Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

The book was well written. My problem with the book is that I took issue with the story. I found the main character to be unlikeable and annoying. Walsh wrote a weak and simpering female protagonist. She highlighted all the bad stereotypes about women and wrote a book about it.

Why did I find Sarah unlikeable? I think my distaste from the book comes from the values that the main character seems to protrude. Sarah obsesses about Eddie who has stopped talking to her after seven ‘magical’ days together. SPOILER ALERT: He is brooding man, with a dark past that they are connected but they end up back together.

Give me a freaking break. This is everything wrong with people now. They hang onto the idea of someone forever, hoping that they will come around. If someone stops talking to you with no further contact aka ‘Ghosting’ instead of using their words to communicate what is wrong, then you need to RUN, not walk in the opposite direction of that man. This novel plays into the fantasy that so many woman have. It supports the idea of women falling in love with and hanging onto a man’s potential. Potential is why woman waste time in terrible relationships or terrible jobs.

With that being said Rosie Walsh is a good writer. I could never say she writes poorly. She has the mechanical skill to put together a story and obscuring details to have a better twist. I wish she had written better characters and a better story.

Can’t like every book that you read though. I did finish it so I’ll give myself a pat on the back for it.

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The Plot Against America By Philip Roth

Dystopian fiction everyone! Who doesn’t love a little bit of alternative history? I have always enjoyed the genre. I find myself reading more of it lately. There are definitely a lot more of it being published in the Trump era but there is a plethora of ones that a couple of years older but still strike a cord in today’s environment. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a great example of that.

The Plot Against America was published in 2004. Written as if it were an autobiography of his life, Roth tells the tale of what happened to himself and his family when Charles Lindburgh beat FDR and became the President of the United States in 1940. It is a fascinating examination of how quickly life as we know it can dissolve into something totally and completely unrecognizable.

14 years later and his story still resonates with a reader. I found it particularly relevant in America’s current political climate.The book brings into sharp focus how much politics plays a role in our daily life. I found myself comparing the fictional America that Roth created and the America that is happening here now. I find a lot of glaring similarities between President Lindburgh’s America and President Trump’s America. Citizens are constantly asking themselves, can he do this? Is this legal? It was all done under the idea of protecting the US citizens.

The questions that I kept asking throughout the novel were: Who does this make it safer for? Who gets to decide what is safe and what isn’t? Why do the Jewish neighborhoods have to be broken up but not the Italian or the Irish? Why are the Jews labeled an unAmerican but not any other group. Roth describes the effect of ‘othering’ and the wide ranging effects it has. His novel paints a realistic picture of America’s slow descent into a  nation that allows for the ostracism of its own citizens. The notion that it can happen here creeps into the readers mind and does not leave. There is no big event, it is the accumulation of all these actions that land the characters in an unrecognizable America.

Final thought and takeaways from the book: It’s important to pay attention to the little actions our leaders take. It is the sum of all the little actions that will have the biggest impact on our country. The book was dense. It took awhile for me to get through the book but as always Roth created an intriguing and engrossing read.

With Election Day being tomorrow, I thought this review was timely. This book shares the message loud and clear that elections have consequences. Maybe if more people read Philip Roth’s book before 2016 we wouldn’t be in this current situation. Sadly, we can’t go back but only go forward so get out and exercise your right to vote!

 

 

 

The Daisy Children by Sofia Grant

**SPOILER ALERT: This blog post has spoilers**

I have absolutely no idea how this book ended up on my library queue. It showed up at the library and I read the back and I was flummoxed. Nothing rang a bell. It didn’t even seem like a book I would typically read.

The Daisy Children follows three generations of women but told from the perspective of Katie and Margaret. Katie is Margaret’s grandchild. The story is told between Katie and Margaret’s perspective. Margaret was the replacement child her parent’s had after her sister was killed in a tragic accident. Katie is Margaret’s grandchild. At it’s heart, the novel is a romance story.

Katie is a thirty something woman, unhappily married, when her estranged grandmother, Margaret, passes away and names her in the will. Katie is brought back to her home state of Texas and meets her cousin Scarlet. Together, the cousins discover their shared past and begin to take steps to empower themselves to live a better life. Because it is a romance novel, Katie ends up finding out her husband is having an affair and decides to take up with the handsome wounded vet who is Margaret’s neighbor.

