First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday August 30, 2022

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case sometimes several) of the books that you are currently reading.

She ran. The thing was after her again. She could sense it. From the day of her birth–or her creation, or her evolution, or whatever process had belched her into existence–the gigantic phallus in the center of the fiery arena had wanted her for its own. But she was more intelligent than the other who cavorted around its base, the dogs begging for scraps. Any scrap. Mostly she lurked along the circle’s edge near the line where the charred forest of tree corpses began. This spot lay outside the reach of the ever-flowing fountain of acidic pre-cum streaming down the sides of the enormous crimson glans.”

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne

BOOK REVIEW: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

55404546Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 5 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 4, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

My Review: I first listened to the audiobook when my baby was 1 month old during night time feedings and so didn’t have enough of a recollection to write a proper review (not because the book was bad, but because I was so damn tired all the time). Since I have also read 2 of Reid’s other books (Daisy Jones & the Six (see my review here) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (see my review here)), I wanted to give a review of this book as well. This was a book that I did not mind reading twice.

As many women do, I unfortunately gained weight during my pregnancy which I have, to date, not been able to take off. Additionally, I have always had the goal of running longer distances, so I have recently decided to start working toward a 5k, something which I haven’t ever done. I am normally not much of a runner (I usually walk instead). This book was a fantastic listen during running, and kept my mind occupied the entire time.

The book centers on the Riva family, who live in Malibu. The story takes place from the 1950s through the 1980s.

The father, Mick Riva, is a famous singer. Interestingly, Mick Riva is one of Evelyn Hugo’s husbands! There is also mention in this book that Celia St. James attended one of the famous Riva parties. I love how the author connected the two books — it was very subtle and unless you had read Evelyn Hugo recently, you might not have picked up on it at all.

Mick is an all around dog, we cheats on his wife June multiple times. They are divorced, remarried and divorced again, all the while June holds a candle to him, always hoping he will come back. She becomes an alcoholic and is not capable of carrying for her children. Mick never sends money, birthday cards — he never comes to see the children. Basically, he’s a jerk.

The story mainly follows the lives of the children Nina, Jay and Kit (June’s kids) and Hud (their half-brother, who has taken in by June when his biological mother basically dropped him off at the Riva’s doorstep). Each character is developed fantastically and I really like how all the stories are interwoven together. The book alternates between “present day” (in the 1980s) and the past.

I read some other blogs reviews about this book and Read and Review It makes a point that I had not considered: “I also really appreciated how big a theme family was in Malibu Rising. There was a really big emphasis on the importance of it and looking out for each other, which was a really lovely message. I also really liked how despite making some mistakes they all really cared about each other and would do anything for each other – I loved how tightly knit the siblings were, especially after everything that they’d been through.”

Out of all the Rivas introduced in the book, Nina is the main one. At the beginning of the book we find out that her famous, tennis star husband has left her after only a year of marriage. With a deadbeat father and alcoholic mother, Nina has been the de facto parent for her 3 younger siblings since she can remember. One day Nina is discovered while surfing and she becomes an overnight modeling sensation — this is not what she would have wanted for herself, but she did it in order to pay the bills and support her family. Nina has always put everyone before herself — it is her one and only flaw. Will she finally be able to put herself first and start living the life she always wanted?

Sarah Collins Bookworm describes Nina as the “ultimate people pleaser.” She goes on to say that: “As a reader, you very quickly a sense that Nina is simply going through the motions, she’s unsatisfied but won’t allow herself to consider what she actually wants to do with her life. That’s what Malibu Rising is about, Nina figuring out who she is and learning to let go of the past.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I really love how the culmination of the book took place at a raucous party. The family dirt was spilled and reconciled in the backdrop of the most looked forward to celebrity party of the year. Stuff was said, secrets revealed, an unexpected reunion took place — meanwhile all hell was breaking loose at the party, eventually ending in Malibu burning. Celebrities were high, drunk, and were basically just going crazy — breaking stuff, having public sex / threesomes, etc.

For all the reasons above, I would definitely recommend this book.

Goodreads Monday August 29, 2022

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. “Goodreads Monday allows you to post about what books are on your “to read” lists, the progress you have made on your current books and reading challenge, and any other Goodreads news!”

