’s last book, Reunion.

Never Leave Your Dead, Diane CameronNever Leave Your Dead by Diane Cameron
Nonfiction – War (Released June 7, 2016)
176 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Central Recovery Press)

Plot Summary: The true story of Donald Watkins, a WWII veteran (and the author’s stepfather) who murdered his first wife and mother-in-law long after returning from the China theatre.

My Thoughts: I have to be honest…this book was a total surprise for me. The story sounded interesting, but I had no idea truly how interesting it would turn out to be. I could not stop reading (despite the tiny print of my PDF-formatted ARC) and I ended up taking so much away from these compact 176 pages! Though the writing and story-telling is a bit choppy, the story of Donald Watkins blew my mind. He likely suffered from PTSD 40 years before it was acknowledged by the military and received years of counter-productive treatments. In telling Donald’s story, Cameron explores the history of mental illness as it relates to the military, conditions at an infamous mental hospital (St. Elizabeth’s), and a little known part of WWII (the American pre-Pearl Harbor presence in China and POW Camp Palawan).

I was almost equally enthralled with the story of Cameron discovering and pursuing Donald’s story. The book is structured in the order in which Cameron learned each new piece of Donald’s background, giving the reader a sense of her emotional journey. Never Leave Me Dead is quite an eye-opening read if you’re at all interested in trauma and recovery, PTSD (particularly in returning soldiers), less well-known parts of WWII, and/or the history of mental illness treatment. It’s going on my 2016 Summer Reading, Great Books Under 300 Pages, and Books for Guys lists.

Listen to Me, Hannah PittardListen to Me by Hannah Pittard
Fiction (Released July 5, 2016)
192 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.
Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) via NetGalley

Plot Summary: Married couple Mark and Maggie reflect on the state of their marriage and Maggie’s recovery from a recent mugging during a cross-country road trip with their dog, Gerome.

My Thoughts: I’m surprised to be writing this type of review for a Hannah Pittard book, as I loved her last novel, Reunion. Her latest effort is one of those books with a vague (but appealing to me) publisher’s blurb headline: “A modern gothic about a marriage and road trip gone hauntingly awry.” But, I now realize the vagueness probably has more to do with the central premise being fairly unclear. 

Even after finishing the book, I’m still unsure what it was truly about. It’s somewhat about the small resentments and slights of a marriage that accumulate to become big and intolerable and somewhat about recovering from trauma within a marriage…with Mark’s odd obsessions with the environment and the Internet destroying society running through it. These last bits felt like they were included to make some broader points about the world, but they didn’t fit the story.

A meandering book like this can work for me, but the writing needs to sparkle. And this writing was good, but not sparkling. In my June 13 reading update, I said about the prospect of digging into Listen to Me: “I’m hoping she tackles marriage with the same irreverence she applied to death and family in Reunion!” Maybe this is a case of having inaccurate expectations, but I really missed that irreverent tone here.

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June 2016 Monthly Round-Up

July 5, 2016 Monthly Round-Ups 20

June 2016 Monthly Round-Up

June Reading/Life

  • I read eight books in June, which is a lot for me (two < 200 pagers definitely helped!), but the quality wasn’t quite as fantastic as in May. However, it’s still a lot better than it was earlier this year and I think that has a lot to do with reducing my ARC reading…specifically, letting others vet some books before I read them.
  • I added two new books (Grunt and Before the Fall) to my 2016 Summer Reading Guide and will be adding two more (Never Leave Your Dead and Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty) as soon as I post my reviews.
  • I was sadly disappointed with Listen to Me, especially since I loved Pittard’s Reunion so much two years ago. And, I just didn’t get Grief is the Thing with Feathers.
  • I continued my trend of light nonfiction working well for me on audio with Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.
  • I completed my second sprint triathlon race (recap) in Stamford, CT and am currently deciding whether to sign up for another one in August.
  • And, on the topic of sports…I spent a good chunk of last week watching the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials and dissecting them over text with Catherine from Gilmore Guide to Books. You can check out some of the highlights of our oh-so-professional analysis here!

Best Book of the Month

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe (May 24, 2016)
Fiction, 303 Pages

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

July Releases I’m Excited About

The Heavenly Table, Home Field, You Will Know Me


The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock (July 12)

Home Field by Hannah Gersen (July 26)
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (July 26)

Top Backlist Books on my “To Be Read” List

Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Best Books of 2016 So Far
How Do You Feel About Epilogues?
Top 10 Reasons I Love the Summer Olympics

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