The novel uses a real life accident that occurred in Texas as a focal point of the story. It is the thing that connect all the characters together. However, the idea of the daisy children or the replacement children is completely a work of the author’s imagination. Using this accident as the point that ties the novel together was interesting even thought the novel as a whole was pretty shallow.  The characters didn’t have a lot of depth and it was very transparent how everything was going to end up. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book and I wouldn’t recommend picking it up unless you are a serious Romance genre fan.

Who is Vera Kelly? By Rosalie Knecht

Two words to describe Who is Vera Kelly? are: Slow Burn. The novel flips back and forth from Vera’s present to her past. While it is confusing at first, the reader is slowly lead through these ‘past’ chapters and begins to see how Vera ended up in her present. It seems as though the author is purposefully making the story confusing because the characters path to her present situation and occupation was not straight forward. It had a lot of a twists and turns which I found to be very engaging.

I came across Who Is Vera Kelly? on a listicle article about highly anticipated books. The only reason this caught my eye is that Vera Kelly is the name of a professor at the college I attended. I read the description and the book is a spy novel and follows Vera on her exploits in 1960s Argentina.

This gave me pause because the professor in question, quite openly, discussed her life as a spy. She was imprisoned in Central American prisons for spying. She immigrated to the United States at some point and is now a professor. My interest was peaked. Not enough to add it to my order list for the library but it was in the back of my mind. Fate brought me to the book, when it was predominantly displayed at the library in the New Books section. I was on my way to grab a book I ordered and picked it up too

Who Is Vera Kelly? was a short book. However, it had a lot of topics packed into the book: CIA, Cold War culture, American interventions, LGBT scene in the 1950s/1960s, and  student revolutionaries to name a few. While very diverse, Rosalie Knecht, tied all of these topics into her story  and characters and made them fit in seamlessly. Nothing seemed forced or cliched with the characters.

This is the second book Rosalie Knecht has written. I am very interested to talk with her about her book and what the inspirations were for the novel. If I had the chance to meet her, I would have to ask her if she knows the Vera Kelly I know. A lot of her story sounds very similar to things and situations that Vera experienced and told her students about. I can’t help but think “Did she steal Vera’s life and make it a novel?!”. Maybe or maybe not. Maybe I like this story so much because it is legitimizing the stories I heard from Vera’s students in college. It makes Knecht’s story more enjoyable because I know what she is describing in her novel isn’t so far fetched.

Longer than the usual review but I really enjoyed the book. I definitely recommend picking it up if you are interested in the Cold War and Latin American politics.

 

Dopesick by Beth Macy

In a previous life, I was the committee director for a state legislative committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. I spent two years submerged in learning everything I could about the bludgeoning (at that time) epidemic. I remember in one of my first meetings with an academic and he told me quite plainly, “Oh we have not even seen the worst of this yet.” He told me that this was a long time in the making and the inaction to actually address the problem would have far reaching effects on the Americans

It’s three and half years later and everything he said has become true.

Even if you have not been personally touched by the heroin epidemic, Dopesick is a powerful book. Beth Macy is an investigative reporter based in Virginia. To tell the larger story of the opioid and heroin epidemic, she focused on a few towns and a few individuals and the path their lives took.

I find her book to be so good because she takes a look at the epidemic from all angles. She does not just take aim at one industry or blame one person. She takes a holistic approach to the examination of the epidemic.

Addiction does not discriminate. It rears its ugly head in every town and it can appear in any family. Everyone needs to read this to understand how we got where we are today. If you read any book this Fall, you should read Beth Macy’s book Dopesick.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didon

Joan Didon’s husband died on December 30, 2003. He had a massive heart attack. 10 months later, she began to write about the experience.

The Year of Magical Thinking is a portrait of grief. I think what really struck me was that she was unable to just sit and wallow in her grief. She had to pick up and be strong for the people around her. On the night her husband died, they had just returned from visiting their daughter who was in a medically induced coma. They were unsure if she was going to live. In a strange twist of fate, her husband was in fact the person who did not live.

It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to have your partner of over 30 years pass away suddenly and also have your only child be in such a precarious medical condition. Throughout the book, she makes it clear that he was a partner in every way to her for many years. The sudden loss of this support system must have been such a difficult thing to experience.

It is interesting because she makes it clear that to her, his death was sudden and unexpected but he seemed to foreshadow his own death. From Didon’s retelling of her conversations with her husband in his last years of life, he seemed to believe he was living on borrowed time. It was almost as if he knew he would be leaving her at a difficult period in her life.

