Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Genre: General Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

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This is a story of Mireille Duval Jameson, a daughter of a very wealthy and powerful man of Haiti. She has a very happy and successful life with her American husband and son as they live a life of relative luxury in Miami. When Mireille and her husband are on their annual vacation to visit with her parents in Haiti, she is kidnapped and held for ransom for 13 horrifying days. The things she must endure and survive through while under the control of a dangerous psychopath will change who she is forever. This book holds no punches with the descriptions and realities of her brutal and violent 13 days…as well as the months (and years) of healing that must take place afterward.

“Once upon a time, my life was a fairy tale and then I was stolen from everything I’ve ever loved. There was no happily ever after. After days of dying, I was dead.”

This was a beautifully written story about so much more than just a kidnapping. It’s more than just a story about the class divide in Haiti. It’s a story about endurance, strength, and the power we all have to heal. There is a very strong message of the inner strength of the human spirit and it’s ability to heal and survive. I absolutely loved the relationship Mireille had with her mother in law, Lorraine. The fact that their need for each other went full circle throughout this journey was such a beautiful addition.

This was definitely a tough read a time and it likely needs a trigger warning for some readers. There are more than a few very descriptive scenes of brutal rapes, assaults and torture. None of this story is easy to read and at times, I needed to take emotional breaks.
If you can handle heavy and disturbing subject matter to get to a beautiful story about the strength and resilience of a woman’s need to survive, this is an excellent book that was beautifully written.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

An Untamed State – Amazon

Review: Needful Things by Stephen King

Needful Things by Stephen King

Genre: Horror/Thriller

img_0379 I’m going to start this review by mentioning the fact that I am WAY behind on writing up my book reviews. It appears that I am about 4 books behind and, for that, I apologize. I guess it’s a good thing that, lately, I’ve been more in the mood to read than I have to write. But I’m going to force myself to sit and try and catch up…I have finished some great books in the past few weeks that I’m excited to share.

Anyway….on to the review:

As I have mentioned before, I am a HUGE Stephen King fan…I’ve been reading and loving his books since I first read The Shining  when I was about 12 years old. I’m slowly working to reread some of his books that I first read decades ago as well as reading some of his others for the first time. Needful Things falls into the later category. It’s a book that I’ve heard a lot of positive things about, but for some reason or another, never picked up until now.

Our story starts in the small Maine town of Castle Rock (the very same town from King’s short story, The Body, and film, Stand by Me as well as Cujo)… where we meet Polly Chalmers, the proprietor of You Sew and Sew as well as Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who is in charge of keeping the peace of the sleepy town. Fans of Stephen King will relish in some familiar names and stories about this town….Cujo, the murderous dog…Ace Merrill, the local criminal delinquent….but there is also a new citizen to Castle Rock, Leland Gaunt. Mr. Gaunt is a stranger to everyone in the town, but he immediately peaks everyone’s interest when he opens a strange and mysterious store called Needful Things. This interesting place seems to be a unique thrift-type store that carries a little bit of everything and the most interesting thing about it is that it seems to carry just the perfect thing for each and every citizen of Castle Rock. The price of each item is also a point of interest….Leland Gaunt doesn’t post the prices on his items….each item has a very specific cost depending on just how much someone is willing to pay for their most desperate wants and desires. The costs are high….very high….but it doesn’t seem to stop any of the customers from purchasing these needs. What Leland Gaunt knows that nobody else seems to is: EVERYTHING is for sale and everything has a price.

This was a phenomenal story and I absolutely loved every minute of it! I actually listened to the audiobook version of this solely because King narrates it himself and it was simply amazing! As with typical King novels, you get a wonderful insight into each of the characters that all becomes interwoven with a genius plot and storyline. King’s immense imagination and ability to describe the most perfect scenarios and details will never cease to amaze me and Needful Things is no exception. While this story has a definite creepy and ominous feel, it’s not overly gory or too far into the horror genre…so if you shy away from King because of that, this is a pretty “safe” choice in that aspect. The idea that people might give up their morals just for the opportunity to have their most desperate wants and desires is the central theme of this story. As with most King books, the central antagonist, Leland Gaunt, is terrifically creepy, evil and manipulative. I also really enjoyed the small tie-ins with other familiar King characters and story lines …it’s like a nice little surprise for regular fans.

