Best Fiction of 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I've chosen my seven favorite fiction books read this year. I had what I consider a tie for a couple of places though, so in reality I've narrowed it down to top five with two essential ties. :) All were published in 2012 except for the two that tied for #1!


The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (2012) and The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (2012)

I've seen these two on a lot of lists and the thing is they aren't necessarily extraordinary, but they just had really great stories that I loved reading. The Chaperone takes us to 1920's New York City as a woman takes on the challenge of chaperoning a rebellious teenage girl who ends up becoming a big movie star. The Light Between Oceans had me questioning what I would do if I had the opportunity to raise another child as my own but had to pretend it literally was of my own flesh and blood and what I would do once the situation started having holes poked in it.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)

I think I've seen this one on every "best of" list this year. It's a mystery/thriller of sorts but also a psychological portrait of an unhealthy, or crazy, marriage. The two main characters are some complex people! This was hard to put down and has pretty much convinced me and everyone else to read the rest of Flynn's books.


The Darlings by Cristina Alger(2012)

I find this to be one of the more underrated books this year; I haven't really heard much about it and think it deserves much more recognition. It focuses on one family in which the son-in-laws both work with the father-in-law at a financial firm when a scandal explodes, questioning everyone's loyalty. In my review I called it the "perfect amalgamation of white collar suspense and homage to life in New York City". I really enjoyed this one.


The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2012)

This one has received much of the recognition I think it deserves; it was a finalist for the 2012 fiction National Book Award, though I have to say I enjoyed this one much more than the actual winner. The writing was gorgeous and the portrayal of the soldiers in war was astutely done.


State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2011) and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2009)

I couldn't do it. I couldn't narrow it down any further for my favorite read of the year. And interestingly, I compared State of Wonder to Cutting for Stone in the former's review. They both have a medical component that I found fascinating (sometimes I think I should have gone into medicine rather than mental health, ha!) But both stories were also so full of depth and were full of beautiful writing and evoked gorgeous atmospheres. Neither were published this year, but both will be books that will stay with me for a while and that I have recommended to many others.

Best Non-Fiction of 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

These are my top five non-fiction books read this year. My favorite was actually published last year, but numbers 2 and 3 were published in 2012. They're each linked to my review.


Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton with Lisa Pulitzer (2011)

As much coverage as this case got, especially for those of us in Orlando, this book provides more behind the scenes knowledge of the investigation and trial and was surprisingly fascinating.


The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (2009)

An entertaining and inspiring journey about making and achieving little resolutions that add together to contribute to overall improved well-being and happiness.


Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012)

This was 2012's non-fiction winner of the National Book Award. This narrative non-fiction portrays the plights of the people living in the Anaawadi slums right next to the luxuriously booming Mumbai in India. Abject poverty next door extravagant wealth. Fascinating.


Quiet by Susan Cain (2012)

Packed with research and insights, this book offers so much knowledge about introverted personalities and what they offer our world as well as the difficulties introverts currently have in finding a role in our society. Completely relatable for me and fascinating, this is a book that I'll proudly display on my shelf, recommend to others, and that I'll likely read again in the future.


Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd (2011)

Domestic human trafficking, or the commercial sexual exploitation of girls, in this country is a terrifying thing to think about; but, unfortunately, it's a reality that happens every day. This was the most powerful book I read this year. It left me feeling raw and heartbroken yet professionally inspired to help other girls who have experienced this kind of or similar trauma. I have recommended this to many people and gifted a copy as well. Please consider supporting the associated non-profit agency started and run by Rachel Lloyd, the author, GEMS. You can also follow them on Facebook: Girls Are Not For Sale. Beyond that, however, the writing is fantastic (check out some of the quotes in my review), and the book is astutely organized, qualities which are meritable on their own.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Title: The Round House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Pages: 317
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: October 2, 2012

I have been wanting to read a novel of Louise Erdrich's for a while, so after her latest, The Round House, won the National Book Award, I decided I'd have to start with this one. Plus there were comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird and I figured this is a must read.

Unfortunately, while I recognize the merits of this book, as well as the aforementioned comparisons, overall I don't think it was for me. It tells the story of 13-year-old Joe who lives on a reservation in North Dakota with his mother and tribal judge father. Shortly into the book, Joe's mother is physically attacked and raped. She suffers a type of post-traumatic stress reaction in which she retreats into herself. Justice is hard to come by because of the ambiguities or contradictions in the laws governing jurisdiction of the reservation and free land as well as of the people victim to or perpetrator to the crime. While The Round House focuses on this situation and Joe's own desire for seeking justice, it also is a coming of age story about him and his friends.

I typically enjoy coming of age stories, and it might be that I had expected more plot focus on the issue with his mother that left me disappointed with this one. I can't help but feel, though, that the story meandered a little to where I became confused about the focus. I also would have liked more focus on the social justice issue regarding difficulty of prosecuting these types of crimes on reservations. The author provided a little information about it in the afterword, and I would have liked to learn more about this from the reading. I feel like at this point I just know of it being an issue rather than feeling totally informed.

And I very much disliked the ending.

My review seems really negative, but it wasn't a bad or unenjoyable book by any means. I just didn't connect to it for whatever reason. I'm pretty much the only one who seems to have this opinion, though, and it did win the National Book Award, so take that for what it's worth!

(And upon reading this I was still convinced to pick up those other books of the author's that I had been considering!)

Review: In the Woods by Tana French

Monday, December 3, 2012

Title: In the Woods
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Author: Tana French
Pages: 429
Genre: fiction, mystery, literary
Publisher: Viking (Penguin)
Pub. Date: May 17, 2007 (hardcover); May 27, 2008 (paperback)

I've had In the Woods on my "must-read" list essentially since it came out and everyone raved about how amazingly wonderful it was. I'm glad I was finally motivated to start attacking my "must-read" list (where, ironically, books waste away never being read); and while I did think it was a fantastic read, I was disappointed too. I'll explain why, but I think it stems mostly from the unrealistically high expectations I incurred after reading so many great reviews over the years. Because apparently, I have had this book on my list for five years!!

Quick summary for those who aren't yet in the know: in 1984, three kids in Knocknaree, Ireland, disappear in the woods; two of those children are never found. Adam Robert Ryan is found alone with unexplained injuries but has no memory of what happened. Years later, Adam is Detective Rob Ryan; he still has no memory of the events but is forced to face this wall blocking his memories when he investigates a case in which a 12-year-old girl's body has been found in those same woods. Ryan takes on the case without letting anyone know of his personal connection.

