Thursday, July 2, 2015

May/June Book Reviews

Just like last summer, I am on a mission to do lots of summer reading during these lovely summer months.  Although I only posted my reading list just a couple weeks ago, I started composing (and working my way through) the list about 6 weeks ago, so I am actually already several books in!

Here are reviews and ratings (1-5 stars) of what I have read so far. As I noted in an earlier post, take my recommendations with a grain of salt. I am not a literary critic or English professor - just a girl trying to enjoy some summer reading! Feel free to not like a book I like, or to like one that I did not enjoy!

The Stranger by Harlan Coben
Rating: 3 stars

Harlan Coben is an author I have never read before, but I really enjoyed this book.  It was full of suspense and surprisingly made you think about how much we don't know about others.  We are all hiding something that we would rather others not know, even perfect suburban housewives.  In this book, a stranger makes it his goal to expose people for their secret sins (or make money as they pay him to keep quiet).  The stranger sees it as a win-win - people come clean or he is paid.

I would definitely read another Coben book.  It's not going to be the most challenging novel you ever read, but the story is entertaining and suspenseful enough to keep you turning the page. It is a perfect metro read! I would definitely read this author again!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Rating: 3.5 stars 

I am surprised how much I enjoyed this book. If you remember from my original description, June was my book club's "beach read" month -- pure chick lit.  This was an easy read -- except for the fact that there were about a million characters to keep up with!  The book entertained with each new page.  The premise is that there is a extremely exclusive, private wealthy circle of old Asia money in Singapore.  One of the wealthiest family's sons brings home his Chinese girlfriend from America and most of the family and friends make her life miserable. This book is dramatic and entertaining, but certainly nothing more! However, as someone who LOVES travelling, I loved the description of the different places in mainland China and the various islands.  This is a great beach or pool read for sure! I may even read the sequel! (which came out two weeks ago)

A Beautiful Messy Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman
Rating: 3.5 stars

I liked this book -- which is essentially tips with a ton of pictures and projects.  I may even try a few of the projects in our apartment.  I read and reread The Nesting Place last summer and was hoping this would be just as good (it wasn't).  It's a different type of book, not a lot of commentary and sentimentality, but a lot of help on project ideas.  As someone who appreciates creativity but often needs to be directed in how to be creative, I appreciated the ideas and hope to put myself to work soon! If you feel like your home could use a little sprucing up (on the cheap), check out this book!

Paper Towns by John Green
Rating: 3.5

I will be honest  - I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as his best seller, "The Fault in Our Stars."  Green is an excellent writer, but it seemed that the characters were all a little immature - and one in particular was quite selfish. However, then I realized that of course they act that way, they are teenagers! When reading young adult fiction, one can't be too disappointed if the characters act like teenagers! I still do appreciate "The Fault in Our Stars" more, but this book was entertaining and well written.  There is a bit of a mystery within it as well - as a group of friends is trying to find their runaway friends. Despite being overly dramatic, the book balances too ends of the spectrum in teen lives that we all face: (1) the attempt to fit into our worlds;  and (2) the annoyance of going through the motions (college, marriage, job, babies, etc) and the desire to do something else.  As a teen, who hasn't struggled with both the desire to fit in and the desire to flee our expected paths?

John Green is an excellent writer and this book will definitely entertain (even if you find it a bit over the top like I did).  Paper Towns will be playing in theaters soon, so it might be good to read it before you see it on the big screen!

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
Rating: 5 stars

I love Shauna Niequist so much. Her words always touch my heart.  She writes about the mundane, the ordinary, the challenges and heartache and joys we all experience- but she makes them seem special and unique and beautiful.  My favorite Shauna book is Bittersweet (about growth and joy through the hard times) -- but this book, "Cold Tangerines", was pretty great too.  The book focuses on celebrating the good and wonderful in every day life.  I think it's so easy to fall into the trap of living from weekend to weekend, vacation to vacation, holiday to holiday.  I am a big fan of countdowns and anticipation - but how often do I overlook the beauty that comes from dinner, tv and cuddling with my husband - or laughter over Tuesday night happy hour with a friend? A perfect Saturday walk, successfully trying a new recipe or the pleasure that comes from a clean home?  I love summer because I feel like I have the time to slow down and read, go to movies, sleep in, enjoy the sunshine, sip wine on the patio, etc. This was a good reminder that the mundane, the everyday, is beautiful! I highly recommend this book (or any of her books, really!)

Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe
Rating: 2 stars

This was an "accidental" read, meaning I had considered it for my summer reading, but then eliminated it from the list. However, when it came time to order a beach read (I wanted a paperback, not a kindle read), I must have forgotten which books were on my "french reads" list because I ordered this one - and read it while in Florida.  I just today discovered that it was not on my list.

What I liked about the book: the premise.  A 34 year old woman gives up her great career, perfect boyfriend (well, perfect except for the fact that he does not want kids), fabulous NYC town home to move to Paris and pursue her dreams of being an artist and meeting a French man and starting a family. I loved reading about all the places she visited in Paris (I wish I had wrote them all down for our trip!) However, that's about all I liked about this book.

The main reason I would not recommend this book: it's a bit too dirty. Let me clarify, I am not a prude.  I understand that books will have sex scenes, but in this book, there was too much.  This girl went from boyfriend to boyfriend, from bed to bed.  Thankfully, the author wasn't too descriptive, but even so, I was a bit tired of hearing of the character's sex life!  Also, I was confused at how the character was managing to afford to live in Paris.  Sure, she had some savings - and she had downsized her lifestyle (small studio, no designer shopping) but she did not have a steady job.  The book refers to just a few paintings sold at a local gallery over a 2 year time span. Maybe I am too practical, but I find it hard to believe that she could afford fancy coffee at a cafe daily - or drinks at a swanky bar - without a stead income!

I will say this, though, despite her many flaws, the character was at least likable enough for me to want to finish the book. I wanted to know if she decided to stay in Paris or return home and if she ever met the right type of guy.  I would probably rate the book a bit higher if there was a little less friskiness and a bit more development of the facts (like how the h*ll she could afford her lifestyle!)

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand
Rating: 4.5 Stars

This is one of my favorite reads so far this summer.  What I love about Elin Hilderband's books is that although they are beach reads, they are also thought-provoking and well-written.  The setting is Nantucket at a fine dining restaurant with a girl who is running away from her past and workplace romance.  That's about as beach read as it gets.  But, the characters are a bit more complex than your normal fluffy chick lit.  After reading this book, I am now obsessed with going to Nantucket (I may have looked up rooms....) and I regret never spending my summer working in a beach town! (Do you think Dave would let me do that now? haha!) My one complaint - the ending. It wasn't a particularly unhappy ending, but I just felt that the main character accepted everything that had happened and left it in the past, even without an explanation. I found it a bit unbelievable. However, the book as a whole was quite enjoyable!

What I have read/still have left to read: 

Book Club Books 
1. The Stranger by Harlan Coben
2. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (and *possibly* the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend)

Home and Marriage
3. The 7 principles for making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
4. Eight Twenty Eight by Larissa and Ian Murphy
5. A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

Southern Fiction
6. Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
7. The Right Thing by Amy Conner
8. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

French Reads
9. Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
10. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
11. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
12. A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
13. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan 
ACCIDENTAL ADDITION: Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe

General Fiction
14. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
15. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
16. The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
17. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
18. Paper Towns by John Green
19. The Life Intended by Kristen Harmel
20. Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

Religious Reads
21. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Quireshi
22. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
23. Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life

24. The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner
25. 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative by Dr. Paul Kengor

I am looking forward to tackling several books of my list during July -- starting with "The Girl on theTrain" !! If you are looking for me this weekend, you can find me by the pool, drink in one hand, kindle in the other hand!


  1. You've been busy! I'm impressed! I've got Cold Tangerines packed up in my garage (waiting on the addition to the house to be finished so I can unpack!) but you've convinced me to go dig it out and move it up the list. Sounds like just the read I need!

    1. You most definitely need to read it! And Bittersweet! Such good books! I hope you are doing well, little mama to be!

  2. I need to read Cold Tangerines!! I just read a book with similar themes called "Simply Tuesday" by Emily Freeman. It officially comes out in August, so you should check it out - super honest & encouraging. It's been a bit of a game-changer for me in terms of how I think of the day-by-day. Also, I love how you had an "accidental read" -- I've had two of those so far [oops! ;)].

    1. Thanks for the suggestion Hannah, I will look that book up! And yes read Cold Tangerines, I loved it!

      And yes - a total accidental read -- I thought it was on my list, but I can't recommend it, it was too sexy for me, ha!