Posts tagged with kindle:
Anonymous Sources by Mary Louise Kelly
I first heard about this book in an NPR interview (Kelly is a former NPR reporter). This is Kelly’s first book. It kind of shows.
Here’s the thing. It was a really enjoyable read, but in the way that Pierce Brosnan-era Bond movies were really enjoyable to watch. If you are willing to suspend reality and just go along for the ride, it’s the perfect book. It’s a fast-paced thriller about a Boston reporter who stumbles upon a story much bigger than the Harvard campus murder she was originally assigned to cover. The story gets ludicrously unbelievable and out-sized, but it was a quick, fun book and I’m not sorry I read it.
Have you read it?
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
This is the most fun book I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s so decadent and over-the-top that it puts similarly constructed chick lit (The Devil Wears Prada or Bergdorf Blondes or the like) to complete and utter shame.
Crazy Rich Asians is about Rachel Chu, a professor of economics in NYC, and her boyfriend Nicholas Young. Nicholas manages to keep his extraordinarily wealthy origins under wraps until he invites Rachel to come with him to Singapore so they can attend the wedding of his best friend and also meet Nicholas’ family. The news spreads like wildfire in Singapore (“Nicholas is bringing home a girl, it must be serious!”) The family drama is absurd (and often funny) and you can probably guess how the story progresses.
This review really comes down to one thing: I couldn’t stop reading it. I know it’s cliche to say that, but in this particular case, it was like a disease. A disease of book addiction. The book was in my hand while I was brushing my teeth. Drinking my coffee. I was carrying it around the house with me in my hoodie pouch JUST IN CASE a spare moment presented itself. I read it in a day.
The dialogue between characters is forced sometimes (it can get distractingly bad), but the story has enough winding subplots and crazy characters to make it mostly painless to breeze through the occasional awkwardly-worded conversation. It also suffers from mild Designer Laundry List syndrome—a common issue found in books of this ilk. It’s tough to write descriptions of private jets, designer clothes and various other luxury brands/locations/items without it coming off like the horrible descriptive copy of the Lucky magazine variety. It’s as if they need to drill the wealth into your head by listing everything. No showing, ALL telling. Pay attention! They’re wearing couture! There are a few stupid passages (one section that has a few guys debating the pros and cons of various private jets is so obnoxious/fake/forced), but overall, Crazy Rich Asians does a good job of bringing the reader in on the joke.
One of the most fascinating things about Crazy Rich Asians is that as far-fetched as it might seem, Kwan (a Singapore native) admitted that he’s seen far more extravagance in real life than what he put in the book. He said his publishers asked him to tone it down occasionally because readers wouldn’t believe that actual people lived the way he described.
Have you read it yet?
She Matters by Susanna Sonnenberg
Sonnenberg is a good writer, linking together stories of her female friendships from childhood to the present day. She describes her friends lushly and her interactions with them on the page do seem true to life. The book is not compelling—it’s hard to make essays like this into a larger picture for the reader…but she tries. The momentum wasn’t there for me, but I didn’t NOT enjoy reading it. It’s very intimate and occasionally raw. Her descriptions of friendships breaking down or sputtering to a stop are usually not flattering to her or the friend or both. (I wonder what they think of this book.) Sonnenberg, to her credit, owns her neediness (something that comes through a lot) and her occasionally harsh treatment of friends. I didn’t find her unlikable, but I didn’t get very invested in her or her story either. If you like memoirs about friendship(s), you’d probably enjoy this book. Otherwise? Life is too short for a meh book.
Descent by David Guterson
This short, inexpensive ($3) Kindle Single is worth reading. Guterson sinks into severe depression after 9/11 and explores each facet of the journey: from the trigger, to the initial suspicions, to suicidal thoughts, to therapy and medication. He’s a fantastic writer. Depression is always described in the same cliches: dark cloud, withdrawal, loss of interest. Finally! Someone has found a way to really discuss depression and how it feels. It was an emotional thing for me to read. I caught myself thinking “thank you for describing that so well” pretty often.
Minimalist Parenting by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest
I’m not going to say there wasn’t the occasional valuable tidbit in this book, but it’s basically a book-length #FIRSTWORLDPARENTINGPROBLEMS. The advice is trite (“take time for yourself” OKAY DUH YEP) and so privilege-y that I didn’t make it all the way through. Parenting books are mostly the worst, so I’ve been lucky to read a streak of really good ones up until now.
