2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #37

We are so close to polishing off the regular challenge books. This one was back to my mom again and she picked a solid read.

A book set around a holiday other than Christmas- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Three women living life the best they know how. Each is satisfied with where they are and who they have surrounding them until one by one each has that perfect life stolen from them.

Cecelia Fitzpatrick is a stay at home mother of three wonderful girls who rely on her for everything. She keeps the household running, is parent of the year at school and runs a tupperware business to boot. Her husband is moody, has bouts of severe depression and travels for work, but she loves him dearly and believes she knows everything about him.

Then one day she finds a letter addressed to herself with “in the event that I die” written on the front. She finds this odd but is ready to forget it until her husband makes a point to return early from his trip and spends the night rummaging through the house frantic to find it. When she tears it open, the secret it reveals threatens to tear everything she knows and loves apart.

Tess O’Leary lives with her husband and young son in Melbourne where she runs an advertising firm along with her husband and cousin. While others may find the relationship strange, she relies on the presence of her cousin to help stave off her social anxiety. In fact, her cousin is more like a twin sister and stays over most nights at her house. Then one night, her husband and cousin come into the house and announce that they are in love. Her life is ruined.

Rachel isn’t living her perfect life. That would include her daughter who was murdered at a young age. However, she has found solace in her 2 year old grandson who she watches several days a week. The birth of her grandson brought her back to life and while she still hunts for the person who murdered her daughter, she now has love again. Until her son and daughter in law announce that they are moving to New York City for two years.

As the women try to piece their lives back together, their lives begin to intertwine. What will each woman do faced with the new facts of her life? How will she pick up the pieces and carry on?

This novel was a wonderful read that kept me hanging on and wanting more. In fact, I found it truly hard to put it down and really enjoyed the fact that it took place in Sydney, Australia over the Easter holiday week.

While each of the women overlap lives with the others, it was done in a seamless and realistic manner that didn’t feel contrived or forced. I’m not typically a fan of the die hard, tough woman and was a little cautious reading this, but the characters all have their own flaws and are well rounded individuals just trying to do the best they can.

I don’t want to ruin the plot here. The letter isn’t opened until half way through the book and I wasn’t expecting what was to be found within. As it unfolded, I began thinking about what I would do in each of their shoes. Would I react the same? What would my actions be? How would I respond?

I highly recommend this book.



2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #36

The weeks, and the prompts, are starting to fly by! Being October already, I was a little pressed for finding a book to qualify if I was to be strict with how it was written. This would have been much easier earlier in the year, but we are following them in order. Unfortunately, the book I really wanted wasn’t even in the library system (for the second time now), so I got what I could.

A book becoming a movie in 2017- The Dinner by Herman Koch

Paul Lohman and his wife are meeting his locally famous brother, Serge Lohman, and his wife at a high end restaurant for dinner.  The two couples have something important to discuss, but none of them want to get to it too quickly. As the meal progresses from apertif to dessert, the conversation waxes and wanes until it inevitably lands on the real reason for the gathering.

What they have to discuss will impact several lives, but are they all on the same page? As they begin to finally broach the matter at hand, it becomes apparent that maybe they aren’t.

The entire novel is written in the first person from Paul Lohman’s point of view. I found this perspective to be interesting as it layered on the mystery as to what everyone was doing there and what everyone else knew.

That was just about the only interesting thing I found with the novel which was disappointing since the premise led me to believe that I would really like this book. Paul Lohman is a very negative, petty man and while at first this was mildly endearing, his internal thoughts on paying ten euros for the house apertif was quite amusing, after 130+ pages listening to him complain about every little thing it got grating. Maybe that was what the author wanted.

The actual plot of the book finally came to light at around page 135 or so and that is when the book finally got interesting and kept my attention. The two Lohman couples broach the topic that brought them all together during the main course and it becomes apparent quickly that the two families are not on the same side. Paul and his wife are cut throat, mean spirited and small minded parents who would, and will, do anything to protect their 15 year old son from his own evil actions. Serge, on the other hand, wants to force their own son, and his cousin by default, to turn himself in to authorities and take the punishment he rightfully deserves for beating and murdering a homeless woman in an ATM vestibule. The conversation gets more heated as the families discuss the future of their sons.

