Time Travel Thursday October 27, 2022

Time Travel Thursday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. This is where I take a look back at what I was reading this time last year (or the year before or the year before that…) and compare it to what I am reading now.

Books I was Reading on This Day in 2019:

Title: Crazy Rich Asians

Author: Kevin Kwan

Book Length: 546 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm,

Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Series: Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in the 3-part series.

My Review: The book starts in 1986 with a bedraggled 8-year old boy named Nicholas Young who sits, soaking wet with his cousin Astrid Leong, in the lobby of a posh London hotel, the Calthorpe. Astrid’s mother had forced everyone to walk from the nearest subway stop because “it was a sin to take a taxi nine blocks” and so you can imagine how they must have appeared.

Nicholas’ mother and aunt attempt to check in to the Lancaster Suite, but are turned away by the racist general manager because they are Chinese (and being soaking wet hides the fact that they are stinking rich). When Astrid’s mother calls her husband to tell him of this outrage, Mr. Leong calls the owner of the hotel (they played golf together only the month before). A few minutes later, Lord Rupert Calthrope-Cavendish-Gore himself is guiding the Young / Leong families through the lobby. Harry Leong had bought the hotel, the racist general manager was surreptitiously fired (ha!), and we are introduced in a very fun way to the wealthiest families in Singapore.

The real story begins in 2010, when Nicholas Young is 32 years old. He works in academia, and his girlfriend Rachel Chu has NO IDEA that he is ridiculously rich. When his childhood friend is getting married, Nicholas invites Rachel to accompany him to the wedding in Singapore (and to stay for the summer), and of course, while they are there, to meet his family. What he doesn’t tell her, is that his family’s’ house rivals that of Queen Elizabeth, and that he is Singapore’s most eligible bachelor. Oops.

This book was just simply fun, amazing, and at the same time heartwarming. I felt really bad for Rachel who is thrust head first and without a clue into the shark tank of single ladies all vying for Nicholas’ attention. Rachel has to go through all sorts of trials and tribulations that would have scared off anyone — from being called a gold digger, to the dead fish in her luggage, Rachel has to overcome some pretty awful harassment. I really liked that there was no fairy tale ending, and that the relationship was left with a question mark (I guess to be answered in the 2nd book in the series).

I also liked that this book didn’t only center around Nicholas and Rachel, but was also very much about the other characters. I especially liked Astrid Leong and the fact that even though she was also super rich (she easily spends more on one dress then I make in a year) she is also, somehow, down to earth.

Would I recommend this book? 5 times yes!

Title: City of Girls

Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: October 20, 2019

Read Finish Date: October 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time, she muses. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

My Review: I had some reservations in reading this book because I really hated Eat, Prey, Love — but I thought that maybe Gilbert’s fiction writing would be better than her nonfiction. At first, I had a hard time getting into the story, because I really disliked the main character, Vivian. Vivian was basically a self involved narcissist who thought the world revolved around her — and if she said she was pretty once, she did it 100 times. Vivian was a naive little rich girl — who, if you could believe it, didn’t really seem to know that there was a war on — even though this book takes place during WWII. It actually got a little annoying, how self centered this character was. To be honest, I was kind of feeling a little nostalgic (in a bad way) about Gilbert’s memoir.

At the beginning of the book, Vivian receives a letter from the daughter of an old friend, Angela, who asks Vivian what Vivian had mean to Angela’s dad. Vivian, instead writes a letter back to Angela, explaining what her dad meant to Vivian. The premise seems a little far fetched — I mean, how long was this freaking letter?? Anyway, since the letter was supposed to be about what Angela’s dad meant to Vivian, it was annoying that he wasn’t introduced until after 85% of the story had already been told. I mean, really?

And haven’t we all gotten past the “shock” of thinking of women as “sexual beings”? Sometimes I felt that Gilbert only set the book in the 1940’s so that a woman having a lot of unmarried sex was somehow “shocking”. I felt this way because I never really got the flavor of 1940 in her book, and even though WWII was the biggest thing happening at the time, it played such a minor role in the book that it was as if it didn’t even exist.

Despite my thoughts above, lots of reviews that I have read were actually pretty positive (i.e., Kristin Kraves, Carla Loves to Read, and Theresa Smith Writes. In deciding whether to read this book, you should take both perspectives into account.

What I’m Reading Now:

The themes of the above books are very different. One is a horror novel (Snow) and one is a memoir (Crooked Lines). Neither theme is what I was reading this time 3 years ago, but I am known for my eclectic reading preferences, so it isn’t a surprise.

Snow by Ronald Malfi

Todd Curry wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his son. But when a brutal snowstorm cancels his flight from Chicago to Des Moines, Todd and a few other stranded passengers decide to rent a Jeep and make the trip on their own.