Read any of these?
This novel is about Philip Bowman, a WWII veteran who returns home and meets a woman. The book is beautiful. Every word is perfectly chosen and each paragraph melts with ease into the next. It is pleasurable just to read Salter’s elegant writing, but the story—real, raw, about love and what makes people connect—is engrossing. This is a book of the year for me.
I read this out of curiosity (it’s one of the top selling books on Kindle) and I’m not sorry I did, but it does bring new meaning to the phrase “light read.” I read it in about two hours and enjoyed every minute, but it’s fluff. In one ear and out the other. The story is about a woman who discovers a letter addressed to her from her husband in a box in the attic. It says only to open it in the case of his death. Her husband is not dead yet and so she agonizes through too many chapters about whether to open the letter. The reader knows the contents of the letter will be pretty exciting because Moriarty starts a foreword with a passage about Pandora’s box. So we get dragged along by suspense and then…well, I won’t spoil it. The book is actually about three separate women and their immediate families which confused me when the point of view abruptly switched between chapters from Pandora Letter Woman to someone else. PET PEEVE ALERT: Hate when writers do this. Just because they’ve spent X number of years with these characters and are intimately familiar with them doesn’t mean the readers are. Also, it takes an exceptionally good writer to effortlessly transition between characters or introduce new characters without some sort of clue to the reader (such as heading each chapter with a name, etc.).
The book, for all its seriousness, actually feels a little trite and silly. The plot feels made for TV or for a movie or whatever (have the book rights been sold?). Anyway, I’d say that I was pretty emotionally disconnected from the characters and their individual plights throughout the book, only continuing to read because it was entertaining and fast-paced. If you want a beach/pool book or something to read that doesn’t require a lot of commitment or thinking (and there are times that kind of book is PERFECT), this is a great contender.
Read anything good lately?
She Left Me the Gun by Emma Brockes
A beautiful memoir by a talented writer. Every page was thoughtfully and skillfully written. After Brockes’ mother Paula dies, Brockes starts to investigate the mysteries of Paula’s childhood. Why did Paula leave South Africa for London? What is the story of her relationship to her father and her siblings? Brockes’ father warns her before she leaves for South Africa that she might discover things she wish she hadn’t found out. There is much in this book about the complexities of family relationships and the fragile fault lines that separate relatives in the wake of tragedy, but there is also an abundance of information about South Africa and its history. It occasionally reads like a travel memoir…which I guess it sort of is. The descriptions of the book call it suspenseful. I wouldn’t call it suspenseful. The high drama of the cover art and the title hide the quieter truth of the story—that this is basically a love letter to her mother.
Have you read it?
The title of this book is misleading. While it does spend some time talking about competitive yoga (Lorr went from yoga novice to performing in the National Yoga Asana Championship within a few years), this book is really about Bikram Choudhury and Bikram yoga.
In short, this book is a great example of the theory that any workout regime can make you a crazy person if you take it just far enough over the line of normalcy. Lorr points out early on the “Lululemon-izing” of yoga, or the mass market appeal of yoga by casual practitioners due to the belief they are taking part in something fitness-related with a dose of meditation and relaxation here and there. Yoga to Lorr is more than a fitness regime (although he spends an obscene amount of time talking about the taut, muscle-sculpted bodies of fellow Bikram-going men and women). It IS his life. It makes him sick and injures his body and prompts him to join the Backbenders, the closest thing I can imagine to a yoga cult, and yet he writes all of this in a really humorous and self-deprecating way. It’s almost enough to fool me that he’s able to keep one foot out of the door. But I know better. I’ve read enough healthy living blogs to smell wholesale pledged obsession in between the lines.
Much of the book, as I said before, actually centers around Lorr’s experiences at the Bikram yoga instructor training course—a 9 week program Lorr attends in San Diego with hundreds of other instructor hopefuls. In between discussing the grueling training regime, Lorr talks about Bikram Choudbury, founder of the Bikram practice. He talks about him a lot. He’s simultaneously fascinated/inspired by the man, but conflicted too—Bikram is not particularly likable. Lorr suspects he suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, dislikes the way Bikram cruelly taunts trainees in classes and feels uncomfortable with Bikram’s treatment of women. He talks to several of Bikram’s former favorites who have been banished by the man for one reason or another. As the book continues and Lorr puts more distance between himself and the master yogi who may or may not have a serious mental health problem, Lorr’s perspective becomes more measured. Questioning. He doesn’t doubt the efficacy of the yoga itself. He believes in the practice. But can he believe in the practice if he doesn’t really like the man behind it? A valid question, since I had no idea how intertwined Bikram-the-yoga and Bikram-the-man really are (or were?).