Needful Things has definitely earned it’s place in my Top 5 favorite King books….so if you haven’t yet read this one and you are a fan of his work, I highly recommend it!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Needful Things – Amazon

Review: The View From The Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman

The View From The Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Non-Fiction/Essays

img_0295 Ever since I read my first Neil Gaiman book, American Gods, I have been in complete awe of this man’s imagination and his way with words. I have since read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Neverwhere and I was totally in love with both of those as well. When I saw this collection of his speeches, essays, forwards, and thoughts …I knew I had to have it.

Fot this, I alternated in between reading the hard text and listening to the audiobook and let me tell you….both were wonderful experiences! Gaiman narrates this himself…so it’s him reading his own words and his interpretation, opinions, and thoughts really shine through. Not to mention that his voice is just amazingly relaxing and mesmerizing. If Gaiman narrated every audiobook there is, I likely might not ever read an actual book again 😉

There were so many parts to this book that I absolutely loved, but if I had to pick my favorite…I would probably say it was a lecture he gave in 2013 for the Reading Agency, a UK charity with a mission to help people become more confident readers:

img_0293 Literate people read fiction, and fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end…that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key.”

This entire speech is simply beautiful and perfect. In it he also talks about children and their reading preferences and how, unknowingly so, some adults will turn children away from reading simply by forcing them to read things they don’t enjoy, aren’t interested in, or just not ready for. Adults thinking that certain authors aren’t “good enough” or that comics aren’t “real” reading…..those ideas are “hogwash” according to Gaiman, and I have to agree. Reading is reading is reading:

“You don’t discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is the gateway drug to other books you may prefer them to read. And not everyone has the same taste as you. Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child’s love of reading. You’ll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.”

Seriously, I love this man. I could probably quote that entire speech here, instead I’ll just have you get the book and read it in it’s entirely for yourself.

Another part that I adored was an opening for a tour book for Tori Amos’s Under the Pink tour in 1994. Mostly because, in high school, I was a huge Tori Amos fan…and they way he describes and talks about his friend makes me realize that she’s likely every bit as cool as I thought she was 20 years ago. Gaiman also has a few chapters dedicated to his wife, Amanda Palmer, and you can’t help but smile at the pure love, adoration, and awe he has for her and how those emotions just come out with his simple words.

There’s also plenty of hilariously funny moments too. Like the time he admitted to his nineteen year old daughter, Holly, that she was named after the Warhol superstar Holly Woodlawn in “Walk on the Wild Side”:

“‘That’s right,” I said, and bit the bullet. We were having the conversation. “You were named after the drag queen in a Lou Reed song”‘

In case you can’t tell…I thoroughly enjoyed reading and listening to The View From the Cheap Seats…and I definitely recommend it if you are a fan of Gaiman’s work. There were a few chapters that centered around famous sci-fi authors and comic artists that I found myself skimming, but overall this was a great read for me. He is definitely an author I would love to meet in person one day.

My Rating; 4/5 stars

Review: All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

img_0257 Nicolette Farrell is returning home to the rural, small town where she grew up. She left Cooley Ridge a decade ago after her best friend disappeared and was never heard from again. Everyone in the town has different ideas as to what happened to Corinne all those years ago; some think she ran away, some think she was murdered by her boyfriend, and some are still as clueless as the investigators seem to have been all those years ago.

When Nicolette receives a phone call from her brother telling her that their father’s health has taken a turn for the worse, she knows she has no choice but to go back home and help. Even though most things in Cooley Ridge are very different than what Nicolette remembers….some things will never change. Nicolette’s brother is married and expecting a baby, her old high school boyfriend, Tyler,  is dating a younger girl, Annaleise Carter….who mysteriously goes missing just days after Nicolette comes back into town. Annaleise also just happens to be the one person who can confirm Nicolette, Daniel, and Tyler’s alibi for the night Corinne went missing 10 years ago.  Old memories and new questions of Corinne’s disappearance begin to emerge when a brand new missing persons investigation turns the small town upside down.

