Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reading Roundup - January 2017

Happy Book Day! This year has started out well for me with some good books in January. As usual I'm linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Here's what I read:


1) Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard. 4/5 stars. This is one of those books that you can see the train wreck coming from a long way ahead and are powerless to stop it. That said - I did really like it. The main character, Helen, is at an all-time low, divorced and having recently lost custody of her son due to a DUI, when she gets swept into the circle of rich and charismatic Swift and Ava Havilland. But ultimately their friendship comes at too high of a price.


2) The Trespasser by Tana French. 4/5 stars. This is the sixth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. It follows Antoinette Conway who was a side character in The Secret Place. The neat thing about this series is that she takes a side character from a previous book to become the main character in the next book. I like her writing and the world that she's created and the fact that the characters - detectives, murderers, and victims alive - are more developed with a deeper psychological drama going on than in a simple procedural murder mystery - Although I think that piece was not quite as well done here versus earlier books in the series.


3) The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick. 3.5/5 stars. This is the third book recommended to me by my friend Chesleigh that features elderly British widowers. The first two being Major Pettigrew, which I loved, and Harold Fry, which I didn't. This one is in the middle. I liked it but didn't love it. After his wife's death, Arthur Pepper discovers a hidden charm bracelet that leads him to discover the many adventures that she had before they met and prompts him to embark on some adventures of his own.


4) News of the World by Paulette Jiles. 5/5 stars. I loved this book. But I do love stories of frontier America, so I was well disposed to like it from the start. Set in Texas in 1875, Captain Jefferson Kidd makes a living travelling from one small town to the next doing live newspaper readings. He is charged with returning a ten-year-old girl, who has been raised in a Native American tribe for the past four years, to her nearest relations, 400 miles away. The psychology of white children raised in Native American tribes is fascinating on its own, but the writing is also beautiful and I loved watching the relationship grow between the old man and the girl.


5) The Mothers by Brit Bennett. 3/5 stars. I didn't love this book as much as others did. I agree that it was well-written, and the plot, while sad, was compelling, and I liked the "chorus" of Mothers, but I never really felt that I KNEW the characters. Nadia and Luke have a brief yet intense relationship in their youth which results in an unplanned pregnancy and secret abortion - I don't think that's a spoiler, You find out on the first page - the ramifications of which haunt both their lives for years to come. This book made me realize that, while I remain pro-choice, I think abortion is a really sad thing.


6) Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. 5/5 stars. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Gretchen Rubin is my guru! I enjoyed the first two Happiness Project books but I think this book goes a step beyond and really breaks out step-by-step how we create and maintain the everyday habits that have a great impact on overall happiness and well-being. One of the important concepts here is that we have to shape our habits with regards to our individual personalities. She has various frameworks - Are you an Upholder/Obliger/Questioner/Rebel? Are you a lark or an owl? Are you a marathoner of a sprinter? and various techniques - Scheduling, Monitoring, Pairing - that we can use to develop and maintain habits depending on our personal strengths and weaknesses.

That's all! I hope that you had a good month of reading too!

26 comments:

  1. You had such good luck with your books this month! I'm definitely going to check out News of the World, I've been trying to find more books about Native Americans.

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    1. It was a good month! February, however, includes a DNF. But I refuse to feel about it!
      Have you read anything by Sherman Alexie? The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is very good.

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  2. news of the world sounds interesting, and i added under the influence. the mothers is on my list, i was hearing all good things and today i'm seeing less than good things haha so who knows. i'll get to it eventually. i still haven't read any of gretchen rubin's books, i don't know where to start.

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    1. Re: Gretchen Rubin, I might just skip the two Happiness Projects books and go straight for this one!
      It's funny about The Mothers, All I heard last month was how everyone loved it and I felt like I was the lone dissenting voice. This month there are more people like me who liked but didn't love it.

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  3. I might check out News of the World.

    I loved The Mothers. I will always remain pro-choice while believing abortion is a really devastating, sad, personal decision.

    Totally agree with your synopsis of the latest in the Dublin Murder Squad series.

