Book Review #1

How do I do any reading with that view?!

My first round of book reviews! I’m excited to share books I’ve loved (and not loved so much) – I love reading book reviews from other bloggers and have discovered some great new authors, so I hope to repay the favor!

First, if you haven’t already signed up with your local public library, do it now! When I first moved to Chicago, I signed up with the library but never really used it, lost my password, couldn’t be bothered to sort it out, figured ‘I’ll just buy books, it’s not much money’.
But I found myself just not reading. Partly because, after a tiring day at work, it’s so much easier to watch a show. Also because, other than some fave authors, I didn’t know which books to try. And I think the cost definitely factored into that. I don’t really want to spend $10 on a book, only to not enjoy it. When it’s free, I discovered I’m much more likely to try different authors and genres, because I’ve got nothing to lose!
Joining a book club also really pushed me to read more, and suddenly I re-discovered the joy of reading!

I am also a big fan of my Kindle. When you travel a lot, having loads of books available on such a light device is genius. My library loans out e-books, so no matter where I am (as long as there’s WiFi), I have instant access to more books! Which makes me remember my first (super old) Kindle dying a week into our 3 week Alaska trip – disaster! Thank heavens for the Kindle App!

One more thing – I try and avoid reviews before I’ve finished reading (other than to check the star rating on Amazon or Good Reads). I’m a shocker for reading a well written review (that differs from my original opinion) and wondering whether I’d gotten it wrong and my opinion/enjoyment of the book was completely wrong. Which is, of course, nonsense. You either enjoy something or you don’t.
So, onto the reviews!

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Beautiful front cover!

A friend loaned me this book. I’d read the author’s Bel Canto a long time ago and figured I would also enjoy this one (spoiler: I was right). It’s about a doctor (half Indian, half Minnesotan) who travels to the Amazon to find her former teacher, who’s working on a special new drug. I really enjoyed the character descriptions and the setting (made me really want to visit Brazil and journey into the Amazon!) and I found this a really enjoyable read. A good, easy page-turner. 4/5 stars

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Another friend lent me this book. Both this and State of Wonder have been languishing on my bookshelf (partly because I’ve been reading other books but also because this one looked like it was going to be a bit politically hardcore for me – I’m a political lightweight). I finally chose them because I was traveling to Utah with Southwest and was taking two (free!) small bags and so could afford the weight of two actual books 😂
It turned out to be a really enjoyable read too! A Pakistani who comes to America to go to University and makes a life here. As a fellow expat, I really enjoyed reading his take on America and how he navigated through his years here. It was also written in a very unusual way, which I really enjoyed. I liked his writing style a lot. And it was also a very easy page-turner. 4/5 stars

The Tatooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

I like browsing the bookshelves at airports and making a note of any books that look interesting, then requesting them from the library. This was one such book. It had quite a long wait for the e-book, so I figured it must really be good. It wasn’t. It was one of the worst written books I think I’ve ever read. Now, admittedly I only read the first chapter, but even getting that far was a huge struggle. It was just SO bad. Let me give you an example (not a real quote, just to give you an idea):

It was very muddy. There was a lot of mud everywhere. “Oh no,” he said. “There’s so much mud.” And so on.

What a disappointment. I have read and absolutely loved WW2 books like ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ (an absolute must-read) and ‘The Nightingale’ – as much as you can love books with such a horrific story matter. But they were beautifully written and heart-rending with wonderfully drawn characters. ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ is taken from a true story and it sounds so interesting – a prisoner who is forced to tattoo his fellow prisoners of war. Such a shame that, in my opinion, the author didn’t do such a story justice. 0/5 stars

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

I found this author through the lovely Caitlin @cmcoving and have really enjoyed her other books (‘The Marriage Lie‘ and ‘Three Days Missing’). Like the other two books, this one is a thriller full of suspense. It starts with a battered wife running from her husband. Then the next chapter is written from the view of a husband who has returned home to find his wife missing. So, this must be the abusive husband. Or is he? An easy, fast, enjoyable read. I didn’t love the ending but the rest of the book held my interest enough that I gave it 4/5 stars.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

This was a book club book, chosen in part due to Ms Morrison’s recent passing. I have to say, I really struggled with this book. The first 40 pages were the worst (confusing, hard to read) and if this hadn’t been a book club book, I probably wouldn’t have gone any further. But I persevered. The next 100 pages went more quickly. I started getting to know the characters and the idea of the story and the feel of how the author wrote. Then it slowed down, then it picked up. At the end of the book, I was confused but glad to have finished. It tells the story of a mother, Sethe, who escapes slavery but who is haunted by the ghost of her baby. The book is described as being ‘filled with bitter poetry’ and perhaps this is what I found hard to read – there were paragraphs with no punctuation, paragraphs full of dream-like allegory, parts where I didn’t know if it was real or what was happening. Very confusing. 2/5

I would love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought! Or please leave any recommendations!

2 thoughts on “Book Review #1

  1. Great reviews and choice of books! The Reluctant Fundamentalist is one of my favourite books. I kept putting and taking out State of Wonder from my TBR list numerous times. Since you liked it so much, I think I’ve got to read it.

    Like

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