A Brief Review #5-#12

It’s been a great summer – perfect for beach lounging, cocktail drinking, spikeball-ing, and cruising through books like it’s my job.

..I wish it was my job. Can it be my job?

I’m still working on my 2016 Reading Challenge and as a result have definitely picked up a few books I wouldn’t have otherwise, which is exactly why I do it! So, let’s all just raise a glass to books and reading challenges while we’re here, why don’t we?

Here’s a very short recap of the eight (count ’em) books I’ve read since my last post:


A Book that Takes Place During Summer: As Close to Us as Breathing
Sweet, if a little slow. Interesting characters who make up a tight-knit central family torn apart by tragedy. I’d recommend for a “beach read.”

A Classic from the 20th Century: The Bell Jar
Fascinating in how much the story echoes Sylvia Plath’s real life and thoughts. That haunted me a little when I found that out after reading it. Weird, but not bad.

A Book Guaranteed to Bring You Joy: Tiny, Beautiful Things 
Cheryl Strayed’s collection of responses to “Dear Sugar,” an advice column she used to run. She has a way of writing that breaks my heart. It was a match made in heaven and I ate this right up.

A Murder Mystery: In the Woods 
More Tana French! I loved this book. It followed a murder, obviously, but it also dove so deep into the two main characters and their “platonic” relationship, I often forgot it was a mystery. Very good.

A Book that Takes Place on an Island: The Light Between Oceans 

An Autobiography: The World’s Strongest Librarian 
The author’s humor and vulnerability made this super random, odd book really enjoyable! I could relate to his love of reading and family but not much else, and I still liked it. Props.

A Book Translated to English: I’m Gone 
Maybe I’ll read this one again someday. It has won high praise and was very witty in some parts, but mostly I felt bored and lost. Sorry, French author who has won awards.

A Book You Can Finish in a Day: We Should All Be Feminists
If you’re on this earth and happen to be a human, this should be required reading.  ❤


A Brief Review #3-4


Welcome, Spring! It’s so nice to see you – but let’s get a move on with the temps, please. I wore my winter coat yesterday on March 21 and that felt wrong.

I read two crazy good books in the last month and a half. My commute is much shorter these days, but I couldn’t put them down. I’ve basically loved 4/4 books I’ve read this year, so let the streak continue!

Here’s what I read in February:

A Self-Improvement Book: You Are a Badass
I ate this book right up! I flew through the first few chapters until there was no turning back. The author was funny in a blunt, truthful way. I remember feeling straight-up called out on multiple occasions. I was entertained and definitely got some great takeaways. It’s important to read this one with an open mind, but it made an impact on me with it’s real talk and tips on how to be a bona fide badass.

A Book Set in Europe: The Nightingale
I have a good friend who continually suggested this book at book club meetings, but for some reason we put it off until two months ago. It tells the stories of two sisters during World War II in France. It offers different perspectives on the war than I was used to, and was heartbreaking and magical. It’s hard not to love this book. The characters are complex and inspiring, and the stories really take your breath away. I cried (many times…) and felt so fulfilled at the end! Great read, one of my new favorites.

I’m onto a few new books, so check back soon!


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A Brief Review #1-2

When you’ve got a reading challenge to complete and an hour and a half commute twice a day, the challenge suddenly seems easy. I finished a few books this month due to my serious train time! This weekend, I’m making a move back to Chicago (yay!) so I’m not sure if 3 books a month will continue, but a 30 minute bus ride sounds like heaven. Here’s what I got into this month:

A book with a blue cover: Fates and Furies
This was a story about a marriage from both perspectives. In a few words, this book was twisty, deep, high-brow, intriguing, shocking, mysterious and pretty great. I’d recommend it with the caveat that you’d better be prepared for some strange occasional mythology references and super pretentious characters. However, I really enjoyed it and there were twists and turns I didn’t see coming! I loved the writing (when I could understand it) and the characters played into the story like they were in an episode of Gossip Girl. On steroids.

A book written by a comedian: Modern Romance
I watched Aziz’s show at Madison Square Garden last year, and found it hilarious. He talked about the horrors and benefits online dating and called on a volunteer who had recently met and started texting someone to bring their phone up to the stage so he could read the awkward exchanges out loud to the audience. It was painful – and everyone could relate. This book was an extension of that, and leaned heavily on actual research he did in focus groups around the world. I thought it was awesome and very smart, and his humor made it even more enjoyable. Pick it up! It’s a good one.


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2015 Challenge Complete

Happy 2016! It’s that time of year again… Time to set new goals, eat less Christmas cookies and start a new reading challenge. 2015 ended with a viewing of The Martian (it was great!) and Chicago Rising (it was not). I also finished Brooklyn to top off last year’s reading challenge. I expected it to be more mushy and romantic and was surprised to find it sort of logical and realistic instead! The descriptions of the difference between life in Brooklyn and small-town Ireland were my favorite parts of the book. This goes under a book that became a movie, and the movie is getting great reviews so I’m excited to see it!