The rest of In the Woods is the investigation of the case by Ryan, combined with the story of Ryan's trying to reach for the lost memories (for the investigation but also for himself), and a look into his close relationship with his work partner, Cassie Maddox. (Can men and women be just friends, especially as close as they are?) French does an amazing job with the story and with the characters. Although there was an investigation going on, the crux of the story seemed to be more about the characters, and I was easily drawn in. The backstory was engaging, as were their daily interactions. As hefty as the book seemed, I couldn't put it down. But I'll admit, part of what kept me reading was because I wanted to find out what all the crazy twists were that I was expecting.... but in the end I felt like it was significantly more a typical mystery than any type of thriller, much less a pyschological thriller. While there was a lot of discussion about psychological factors, which was very interesting, I think of the genre "psychological thriller", which this book is often billed as, as more so books that mess with the readers' minds, where not everything is as it seems. And unless I missed something, I felt this was fairly straightforward. Some complaints from those that have voiced them, is that the author left some questions unanswered in the end. That didn't bother me.. the questions unanswered weren't necessary to me, but I did feel like she was building up to it so, while it didn't bother me, I could see why some people felt they were left hanging.

So, I was definitely a fan and will eventually read more in the series. But it wasn't as crazy as I was expecting it to be.

Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I gave myself a four day weekend enjoyed it immensely! I did a lot of eating, shopping, and visiting with family.

This week I read Life of Pi... I wasn't really a fan (review to come later). But I don't regret taking the time to read it because I have had it on my "must read" list forever and I'm glad to now say I have read it. I'm currently working on In The Woods which has also been on my list forever. I'm excited to get to it but am a little apprehensive about some of the reviews I've read saying it just ends without a real ending, etc. I'm itching to know what crazy things are going to happen, though!

A couple weeks ago I asked for help with potential reading goals for next year. Jenners had a great idea of doing specific little mini-achievements:
For a reading goal, how about something achievable like "read 2 books I've always meant to read but never have" and "read 3 books from my own bookshelves" and "read 2 books by an author I love but haven't explored too often." Might be kind of fun to find these books and mix it up and be achievable. Have fun!
I thought that sounded fun and picture it being sort of like a very achievable scavenger hunt. And this solves a lot of the other dilemmas I had. My overarching goal is to make every single read meaningful in some way. While I'll still read newer/popular/review books, I also plan on reading a lot of older ones that are on my shelves or that have been on my list. Regardless, I hope to have minimal reads that I read only because it was for a blogging commitment or because everyone was talking about it and I just had to be in on it too even though my interest was just mediocre, etc. Every year I've actually kept a list that I've added to throughout the year of "must read" books, those that were recommended that I think sound *great*, authors whose backlist I want to read, series to work on, etc. And I rarely read any of those (Life of Pi and In the Woods were two of those) so this will help me get those done.

So, any ideas for the scavenger hunt items I should include? Some examples: read 2 presidential books (the new Thomas Jefferson one is on my wishlist!), read Gillian Flynn's backlist (there's only 2 so no biggie), etc.

Review: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Title: The Yellow Birds
Author: Kevin Powers
Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction; War
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (Hachette Books)
Pub. Date: September 11, 2012

I haven't read many war books so I can't compare this to any, though critics and readers alike have made comparisons to Tim O'Brien's classic, The Things They Carried. I can say, though, that I could easily see this becoming a modern classic in its own right. Kevin Powers, an Iraqi veteran, deployed to Al Tarf in 2004,  describes the experience of being at war through the eyes of 21-year-old Private Bartle.
"I hadn't given a lot of thought to actually going to war, but it was happening now, and I was still struggling to find a sense of urgency that seemed proportional to the events unfolding in my life. I remember feeling relief in basic while everyone else was frantic with fear. It had dawned on me that I'd never have to make a decision again. That seemed freeing, but it gnawed at some part of me even then. Eventually, I had to learn that freedom is not the same thing as the absence of accountability" (nook pg. 24)
The Yellow Birds jumps back and forth in time starting with a scene from in Al Tafar in 2004, returning to 2003 just before deploying, and then moving forward to the after effects in 2005 and beyond. I was afraid this would confuse me, but it was always clear what was happening and when.  After reading this, I truly feel like I gained some insight into what it's like being at war. Private Bartle reflects on the attitude he has to take on war, such as emotionally distancing yourself from feelings related to death, since the death of people around you is expected.

Bartle meets 18-year-old Daniel Murphy at training prior to deployment and makes a promise to Murphy's mother that he'll protect Murphy and bring him back home. We learn early on that Murphy doesn't, in fact, make it home (this is not a spoiler); this is a situation for which Bartle feels extreme grief and guilt, especially at how it all happens. We don't find out until later on what exactly happened out there, so in a way the story takes on a mystery element as we figure it out in bits and pieces. Bartle also reflects, though, on the differences between how he and others take on the war, and how this affects their ability to survive physically and emotionally.

The Yellow Birds expertly depicts the thoughts and feelings of those soldiers in the war without overstating anything. Surprisingly, I thought there was pretty minimal detail related to gore or killing or anything you'd think you might find in a novel about war. It says and shows what it needs to and leaves it at that. It's no wonder this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. The passages were beautiful; I bookmarked my way through my reading. This is the kind of book I can definitely see myself returning to for a re-read. This was one of my favorite reads this year!

With that, I'll leave you with another quote I liked:
"Maybe if things had happened a little differenty in Al Tafar it could have been like that. But things happened the way they happened without regard to our desire for them to have happened another way. Despite an age-old instinct to provide an explanation more complex than that, something with a level of profundity and depth which would seem commensurate wtih the confusion I felt, it really was that simple." (nook pg. 41).

Sunday Salon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I may have found the book to bring me out of my reading funk. Granted, I've had more free time now for a couple weeks so it may be that adjustment finally catching up, but I finally read a book from beginning to end in a normal amount of time that I really enjoyed and that is inspiring me to reach out and find other great books again! That book is The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers which I picked up after Nomadreader's great review (which was Wednesday and I started Thursday and finished Saturday morning... see, a normal amount of time for me like I said, LOL). I see why this book has gained so much attention in the literary world. My review will be up sometime in the near future, I suppose, but I highly recommend it! My other "active" read right now is Stephen King's On Writing which I'm about halfway through but am still unsure about.

