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My Reviews

Dogs of India by Polly McGee
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive, Confusing
Lots of dogs, monkeys and issues

What I liked most about this book was that it was different. The style in which it is written makes it fast to read, keeps your interest, and it was cute to live in animals' brains for some chapters. It also had a good humor about it. What I'm not sure I liked was that it seems to touch on just about every socio/political issue out there. How can you cover animal cruelty, immigration, gay rights, rape, suicide, political corruption, poverty, religion, etc. etc. etc. in 181 pages? When you think this book is about one thing/message BAM! you get slammed with another plight. I still liked it though.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
sad but excellent

In two words: High anxiety (pun intended). The level of anxiety this book gives the reader is unprecedented. It really does put you in the life and state of mind of a person coping with a loved one's battle with addiction. You feel the depression, the hopelessness and the fury that a family endures. It delved a little too long in certain personal history reflections and small memories that seemed like filler in some places. What I enjoyed most is that it wasn't just about portraying the horrors of addiction (like many reality shows or movies give a minute glimpse of) but also trying to understand some, or any, aspect of addiction. I learned much more than expected about the by-products of meth and the environment, about the "industry of recovery," the function of the brain, and statistics of current use. Even more alarming, or rather how you are forced to admit, is that for all we know, we still don't know much. The whys and hows are overwhelming. This book reaffirms life, and especially parenting, should come with a manual.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Fun, Optimistic
Not as good as Ove but still worth some time

A Man Called Ove was one of my favorite reads this year. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry was just an okay read from a couple of years ago. This one, lands right in the middle. What I think went wrong was that too much time was spent on inner dialogue, which I rarely enjoy. It also was a bit repetitive - Got it! She's addicted to sodium bicarbonate. And yes she folds her hands a lot. Oh, and yes, understand she has no crumbs on her skirt. (why is she always wearing skirts???) However, the characters were rich in character and it was nice to watch her common sense melt away allowing her to self realize. It helps I always have a soft spot for Liverpool, even though I was ruffled they didn't mention The Saints! I'd recommend it for an innocent, light read.

 
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Good for Middle Schoolers

I'm rounding up from 2.5. It was okay but I can't say I 100% liked it. The two main obstacles for not liking this book more were: 1) Avery, the present day main character, who for a high-power DC lawyer, acts like a love-stricken Nancy Drew, and; 2) Given the deplorable subject of child abuse, the story wraps up all too prettily in a pink bow. The book is informative but I would recommend it for 5-6th graders.

The book did make me think though, how much has changed in the last 70-80 years? There continue to be horrible challenges with the foster care system and cases of human trafficking. The book does offer food for thought.

 
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Pointless

Firstly, I want to thank the author for making his book available as a giveaway for my book club and for my friend Lory for applying for us. I encourage you to read her review as it will be better, and less bias, than mine.

Secondly, my disclaimer. I am in line with the author's political views. I found the author to mirror some of my closest and dearest friends. Unfortunately, I am a pragmatist and I found the author, and admittedly those closest and dearest friends mentioned (and they know this), exhausting. I can't romanticize political movements. While I support the cause, I grow increasingly jaded and apathetic, so, the abundance of idealism in the story irritated me. Apologies if I can't provide a better review thank "okay" but better to be candid as to the subjectivity of my review. My internal devil's advocate was provoked as I read.

Thirdly, the brutal honesty of this personal journey is refreshing. Having spent time in Central America/Caribbean and studying Latin American politics and immigration, this is, sadly, a realistic depiction. The retelling of a drama filled first love was also admirable because many would smooth over the ugliest times with euphemisms. All and all it was well written, creative but not overly flowery. Mr. Dennehy's writing made me feel like I was right there in the scene.

Lastly, while the epilogue saved the book for me, I am left feeling frustrated with the judgemental tone. If you're a lefty, liberal, dissident, rebel, idealist, etc. I highly recommend. For an over analytical, cynic like me, it needed more anthropological reflexivity and/or self challenge. Some does come, but too late.

Good luck to the author on his current endeavors at the United Nations.