This was the first book I’ve read by Joan Didon. I didn’t know much about her or her husband other than Claire Messud recommended reading her books. I look forward to reading more of her works and also exploring her late husbands various works.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I am officially late the party in regards to praising Anthony Bourdain’s writing. I’m disappointed that it was only in his death that I came to know his writing.

Upon the announcement of his death, my coworker circulated his article “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” to our office. Up to that point, I had never read any of this writings or watched any of his shows. (If you haven’t read the article, read it here.) His book, Kitchen Confidential, is an expansion of the article. His book is a mix of memoir and restaurant expose. He would probably cringe at the expose part, because as he points out throughout the book, he is simply stating the truth. He is giving his readers an actual, first hand account of what it was like to work in various kitchens through 1970s-1990s.

His stories are hilarious. He is unafraid to poke fun at himself or his contemporaries. After I started the book, I began to watch episodes of his show No Reservations. I highly recommend this because after watching two or three episodes, I began to read the book and would hear his voice as I read it. His diction and syntax are so unique when he speaks and he wrote in the same way he speaks.

If you like to cook, fancy yourself a chef or just love food, then you need to read Kitchen Confidential.

Circe by Madeline Miller

I have always been a fan girl of Greek and Roman Mythology. I love the story of the Gods and how they would influence the lives of humans.

Madeline Miller tells the untold story of Circe. Circe was banished by her father’s ally, Zeus, to spend her immortal life in exile on the island of Aiaia after she dares to show her true power. Circe is known in Greek mythology for turning men into pigs and being one of the many lovers Odysseus took on his journey home. However, Miller gives life to Circe and a depth to who she was as never told before. Circe is immortal. A daughter of a Titan but she is different than her peers. She longs for companionship and has a fascination for humans. She cannot help but return to them, even when she is injured by them time and time again.

Circe is our narrator and guides the reader through her life and provides more fleshed out stories to the traditional myths. The female narrator is a refreshing change in this re-telling of the Greek myth. If you love mythology, you will love this story.

 

 

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

Anxiety induced insomnia is bad but having The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin to keep me company all night was bright spot on an otherwise miserable evening.

On a lark the four Gold children go to meet a fortune teller who tells them the day that they will die. The novel follows the lives of Varya, Daniel, Klara and Simon after they have been given their death date. Benjamin does a great job weaving the stories of the four siblings together in a cohesive and authentic way. Her writing provoked so many questions in my own mind. What would I do? Would I believe something like this?

The story made me think of the Death Clock. When I was in middle school, the Death Clock was a craze for awhile. I remember entering my birthday and gender and then being horrified when an answer was unceremoniously spit out. How did it know?! I didn’t even tell it that much information. I was 11 or 12 when I had my first brush with the Death Clock and it haunted me for months.

At it’s heart, the novel focuses on the role of fate and our decisions. Are the Gold children destined to die as predicted by the gypsy? Or did their choices, in reaction to the prediction, lead them in a direction they otherwise would not have gone? Chloe Benjamin’s novel creates an interesting space for the reader to reflect on their own ideas about fate and whether the choices we make are really are own or predetermined in the stars.

 

Girls Burn Brighter

I’m reviewing my Goodreads notes on this book, and I have absolutely not idea how it ended up on my list. I’m assuming it was from one of the lists I saw in the last couple of months about upcoming books.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobhan Rao arrived from the library with about five other books. For once, I asked for the printed receipt and realized that Girls Burn Brighter was a 7 day loan. I rolled my eyes and crumbled up the receipt and tossed it into the trash as I exited the library.

I am perilously close to being unable to borrow more library books due to unpaid library fines. However, in my defense, 7 days and 14 day loans are the culprits! And it’s very difficult to return a book you are halfway through when you KNOW there is a waiting list for the book(which is the reason you are unable to renew it). What is a girl to do?

Moving on, Girls Burn Brighter arrived in a cache of books from the library. I was heading home to my parents house for the holiday weekend and brought a few books with me. I opted to pick up Girls Burn Brighter because of the looming deadline.

This books is many things but the strongest impression that was left on me was the examination of the power of female friendship and the quiet power of women. Poornima and Savitha both had, what can only be described, as a quiet power within themselves.

This book was set in 2001/2002 and I am absolutely horrified to have confirmed that this story is not an outlandish work of fiction. The stories of Poornima and Savitha are not uncommon or unlikely to have happened. The hunger, the poverty, and the violence are all typical and expected experiences for Indian women.

Who else has read this book? I have been talking about this book non stop in the hopes of finding someone to discuss it with. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this book.

Happy Reading and Drinking!