June 2015 archive

Andrea’s second quarter wrap-up

If you’ve been paying attention, you probably caught on by now that I haven’t posted a review in 2 months. Part of me wants to blame it on a slump brought on by a slew of bad books, but the truth of the matter is I’ve been incredibly busy, incredibly stressed, and smack in the middle of the worst episode of depression I’ve had in 10 years. PLUS I hit a really bad patch of rotten books and couldn’t bring myself to finish any. So it goes.

BUT! All hope is not lost. According to Goodreads, I’m only 3 books  behind schedule, so I’m still hopeful to gain ground before my next quarter round up. I did read or listen to 5 books since my last review. Three of those were pretty crappy, to be honest, but two of them were pretty dang good and you’ll see those reviews soon. I’m currently at 22 of 52 books for the year, I’m about a quarter through the way of Song of Susannah on audio. It’s kinda bogged down for me but I have faith in the King to bring it back up.

I’m looking for any recommendations to bring me out of my slump- sometimes I think I get hung up on my obsession with long, serious dialogues and miss out on the not-so-serious  reads. I am looking at re-reading some old favorites to kick my butt into gear, but give me what you got, dear readers!

Review: Americanah

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From Goodreads:  As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.

Erin’s Thoughts:  This is the second novel I’ve read by Adichie, and I’m fairly certain I’m in love.  Adicihie has quickly become my favorite contemporary author.  Her writing is gorgeous, engaging, funny, and thought-provoking.  In addition to being an amazing writer, she’s just a smart, smart person who I could listen to for hours.  Her TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story,  is one of my favorites.  I highly recommend giving it a watch.

So.  About Americanah.  On the surface it’s a coming of age story, a love story, a finding yourself story.  That alone will be enough to make you love this novel.  But, the current that runs through this novel is race.  What does it mean to be black in Nigeria vs. what does it mean to be black in America?  How is race perceived differently?  What are the differences between being a Non-American Black and an American Black? Adichie manages to hold race up in front of our faces in an open, honest, experiential way.  She tells a story, but she also makes us think.  Reading this had me considering my own privilege in ways I’d never thought of before.  Considering the current racial climate in our country, this novel spoke to me in so many ways.  I have always loved reading fiction from cultures outside of my own because it can be such an eye-opening experience, a way to learn about our world, and a powerful way to reflect on my own values and beliefs.  I know not everyone does this regularly, but I not only highly encourage you to step outside of your reading culture every now and again, I cannot say enough times that this novel should be one of the steps in your literary travels.  Read it, and then let’s chat!

 

Review: Heat Exchange

Heat Exchange (Boston Fire #1) by Shannon Stacey

From Goodreads: Lydia Kincaid’s shipping back to Boston, but she’s not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community—her father was a firefighter, her brother’s a firefighter and, more important, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one, and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother’s handsome friend Aidan.

Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He’s had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him, it’s her. Aside from being his mentor’s daughter, she’s his best friend’s sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can’t uncross.

As Aidan and Lydia’s flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter’s wife was the hardest thing she’s ever done, and she doesn’t know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can’t imagine walking away from Boston Fire—even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he’ll have to decide who’s first in his heart.

Jennie’s Thoughts: First off, I’m a HUGE Shannon Stacey fan, and when I heard she was releasing a firefighter series, I knew I had to read them. When this one showed up on Netgalley, I was ALL OVER requesting it. See, my husband’s a firefighter/paramedic. So, yeah, I have a thing for guys in bunker gear. :)

As I started reading this book, my own firefighter was on duty. So I had to stop after about thirty pages because I could relate to Lydia’s frustration over being a fire wife. And, at the time, my husband had been working a lot of overtime and I was extra emotional about it all. Once he was back home, I finished the book in one big gulp. Couldn’t put it down.

Aidan and Lydia had awesome chemistry from the get-go and it continued through the entire story. And Shannon Stacey got Lydia’s emotional hangups on falling for a firefighter just perfectly, to me. The fear, the pride, the hurt, all of it.

This is a series I’m going to love, though that’s not too surprising given how much I loved the Kowalski family series! If you like romance, read this book when it comes out August 25th!

*I received this via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This is all my opinion, promise!

Review: Things We Know by Heart

Things We Know by Heart by Jessi Kirby

From Goodreads: When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.

After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all.

Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn’t want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they’re connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.

Jennie’s Thoughts: When I was in high school, a friend committed suicide and his parents donated many of his organs, so from the moment I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. And once I picked it up from the library, I devoured it.

Jessi Kirby writes deep, heart-wrenching stories that are full of hope and love and amazing settings. And this book packed an even heavier emotional punch for me than her others. I loved Quinn and felt her devastation from the first page. I wanted to hug her, to shake her until her head hurt. And, from the moment Colton arrived on the page, I was hooked. The dynamics between the two created amazing tension!

I cried, I cheered, I cried some more. And I closed the book with a happy sigh. If you enjoy YA novels, I highly, highly recommend this one!

Review: President Nixon

President Nixon: Alone in the White House by Richard Reeves

From Goodreads: Who was Nixon? An amazing thing about him wasn’t what he did as president, but that he became president. Reeves’ “President Nixon” uses 1000s of interviews & recently discovered or declassified documents & tapes–including Nixon’s tortured memos to himself & unpublished sections of Haldeman’s diaries–to offer a portrait of the brilliant contradictory man alone in the White House. This is a narrative of an introvert who dreamed of becoming the architect of his times. Late at night, he sat upstairs in the White House writing notes to himself on yellow pads, struggling to define himself & his goals: “Compassionate, Bold, New, Courageous…Zest for the job (not lonely but awesome). Goals–reorganized govt…Each day a chance to do something memorable for someone. Need to be good to do good…Need for joy, serenity, confidence, inspiration.” But downstairs he was building a house of deception. He trusted no one because he thought others were like him. He governed by secret orders & false records, memorizing scripts for public appearances, even for one-on-one meetings with his staff & cabinet. His principal assistants, Haldeman & Kissinger, spied on him as he spied on them, while cabinet members, generals & admirals spied on all of them–rifling briefcases & desks, tapping phones in a house where no one knew what was true. Nixon’s 1st aim was to restore order in an America at war with itself over Vietnam. But actually he prolonged the fighting, lying about what was happening both in the field & in the peace negotiations. He startled the world by going to Peoples’ China & seeking detente with the Soviets–& then secretly persuaded Mao & Brezhnev to lie to protect his petty secrets. Still, he was a man of vision, imagining a new world order, trying to stall the race war he believed was inevitable between the West, including Russia, & Asia, led by China & Japan. At home, he promised welfare reform, revenue sharing, drug programs & environmental protection. He reluctantly presided over school desegregation–all the while declaring that domestic governance was building outhouses in Peoria. Reeves shows a presidency doomed from the start. It begins with Nixon & Kissinger using the CIA to cover up a ’69 murder by US soldiers in Vietnam that led to the publication of the Pentagon Papers, then to counterintelligence units in the White House & finally to the burglaries & cover-up known as Watergate.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I bought this at a library used book sale because it was like $2. And even though I wasn’t super thrilled with it after I finished, I think it was worth the money spent. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book, but I wouldn’t say it’s not worth reading either.

There is A LOT of content in this chunk of a biography. Some of it was too detailed and repetitive and some of it was gasp-out-loud interesting. The excerpts of Nixon’s own notes and random scribbles were fascinating, and at times, appalling. I learned more about the man Nixon from this biography, but since it only focused on the White House years, I didn’t get a good appreciation of his full life. However, I think in this case I’m okay with that.