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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What I've Read Recently // September 2019

Here's a list of what I finished in September. Cheers to all the book-lovers who are as excited as I am that the cooler temperatures might be calling for more time cozying up with a delightful sip and a good story! 


The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
From Goodreads:
A dazzling, multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple--still madly in love after forty years--recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they've built.
What I thought: 6.5/10
While I thought the characters were mostly interesting and I loved reading about an older couple who were still crazy in love with one another after decades of marriage and raising four daughters, the pace felt a little slow at times. This was a big undertaking --the story includes tons of dysfunction, a lot of back and forth between characters at various times, and deals with important/heavy themes (grief, depression, secrets, illness, alcoholism, infidelity). I felt the toxicity of the relationships between nearly every family member was overdone. Other reviewers compared the book to binge-watching a family drama series and I find that analogy hits home with me. I was engaged and invested in finding out how all of these people end up muddling through their challenges but this book might be too much drama and not enough fun for a lot of people.


The Cactus, by Sarah Haywood
From Goodreads:
For Susan Green, messy emotions don't fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an "interpersonal arrangement" that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan's greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.
What I thought: 7.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
The narrator was excellent and I enjoyed the story very much. It felt a LOT like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine; however, the plot was significantly different. The metaphor of the cactus was a nice touch. If you read and enjoyed Eleanor, I think you'll like this too --but probably not as much. If you think you might just read one, I would strongly suggest you read Eleanor over Cactus. If you haven't read either but would like to read both, start with Cactus and then read Eleanor. {Geez. Tammy is so bossy.}


Rust & Stardust, by T. Greenwood
From Goodreads:
Camden, NJ, 1948.
When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says. 
What I thought: 6.5/10
This was a difficult read. Having two young teens made it hard to turn the pages at times. I found out about halfway through that the story was true. The brutal details about what happened to Sally Horner would haunt anyone. I thought the writing moved well through the account of what happened --it was compelling and strong. However, as mentioned, the content was challenging because it was so exceptionally heartbreaking. 


Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
From Goodreads:
It thrills us and torments us. It controls our thoughts and destroys our lives. It’s all we live for. Yet we almost never speak of it. And as a buried force in our lives, desire remains largely unexplored—until now. Over the past eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo has driven across the country six times to embed herself with ordinary women from different regions and backgrounds. The result, Three Women, is the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written.
What I thought: 4.5/10
Ugh. Where to begin? After finishing this book, I'm left wondering, what was the point? Because I had read a few critical reviews of this book before jumping in and I understood that it was the result of eight years of research, I was under the impression it would be an examination of the female perspective from different experiences and points of view --and that somewhere in the storyline/re-telling of at least one of the three women featured, the reader would be able to identify, connect, or empathize with her sexual desire. Not so.
When I could get past the overtly graphic details and into the thoughts/motivations/justifications of these women, I ended up feeling sorry for them --which made me feel like an asshole for somehow missing the meaning and worse, judging them. Thankfully, with Maggie's story, there was more to grab ahold of --details that elicit a response that makes sense. She was a kid. Knodel was a needy, insecure, adult in a position of power who, to varying degrees depending on in whose story you find more truth, did more than "take advantage of" but definitely victimized Maggie. His crime has gone unpunished.
The writing is good at times with imagery and a turn of phrase that strikes home --but it's also confusing because the distinction between whose voice is on the page is blurred beyond any clarity. Is it Sloan/Maggie/Lina telling their story? --Or is it Taddeo shaping the narrative and projecting her agenda on the reader? If you pick this one up, I'd love to know your thoughts!


The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves
From Goodreads:
What if you had a second chance at first love?
Annika Rose like being alone. Except that, actually, she doesn't like being alone at all. The Girl He Used to Know is an uplifting novel full of surprising revelations that keep you turning the page. Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, Gail Honeyman, Jill Santopolo and Sliding Doors.
What I thought: 8/10
I really enjoyed this book. Though it used a well-loved storyline trope (first love, rekindled), I found the protagonist to be original and her perspective made the story feel fresh, interesting, and endearing. The detail of the setting added an emotional touchstone that made the story resonate more deeply and seriously for me --especially having read it in September. If you're looking for a quick and enjoyable love story, add this one to your list!


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