Sadly, I have not kept up on my book reviews, which is both maddening (for me) and distressing (for you, fair readers!). Do I have any type of valid excuse? Nope, not really. Other than that I read fast, and have not been good about sitting down shortly after finishing a book to gather my thoughts about it. Unfortunately, life, reading, knitting, cooking, and my other blog have gotten in the way of posting on a regular basis. In fact, it is with shame that I report that I have read fourteen, yes, fourteen books, since my last post. Ultimately, after thinking about it and letting the idea of how best to get caught up marinate, it has come to be — a quick, catch-up blog that gives a speedy review of the books and let’s me start fresh. Otherwise, it would be like starting the to-do list with 20 huge projects on it and you look at it and realize that there’s no way in HELL you’ll ever get anywhere with it. So, here goes!
Book #13 — Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Literature/Fiction) — For the past few years, I had seen this particular tome at the bookstore, would pick it up and think to myself that I should read it, and then something else would catch my eye. and it would get put back on the shelf. Add in that the book takes place in a circus, and that I do not like clowns, and it was not tough to see why I wasn’t racing to read it. However, this past spring the movie was being released featuring Reese Witherspoon, one of my favorite actresses. After seeing clips and trailers, I decided to read the book and am I glad I did or what! I gave this book 5 of 5 stars. The author grabbed my attention right away and held it throughout, keeping me up late following the saga of the main characters, the circus and of course, the animals. Within about 50 pages, I found myself passionately caring about the characters and rooting for them and wanting the best for them, which, in my mind, is what a good book is all about. I still have yet to see the movie, but definitely can say you have to read the book!
Book #14 — It’s All Relative by Wade Rouse (Memoir) — I read one of Rouse’s earlier memoirs about moving from St. Louis to small-town Michigan a few years back and was howling, absolutely howling, with laughter. When I saw that he had a new book coming out, I immediately pre-ordered it on my Nook, waiting with eager anticipation for the day that it would download automatically at midnight of the release date. As I started reading, Rouse delivered on his trademark witty, smart and gay humor, regaling me with stories of life with his life-partner, Gary, and growing up gay in Oklahoma. After a couple of entries, the stories turned a little more serious as Rouse wrote of serious issues, i.e., coming out, family members’ deaths and his parents’ mortality. (Obviously, those stories did not contain as much laughter as the other parts.) I finished the book and had enjoyed it. I gave it 4 of 5 stars, based on the strength of the author and his collective work. Originally, I was going to give it 3 stars, as I did not laugh as much at this book as I did his previous work, and I realized that was me being silly. The writing was great, the stories hilarious AND poignant and that when an author chooses to show us the sadder and more serious sides, those are the ones that we cherish. I look forward to Rouse’s future works.
Book #15 — Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger (Health/Non-Fiction) — I picked this book up after a friend from college posted on Facebook that she had been reading it. Clean is the semi-biographical story of Dr. Junger and his health care program that involves eliminating certain foods from your diet, as they are toxic, and a cleanse program to improve your health. It is based substantially on tenets of Eastern healing and talks primarily about how what we choose to put into our bodies shapes how we feel and live. A must read for anyone with food allergies, health issues, stomach pain or my favorite diagnosis, IBS.
Book #16 — Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain (Essays/Memoir) — Most importantly, this is Off the Shelf Challenge Book #7! I’ll say right off the bat that I am a HUGE fan of Anthony Bourdain, his television show No Reservations, his previous books and his Twitter feed. He is ranchy and honest and funny (add in hot too — sorry, P!). I’d read each of his previous books and flown through them, sucking up every word he had about working in a restaurant, travels, and food all throughout the world. When I saw that he was releasing Medium Raw last summer, I leapt on it the day it was released, started it and then put it down for about 10 months. This book just did NOT grab me and hold my attention the way his previous books had, which saddened me greatly. Mostly, I felt that the stories lacked a unifying theme and were just a bunch of essays that he had thrown together to fill his page requirement. Does it make me hate Bourdain? Absolutely not. I’ve just decided I’ll look before I leap when it comes to racing out to buy his next book. I give Bourdain 3 of 5 stars.
Book #17 — The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen (Mystery/Series) — Yay! Another Off the Shelf Challenge Book!!! #8! The Keepsake is the 7th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series by Gerritsen. From the first moment I picked the book up I could not put it down and I simply devoured it — the mystery story was fantastic and gripping, and the development of the underlying characters was well-done. Flat out, this book was a 5 of 5 stars. Some authors after a few books featuring the same character get stale, but not Gerritsen.
Book #18 — The Little Friend by Donna Tartt (Literature/Fiction) — Off the Shelf Challenge Book #9 — This was the sophomore effort from Tartt who had penned The Secret History, one of my all-time favorite books. The story was completely different from that featured in History and follows the main character, Harriet, as she investigates her brother’s mysterious death 12 years earlier when she was just a baby. The book was at times horrifying, slow, maddening, filled with snakes and moments that made you want to reach through the pages, grab Harriet and shake her senseless while screaming “What do you think you’re doing!” The book is the favorite of one of my best friends and had come so highly recommended by many that I finally picked it up after having it on the shelf for a good 5 years? When I finished the book, I could not say if I had liked it or hated it. In fact, I still cannot say which it is. The book was prosaic and so well-written that if you read it solely for the writing you’ll do well. The story, as it develops, is not one anyone would race out to read as it is not a “feel good” story. But overall, I think the book is an important work in modern American literature, which is quite a statement. I personally gave it 3 of 5 stars, mostly for story elements that I did not enjoy on a personal level. If I was rating it by removing that, the book would have received 5 of 5 stars. It’s like East of Eden. You may just have to read this book.
