March Recap

March was also another busy, busy month. Busy at work, busy at home, busy moving. Again, the best place to track what I’m reading and what I think of the books I’m reading is Goodreads. I hope that I’ll be back to writing individual reviews on here in April. Or at least weekly recaps. My reading has slowed down some. There seems to be a huge disparity between the books on my to-read list, the books available on Overdrive as audio, and the books physically housed in my local library. It’s like a venn diagram where none of the three circles overlap.

March final count:

  • Books = 3
  • Audiobooks = 4
  • Fiction = 4
  • Nonfiction = 3

Total = 7

Total for 2016 = 23

The Madwoman UpstairsThe Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
Format: book

This was not exactly the Jane Eyre literary scavenger hunt I  had hoped it would be. The narrator was initially quite annoying and boastful of her family’s celebrated relationship to the Bronte sisters. She mellowed out over time and I came to appreciate her self-deprecating jokes. The love story was incredibly predictable and I never had a clear sense of where the story was headed. She ignored large parts of the “hunt” for most of the book. But it did all come together at the end and it was an ending I didn’t exactly expect.

Enchantment: The Life of Audrey HepburnEnchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Donald Spoto
Format: Audio Book

I’d been wanting to read an Audrey Hepburn biography for years. I finally found one on my library’s Overdrive and immediately checked it out. I wish I had read another one instead. The author spent most of the book critiquing her movies and co-starts than actually talking about her life. His opinions felt forced, arbitrary and unjustified. I was also shocked to learn at the number of extramarital affairs Audrey Hepburn participated in during her life. The author wrote her to be such a sad and unloved person, ready to jump into the arms of anyone willing to show her affection. I feel like I read to another account to balance out his summary of her life.

Modern RomanceModern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Format: Audiobook

Although I enjoyed his narration and his exploration of the world of modern dating, I am so grateful to not be in this world anymore. My husband and I met in college when AIM was still the main source of online communication. We heavily utilized chat services and Gmail Chat when we were long distance to keep in touch because neither of us are phone people. But the amount of online options, personas and drama that is going on today is ridiculous. Ansari’s narration was at times stilted (when he was clearly reading his co-partner’s words) and at times natural and humorous (his audiobook asides and improve moments). I went into this book expecting it to be like Master of None, but it is clearly a different animal altogether.

Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2) Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: Audiobook

I enjoyed this second Maisie Dobbs book so much more than the first. This one immediately jumps right into a missing persons case with is tied to a series of mysterious deaths of three young women around London. I just wish the author gave more insight into Maisie’s thought process when figuring out the case. Things just happen, or things are just told but without any detail for the reader. It was a bit choppy, but I really liked the chemistry between all the characters and each person had their own personality. I’m taking a wee break before jumping into book 3. I’m hoping book 3 has a different narrator than book 2. I wasn’t too fond of the narrator for this book. Her reading voice was so rushed that I had to double-check to make sure the pace wasn’t sped up on accident on Overdrive.

Across the Pond: An Englishman's View of America Across the Pond: An Englishman’s View of America by Terry Eagleton
Format: Book

I had really high hopes for this book. I’m constantly reading about Americans overseas. I really wanted to read the reverse. What are we really like as a country? Well, Terry Eagleton answered my question. We are rude, fat, religious prudes. His book was full of sweeping generalizations, random jabs, small moment of British self-deprecating opines and unfocused bias. I wasn’t sure what his point was through the entire short read. He never offered any examples or studies aside from his random run-ons on the Ivy League campus where he taught. Maybe if he actually did some research outside of his small inner circle of friends, it would be something worth reading.