In other news, my husband and I put up most of our Christmas lights on the house yesterday. The intention is to not turn them on until after Thanksgiving but put them up since we'll be busy after Thursday; however, there are some other houses in my area who have already turned theirs on so we shall see, LOL. Regardless, I still have more decorations and lights to put up that I'm super excited about!! Other than that I'm just excited about getting these next few days out of the way since I am giving myself a four day weekend! Woo hoo!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Cookbook Review: The Kimchi Chronicles

Friday, November 16, 2012

Title: The Kimchi Chronicles
Subtitle: Korean Cooking for an American Kitchen
Author: Marja Vongerichten
Pages: 248 (including index)
Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Rodale (Macmillan)
Pub. Date: August 2, 2011

About a year and a half ago, Jason and I got really into the documentary/food mini-series, The Kimchi Chronicles, which took viewers all over South Korea and showcased various foods. The show's star, Marja Vongerichten, is a Korean-American adoptee who, after being reunited with her birth mother, took on a greater interest in Korean cuisine and culture. Each episode of the show features a type of dish(es) and then shows how to cook it. They talk to locals, go through the markets, try out popular restaurants, etc. Vongerichten's husband, renowned French chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, simultaneously cooks up his own Americanized version of the dish. There are also some guest stars, real life friends of the Vongerichten's such as Hugh Jackman and Heather Graham, that show up in various episodes. Being half-Korean myself, I have fortunately been very exposed to Korean cuisine of all kinds and it is seriously my favorite thing to eat in the world! My husband (who happens to be half-Thai and, therefore, has also been exposed to some delicious food also loves Korean food almost as much as I do). So, not only did we adore the show, we knew we had to buy the cookbook. We got our copy of it probably last year around this time and have made several recipes from it (which I think is the most we have ever made from one cookbook).

Along with gorgeous pictures, Vongerichten spends time explaining the various foods that are commonly used in Korean cooking and what should be stocked in the pantry. She includes interesting tidbits throughout the book about culturally related information and also Korean how to's such as setting the table and picnicking Korean style. (Gangname Style??  LOL... sorry that just popped up in my head when I said "Korean Style", haha)

If you're not familiar with Korean cooking or Korean markets, it may be a little challenging obtaining the ingredients, but I think she does a good job of explaining everything and providing pictures, and the ingredients really are so common that anyone in a Korean market could help you. Korean cooking is something that has always intimidated me because of the complexities of much of the meals. But after trying out the recipes in this book, my confidence was significantly increased; I'm not much of a cook but I was able to follow along just fine! And the food turned out Amazing! I'd say not quite like my mom's cooking but close enough that this cookbooks is very valuable to me!

The first recipe I made was the Easy Braised Chicken... it's sort of a stew with chicken, potatoes, and carrots. This isn't a meal I had really eaten before since it's quite Americanized, but it is packed with that Korean flavor I know so well and was DELICIOUS! We both love this meal. I've made it a few times and have also had my family over to eat it as well. I absolutely love this recipe and found it really easy to follow. The book's picture is up to the right, and my version is on the left.

The next thing I made was the traditional New Year's meal (that I eat throughout the year!) that Marja calls "Rice Cake Soup with Brisket" or as it's called in Korean, Dduk Guk (떡국). (Ironically, my mom makes her own Americanized version of this that is ridiculously amazing). But this was another that I just never saw myself making because I always saw my mother (when cooking this the traditional way) boiling an ox-tail in water for HOURS to make the soup stock and I just didn't see myself doing that. But this recipe actually is much simpler than that but still very good.

I've made various other meals such as the kimchi hot dogs that Jean-Georges came up with, kimchi fried rice, and (geez, can't forget this!) the Korean short-ribs (galbi-갈비) that are so popularly known as "Korean BBQ". It's so exciting to be able to cook these recipes for myself if I want rather than have to ask or expect my mom to do it or run out to a restaurant. This is my absolute favorite cookbook, and I highly recommend both this and the show! Check out the website The Kimchi Chronicles to see videos from the show, check out some of their recipes, and even buy a Korean spice kit in case shopping on your own in an Asian market makes you nervous!

Sunday Salon: Reading Goals??

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Sunday everyone! 

This post was written last night, since I'm off seeing weekend clients as usual for my Sundays. =/ I've gotten to a good place with my work which was the main culprit from my extended absence from here, but my reading and blogging habits have apparently changed completely during that time! I just haven't been reading much at all. I have to say I had managed to work myself into a place where I was constantly pressuring myself to READ READ READ. And while it was enjoyable on the one hand, it got annoying on the other. In the past few months I've started probably no less than 15 books and have finished just one which I had to for a blog tour, LOL. Once I had that out of the way, which was my last official commitment, I started reading Paper, Scissors, Death by Joanna Campbell Slan because I had really been in the mood for a cozy and thought I'd start a new series. So far it's alright - good, but not as good as some of the other cozy series I've been reading. And I just haven't been in the mood to return to it. It's not the book's fault. A cursory glance around the room reveals at least five other books I also have not returned to but have not yet shelved with the others.

But I really miss being away from here and the community! What to do..

Anyway, along those lines, I've been thinking of book goals. Every year I basically have a goal of reading a certain number. It's always 100 books, and I've never reached it (LOL), but this year I am extremely far from that number. (I'm currently sitting at 43, and I'm estimating that I'll finish maybe 2-3 for the rest of the year). I'd rather not give myself a quantity goal since that does make me pressure myself to read sheer quantities. And it also dissuades me from reading potentially good books if the page count is too high. I don't really want to go for page count either. So I was wondering what kind of goals you all go for? I'd still like to do something to give myself a challenge for fun, but just not sure what.

In other news, Jason and I have gotten a big start on the holiday spirit this year. I've already been listening to Christmas music for a while, and we've done a ton of shopping already! I love our Millenia Mall during the hoildays because it's absolutely gorgeous! And today we braved the outlet mall which is insane any time of year. Last weekend we went and saw Million Dollar Quartet (the broadway musical bout the one time jam session involving Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash) which was so fun!! It was like going to a concert in the 1950's! These are some of the reasons I haven't been reading, LOL!

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and I will be trying to improve my commenting on everyone's blogs!

I'm Guest Posting!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Today I'm visiting Alyce over at At Home With Books talking about my favorite and least favorite of Kristin Hannah's books. Stop on by!

How The French Invented Love (Blog Tour)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Title: How the French Invented Love
Subtitle: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance
Author: Marilyn Yalom
Pages: 365
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Harper Perennial (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: October 23, 2012

It's sort of an accepted truth that the French view love and all its related parts (sex, marriage, etc.) differently than those in the American culture. There's something about the passion and liberties the French culture pour into their expressions of love. In How the French Invented Love, Marilyn Yalom chronicles and dissects the French literature about love through the ages to provide a picture of the French concept of love, sex, and marriage. Her analysis goes from the 1100's with the story of Abelard and Heloise (sort of a French Romeo and Juliet) to the 1700's with La Princesse de Cleves which has had even recent controversy to the writers of the 1900's.