Books I Finished In the Past Week:

Forest Gump by Winston Groom

Meet Forrest Gump, the lovable, herculean, and surprisingly savvy hero of this remarkable comic odyssey. After accidentally becoming the star of University of Alabama’s football team, Forrest goes on to become a Vietnam War hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a villainous wrestler, and a business tycoon — as he wonders with childlike wisdom at the insanity all around him. In between misadventures, he manages to compare battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discover the truth about Richard Nixon, and survive the ups and downs of remaining true to his only love, Jenny, on an extraordinary journey through three decades of the American cultural landscape. Forrest Gump has one heck of a story to tell — and you’ve got to read it to believe it…

You can find my review of this book here.

Black Snow by James M. Scott

Seven minutes past midnight on March 10, 1945, nearly 300 American B-29s thundered into the skies over Tokyo. Their payloads of incendiaries ignited a firestorm that reached up to 2,800 degrees, liquefying asphalt and vaporizing thousands; sixteen square miles of the city were flattened and more than 100,000 men, women, and children were killed.

Black Snow is the story of this devastating operation, orchestrated by Major General Curtis LeMay, who famously remarked: “If we lose the war, we’ll be tried as war criminals.” James M. Scott reconstructs in granular detail that horrific night, and describes the development of the B-29, the capture of the Marianas for use as airfields, and the change in strategy from high-altitude daylight “precision” bombing to low-altitude nighttime incendiary bombing. Most importantly, the raid represented a significant moral shift for America, marking the first time commanders deliberately targeted civilians which helped pave the way for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later.

Drawing on first-person interviews with American pilots and bombardiers and Japanese survivors, air force archives, and oral histories never before published in English, Scott delivers a harrowing and gripping account, and his most important and compelling work to date.

You can find my review of this book here.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

My review of this book is pending.

Dead As a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has had more than her share of experience with the supernatural—but now it’s really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason’s eyes start to change, she knows he’s about to turn into a were-panther for the first time—a transformation he embraces more readily than most shapeshifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jason’s new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who’s behind the attacks—unless the killer decides to find her first…

My review of this book is pending.

Books I am Currently Reading:

The Last Storm by Tim Lebbon:

A gripping road trip through post-apocalyptic America from Tim Lebbon, New York Times bestseller and author of Netflix’s The Silence.

Struck by famine and drought, large swathes of North America are now known as the Desert. Set against this mythic and vast backdrop, The Last Storm is a timely story of a family of Rainmakers whose rare and arcane gift has become a curse.

Jesse stopped rainmaking the moment his abilities became deadly, bringing down not just rain but scorpions, strange snakes and spiders. He thought he could help a land suffering from climate catastrophe, but he was wrong. When his daughter Ash inherited the tainted gift carried down the family bloodline, Jesse did his best to stop her. His attempt went tragically wrong, and ever since then he has believed himself responsible for his daughter’s death.

But now his wife Karina––who never gave up looking for their daughter—brings news that Ash is still alive. And she’s rainmaking again. Terrified of what she might bring down upon the desperate communities of the Desert, the estranged couple set out across the desolate landscape to find her. But Jesse and Karina are not the only ones looking for Ash. As the storms she conjures become more violent and deadly, some follow her seeking hope. And one is hungry for revenge.

Progress: Edoc approximately 21%

I haven’t even picked up this book in the last week.

Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne:

In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

Progress: Kindle book approximately 46%.

I was really bad about reading this book this week.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Progress: 128 out of 377 pages.

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

David Sedaris, the “champion storyteller,” (Los Angeles Times) returns with his first new collection of personal essays since the bestselling Calypso.

Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

Progress: Audiofile 9 of 9

Crooked Lines: A Single Mom’s Jewish Journey by Jenna Zark

While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her-Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit in to a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced lifetransforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.

Progress: 62 pages out of 212

To Read List:

Title: 2032: The Year A.I. Runs for President

Author: Keir Newton

Number of Pages: Unknown

Goodreads’ Summary: One Nation Under AI? It promises to save the country from catastrophe. It is unbiased, incorruptible and has the brainpower of a million minds. But who is really pulling its strings?