The Remains of the Day The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Format: Audiobook

Goodreads recommended that I read this book because I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Well, I’m glad I picked it up. It is an incredibly lovely novel about the most faithful and devoted British butler you’ll come across. I think fans of Downton Abbey will really appreciate this book and its story. I enjoyed the book when I was listening to it, but I’m not sure if I liked the story or the narrator’s reading. Mr. Stevens emitted a robotic aura, always concerned with dignity and loyalty to his lordship, rather than projecting any kind of accessible emotion. I still sympathized for him and could feel his struggle to both feel emotions and yet remain distant from his emotions so that he could fulfill his duties at his utmost capabilities. It is an interesting look at the “downstairs” life of servants in the early 20th century. I wasn’t sure impressed, but I am curious to see what the author’s other books are like.

Be Frank With Me Be Frank with me by Julia Clairborne Johnson
Format: Book

I’m not sure where I first heard of this book, but I was happy to be a recipient of a copy from LibraryThing’s First Reads group. The book itself is both charming and annoying. Trite and endearing. Much like the two main characters, the mother-son duo who make up half of the relevant cast. This is the story of a small-town girl, Alice, moving to LA to “help” a reclusive and incredibly famous author finish her second book. The relationship between Frank and Alice felt very unrealistic. Frank was both the best and worst part of the book. I’m starting to develop a real pet-peeve against kid characters being wise beyond their years. Just write kids as kids. Stop making them prophets or something more symbolic already.
This post first appeared on http://www.thenovelworld.com on 4/5/2016

Copycat Covers

I finally found one!

Its the same cover, just flipped. One is a fiction and the other is a non-fiction about the fashion industry and only 3 years apart.

1048517  4993001

100 Best British Books via BBC

This is from December, but I love any opportunity to go through a list of books and cross off the ones I read. Its like the ultimate checklist…for hobbies rather than errands and other tedious to-dos.

This particular list was compiled by the following, according to the BBC post.

Lev Grossman (Time), Mary Ann Gwinn (Seattle Times), Ainehi Edoro (Brittle Paper), Mark Medley (Toronto Globe and Mail), Fintan O’Toole (The Irish Times), Stephen Romei and Geordie Williamson (The Australian), Sam Sacks  (The Wall Street Journal) and Claiborne Smith (Kirkus Reviews).  Others are literary scholars, including Terry Castle, Morris Dickstein, Michael Gorra, Carsten Jensen, Amitava Kumar, Rohan Maitzen, Geoffrey O’Brien, Nilanjana Roy and Benjamin Taylor. Each who participated submitted a list of 10 British novels, with their pick for the greatest novel receiving 10 points. The points were added up to produce the final list.

I’ve read 22 of 100. Yikes! That’s pretty terrible for an Anglophile. Does it count if I’ve watched the movie? No? Rats.