“We were a town full of fear, searching for answers. But we were also a town full of liars.”

This was a fun and exciting read!!! I love a good mystery/psychological thriller that keeps you guessing the entire time….and this is a perfect example of that kind of book. This particular novel has a very unique and interesting twist to the style in that the story is all told in reverse! Yes, you read that right…the story is told in reverse order and it’s brilliant! All The Missing Girls starts present day with different small flashbacks from the past…then, suddenly, it jumps to day 15 when the major twist or conclusion seems to have already been revealed. After that the story is told each day in reverse so you only get tidbits of information at a time and you have to sort of piece little parts together as you go. It’s really quite a fun and totally engrossing ride. I found myself totally changing my opinion on certain events or decisions the characters made with each previous day’s events being unfolded in the story.

This novel had me on the edge of my seat for the entire read! If you enjoy a good mystery/thriller, this ones for you!

All The Missing Girls – Amazon

Review: Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance/Sci-Fi

img_0160 Cress is the third installment in the very poplar Lunar Chronicles Series. If you aren’t familiar with these books…they are modern day/somewhat futuristic fairy tale retellings that are simply awesome! All of the lead female characters are kick-ass strong, smart, and self sufficient. There’s just the right amount of fairy tale-like romance to keep it intriguing without going too mushy. Because they are a series…all the books continue the same large story line with each one highlighting a different girl. Cinder (a Cinderella retelling) was the first…and my review of that book can be found HERE. The second installment is Scarlet (a Little Red Riding Hood retelling) and my review of that book is HERE. Cress (a Rapunzel retelling) is probably my favorite book in the series so far!

“Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them. I’m beginning to think that maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.”

In this book, the action is pretty much non-stop as we are at a point where universe-wide war is on the brink. This part of the story begins with us finally meeting  Cress, the computer genius/hacker girl, who has spent the majority of her life held prisoner in a Lunar satellite hidden away from civilization. Her orders come from Queen Levana and she has been charged with tracking down Cinder. Cress wants nothing more than to be rescued from her jail and and help Cinder put a stop to Queen Lenava and her evil plans….but she is watched very closely and is limited to netscreens as her sole source of communication with the outside universe.

When Cinder, Scarlet, Wolf, and Thorne plan a daring rescue mission for Cress, she thinks all her hopes and dreams have been answered. But the rescue goes awry and Cress will soon learn all that everyone has risked to try to save her. In the meantime, Queen Levana will stop at nothing to make sure that her marriage to Emperor Kai goes off without a hitch. Cress may not have realized that the world’s safety will rely on her, Cinder, and Scarlet…but she’s about to find that out.

I absolutely loved this installment of the series! In fact, I think it might be my favorite so far. Tons of action, plenty of twists & turns and I just adore how the storyline is unfolding. The characters, the world building, all of it… YA fantasy at its finest! If you love fair tales, fairy tale retellings, or just some cool fantasy world building in general….definitely check this series out!

My Rating: 5/5 fun and entertaining stars

Cress – Amazon

Scarlet – Amazon

Cinder – Amazon

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Genre: Biography/Memoir, Non-Fiction

img_0106 Janette Walls grew up with very non-traditional parents who had some very unique views about raising children, responsibility, and life. While Jeannette was born in Arizona, the Walls family moved around like nomads for the majority of her young childhood….literally packing up their family vehicle, grabbing whatever they could carry, and doing the “skedaddle”. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had a total of 4 living children who spent almost their entire childhoods living in poverty, suffering from neglect & abuse, and never really knowing where their next meal was coming from.