While I typically avoid watching movies after I’ve read the book, this one has me intrigued. Since the vast majority of the book is written inside the inner thoughts of Paul’s mind, I wonder how that will be portrayed on the screen and if the screenplay will shorten the time between beginning and exposing the plot.

The book was pretty good after page 130, so I’ll give it a 3/5.

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #35

This prompt was one I was glad to give over to the mother ship as I would have had no clue what to choose. As it is, I’m not sure this pick really fits the prompt because I’m 110% sure my mother had never even heard of the author before and she is the least political person I’ve ever met. But, it was her pick so I read it. At least it was short.

A book written by someone you admire- Trump and Me by Mark Singer

Mark Singer was given an assignment in the early 2000s to get to know Donald Trump. At first he balked at the idea, but his editor held the cards and he had no choice. He spent several months tailing Donald Trump and meeting up with him at various locations trying to get to know the real man behind the facade.

I’m not really sure what the book is actually trying to do. It is 133 pages, per my kindle version, and just never really does much. 90% of the book is dedicated to running the numbers on Trump’s various business exploits, homes, deals and casinos. It focused on times spent while Trump was making a public appearance or playing up to a crowd and make specific note of how he put on a show for the public.

If the author was trying to find the man behind the pomp and circumstance, he never did. Maybe there isn’t one.

The book was a quick read, I finished it in a couple of hours. It failed to shed any light on the man’s routines, his thoughts, his emotions or really anything other than acting as an accounting manifesto for all the business dealings, both in the red and black. By the end of the book, I knew nothing new about our now President and had no additional insights to his personal failings or accomplishments. All I had was a running tally of money.

I don’t recommend this book at all no matter which side of the political line you are on.


2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #34

This was an interesting prompt since it was pretty specific while still allowing room for genre choices. Unfortunately the book I really wanted wasn’t in the library system at all. It ended up being lucky for mey though.

A book set in a hotel – The Grand Hotel by Scott Kenemore

A group of tourists stumble into what appears to be a dilapidated and closed hotel at night. The interior is dark and gloomy with only a hint of past grandeur remaining. This group is an odd mixture of men, women and a single red haired child of undisclosed age.

As they walk through the lobby they notice a man sitting at the front desk. All in the group become awkward – is this man homeless? Surely he can’t be working in this place?

The group draws near to the desk and the man rises, introducing himself as the night clerk and offering up a tour of the Grand Hotel and its occupants. They murmur agreement and what begins is a trip through reality, secrets and riddles.

Along the way the night clerk begins to be drawn to the red haired girl. Could she be the one to open up all the deep truths about the hotel? Will she be able to handle it?

The tour takes the group to visit a series of permanent hotel residents. The first one is a corpse. A very dead, very decayed corpse. While this first visit does set the tone of the rest of the book, after the entire story comes to light it really doesn’t fit in and I was left feeling uncertain why the author included it except for the shock value.

From there the tour group gets introduced to various people, all having a strange tale to tell of how they came to reside at the Grand Hotel. After each story, the night clerk who you learn is named Vick, turns to the girl in the red hair and asks her a pointed question about the story. If she answers correctly, the tour continues. If not, it ends for everyone.

I won’t ruin the book as it is important to keep guessing throughout. The novel is classified as a horror book and while there isn’t any gore or outright terror in it, the residents’ stories are fantastical and with a bit of dread thrown in.

The novel was easy to read and caught my attention from page 1. It is told from the point of view of Vick except for the residents’ stories which are all told in the first person from the  story teller. You do not get to know any of the tour group members except for the girl and no names are mentioned. As such, the experiences of each visit is a bit subdued as you get the impression that Vick has heard these stories numerous times. It left me feeling a certain longing to hear the stories as the guests experienced them.