Here are the books I read in 2015:

Brooklyn // Ten Thousand Saints // The Sun Also Rises

The Martian // How to be Both // The Girl on the Train

Unbroken // Me Before You // Quiet

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace // Dark Places

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone // Little Bee

Lake Wobegon // Tell the Wolves I’m Home

..Mission accomplished!

And on to the next one! I had some family members help me pick a few categories from Popsugar‘s 2016 list. More on that next time!




A Brief Review – Book #13-14

art, planet, and drawing image

I recently read two books about people trying to survive on different planets. One was Little Bee, about a Nigerian refugee who fled her war-torn country to find peace in London, a place so different from home it might as well have been another world. The other was The Martian, and the guy was literally on another planet.

I was surprised by these stories, both in how captivated I was with the writing and by how much I enjoyed them! I’m checking two boxes off of my reading challenge list:

A funny book – The Martian
A book you own but have never read – Little Bee

Little Bee was at times dark and depressing, but had so many uplifting moments of hope and determination that it didn’t feel like a generally sad book. The title character was a Nigerian refugee who ends up in London. You can’t tell much from the back cover, so it’s best to dive in and let the plot unfold as you go. Sad things happened, as did scary and heartbreaking things. But through it all, Little Bee’s sweet, innocent voice narrated as though everything would be okay. When she wasn’t narrating, the other main character (also female) took over. She was a funny, successful English mother who provided comic relief and sometimes hard truths. Her son, Batman, was my favorite character. Their stories are very much intertwined, and I loved watching them unfold. I would highly recommend this one – it was moving and smartly written!

The Martian was the first book in a long time to keep me on the edge of my seat. If you’ve completely missed previews for the blockbuster movie, it’s about a man who is left for dead on Mars. Spoiler alert: he’s alive. And trying to get back to Earth! I read this book on the train while biting my nails from worry. Who would’ve known that space exploration would be such a thriller for me? I did skim a majority (read: all) of the heavy science and math portions. They didn’t make sense and I assumed they never would, so I continued on to the bits that did. The main character, Mark Watney, is the smartest fictional character I have ever encountered, and had a great sense of humor. When I wasn’t nervously reading as fast as I could, I was laughing at his outrageous statements. It was the perfect recipe for me, a very non-scientific mind. I loved this book. Time to see the movie!


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Paris is a Party

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

I picked up A Moveable Feast from my shelf just over a month ago. I needed something new to read during my commute, and I’ve enjoyed Hemingway in the past. I figured I’d love his memoir about the years he spent in Paris. After finishing it, I thought for a while about what to write in my recap. I was still thinking about what to say on November 13 when terror shook the City of Lights, Beirut, and the rest of the watching world.

This book is nothing if not a love letter to Paris itself. Hemingway’s quote above sums up his feelings in one sentence. A few days after the attacks, NPR ran the story below. This memoir is flying off the shelves in Paris. It’s been placed at memorial sites, by the bars that were attacked and by the Bataclan. It’s a sign of resilience, defiance even. It’s a moving gesture, and so heartwarming in a time of real negativity. I can’t imagine what Parisians must be feeling in these days after the attack, but the message they’re sending is clear: they will be resilient.

The title of the memoir in French is “Paris est une fête” – Paris is a Party

A Brief Review – Book #12

In light of Halloween, I decided I would dive into a genre that makes me squirm…. Horror!

Then I thought to myself “who are you kidding?” and I played it safe and chose a Gillian Flynn novel instead.

Flynn has a dark, twisted mind so I felt her mystery novel, Dark Places, would absolutely fulfill the requirements for A Book That Scares You. It was creepy, demented and definitely had more gore-filled pages than I’m used to. Somehow, I powered through the whole thing without a single nightmare! It might have something to do with my long days and 5:15 a.m. alarm. When my head hits the pillow, there is absolutely nothing getting in between me and that deepest, deepest stage of sleep.

There were times, however, when I did put this book down just to watch a funny YouTube video or have a casual, non-threatening conversation with a nice human being. This story is full of suspicious characters with sociopathic tendencies – the occasional breaks were nice.

The main character in this novel is Libby Day. Her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered when she was 7 years old, and her only surviving family members are her father, a deadbeat, and her brother who ultimately was accused of the murders and sent to jail. The story flashes between the days leading up to the murder, changing characters to give you a full idea of where everyone was, and present day when Libby is convinced by a stranger to find out the real truth about that day. With references to satanic worship, weird sacrifices, and never a clear idea of who was involved in the murders, Flynn takes Creepy to a whole new level.

I’d recommend this book for fans of Gillian Flynn, who has mastered the characters who are deep-down psychos, and for people who like to solve mysteries. This one has plenty of eerie suspects, all with plausible motives. It’s also way better than the movie.

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