Tuesday, February 26, 2019

#gretchensbooks2019 - February

My February weekends were jam-packed with time with friends and family, which meant my reading time was minimal, though I did manage to squeeze a few from my TBR list in!

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(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

19. Bird Box by Josh Malerman (3/5 ๐ŸŸŠ)

Something is out there . . .
Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.
Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remain, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now, that the boy and girl are four, it is time to go. But the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat—blindfolded—with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them. But is it man, animal, or monster?

Engulfed in darkness, surrounded by sounds both familiar and frightening, Malorie embarks on a harrowing odyssey—a trip that takes her into an unseen world and back into the past, to the companions who once saved her. Under the guidance of the stalwart Tom, a motely group of strangers banded together against the unseen terror, creating order from the chaos. But when supplies ran low, they were forced to venture outside—and confront the ultimate question: in a world gone mad, who can really be trusted?
So obviously I watched this on Netflix the day after it was out, but I had heard a commercial on the radio for it prior to release which had intrigued me to watch it. I'm very torn on how I feel about this book. I never watch a movie before I read a book, so that aspect through me off.  Plus, there was so much hype after the movie came out that I honestly can't form an opinion solely about the book. I also listened to it as an audiobook, and it felt weird not hearing Sandra Bullock's voice which also altered how I felt about it.  This is the worst "review" ever, I'm so sorry.

20. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (2/5 ๐ŸŸŠ) 

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.
But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable.
Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.
Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.
I don't know about this one.  I listened to the whole thing via audiobook, and there wasn't a point that I said to myself, "maybe I should just scrap listening to this one," but it wasn't great.  It wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone to read.  I love suspense stories, and this one, though marketed as a psychological thriller, wasn't very suspenseful.  It was fairly predictable, and once you figured out Grace and Jack's relationship (which didn't take long), there really wasn't any unexpected twists in the plot line.

21. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (5/5 ๐ŸŸŠ) 
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.

Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness.

This was our March book club book, but I read it early because I had already been recommended it and had it on my TBR list.  I loved the writing style of Frank McCourt; it was written in the style of childish ramblings, but not in the annoying, Junie B. Jones kind of way. (Not hating on Junie B. I loved her when I was 6, just not my style as a 27-year-old). Memoirs are my favorite form of non-fiction, especially one like this one that describes a life so very different from my own. It was fascinating (maybe not the right word to describe such a troubling childhood??) to read about McCourt's world. I just loved loved loved everything about this book. I loved the story line. I loved the dialect. I loved the point of view and McCourt’s unusual style. It took me a good chunk of time to read, but I was absolutely engrossed in it every time I picked the book up. It is so very rare that I find a book that I truly do not want to end, and this was one of them. Don’t get me wrong. It is absolutely a morbid tale, but there is nothing glamorous about growing poverty, especially during this time period. Also, I’m going to start using the phrase, “I don’t give a fiddler’s fart,” much more frequently because it cracked me up every time I read it. I borrowed the book from the library, but when I came across a copy at my book store back home I bought it because I wanted my own copy - so I have it to borrow if anyone would like to read it!

23. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (4/5 ๐ŸŸŠ)

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tรคtowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

I was so excited when I received the email from my library saying that this book was ready for me to pick up.  I've been waiting to read this since its release this past September. I really enjoyed the storyline, but the writing wasn’t great. It was very heavy on the dialogue and light on any sort of detail and description.  My research after reading it led me to find that the author is a screenwriter, which may be why it was written this way. Having read Auschwitz Lullaby last month, I was left with so many questions about the people of both books (they’re both based on true stories) since they were all in the same area of Auschwitz-Birkenau. 

24. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman (5/5 ★)

Kristin Newman spent much of her twenties and thirties buying dresses to wear to her friends' weddings and baby showers. Not ready to settle down and in need of an escape from her fast-paced job as a sitcom writer, Kristin instead traveled the world, often alone, for several weeks each year. In addition to falling madly in love with the planet, Kristin fell for many attractive locals, men who could provide the emotional connection she wanted without costing her the freedom she desperately needed. 
Kristin introduces readers to the Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests who helped her transform into "Kristin-Adjacent" on the road–a slower, softer, and, yes, sluttier version of herself at home. Equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling, candid reflection, and wanderlust-inspiring travel tales, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is a compelling debut that will have readers rushing to renew their passports.

This book was a re-read and is one of my all-time favorite books because I relate to it so deeply.  While I don't have the funds available to me for travel like she did (because #teacherlife), I always use my time off from work to travel wherever I can.  I have no idea where my original copy of this book went, with all its tabbed pages and underlined quotes, but I had no guilt in buying this again - that's how great it is.  I found myself underlining new quotes this time around, but am still loving the ones I saved before.  You can find my original thoughts and saved quotes from this memoir here! This is a great book for anyone with big dreams who just isn't ready to settle down yet.

Reading Challenge: 24/50 books read in 2019 
Almost half way already!

You can find previous book reviews here!

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