• Audiobooks,  Book Club For Introverts,  Book Reviews,  Himalayas of Literature,  Lists,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Top Books of 2019

    When you read 153 books in one year, narrowing it down to a top list is so difficult. I am a firm believer in the DNF so if I finish a book, there is some value to be found in the writing. I picked these books based on what the book did for me. Did it change me as a person? As a reader? Did it change my world view? Did it bolster a current belief?

    I attempted a top 10 and couldn’t narrow it down by a single book more so here are my Top 11 Books for 2019:

    1. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk – this book won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It’s dark, but not too dark. It was thought provoking and expertly captured the human condition and our roles in society. This is my top book of 2019 – the rest are in no particular order.
    2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – A tough read but one that should be filed under “books everyone should read.” This book not only delved into the Underground Railroad but also what happened after “freedom” was achieved. It was an eye opener and a gut punch done so well because the author was not only well-researched but also an incredibly talented writer.
    3. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi – Theatre kids are ________. Kidding, of course. But as the parent of a theatre kid, I throughly enjoyed this non-linear story that explored power, consent, revenge, and emotion. This was a challenging read but well worth it.
    4. The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall – This book. It’s probably the one I can’t stop talking about. It’s also one I can recommend to almost anyone… for those who are religious, those who have been hurt by religion, those who doubt and question, those who enjoy historical fiction… I could go on and on. This book changed me as a person.
    5. A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar – What a wild ride! Told in a completely non-linear format – even the chapters were numbered out of order – this book explores what it is to be marginalized, forgotten, and what it takes for a teen to pull herself out of that life. This book stuck with me for quite some time.
    6. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Meet my new favorite author. This character driven story covers what it is to be a member in an imperfect family – so basically all of us. And extra stars for the audiobook, narrated by America’s favorite uncle, Tom Hanks. I listened to this book and loved every minute of it.
    7. There There by Tommy Orange – This book is an experience. It follows over a dozen Native American characters headed to the same event. Another non-linear format that flashed back to explain each character and the person they are in the present. If you want to understand more about the plight of the Native American, this would be great book to start with.
    8. Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – I finished this book yesterday and cannot stop thinking about it. On the surface it seemed to be a book about divorce. Except it wasn’t. Gender roles, parenting, career sacrifices, marriage, and the old adage that “women can have it all” are what this book was really about. Definitely a book that I identified with and I cannot wait to post my full review of this one.
    9. Naamah by Sarah Blake – Magical realism is my favorite genre. Magical realism that takes place on Noah’s ark told through the eyes of Noah’s wife, Naamah? This was probably the most original book I read this year. It is not for everyone though – if you prefer the original version of Noah and his ark, you probably want to stick with that one.
    10. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – This year’s A Little Life for me. This was an epic book of loss, love, deceit, and redemption. And yes, the book was better than the movie.
    11. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – This book changed me as a reader. I read this book with my Book Oblivion group and it was the beginning of a shift in focus for me. It’s a beast and not to be read alone. My Book Club for Introverts is tackling this book in January and February. Check us out on Goodreads if you’d like to join the fun! We are also reading another book during those months if Infinite Jest isn’t for you.

    Thanks for talking books with me this year!

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Zapata: a book review

    Synopsis: When engineer Avery McAndrews is offered a last-minute assignment to the rough and tumble border town of Zapata, Texas, she doesn’t think twice. Used to pushing past stereotypes, she’s sure this project will earn the long-awaited promotion. 

    Instead, she’s thrown in the crossfire between warring drug cartels and soon discovers that her captor, Javier Ramos, is more than just a power hungry drug lord. He’s crazy. 

    As lead attorney for the cartel, it’s Alejandro DeLeon’s job to manage Javier. But this time, Javier’s cruelty reaches epic proportions, and Alejandro finds himself wanting to risk everything to save Avery.

    Running for their lives with Mexico’s underworld at their heels, Avery and Alejandro discover unintended and intensifying emotions, feelings neither sought and neither seem prepared to control… 

    Review: Drug cartels, drug lords, a kidnapping, and a romance – that’s I where expected the story to get weird. But it never did. Avery is tough and there was never an unlikely scene created by her making a silly decision just so he could rescue her.

    Living in Texas, I was intrigued by this book but also curious about how accurate it would be. The short answer: the author did her research and nailed it. The setting and characters were believable, as well as their relationships.

    This was a quick and immersive read. I enjoyed watching Alejandro and Avery’s relationship unfold in a realistic manner.

    I am a bit of an El Chapo, Pablo Escobar, Narcos, etc junkie and this book filled the paperback void I have had. There was plenty of action but none of it was too disturbing or over the top – just real.

    I asked on Instagram if you’ve ever wanted to make up a new genre. This book is one of those and I would classify it as “realistic romance.” If that’s already a thing, please let me know because I would love to read more books where kisses are not shared while bullets are flying and bombs are exploding.

    The one thing I wished more for was more character development. But apparently this book is the first in a series (yay!) so I understand why an author would hold back and some details.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and promotion!

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Evvie Drake Starts Over: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    The tag on her chamomile teabag said, There is no trouble that a good cup of tea can’t solve. It sounded like what a gentleman on Downton Abbey would say right before his wife got an impacted tooth and elegantly perished in bed.

    Evvie Drake Starts Over – a book by Linda Holmes in which a large quantity of tea is consumed and is paired well with witty and sharp writing.

    Evvie’s husband and high school sweetheart, Tim, is a successfull and well-liked doctor in their Maine community. The book opens with Evvie packing up her car to leave him for a fresh start when she gets the call.