The year is 2032, and an audacious project out of Silicon Valley promises to cure the world’s ills: an AI candidate for president. As the brainchild of eccentric billionaire Jamin Lake, Algo is heralded as an efficient, rational, and seemingly incorruptible leader – and in a nation of seemingly endless crisis and division, the only thing that could save us.

Isaac Raff returns to a failing San Francisco to meet Algo. He doesn’t trust a word his old friend Jamin says. As the disillusioned pioneer behind Algo’s groundbreaking technology, Isaac knows how powerful – and how dangerous – putting an AI in charge of the country could be. And despite his initial curiosity, he soon begins to discover a much darker side to his old friend’s utopian promises…

With only days to go before the election and Algo on the cusp of a historic victory, Isaac will be forced to grapple with impossible questions of technology, money and power. Is Algo than a digital trojan horse destined to fulfil Jamin Lake’s latest fantasies for ultimate power? Would the country really be better run by an AI built in Silicon Valley’s image? And is Algo really only a collection of algo-rithms, or could it be something more?

2032 is a gripping speculative thriller that explores powerful themes of technology and Big Tech’s influence on our society. 2032 is an unforgettable story of what might be Artificial intelligence’s ultimate project: deciding the fate of all of us.

BOOK REVIEW: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

2277378Title: The Cruelest Month

Author: Louise Penny

Book Length: 310 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime,

Read Start Date: June 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 31, 2022

Number in Book Series: 3

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.

It’s spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .

When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil—until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

My Review: In this third installment of the Armand Gamache series we are back in Three Pines again. For such a small town, there is certainly a huge crime rate! The whole cast of characters is back and we get to learn more about their characters.

For example, Clara Marrow is an aspiring up and coming artist, having been recently discovered (in the second book). She is working on a masterpiece to be shown at a gallery and everyone loves it. It is truly fantastic. In a bout of jealousy, her husband Peter tells her the colors are off, and Clara obsesses over what needs to change. I was pretty annoyed at Peter for this — the painting was wonderful and didn’t need any changing, but he was such a jerk and basically sabotaged Clara’s success. Peter is also an artist and relished the spotlight, which has now has shifted to his wife. I spent most of the book really disliking Peter as a character — this feeling was only slightly changed when Peter redeems himself at the end.

We also learn more about the Arnot case and why Gamache took on his superiors. Essentially, Arnot was commanding his officers to not only look the other way in Native Canadian’s murders and other crimes i.e., they do not try to solve the cases, but eventually the police start committing the murders themselves. Gamache discovers this horrendous corruption and brings down Arnot and the other perpetrators. There are still some officers loyal to Arnot and they are trying to bring down Gamache — little does Gamache know that some of the people closest to him are the ones trying to take him down. The conspiracy is mounting, false stories are beginning to hit the newspapers and Gamache is trying to avoid them while solving the murder in Three Pines.

Along with our old friends from books past, we meet several new characters. Among these is Madeleine, who has moved in with her old school pal Hazel and Hazel’s daughter, Sophie. Madeleine’s boyfriend Monsieur Beliveau, and also Odile and her boyfriend Gilles.

I really love how rich, deep and complex these characters and their backgrounds are. These people feel very real to me and it is one of the reasons why I love this series so much.

Speaking of the murder, Gabri and Olivier decide to have a séance at their bistro on Good Friday led by a Wiccan, Jeanne, who has been lured to the town by an ad sent to her by the killer stating that the town is home to spiritual power. The séance does not go well (there are no spirits because the psychic Jeanne says that the village is “too happy”) and the participants decide to have another one at the Old Hadley place. In case you don’t remember, the Old Hadley place was the scene of the murder in the first book, was the home of the murderer in the second book, and in general the people of Three Pines think the house is evil or houses evil / is haunted. So, of course, what better place to hold a séance?

It seems fit then that the place where the villagers direct their negative energy has killed one of their own — newcomer Madeleine dies of fright during the séance, scared to death by the house itself. It is soon discovered that she was given a diet drug known to cause fatal heart attacks. Enter Gamache and his team to try to solve the case. Who wanted Madeleine dead? Everyone seems to love her — both women and men alike.

The dynamics on the team are, as always, interesting. We have Beauvoire, who most certainly loves Gamache like a son loves a father. Nichol, who everyone loves to hate is back again. I can’t figure out whether she is on Gamache’s side or not — this is still a mystery. Although she is loathsome character to be sure, her background is just as deep as the other characters in this book. Lacoste and Lemieux are also back again — and Lemieux is definitely a hidden fly in the ointment.

