11.21.2017

recent reads

Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally--2 stars: We all know the story of Oskar Schindler, right? He saved Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factory. Schindler was a hot mess of a person, but he was brave and took huge risks and sacrifices by protecting his employees and promising to get them through the war unscathed, which he did. If this was such an amazing story, THEN WHY IS THIS BOOK SO ATROCIOUSLY BAD? Because it was bad. It would be 1 star if it weren't for the story itself that managed to transcend the driest writing of all time. I've powered through some intense historical books and kept my focus, but after three sentences of Keneally's writing, I was mentally checked out. He introduces dozens of new characters every paragraph without explaining who they are, the paragraphs and chapters are discombobulated and disorganized, and the whole thing was a tornado of confusion. The only thing that stuck with me were the stories of Amon Goeth--one really bad dude. Almost as bad as the writing. Every once in awhile, there would be a gripping anecdote that was well-written and would suck me in, but everything else was not good. I haven't seen the movie, but I can promise you it's better than the book. Hashtag blasphemy.

For fans of: writing drier that your toast, The Holocaust, outsmarting the Nazis

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton--3 stars: I love Kate Morton and her novels, but this was not my favorite. It was ok. It was a little too sad for my taste, and much of it was written from the point of view of children which is never my thing. Go ahead and persecute me for this, but coming of age books aren't always my favorite. A maid who works in the Riverton country estate watches the kids of the house and dreams of playing with them. As they grow up, scandals ensue and secrets come out. Dun dun dunnnnnn. It's been a month or so since I've read this so I'm trying to remember the details. It felt very Great Gatsby-ish--fancy dresses and wild parties with a hint of tragedy behind every door. There was the Downton Abbey Upstairs/Downstairs element of the drama with the servants and with the family of the house as well. I heard this was her first novel, and I could tell she was still getting her sea legs. The bottom line is, I enjoyed it but didn't love it. It was forgettable, which is a shame because I love that time period.

For fans of: The Great Gatsby, Downton Abbey, The Distant Hours, The Real Housewives of the English Countryside during the 1920s if that were a thing

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin--3.75 stars: If you've seen Victoria on PBS, it was based off this book. And you can tell, because I recognized some of the dialogue word for word. The book starts with the day Victoria became Queen and how she came into her own as a royal. I didn't know much about Queen Victoria until I saw the PBS show (!!!WATCH IT ASAP!!!) and now I'm fascinated. Her mother made Victoria sleep in a cot at the foot of her bed until she was 18 so she could keep an eye on her. She had no freedom, no friends. She purposely went against the advice of her mom and her mother's creepy advisor when she became queen and did things all her own way. It goes into depth about her friendship with Lord Melbourne (flame emoji) and how she met her husband. I didn't always love the writing style and I knew how it all played out thanks to the show, but I'm very glad I read it, because it explained a lot of things about the family and royal life that had me confused when I watched the show. If you have any interest in Queen Victoria or the royals, I absolutely recommend this book.

For fans of: The British Monarchy, Jane Austen, Victoria on PBS (I'm serious--go watch it on Amazon Prime), strong independent women who don't need no man

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of WWI by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor--5 stars: This is
possibly the best book I have read all year. I LOVE IT SO MUCH I WANT TO SCREAM ABOUT IT. At the start of WWI in England, Evie Elliot starts writing letters to her brother and his best friend. They are convinced the war will be over by Christmas, and they plan to celebrate it in Paris.  Every year the war continues, they make the same promise. She corresponds with them throughout the war as well as her friends. The book is made up solely of letters written to and from Evie during the war as well as later snippets of a WWI veteran at the end of his life. Evie is frustrated there's not much she can do as a woman, so she puts her skills as a writer to use and helps out wherever she can and by writing encouragement to her friends and relatives at war. You guys--I read this in less than 24 hours. I could not put it down. I can't even describe what it was about this book that got me, but it sucked me in in a way books rarely do. I had a hard time coming back to reality once I finished it. It charming, it was heartbreaking, it was funny, it was satisfying. It was just perfect.

For fans of: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, WWI, The Nightingale, lots of good literary references

The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown--4 stars: I saw this one at the library and grabbed it on a whim because it sounded cozy. This book could not have been cozier if it wrapped me up in a blanket and handed me a hot chocolate while it snowed. Sybil was left at the altar when her fiancé took off with her twin sister. Her life began falling apart in many different ways, so she went on a spur of the moment trip to visit her friend in the English countryside. She wound up becoming friends with the whole tiny village, including a woman who runs a Haberdashery shop. They decide to knit a Christmas sweater together, and before you know it, the whole town is sitting in a cozy little shop sipping tea next to the fire and knitting Christmas sweaters while it snows. It's charming, it's festive, it's adorable. You really can't go wrong.

For fans of: Sophie Kinsella, Gilmore Girls, knitting, Christmas, the warm fuzzies

Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up A Life by Melanie Shankle--3 stars: A moment of honesty: I struggle with most books written by Christian women. They're often cheesy, fluffy, trite, and unhelpful. Several of my friends recommended this book to me because they have a longstanding love of Melanie Shankle. I've never read anything by her before, so I don't have a loyalty to her and am therefore probably a little more harsh. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, Melanie is entertaining, clever, and we share the same sense of humor. On the other hand, I didn't relate to much in this book. She's in her 40s, raising a teenager, and obsessed with her dogs and Lululemon leggings. No thank you. She spent a good two thirds of the book talking about growing up in the 70s and 80s. I'm sure people her age loved it, but I'm ready for the day I read a book reminiscing about Lisa Frank, butterfly hair clips, frosted eye shadow, and Tamagotchis. I also thought the book seemed very disconnected and just a weird book in general. She had chapters on the antics of her dogs (I cannot roll my eyes hard enough) and autocorrect disasters (funny, but why?). She would occasionally throw in a tidbit about loving your grandparents before they die or something, but I just didn't quit get the whole point of the book. It was weird. I like her and her take on life, so I do plan to read more of her books. As a side note--before I read her book, I heard her interviewed on a podcast and fell in love with her. She talked about being an introvert and choosing to have an only child, and I really do love her as a person and how she views life. I just didn't love this book.

