Tuesday, April 2, 2019

#gretchensbooks2019 - March

Finally, the water receded and I got a little bit of outdoor reading in (my personal favorite). When I was a kid, my dad was constantly urging me to read outside in the nice weather instead of curled up in my room, and I refused.  Now, I can't get enough of it. That being said, the majority of my books this month were audiobooks, because Lord help me, I just can’t seem to stay put in one place, especially with this sunshine that has finally found us and dried up the sixth Great Lake formally known as the state of Tennessee. 

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

25. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (4/5 ★)

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.

TBH, this one had been on my TBR list for awhile, then I took it off.  It was on there because I had seen so many other people reading it, and I liked the cover art. I honestly can't tell you why I took it off.  Probably because I had a list of over 300 books to read and since I hadn't chosen this one based on its synopsis it was easy to remove.  I ended up getting it as an audiobook anyway, and I'm glad I did. It was sad, and it was powerful, and it made my heart hurt. Its not a neat and pretty story, but the narration illustrates the impact that incarceration has on those whose loved ones are imprisoned.

26. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg (4/5 ★)

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a now-classic novel about two women: Evelyn, who’s in the sad slump of middle age, and gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode, who’s telling her life story. Her tale includes two more women—the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, offering good coffee, southern barbecue, and all kinds of love and laughter—even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present will never be quite the same again.

Despite this being one of my favorite movies since middle school, I had NO idea it was a book!! We had decide to read another book by the same author for our February book club book when a friend told me she had written Fried Green Tomatoes as well. So, instead of reading the book I was suppose to read, I downloaded this on audiobook instead. I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was a little nervous that after being so familiar with the movie that I wouldn't like the book, but I listened to it in a span of a few days, so that definitely wasn't the case. I LOVED the voice of the woman reading this.  It was the perfect southern voice, and quite frankly she reminded me a lot of the actress who played Ninny Threadgoode in the movie. Some parts were word-for-word identical to the dialogue that I am all-too familiar with, but other parts were quite different and more elaborated.  A lot of the big things that happened in the movie also happened in the book, just maybe a little differently.  The book also had a lot more about Buddy Jr.'s life which was fun.  I was chuckling to myself quite frequently as I listened to it on my walk the other day, the neighbors down the street must have thought I was crazy laughing to myself. 

27. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (1/5 ★)

As the founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Rachel Hollis developed an immense online community by sharing tips for better living while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own life. Now, in this challenging and inspiring new book, Rachel exposes the twenty lies and misconceptions that too often hold us back from living joyfully and productively, lies we’ve told ourselves so often we don’t even hear them anymore.
With painful honesty and fearless humor, Rachel unpacks and examines the falsehoods that once left her feeling overwhelmed and unworthy, and reveals the specific practical strategies that helped her move past them. In the process, she encourages, entertains, and even kicks a little butt, all to convince you to do whatever it takes to get real and become the joyous, confident woman you were meant to be.
With unflinching faith and rock-hard tenacity, Girl, Wash Your Face shows you how to live with passion and hustle--and how to give yourself grace without giving up.

So I know I'm a little but behind in reading this, but I've been on the wait list from the library for FOREVER and I'm not allowed to buy anymore books until I read all the ones I've got....Anyway.  I had seen this one pop up on a lot of my socials and it seemed to come highly recommend.  I, however, was not thrilled by it.  It was a quick read, but it was also very shallow.  There was nothing new or special about it that isn't in every other self-help-esque book.  It was mostly just 213 pages of "if you believe in yourself, you can do it!" Since I'm neither a mom, nor an upper class woman getting $10,000 paychecks, it was extremely hard for me to relate to. 

28. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (5/5 ★)

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.

A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.

OMG this story. Holy cow! Seriously, I don't know how this chick and her corporation managed to con people for so long, but boy what a narrative.  I have as much background knowledge about medical labs and their procedures and rules as I do about operating a fork lift (which is pretty much none), but even I could spot the ZILLIONS of red flags flapping wildly throughout the whole operation. Elizabeth Holmes is obviously insane, but also incredibly smart to have been able to pull off all that she did. I'm not a big non-fiction reader outside of personal memoirs, and I did listen to this via audiobook, but it was so interesting I hated having to stop it when I reached my destination!

