Red, White & Royal Blue (Spoilers)

At my book club, we were lucky enough to have an author join us for a book discussion. She went through the signs that you are reading a romance novel. The biggest tell is that there is a happy ending. I was on a hunt for a lighthearted book that gave me that. And boy did I find it!

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is young adult fiction but also a love story. It follows Alex Claremont-Diaz, first son and Henry, Prince of England. They start off as enemies and a toppled wedding cake forces them to become friends and eventually lovers. It’s a cute story that follows the pains of a new relationship in the public eye. Considering all the public hoopla regarding Harry and Meghan’s exit as senior royal members of the family, it was really heart warming to read about love prevailing over the odds.

McQuiston said that she developed a love for stories with “big beating hearts” and she has delivered us with one. This debut novel is delightful and I’m excited to see what she comes up with next!

When Breathe Becomes Air

When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi was a beautiful book. I read it on a sunny day over the summer because I knew it was a sad story. How could it not be? A doctor diagnosed with cancer dying just as his child was born? I did not expect it to be so engrossing. I read the book in one sitting. One day would be more accurate. I broke it up by pausing to make myself some lunch.

The book is a reflection on life and death. Paul was a magnificent writer. His thoughts flowed well and had an ability to articulate his thoughts succinctly and clearly. It’s fascinating to me that Paul wrote this book in the last year of his life. To be able to examine your life and the future that will happen without you in such a thoughtful way is a gift. The world lost not only a promising doctor but an amazing author.

His wife, Lucy, writes the epilogue and that was when the tears started to come. It was hard to read it but it was beautiful. I heard a lot about the book but didn’t want to read something about someone who was dying. It seemed too sad a story but Paul didn’t allow it to be sad. It was thought provoking that made me think about my own mortality.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved this book. I highly recommend reading it if you get the chance. Everyone can take something away from this book. Who has read this book? What did you think about it?

Book Review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

I’m not going to lie, I love a good parable. One of my favorite books is The Alchemist. I’ve sent the book to many a friend who was on their own person journey. Upon reflection, I don’t remember the last parable I’ve read. It’s funny that’s I’ve read two this year.

My love of parables led me to a TERRIBLE one earlier this year. It was a story about a woman, written by a man, who was spending her life away on lattes. Spoiler alert: the lattes are not the reason women are financially behind. It’s the males like the moron who wrote the book who make it difficult for women to get ahead.

Which brings us to the delightful collection of stories by Cecelia Ahern. Roar is the collection of parables you didn’t know you needed to read. Ahern writes short stories about women who have been smothered in one way or another and their quest to break through. 

Ahern tells thirty unique stories that fit seamlessly together or could stand on their own. At 273 pages, it’s the length of a typical novel but you feel like you are getting so much more because of the diversity of the stories. A couple of my favorites were “The Women Who Thought the Grass Was Greener on the Other Side” and “The Woman Who Wore Pink”. This will be the new book I will be mailing my friends. 

September 2019 Book Dump

September swung between freezing in the morning to sweltering in the afternoon. It didn’t’ really matter how you dressed but you would have dressed incorrectly. With that being said, I was able to take full advantage of those sweltering afternoons and spent a significant amount of time reading in the park.

The books I read in September were:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  2. The Other Americans by Lalia Lalami
  3. Roar by Cecelia Ahern

I’m lucky that I was able to get ahead over the summer because otherwise I’d be in some big trouble trying to hit my 50 books goal. As I write this, I’m at 39 books for the year.

Is anyone really behind or really ahead on their reading goals for 2019? Does anyone have any tricks for staying on top of it?

Where the Crawdads Sing

Per usual, I’m late to the party. I only picked up Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens because it was the Albany Book Club’s October pick.

The novel follows Kya as she navigates life in the swamp. The book opens with five year old Kya watching her mother walk out of the house never to be heard from again and follows her through young adulthood.

Owens tells a beautiful story of isolation and survival in the desolate North Carolina marshlands. She lives outside the world but yearns to be part of it. Against all odds, Kya is able to succeed and survive in her own way.

The reader wants to feel bad for Kya but make no mistake- Kya is a survivor and this story is a victory lap and an ode to the strength of women.

Who has read “Where the Crawdads Sing?” What did you think of the book?

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

In The Farm, Joanne Ramos examines motherhood in this dystopian novel set in present day.

Hidden away in the Catskills, there is a luxury retreat for pregnant women. At Golden Oaks, you are given everything you could need to have a happy and healthy pregnancy: fitness classes, chef prepared organic meals, luxury clothing, and world class doctors checking in on their health and that of their unborn babies.

But you’re not carrying your child. You’re a “Host”, carrying a baby for a “Client” who can’t (or chooses not to) have a baby themselves. At the end of your pregnancy with the delivery of a healthy baby, you receive a large payment.