Can I say again how much I love Penny’s world building?

I am starting to see a pattern here — by the third book it is pretty clear that one of the new characters has committed the murder. Each has a motive, but which one did the deed?

You should definitely read to find out!

Other Books in this Series:

Book #1: A Still Life is the first book in the series where we are introduced to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The discovery of a dead body in the woods on Thanksgiving Weekend brings Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his colleagues from the Surete du Quebec to a small village in the Eastern Townships. Gamache cannot understand why anyone would want to deliberately kill well-loved artist Jane Neal, especially any of the residents of Three Pines – a place so free from crime it doesn’t even have its own police force.

But Gamache knows that evil is lurking somewhere behind the white picket fences and that, if he watches closely enough, Three Pines will start to give up its dark secrets…

You can find my review of Still Life here.

Book #2: A Fatal Grace is the second book in the series.

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.

No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death.

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself. 

You can find my review of A Fatal Grace here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Storyteller by Dave Grohl

57648017Title: The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

Author: Dave Grohl

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 35 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Autobiography, Pop Culture, Music

Read Start Date: July 17, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 25, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

This certainly doesn’t mean that I’m quitting my day job, but it does give me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old, to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.

My Review: Dave Grohl is a musician (drummer) who has been in some pretty big named bands e.g. Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. To be honest, although I have listened to both bands before, I had no clue what the name of the drummer was until now. I checked this audiobook out from the library as it was in the “popular global” category. Having no expectations whatsoever about the book, I was pleasantly surprised. I found that the stories were interesting / entertaining, and Grohl was even funny at times.

Describing his heartbreak over the breakup from his first girlfriend (after 1 week): “Forlorn, I returned home to my volumes of nauseatingly romantic scribblings, gathered them all and burned them in a ceremonious ritual at the alter that I had of course built for Sandi in the carport. Okay, maybe I just threw ’em in the fucking trashcan outside, but I did purge my pages of puppy love poetry so as to cut the proverbial cord and try to get on with my boring preteen life.” I laughed out loud at this one.

This was a fast and easy read and was really good to listen to in the background of doing chores around the house.

BOOK REVIEW: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

186190Title: Forrest Gump

Author: Winston Groom

Book Length: 239

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Classics

Read Start Date: August 10, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 22, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Meet Forrest Gump, the lovable, herculean, and surprisingly savvy hero of this remarkable comic odyssey. After accidentally becoming the star of University of Alabama’s football team, Forrest goes on to become a Vietnam War hero, a world-class Ping-Pong player, a villainous wrestler, and a business tycoon — as he wonders with childlike wisdom at the insanity all around him. In between misadventures, he manages to compare battle scars with Lyndon Johnson, discover the truth about Richard Nixon, and survive the ups and downs of remaining true to his only love, Jenny, on an extraordinary journey through three decades of the American cultural landscape. Forrest Gump has one heck of a story to tell — and you’ve got to read it to believe it…

My Review: Normally I would never say that the movie adaptation is better than the book, but in this case it is true. The movie is fantastic, but the book is only so so. First and foremost, the terms used in the book are no longer politically correct. That being said, back in 1986 when the book was first published was it “okay” to call a mentally challenged person an “idiot”? Not sure. Was it “okay” to call the Vietnamese people “gooks”? Not sure. I get that Forrest, being mentally challenged and from the South might have used these terms and that is his character, etc, but some books just do not age well and are out of place in the day and age.

SPOILER ALERT:

Secondly, the plot had much to be desired. In the movie the plot is more succinct, whereas in the book it goes all over the place. Forrest gets into a lot of hijinks, and seems to get along fine in each of his endeavors until someone finds out he is an “idiot” and then he has to move on. For example, he can play football really well, so he is recruited to play college ball — but then he fails out academically (except for math classes, at which he seems to excel).

Everything is different between the movie and the book and what made the movie iconic, really isn’t in the book at all. Forrest never goes on a run across the country. Forrest doesn’t sit on a bench and tell his life story to a stranger. Forrest’s mother never said “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” In fact, the only reference to a box of chocolates in the book is this line: “Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.” Forrest and Jenny have a longer romantic relationship in the book, but Jenny doesn’t get AIDS, she doesn’t marry Forrest, she doesn’t die. They end up splitting up and Jenny goes off and marries someone else.

