Book Review – One Day in December

One Day in December is a missed connection story between Laurie James and a man she locked eyes with at a bus stop one day in December. Spanning a decade, this story explores the intricacies of love at first site, reunion, friendship and growth.

People loved this next book. There was a lot of hype when it first came out. I don’t generally buy a brand new book, so I waited it out and found it in a Little Free Library about a year later. And in case you’re wondering, I did not read it in one day in December…

Book 51:
One Day in December
by Josie Silver

Genre:
Chick Lit, Holiday, Romance

Published:
October 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, One Day in December is a missed connection story between Laurie James and a man she locked eyes with at a bus stop one day in December. Spanning a decade, this story explores the intricacies of love at first site, reunion, friendship and growth.

Favorite Quote(s):

“You tread lightly through life, but you leave deep footprints that are hard for other people to fill.”

– Josie Silver, One Day in December

Awards (based upon my brief research):
#1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller
A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick

Pages:
390

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – There was a phase of my life where I read a lot of Mary Kay Andrews, Katie Fforde and Sara Strohmeyer, and I think this book fits right into that category. It’s not overly romantic – not gross – but a really cute, feel-good love story. Think Hallmark Channel movie (in fact, how is this not yet a Hallmark Channel movie?). My issue with those types of books is that they read fast, and they’re really light and fun, but I don’t really gain anything from them as a reader. They’re purely escapist reads, and I think I’m at a point in my life where I want more.

SOMEWHAT OF A SPOILER ALERT —- I also really disliked that the author has the reader rooting for a divorce to happen in the story. Like, you made your bed, now lie in it.

Book Review – The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars is the fictional story of one group of women who road into the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943 as a part of the Pack Horse Library Project, Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. Delivering books to those in remote regions of Kentucky, these women saw all kinds of characters and watched stories unfold as they passed out stories to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In their quest, they’re toughened up, bonded together and the center of the town’s controversies.

To be honest with you, I wasn’t thrilled with the November selections for Book of the Month, but I chose this next read because I know it was highly anticipated. I loved Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series, but this was my first go with her down the historical fiction road.

Book 50:
The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
October 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Giver of Stars is the fictional story of one group of women who road into the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943 as a part of the Pack Horse Library Project, Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library. Delivering books to those in remote regions of Kentucky, these women saw all kinds of characters and watched stories unfold as they passed out stories to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In their quest, they’re toughened up, bonded together and the center of the town’s controversies.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Look outwards, Alice […] Not much point worrying what the town thinks about you – nothing you can do about that anyway. But when you look outwards, why, there’s a whole world of beautiful things.”

– Jojo Moyes, The Giver of Stars

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
400

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – I was super intrigued by the concept of the pack horse library – I love that that was a thing back in the days, and I like to think that if I lived during that time, I would have signed up to ride the minute the opportunity became available. That being said, from the historical side, I would say it was very lightly historical. There weren’t really any major historical events recounted in the book other than the library.

From the story side, it was just cute. It was a nice, easy read, but it wasn’t ripping me apart or making me cancel my plans to stay home and finish my book. I got more into the story in the last quarter of the book when the plot picks up, but until that point it wasn’t anything I was going to push on my friends.

Book Review – The Man with No Borders

The Man with No Borders is the fictional story of Jose-Maria Alvarez reflecting on his life from his death bed. His past is filled with struggles, secrets and salmon. As he attempts to come to terms with the life behind him, his memories flood his mind and push him towards the ultimate decision of whether or not to accept who he is, what he’s done and how he’s affected his family.

If you have a Kindle and you’re not a part of Amazon First Reads, you need to get on that like now, because you’re missing out. This next one was my (FREE) August Kindle book from First Reads… And it didn’t come out until September.

Book 49:
The Man with No Borders
by Richard C. Morais

Genre:
Literary Fiction

Published:
September 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Man with No Borders is the fictional story of Jose-Maria Alvarez reflecting on his life from his death bed. His past is filled with struggles, secrets and salmon. As he attempts to come to terms with the life behind him, his memories flood his mind and push him towards the ultimate decision of whether or not to accept who he is, what he’s done and how he’s affected his family.