100. The Code of the Woosters (PG Wodehouse, 1938)
99. There but for the (Ali Smith, 2011)
98. Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry,1947)
97. The Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis, 1949-1954) * Books 1 -3 *
96. Memoirs of a Survivor (Doris Lessing, 1974)
95. The Buddha of Suburbia (Hanif Kureishi, 1990)
94. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (James Hogg, 1824)
93. Lord of the Flies (William Golding, 1954)
92. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons, 1932)
91. The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy, 1922)
90. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins, 1859)
89. The Horse’s Mouth (Joyce Cary, 1944)
88. The Death of the Heart (Elizabeth Bowen, 1938)
87. The Old Wives’ Tale (Arnold Bennett,1908)
86. A Legacy (Sybille Bedford, 1956)
85. Regeneration Trilogy (Pat Barker, 1991-1995)
84. Scoop (Evelyn Waugh, 1938)
83. Barchester Towers (Anthony Trollope, 1857)
82. The Patrick Melrose Novels (Edward St Aubyn, 1992-2012)
81. The Jewel in the Crown (Paul Scott, 1966)
80. Excellent Women (Barbara Pym, 1952)
79. His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman, 1995-2000)
78. A House for Mr Biswas (VS Naipaul, 1961)
77. Of Human Bondage (W Somerset Maugham, 1915)
76. Small Island (Andrea Levy, 2004)
75. Women in Love (DH Lawrence, 1920)
74. The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, 1886)
73. The Blue Flower (Penelope Fitzgerald, 1995)
72. The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene, 1948)
71. Old Filth (Jane Gardam, 2004)
70. Daniel Deronda (George Eliot, 1876)
69. Nostromo (Joseph Conrad, 1904)
68. A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess, 1962)
67. Crash (JG  Ballard 1973)
66. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)
65. Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928)
64. The Way We Live Now (Anthony Trollope, 1875)
63. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, 1961)
62. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
61. The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch, 1978)
60. Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence, 1913)
59. The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst, 2004)
58. Loving (Henry Green, 1945)
57. Parade’s End (Ford Madox Ford, 1924-1928)
56. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson, 1985)
55. Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift, 1726)
54. NW (Zadie Smith, 2012)
53. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys, 1966)
52. New Grub Street (George Gissing, 1891)
51. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy, 1891)
50. A Passage to India (EM Forster, 1924)
49. Possession (AS Byatt, 1990)
48. Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis, 1954)
47. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Laurence Sterne, 1759)
46. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981)
45. The Little Stranger  (Sarah Waters, 2009)
44. Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel, 2009)
43. The Swimming Pool Library (Alan Hollinghurst, 1988)
42. Brighton Rock (Graham Greene, 1938)
41. Dombey and Son (Charles Dickens, 1848)
40. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
39.  The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes, 2011)
38. The Passion (Jeanette Winterson, 1987)
37. Decline and Fall (Evelyn Waugh, 1928)
36. A Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell, 1951-1975)
35. Remainder (Tom McCarthy, 2005)
34. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005)
33. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908)
32. A Room with a View (EM Forster, 1908)
31. The End of the Affair (Graham Greene, 1951)
30. Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe, 1722)
29. Brick Lane (Monica Ali, 2003) * Read halfway before abandoning
28. Villette (Charlotte Brontë, 1853)
27. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719)
26. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien, 1954) * Books 1 – 3, just don’t ask for any details, I read them in a rush after seeing the movies.  
25. White Teeth (Zadie Smith, 2000)
24. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)
23. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy, 1895)
22. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Henry Fielding, 1749)
21. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899)
20. Persuasion (Jane Austen, 1817)
19. Emma (Jane Austen, 1815)
18. Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989)
17. Howards End (EM Forster, 1910)
16. The Waves (Virginia Woolf, 1931)
15. Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001)
14. Clarissa (Samuel Richardson,1748)
13. The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford, 1915)
12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
11. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)
10. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848)
9. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
8. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1850)
7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847)
6. Bleak House (Charles Dickens, 1853)
5. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
4. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861)
3. Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)
2. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)
1. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1874)

February Recap

February has really been a bizarre and busy month for me. I read a lot but had absolutely no time to sit in front of WordPress to type anything significant about what I read. Here’s hoping for a quieter March.

Quick Stats:

  • Books Read: 7
  • Fiction: 7
  • Nonfiction 0
  • Audio: 4
  • Print: 2
  • Ebook: 1

But this is what I did read, in a series of mini-reviews, for February.

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)

Maisie Dobbs (book 1) by Jacqueline Winspear. I feel like I read a Maisie Dobbs novel years ago, but I honestly can’t remember. Reading this first book in the series in a wonderful introduction to Maisie. In fact, that’s pretty much all this book is, an introduction and history of Maisie Dobbs. There is a mystery to be solved, but it doesn’t really appear until the near of the book. In the meantime, there is a wonderful history lesson in there about the WW1 and pre WW2 era. It’s an era of historical fiction that’s often neglected in favor of WW2. I like Maisie as a character though. She’s smart, she’s quiet and she’s very observant. She’s also so much better than Daisy Darylmple. Daisy almost feels like a parody of Maisie Dobbs now that I’ve read both books.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. I am such a fan of Melanie Benjamin and her historical fiction. I devoured this book in about two days once I spotted it at the library. Its full of gossip and scandal, covering Truman Capote’s short stint as a literacy genius running with the “IT” crowd of socialites of the 1960’s and his eventual fallout from the group. I don’t think this was her strongest book, I think her strength is getting into the head of women more than men. But it was a good book for the month nonetheless.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. I had read so many good reviews about this book and its been all over the book-blog-o-sphere. I was thoroughly disappointed by the lack of depth or action in this book. Ellis is a flimsy character who does as she is told. Whether its to pack up and move across the ocean from Ireland to New York or marry a man she has iffy feelings about. There were a number of avenues that the author hinted at that could have made the book so much better had he explored those paths.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café (At the Cupcake Café, #1)

