Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 Goals: 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
kim has read 2 books toward her goal of 50 books.
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One of my goals this year is to read at least 50 books this year, the same goal that I had last year. This is about 1 book per week, with a bit of a break around the holidays. I used to aim a little higher, and almost always made my goal, but I’ve adjusted my goal down a bit for a couple of reasons.

I am making a real effort to read more nonfiction which is often a slower read because I try to absorb the detail.
I am busier than I used to be with a full-time ‘job’ of being ‘Grandma’!

I plan to keep a list here of the books I read, in chronological order. The titles will be clickable links to my reviews once I’ve written and posted a review. This ties in with my goal to ‘Write My Reviews’!

Here is my list:

  1. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  2. How To Change A Life by Stacey Ballis


You can follow the progress I make on all of my goals and challenges this year here!
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Friday, January 19, 2018

Review: How To Change A Life

How To Change A Life
by Stacey Ballis

Why did you choose this book? It was already on my shelf and it looked interesting
When did you read this book? January 2018
Who should read this book? Readers of ‘foodie’ fiction
Source: This just showed up in my mailbox one day
My Rating: ✰✰½    2½  Stars

Here is a synopsis of How To Change A Life from Goodreads

A dare between friends leads to startling revelations and simmering tensions in the latest novel from the author of Wedding Girl.

Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world's most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is.

Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again.

Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn't seem so lonely--until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?

My Review

This one just showed up in my mailbox one day — I’m not sure why. I may have entered a contest on a blog or book site, but I don’t remember doing so. In any event, I like the cover and the synopsis sounded interesting. I also have a goal to read more books that I already have sitting on my shelves, so during the recent weather that was too cold to go outside, I picked it up.

This is a quick, light read, but is not a book normally I’d pick up, simply because I don’t usually enjoy ‘foodie’ novels. Reading about food preparations just doesn’t interest me. This book was the exception! In fact, I will say that for me the descriptions of the food prepared and eaten were the highlight of the book. On the negative side, however, it really made me feel that I am missing out by not having a personal chef!
Sadly, the book went downhill for me from there. While the story was light with a close to happily ever after ending, there were some major issues for me. First, the synopsis made me feel that I was going to get a ‘friends’ story. While three friends were involved, the story was really about one friend, Eloise, and her growth. I’m not really sure these women were friends as much as acquaintances. Case in point, one friend was very successful in her work life; not so much with her relationships. It seemed that anytime her name came up in the story, Eloise had nothing good to say about her, to the point that I had to wonder why she ever was friends with Lynne, let alone why she worked so hard to remain ‘friends’!

Another issue I had was with Eloise’s boyfriend, Shawn. He was attractive, athletic, considerate, wealthy, smart; in short, perfect — TOO perfect. I don’t remember Eloise and Shawn having even a minor disagreement, let alone any real conflict.

The third thing that bothered me was the coincidences that occurred. I can’t really explain without revealing spoilers, so I will just say — Chicago is a big place! The chances of running into someone you know the first time you go to a restaurant you’ve never viseted before, without any advanced planning, are pretty insignificant. Also, no matter how rare you may THINK a name is, the chances that there are two people with that same first name living in the greater Chicago area are pretty significant!

If you are a foodie, you will probably love this book. There are recipes in the back, and they look yummy! (But too complicated with too many ingredients for me to want to try them — I want a personal chef!) If you are not a foodie, you may still enjoy this one when you are in the mood for a quick, light read. Even though the story had some weaknesses for me, I think a book club would find plenty to discuss, and there is a discussion guide (as well as recipes) at the end of the book.

You can connect with the author on her webpage, on Facebook, or Twitter.
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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Goals: Read My Own Shelf

One of my goals this year is to read more books that are already on my shelves. My goal is to read at least 10, and preferably 12, of the books currently on my shelves. I have a lot of books on my shelves and in boxes, so to make it a little easier, I’ve made a list of some of the books on my shelves that I am currently the most interested in reading. I won’t necessarily confine myself to this list; if something on my shelf catches my eye later this year, I will read it whether or not it is on my list, and will count it as progress towards this goal.