Favorite Quote(s):

“It is the nature of old age, I am discovering, to remember the entire panorama of the past, everything from those difficult memories we spend a lifetime trying to suppress, to those inconsequential moments that seemed so trivial at the time, but now, with hindsight, take on added meaning and weight.”

“…the key is not to lie to yourself about the crimes you have committed, but to try and let in what you have done and why you did it at the time. That’s the path to forgiving yourself.”

– Richard C. Morais, The Man with No Borders

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
307

My Overall Rating:
4 – I love it when a book has just the right amount of weird. I knew the gist of this story going into it, but there were mystical elements I could not have predicted – things I’ve never really seen in a story before, yet not so far out there that I struggled to see it. I think there are seasons in our lives where we choose to see and believe different things and the author represented that to a T with the addition of two characters who played a significant role in the end of Jose-Maria’s life.

On top of the unique elements mentioned above, the story tugged at my heart strings. Jose-Maria didn’t always have it easy. He was pushed and tempted. He had big choices to make that impacted every step of his life.

His story made me think about the things I choose to do with my life now, about my relationships, and about the things I will choose to reflect upon in the end. We will all have regrets, but reading the thoughts of someone in the latter stages of life (and even on the dying end) points the reader toward a subtle reminder that we get to choose whether or not we accept that. That’s a powerful message. Now put that message in Spain/Switzerland and it’s powerful and cultural.

Book Review – Travel Light, Move Fast

Travel Light, Move Fast is a collection of reflective stories from Alexanda Fuller’s time with her parents in the wake of her father’s death. Having never lived a conventional lifestyle, the Fullers lived in 20+ locations (most in Africa) in the duration of Alexandra’s childhood, moving for various reasons and experiencing a whole gamut of cultures.

A memoir nab from my library’s Book Bingo event where I seriously brought home the book bacon, this next one was fun!

Book 48:
Travel Light, Move Fast
by Alexandra Fuller

Genre:
Memoir, Cultural

Published:
August 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Travel Light, Move Fast is a collection of reflective stories from Alexandra Fuller’s time with her parents in the wake of her father’s death. Having never lived a conventional lifestyle, the Fullers lived in 20+ locations (most in Africa) in the duration of Alexandra’s childhood, moving for various reasons and experiencing a whole gamut of cultures.

Favorite Quote(s):

“‘Make a plan,’ Dad always said. ‘And if that doesn’t work, make another one and if that doesn’t work, you’re probably the problem.'”

“Anyone who wants to start a war should have to spend the night in a hospital with the boys who come back from it.”

– Alexandra Fuller, Travel Light, Move Fast

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
240

My Overall Rating:
3 – This one was hard for me to rate. There were moments I was literally laughing out loud – moments when I had to go back and read portions out loud to my husband because they were so funny. The writing was done well. I think she probably portrayed the “characters” very accurately given the amount of transparency she appeared to utilize. But as a whole, there wasn’t much story to it – it felt mostly like a nice tribute to Alexandra’s parents.

It’s short, and the funny parts were worth it, but I can’t say it was an above-average memoir.

Book Review – You Me Everything

You Me Everything tells the story of Jess and her 10-year-old son, William, and their summer vacation in France at William’s dad’s hotel. In an attempt to strengthen the bond between father and son, Jess agrees to spend the summer in the vicinity of Adam, her ex-boyfriend to give her son the father he’s yet to have and needs.

Amidst their vacation runs summer flings, dredged up pasts and secrets. Can Adam be the father William needs? Will the truth about the past be revealed? And can the secrets of the future change fate? It’s cute. It’s funny. It’s heart-wrenching.

So I was new to Goodreads only like 18 months ago and therefore like five years late to that party. However, I was there in time to catch wind of this book when it was first coming out. I added it to my “to read” list and later found it for $2 at a library used book sale. Steal!

Book 47:
You Me Everything
by Catherine Isaac

Genre:
Chick Lit, Contemporary

Published:
May 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, You Me Everything tells the story of Jess and her 10-year-old son, William, and their summer vacation in France at William’s dad’s hotel. In an attempt to strengthen the bond between father and son, Jess agrees to spend the summer in the vicinity of Adam, her ex-boyfriend to give her son the father he’s yet to have and needs.