“If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim”

The way Jeanette Walls tells it, it took the children some time to actually realize that the way their family was living probably wasn’t normal, ideal or even safe. When the author was 3 years old, she tells the story of boiling herself hotdogs because her mother was far too busy painting to be concerned with feeding her children. She ended up severely burning herself, spending 6 weeks in a burn unit complete with skin grafts….only to get back home and have her parents encourage her to, once again, boil herself some hotdogs as to “not fear the fire”.  Rose Mary didn’t appreciate having to be responsible for her children’s needs, she was an artist who thought her time could be much better spent fulfilling her wants. Rex was a severe alcoholic who, at times, could be charismatic and engaging…but spent the majority of his children’s lives drunk, absent, or squandering what little money they had on gambling or booze.

At some point, money ran out and the Walls family had no choice but to move to a small West Virginia mining town where Rex was originally from and where his family still lived. Jeannette and her siblings were forced to fend for themselves while they lived in a literal shack that had no running water, electricity or food. Eventually, all 4 of the Walls siblings find the will to separate from their dysfunctional parents in one way or another and move on to forge lives for themselves.

This was an incredible story! I found myself feeling so frustrated and angry at her parents for the complete neglect, danger and abuse they continued to subject their children to…all in the name of selfishness and “free living”. What shocked me the most was Walls’ ability to see her parents for who they were as people & what they were/were not able to give her with a completely pragmatic and matter of fact point of view. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the child in her trying to gloss over, rationalize, or protect her parents’ abuse & neglect to some degree…OR, if she’s just that mature to not hold any ill will or anger toward them.

“I wanted to let the world know that no one had a perfect life, that even the people who seemed to have it all had their secrets.” 

It will never cease to amaze me that people who are raised in such conditions are ever able to make it out whole. Listening to Ms. Walls describe the filthy living conditions, absence of food, lack of parental care, and utter neglect made me feel both angry and sad for her and her siblings. But at the same time, hearing her describe the events in a very honest, but non-complaining way was eye opening…at no point in her story is she expecting or even looking for sympathy. Jeannette Walls actually credits her parents, her upbringing, and the things she had to endure with her drive, work ethic and career. In fact, she actually mentions her family members in her Acknowledgments of her book:”I’d like to thank my brother, Brian, for standing by me when we were growing up and while I write this. I’m also grateful to my mother for believing in art and truth and for supporting the idea of this book;  to my brilliant and talented older sister, Lori, for coming around to it; and to my younger sister, Maureen, whom I will always love. And to my father, Rex S. Walls, for dreaming all those big dreams.”

I chose to listen to the audio book of this, and because it’s narrated by the author, the reading feels very personal and real. I found myself shaking my head or actually having my mouth hang open in utter shock at some of the stories from her life.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Glass Castle – Amazon

Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

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“Putting down the burden of the lie has meant giving up the freedom of the dream.” 

Tom Sherbourne returns to his home in Australia after 4 years of fighting in Europe during WW1. He decides to take a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an island that is a few hours boat ride from the coast. On one of his short leaves from the island onto the mainland of Australia, Tom soon meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Isabel. When the newlyweds return to their private island and lighthouse duties, they have big plans for starting a family. But the years pass with nothing but heartache….two miscarriages and one still birth leave both Tom and Isabel feeling like they will never be parents.

Then one dark and stormy night, Isabel is certain that she hears the weak and shrill cries of a baby in the wind. Tom and Isabel discover a small boat that has washed up on shore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who is a strict rule follower and takes his lighthouse keeper duties very seriously, wants to immediately report the boat and it’s passengers. But Isabel finds herself falling immediately in love with this tiny and helpless baby and she feels that fate or God has stepped in to make them parents after all. Against Tom’s better judgement, the couple decides to keep the baby, name her Lucy, and pass her off as their own child to the biannual supply boats that come to the Island.

When Lucy is two years old, the Sherbourne’s make their first trip to the mainland since becoming a family of three. While there, Tom and Isabel are reminded that there are other people in the world who have been affected by the choices they made two years previous. They must come to grips with the fact that sometimes the line between right and wrong can be very fuzzy and confusing…especially when you think you are doing what’s best for the people you love.

“We live with the decisions we make, Bill. That’s what bravery is. Standing by the consequences of your mistakes.”