Yalom, previously a professor of French literature, packed this book with insights about tons of literature and cultural attitudes. I alternated between being completely caught up in what I was reading with feeling overwhelmed with information. I, personally, felt this book was quite academic in nature and wouldn't recommend it to a casual reader, for sure. For me the more difficult part was the first half in which Yalom focused on medieval (and other early) literature. I've always found that time period difficult to understand and relate to, and I also know little about French literature or life so that was difficult for me as well. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the attitudes about love as well as the stories that Yalom relayed. One thought that stuck with me was the attitude that true love doesn't exist in marriage. The thought behind it was interesting and could apply today, though I don't believe it to be automatically true at all!

As the book moved on, I found it increasingly easier to follow along, likely because I understand the time frame better but also because I was familiar with and had previously read some of the other works she referred to, especially, for instance, with Madame Bovary and Cyrano De Bergerac as I read both years ago and was able to follow up with some newer, "grown up", commentary and insight. I will say the one downside for me was that Yalom referred to so much different literature throughout the book that even though she discussed them in detail, I'd move on and then forget all about a recent piece she had discussed.

I would certainly recommend this book to those who have an interest in French literature and/or culture as well as to those who enjoy ruminating on the concept of LOVE.

Follow the rest of the tour below:
Tuesday, October 23rd: The Year in Books
Thursday, October 25th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, October 29th: The Written World
Tuesday, October 30th: Doing Dewey
Wednesday, October 31st: Take Me Away
Thursday, November 1st: Oh! Paper Pages
Monday, November 5th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Tuesday, November 6th: Dreaming in Books
Wednesday, November 7th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, November 8th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, November 9th: BooksAreTheNewBlack
Monday, November 12th: missris
Wednesday, November 28th: Much Madness is Divinest Sense


Sunday Salon: Reading ADD

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Remember that big test I had to take?  I passed!!!  It's such a relief to have that out of the way, and I'm hoping that everything starts returning to a little bit of normalcy around here! Just give me another six months and I will have my own license in my field. Woo hoo!

It's funny because my last few posts have been about how I really haven't been reading much lately. And I haven't, truly. BUT, I do feel like if I added together all the pages I've read, I MUST have still read a couple books' worth. I have had such insane reading ADD! I have started so many books and then get bored anywhere from 30-100 pages in. Some have become DNF's and some have been set aside only for the time being. It's sort of crazy. Anyway, I guess I'll try to post one of the DNF's soon since it fits in with the theme of October books.

In related news, my hubby and I are reading Heart Shaped Box together (each on our nooks) to have a horror book read-a-long. I remember reading a few reviews of this before but can't remember what the consensus was. I initially refused to read it because I thought I'd be terrified. Now I'm about 75 pages in and feeling like it's cheesy... BUT this might be a defense mechanism protecting myself from getting scared, LOL. Who knows. We were going to try It but I thought with my reading dynamics lately we'd be better sticking to a small book. We have tried this at least a couple times before (Dracula last year, The Passage the year before that) and I have never finished one... I'm trying really hard to stay interested in this year's read, LOL.

Hope everyone has a great week!

P.S. I'm still trying to catch up on your blogs and get back to a normal schedule of blog reading.

September in Review

Monday, October 1, 2012


Reading and Reviewing
Well... I just recently updated, so not much has changed. The only book I read this month was a graphic novel, American Widow. I also did not post any reviews this month. 

I have started so many books, but none have been holding my interest. Some are partly the book's fault, and some are definitely not.

I've decided I need to post more book related (or other) posts and not so many reviews since I can't keep up. I have to think about how I want this to work. I also don't want to feel pressured to review every book I read. I don't really want to post too much personal information, but I do need a way to expand the blog a little.

There are a couple websites I've been enjoying that are literary - well one, yes, the other not literary so much as humanistic, and both take place in my favorite city that I wanted to share. They both have their own website but I follow both through Facebook. The first one is called Humans of New York (or HONY) or can be followed on FB. This photographer posts frequently (every day, sometimes more than once a day) of various people he runs across. The pictures are charming, sweet, fun, and sometimes have great stories behind them. Love this site.

The other site is called the Underground New York Public Library. Every day he posts a picture of someone reading a book on the subway or the subway platform and captions the picture with the name of the book. Each Friday he posts a picture of someone reading an e-book, though we don't get the names of those books. But again, it's humanistic as well as fun to see what others are reading. This one also can be followed on FB.

That's it for now. I do have a blog tour at the end of the month so I'll at least be back for that, though I am hoping to read and review a couple R.I.P type books for this Halloween month!

August in Review (and update)

Friday, September 21, 2012


Oh how I've missed the blogging world! I haven't been around in a while. But I still can't believe I haven't posted a review since the beginning of August, and you don't even want to know how little I've read since then. Once again I've had trouble balancing my work and life. Doing contract work and working from home sounds nice and does have its perks, but it makes it really hard for me to ever want to be on my computer. I am a procrastinator which is part of the problem, but then anxiety builds and I use false coping methods like ignoring and in the process I don't even get on the computer. Plus, after seeing clients all day, the last thing I want to do when I get home is work. Then I was sick for over a week... I am rarely sick for more than a few days so that was no fun. Other reasons I've not been around: I've been focusing on some other hobbies and putting less pressure on myself to read and blog. It's a little ridiculous how much I allow myself to feel pressured to keep up... keep up with posts, with new releases, etc. And a current reason why I shouldn't even be blogging right now -- I finally registered to take my mental health counseling licensure exam October 4th, and I have been trying to spend some time studying. I hate studying, but I paid a lot of money for the study sight for 30 days so I need to try to take advantage of it! I already wasted the week I was sick not doing much (as I purchased the membership before I realized I'd be out of service for the following week!) I have been stopping by your blogs now and then, but I still plan on catching up some more on your posts!

Oh, and this isn't really related, but I turned the big 30 in August! My family totally surprised me by throwing a surprise party!

Reading and Reviewing
I know this month is almost over, but I'm sticking to August for now. I reviewed ONE book... City of Women by David R. Gillham which was wonderful. And I only read two books for the whole month! Those books were Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Both were good, but I'm not sure if I'll remember enough to write a sufficient review. =( 

I hope to be up to blogging and reading again soon!

City of Women by David R. Gillham

Monday, August 6, 2012

Title: City of Women
Author: David R. Gillham
Pages: 385
Genre: Fiction, Historical, 1940's Berlin
Publisher: Amy Einhorn/G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin)
Pub. Date: August 7, 2012

City of Women tells the story of the women left behind in the city of Berlin in 1943 when the majority of the men are off to join the war efforts. Sigrid Schroder lives with her meddling and critical mother-in-law while her husband, Kaspar, has gone off to war. But even before he left, Sigrid had been having an affair with a man who she now thinks about more than her husband. This is scandalous enough as it is, but her illicit lover also happens to be Jewish.