The ending caught me off guard, which doesn’t happen that often, and was a great way to fold it all together. I highly recommend reading this novel.


2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #33

Back to the mothership for this choice! I had never heard of this book, which is odd since it was apparently a really big deal when it was published and there is a movie about it.

A book with the month or day of the week in the title- Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Morrie has been diagnosed with ALS. There is no cure and while many assume he would fade away in self pity and remorse instead the lively sociology professor embraces his last days with a vigor few live their best days with.

Mitch was one of his favorite students when he was a student at Brandies university in the 1970s. The feeling was mutual and upon graduation Mitch promised to keep in touch. Like many people though, life got busy and in the way and Mitch finds himself sitting with Morrie after a 16 year absence trying to squeeze in as much time as he can as Morrie’s days run out.

Mitch spends every Tuesday for 13 weeks at Morrie’s home, speaking to him about the meaning of life and trying to find answers to all his burning questions. This is his last class with his beloved professor and the lessons he learns are far more important than any form his university days.

The book is broken down into each topic the two men discuss. As it progresses, the ALS that is taking over Morrie’s body also progresses. Morrie maintains a love of life, passion for people and an against the grain attitude towards culture and the world. He helps Mitch face death directly and in the process helps him face his life as well.

The book end with Morrie’s life with all proceeds from the publication going to his medical bills.

This book is meant to be very thought provoking as Morrie’s theories on a life well lived are laid out. It was easy to read from a time stand point although the concepts were heavy. It is laid out in a way to allow you to think over each topic and digest it as you go. It is worth the read if you haven’t already.


2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #32

The next prompt was back to me and I have found that finding the book is nearly as much fun as reading it. These later prompts are reminding me that earlier picks may have fit better in these categories as well.

A book set in two different time periods – The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

1912, Emily. 1929, Mary. 1968, Hillary. Present day, Charlotte. Each bride finds themselves in the possession of a magical wedding dress made with gold silk that shines in the light, never fades and never needs altered.

Each bride has a story to tell and it is up to the newest owner, Charlotte, to find out where the dress came from and what it means. As a modern day bridal shop owner who specializes in matching each bride with the perfect dress, Charlotte is up to the task. When she begins to untangle the history of the dress she learns more about herself than she thought possible.

Charlotte is about to get married when the book begins, but she has questions: is he the right man, does she want to get married, will she fit in with his family? She feels unsettled about her own past as an orphan with no family and has been delaying her own wedding plans until the month prior to the date when she finds herself at an auction purchasing a welded shut trunk for $1,000 from a strange man dressed in purple velvet.

The book then flashes back in time to 1912 and introduces the reader to Emily, a well to do young lady torn who has sworn her hand to a man in her social circle while secretly loving another. The city she lives in is separated by race and Emily finds herself longing for a wedding dress made by an African American woman. She frequents the “black neighborhood” to have the dress handmade all the while siting for a hideous dress her mother insists on from the white seamstress in town.

Back to present day and Charlotte has broken up with her fiancee and broken into the trunk to find a 100 year old dress that glows from an inner light and looks brand new. She begins her search to find the original owner and is led first to the last owner: Hillary who helps her find Mary who tells the story of Emily.

What I found interesting about this book is that while it is a basic, easy reading feel good story with predictable turns and a tidy ending, throughout the novel it actually brings to light some deep themes. Emily, back in 1912, is a well to do white woman who is joining the suffragist movement. On top of that, she is fighting the chain gangs that work in the  mines for no pay and constantly extending sentences. Then we find out that she is breaking all the social rules when she hires an african american woman to make her wedding dress and gets arrested for being seen in the wrong neighborhood. These are awfully heavy, and pretty flippantly processed, themes for the book to cover in the midst of finding the history behind a magical wedding dress.

The book is also heavily christian which was not evident from reading the excerpt I had access to. Charlotte herself is very religious and the man in purple who brings the dress to everyone and never changes throughout the century the book spans is heavily hinted at being God.

