February 2020 Book Dump

Short month but lots of books! I’m trying to read more young adult fiction because I’m spending most of my day in-front of my computer reading budget bills or twitter trying to figure out what’s going on.

My favorite book this month was Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. It’s also one of my book club books. I can’t wait to discuss it later this week. I also read Ali Wong’s Dear Girls which had me snickering. At my coworkers insistence I read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. Considering how much I hated her first book, I was really surprised how much I liked it. It was a great story with interesting characters. It was really well done. And finally, I read a young adult fantasy fiction The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. It was fabulous and a series. I can’t wait to read the next one.

What was your favorite book you read this month?

Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is the best. He has an insatiable curiosity which drives him to explore and examine everything. He finds something that is a little bit interesting and he dives into it to find the reasoning behind it.

His latest book is no different. He is exploring how we communicate with the people around us. He thinks that they way we have been programed to deal with strangers has led us down a dangerous path. And after his examination, I’m inclined to say he is not wrong. He uses famous examples of miscommunications to explore his ideas.

The most striking takeaway for me is the idea of defaulting to the truth. That we instinctually believe that people are going to behave as we do in a situation. This is when things can begin to go sideways. I found it to be startling simple idea that had a broad application to so many situations.

Malcolm Gladwell books are always a good read. He helps to stimulate my brain to look at things differently and to examine the world around me. I would also recommend listening to his podcast series Revisionist History. It is a one hour dive into Gladwell’s research interests.

Who has read Talking to Strangers? What did you think? What is your favorite Malcolm Gladwell book?

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?

October 2019 Book Dump

I was cruising through books this past month! I also continue to be a terrible library patron. I only kept one of the four books for less than 14 days. To make matters, worse I also held onto them even longer because I needed to photograph the books and write the reviews.

October 2019 Books:

  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

My favorite book was The Only Plane in the Sky. I heard a lot of buzz about You Should Talk to Someone and I did like it but it didn’t knock my socks off. It was good but I don’t understand the hype around it. It also left me with a lot of questions about sharing these sessions. And lastly, I was horror read Before We Were Yours. I cannot wait to discuss this with my book club next week.

What was your favorite book you read in October? Share in the comments below!

March Book Dump

March Book Dump is here! I’m continuing to cruise through my goal of reading all my First Edition books from the Odyssey Bookshop. I have high hopes for April. More daylight and warmer weather means lots of time for reading outside.

The Age of Light– A historical fiction about Lee Miller and Man Ray’s romance. Delightful story about two historical figures I previously knew nothing about. It was told from Lee Miller’s point of view.

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey – This is Novey’s second novel and it did not disappoint! We follow three woman who are all tied together by a violent up and coming politician.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen – Can I just say damn ladies? Why you gotta be so dark?! This is the team’s second novel and it does not disappoint. If you loved The Wife Between Us, you’ll definitely get caught up in this book.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

To be completely candid, I don’t even remember why I put her book on my wish list for the library but it arrived. I figured I might as well give it a shot. The result? Hands down one of the best books I read in 2018. 

Why did I love it so much? Because of her willingness to share so much of her journey with the public. I only had an inkling of who Michelle Obama was outside of being the First Lady and Barack Obama’s wife. I knew she was a lawyer but I had no idea of any of her professional accomplishments or what her life was like.

She is an extremely driven and accomplished woman. I think what I respected the most about her book was her describing her realization that corporate law was not for her. She did all of the “right” things and still wasn’t happy. It is a difficult concept to grasp when you have achieve your dreams and realize they are not what you thought it would be. I also think that it shows tremendous courage to leave a financially secure job to find a job that makes you happy.

Furthermore, her willingness to talk about her struggles with infertility and in her marriage. Marriage is hard work. Infertility is something that so many women struggle with.  For a woman like Michelle Obama to come out and talk about her struggles helps the to make it acceptable to talk about these difficult topics. I think it’s important to talk about our struggles as well as our successes.

Okay. I’ll stop gushing now. Go out and read the book. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon


The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon  was recommended by a Literary Lady Libations reader (Shout out to Chuck!!).

Kwon’s novel follows the story of Phoebe and Will. Both are wounded and broken in their own ways. The main storyline follows Phoebe’s descent into a cult while Will painstakingly tries to be the one to bring her back.

Kwon said that it took her ten years to write this novel. I find that particularly interesting because she touches on a topic, that until recently was pretty taboo to discuss in public. Phoebe is sexually assaulted. What is even more interesting is that Kwon has the sexual assault be perpetrated by Phoebe’s boyfriend. Will rapes Phoebe.

Before people scoff and say that it is a one off and this is a work of fiction, let’s take a look at the statistics surrounding sexual violence and college students. Sexual violence in relationships is all too common. Below are a couple of statistics regarding college aged women and dating violence (taken from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):

  • 1 in 6 (16%) college women has been sexually abused in a dating relationship
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.

Kwon handles sexual violence in a relationship with a nuanced look. I think that Kwon, unfortunately, captures an accurate portrayal of what happens when rape happens in a relationship. The rape just unfolds on the page and then we move on from it. It could almost be described as a foot note in the novel. However be the conclusion of the novel it’s clear that the sexual assault could be described as turning point of the novel. The ramifications of the experience appears to have set Phoebe and Will on a path they would not have travelled down otherwise.

In addition to suffering from sexual assault, Phoebe has extreme guilt for killing her mother. This guilt drove her in all aspects of her life. It was the parrot always on her shoulder that progressively began squawking louder and louder. In an effort to wash away her sins and save the babies she ended doing the opposite.

Guilt is a powerful emotion. I would consider it one of the main themes of the book. Kwon’s writes about the many forms in which guilt and show up in a persons’ life. She portrays the outsize role guilt can play on our actions and our state of mind. How Will and Phoebe deal (or don’t) with their guilt has a huge impact on the course of their lives.

Kwon gives an ending to the story. It is a very satisfactory ending. However, I couldn’t shake this book. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings swirling in my head. How much of Will’s background did you think impacted his actions? Do you think if Will was the typical college student he would have behaved the same way? Would he have driven relentlessly towards ‘saving’ Phoebe? What played a bigger part in Phoebe’s path to the cult- her guilt or the sexual assault?

If you haven’t read it, I would recommend picking it up at your local library or indie bookstore. It is one of the better 2018 debuts I have read.




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.