This was an incredibly intense and emotional roller coaster of a ride! I found myself completely empathizing with every single character in this book, for different reasons and at different parts of the story. Very rarely has a book been written in such a way when it’s hard for the reader to not agree with or understand such opposing sides to the same story. The characters are very well written, believable and all are even likable in their own way…which is why this is such a roller coaster of a read. At no point was I convinced one person was right or wrong…there are no easy answers in this story and nothing is simple.

For the first half of this book, I was pretty sure that this would be an easy 4 star rating for me. But, at some point during the second half, I was absolutely certain that I could give this book no less than 5 stars. The Light Between Oceans pretty quickly earned it’s place into my “favorites” category and I foresee myself recommending this book often to many different people. It was for sure a tear jerker for me…so you’ll need the tissues handy and it’s not always an easy read as there is a lot of heartache and emotional torment in the story. But it’s a book that is worth the tears. This is a story about the blurred lines of right & wrong,  love and loss, the hard choices we make, and the long term consequences of those choices. I still can’t get over the fact that this is a debut novel…I will for sure be on the look out for other books by this author.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

The Light Between Oceans – Amazon

My favorite Books of 2016!!!

My favorite Books of 2016!!

img_00212016 was a fantastic reading year for me! I finished out the year with a grand total of 75 books…which is exactly how many I challenged myself to read at the start of the year. I still can’t get over that amount….75…crazy! I’ve always been a big reader, ever since I was 10-11 years old, I’ve loved to read. But I think I used to average bout 20 books a year most years. Then at the beginning of 2015, a friend of mine suggested that I start a PopSugar Reading Challenge that had a grand total of 52 books in it. I agreed to start it, fully expecting that I wouldn’t come anywhere close to actually reading all 52 books….but I did! I actually ended out 2015 reading 55 or 56 books (I can’t recall exactly). I was so pleasantly surprised and I promptly decided that I would challenge myself to read even more in 2016. The addition of audiobooks has definitely helped with increasing my reading total. I spend quite a bit of my day on mindless chores; vacuuming, folding laundry, cleaning floors, etc. Listening to an audiobook while I do them makes the chores slightly more tolerable as well as helping me to crack at my never ending “to be read” list. Win, win. So, if you haven’t yet ventured into the world of audiobooks, I highly recommend that you give them a try! I still much prefer to actually sit down and read a real book or read on my beloved Kindle Voyage, but audiobooks are definitely something I’ve recently learned to love.

img_0022As for my favorites of the year…I’ve read a lot of really fantastic books, and just like last year, it was hard for me to narrow them down into a smaller list. All 20 books in this list are books that I gave a 5 star rating to. I feel like there is a pretty good mix of genres, lengths, authors and subject matter. I didn’t have any specific book goals for 2016 other than to read more than I did in 2015 and to read a lot of the books or e-books I already owned before I bought more (this one probably wasn’t considered a great success 😉 ) I also had a handful of rereads on my list for this year…some of which are included in my favorites below.

20. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – This was one of the many rereads for 2016. It has been so long since I first read this book, that I figured that I was due for a reread. If you haven’t yet read this classic or if it’s been decades since you have…I highly recommend reading this beautiful and classic novel.

19. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson – I’ll actually put the entire Millennium Trilogy in this list as a favorite of mine for this year. I started the trilogy in 2015, but finished out with the second and third book this year.

18. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison – I could not put this thriller down! I love a great serial killer/psychological thriller story and this one did not disappoint.

17. Never Never by Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher – Another trilogy that I loved. These are actually 3 shorter, novella length books that make a gripping mystery with a nice romance aspect that I couldn’t stop reading.

16. Sutton by J.R. Moehringer – Historical fiction mixed with some true crime make for a fantastic read I couldn’t put down.

15. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – Historical fiction with biblical references and stories make for a wonderful tale of the strength and determination of the human spirit.

14. The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein – A must read for any dog lover! Make sure you have your tissues close by because it is a total tear jerker.

13. What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler – I consider this book to be incredibly important and something that should be read by all kids ages 14 and older. It covers consent & sexual assault in a very honest and profound way.