The novel follows Reagan and Jane, two hosts, each hand picked to be a host but both motivated by vastly different circumstances.

The Farm is a thought provoking examination of motherhood. Is it okay to pay someone to carry your child if you can? Is it more acceptable if you are unable to conceive? Does the surrogate have a say in whether or not a pregnancy is terminated? Is it exploitative to have immigrant women act as surrogates? Is it predatory to pay them a bonus for delivering a healthy child?

The world of The Farm isn’t too far in the future. Paid surrogacy is a controversial topic that is currently being debated in states across the nation. While a work of fiction, it explores the exploitative side that paid surrogacy can create.

Overall, a great book that should be read by all. If you liked A Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll enjoy Joanne Ramos novel The Farm.

Book Review: The Latte Factor

Farnoosh Torabi is easily one of my favorite podcasters. She is funny and knowledgeable. Her podcast, So Money, airs three times a week. With a high frequency show, she brings on a lot of authors to discuss their new books.

One of her recent guests was David Bach. Bach is a well know financial writer. During his interview, he said that this story has been inside him for 12 years. He knew it had to be a young women and he knew the parable he wanted to tell to the world. He said it would be short and something people can read in an hour. He credited Paulo Coelho with telling him he had to write this book. I added The Latte Factor to my library request list. If Coelho told him to write it, it must be good.

The story follows Zoey Daniels for one week as she decides whether or not she would like to take a new job. She meets a barista who provides her the keys to financial freedom. One of which is getting rid of her daily “double shot latte and muffin” habit. She enacts the advice of the barista and her boss. She ends up staying at her job and being happy. As Bach promised, you can read this story in about an hour.

Sallie Krawcheck had a great reaction to the story. She said “Just buy the f***** latte.”

The Latte Factor has some good points about compound interest and making cuts to things however, I have some of the same issues Sallie does. Why is it a female lead in the story? Bach is a man. Men have plenty of habits that are daily and costly. The latte is a female associated drink. Its an older man giving her the advice. It comes across as mansplaining. Beyond that, the bigger issue with women and earning is that they are paid less than men across the board. We pay more for the same items (the pink tax) as men. There is no paid leave for many women. All of these items have an impact on our financial situation that has nothing to do with the choices we make on how to spend our money.

David Bach wrote a cute story about what can happen if you decide to make some changes to your life. But that’s exactly what it is, a fictional story. Bach wanted to write a parable to teach the millennials when in reality he wrote a condescending short story. The charts he puts in the back are interesting.

Who has read The Latte Factor ? What were your thoughts about the book?

If you want to read Sallie Krawcheck’s response to The Latte Factor  you can read it here.

Book Review: Evil: The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side

Who is evil? What is evil? Dr. Julia Shaw makes the argument that evil is a subjective concept in which we, as a society, need to have a more nuanced discussions around.

Dr. Shaw dissects evil throughout eight chapters and asks the reader to think about each example of evil through a different lens. It was a fascinating examination about evil. With each example, she asks us to examine our gut reactions and move away from naming behaviors as evil until we examine the underlying causes. It takes some of those uncomfortable topics and makes the reader really think about them without the labeling or othering that typically comes when discussing ‘evil’ topics..

If you’re interested in human behavior or human psyche, then you will love this.

Who’s has this on their TBR list? Who has read this book?

Book Review: Girl Wash Your Face

I’m about to be in the minority but Rachel Hollis book is not impressive.

I was having doubts about her in the first four chapters. Then we arrived at Chapter 5. It could have been a good chapter but then she detailed her borderline abusive first year of her relationship with her now husband. The title of the chapter gives the indication that she realized having a man is not important. When in reality, she is perpetuating the myth of the big gesture. She is perpetuating that if you give an ultimatum then the man will change. Threats will make someone change.

The reality is that if he acts like an asshole, he is an asshole. This chapter tinged the way I took the rest of her advice. I find that the “lies” she is trying to correct, she was still doing them herself.

Beyond that, I found her writing style to be convoluted. She has some good points but they were lost in the way she wrote about them. I found her to be privileged and unable to see her privilege.

There are a plethora of self help/self improvement books out there. There are plenty of other ones that can actually help you get to where you want to be.

An Anonymous Girl

May’s book club pick was An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen.

Jessica is a makeup artist trying to make ends meet in New York City. By chance she heard about a study from a client. She shows up for the study and is sucked into the mysterious Dr. Shields study on morality and ethics.

Jessica is looking to make some extra money and finds herself sucked into Dr. Shields study. Each task she accomplishes is directly followed by a large financial reward. She quickly realizes that Dr. Shields is not giving her the full story and that she may be a pawn in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

This is the second book I’ve read by Hendricks and Pekkanen. They do a great job of setting up the reader to have the rug ripped out from under them. This is our May Book Club selection and I can’t wait to discuss it with everyone.

Who has read this book? What did you think about it?