Amidst their vacation runs summer flings, dredged up pasts and secrets. Can Adam be the father William needs? Will the truth about the past be revealed? And can the secrets of the future change fate? It’s cute. It’s funny. It’s heart-wrenching.

Favorite Quote(s):

“Whatever life might through at me, right now, there’s this – I’m alive.”

– Catherine Isaac, You Me Everything

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
368

My Overall Rating:
4 – I’ve been thirsty for a great novel – something fun yet meaningful – and this one made a great run at satisfying that thirst. Is it chick lit? Yes, I suppose it is, but it was so much deeper than summer romances, rekindled love and French vacations. It tapped into life’s big questions while making me laugh and cry and turn page after page needing to know more.

If I didn’t have two kids at home, I could have sat down and read this start to finish in two days. It was an easy read due to writing style, and a page-turner due to content. There were very few parts that I could have done without – parts that were too cutesy or useless information – yet those few are keeping me from my fifth star. As a whole, solid. Much more solid than I even thought it was going to be. I would put it on a similar level to Ask Again, Yes, but maybe more for girls than the latter.

Book Review – Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter tells the story of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s reaction to having an intellectually disabled daughter in the early/mid 1900s. Born into the rich and famous Kennedy family, the beautiful Rosemary had everything going for her… except her disability. At a time when disabilities as such were not well dealt with by society, the Kennedys did what they could to keep Rosemary hidden away for public relations purposes as they sought political power, even stooping to the level of having her undergo a lobotomy in hopes of “curing” her. However, they could not predict the outcome her life would have on their family. It’s possible her plight was not in conjunction with the “Kennedy Curse”, but rather a blessing to their family and to society as a whole.

Book Club’s November pick was another non-fiction. I wasn’t jumping at the gun for another non-fiction, myself, but I can’t say I was disappointed necessarily…

Book 46:
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter
by Kate Clifford Larson

Genre:
Nonfiction, Historical, Biography

Published:
October 2015

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter tells the story of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s reaction to having an intellectually disabled daughter in the early/mid 1900s. Born into the rich and famous Kennedy family, the beautiful Rosemary had everything going for her… except her disability. At a time when disabilities as such were not well dealt with by society, the Kennedys did what they could to keep Rosemary hidden away for public relations purposes as they sought political power, even stooping to the level of having her undergo a lobotomy in hopes of “curing” her. However, they could not predict the outcome her life would have on their family. It’s possible her plight was not in conjunction with the “Kennedy Curse”, but rather a blessing to their family and to society as a whole.

Favorite Quote(s):

“None of us can understand the ways of Almighty God—the crosses which he sends us, the sacrifices which he demands of us. But he loves us and He has a particular plan in this life for each of us.”

– Kate Clifford Larson, Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for History & Biography (2015)

Pages:
320

My Overall Rating:
3.5 – Ok, so this book made me cry. Rosemary’s story is so tragic. But also, I think I just read a 320 page research paper. I mean, I did. That’s exactly what it was. I struggled with the writing style, but the story was incredibly interesting.

Despite my 3.5, slightly above average rating, I would recommend this book because it challenges what you might believe about people with special needs. How are we to react to them? What is their role in society? What would this look like in my family? The Kennedys had the world at their fingertips and they still didn’t know how to deal with the cards they were dealt.

Book Review – The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer tells the story of the underground amidst America’s days of souther slavery. Hiram Walker, a slave with a mysterious power, loses his mother to the coffin of the deep south. As a family of sorts forms around him, he manages to escape to the north, becomes entangled in the underground, and must choose how to use the power he’s been gifted.

I swear five years ago I would have gagged at the idea of historical fiction with a fantasy twist. But… ever since I started reading so much, and since Book of the Month, I’ve become a changed reader. I’ve branched out, and I’ve learned to love doing so!