Sigrid is a good German citizen, though she isn't always quite sure what is true and not regarding Germany's place in the war. But then when she's at the cinema one day, her favorite place to spend time, she is thrown into a scandalous situation by the young girl who nannies the children downstairs from Sigrid. The mysterious antics of this young girl irritate and anger the fairly proper Sigrid but ultimately leads her to the biggest realizations she has about what is really happening in the world.

Sigrid later becomes faced with the decision to shelter Jews and others who need to hide. She's horrified at the thought of defying the rules as well as the missions of the city's men but also horrified at what she slowly realizes is happening to these people when they are found by the Gestapo... especially when it becomes personal and she believes she may be hiding the family of her secret lover.

I loved this book. The writing was beautiful and engaging and really created a sensuous atmosphere that I immersed myself in every time I opened the book. It was about community, friendships, betrayals, daily life and its sensualities, moral arguments from personal and political viewpoints, and danger. It demonstrated the strength and courage of some of these women but also the cattiness of many of the women. It's about women living in a really difficult time and place and having to make some very difficult decisions. City of Women is up there with one of the best of the year for me so far.

July in Review

Friday, August 3, 2012


Reading and Reviewing
I posted the following reviews this month:
Only one of those was actually read this month. The only other book I read in the month of July that I have not yet posted a review for is City of Women by David R. Gillham. I'll post that one in a few days.

My reading has slowed significantly lately because my focus has been on so many other things. While it isn't conducive to blogging, it's been sort of nice. I tend to be an "all or nothing" thinker at times which is not healthy, and I, unfortunately apply it to my hobbies. So it got to the point where I viewed everything as cutting into my reading time including work and even social engagements and interactions. That's sort of ridiculous! So it's nice to feel free and like I've given myself permission to just enjoy other things. But along the way I've had a lot going on so I haven't been reading much at all. Not to mention I've had reading ADD lately... I've started and not finished so many books not because the books aren't good but because I find something else I want to read even more! I'm reading several books, but the one I've focused the most on lately is Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain which I was soooo excited about. After several days I'm only halfway through!

So the other things I've been focusing on are largely work... I go through phases where I'm all caught up and feel fine relaxing and reading, but I also go through phases where the work is really hard to keep up with. I'm also registering soon to take my licensure test for the state of Florida so once that is scheduled I'll be spending a lot of time studying for that! I also have begun focusing a lot on my health and well-being which has included signing up and actually going to the gym. I'm doing pretty well and while I have some informal goals I'd like to achieve, my main goal is to stay active and just be healthy! 

So along with this new take on reading, I've also sort of changed my "philosophy" again. With wanting to do other things, I have even less time to read all the wonderful books out there so it's even more pertinent that I read what I absolutely want to and not feel pressure to read new books. I sort of envy my husband this... he reads so many randomly interesting books, some classics, some new, etc. and there is no pressure to read the latest and greatest. I'll keep trying to aim for this, though it's so hard to battle the temptation of new releases!

Les Mis...???
Earlier this month I mentioned trying to take on Les Miserables... somewhere along the line I actually forgot that I was reading this. So I haven't even looked at the book in a while. I think I'll still keep plugging along when I remember to, but it isn't something I'm going to completely focus on. Maybe I'll be able to get it read by December in time for the movie... maybe not. ;)

Anne of Green Gables read-a-long
Not too long ago, Kari at The Five Borough Book Review mentioned wanting to re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series and maybe doing an informal read-a-long. I read Anne several times as a child/adolescent. I just adored that book. But I never did read the entire series, so I agreed to read along with Kari, reading about one book a month starting in August. I can't wait to get started!

That's about all I've got for this month! I'm still reading your blogs but have been getting behind in commenting. In fact, sometimes I read and then go to do something else and have to remind myself it would nice to post the actual thoughts I had in my head as a comment, LOL. 

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M. L. Stedman
Pages: 347
Genre: Fiction, historical, 1920's Australia
Publisher: Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
Pub. Date: July 31, 2012

The Light Between Oceans is a sweet but pensive story about human emotion and how it affects everything in our lives from our reactions to our decisions. Tom Sherbourne has just returned to 1920's Australia from the war where he has seen atrocities and taken part in harrowing acts he can't seem to forget. He takes up a job as the lighthouse keeper on a remote island, Janus, where he spends his days solitarily making sure the light does its work every night. To his surprise, he meets and falls in love on the mainland with a free spirited girl, Isabel (who early in the book reminds me of a grown up Anne of Green Gables with her positive attitude and penchant for naming the all the beautiful areas around them). Tom and Isabel marry and go off to spend their first three year stint together on Janus, keeping the lighthouse. Their happiness is challenged, however, over the years as Isabel suffers two miscarriages and then a still birth. So it seems to be a miracle when one day a boat washes up on shore. In the boat is a deceased man and a very alive newborn baby. Isabel falls in love with the baby right away and begs Tom to omit this occurrence in the daily lighthouse logs (which he has taken great pride in keeping as accurate as possible) so that they can keep the baby and raise her as their own. After all, if they report it, she'd likely end up in an orphanage and then who knows where. Tom isn't sure about this, but out of his great love for Isabel, he consents.

Tom and Isabel raise this baby, Lucy, as their own and since they live just the three of them on an isolated island, no one is the wiser. But as such things go, their facade starts to fall apart through their various trips back to the mainland, especially when they realize the mother did not drown in the ocean as they had assumed. In fact, the mother, who is alive, has never given up hope that her child will be found and returned to her. What happens after this involves moral anxiety and stress, as you can imagine, and that which doesn't leave just a small mark on Tom and Isabel's marriage. Tom, meanwhile, battles in his mind between wanting to do the right thing to make up for the horrible things he did in the war, but he can't decide what this right thing entails. He loves his wife and his daughter yet feels continuous guilt at not following his own moral code. Isabel, on the other hand, is a strong willed mother who, regardless of how she came to be a mother, will protect her child at all costs.

This is a story that mothers and non-mothers hoping-to-be will both relate to. (Fathers too!) I can tell you I've wished that a baby would just fall into my arms, since it isn't happening any other way. So for my part, I was able to imagine myself in Isabel's shoes, raising a "shipwrecked" baby as my own. In fact, I actually felt surprisingly little empathy for the biological mother in this book! (eek!) But I'm sure while mothers might read this and feel for the mother who has spent years wondering what happened to her child, they'll also find themselves drawn to Isabel and her love for the child. There was a definite "King Solomon" morality thing going on throughout this book. It's not an easy answer for anyone but that and these characters make The Light Between Oceans a beguiling read!