 
Optimistic, Fun, Interesting
not that easy

This is a hard review to write because it took me several days to figure out why I didn't dislike it but struggled to give it more than 2 stars (I rounded up for my book club because I think they tire of me being the outlier, you're welcome!)

Spoiler alert, although with such a quaint cover I don't think this is much of a spoiler, this book has multiple happy endings. Yet, the melancholy is overpowering. If the author's intent is to illustrate how life is the balance of love and death and the relationships that weave that balance then bravo! Clearly she demonstrates that the strongest bonds are born from the shared interest in the simple things in life, for example literature, music, and gardening.

The cynical me, though, can't accept it's that simple. For a book with such strong and varied emotions, I'm left with a feeling of odd hopelessness. Comically, for a book about true love found I have to respond with the cliche line: It's not you, it's me. Ms. Henry did a fine job and I would recommend this book, especially to read over the winter holidays, but I prefer my romance as either total steamy trash or heart wrenching, eyes swollen and incoherent babbling.

 
Addictive, Dramatic, Interesting
A mash of classics

This book is a mash-up of many old and new books and movies in the genre of psychological thrillers and noir. Seemingly in the minority, this mash-up did not work for me.

Sorry Mr. Finn because I think your love for Hitchcock and similar works would make for a enjoyable, friendly conversation but several things went wrong for me:

1) No surprises, no reveal. Saw it all coming. It was just a waiting game until the time Anna, our "heroine" gets sober enough or drunk enough, take your pick, to spew it out or stupidly mis-read all clues.

2) The imagery was like putting a puzzle together from disjointed parts of 10 other puzzles. You've seen a similar seen in Vertigo, now watch it here with this small change. You've read this in Rebecca, now read it here expect for this small change. Etc. I wouldn't know where to start with an homage to all the referenced works, but sprinkling the story with quotes and similar action scenes is a cut and paste job.

3) Characters. Either too flat, too predictable, or too annoying.

4) Something that also bothered me was the affair. From what you learn about Anna and her feelings towards her husband and family, plus her feelings and judgement towards the affairs of other couples, how does her extra marital affair make sense especially with such little guilt or explanation. This was underdeveloped.

5) If your reading this and you've read other of my reviews, you may know what's coming, but if you haven't now you will now this is my mantra - Gone Girl should be Gone!!! UGH. Another comparison? Done. Done I am.

The one thing that was done right, although exaggerated in terms of the pills and booze because she would have been dead in chapter 2, was that trapped feeling of depression.

Bottom line, if you never have watched/read Gas Light, 39 Steps, Rear Window, or any other suspense in black and white, you will likely enjoy this book. It wasn't what I expected.

The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch
 
Boring, Pointless, Confusing
Confused, and amazed I was able to finish

I'm not a fan of time travel, but this sounded different enough to try (plus it was book club selection so...). It started off okay but quickly became confusing and nonsensical. I'm still left wondering what the hell was the point or objective. Returning this one and putting it in past.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Fun
Would never work with email

This whole book unfolds in letters. At first it was a little tedious but once the real stories start unfolding you don't even realize the narrative are missives among friends, and sometimes not so friendly. Probably one of the best ways I've read about World War II. Enjoyable and heart warming. A book like this would never work in our current context of emails, texts, and tweets, sadly.

 
Boring, Interesting, Adventurous
No Less for me

Warning: puns abound, both intended and unintentional. Less is like a gay Forest Gump, except less endearing, less inventive, and much less likeable. Also unlike our beloved, accidental hero Gump, the lesser characters are unmemorable, self-absorbed, and distressing. Replace the box of chocolates with characters rationalizing their failures at love, career, and family. This is not an uplifting comedy of accepting age and shortcomings. Instead it is a pity party on a world tour. Plus, as much as I fervently try not to judge, forgive me that I generally do not understand relationships with large age discrepancies. In this book it was even creepy. I was dealing with it fine until one character makes an observation, which I did find interesting, that people only remember you at the age that they met you. They can imagine you younger, but that's imagination not a true memory. So, when a reveal happens, and I hope this is not a spoiler, I couldn't help recall this observation and feel a tinge of disgust. I regret that I couldn't put this bias aside and learn more from Less. I hope others did connect to the book because this is probably a realistic narrative for many.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Interesting