For fans of: dogs, Lululemon leggings, the 70s and 80s, the trials and triumphs of a soccer mom

The Lake House by Kate Morton--3.5 stars:  Contrary to what I originally thought, this book is NOT what the creepy, time travely movie with Keanu Reeves is based on. It's the 1930s, and the Edevane family is throwing their annual Midsummer party at their, you guessed it, lake house in the English countryside. The next morning they woke up to find 11 month Theo was missing without a trace. A search is put on by the police for months, but nothing is ever found and the case goes cold. 70 years later, Theo's sister Alice is a writer who has been haunted by his disappearance ever since. She's contacted by Sadie Sparrow, a detective who happened upon the abandoned lake house and heard the story. She's determined to figure out what happened to Theo. I'm finally all caught up with my Kate Morton novels, and at this point I have a good handle of her writing style and her methods, so I actually guessed one or two of her crazy plot twists which surprised me. I really did enjoy this book, and I like that the ending was a little happier than her usual endings. I struggled with this book only because it was about a missing child, and now that I'm a mom that stuff upsets me more than I would care to admit.

For fans of: The Forgotten Garden, I Capture the Castle, Lifetime movies

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald--3 stars: If Rory Gilmore read chick-lit, it would be this. I didn't even realize it was chick-lit until I got into it. Sara lives in Sweden and has a pen pal named Amy who lives in Broken Wheel, a tiny town in rural Iowa. Sara travels to Broken Wheel to stay with Amy for 2 months, but when she arrives she finds out Amy has just died. Sara and Amy had a friendship based on their love of books, so to honor Amy, Sara opens a bookstore using Amy's stash of books and tries to persuade the residents of Broken Wheel to take up reading. This book was charming, sweet, and just weird. There were a few things in this book I did not appreciate reading about. I won't elaborate about it here, but if you want to know I'll tell you. It felt like reading about Stars Hollow, if Stars Hollow was a dying town in the Midwest. The characters were eccentric and rough around the edges, the town sounded awful, but Sara shoved her love of books down everyone's throat. I respect that. The ending was one of the most ridiculous I've read in awhile, but this is chick lit. Why do people complain about contrived, predicable, cheesy stories and endings when they're picking up chick lit? We all know that's how it's going to be, and we all love the happy endings whether we admit it or not. But I digress. This is the perfect book for a Sunday afternoon when you're exhausted because you were up all night listening to your husband and child take turns one upping each others coughing fits. Which happened to be the exact sort of day I raced through the last 250 pages.

For fans of: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, reading about reading, Rory Gilmore, closing the book once a chapter to cringe 


What are you reading? What should I read next?

5 comments:

  1. I just added that Last Christmas in Paris book to my library account's reading list! It looks SO GOOD, and I'm very excited. Also, since every copy in my library's system is checked out, I think it must be as good as you say :)
    I just read two rather underwhelming books that were in the vein of minimalism, and I'm about to start "Reset Your Child's Brain," which will be really enlightening, I think! And after that, I'll be diving into "Serving Victoria," which is a book all about the men and women who served Queen Victoria! My library had an entire display of Victoria-related books. I guess we're all suffering from the Victoria-shaped hole in our hearts since Season 2 isn't airing yet ;)

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  2. I hadn't heard of Last Christmas in Paris, but I'm adding it to my list!

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  3. I just opened my library account online and placed a request to pick up Last Christmas in Paris tomorrow. It sounds great!

    I don't always love children as narrators either. I'm reading a book right now about a woman who had an affair with her husband's brother, and is having a baby with him. She and the father of the child are plotting to kill her husband/his brother. It's based on Hamlet. But, the narrator is the unborn child. It's so fascinating to hear the story from that perspective.

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  4. Yay for book reviews! I also thought the Lake House was going to be the same as the movie so I was also shocked a few chapters in to realize it was a totally different story. The book made me so sad though...probably because the thought of my baby boy disappearing during a party at my house makes me anxious! Can't wait to find the Last Christmas in Paris. I think that might be my airplane read on Christmas day (wishful thinking since we have a baby to hold, too).

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  5. Hi Michelle, I am checking your blog out after Katie mentioned you in a post recently and I am officially going to stalk your book posts for the foreseeable future, haha. I definitely agree with the ending of Readers of Broken Wheel. I didn't realize it was chick-lit until I was too far into it and wanted to see how it ended --- and that was a let down! I am adding Last Christmas in Paris to by TBR. I wish I could have read your post before Christmas so I could read in December when I first started seeing it pop up on my Goodreads but I assumed it was chick lit, which I typically avoid. But I have been wanting to read novels set in WWI AND I am obsessed with Paris, so I will need to read this!

    Here are my December book reviews: https://elle-alice.blogspot.ca/2018/01/december-book-reviews.html

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