All in all it was an okay book. Easy to read although a lot of the minor themes don’t really fit into the arc of the novel. I wouldn’t really recommend it.


2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #31

I’m so far behind in my review posts!! This topic was another broad one that spans any genre and time period. It was my mom’s pick again.

A book about an interesting woman – Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

In the early 1900s, detectives were all the rage with the Sherlock Holmes novels just being published and real life detective hitting the streets. In New York City, the police force is in early infancy with a new, young commissioner at the helm when Ruth Cruger goes missing after leaving her family home to go ice skating, a task she did frequently. This time, however, Ruth does not come home and her father contacts every investigator he can find to locate her. The press becomes involved and the entire city is on high alert for the missing young lady.

Grace Humiston is a prominent female lawyer in New York City taking on the hopeless cases, those of the poor and those of the down trodden. Her storied career took her into the peonage cases of the farms of the deep south working with the US President to take down the system. Upon completion of this task, left somewhat unfinished, she picks up the case of a man on death row which drains her energy until she return to New York to find herself thrown into the case of the missing girl consumed by the fact that something was missing and she was the one who could find it.

The novel tells the real life story of a female lawyer in New York city in the early to mid 1900s. By all accounts she was a tenacious woman who refused to take no for an answer and worked hard for those she felt needed it most. She took no money for the majority of her cases and worked hard to equal the playing field having noted early on that those who could not read or write were easily taken advantage of in the system.

The book itself is a little confusing in how it is laid out. It begins with the disappearance of Ruth Cruger which occurs in 1917 and then back tracks the next chapter to Grace’s graduation from law school 10 years earlier. It continues along this path until the two story lines converge with Grace taking on the Cruger case. The book comes across as very disjointed since the main focus is Grace, however the Ruth case itself takes up more of the book. By the time Grace joins the case, I felt uninterested in much of it having spent so much time reading about her travels in the South to bring down the peonage system of keeping farmers in constant and impossible to overcome debt that now shifting to a lost girl seems to pale in comparison to her accomplishments in the South. Also, since every case presented is figured out by the magnificent Grace, when she takes on the Ruth case it is nearly predictable what the outcome will be.

I found myself disengaged from the book throughout most of it and hoping it would get to the point which is a shame since Grace has a very interesting story to tell about her life.



2017 Reading Challenge, Uncategorized

2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #30

As we get deeper into the challenge, we are finding out that some earlier books may have fit into these later categories a little better. That is one issue with the way we are approaching it by going straight down the list. This one was up to my mom and as her usual she chose a good one.

A book with pictures: Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

Brandon Stanton moved to New York with a project in mind. He would take 1000 pictures of the people in the city documenting each neighborhood and those that lived there. This turned into a social media storm with his popular Facebook page that he turned into this book.

The book is filled with pictures of people he met on the streets of New York City with small blurbs about each one. They encompass the homeless, the heartbroken, the dreamers, the business men and women, the rich. It is a telling picture book of real life.

I had already been a follower of HONY on Facebook although I had turned off notifications over a year ago due to them clogging my newsfeed. This book is mostly pictures and small blurbs whereas his Facebook page and his second book dive deeper into the lives of each person he photographs and interviews.

One picture really stood out to me. It is of a late middle aged homeless man, a close up of his face as he peers into the camera. The caption is along the lines of (sorry, I don’t have it memorized) I may be homeless and an alcoholic, but I have a dream. I want to go fishing.

I’m not sure why that struck me so hard, but I found myself lingering over the caption and the picture. Maybe it is because the dream is so simple for most but out of reach for this man. Maybe it is because the dream to go fishing is so small compared to his greater needs of shelter, clothes and food and yet it is what he clings to. Maybe it is because it makes you realize that everyone has a story, everyone has a dream, everyone is a person.

The book takes about 10 minutes to go through and is 10 minutes worth spending.