Aaron Hernandez was a college All-American who became the youngest player in the NFL and later reached the Super Bowl. His every move as a tight end with the New England Patriots played out the headlines, yet he led a secret life -- one that ended in a maximum-security prison. What drove him to go so wrong, so fast?

Between the summers of 2012 and 2013, not long after Hernandez made his first Pro Bowl, he was linked to a series of violent incidents culminating in the death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who dated the sister of Hernandez's fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins.

All-American Murder is the first book to investigate Aaron Hernandez's first-degree murder conviction and the mystery of his own shocking and untimely death.

I vaguely recalled some chaos involving Aaron Hernandez back when I was in college, but I never knew the whole story.  I enjoy James Patterson as a fiction author, so I thought I would give his non-fiction book a try.  I chose this book for the true crime aspect, and while I know part of dissecting a criminal’s actions comes from analyzing his past, there were too many game recaps that I personally could have done without. Also, I listened to this via audiobook, and the narrator’s voice was odd. He sounded like a man who should be narrating an episode of Forensic Files, because everything he said sounded overly dramatic. I know it’s a true crime story, but when the whole book is read this way, it’s a bit much. Mild displeasures aside, I was captivated by the story and listened to the majority of it in the span on a day on my drive to Minnesota. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone with an interest in true crime.

Related image30. Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life by Gary John Bishop (3/5 ★)
Joining the ranks of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, You Are a Badas*, and F*ck Feelings comes this refreshing, BS-free, self-empowerment guide that offers an honest, no-nonsense, tough-love approach to help you move past self-imposed limitations.

Are you tired of feeling fu*ked up? If you are, Gary John Bishop has the answer. In this straightforward handbook, he gives you the tools and advice you need to demolish the slag weighing you down and become the truly unfu*ked version of yourself. ''Wake up to the miracle you are,'' he directs. ''Here's what you've forgotten: You're a fu*king miracle of being.'' It isn't other people that are standing in your way, it isn't even your circumstances that are blocking your ability to thrive, it's yourself and the negative self-talk you keep telling yourself.

In Unfu*k Yourself, Bishop leads you through a series of seven assertions: I am willing. I am wired to win. I got this. I embrace the uncertainty. I am not my thoughts; I am what I do. I am relentless. I expect nothing and accept everything. Lead the life you were meant to have—Unfu*k Yourself.

This was a very quick audiobook.  The author is also the narrator of the audiobook, and his Scottish accent was somewhat distracting to me, but I do love when authors read their own books! Bishop's book is focused on seven assertions that he wants you to tell yourself, and he explains why they're important.  One thing he said really stuck with me - something to do with 'believing you can do something is only part of what you need to do.'  So many self-help-y books preach the "if you believe in yourself, you can do anything!" attitude.  While I 100% believe that is a huge part of accomplishing your goals, its not everything.  He mentions that believing you will succeed absolutely helps, but you can still accomplish things if you don't believe you can do them, its just much, much more difficult.  And on the flip side, believing you can accomplish something won't get you very far if you don't put in the time and effort to actually do it. Apparently I am just not in a season of life where I need a lot of self-empowerment, because I didn't get much out of this one either. Most self-empowerment books do more for me when I'm struggling or feeling like there is something more than I should be doing.  However, a great self-empowerment guide motivates me more, even during the seasons like I'm in now, where I'm already feeling pretty satisfied with where my life is at. I guess I will keep searching! Any recommendations?

31. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2.5/5 ★)

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. 

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

As my sixth and final audiobook of the month, I really expected to like this book more than I did. It was recommended everywhere, and it took months until the audiobook was available for me to listen to.It wasn’t great, but it wasn't bad either. It was a pleasant enough story, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened. In fact, I didn't even really get into it until the last three hours (it was an 11/5 hour long audiobook). It was sweet and nice, but lacked the action and suspense that I prefer in my fictional novels.

Reading Challenge: 31/50 books read in 2019

You can find previous book reviews here!