    Under the Influence is already on my to read list!

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    1. Being pro-choice is a no-brainer for me but I admit I hadn't really thought through the lifelong ramifications of that difficult choice. The irony here is that Nadia thinks having the baby would ruin her life, but it seems like NOT having the baby is what, if not ruined, at least derailed her life from what she had planned.

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  4. Dublin Murder Squad is another I need to get to sooner than later series.

    I adored The Mothers. I actually liked not really "knowing" them. I helped add to the sadness and secrecy surrounding what happened. Like a commentary on what it does to a person. And I, too, am pro-choice while thinking that abortion is a sad, devastating decision.

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    1. I can see that how NOT knowing them added to the sadness and secrecy - That is a good point.

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  5. I know exactly what you're saying about The Mothers. I felt that way too because I think I am absolutely drawn to books where you get to know everything about the characters and feel like they are your friends etc. haha. I'll get to more of Tana French's books someday!!! And you already know how much I also love Gretchen Rubin <3. I have News of the World out from the library right now but haven't started it yet.

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    1. I hope you like News of the World!
      I agree that I like books where I feel like the characters are my friends too!
      You should definitely read more Tana French - Faithful Place is my recommendation for the next one!

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  6. I live in Texas, so any chance to read a book that's set in my home state, I jump at the opportunity! News Of The World sounds exceptionally good though because it's also historical fiction! Under The Influence was another book that I added to my TBR list!

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    1. It is always so cool to read books that are set where I live or where I have lived/visited in the past!

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  7. Hmmm ... reading is always so fascinating to me, especially how people respond differently to the same books. I've seen several people in this month's link-up mention that they didn't feel a connection with the characters from The Mothers whereas I did. They kind of broke my heart a bit because they did so many dumb things that felt like honest, real (and bad) choices that broken people make. The first Tana French books left me really grumpy and I vowed not to read any more of her books, which I have kept even though it's probably a stupid vow. But a real one. LOL! Adding Better Than Before to my TBR. I need lots of help there!

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    1. You should try another of the Tana French books! The first one is definitely not my favorite.

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  8. News of the World sounds fascinating... I want to check that one out. I've never read any Gretchen Rubin, but it sounds good. I'm waiting on an ebook copy of The Happiness Project from the library.

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    1. Let me know if you like News of the World! It made me want to read more history & real-life accounts of white children raised by Native Americans. They NEVER re-assimilate into white culture once returned even if they were in the tribe for <1 year! So fascinating.

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  9. I loved Better Than Before, but The Happiness Project is still my favorite Gretchen Rubin book! The Mothers has been on my to read list, but in this month's linkup there have been quite the mixed reviews.

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    1. Yes - Last month everyone loved The Mothers, I thought I was going to be the one person who didn't. I did LIKE it, just didn't love it. There's definitely more varied opinions this month. I still think it's worth a read though if you're on the fence. Thought-provoking at the least.

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  10. Interesting to read your perspective of The Mothers! I've been wanting to pick it up, so it was nice to see something more than a super positive review. :)

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    1. It does seem to be one of those books that has gotten a wide variety of opinions.

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  11. I read my first Tana French book last year. I need to read more and this was a good reminder.

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    1. You should definitely read more! One of my favorite series. (Is series one of those words that is singular and plural? Couldn't figure out how to pluralize it!)

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  12. Under the Influence sounds like something I'd really like. Thanks!

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    1. Let me know if you like it! I have enjoyed other books by Joyce Maynard in the past too, especially Labor Day and After Her.

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  13. I need to actually READ some Gretchen Rubin. I've seen a lot of her articles and read a few chapters from Happier than Before... I think... but I want to read the real whole books too! hehe Looking into News of the World. I also want to read the Dublin Murder Squad books but haven't gotten around to it! Seems like a great reading month for you! :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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  14. I do want to read The Mothers, but I have a feeling that it's been hyped up too much for me to enjoy it. I didn't love The Happiness Project (I found her a little spoiled and first world problem-y) but this book sounds like it may have the insight I was hoping for. Thanks for sharing!

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