12. Cinder & Scarlet by Marissa Meyer – These 2 are part of the Lunar Chronicles which is a YA Fiction series that takes a modern day twist on old school fairy tales. Very unique and entertaining stories…I’m looking forward to finishing this series in 2017.

11. It by Stephen King – Another reread for me. I was very glad that I decided to take on the beast that is this book again, because I feel like I got so much more out of it the second time around. Interestingly enough….this was also the longest book I read in 2016 at 1153 pages! It’s also 1 of 3 Stephen King books on this list.

10. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane –  A fantastic mystery/thriller that had quite the shocking twist I never saw coming.

9. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld – This was a pleasant surprise of a book that I only picked up because of an online book club pic. It quickly became a favorite of mine with it’s beautifully tragic writing and story.

8. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – A beautiful feel good story that will appeal to most readers. Another tear jerker…but not in an overly depressing way…this book will leave you feeling good about humanity.

7. The Stand by Stephen King – Another beast of a book at 1152 pages and the second of three Stephen King books on this list. I’ve had this one on my TBR for decades and always put it off because of the length….but I’m so glad I read it this year. If you normally shy away from King because you feel like his books might be too scary or gory for you, this would be a good choice for you.

6. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman is adult fantasy at it’s finest! I’ve read 3 of his books so far, and this one is definitely my favorite so far. Fantastic characters with some of the best world building you can imagine. If you’ve been thinking of reading Gaiman, I highly recommend this one!

5. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner is one of my all time favorite books and this second novel of Hosseini’s didn’t disappoint. Historical Fiction paired with the strength of the human spirit can be found in this wonderfully tragic story.

4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Yet another Historical Fiction (can you tell that’s my favorite genre?) that had me reeling. It’s an epic multi generational tale about the slave trade in West Africa. A must read for fans of historical fiction.

3. The Shining by Stephen King – Another reread for me and my favorite Stephen King book of all time. It definitely needed to be included on this list. If you are a fan of King or the horror genre in general and haven’t yet read this (or even if you have before), definitely pick this one up!

2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – WW2 Era Historical Fiction by another one of my favorite authors. A very important book with some heavy subject matter that will definitely require a box of tissues near by.

1.A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – I cannot say enough about this book and how much I absolutely loved it…how much it wrecked me, moved me and affected my mind. This was, by far, without a question, my favorite book of 2016 and quickly found it’s way into My All Time Favorite Books list. It’s HEAVY….really heavy. The subject matter here includes things like; drug addiction, assault and suicide…so it’s not a light, easy, feel good read by any means. But it’s by far one of the best written character studies I’ve ever read. It’s a book that, upon finishing, I found myself not able to move on to anything else because I just could not stop thinking about the story or the characters in it. If you can handle some heavy and deep subject matter, I HIGHLY recommend this beautiful and tragic story of love and friendship that is like nothing else I’ve ever read.

Phew! That’s it….my top 20 books out of the 75 I read this year. There were sooooo many other 4 and 4.5 star reads that were also excellent books…so please check out some of the many reviews I’ve written this year.

I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings on the reading front for me! I’m going to work on getting through my very large and ever expanding to-be-read list, as well as finishing up some in progress series. I’d be happy with finishing another 75 books in 2017, but ideally even one more than this year will be a win for me 😉 What are some of your 2017 reading goals??

 

Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson (Millennium #3)

Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

img_5439 The Girls Who Kicked The Hornets Nest is the third and final installment of the Millennium Trilogy written by the late Stieg Larsson. (There is technically a fourth book, but it was written by a different author so I don’t really consider it part of the series.)

In this installment of the series, we find Lisbeth Salander gravely wounded in the intensive care unit of a hospital. The police are waiting on her recovery so that she can be formally charged with three murders. Together with her friend, Mikael Bloomkvist, she much prove her innocence as well as identify and bring to justice the authority figures who allowed her, and others like her, to suffer long term abuse. Salander spent the majority of her youth being a victim…and she’s ready to fight back and take revenge on the same people who destroyed her life over the years.