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan. One of my favorite pick-me-up genres: Opening a Bakery changed my sad-sap life. In this tale, Issy has been let go from her job where she had an off-and-on affair with her boss. Down and destitute, Issy puts her severance package to good use opening up a little coffee off the beaten path and turning her hobby of baking into a real business. Along way, there is drama, yummy-mummy scandals and even a love triangle or two. The book is also sprinkled with wonderful cupcake recipes worth attempting.

A Window Opens

A Window Opens by Elizabeth Egan. When Alice’s husband quits his high-powered attorney job at a major firm, Alice picks up the slack by quitting her part-time job of book reviewer for a full-time position at a major online book corporation not too dissimilar to Amazon. Along the way, she struggles with the balance of work, family, kids, husband and a sick father. Although at first glance it seems like a typical chick-lit book, I really appreciate how Egan did not glamorize the do-it-all persona of working moms. We can’t and don’t do it all. It is a constant struggle and more often than not, we guilty for whatever choice we made whether its family first or work first.

The Night Manager

The Night Manager by John Le Carre. Lets be real here. This book has been adapted into a mini-series staring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston. It’ll air on AMC in the US sometime in April or May. So, of course I had to read it in preparation for the show. I liked the book a lot though. This genre is definitely not in my usual repertoire of books and it was a welcome change of pace from what I usually read. The characters were rich and full of depth and history. The story was interwoven so seamlessly and it never dulled or strayed. I could see myself reading more of Le Carre in the future.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce. I immediately picked up this title after I finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I wanted the story to continue and it did. Queenie’s side of the history adds so much more flavor and character to Harold and his family. I’m glad I read Harold Fry first, although the two books can be read independent of each other. I wonder what it would have been like to read them in reverse order actually. What would Harold’s pilgrimage to Queenie have been like had I known her side of the story first? It’s a wonderful book with wonderful and endearing characters. It’s equally heartbreaking though. I cried through the majority of the ending. Have a box of tissues at the ready with this title.

What I Read in January

10 books in January. I think that’s a record! I wasn’t a big fan of some of what I read, but by the end of the month I was enjoying all my books. I went into a major murder-mystery theme in January. Although it seems like I’ve moved on from there.

The Best

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry The Ingredients of Love

  • The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce (A wonderful companion book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I was sobbing at the end. )
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (I recommend reading this before Queenie’s book, but they can be read and enjoyed independent of each other. A wonderfully quirky tale of a man with an unresolved past trying to make amends.)
  • The Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau (A very cute rom-com set in Paris about a series of misconceptions, deceptions and mistaken identities.)

The Meh

  The Sign of the Four Funny Girl Death at Wentwater Court (Daisy Dalrymple, #1) Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)

  • The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (I love the first half, the second half wandered and there is so much latent racism sprinkled throughout the book. I know that it was just the way of life back then, but its so jarring to read in today’s world.)
  • Funny Girl by Nick Hornby (It wasn’t very funny.)
  • Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Fan’s of Agatha Christie and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will appreciate this book. I like the era and the gumption of the main character. The ending fell short and was a major disappointment.)
  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (The first introduction to James Bond. I was not impressed.)

The Worst

The Precious One Moonlight over Paris Return of the Thin Man

  • The Precius One by Marisa de los Santa (bleh. Cliché, overly-precious and horribly predictable and unrealistic ending.)
  • Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson (Wonderful writing by the author, except that there was no real plot and no character development.)
  • Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (A series of unfortunate events turned Hammett’s wonderful Thin Man into a parody of itself for the Hollywood Screen. This was more like a screenplay than the book and given how many changes were made to the story to make it fit the screen, well, the essential essence and Hammett’s originality and wit were lost in the shuffle.)

