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The Last Book of 2013: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

6 Jan

So I finished my last book of 2013 on December 30. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.

It was mildly ironic and altogether fitting that I finish a book about finding yourself on the second to last day of 2013, a year in which many could say that I lost my way a bit.

Wild follows the journey of Cheryl Strayed (which, btw, isn’t even her real name) as she hiked the Pacific Coast Trail about 20 years ago. Her mom dies, she starts sleeping around, does a bunch of heroin, her marriage subsequently breaks up, and then it’s time for the life-changing trip on the PCT.

As you might guess, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Cheryl.

Don’t get me wrong — the story is quite interesting, and once the book picked up, I was throughly engrossed. The people she meets on the trail, the journey itself, the freedom of just being alone and doing something challenging all at the same time, is fascinating. It’s the whole “woe is me, my mother died and then I did heroin and had casual sex” sob story that I can’t deal with. It’s hard to lay all the dirty and messy and not-so-nice parts of yourself out on the table, which I give her credit for. It’s a brave thing to do. But these things are not badges of honor or even battle scars. They’re just another piece that makes you whole.

Can you have sweet without the salt? Would she have hiked the PCT if not for the heroin habit and dead mother? I don’t know.

I’m glad I read this book, although it’s not one that I would read again or even necessarily recommend. There are times in the book she is just so awful that I just could not stand her. Really, truly, disliked her as a person and a protagonist.

And it just made me think, “Wow, if she is this awful, and manages to survive it all, you can be just a bit better as a person too.” Nothing like one person’s tragedy to make you feel better about your own life.

In the end, I’m glad Cheryl gets it together. I’m actually happy that she has a happy ending. Because she is honest. The good and the bad, the sweet and the salty, the ups and the downs, at least she tells them (mostly) all.

And if she read above, where I said I didn’t like her as a protagonist? I like to think she would be okay with it. Because as much as I don’t like the heroin-addict-lets-sleep-around side of her, I’m pretty sure she is the type of girl that can handle some divergent opinions.

 

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The Cuckoo’s Calling: JKR’s New Book

29 Dec

So I finished reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling Robert Galbraith a few weeks back.

If you remember the scandal that was when the news broke that Robert Galbraith = J.K. Rowling, then you’ll know that I just had to read this book. (Short story – her law firm tipped someone off that it was her, and then SCIENCE saved the day with linguistic analysis. Confronted, JKR confessed it was her.)

Science is awesome.

But back to JKR. I can understand why she used a pseudonym. If everyone knows it’s her – will they discount the book right away, because the author of Harry Potter can’t possibly write a serious crime novel? Or, will it become smashingly successful, just because she is the author of Harry Potter, and will thousands of fans buy the book only to be disappointed that it doesn’t contain magic?

I get it, JKR. I understand wanting to be judged based on your work, not who you are. To be able to start over, be anonymous, be someone else, be exactly who you want to be with no past and no baggage and no reputation and no nothing. It’s nice to think about. But not all of us real people have that luxury.

So the book. Overall, I liked it a lot. It had a bit of a slow start, but once I was a few chapters in, I couldn’t put it down. And no, I was not right about the ending (and I didn’t peek ahead!).

The Cuckoo’s Calling follows a private detective and his temp assistant, as they investigate the suicide (or is it murder…?) of a famous fashion model in London. The story is really quite captivating, to learn all the twists and turns and family dynamics and intrigue. The ending I predicted most certainly was not how the book ended, which made me enjoy it even more. Plus, JKR’s descriptions of all the characters is so on-point that they come to life on the pages. I hear she’s quite good at doing that in her other books too…

I would definitely recommend this to someone looking for a good, quick, interesting read.

Oh, I also recently read two James Patterson novels, and they were fabulously interesting and great beach reads. But Alex Cross didn’t solve the crime at the end. Fail, JP, fail.

Next on my list? I’m reading Hyperbole and a Half (for my non-serious book), and Wild (for those oh-so-serious moments in my life).

November Book Review Roundup

24 Nov

Nothing like nine days on the road to accomplish some reading, right?

Here’s what I read through on my latest work trip.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwon. It’s like the Kardashians meets Kimora Lee Simmons, crossed with a healthy (or unhealthy?) dose of private jets, real estate, and high-fashion – on the streets of Singapore. I was throughly fascinated while reading this book, and entertained all at the same time. Is there really a group of uber-rich Chinese living in Singapore, in real life? Needless to say, check this book out the next time you need a good beach read.

Hanns and Rudolf by Thomas Harding. This one was a bit tougher to get through, but still a quick read. It’s the story of the British war crimes investigator who tracked down the head of Auschwitz after WWII ended. An interesting story, but I must say that I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more drama when the chase was coming to the end. A bit anti-climatic, if I do say so myself.

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls. No big surprises here for a J.Walls novel – two sisters with a deadbeat/crazy mother make a go of it on their own. The story becomes more interesting when they travel across the country to live with the slightly kooky uncle in a recently integrated small town in the south. Oh, and there are emus in this book, which makes the ending much better.