Here is my list:

Fiction
  1. Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles
  2. Pawley’s Island by Dorothea Benton Frank
  3. Abe and Molly: The Lincoln Courtship by Frederic Hunter
  4. Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn
  5. Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle
  6. Bufflehead Sisters by Patricia J Delois
  7. Tales of Byzantium: A Selection of Short Stories by Eileen Stephenson
  8. Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner
  9. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
  10. The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie
  11. How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis
  12. Little Girl Gone by Gerry Schmitt
  13. Even If It Kills Her by Kate White
  14. The Murderer's Maid: A Lizzie Borden Novel by Erika Mailman
  15. The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
  16. Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
  17. The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick
  18. Sutton by J R Moehringer



Nonfiction
  1. 100 Things Cardinals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Derrick Goold
  2. Four Queens: The Proven├žal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone
  3. 1776 by David McCollough
  4. A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel
  5. Stan Musial: An American Life by George Vecsey
  6. Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millennium of Unholy Matrimony by Leslie Carroll


Looking at my list, I’m pretty happy with the Fiction to Nonfiction ratio. If I were to read them all, 25% of my reads will be nonfiction, and that would be about what I have aimed for in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge, in which I have committed to reading at least 10 nonfiction books.

I will cross off the books as I read them, so check back to see how I am doing!
You can follow the progress I make on all of my goals and challenges this year here!
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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: The Nest

The Nest
by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Why did you choose this book? This was a book club selection that several of us had on our ‘to read’ list
When did you read this book? January 2018
Who should read this book? Readers who enjoy books on dysfunctional families and books that make you think.
Source: library ebook
My Rating:  4 Stars
Bookclub Rating: ½ 3½  Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Nest from Goodreads

A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.

My Review

I added this one to my TBR list shortly after it was released, but never found time to read it. This fall when our book club sat down to make a list of books we are interested in reading for our 2018 meetings, we realized that at least three of us had The Nest on our lists, so it was an easy decision to make it our January suggestion.

I really enjoyed this book! I don’t feel like the synopsis did the book justice, as I don’t think there was as much animosity among the siblings as the synopsis hints at. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see the small kindnesses and acts of caring the siblings displayed to one another.

I liked almost all of the characters; even Leo, who was pretty messed up. He WAS charming and for the first half of the book that worked for me. I really did not like brother Jack much at all at the beginning, but as the story developed, I grew to like him very much. The one character I really disliked was the mother of the clan, Francie. In short, she was not a good mother at all!  I wish we could have seen a peek at the future relationship she had, if any, with her children at the end of the book.

There were a lot of characters in this story and a lot of storylines. At one point near the middle of the book, I felt like there was too much going on to follow. However, I’m happy to say that everything tied together well, and most everything that happened was important to the story. The possible exception was the storyline with Melody’s twins. It was mildly interesting and did tie in to an extent, but I think it could have been left out without missing much, and the story would have flowed a little better with not so much going on.

One thing I appreciated is that the author included an epilogue, as well as referred to future events frequently in the narrative. There were a couple of storylines that I wish would have ended differently, particularly the storyline for Leo, and that for Jack and his husband. I do feel that I know how each person’s story played out and there aren’t a lot of questions left unanswered.

With so much going on, this is a great selection for book clubs. There is plenty to discuss with all the bad decisions made by the various characters. My book club discussed it this past weekend and our discussion lasted longer than normal. Some points of discussion were Leo’s decision at the end of the story and the implications of his presence in the epilogue, communication issues, and whether the family dynamics in this story are unique to families with money. In addition to making a great book club selection, this book would also make a great television mini-series or soap opera.

You can visit the author’s website to learn more about the author and view a discussion guide.

My rating - 4 Stars and
Book club rating - 3½ Stars; individual ratings ranged from 2½ to 4.

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