 

 

January Reading – Week 3 recap

I’m a few days late on this recap, but I also didn’t really get very far with reading either. My library had a Friend’s of the Library Booksale on Saturday and I picked up a wonderful selection of books all for $6. Seriously, I live off of book sales like these.

IMG_1352

I also picked up a copy of these two books, but they didn’t make it into the group photo shoot.

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France

What I finished:

The Ingredients of LoveThe Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau
Format: book

The summary and the cover are what attracted me to this book. As well as a sneak peek into the author’s newest book coming out in March Paris is Always a Good Idea. Ingredients of Love is a cute little love story based on a massive, self-serving deception of a naïve restaurant chef, Aurelie, by a book publisher, Andre. One sad and lonely day after being dumped by her boyfriend Claude, Aurelie goes for a long and thoughtful walk and finds herself in a charming little bookstore. Unsure of what to do, the bookseller directs her to table covered with novels. The first one she picks up is somehow about her and her restaurant. After that, her search for the author leads her to Andre and madcap hijinks ensue.

Its kind of nice reading a contemporary love story set in Paris that is not a memoir with biting or thoughtful social philosophy and observation. Its just a story of a guy and a girl and how they “fell in love.” Its very cheesy, but I liked the author’s writing style. He’s no Antoine Laurain, he’s still my number 1 for French fiction. But I did enjoy this book, despite the lackluster heroine (she’s quite dull). Andre was very entertaining in his determination to keep the ruse of his double personality. Its very reminiscent of a 1990s Meg Ryan Rom-Com.

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (James Bond Book #1)
Format: eAudio

I went back to the audiobook version of Casino Royale. Although I liked the book, it just didn’t live up to the hype and the myth that surrounds the theatrical version of James Bond. This book is our first introduction to Bond. Like the book itself, or maybe the book is like Bond, both are very dry and matter-of-fact. Bond is more sexist than charming, and not very clever despite being a good gambler. I wasn’t very impressed, but it was a quick read at only 187 pages, so I might give the follow-up novels a try to see if he gets more exciting. I kept waiting to see if Vesper would do something besides being kidnapped and looking pretty. I think my modern feminist view clashed with the sexism of the 1960s. As Bond put it, women were only good for cooking and sex. They had no role in espionage. How he became a 007 agent was someone disappointing too. It was revealed during a quick mention of him having killed a couple of people. That’s it. A quick two sentences and viola. The book was a nice step away from the hard-boiled crime novels I was reading. Now I’m ready for something more exciting, like books about espionage, and government level conspiracies.

What I’m Reading Now

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock book #2)
Format: Print

It’s an 87 page story, but because it’s on my bedside table, I only read 2-3 pages before I go to bed. I hope to finish it this week though. It’s quite a juicy story and I’m loving watching Watson and Mary fall in love with each other.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Format: Audiobook / Read by Jim Broadbent

Unassuming and mild manner Harold wakes up one morning with a letter from a former co-worker informing him of her battle with cancer. After spending some time thinking of a reply to her letter, Harold finally puts the pen to paper. But when he walks to the post to deliver it, he has an overwhelming sense that a letter is not enough. So he walks to the next post box, and then keeps going. He makes a decision that if he walks the 500 miles to Berwick upon Tweed, then he can save Queenie Hennessy from her cancer.

This book is amazing. The narrator is amazing and I never want it to it. Harold is one of those super flawed characters that you cheer for anyway. He’s a coward, a bad father (detached, not cruel), but he’s sensitive, vulnerable and his travel is more of a philosophical look into his life than it is about saving Queenie. It’s wonderfully introspective and I love being on this journey with Harold.