Book #19 — Composed by Roseanne Cash (Memoir) — For years I’ve been a fan of Johnny Cash’s music and books and I recently started listening to Roseanne Cash’s albums. Like her father, she is a talented singer/songwriter, her Twitter feed is hilarious and her book was well-written, and compelling. Cash made me laugh and cry in the same book, and I cannot recommend her work enough. 5 of 5 stars!
Book #20 — Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs (Mystery/Series) — This is the 4th book by Reichs featuring Temperance Brennan, who many may know from the Fox TV show Bones. As I’ve written in previous posts, there is not much similarity between the books and the TV show, other than the main character’s name. However, both are thoroughly enjoyable. This book revolves around Brennan investigating the cause of a commercial plane crash that killed everyone on board, and leads her to uncovering a decades old cannibal club with prominent members. As always, a good read and the character development was excellent. 4 of 5 stars.
Book #21 — The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson (Health/Non-Fiction) — This book was recommended to me by my brother, who has followed TPB eating plan for several years and dropped over 100 pounds. The author essentially advocates the return to a hunter/gatherer eating lifestyle that focuses on lean meats, vegetables and certain fruits, while avoiding processed foods, which are insideously evil for our bodies and health. As with Clean, it is a must read for anybody who has been diagnosed with food allergies, Celiac’s disease or IBS. Following the TPB plan has changed my life in a distinctly positive way! 4 of 5 stars.
Book #22 — Juliet by Anne Fortier — I picked this book up after a college friend whose reading tastes I greatly respect read it and raved about it. The story follows a young woman, Juliet, as she travels from the US to Italy to trace her family’s history and attempt to get to the bottom of her parents’ deaths and the “curse” that follows their family. Legend has it that the curse formed the basis of the story of Romeo and Juliet and Juliet sets out to get to the bottom of it. The book flashes between modern day and the 1300′s at the beginning of the legend. The book was unique, well-written and I highly recommend it. 4 of 5 stars!
Book #23 — Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (Tween Fiction) — When I heard that Pascal was publishing a book that followed the characters from the SVH books into adulthood, I knew I had to read it. I had grown up reading the SVH books during my youth and was just plain curious to see how the old gang would fair into adulthood. The book was whimsical and more nostalgic than anything else. The writing was not great, the story was not well-developed and ultimately, what occured between the sisters at the end seemed far-fetched. But isn’t that the whole point of the SVH books? I think so. 2 of 5 stars, for the nostalgia alone is worth reading it!
Book #24 — Game of Thrones (Fire and Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin (Fantasy) — O.M.G. This book was so damn good it’s going to get it’s own blog post in the next few days. 5 of 5 stars. Absolutely amazing and I’ve heard the series only gets better. If you haven’t read it, get it!
Book #25 — Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen (Mystery/Series) — Off the Shelf Challenge #10 — This book is the 8th in the series featuring Rizzoli and Isles. I personally did not like the mystery part of the story at all, as it dealt with a cult that involved kids, which is something that I do not like AT ALL! The furtherance of the character development and interpersonal dealings was the only reason that I kept reading the book, as I love the series and will continue to read it. For me, this book was an abberation in what I’ve come to expect from Gerritsen. 3 of 5 stars.
Book #26 — Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris (Mystery/Fantasy/Series) — This book is the 11th in the series featuring Sookie Stackhouse, and the basis for the HBO show True Blood. Every May Harris publishes a new book in the series and I immediately grab it up and read in a day or so, then spend the next 363 days whining about how I don’t have another Sookie for a whole year. This year followed in exactly the same pattern and the story was GREAT.
And finally, Book #27 — The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond (Memoir) — This is the memoir book of a blogger that I read, http://www.thepioneerwoman.com, which is run by a city girl turned country girl who married a cattle rancher and picked up from the city to move to the middle of nowhere. I was at the library, just about to check out, and the book caught my eye on the new releases shelf and I picked it up. Drummond’s writing is funny, witty, poignant and just the right amount of self-depricating. She makes the reader long to live out on a cattle ranch, even when they’ve been born and bred in the city. In this book, Drummond tells the story of meeting her husband, upheaving her entire life and her plans to move to Chicago to marry her love and live on a cattle ranch. The book is a quick and enjoyable read, although it seemed a bit tedious at points. I attribute this more to the publisher’s page requirements than the author’s wordiness, as I’ve read her for quite some time and she’s a lovely writer. All in all, a quick and enjoyable read — 3 of 5 stars.
And now that we are all caught up on what I’ve been reading over the past 2 months, fair reader, I can promise you this — I do hope to be better at posting about my books on a regular basis. More importantly, I realized that I committed to reading 30 books in the Off the Shelf Challenge and not just the 15 I thought that I had — whoops! Time to get my ass in gear and get moving on that bookshelf, because we are almost halfway through the year and I’m only 1/3 of the way done. My biggest problem is that there are far too many books to read and just too little time!
Until next time, happy reading:)