    Her husband has been killed and while it isn’t the fresh start she planned, Evvie is forced to start over in the town she grew up, surrounded by memories of her husband who unbeknownst to most others, wasn’t so nice to her.

    Evvie’s best friend Andy and Saturday morning standing bruch date is a single father after his wife left him and his two young girls.

    Andy has arguably done a better job of moving on while Evvie is gripped with guilt over her secret almost-decision. She spends many nights on the floor of her guest apartment room overwhelmed by anxiety and confused grief.

    So when Andy’s friend Dean, a professional baseball player needs a fresh start after forgetting how to pitch, Andy suggests that Dean rent Evvie’s spare room.

    On the surface this book sounded fairly predictable and quite honestly, outside my typical read. But referring back to the quote at the beginning of this review, you will get a sense of the author’s quick wit and fresh approach to writing about starting over and the grief and anxiety that accompanies life changes.

    I saw myself in the characters. I know a lot about loss, failure, starting over, anxiety, grief, guilt, and shame that almost keeps you from second chances. And like Evvie, I was even married to someone named Tim who wasn’t nice to me and nearly destroyed me – a side effect of what goes on behind closed doors.

    This book made me laugh, tear up, and root hard for the characters find their ways. The writing was poingant and never overly saccharine – the biggest reason I usually avoid these books. And the added sports element, written accurately, rounded this book out and made it a 5 ✂️ book for me.

    The characters were well developed and the other element the author did particularly well was in capturing the Maine coast with more than just words. You could taste, smell, and hear the coastal town in her writing.

    If you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Things You Save in a Fire, or How Not to Die Alone you should enjoy Evvie Drake Starts Over.

  • Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday

    Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

     

    Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday – I have been patiently waiting for today’s topic!

    Literary tropes are one of my favorite things to ponder when reading and writing. I could probably list off twenty favorites pretty quick and another twenty that annoy me to the point of closing a book for good.

    Here are some of my favorites in no particular order:

    1. Non-linear timelines – fine, this one actually is my favorite. The Handmaid’s Tale, Infinite Jest, Bangkok Wakes to Rain, and most recently Recursion are all excellent examples of this trope.
    2. Loneliness/seclusion – I identify with this trope personally so I am drawn to books that illustrate this well. A Woman is No Man, Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Stranger in The Woods all capture utter isolation, even in the midst of human contact.
    3. Allegory – What does the author really mean to say in this story? Or is it left up to the reader? The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis was my first and still my favorite exposure to the use of an allegory to tell a story.
    4. Coming of age – This trope borders on overdone but when done well, it can open a reader’s eyes to a new culture, religion or struggle. There There by Tommy Orange and A Place for Us are both excellent examples that take the reader beyond an angsty teen experiencing the usual unfairness of life.
    5. Books about writing books – I love a good tortured author. This trope can take you so many different directions. The Nix is one of my favorite examples of an unraveling author.
    6. The orphan – Another trope almost overdone but because it’s timeless, it will always be one of my favorites. A Little Life, The Goldfinch, and The Heart’s Invisible Furies are all fantastic examples.
    7. Second chances – Character transformation is important to me because it typically equals well-developed characters. Good examples include: City of Girls, The Friends We Keep, and Evvie Drake Starts Over.
    8. The female villian – Done well, it’s a twist that is hard to forget. Behind Her Eyes is a great example.
    9. Irony – When written around current events, this one can be subjective and tricky. But if done well, it can present the other side in way that the reader may not be able arrive at on their own. Afternoon of a Faun by James Lasdun was a recent read for me and confirmed my theory – good irony will make you cringe.
    10. The marginialized – When done respectfully, this story will become equal parts education and a slap in the face. I am currently reading Speaking of Summer and highly recommend it for both the writing and a discussion we should all be having.

    What is your favorite trope?

  • Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Uncategorized,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Writing

    Happy Tuesday! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie so I’m going list my top ten books about writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

    In fictional books, I find that they make the plot and characters strong because the author is writing about a subject they know well. Many writers love to write about writing, and I enjoy those storylines.

    With nonfiction books, my favorites feel like I’m talking with a friend – or even better, being let in on someone’s best secrets.

    In no particular order here’s my top ten:

    1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I have written here before about this book. Anne is a writer that reads like a friend – both in style and honesty about writing.
    2. A Ladder to The Sky by John Boyne – I finished reading this book earlier this month, and it quickly became one of my favorites of 2019. Thank goodness it’s fiction because it is a writer’s worse nightmare.
    3. The World According to Garp by John Irving – This novel is an old college favorite of mine that also happens to be one of the few books by John Irving that I liked – an unpopular opinion, probably so.
    4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Yes, this book is depressing that was written by and tragic author in a semi-autobiographical manner. It’s also worth reading at least once; when you are not yourself depressed.
    5. Misery by Stephen King – The book was better than the movie. If you haven’t read this book or much by Stephen King, this is one I would put towards the top of the list of his books to read.
    6. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron – Based on brain science, this book brings out the science geek in me. It’s fascinating and worth a look if you want to approach your writing from a scientific point of view.
    7. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose – This is another book written by a phenomenal writer that reads like a conversation with a friend. I recently reread this book and will return to it over and over.
    8. Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers by Joyce Carol Oates – This book is massive. It is a collection of short stories from a multitude of genres. It is well worth owning if short stories are your focus.
    9. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – This book is newer to me and another one that is brutally honest about the craft of writing.
    10. To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate – Literary nonfiction was a tough genre for me to get a pulse on. I’m still not quite there, but this book was a fantastic starting point for me.

    Do you have any favorite books about writing? Thanks for stopping by!

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