Summer 2014 Reads

People often ask me how I decide what books to read. I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I subscribe to a magazine called The Week. In each issue 2 pages are dedicated to book reviews and book suggestions. Whenever I come across a book title that piques my interest, I quickly grab my phone and open up a “note” I have where I keep a running list of books I would like to read. I then either add them to a list my bookclub uses or I request them from the public library. I tend to read 1-2 books a month, but during the summer months I ramp up my reading and try to get through as many of the easy books on my list as I can. I  target the “easier” books for my summer reading. I guess I associate summers with breaks and not having to exert too much brain power. Although I work year round and don’t get  summer breaks this is my way of giving myself a “break” while continuing to do something I really enjoy. Here’s what I read this summer and some general thoughts about the books, their authors and my recommendations.
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Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern-Day Matchmaker – Samantha Daniels

I don’t own a lot of books because I’m an avid supporter of the public library system. However I did have this book on hand because I picked it up for a quarter at a library book sale a few years ago.      Although I really grew to dislike the author it was exactly what I was looking for in a summer book. A mindless read that I could get through in a couple of days. The reason I say I grew to dislike the author is because just like Patti Stanger she is out there taking people’s money to do for them what she can’t do for herself.  It’s like taking swimming instructions from a teacher who can’t swim. If you’re single I can see how this book may have some useful information for you, but if you’re not in the dating world it may bore you.

 

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The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

This was a book I read about in a magazine book review and suggested to my book club. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It made me chuckle and giggle.  It’s about a university professor with Asberger’s and his dating escapades. Sound familiar? If you like the Sheldon Cooper character in the television sitcom The Big Bang Theory this book will tickle your fancy. What I thought was cool is that the main character in this book tried out a dating service that the author in the previous book I read (Matchbook) had written about because she created it. It’s creepy when you’re such an avid reader that your book worlds begin to collide. If you’re looking for a light, entertaining funny book this is it!

 

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A Stolen Life – Jaycee Dugard

I grew up in Southern California and my family but we often took family trips up north to Lake Tahoe. I have vivid childhood memories of seeing Jaycee Dugard’s face on the side of our milk cartons and the  missing posters at rest stops along the 5 Freeway with her picture on them. She was almost my age so I was very aware of how easily I could have been her or she could have been me. This book was also a book club selection. Considering that Jaycee isn’t a professional author & didn’t have a formal education, I think she did an excellent job with this book.  Reading about what the monsters who kidnapped her did to her and put her through made me really angry. I hope that wherever Jaycee is today she is making the most of her recovered life and trying to make up for all the lost time. I’m glad I read this book, but boy did it make me sad. It might have spoken to me on a different level because it did finally provide closure for me to learn that she is free now, but knowing how badly the justice system failed her and how the rest of her life is going to be impacted by all this really depressed me.

 

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Bossy Pants Tina Fey

I always request books from the library online or through my iPhone app and within a couple of days I get an email letting me know the book is ready for me to pick it up, but a lot of people were on  the waiting list for this one so I waited a few months. I think all that anticipation and all the good things I had heard about it heightened my expectations. I thought it was an ok book and I enjoyed her humor and writing style. I liked learning about her Greek heritage, her family and early life, but since I’m neither an actor or a comedian I felt there was a bit too much about her pre-SNL career path, but I’m sure that’s what people who want to be the next Tina Fey are interested in.  If you like casual autobiographies you’ll enjoy this.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns)  –  Mindy Kaling

On the heels of Tina Fey’s book I launched into this one. Big Mistake! I ended up not enjoying this book and wondering if Mindy had used the same book template Tina Fey had used. Perhaps all autobiographies of actor/comedians read in this format? Childhood struggles followed by career struggles, to working their assess off? I haven’t seen a lot of Tina Fey’s work but I have watched Mindy Kaling in The Office and The Mindy Project so I did find the book to be very repetitive of material she’s already used. I guess if you haven’t read another autobiography of an actress/comedian in a while this might be worth your while.

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The Witness Wore Red Rebecca Musser

Another book club pick. We decided to read this one due to some of the discussions we had after reading A Stolen Life. I’m really glad my fellow book club members brought this book to my attention because when all the Warren Jeffs stuff was going on and being shown on CNN I was in my own world and didn’t really pay attention. All I knew was an extreme Mormon cult had been broken up somewhere in Texas and the people on TLC’s Sister Wives show that I watched occasionally weren’t fond of him and felt he gave their religion a very bad name. This book really opened up my eyes to what was really going on. It’s pretty disturbing. I did think the book was a bit too long and detailed, but I was fascinated by the author’s strength and tenacity. I am now considering reading the book Rebecca Musser’s sister wrote.

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Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah

This was also a book club selection about 2 childhood friends and it followed them from high school to adulthood. It reminded me a lot of friendships I’ve had. What I liked about this book was it was something I would have never picked out for myself. That’s one of the reasons I joined the book club to get myself to read outside my comfort zones. Most of this book took place in Seattle which is a city I have visited a couple times. I have fond memories of Seattle and my favorite cousin lives there so this book made me think of her often. What I disliked about this book was after a while it became unbelievable. Anything that could go wrong in life was happening to one of the main characters. Good grief Ms. Hannah why couldn’t you give her a break? It was a tear jerker reminiscent of Beaches. Don’t read it when you’re PMS-ing.