What I Did by Christopher Wakling

Friday, July 27, 2012

Title: What I Did
Author: Christopher Wakling
Pages: 282
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: July 17, 2012

What I Did is a story narrated by six-year-old Billy about the long term consequences of his impulsive decision to run from his father into the street. His father reacts as many parents would, out of fear, but it becomes blown into a much larger issue -- one that is further muddled by the skewed perception of a child and the misunderstandings of the involved adults as Billy's father is accused of hurting him.

Though the story itself moves fairly slowly, some readers may still find it riveting to a degree to find out what happens and how far everything goes. I should know better, though, to sometimes stay away from stories about this topic because with my experience working in child welfare I become very critical of the story and characters and whether or not I think it's realistic. And since I worked as a forensic interviewer for a few years, trained in interviewing children and obtaining accurate details, I find it insulting that the miscommunications that occur in this book would actually happen. I suppose it's possible, but I end up thinking too much about those kinds of details in the book that sometimes it takes away from the rest of it for me.

So, that is one downside I get that wasn't completely the book's fault. But I had two other gripes that made reading this very difficult for me. First was the lack of chapter breaks and the dialogue being separated often just by a dash. The second thing was Billy's voice, unfortunately. I've really enjoyed some other books written from a young child's perspective (Room, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), but the way it was done in this book made the reading frustrating and stagnant at times. Billy would be telling the story of what was happening around him and it would lead to some tangential thought that he would elaborate on for a while before getting back to what was happening so by the end of an entire paragraph nothing had actually happened. In the aforementioned books, there was a lot of forward momentum and more clear storytelling that infused the naivete of the characters whereas in What I Did the story was more focused on the minutiae of Billy's thoughts and perceptions.

I've focused on what was negative for me mainly because it made this a difficult read for me. But if you have the time and patience, Billy's thoughts and perceptions are interesting in and of themselves. It just didn't work for me in pacing the entire novel.

I reviewed this as part of TLC Book Tours. Follow the rest of the tour below:

Friday, July 19th: What She Read …
Monday, July 23rd: A Worn Path
Tuesday, July 24th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Friday, July 27th: Take Me Away
Tuesday, July 31st: In the Next Room
Wednesday, August 1st: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, August 2nd: Little Bit of Wonderful
Thursday, August 2nd: Book Reviews, Fiction Reflections, ‘N More!
Wednesday, August 8th: the state that i am in
Tuesday, August 21st: Kritters Ramblings

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Monday, July 16, 2012

Title: The Happiness Project
Subtitle: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Pages: 292
Genre: Non-Fiction; Memoir; Psychology
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: December 29, 2009 (hardcover); March 1, 2011 (paperback);

The concept of happiness and how to achieve it has always been of interest to me. But I hesitated to read this when it first came out because I feared it would be too arbitrary or too personalized to the author and not enough practical information for the casual reader. I wanted to read about application of general ideas that I could apply to myself and not just a memoir. And a quick peek through the book showed me she focused on things I couldn't apply to myself such as parenting. But it's been on my mind ever since. And I decided that at this point, working as a therapist, I did have a good enough understanding of the concept and self-awareness that I could enjoy this book regardless. But then, in the end, I really enjoyed this book and found myself actually thinking about how I could apply the information to myself or what I would do with my own happiness project.

Rubin discusses in the beginning that she isn't depressed or necessarily even sad. She just wanted to find ways to improve her well-being overall. She didn't feel the need for therapy or anything like that. She just wanted to make small changes. So after researching the topic, she chose main themes to focus on each month and then broke that theme up into specific tasks she wanted to focus on. She added on each month to what she was already doing and kept a resolution chart throughout the year to help monitor herself each day. She chose differing themes that focused on behavior, physical well-being, and on cognitive processes as all good changes in self should.

It was amusing to read about her experiences and thoughts as she tried to maintain her resolutions. She seems like a really Type-A person as well as someone who was easily irritated which is opposite my temperament, so it was interesting to see how she incorporated these changes into her life and reacted to them. She included a lot of research, some that was more common and some things which I hadn't read. And I liked how she pulled everything together at the end both in the book and for herself.

I would say this was an entertaining read but it was also inspirational and made me think. It made me think about what my own resolutions would be (as opposed to goals, the difference which she astutely discusses). The first chapter, January, which focused on boosting her energy was significant to me because this is something I've struggled with lately and I know is something that would improve my happiness. (Although I am happy, in general). And for this specific chapter, I found the specific ideas would benefit me. In fact, (though I'd already been thinking about it for a while) I was inspired to go sign up for a gym. (I have an incredibly bad record with gyms and throwing money down the drain, almost literally, but I'm going to give it a go again). And her discussions about sleep hit home for me because I certainly don't get enough of that.

The only thing I didn't care for was that the author included some blog comments (from her blog to add support to what she was saying, but I found these unnecessary. I thought her arguments were plenty and didn't need the additional support or ideas; a quick mention from her would have sufficed if it was a pertinent point.

In the end, The Happiness Project reminded me that I am actually happy in my life and served as a reminder for the few areas I could improve upon. It also inspired me to put some more thought into these things and maybe create for myself my own version of a happiness project. This is definitely a book I will share with or recommend to others. It would make a great companion for anyone in therapy to discuss with their therapist as well... ;)

Taking on Les Mis... Or Will I???

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It may pass, but I've been entertaining the thought of reading Les Miserables. Well, entertaining as well as actually sampling it on my nook. It seems like a classic I can't not read in my lifetime, and with the movie coming out in December I'd really like to take a stab at it now. I've never even seen the musical, as many have. Unfortunately, I missed it this last go around when they were doing it at the Bob Carr in Orlando, but maybe it was meant to be so I could read the book first?

But I'm quite intimidated and thought I'd see if anyone else has read this?? You know, create my support system and all that. It seems like there are a ton of abridged versions out there, though my plan is to go with the 1500 page unabridged one. It's been ages since I've read a book even remotely that long! And I will say I read the first chapter and was not enamored with the language or writing style. Since then I've read through chapter four and it's flowing much better, though I'm not sure if it'll grab me for the remaining million pages. But one of my favorite books is another French novel that was actually written prior to Les Mis, so I figure it can't be that bad, right?

What are your thoughts?

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Friday, July 6, 2012

Title: The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Sarah Addison Allen
Fiction; Magical Realism
Bantam Books (Random House)
Pub. Date:
March 16, 2010

This is my second of Sarah Addison Allen's books (the first being Garden Spells) and I have to say that as popular as they seem to be with a lot of readers, the magical realism just isn't for me. Now, I don't have much experience with magical realism in the first place so it could be that it's just that and not these books... but I don't know! I feel like I could deal with magical realism if there were a specific purpose for it. But in this book it was just so random!