2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar Reading Challenge Book #28

This was a little out of order as the next prompt that was mine was on hold, so I went ahead and skipped to my next one as we waited. Turns out my pick was one my mom had already read which was surprising to happen for the first time this late in the challenge. She opted to wait while I read it and pick back up when the next one was available off hold.

A book with the main character of a different ethnicity- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

Florentino is a man of love. He happens upon Fermina Daza when he delivers a message to her father and from the moment he lays eyes on her he knows he has seen the only woman he will ever love. From then on, he stalks her waking moments and positions himself in such a way as to be able to “happen” upon her. After many weeks, he finds the courage to speak to her and thus begins a passionate love affair via the written word: the two never again speak in person and instead their entire relationship takes place in letters.

For her part, Fermina believes in her love of Florentino. She is a girl of sharp wit, a quick temper and a hatred of her father’s plans for her life. While Florentino writes prose full of poetry and flamboyant love, her responses are short and to the point. When he proposes marriage, she takes her time before accepting. Their love affair is secret from Fermina’s father and only her Aunt knows of them. When her father does find out, he is enraged. He sends the Aunt away and takes Fermina on a trip to her ancestral home to meet up with her cousins. Along the way, they devise a way to stay in touch.

Once she returns home however she meets up with Florentino face to face for the first time since their initial meeting and all her feelings flee. She abruptly ends the relationship, requests all her letters and trinkets returned and refuses to speak with him again.

Florentino is devastated. He continues to swear his love for her and only her and as their lives diverge, Fermina marries another and Florentino stays “true” to his one and only. As old age draws near, he hopes to rekindle a fire that he believes still exists between them.

The book takes place in a fictional Carribean port at the turn of the 19th century and spans 50 years.  It is written in a mix of past and present tense by an unknown narrator that is neither of the main characters and is never fully revealed.

The main theme is of love, both returned and unrequited and the lengths one will go to to hold onto the past.

Fermina at once puts Florentino out of her mind once she turns him away  and moves on to marry a local doctor allowing her to move up in class. She lives her life without a second though to the boy who once proposed marriage to her although she sees him out in town quite frequently. Once her husband passes, she is confronted with Florentino once again and quickly sends him away out of hand but soon realizes that perhaps she is as wrong now as she was before.

Florentino never forgets Fermina and begins to build his life in every way to serve his greater purpose of winning her back. He understands that her husband must die before he can make his move and waits patiently for over 50 years to do so. Lest one should think him a martyr, over those 50+ years he has nearly 700 sexual encounters and affairs which ends with an affair with his 14 year old goddaughter.

The book was riveting in content building the story in both the past and present. It takes care to spend time looking at those years from both Florentino’s and Fermina’s point of view which casts an interesting look at our lives and how we effect those we interact with. Each character is well rounded although I did find myself liking Fermina more and Florentino less as their stories unfolded over the course of their lives.

There are times when the book bogs down especially as it goes over the many sordid affairs Florentino aligns himself with. It got redundant and I found myself thinking “yeah, I got it the man likes to sleep around” multiple times throughout and wishing for another Fermina chapter to come along. The ending leaves a little to be desired, but I suppose there wasn’t any better way to do it.

I do recommend the book. My copy was nearly 900 pages long of close type, single spaced lines so it took a while to get through. 4/5

2017 Reading Challenge

Popsugar reading Challenge Book #27

With such a broad prompt, nearly any genre could fit the bill. I was pretty excited about the possibilities with this one and waited to see what mom chose.

A book set during wart time –  Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford. 

The world is on the cusp of World War I and those working in office in England at the start only have a hint of what is to come. Christopher Teitjen is one of the last Torries and has a station within the statistics department and a wife he hates and who has recently left him for a brief period on vacation with another man.

I’d like to tell you all more about the plot, but the truth is I got 100 pages in and hated it so much I stopped reading. My mom made it about 50 pages. Maybe less.

The book is lengthy to the point of being drudgery.  The descriptors are overly indulgent and the characters are mere facades. Apparently there is an entire series on TV following the book and I can only hope it is more interesting than the book.