 

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Top Secret Twenty-OneJanet Evanovich

 

I began reading this series about 2 years ago and now eagerly await the release of each new edition. These books are such easy reads and so entertaining! There are hilarious characters like Stephanie Plum’s sidekick Lula and Stephanie’s grandmother Mazur. There are 2 hot men she’s always caught in between and there is mystery and adventure in the storyline of chasing down criminals since she is bounty hunter. I also can blow through one of these in a day or two and they get very addicting. I’ve been pulled over for reading at red lights, flaked on Friday/Saturday night plans in favor of staying home and reading and I’ve been caught reading at work.

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The Pink Hotel – Anna Sthothard

 

This was a book I think I read a book review about in The Week. I belive they were suggesting various novels where the premise involved someone who had gone missing. I also read an interview with the author in the Los Angeles Times in which she said “I thought I would set in L.A. because it is such a storyteller’s city where everyone is coming ot workout who they are”.  I was intrigued that it took place here in Southern California and it’s true a lot of people do move here to try to make it in “the business” and as a local there is nothing more annoying than transplants who in my opionon just clutter our city and cause traffic.  However in this book the girl who comes out here does so after her estranged mother passes away and she follows some clues in letters of her mothers to retrace her footsteps. I won’t be recommending this book to anyone because it was very anti-climactic.

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Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

 

Yet another instance where my book worlds collided and made me realize how serendipitous life can be. I’m fairly certain that I found out about this book in the same book review in The Week where they were suggesting books about people who had disappeared. I have loved the name Bernadette since I heard the The Four Tops song and it showed up as the name of a character on The Big Bang Theory. This book, like Firefly Lane mostly was based in Seattle, but the characters were transplants who didn’t “get” Seattle. I guess I related to that because sometimes I don’t get why my cousin loves it there so much. Bernadette’s husband works at Microsoft and is a well-known TedX speaker. I can’t say too much about Bernadette without giving too much away, but she’s hilarious. Most of the book is written in the form of letters and emails which made it go by quickly, but I generally don’t care for that. I was reading this book when we took our vacation to Vancouver. On our cab ride from the airport to our hotel our driver was telling us that he goes to Washington State once a month to shop and get gas because it’s cheaper. That evening I read in the book how much the main character disliked the fact that Canada’s proximity to Seattle meant there were a lot of shiny, happy Canadians around. Part of this book involved a trip to Antarctica which I can’t say was my favorite part, but I learned new things which came in handy while I was recently watching Jeopardy and yelling out answers like I had Tourette’s Syndrome!

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Everything is Perfect When You’re a LiarKelly Oxford
I clearly learned nothing by reading the Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling books because I gave in and checked out this book. I follow Kelly Oxford on Twitter because she’s super witty, clever and posts the funniest things. I wish I had left it at that. There are some winning lines in this book, but the entire first half dragged and was fairly awful. Kelly the kid was annoying, Kelly the teenager was obnoxious. It sort of made me dislike her as a person. Then, suddenly the book did a 360 when she became a stay at home mom. It was then that she realized that if her husband died she’d be a single motet with no way to support herself and her kids. There’s a random chapter about how she went back to school and did an internship working with brain damage victims and seniors with dementia. This chapter was nothing like the rest of the book. It humanize her by showing she is a decent human being. It was quite a depressing chapter but she redeemed herself with the next chapter about the car trip to the zoo trip with her kids. It really seems that’s her children are the muses that inspire her funny.

 

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The SandCastle Girls – Chris Bohjalian

This is sort of a cheat book. The reason I call this a cheat book is because I recommended it to my book club for selfish reasons and they were reading it this month unaware that I read it a year ago. We’ll be discussing this book this week and I have promised myself to just sit back and listen to what they thought of it to see if their experience of reading it was anything like mine. This book is about the Armenian Genocide. I am Armenian and my grandfather was a survivor of this Genocide. It does something to a child to see their cute loving grandfather crying and recalling what he endured as a boy. He lost his parents, his home, his siblings and ended up an orphan in Syria. This book takes place in that exact time period and tells the story of Elizabeth Endicott, a recent college graduate from the United States with some nursing training and basic Armenian and Turkish language skills who had traveled to Aleppo (where my father was born) as part of a U.S. relief group to help aid Armenian refugees like my grandfather. Hearing that character’s description of the conditions the orphans were living in made me think of my grandfather and I’ll be honest it broke my heart that he lived through that and that right now today little kids in Syria and other parts of the middle east are living the same nightmare. Christians being killed and forced into living like refugees. Back then it was the Ottoman Turks who wanted to rid the region of Christians and today it’s ISIS. What is wrong with humanity?  I got so mad at this book I had visions of myself slamming it shut and throwing it at the wall but I didn’t. Instead, It made me cry so hard that I hid in the bathroom because I felt ridiculous. The only other book that made me cry was Kite Runner when I was reading about a little boy being raped. I’ll be honest and say I found it a bit difficult to follow the dual narrative format but I found it fascinating to learn about all the international efforts to offer aid in the region. Since then I’ve also learned about  The Near East Relief efforts and it just boggles my mind because to this day my community struggles to get people to accept that this event did in fact happen. We’ll see what my fellow book club members have to say and what they thought.

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