In The Girl Who Chased the Moon, 17-year-old Emily moves to Mullaby, North Carolina after her mother's death. Up until recently, Emily never knew anything about this town or that she has any living relatives. Emily moves in with her grandfather who happens to be a giant. She stays in her mother's old room that has wallpaper that randomly changes. (That's one of the things I just couldn't get). There's a big secret about why her mother left and never moved back and why the whole town essentially hates her mother. Then Emily meets Win Coffey who dresses in a white linen suit and red bow tie. Of course, there's a big secret regarding their family as well. (I think I understand why he dressed like that all the time, but the justification wasn't enough for me). There's the mystery of the "Mullaby lights" (which I figured out right away), and there's Julia who bakes cakes from which old flame, Sawyer, can smell from miles away.

As much as I pick on this book, the storyline itself was actually pretty good and flowed well. I thought Allen did a great job with the pacing and the different elements and characters. In all, it was a light and fun read. I liked the characters, the great secret about Emily's mom, and the twist as well. It may just be that the sub-genre is not for me.

What is Chick-Lit, really?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Okay, this has been bugging me, so I finally thought I'd try to straighten this out. At least for myself. I have been finding, lately, an egregious overuse/inaccurate use of the term "chick-lit". There's a lot of criticism for the criticism of chick-lit, and I, personally, feel annoyed by it mostly because people are mislabeling other books as chick-lit and then assuming that people are referring to that when they're really not. Not that I agree with the criticism... I just say, know what you're criticizing.

The confusion I'm finding is that some people seem to think that chick-lit refers to books about women and women's issues. But chick-lit has much more of a niche than that. I mean, this is like saying that every book written from the point of view of a child is young adult, which is NOT the case (a topic for a whole 'nother day)... not every book with an Asian character is "Asian fiction", etc.

Chick-lit started out with being books about women typically who were single, in their twenties, often living the big city life and dealing with issues related to dating and careers. But what also made them stand out was their light and humorous tones. I think one of the first books that really garnered this label was Bridget Jones's Diary. (And that's on the "1001 books to read before you die" list). Another was Watermelon by Marion Keyes. Now, I haven't read either of these, but back in my college days I really loved this genre and remember adoring the Shopaholic series and Jemima J by Jane Green. In fact, I recommended Jemima J to everyone. It's about an overweight girl who, pretending to be someone else, meets a guy online. But when he wants to meet she goes on a mission to lose the weight so she can be who she pretended to be. It's not totally realistic, but it was such a fun read that found me rooting for the character and totally relating to so much about her. (I've read that book multiple times). Another popular chick-lit author is Lauren Weisberger of The Devil Wears Prada fame. Now, I haven't actually read that one either (loved the movie, lol), but I did really like Everyone Worth Knowing which I've read twice. So for chick-lit, think Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City... that type of thing. Which as we know, the show and movies are daring and risque and fun but really hit on some topics that we, women, want to talk about!

Now, the criticism is that all chick-lit is fluffy, light-hearted, brain candy, and then there is criticism of people who say that. But here's the thing, as with any genre or any category of anything, there is going to be a range. Yes, a lot of  actual chick-lit IS totally fluffy brain candy... but that's part of what is so great about that genre. When I'm in the mood for it, that's what I read. But the other thing is that other books in that genre have some of those similar aspects but deal with more serious issues or are not so fluffy as others. In fact, there are books in the genre that I wouldn't call fluffy at all, but in all honesty, the humor in it probably isn't super high brow either. Because if I wanted high brow humor (which sometimes I do) I'd read a classic from the 1800's, lol... or just some good ol' literary fiction. Everything Worth Knowing, which I referenced earlier, wasn't one I considered fluffy. It had the same chick-lit elements I mentioned but was one of those that was more on the serious end and that I felt I really got something out of. In fact, now I feel like reading it again... another of Weisberger's that I feel the same about was Last Night at Chateau Marmont. And as the genre has grown, the topics have moved from just woes of the single twenty-somethings to issues related to motherhood and marriages.

So, what is chick-lit not? Well, one of the biggest offenders that I've noticed are those who refer to Jodi Picoult in this vein. Jodi Picoult's books are NOT by any means chick-lit. I think the problems some people have with her books are more with the plot elements and the books' commercial qualities. I haven't read a couple of her most recent books, but I've enjoyed the fifteen or so that I have read because of the timely, controversial topics and how she ties the scenarios in with the characters and the plot. But chick-lit, for sure, it is not. Not one of her books has the elements I listed earlier for that niche. I've seen other "women's fiction" authors referred to in the same way that I can't comment on because I haven't read their books. But let's say Maeve Binchy, or Kristin Hannhah, or Barbara Delinsky, as I've read and enjoyed a lot of their books. I would consider theirs to be "women's fiction" (which I know some people find insulting as well, but for the sake of categorization I think that's what it is) and NONE of those should be mistaken either to be chick-lit. But you know what, there are probably a lot of authors and books that toe that line... that could be considered more serious chick-lit or could be be just commercial or contemporary or literary that have some similar elements.

With all this being said, I don't read as much chick-lit anymore. I think that as we, readers, grow in life, we often look to books to fill different needs. Now, in addition to enjoying the elements of story and character, I find myself wanting to learn. I find my focus on themes changing, and I'm no longer interested in the topics of much of the chick-lit that is out there. I sometimes want to challenge myself with the language or the writing. But there are still times when I turn to it. Just as sometimes I read non-fiction, sometimes I'll read a mystery/thriller, other times I'll read a cozy, at times I read a memoir... etc. I always read Sophie Kinsella's books. They are ridiculous in a hilarious way. I still think about how funny I found her recent I've Got Your Number or how I related and laughed along to The Undomestic Goddess. Strangely enough, I never was really taken with the books Kinsella wrote under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, even though I would still consider those chick-lit because, again, there is truly a variety even within the niche of chick-lit itself. As I mentioned, Lauren Weisberger is an author whose books I will continue to read as well.

So that's my argument. Enjoy chick-lit for what it is or don't enjoy it. It's up to you, but just keep in mind what it actually is.

June in Review

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Reading and Reviewing
I'm excited about some of the books I read this month as well as a lot of the books I plan on reading in the next couple of months! To recap, here is what I reviewed on the blog this month:

The only book I read this month for which I still need to post a review is The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman which I really enjoyed!! That review will be up probably in late July.

Giveaway Winner
The winner of a copy of The Unfinished Life of Elizabeth D is...   Sam D.!! 
I already have Sam's address, so the book will be on its way.