I’m currently in the middle of The Cuckoo’s Calling, which is J.K. Rowling’s latest fiction work, under her pseudonym. Well-written, but I suspect I have figured out the ending already and I’m only a few chapters in. If this is the case, I’ll be a bit disappointed that the mystery wasn’t more mysterious.

Happy reading!

Book Review: The Dinner and Winter’s Bone

11 Sep

So I know I’m a bit late to the game on these books. But better late than never, right? Plus, my mom had downloaded these to her nook so I could rip them onto mine. Perfecto.

So I was on an epic week-long work trip, which included one 24-hour day. NY-MA-WA-NY, complete with a red-eye flight home. Lovely, right?

A friend recommended The Dinner by Herman Koch. She said it was a quick read, since the story takes place over the course of just one evening. During dinner. Creative title, right?

Let’s just say this isn’t a regular dinner. The story revolves around the candidate for prime minister and his brother, who decide that they need to go to dinner with their wives to discuss the “horrible things their children have been doing.”

Not to give it away…but let’s just say the brother is cray cray. Like seriously crazy. And not in the good “oh hey, lets go to a crazy family dinner where someone says something non-PC but its really funny and we all get a little loaded” crazy.

It was a quick read though. But probably not good for beach reading. Or any other occasion where you want something that will make you laugh.

Then I started Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. You know, the book that made Jennifer Lawrence famous. After you read it, you’ll know that the title is also creative.

It’s winter, and she needs bones for something. But I won’t give it away.

I read through this book really quickly, once I finished the first few chapters. It is set in the Ozarks, and is full of characters, crazy family relationships, and backwoods Hatfields-McCoys style drama.

This one is worth picking up.

Does anyone have other book recommendations? My reading list right now is empty.

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Book Review: Rebecca Forster’s Witness Series

12 Aug

So I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Law & Order, so it should be no surprise that I love me some James Patterson/Alex Cross. But as I’m currently out of Alex Cross books (and no, I don’t see either Morgan Freeman OR Tyler Perry as a believable Alex Cross), I need some new summer beach reading.

Enter Rebecca Forster. I chance downloaded the first book in her “Witness” series to my iPad on my last work trip. #FreakingVictory.

I literally could not stop reading Hostile Witness

It has a bit of everything that I like, but mainly I liked that it was an entertaining read. And I didn’t have to think too hard. I flew through the novel, and couldn’t wait to download the next one.

The series centers on a lawyer in California and the crazy/complicated cases she takes on. It’s like, L&O had a baby with The Practice, and these books were what came about.

These books may not change your life, but its good summer reading if you like mysteries or thrillers.

Love is a Mix Tape: Book Review

11 Jul

So it’s been a while. Between work and summer and life, it’s been a bit hectic. Since June – I’ve been to Philly, Colorado, and Vegas for work. Which has its ups and downs…the downs being that I’m a bit busy.

Upside is that airplanes do give me quite a bit of time to read – and I just finished reading Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield.

Anyone that knows me knows I am obsessed with mix tapes. I remember recording songs off the radio on the old school boom box that my sister and I shared…being very, very quiet so you don’t make noise that records onto the tape. Epic, right? Then it was mix cds, which I still refer to as mix tapes. Same goes for mp3 playlists. It’s always a mix tape.

Which is one of the reasons I first wanted to read this book. The subhead is “life and loss, one song at a time.” Chapter by chapter, each with its own cassette of songs in the intro, tells the story of Rob and his wife, who sadly passed away early in their marriage.

Reading the track listings is one of the best parts – the music goes from the late 80s to the early 90s. The story is told through Nirvana, the death of Kurt Cobain, Tupac and Biggie, R.E.M., Hanson, and plenty of other obscure bands that sound slightly familiar but in reality I’ve never heard of.

What I liked about this book was that it was funny and sweet, meaningful without being too sappy. And it wasn’t so sad that I couldn’t read it, but made me tear up just enough.

And Rob’s descriptions of the different kinds of mix tapes? Epically awesome. But I won’t ruin it. I’ll let you discover these on your own.

My next mix tape? Not sure what will be on it. But I keep a running list on my phone of songs I like and ones I need to put on a mix.

But the best mixes aren’t the ones I make. They are the ones I receive.

Happy listening.

Book Review: Work Trip Reading

27 Mar

So I’ve been on the road for the last week for work. Which kept me away from doing things I like (i.e. writing on my blog) but it did give me some time to catch up on my reading.

I just finished Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman.

Being totally honest – this book isn’t anything mentally mind-blowing or life-changing. It’s more of a good thriller read – sort of like beach reading meets Richard Castle.

It’s set in a small town in the Adirondacks area of New York — and centers around Nora, whose husband kills himself in the opening pages of the book. Then there is an uncovered fishing hole, hidden basement rooms, the lurking police force…if you have ever been to a small mountain town, you should be starting to get creeped out…

The start of the book was a bit slow, but it picks up halfway through. I won’t give more of the story away, but I will say it has a few twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting.

It’s not as good as Gone Girl, but I would give it a solid B+.

Now, I just need a new work trip and a new book to read…