Book 45:
The Water Dancer
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Genre:
Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Published:
September 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Water Dancer tells the story of the underground amidst America’s days of souther slavery. Hiram Walker, a slave with a mysterious power, loses his mother to the coffin of the deep south. As a family of sorts forms around him, he manages to escape to the north, becomes entangled in the underground, and must choose how to use the power he’s been gifted.

Favorite Quote(s):

“There was no peace in slavery, for every day under the rule of another is a day of war.”

– Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
406

My Overall Rating:
4 – Confession – for the first 100 pages, I wondered if this was going to be a book that went right over my head. Coates was using figurative and colloquial language without giving explanations, and I thought for sure I was going to give this book a whopping one star.

And then things started to make sense.

And then things started to get good.

And then I could not put the book down.

When someone can take an outlandish concept and weave it into an already solid story and still keep me entrapped, I think that’s pretty impressive. Hiram’s power is crazy. It could not happen (though it arguably mirrors, and is meant to represent, the power of a greater One), yet it made this story better. Tales of slavery are already so heart-wrenching. I would have rooted for the characters without the fantasy element, but the fantasy element made me need to know what was going to happen.

Pages 101-400 were so redemptive of the first 100. Things came together so well and I began to appreciate the beauty of how it was written once I got over that hump.

Book Review – The Rabbit Girls

The Rabbit Girls takes place in the days revolving around the fall of the Berlin Wall as Miriam Winter discovers an Auschwitz tattoo on her dying father’s wrist. History is being written as Miriam must dive back into a different history and uncover the clues to her father’s past found in a uniform stashed in his apartment believed to have belonged to a “Frieda”. What happened to Henryk? Who is Frieda? And what does this mean for Miriam?

So if you have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership, you would be crazy to not sign up for Amazon First Reads. I don’t even know how I found out about it, but once I got my Kindle, I started stocking up on all the free books for my breast feeding days that have now begun. This next one, a solid pick from Amazon First Reads.

Book 44:
The Rabbit Girls
by Anna Ellory

Genre:
Historical Fiction

Published:
September 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Rabbit Girls takes place in the days revolving around the fall of the Berlin Wall as Miriam Winter discovers an Auschwitz tattoo on her dying father’s wrist. History is being written as Miriam must dive back into a different history and uncover the clues to her father’s past found in a uniform stashed in his apartment believed to have belonged to a “Frieda”. What happened to Henryk? Who is Frieda? And what does this mean for Miriam?

Favorite Quote(s):

“Time fills in the blanks as we know them to be, rather than as they were.”

– Anna Ellory, The Rabbit Girls

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
396

My Overall Rating:
5 – There are so many WWII novels out there, but I’ve learned that what makes one good, in my opinion, is a deeper element than simply the WWII story. Similar to All the Light We Cannot See or The Alice Network, this book has that element. The three main plot lines span WWII to the days the Berlin Wall fell. They cover characters in their youth and characters in their adulthood. They include politics, love, family matters, death and more. There was just so much in this book to take in, and it was so eloquently wrapped together and so well written.

I started this as my night-time-reading-while-breastfeeding book and finished it as an I-can’t-put-this-down-my-print-books-can-wait book. I can’t say I learned a ton on the history side of things, but the story offers a very unique perspective on concentration camps while only occasionally being too emotional to read in the middle of the night.

As I moved into my next two books, I find myself still thinking about this one and struggling to dive into 45 and 46 because 44 was so good.

Book Review – The Mars Room

The Mars Room is a fictional glimpse into the women’s prison life of Romy Hall. Facing two consecutive life sentences, Romy leaves behind the world as she knew it, including her son, and enters into a world where women will do whatever they can to get by in a system set against them. As they face the consequences of their actions, they’re up against the cruelties of prison – the grunt jobs they have to work for mere cents per hour, the violence from guards and fellow prisoners, being given minimal essentials, etc.

… Yet another BOTM choice I passed up and picked up as a prize from my library’s summer reading club. Again, I voted for it a few times at book club in hopes that it would become our book, but it never won. I’m trying to read all of the books I own, so now I’m just knocking them off the shelf one-by-one.