Excellent. My thoughts:

1) Don't judge a book by the title - I cracked this one open without checking the blurb but from the title I assumed it would be a sad story about girls being abused in a brothel. Sadly, it wasn't much different, in a sense. These women are trapped and abused but instead of by multiple customers it's only one mean mother fucker named ED.
2) Writing style - Loved the cadence, sometimes poetic, and loved the short, clipped chapters.
3) Slo-mo - Some reviewers felt the book was shallow/lacked substance. Trust me, going deeper is horrific. Rip out any page of this book, and take the pain, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, etc from that page and multiple it by 100. Actually don't, the suffering of ED, for patient and loved ones, is immeasurable. I thought the author did an outstanding job of portraying that angst and helplessness we have all felt when a loved one, or even ourselves, is in a medical emergency or medical limbo. She put you in that cloud of emotions, hand wringing, pacing, and what ifs that make life go into slo-mo and you have no choice but to live minute to minute.
4) Direct Care - This was a fitting, generic term the faceless nurses/employees. They were the benevolent overlords or your only lifeline. It wasn't until the very end that Anna sees them as people.
5) Not perfect - Maybe not intentionally, but what? France has no anorexics? France has passed laws against emaciated models because of body image perception, and yet her family and dad have never heard of anorexia? Maybe I'm being sensitive but it struck me as a "US problem" commentary. That's minor because my major problem is that lack of mothers. I'm not saying that husbands and fathers aren't supportive and caring, but with ED mothers play a much greater role in care than showed in this novel. Women are more sensitive to thoughts of distorted body image and usually more empathetic towards depression. It may be a gross generalization, but in my experience and in online groups and forums, it is usually mothers who lead the charge for recovery and advocacy. Just would have been nice to at least have one character capture this case.

This was a great book and if anyone is interested in learning about ED this is suitable introduction.
Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the preview ARC.

An Anonymous Girl: A Novel by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
 
Addictive, Dramatic, Interesting

 
Boring, Slow, Difficult

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful

Me for You by Lolly Winston
 
Gloomy, Romantic, Fun

The best way I can capture my review is to say: it couldn't keep my interest. I didn't dislike it. The characters were fine. The plot addressed grief and processing grief in a way that wasn't heart wrenching but wasn't disconnected. Even though I thought the little plot twist was weak and odd and the daughter's role a bit delayed to develop, I don't have any harsh comments. Simply didn't engage me as I anticipated.

The German Girl: A Novel by Armando Lucas Correa
 
Interesting, Informative, Dramatic

Although the subject matter is interesting and informative, there are several reasons I couldn't rate it higher. First, this isn't a genre I typically enjoy. Second, I'm not a fan of a child narrator and these girls in particular were irritating. As much as I tried to like them, Hannah and Anna were like caricatures. Come to think of it, there wasn't a single character I connected with in this novel. Third, what's with these mothers? Anna's mother in particular was perplexing. She spends 12 years languishing in bed and then *snap* is cured of depression/substance abuse (we never know what actually) and is hyped for a trip to Cuba? Huh? Lastly and most significantly, the pace was painfully slow for me. It made it hard to keep focused on the story.

White Elephant by Trish Harnetiaux
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Fun
Love the topic

I'm a sucker for white elephant exchanges. I haven't participated in a single one that hasn't proven to produce laughter and a little drama. This one was no exception, even if I wasn't part of it. I do have to say that the first third of the book was a bit slow and Claudine is a despicable character. However, it picked up and made for a god mystery. I could really see this becoming a movie.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
 
Addictive, Interesting, Dramatic
What is with the hype?