This quote is from The Ingredients of Love, but I feel it applies very well to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

“Sometimes you go out in order to get somewhere. And sometimes you just go out to walk and walk and go farther and farther until the clouds clear, despair calms down, or you have thought a thought through to the very end”

January Reading – Week 2 recap

I like this little weekly summary of what I’m reading. If you’re really curious as to what books are going through my revolving door of interest, follow me on Goodreads.

What I finished:

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Daisy Dalyrmple Book #1)
Format: e-audiobook

I’m not sure why, but I’ve fallen into a historical murder mystery fiction mode. I really enjoyed Death at Wentwater Court, at least I did until the ending. Daisy Darlymple is a new journalist, writing columns about the homes of the England’s wealthiest and finest aristocracy. During a stay at a friend’s estate, Daisy and her companions stumble upon the corpse of one of the house guests. Now Daisy is entangled in solving the mystery with the local detective. The book was fun, although the author was very heavy-handed with the slang of the era towards the beginning of the novel. I enjoyed the mystery, the twists and the guesses as to who-dunnit. The only bell that really rang false for me was how the eventual murder was solved and Daisy’s attempts to convince the murderer to escape to Brazil.

Moonlight over ParisMoonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Format: Print

Near death due to the influenza, Helena Parr promised herself that if she survived, she would make sure to really live her life. After a miraculous recovery, she decides to leave her gossip-riddled life in England and go to France for a year to live with her eccentric aunt Agnes, studying art. Along the way, Helena makes a motley cru assortment of friends and meets and greets the various literary and artistic elite of this jazz age of Paris’s past. This book was fairly boring from start to end. I still don’t understand the concept or reasoning for the character of Louisette. She’s meant to be a chaperone for Daisy Fields, one of Helena’s classmates, but she’s never actively a part of the story and then she’s quickly swept away at the end. Although, the story and romance is very predictable and there is little to no plot in the story. Just Helena going to school and being chummy. I think the only thing that kept me engaged with the story was Robson’s writing style and the ease of which I felt transposed back to Paris of the 1920s. She has a great talent with description and setting. I just wish her book had some more depth and character development to it. All the characters were flat, minus the tropes of the eccentric aunt and flamboyant artist friends.

What I’m Reading Now

Return of the Thin Man Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Format: e-Audiobook

Although this is penned as two novellas covered the tale of Nick and Nora Charles following the hit novel The Thin Man, this comes across more as a screenplay than a novella. Which is fine, but I think what I loved most about The Thin Man was Hammett’s setting and use of descriptive writing to really bring the characters alive. And Nick and Nora are possibly by favorite literacy couple. The story is definitely dated though, with blatant racism and sexism in its depictions of certain characters. It does take away from the story. Although the audio is still fairly entertaining as its read by a full ensemble cast of narrators.

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1) Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (James Bond Book #1)
Format: Print

I have yet to venture in the James Bond world. I’ve seen a couple of the newer movies, but I thought I should give the books a try as they fit in quite perfectly with my murder mystery theme of the month. I did start on the audiobook, but I couldn’t concentrate on the narration, so I’m giving the print version a try.

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2) The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock book #2)
Format: Print

Fresh off the tails of the Sherlock Christmas special, I’m back into the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I did read A Study in Scarlet a while ago, but have stagnated on reading the rest of the Sherlock books because I honestly have no clue in what order they need to be read. There are the 4 novels and various essays and short stories and mini novels. A co-worker recommend I spilt the works into groups, pre-death Sherlock and post-revival Sherlock. In either case, it doesn’t matter too much in which order I read the stories in those two groups.

Lets be Honest

I’m not very good at keeping up with reviewing the books I finish in a timely manner. So, I’m going to try something new this year. Weekly recaps. Summaries of what I’ve read, what I’ve finished, and what I’ve added to my To-Read pile. I probably won’t be doing individual book reviews, unless its something I absolutely adore.

Here’s my summary of January so far.