Book 43:
The Mars Room
by Rachel Kushner

Genre:
Contemporary Fiction

Published:
May 2018

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, The Mars Room is a fictional glimpse into the women’s prison life of Romy Hall. Facing two consecutive life sentences, Romy leaves behind the world as she knew it, including her son, and enters into a world where women will do whatever they can to get by in a system set against them. As they face the consequences of their actions, they’re up against the cruelties of prison – the grunt jobs they have to work for mere cents per hour, the violence from guards and fellow prisoners, being given minimal essentials, etc.

Favorite Quote(s):

“I can only know myself, if I can know anyone. I can only judge me.”

– Rachel Kushner, The Mars Room

Awards (based upon my brief research):
Booker Prize Nominee (2018)
Prix Médicis Etranger (2018)
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominee for Fiction (2018)
Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2018)

Pages:
338

My Overall Rating:
3 – I wanted to believe this was going to be like Orange is the New Black, but it was actually quite different. It was more slice-of-life, and less story-like. With a slow start, the book jumped around between various interwoven plots, before reaching its culmination. I could have given the beginning a 2, the middle a 3, and the ending a 4 (hence my 3), because the beginning was rough, the middle was just ok, and the ending was solid.

That being said, I did really appreciate Kushner’s sense of humor. There were parts where I literally laughed out loud. What I didn’t appreciate was how she had me rooting for Romy. No, I do not think our criminal justice system is sound, but also, we have to do something for people who commit crimes like those committed by our fictional Romy here… So I struggled with the way Kushner has the reader wanting Romy to get out of prison. I don’t know what the right answer is for what her punishment should be, but there is a reason she is being punished.

Book Review – Ask Again, Yes

Ask Again, Yes tells the story of two intertwining families who share a decades-long bond through their patriarchal careers, their being neighbors, their tragedies and a marriage. From their upbringings to their personalities to the events of their personal lives, the Gleesons and Stanhopes are forever tied to each other yet forever in contention given their differences and the events that unfold. Can they move on from where they’ve been? Can their children break the mold of the past? Will their children even understand their pasts as adults?

Another BOTM choice I passed up (for fear it was too similar to the many other books I’d been reading at the time), I also picked this one up as a prize from my library’s summer reading club. I voted for it a few times at book club in hopes that it would become our book, but it never won, and I finally just couldn’t wait to dive in because I knew I would like it.

Book 42:
Ask Again, Yes
by Mary Beth Keane

Genre:
Literary Fiction, Contemporary

Published:
May 2019

Synopsis According to Mandi:
Without spoilers, Ask Again, Yes tells the story of two intertwining families who share a decades-long bond through their patriarchal careers, their being neighbors, their tragedies and a marriage. From their upbringings to their personalities to the events of their personal lives, the Gleesons and Stanhopes are forever tied to each other yet forever in contention given their differences and the events that unfold. Can they move on from where they’ve been? Can their children break the mold of the past? Will their children even understand their pasts as adults?

Favorite Quote(s):

“They’d both learned that a memory is a fact that has been dyed and trimmed and rinsed so many times that it comes out looking almost unrecognizable to anyone else who was in that room or anyone who was standing on the grass beneath that telephone pole.”

– Mary Beth Keane, Ask Again, Yes

Awards (based upon my brief research):
None yet.

Pages:
390

My Overall Rating:
4.5 – This was an emotional read. The events that unfolded were large enough to keep me pulled in yet believable enough to require me to remind myself that it was a novel. I read it quickly – partly because I didn’t want to put it down, partly because it reads quickly and partly because I’ve been so tired that all I want to do is read.

I loved how the author had me rooting for both families despite the fact that the families are essentially combatant throughout most of the story. I wanted the best for all of the characters… even when they were doing ridiculous things. (Come on Peter, you’re better than that!)

While the things that happened between the Stanhopes and the Gleesons have largely never happened for me, to a different degree, I think we can all relate. We all have a family, an individual, a co-worker we disagree with and have had it out with in some way or another. We’ve all had moments where we’ve had to continue in relationships we’d rather not continue in. We’ve all had a difficult situation to navigate from childhood to adulthood. We’ve all been there…

I don’t think this book is a must read, but’s definitely a good use of time if read.