Category Archives: Let’s Talk About Books

Books I want to read, have read, or will read. Let’s talk.

What’s On Your Nightstand? H.A.G. Reads for November

The Best Kind of People
Zoe Whittall
Ballantine Books (September 19, 2017)
448 pages

Links within the post are affiliate links (read full disclosure). Book received via NetGalley as an ARC.

Opening Line(s) of the Book: (after the Prologue)

Sadie turned seventeen years old on top of her boyfriend, Jimmy, in the Woodbury family boathouse.

Honestly. If you don’t love the first line, you might want to skip this one as the content, doesn’t get much easier. The premise of the book is do we ever really know another person? What makes a well loved, well respected adult, a suspect for a heinous act like inappropriately touching or talking to a young person? Did he actually do this? He is a father, a teacher, a husband, a hero who saved the school from a shooter years ago. But today, he is accused of these horrible acts on several young girls.

The book has come to print at such a perfect time to read about these characters, as we ourselves are immersed in the news of such well “known” and respected people who are not just good at their jobs but are also accused of such disgusting acts as forcible or coercive sexual acts with people with less power…It is a hard subject, but handled in a very realistic way in the book, leading the reader to understand that people have many sides to them. It is not enough to just say, “but he was such a great man.” He could be that, but also be NOT that.

What I like about the book is the many layered approach of innappropriateness: a helpful adult who isn’t all that helpful, but actually crosses the line himself in trying to comfort a young person; a gay teacher who befriends a young man and starts a “relationship” with him, that has never been seen as inappropriate until now; a field trip that has children with little to no supervision now accusing a teacher of touching them.

Lots of very real, very possible situations happen in the book, and I sort of wonder about the fact that it wasn’t tied up neatly. The ending is actually unsettling to me possibly because it could actually happen this way…the way I didn’t want it to. Or it was just poorly written and rushed. Only the author knows…

Favorite Line:

No one saw it coming.

Overall Take:

I liked it. I was kind of disappointed in the ending. I have to say, it left me wanting a bit. I was also confused with one thread that seemed to not get tied up in the end, which makes me wonder if it did get addressed, and I missed it? If I did, it wasn’t explicit- It sort of felt like she got sick of writing her own book and just needed an ending.

I literally wanted to get to reading this one- it was a page turner, the characters likable, and the story very compelling. With everything that is going on right now with the inappropriate touching, advances by older men to young women and men, I picked up this book at a most opportune time! I always try to put myself in the shoes of the characters of the book, and it was truly easy to do this. Her characters were very real and well rounded, but the way it didn’t quite come together completely in the end, takes it to a 3 out of 5 for me. Meh.

Recommend with reservations because of the ending. If she writes another book though, I am definitely picking it up.

My OTHER books being read:

Can’t finish: The Child, by Fionna Barton- just can’t get into it.

Still working  on: NW, by Zadie Smith- loving it, but it is right in the middle and dragging a bit.

Reviewing and not loving: The Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin- I might be over self-help.

What’s on YOUR nightstand?


Links within the post are affiliate links (read full disclosure). Linked up with  Book BeginningsBookDateWhat’s on your nightstand?

What’s On Your Nightstand? H.A.G. Reads for September

Hey y’all. I have another book review for you today. I wasn’t going to put this as it’s own post but I cannot stop thinking about this book. I am sort of in a place where I know I will be going over this in my mind for a while and so to that end, I am putting these thoughts to words here- in case you were debating on reading it… Read this.

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Knopf, 2014, 352 pages

Opening Line(s) of the Book:

The King stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored. This was act 4 of King Lear, a winter night at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.

Not too gripping, right?

Well, read on. These first few lines are just setting the stage (sorry, not sorry for the pun) for the rest of the book. Going back and forth through time, the book begins with a major event one night in Toronto which sets in place a series of events that change life as we know it, into one where only a few survive and these survivors try to find a way to survive and also live in this new world.

The life of Arthur Leander, a famous actor, sets the backdrop for the story. As his life unfolds, so does the scenery, the characters, and the story. It’s a doomsday book, with an upside. It doesn’t leave us hanging at the end- it finishes. It wraps up nicely in a way that left me feeling more reflective and satisfied that I greatly benefited from reading this book. Yes. A reading win.

I loved the subtley of this book- there is no horribly grizzly scene of the world’s end.The collapse of the world is fast. So fast that it is surprising-  but it is quiet. People just disappear and there is no way to contact them- The internet, electricity, vehicles don’t work anymore and become after time, a thing of only memory; memories are hard to come by with so many dead. The value of keeping the history alive and teaching what was to the children and other survivors is a theme. The book’s Museum of Civilization is seemingly a museum of just things: a high heel, a driver’s license, a comic book. But the importance of these things, and of the preservation of them is so…well, librarian…so basic to my values of remembering our history and artifacts, that I totally loved this idea within the book.

