The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Cassie is a lot of things, an alcoholic, party girl, and least of all, a flight attendant–but is she a murderer too?  That’s the opening question in this entertaining book about international intrigue and espionage.

Fllight attendant

Cassie wakes up in a swanky Dubai hotel, after getting black out drunk, to find that her handsome, rich, hook-up has been murdered in the bed next to her. His throat is slashed, and there is blood Ev.ery.where.  Due to the fact that she blacked out, she has absolutely no idea whether she was the one who killed him, which leads her to do many stupid and incriminating things (i.e., wipe down her finger prints, leave the hotel without notifying anyone, etc.)

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Michelle McNamara hit a home run with this true-crime book about her obessive search to find the serial rapist and murderer who she dubbed the Golden State Killer.  This book tells the story of her search for the elusive killer.  McNamara passed away 2 years before her book could be published — and the book was finished after her death by her husband, American actor Patton Oswalt, with the help of writers.

Ill be gone

This brilliantly told story of the serial rapist and murderer, who is believed to have committed over 45 rapes and 12 murders,  is more disturbing then any slasher film — because it is real — it really happened.

If you read any true crime book this year, make sure it is this one.

Check out this book on Goodreads: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35068432-i-ll-be-gone-in-the-dark

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I really liked Little Fires Everywhere.  Opening with a fire in the Richardsons’ home, this book delves into the past to tell the story of the complicated reasons why one of the main characters and the black sheep of the family, Izzy Richardson, set her family home ablaze. “Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

The main theme of this book is what makes a mother a mother? Blood alone or love? The author carries this theme through 3 main storylines (which I will not divulge as it would spoil the overall story).

At the center of the book are two families, the Warrens and the Richardsons, and more precisely the juxtaposition between the matriarch of each family, Mia Warren and Elena Richardson.  “One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules… was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”

Little Fires Everywhere

Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl, decided to end their nomadic existence in Shaker Height Ohio, a planned suburban community.  They rent an apartment from the Richardsons, who have 4 children of their own.  Thinking that she will not have to move around anymore, Pearl allows herself to finally make friends, and befriends each of the Richardson children — their relationships blossom in different ways, and are fraught with all the complications of teenage relationships.

This book is centered around the relationship between the Warrens and Richardsons and is told through many interwoven and sometimes complicated threads.  The story also touches on themes of race, white privilege, motherhood, and family secrets.

I was particularly moved by the back story of the Chinese immigrant who abandoned her child in a misguided attempt to give the baby away for adoption, only to regret the choice and fight for the baby’s return. The Court case centered on whether it was in the best interests of the child to be adopted by a privileged family (mother + father with good jobs), or the biological, single, mother, who struggled to make ends meat.

As Eleanor Henderson writes for the New York Times: “The magic of this novel lies in its power to implicate all of its characters — and likely many of its readers — in that innocent delusion. Who set the little fires everywhere? We keep reading to find out, even as we suspect that it could be us with ash on our hands.”

Check out this book on Goodreads: Little Fires Everywhere http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34273236-little-fires-everywhere

Sugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe by Monique X

I received an advance copy of this book via Netgalley.  As with all books that I read, I went to Goodreads to mark that I was “currently reading” the book.

Sugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe

However, the cover of “Sugar” by Monique X, is basically exactly the same as “Sugar Daddy” by Sawyer Bennett.  So, that’s super confusing.  Are these by the same person?  Or did one copy the cover art of the other??  I have included both covers for comparison.

Anyway, this book (told as a memoir) is about a single mom raising two kids after her divorce from her deadbeat husband.  In order to make ends-meat, the main character “Monique” joins a sugar daddy dating site called “Seeking Arrangements”.  Basically, a “Sugar Babe” is a woman who receives money from older, wealthy (sometimes married) “Sugar Daddies”.  In general, from what I understand, a Sugar Babe is like a kept mistress who gets a monthly allowance, and in return,  accompanies the guys on fancy dinners, trips abroad, and of course, engages in very ellicit sexual activities.

Sugar Daddy (Sugar Bowl, #1)

As the author says: “what all men really want: a lady on their arm and a hooker in their bed.”

I haven’t really read many erotica books, except for maybe 50 Shades of Grey 1-3, and like 50 Shades of Grey, this Sugar story is more interesting than the writing is good.  But, as Stephen King says, a book is about the story, and not the writing technique — and this story is fast paced, entertaining, adventurous, and full of very sexually graphic scenes (which are exciting).  The men Monique met were fun and exotic and took her around the globe on world-wind adventurous filled with fine dining, high priced wine / cocktails, and mindblowing sex.

If you have ever fantasized about what it could be like to live dangerously or on the edge, this book will defenitely intrigue you.

Check out this book on Goodreads: Sugar: My Life as a Sugar Babe http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40667863-sugar

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.”

 

 

 

It by Stephen King

This great book has all the elements of a classic Stephen King novel: 1) good vs. evil; 2) something supernatural; and 3) both weird and oddly believable.  Stephen King who is one of my favorite authors began this book in 1981, and finished it in 1985. It is over 1,000 pages long (on audio book it is about 44 hours of listening)! It took me about a month to read, but it is well worth the time!

It

The first time I read this book was in 1998, when I was 15 years old.  Actually, I believe that this book was my introduction to the world of Stephen King — and I can honestly say, that I have loved everything I have read from this story weaving genius.  I have not had the opportunity to read all of his books (there are so many!), but It stands out there on a golden limb, together with other classic Stephen King books like Carrie and the Shining.

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The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

When their friend commits suicide, a trio of friends from law school, smothering under the weight of large student loans, decide to quit law school in their last semester and go into practice without a license.  In the process, they take on the machine behind the law school loan racquet, fraudulently joining a class action (more than 1,000 times under fake names) against the bank backing the predatory lending, to exact revenge against the unfair practice of enticing impressionable young people to enroll in a low tier law school.