I don't typically enjoy books with unreliable narrators or artists as main characters, so we were off to a bad start from the get go. I found both Theo and Alicia to be incredibly annoying and unlikable. Actually didn't care for any of the characters. I'm not a psychologist but this can't possibly be the way a trained professional talks about patients and the field itself. Do they really say a "nutter?" Whatever, because I guess the professional language of a mental health specialist goes out the window when 1) everything else is he does is highly unethical and unprofessional and 2) the specialist himself is clearly unwell. And about the twist, saw that coming at a painful snail's pace. Final comment, I can suspend disbelief but this goes way beyond what I can handle. My opinion is not the popular one and I can understand why some find this a griping novel but I just couldn't get a thrill.

The Farm: A Novel by Joanne Ramos
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Confusing
Disappointed but would recommend to discuss

Tough one to review because the subject leads to interesting discussions. Yet, the characters lacked development, although one can say maybe there personality flaws lay their fate. It felt as no one learned anything and controversial issues about human rights were brushed aside. If it had been a dystopic, future novel that may have worked but in present day, not so much to my taste.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Pointless, Dramatic

The Institute: A Novel by Stephen King
 
Book Club Recommended
Scary, Addictive, Adventurous

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
 
Book Club Recommended
Brilliant, Epic, Addictive

The Good Daughter: A Novel by Karin Slaughter
 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Graphic, Dramatic

Valentine: A Novel by Wetmore Elizabeth
 
Dramatic, Addictive, Dark
What is this book about?

Though the prose is beautiful and haunting at times, most of the time I kept asking - what is this book about? The reader meets several women who recount their days and feelings but many times the plot (if there is one?) meandered for no purpose. It is a sad statement that it is set in the 70s and there is still the same amount of racism and violence against women today. In the end, the book just left me feeling hollow.

 
Inspiring, Life Changing, Insightful
Ana ruins book

The Book of Longings, yea, longing for it to end. Here are just a few reasons why I disliked this book.

1) Ana is a self-righteous, self-absorbed brat and I couldn't stand being trapped in her head when she goes on and on about ink and paper and struggling to find her true meaning. Ugh!
2) The book is sprinkled with popular biblical stories, for example the Good Samaritan and "...be the first to throw a stone...", and guess who is at the center of all of them, yup, surprise, Ana. Why? Was this really necessary? It became predictable.
3) Sweet baby Jesus, the best pet name you can come up with for your petty and selfish wife is "little thunder?" I wanted to gag myself with a spork every time this epithet was used. What did Ana do to earn this? Thunderous she was not, unless you have to sit in her head for 13 hours wondering what else she will pawn for paper and ink instead of, oh you know, help feed the family? It gave me a thunderous headache that's for sure.
4) Yaltha - Total Carole Baskin.
5) Jesus is cool with birth control? That had what little Catholic remains in me laughing but also shaking my head because I believe it was meant to demonstrate Ana's ambition but seems to me everyone was doing it.
5) My main complaint is that Ana doesn't develop. We meet her when she's 11, then, I don't know, five pages later she's 14 and not much changes. She gets married - to the messiah - learns to milk a goat, gets baptized, parents die, flees country, husband is crucified, etc etc and, to me, she still sounds like the 14 year old.

I appreciate the author's research and her explanation for the book. Sorry it was not for me.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Insightful
Who you are...

I loved this study in personal identity - how you define yourself (however long that may take) and how others define you (however unjust that can be). I refrain from giving it the full five stars only because I felt the end was a little rushed and the time jumps confusing. I loved all the characters and their arcs. I would recommend, especially because it is relevant to the issues in the news today.

 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Brilliant, Dramatic
Wanted to like it more

I was considering waiting a week or so before writing a review for this book because I felt maybe I needed to digest it but nope. I didn't hate it because the settings were excellently written. Everything else, meh. I know why Languoreth is the lost queen though, because she is lost - in her own stupidity. Seriously, she makes constant mistakes, misjudgments, treats her husband incredibly unfairly, and is a total drama mama. Her constant whining, just made it miserable. And it's way too long. I would have sacrificed one or 156 of the woody descriptions because while it added pretty atmosphere it prolonged an already slow plot. I did the audio version and narrator gets 100% kudos! Disappointed because it is the type of book I like and now am left wondering if book 2 is better but for a trilogy I don't see what merits a third book. Then again since she saw the future is there even a point?

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
 
Insightful, Interesting, Addictive

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