“I’m not going to apologize for the way I’ve led my life.” – Lisbeth Salander

Phew…i finally finished the trilogy! I’m not really sure what took so long other than the fact that these books can be wordy. And I guess at over 600 pages…they are long. I started this series a little over a year ago with the initial book The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I immediately fell in love with the strength and intrigue that is the character of Lisbeth Salander. The second book, The Girl Who Played With Firewas a little bit of a slower read for me…you can see my review HERE. What I’ve since realized is that book 2 and book 3 are almost 2 parts to the same story. So, while book 2 moved a tad slow for me…..book 3 more than picked up the pace and made up for it. Yes, there is still quite a bit of information and the same large cast of characters….but the action in this book was almost non stop, only peppered with small amounts of background information. The ending was perfect and totally left me with a feeling of deserved justice for the characters in the series.

I ended up really enjoying this trilogy. The first and third were my favorites and easily both 5 star reads for me and the overall trilogy definitely belongs in the category of my “favorites”.
I love Lisbeth’s character and absolutely enjoyed getting to see a different, more personal and intimate side to her. Lots of great characters in this series with fantastic twists, I mostly never saw coming. These are a great crime, mystery/thriller series that I highly recommend to those readers who like that genre.

Review – Troublemaker:Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography/Memoir

img_5396 Actress, Leah Remini was first introduced into the church of Scientology as a young child living in New York with her mother and sister. Shortly after becoming members, Leah and her family moved to Clearwater, Florida…and eventually on to Los Angeles. Once in California, Leah eventually became a successful actress as well as a very active member of the church of Scientology.

Over the years, Leah began to see just how deep show business and Hollywood were intertwined with the church of Scientology. Remini spent hours upon hours as well as millions of dollars in support of the church attending courses, “auditing” (a strange mix of confession and psychotherapy) as well as doing press events . It’s also very apparent just how much pull certain popular celebrities have in the church and all it’s procedures. Names such as Kirstie Alley, John Travolta and Tom Cruise are discussed in this book. I was actually very surprised to hear quite a few of the details Remini describes about Tom Cruise specifically as well as his behaviors, personal relationships, and influence in the church.

It was actually at the 2006 wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes when Leah started to voice questions and concerns about certain actions of the church and it’s powerful members. Shortly after this wedding… Leah found herself a target of the church’s harsh punishments, both financial and psychological, for having had the nerve to even question anything in relation to Scientology and it’s practices. Finally, in 2013…Remini publicly announced her very difficult and scary decision to split from the church of Scientology as well as most of is followers, including the people Remini has known almost her life. Once a church member leaves and publicly denounces it’s practices, they are immediately referred to as an “SP” (suppressive person) and any current members of the church who wish to stay in good standing must completely and permanently cut off all contact with the “SP”.

Since I’m not a huge fan of sitcoms and I’ve never actually watched an episode of King of Queens…I wasn’t that familiar with Remini before listening to this book.  I kind of always took Lisa Remini for being funny but sort of crass and obnoxious. And…she is definitely those things some of the time, but after listening to her narrate this audiobook, I find those characteristics in her pretty endearing. She’s brutally honest, direct and rather funny in her descriptions of herself, her past mistakes & choices as well as the choices of others in her life. But you can also tell that she’s a very genuine person who seems very loyal and protective of the friends and family in her life whom she obviously loves very much.

This was a very interesting, sometimes funny and sometimes sad book about a topic that has always intrigued me. Personally, I am not a huge fan of religion in general, but it’s very obvious that Scientology is a scary and dangerous cult and not what I would consider a religion at all. Remini doesn’t go into a ton of long descriptions beyond the basic beliefs of the church and how it’s members are expected to behave and live. I’m sure there are better books out there if you want a down and dirty history and explanation of the church and it’s beliefs….this however is a very well written and intimate first person account of Remini’s experience and life growing up as a Scientologist.  Between this book and other previous members’ accounts there has slowly been more inside information coming out about the very secret church.  I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook, and as with most memoirs, I think the author narrating her own story adds a little something to it.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – Amazon