Also, what I found weird about the book is that there is another character, an Orangutan named Sue who plays a big part in the second half of the book. What’s weird about it is that no one questions that a Orangutan is around, going everywhere with Forrest. Forrest meets Sue on a mission to space … then they spend years together in the jungle when the space ship crash lands on an island. When Forrest is rescued, Sue decides to stay, but then is later captured and brought to Hollywood, where Forrest meets up with Sue again when Forrest is hired to play a role in a movie. Sue goes back to Alabama with Forrest. There is just so much that seems implausible honestly.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. It was definitely an interesting read, but I think I will skip the next two books in the series.

Shelf Control Wednesdays August 24, 2022

Shelf Control is hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies. Instead of always looking ahead to upcoming new releases, I thought I’d start a weekly feature focusing on already released books that I want to read. Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, books that are either on my shelves or on my Kindle!

Title: Inferno

Author: Dante Alighieri, translated by John Ciardi

Published: 2001, 1320 (originally)

Length: 288 pages

Synopsis via Goodreads: Considered to be one of the greatest literary works of all time — equal only to those of Shakespeare — Dante’s immortal drama of a journey through Hell is the first volume of his Divine Comedy.

How I got it: I think that I bought this book in a used book store in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I used to live before moving to Austria.

When I got it: 2016

Why I want to read it: It is such a classic, and is referred to in many situations, that I thought it would be a good idea to give it a read. It wasn’t before now, when I had to copy and paste the Goodreads synopsis that I realized that I only have the first part of the trilogy. I am missing The Purgatorio and The Paradiso. Because of course, all 3 is called The Divine Comedy. Duh Liz. Sigh.

BOOK REVIEW: Black Snow by James M. Scott

40611189Title: Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

Author: James M. Scott

Audiobook Length: 12 hours 58 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, History, WWII, Aviation

Read Start Date: August 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Seven minutes past midnight on March 10, 1945, nearly 300 American B-29s thundered into the skies over Tokyo. Their payloads of incendiaries ignited a firestorm that reached up to 2,800 degrees, liquefying asphalt and vaporizing thousands; sixteen square miles of the city were flattened and more than 100,000 men, women, and children were killed.

Black Snow is the story of this devastating operation, orchestrated by Major General Curtis LeMay, who famously remarked: “If we lose the war, we’ll be tried as war criminals.” James M. Scott reconstructs in granular detail that horrific night, and describes the development of the B-29, the capture of the Marianas for use as airfields, and the change in strategy from high-altitude daylight “precision” bombing to low-altitude nighttime incendiary bombing. Most importantly, the raid represented a significant moral shift for America, marking the first time commanders deliberately targeted civilians which helped pave the way for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later.

Drawing on first-person interviews with American pilots and bombardiers and Japanese survivors, air force archives, and oral histories never before published in English, Scott delivers a harrowing and gripping account, and his most important and compelling work to date.

My ReviewI received this audiobook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The description above pretty accurately describes the subject matter of the book, so I won’t go into plot details here.

Although the beginning of the book dragged a little bit, the pace picked up speed when America starting bombing the Japanese. The description of the animals and people, especially children, being burned to death was so heart wrenching that I nearly broke down in tears several times. I would even go so far as to provide a trigger warning here, as at times it was really hard to listen to. People being burned alive, boiling to death in super heated rivers, or drowning to death while trying to escape the flames. Yikes. It is the stuff of nightmares — and this really happened.

If this were fiction, it would be classified as a horror novel.

It is unfathomable to me that after seeing all this death and destruction, humans CONTINUE to do engage in war, death, destruction — right now we are amidst a war that is decimating an entire people and culture. WHY DO WE NEVER LEARN???

The book is immensely well researched and well written and is regarding a subject that I had not known about previously. Yes, everyone has (surely) learned about the atomic bomb in school, but I do not remember ever learning about prior incendiary attacks on Tokyo.