That is it. Hope everyone has a great reading month!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pages: 180
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
Pub. Date: April 10, 1925

I first read The Great Gatsby in junior high or high school. I didn't remember anything about it except that I didn't mind it so much. (I have never been a fan of reading assigned books even though I now would enjoy half the books I was made to read then). Anyway, I've been wanting to re-read this for a while, but I was especially motivated after seeing the trailers for the December release of the movie featuring Leonardo DiCaprio.

This is one of those books where the aftertaste seems to have more of an effect on me than the actual process of reading it. For me, it's reflecting back on what the story stands for that makes it good. The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway, a man of wealth who has learned to not let it affect the type of person he is. He lives next door to Jay Gatsby in the West Egg. Gatsby is a wealthy man who throws lavish parties; the kind of parties where half the guests don't even know Gatsby; it's just the place to be. As opposed to Nick, Gatsby revels in his money, though he has another reason for this. Gatsby is secretly longing for the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, who happens to be a cousin of Nick's. The problem is Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan. Though, Tom has his own little mistress on the side, so why should Daisy stay loyal to him? Daisy is ultimately lured toward Gatsby, as he wishes, and drama ensues that has tragic consequences for everyone.

The Great Gatsby is a book about money, high society in 1920's New York City, and what this kind of wealth does to people. It's a love story of sorts but a tragedy too. I still feel like there are parts to this book that I didn't "get" or pick up on. On the one hand it's a fairly simple story, but on the other hand there may be a lot of symbolism I'm missing out on. Regardless, the story is good and it will give you something to talk about. It wasn't my favorite, but I enjoyed it, and I can see (with all the drama and gossip) why my high school self would have enjoyed this book.

Imperfect Justice by Jeff Ashton with Lisa Pultizer

Monday, June 25, 2012

Title: Imperfect Justice
Subtitle: Prosecuting Casey Anthony
Author: Jeff Ashton, Lisa Pulitzer
Pages: 322
Genre: Non-fiction; Legal; True Crime
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: November 15, 2011

I don't think this one takes much explaining. We all know about this trial unless you totally haven't tuned into current events over the past 3-4 years, but since you're reading this review on a book blog online, I'm assuming you have tuned in at some point or another! This case hit close to home for those of us in the Orlando area. And during the entire time this case was playing out from the time little Caylee was "missing" to the verdict being read at the trial, I worked for child advocacy center in the county adjoining Orange County, where this trial was held. We all streamed the trial to our computers every day (shhh, don't tell...) and watched, though we felt that working at the child advocacy center, wasn't it relevant? I put off reading this book for a little while because I thought it might be overkill. Did I really want to immerse myself into all this even more? I mean, you couldn't turn on the tv in this area for those years without hearing about this case. But, as it turns out, I really enjoyed reading this book and actually feel that it might be a good way to wrap everything up and let our brains fully process everything that happened.

The author, Jeff Ashton was one of the prosecutors on this case. He wrote honestly and frankly in this book about his experiences working this case. He both commended and criticized others when relevant. And he inserted his thought processes throughout the various components of this case from its conception through the trial. He provided some background information that the media didn't know about (or did but twisted). It's crazy because reading this book and putting everything together chronologically and reading the detail about the experts' findings makes it even crazier to me that the jury landed on the verdict they did! But it was sort of interesting to me, personally, because I recognized some of the "players" in this case including investigators and one of the psychiatrists who was almost used by the defense. (The psychiatrist is someone who evaluated many of my clients when I worked for DCF and whose evaluations I still see a lot of now that I work in mental health).

Another interesting aspect of reading this book as compared to watching/hearing about it on tv was the forensic/scientific evidence discussed. I'm not sure if they went into as much detail and explanation at the trial (I mean, I assume they must have), but it was certainly more clear reading about it here. That's probably because in reality it's not like I was able to pay close attention to the trial...after all I was working. But things like odor composition... I didn't pay much attention to that but reading about it here was very interesting whether it was related to this case or not! But as it relates to this case, Ashton provided information about every aspect of it and the witnesses, what made it more challenging for the prosecution, how the jury was almost pre-destined to be made up of those who would find her innocent (he spoke about this a little at the UCF Book Festival), and also managed to provide an in depth look into how the judicial system works overall.

I've always enjoyed reading about the court and legal system, fiction or non, so I found this book interesting for that reason. But followers of true crime books will like this book as well. If this case was of interest to you, or if the judicial system is an interest of yours, I would recommend this book. I also do feel that by taking all the information, in total, and laying it out chronologically with his commentary, I was able to process and piece it all together in my head, even though it's all so crazy. And turns out this is also being made into a Lifetime movie with Rob Lowe playing the part of Jeff Ashton...?? I'll have to tune in!

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier (Review & Giveaway)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Title: The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D
Author: Nichole Bernier
Pages: 305
Genre: women's fiction
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (Random House)
Pub. Date: June 5, 2012

How well do you really know your closest friends? That's the question Kate asks herself the year after her friend, Elizabeth, dies in a plane crash and she is given the task of reading through all of Elizabeth's journals. Further enticing her to do so is the fact that in one journal that was left out, her husband read that Elizabeth had been flying to California to spend time with a "Michael". Who is Michael? And what exactly was Elizabeth doing?

Upon reading the journals, however, Kate realizes there were a lot of things about Elizabeth that she didn't know, even down to the thoughts Elizabeth had about her husband, her kids, and her friends. Although she was supposed to be relaxing on vacation, Kate feels both obligated and drawn to finish reading the journals. And when she finishes the journals, she has the task of relaying to Elizabeth's husband the truth of what was going on with Elizabeth.

I've seen some pretty rave reviews for this book, but I have to say that I wasn't as taken by this book as others. One of the main reasons is that I didn't feel I could relate to it. A majority of this book is really about motherhood and the way this changes someone as well as the plans they had for themselves and how this changes after motherhood. I didn't realize this would be such a big part of the storyline, but it certainly isn't a storyline I have any interest in for my own reasons. I couldn't tell if this was something I would have enjoyed more if my circumstances were different or not. Overall, too, the feeling that nagged at me was because this starts out a year after Elizabeth's death, I wasn't able to care much about her character; so I wasn't invested in who Elizabeth was. There was some build up of her character through flash backs and through Kate's memories of situations the journals allude to, but for me it wasn't enough.

There was also a slight tie in about how the world changed after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Elizabeth's plane crashed the summer before 9/11, so Kate reflects on the fact that Elizabeth's death was sort of forgotten or overruled. And even though they are on an extended vacation, Kate's husband has to take multiple business trips to other countries which causes Kate some anxiety.

So overall, it wasn't the book for me, but there were women's issues in this book that some mothers will certainly relate to.

The publisher sent me a second copy of this book to give away to one lucky winner! To enter just fill out the form below. I'll announce the winner on Saturday the 30th.