What I finished:

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby
Format: Audiobook

Review:

This was my first Nick Hornby title. It was a bit lackluster. I think my biggest complaint is that it was sold as “funny” but it wasn’t. It was about Barbara, a small town girl who moved to London and found her onto a most beloved sitcom in the 1960s. It was and it wasn’t. Hornby kept telling us that the show was successful, daring and original. Barbara changed her name to Sophie and was able to leave her past behind her without a second thought. I wish we had been given a better glimpse into the show. A joke, a transcript, something to highlight it. There was also very little character development. There wasn’t much of a different between Sophie and Barbara. There weren’t many challenges, and everything just kind of fell into place. There were also a lot of awkward moments. Maybe those were the funny parts?

The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
Format: Print
Source: Publisher via LibraryThing

Review:

This could have been a great book, but the ending just about ruined it for me. This is the third book by the author that I’ve read and I’ve realized that her stories are all very similar and very formulaic. There are stories of abandonment, of loneliness, and of finding family in unusual places. Everything is always wrapped up in a neat little Hallmark bow and the world lives happily ever after. This approach was a breath of fresh air in her first book, Love Walked In. The characters were unique, had depth and the story was original. Three books and the story is stale. The Precious One is a story told by two daughters (half-sisters) of a crotchety old man, (Wilson) who was a terrible father to one and a wonderful father to the other. Although Taisy was the more likable character, Willow had more depth and was more interesting. Taisy’s storyline was predictable and uninteresting. Willow’s storyline had a lot of interesting twists and turns, but the sugar-coated all is well ending…I ended up skimming the last twenty pages because it was so unbelievable and such a departure from the character foundations that had been laid out in the beginning of the book.

What I’m Reading Now

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
Format: Audiobook

Somewhat like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, this is book 1 of the Daisy Darlymple mysteries. Its a 1920’s murder at the famous Wentwater Court estate. Rookie journalist Daisy finds herself in the middle of the investigation of a shocking murder at the estate during her stay.

Moonlight over Paris Moonlight over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Format: Book – Source: Publisher

After surviving a near death from a bought of the influenza during the 1920’s, Helena Parr decides that she must make something of her life. So, she decides to live with her eccentric aunt Agnes in Paris for a year studying art. Along the way, she makes acquaintances with some of the best known artists and writers in Paris (Hemingway, Stein) and manages to find love.

Books I Read – Micro Reviews (part 1)

I’ve been reading faster than I’ve been reviewing, so sadly, these books will not get their own posts. A couple of them should rightfully get their own post, as I did very much enjoy them, but alas, I don’t have the time to write it all out.

Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah and Skye Chatham
Format: Book / Source: Library

Read Bottom UpThis is a very cute and quick novel describing the modern dating scene as set in New York. The novel is written as a series of texts and emails. According to the introduction, Neel wrote from the perspective of Elliot while Skye wrote from the perspective of Madeline, neither knowing what the other was writing. The book was funny, the jokes were very on-point. It reminded me a lot of the sense of humor in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None TV show in Netflix. It also reminded me of Ceclia Ahern’s Love, Rosie novel, which is also written as text messages, emails, IM’s and other modern chat instruments.

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Format: Audiobook / Narrators: Helen Marsh, Nicolette McKenzie, & Nigel Carrington

Lost & Found I’d been on a wild goose chase, looking for a book that matched the humor and wry sarcasm of Where’d You Go Bernadette for a few years now. I thankfully found it in Brooke Davis’ Lost and Found. Set in the backdrop of Australia, this book tells the sad saga of 7-year-old Millie Bird, abandoned by her mother in a woman’s department store shortly after the death of her father. The book has three main characters, Millie, Agatha Pantha and Karl the Touch Typist. Each person has their own sad story and somehow their lives converge as they work together to try to reunite Millie with her long-gone mother. The book is funny, heartbreaking and captivating. The narrators were superb, particularly for Mille and Agatha.