My emotions on the subject are so torn. On the one hand it is shameful that America was responsible for such atrocities. On the other hand, the Japanese were not saints, and they were also guilty of their own atrocities for which they should feel equally ashamed. That is not to say that anyone “deserved” it — especially not the innocent children and babies who were killed in the air raids. I hugged my daughter a little tighter after hearing some scenes.

I think war is ugly and stupid and that there must be better ways to resolve conflict. It is for this reason that books like this are important to make people SEE / HEAR / LEARN about what the impact of war is, in the hopes to avoid the same in the future.

I highly recommend this book.

10 Book Reviews

Professional Reader

Reviews Published

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday August 23, 2022

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case sometimes several) of the books that you are currently reading.

Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates. People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they say folks sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you–it ain’t always that way. Even so, I got no complaints, cause I reckon I done live a pretty interestin life, so to speak.”

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

BOOK REVIEW: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

54985743Title: People We Meet on Vacation

Author: Emily Henry

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 46 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, 

Read Start Date: July 9, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 16, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

My Review: I read this book 2 times, the first time just after giving birth to my baby, and then again (for the purposes of reviewing it) about a year later. The first time I read the book, I gave it 3 stars, and honestly the year has not changed my opinion about it.

FYI: there are several spoilers in the review. SPOILER ALERT

Poppy is a travel blogger who lives in New York and works for a magazine where she writes about her trips. She enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and in general a flexible lifestyle. Her best friend Alex is the opposite. He is a teacher, lives in the small Ohio town where they both grew up, and wants a family.

The problem? They have been secretly in love with each other for 12 years. Each year they take a “summer trip” and each year they flirt with the line between friendship and romantic involvement. During the 12 years, they’ve both had relationships with other people, but it never seems to work out. At the beginning of the book we find out that one summer after a mysterious event which the reader is not privy to, their friendship explodes, sending them into a 2 year speaking hiatus.

One day Poppy sends Alex a message that just says “hey” and this reignites their friendship. They decide to go on one of their famous summer trips, after which Poppy will attend the wedding of Alex’s brother with Alex. Everything goes wrong, from broken AC in the Airbnb to flat tires on the ride share car. But it’s okay, because it all leads up to the “happy” ending we all know is coming.

The book goes back and forth between the past and the present and through the years we see the sexual tension mount until finally it culminates in one steamy scene on the balcony of their too hot Airbnb. This is all fine, but I found myself getting annoyed at the back and forth between the characters. The dialogue was a little annoying at times — like they were always snarking at each other. I read one review which said rightly that the “banter between the two main characters…tried to be witty but just came across like nails on a chalkboard.”

The storyline just seemed to drag. Like why 12 years? This is sooooo long. Each vacation the tension is the same, the storyline basically repeats just in different locations.

We wait for the reason why Poppy and Alex stopped speaking for the ENTIRE book and then the reason was SOOOO LAME! They made out and then just didn’t text each other afterward. What? Seriously? That’s it? They didn’t even SLEEP together??? There was nothing else? They were both single, “in love” for 10 years at that point, and making out made them STOP TALKING??? because they were too afraid of their emotions? I mean please. If they are THIS bad at communicating then their relationship is doomed big time.

And then when they finally get together, it should be all roses but it’s not because Poppy still wants her carefree life and Alex still wants his eventual family. Then there is also some weird thing where Alex’s mom died in childbirth and he’s afraid that the same thing will happen to Poppy and he couldn’t live without her…I don’t know this was strange to say the least. So they don’t talk again for a small amount of time until Poppy comes to the realization that she is willing to give up “everything” for Alex, snore. Why does it always seem to be the woman who has to compromise her career and desires for the man, family, etc? Sigh.

Anyway, I guess I want off the rails there for a little bit. Sorry! The above is just to say that while the book was entertaining, it definitely wasn’t fantastic. While I did enjoy it, I also was annoyed by several aspects. I find it strange that this book is on the NY times best seller’s list and was a Goodreads Choice winner in 2021, but has a rating on Goodreads of only 3.98 (as of the date of this review).

I think that if you go into this book without super high expectations and are just looking to be entertained (maybe while on vacation…ha!) this book would be a fast and easy read for you. It doesn’t require too much thought and can be read during a week at the beach.

Speaking of beach reading, you can also check out my review of Emily Henry’s other book, Beach Read, here.