It’s a well-written book, full of interesting research into yoga health benefits, injuries, the use of heat as a training mechanism, the origins of yoga, origins of Bikram, etc. There are some moving and fascinating personal anecdotes, including interviews with people who seem to have conquered or mitigated major health problems through Bikram yoga practice. Lorr, though, is maybe the most fascinating anecdote of them all. His journey from overweight couch-surfer to Backbender to Bikram trainee to yoga competition participant is an interesting study in how a certain level of devotion to a rigorous fitness regime can mold a person into an athlete.
Anyway, this was a great read. I’m happy that it’s the book that will mark the completion of my Goodreads yearly book goal. On to the next!
Have you read this?
I really try to review every book I read but there are two reasons I sometimes leave one out:
- I don’t know where to start. The book is either too important to me personally, too emotionally fraught, too dense, too intense—basically, too much to review. I’d rather just let it alone than write something half-assed because I can’t come up with the adequate words to express how I feel about it.
- The book is so forgettable that I figure if I can’t remember to write a review, WHO CARES.
But I just realized I made a very big mistake by doing this.
I forget to mark these left-out books as read on Goodreads and I have a VERY IMPORTANT yearly goal that I’ve nearly reached. If I’m taking the time to catch up on Goodreads, I might as well include mini reviews over here.
It is well-established that the French are better at almost everything (babies, fashion, eating) SO WHY DO WE CARE AT THIS POINT. I’ll be over here in my yoga pants feeding Isobel some crackers from a box, thanks!
This book is super crunchy with a big emphasis on meditation, but I found it meaningful and relevant to a few issues in my life.
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Okay…I have to add a third reason to the list at the very top. The other reason I sometimes don’t review books I read is because I read a lot of books about creepy serial killers and yeah. The sheer volume is a little embarrassing.
(Side note: NEVER search for “creepy gifs.” MY EYES.)
Oh yes and the book—it’s superb.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
I had started this book a long time ago and never finished it (I think I had to return it to the library or something) and so I finally downloaded it on Kindle and finished it. It’s ASTONISHINGLY weird/creepy/terrible—Ann Rule worked with Ted Bundy at a crisis center; she is later contracted to write a book about a prolific serial killer and begins to suspect that her friend/coworker might be the man behind it. I actually first heard of this book because of a really crazy old Oprah interview Ann Rule did about her book on Diane Downs.
I will read anything Stephen King writes but even if he hadn’t been the author, this .99 cent Kindle Single was an interesting, worthwhile read.
Moving, well-written memoir from a man who accidentally killed a classmate in high school and is haunted by the memory.
Have you read any of these?
The Astor Orphan by Alexandra Aldrich
A little hard to get into (the Astor family tree is ridiculous and Aldrich, wisely, does not dwell on it for too long), but it turns into an entertaining short read about a once-monied family trying to make it in a decaying 43-room mansion and not quite succeeding. Aldrich wrote vivid recollections of her childhood and she inserted enough bits of adult hindsight to make them more more funny or poignant than they might have been otherwise.
The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
I don’t remember the last time I read such a fun book. There is something great about reading a book that’s the perfect blend of mindless romance, historical fiction and adventure—a combination that’s far too rare. I think about early Philippa Gregory (her latest stuff is shit, don’t bother) or Jennifer Donnelly’s Tea Rose series. They’re so fun to read. They’re right on the cusp of being just a TAD stupid but they toe that line for all they’ve got. That’s what makes them such a good time. The River of No Return is just such a book. It’s about time travel but not really in the over-serious, stereotypical way you might expect. When I say it’s a combination of romance, historical fiction and adventure, it really is. It’s an almost perfect balance of all three. The characters are interesting, the story moves briskly and the romance portions are JUST THIS SIDE of corny. It’s set up perfectly for a sequel but doesn’t end unsatisfactorily. I read it with a bowl of popcorn. It’s that kind of book.
P.S. Can we talk about that gorgeous cover art?
Have you read either book? Reading anything good right now?