The author has such a knack for depicting a futuristic view without making it a science-fiction future that we can’t imagine. Her devastating future is tangible. We can see how it could happen- making it the scariest book that I’ve read in a while.

Favorite line:

“Survival is insufficient.”

Depicted as a tattoo and also painted on the lead caravan of the nomads, it’s a line from Star Trek: Voyager (Sept. 1999, Ronald D. Moore). I love it, because A) I love that it’s from Star Trek- the most well known sci-fi world that we have had the pleasure of experiencing both on TV and in comic book form- but also B)  I love the words themselves: Reminding us to LIVE. Not just survive. Notice. Experience. Do. Be. But also, of course, stay alive.

'Survival is insufficient.' Reminding us to LIVE. Not just survive. Notice. Experience. Do. Be. Click To Tweet

Favorite Exchange:

“Are you asking if I believe in ghosts?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Yes.”

“Of course not. Imagine how many there’d be.”

“Yes,” Kirsten said, “that’s exactly it.”

Touching on what happens after doomsday event…I am so glad the book addresses how blindly we would follow…or who we’d follow…or what we’d believe if only to find the familiar. Good questions here.

Overall Take:

I loved it, obviously, and highly recommend, and not only for science fiction lovers. If you love history or present day contemporary fiction, I think you would appreciate the currency of this novel- it is so full of imagination, but also grounded by our very real lives today.

The rest of my nightstand is atrocious! I have at least 10 books on there and the pile is just growing. Why? I have time. I have no idea why my progress is so slow, but then, it’s not a race is it? No. Quality, not quantity, my friends.

What’s on YOUR nightstand?


Links within the post are affiliate links (read full disclosure). Linked up with  Book Beginnings, BookDate, What’s on your nightstand?

Book Review: Still Here by Lara Vapnyar

As a book reviewer, I received a copy of this book for free from Blogging For Books to facilitate this review. I received no other compensation and as always my review and opinion is 100% my own. Links within the post are affiliate links (read full disclosure).

Let’s start this review by me telling you that I really enjoyed the book. Now you can keep reading all about it and know that I am not wasting your time!

I didn’t know if I’d like the premise, but ended up very interested:

Four friends who separately leave Russia to live in New York City. The book details how their lives are intertwined, and different since leaving Russia, their expectations and experiences as immigrants in a new city, and how their outlooks on life change, the longer they stay in the US.

For those of you reading from Book Beginnings…the first few line (s) of the book are:

“Promise me you won’t call it ‘Virtual Grave,'” Vica said as they turned onto the West Side Highway.

“You were the one who hated ‘The Voice from the Grave’!” Sergey said.

“‘The Voice from the Grave’ is even worse. We can’t afford a name that’s a downer.”

“Well, the entire idea is about death. And death happens to be a downer,” Sergey said.

From the New York Times Book Reviewe, 100 Notable Books of 2016:

Vica, Vadik, Sergey and Regina met in Russia in their school days, but remained in touch and now have very different American lives. Sergey cycles through jobs as an analyst, hoping his idea for an app will finally bring him success. His wife Vica, a medical technician struggling to keep her family afloat, hungers for a better life. Sergey’s former girlfriend Regina, once a famous translator is married to a wealthy startup owner, spends her days at home grieving over a recent loss. Sergey’s best friend Vadik, a programmer ever in search of perfection, keeps trying on different women and different neighborhoods, all while pining for the one who got away.

The backdrop of the story is the concept of our digital lives. How we present ourselves one way on social media, either hoping to present our best-selves or the self we want to be. The book raises questions about whether our online life is actually our life, and should it live on once we are gone (dead). The characters in the story debate this idea, and the perception about the value of our digital lives is reflected back and forth as we see the characters live ACTUAL lives.

Huh. Super interesting to me, as I have a sense that I hate Facebook and know everyone presents only what they want people to see, but I also use it a ton for this blog – it is a platform for what I want to show the world about HAG, so I find value in using it in my life. The book was expert in mirroring the absurdity of our digital lives in these characters.

Aside from the story itself, I loved the insight into immigrants from Russia in a city. I liked that I could relate to the characters who were approaching 40 years of age, who were at points in their lives where they are focused on jobs, family, or their futures. I liked that I could relate on that level but also gain some insight into how different living in the US is to someone from outside of it.

Overall Take:

There is romance, technology, contemporary life, urban sensibility and philosophical rambling in here. Maybe not for everyone, but I found it fun and satisfying.

 


Still Here, by Lara Vapnyar
Hogarth Press (reprint), 2017, 336 pages