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner
Format: Book / Source: Library

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest This book was first referenced in AJ Jacob’s Drop Dead Healthy, and the topic has been of interest to me since. Dan Buettner visits a variety continents and small cities across the world, those with the highest population of those living up to and past 100 years of age to find out just how they have managed to live as long as they have, while still being mentally and physically fit at over 100-years of age. He goes to Italy, Japan, Costa Rica, even a small city in California. The secret to a long life? 1. Mostly vegetarian diet 2. A strong social life. 3. A sense of purpose (a reason to get up in the morning – volunteer work, family, other happy obligations. 4. A moderate glass of good red wine each day 5. Walking, walking, stretching and more walking. It’s not brain science. It’s common sense that we’ve forgotten in our bubble of highly processed foods and convenience methods of cooking.

The Tower, The Zoo and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Format: Audiobook / Narrator: Jonathan Cowley

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise Taking place in the infamous and tourist hot-spot Tower of London, Julia Stuart’s book is a quiet, introspective look at the lives of the people who live and work in the tower. The book started quite slowly, with a varied cast of characters and a rather blurry plot with no real path. It didn’t take for me to realize that like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, British books tend to be more about window snippets into the people’s lives, than about a major conflict, upheaval or occurrence. The main figures are Balthazar and Hebe Jones as they try to make sense of their crumbling marriage 2 years after the death of their young son. The supporting cast is full of color and humor, highlighting the rather dour and grim auras of the Jones. Despite its slow start, it’s a rather beautiful novel. Jonathan Cowley is a wonderful narrator. You can’t really go wrong with British narrators. There is just something so soothing and captivating about their accents. There is also the added bonus of historical tidbits about the Tower of London, from its menagerie to its cast of prisoners over the years.

Book Review: Happier at Home by Gretchin Rubin

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here, and Remember Now

Happier at Home: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Cram My Day with What I Love, Hold More Tightly, Embrace Here and Remember Now. by Gretchen Rubin

Format: eAudio Books

Narrator: Kathe Mazur

Source: Library Copy / Overdrive

Random House Audio, 2012

If there is any one book I actually regret having finished, it has to be this one. Well, maybe Goodnight June, but this one as well. This book was incredibly myopic, superficial, elitist and uninviting in virtually every sense. I kept hoping for insights, for little gems of inspiration or change, but none was to be found. Rubin is best known for her other NY Times Bestselling Book The Happiness Project. I read and half-heartedly enjoyed that book. I thought I would give Happier at Home a try. I didn’t have any other audio books to listen to at the time.

I think if Rubin had written this as a long article, or a blog post, it wouldn’t be so bad. It might even have been helpful had it been shorter in length so much less in her head. Also, she should have branded it as being more mindful rather than being happier. She wasn’t unhappy when she started. She was still riding the high of her Happiness Project book being such a success. In the end, I don’t feel like she made herself any more happy than she was at the beginning. It did feel like she paid more attention to the incredible minutiae of her life and looked for happiness in random areas. At times it felt like she was nit-picking just to find something to complain about in otherwise easy life. A loving husband, great kids, a great apartment in walking distance to wonderful restaurants, libraries and more. She could travel, but doesn’t want to. She wanted to look for happiness in the small things in life. Its commendable. It’s a bit monastic. It was a big stretch because she already has so many wonderful and happy things in her life that rather than just appreciate what she has, she has to elaborate in boring detail all the pot-holes in her life.

I’m still stumped as to her target audience is with this book. Is it the low-income mother juggling two jobs? Is it the Park Ave mother with 2 nannies on the payroll? It’s somewhere in the middle, but leaning heavily towards Park Ave. mother. Although her Wednesday adventures outing with her eldest daughter sounded like a fun idea, tallying up the weekly admission costs for each and every place they went to every week had my head spinning. Her main source of happiness was purchasing Demeter Fragrance for her home. This book actually made me really sad and judgmental, which I don’t think was her intent. She did even include a disclaimer that her path to being happier at home is not the path that everyone should take. It’s just one person’s story. To be honest, the most helpful part of the entire book was the appendix at the end where she summarized her findings and her nine-month trial run at being happier at home.

The post, Book review: Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, first appeared on The Novel World.