This book really resonated with me, as I was once myself a law school student in at a law school that was definetely not an ivy league school.  Upon leaving law school, I was crushed under a debt of around $150,000, and was expected, without a job, to pay back nearly $1,700 a month in principal + interest, at varying interest rates, some as high as 8%.  I suffered under this debt for nearly 10 years and paid well over $150,000, only to move to Austria, where students go to school (even University and law school) virtually for free — paying only nominal expenses.

This book not only gets it right about the predatory lending scheme of law school, and university in general in the United States, but tells a fun story of 3 students who weren’t going to take it anymore and who decided to do something about it.  While reading this book, I couldn’t help but to relate to the characters and their plight.

I have read other books by John Grisham, but this one is by far my favorite.

 

The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial Killer

Rodney Alcala, born in 1943 in San Antonio, Texas, is believed to have raped and murdered around 130 people. Alcala committed his first known crime (rape of an 8 year old girl) in 1968, at the age of 25 while a student at UCLA.  Due to the unavailability of the witness (she had moved back to Mexico with her family), Alcala was given a sentance of only 1 year to life, and released on parole after 34 months.

That was just the beginning of the horrific crimes of torture, rape, and murder that Alcala would commit during his lifetime.

I am giving the book 3 stars out of 5, as I neither really liked, nor really disliked it.

While I usually enjoy a true crime story, I found that this book while being extremely detailed and obviously well researched, lacked the human element — both in the telling of the background story of the killer himself, and also in the telling of the story of the victims.  I felt like I was reading some legal document, which was spelling out the facts of the case to a judge, rather than a novel.

Check out this book on Goodreads: The Killing Game: The True Story of Rodney Alcala the Game Show Serial kIller http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36610960-the-killing-game

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.”

Haunted: Horror of Haverfordwest

This book is actually 2 books in one, including the author’s previously published book A Most Haunted House.

Told in the interview style, this book was very well written and was very entertaining–if you like scaring yourself like me, the best time to read this book is right before turning out the lights.

Claiming to be non-fiction (of this I have no reason to doubt or confirm), the story starts in Wales, 1989, when Dai and Anne, a married couple get a good deal on the purchase of a house.  As is always the catch in these matters, the house is very, very haunted. At the beginning, the entities manifest themselves as shadowy figures, and over time move on to violations of both mind, body, and spirit–the entities terrorize the couple, so much so, that they are eventually forced to move out.

Decades later, an unsuspecting couple, “John” (who is in fact the author) and “Sarah” his now ex-girlfriend, move into the house.  Again, almost immediately they begin to experience strange occurrences in the house. The couple is so affected by the haunting, that they break up and move away.

The author ends the book with a recitation and summary of the varying theories of what could cause paranormal occurrences, or rather, people’s perception that these occurrences are happening to them.  While these theories are intriguing, I feel that they detract from the overall story of the individuals living in the haunted house.  In fact, I considered skipping it all together.  I would have rather liked to see these theories more fleshed out and investigated in a separate book.

Nevertheless, I really liked this book not only because of the overall story, but because of the realness of the characters. These people were just normal, average people who found themselves in an unspeakable situation. I could see myself a little in John, because at the beginning I also would have been excited to have a real haunting in the house, and can totally understand how this excitement could in fact turn to horror, fear, and despair.

If you love movies including Amnityville Horror, the Conjuring 2, Stranger Things (the series), and Insidious, (or if you are looking for a good scare) then I would definitely recommend this book.

Check out this book on Goodreads: Haunted: Horror of Haverfordwest http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38247056-haunted

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.”

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

On the night of the election in 2016, I was at the local watering hole in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I was currently living for a work assignment. The Executive Surf Club is a great bar in Corpus Christi, and the guys and I would go every Tuesday for “Pint Night” (a night where a pint of beer was only $2 or $3). On this night, we had particulary gone to watch the election results.  At the beginning of the night, a victory for Hillary seemed assured.

As the night wore on, however, it became more and more obvious (and depressing), that Trump was going to win.  When I woke the next morning to discover that Trump had in fact won,  I was not at all unhappy that my contract had already been signed to move to Austria.  It seemed that I was getting out just in time.

Fire and Fury tells the story of the Trump campaign, painting a picture of a man who was only running for President to lose the race–the ultimate goal of course to become internationally famous and to improve his “brand”–only to find out that “oops” he had in fact won.

The author undoubtedly did not see Donald Trump as an “evil” person, but rather as a ignorant dup who basically had no political agenda (and in fact knew little to nothing about politics, law, or history), and just went with whatever Steve Bannon told him to do.  Basically, the author painted a picture of good (Ivanka and Jared) against evil (Bannon) and Trump, the impatient, childish puppet, caught in the middle.

If you haven’t already read the book, and even if you are a news hound, I would still suggest to read this book.  It was written very well and even surprised me in some places (e.g., how Bannon released the immigration Executive Order on a Friday to purposely cause chaos at airports).

Check out this book here on Goodreads: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.  You can also buy the book here on Amazon.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

Swedish death cleaning is the practice of decluttering your life prior to death. This book tells the story of the authors own death cleaning, as well as some stories from her past.

As I read…listened actually…to this book while hiking in the Austrian mountains (the audiobook takes less then 3 hours), I could not help to think of all the people in my life who have passed away. I could not help but to remember the difficult task of cleaning out my grandparents’ house.

This book, although being primarily about the art of death cleaning itself, is also about life, and the inevitabilty of death. The author offers practical advice for decluttering your life, so that loved ones will not be burdened with the task.

I would recommend this book for people of any age who (like myself) tend to keep far more possessions than necessary.