During the drive, they pick up a man wandering through the snow, who claims to be searching for his lost daughter. He is disoriented and his story seems peculiar. Strangest of all are the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man’s coat, straight down to the flesh…

When they arrive at the nearest town, it appears deserted. Windows dark, car abandoned, fired burning unattended. But Todd and the rest of the travelers soon learn the town is far from deserted, and that they are being watched…

Crooked Lines by Jenna Zark

When you part company with the life you’ve been living, how do you start a new one?

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.

Time Travel Thursday August 11, 2022

Time Travel Thursday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. This is where I take a look back at what I was reading this time last year (or the year before or the year before that…) and compare it to what I am reading now.

Books I was Reading on This Day in 2019:

Title: All The Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 2 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, WWII

Read Start Date: August 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: August 16, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My Review: Living in Austria / the Netherlands, and having been to Normandy, France, a few weeks ago, it is really surreal to read about WWII events. As I was listening to the book, I was running in a place where abandoned WWII Nazi bunkers were. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. They are forced to flee Paris when the Germans start bombing it. Werner, an intelligent orphan German boy, is recruited into the war by the Nazis. The book alternates between the stories of these two characters, but it isn’t really until the last part of the book that the stories intersect.

The identities of these main characters makes the book more interesting because you experience two very different sides to the war. The Germans are of course portrayed as the bad guys, but Werner is somehow a sympathetic character, as he was brought into the war unwillingly and I got the feeling that he does not agree with what the Germans are doing. I really liked the character of Marie-Laure, as she is a courageous young woman despite her disability and able to accomplish things that not many others were brave enough to do.

When the novel begins in 1934, Werner and Marie-Laure are children. As the story progresses and the children age, the author gives you a window into growing up under the shadow of war.

What I’m Reading Now:

If I have to pick a theme of the current books I’m reading, with the exception of Forest Gump, I would say horror / sci-fi. This is a far cry from the historical fiction of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light I Cannot See.

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…

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…

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.

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?

Time Travel Thursday July 21, 2022

Time Travel Tuesday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. This is where I take a look back at what I was reading this time last year (or the year before or the year before that…) and compare it to what I am reading now.

Books I was Reading on This Day in 2021:

Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo:

Combining rich historical detail and a harrowing, pulse-pounding narrative, Close to Shore brilliantly re-creates the summer of 1916, when a rogue Great White shark attacked swimmers along the New Jersey shore, triggering mass hysteria and launching the most extensive shark hunt in history.

During the summer before the United States entered World War I, when ocean swimming was just becoming popular and luxurious Jersey Shore resorts were thriving as a chic playland for an opulent yet still innocent era’s new leisure class, Americans were abruptly introduced to the terror of sharks. In July 1916 a lone Great White left its usual deep-ocean habitat and headed in the direction of the New Jersey shoreline. There, near the towns of Beach Haven and Spring Lake-and, incredibly, a farming community eleven miles inland-the most ferocious and unpredictable of predators began a deadly rampage: the first shark attacks on swimmers in U.S. history.

For Americans celebrating an astoundingly prosperous epoch much like our own, fueled by the wizardry of revolutionary inventions, the arrival of this violent predator symbolized the limits of mankind’s power against nature.

Interweaving a vivid portrait of the era and meticulously drawn characters with chilling accounts of the shark’s five attacks and the frenzied hunt that ensued, Michael Capuzzo has created a nonfiction historical thriller with the texture of Ragtime and the tension of Jaws. From the unnerving inevitability of the first attack on the esteemed son of a prosperous Philadelphia physician to the spine-tingling moment when a farm boy swimming in Matawan Creek feels the sandpaper-like skin of the passing shark, Close to Shore is an undeniably gripping saga.

Heightening the drama are stories of the resulting panic in the citizenry, press and politicians, and of colorful personalities such as Herman Oelrichs, a flamboyant millionaire who made a bet that a shark was no match for a man (and set out to prove it); Museum of Natural History ichthyologist John Treadwell Nichols, faced with the challenge of stopping a mythic sea creature about which little was known; and, most memorable, the rogue Great White itself moving through a world that couldn’t conceive of either its destructive power or its moral right to destroy.

Scrupulously researched and superbly written, Close to Shore brings to life a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history. Masterfully written and suffused with fascinating period detail and insights into the science and behavior of sharks, Close to Shore recounts a breathtaking, pivotal moment in American history with startling immediacy.

My Memory of this Book: A year ago I was sitting on a beach in Croatia on my babymoon. This book came with me every day to the beach. I read this book while gazing out into the crystal blue waters — probably not a great book to be reading at the beach, but I was pretty certain there were no sharks where I was swimming, and besides, the water was so crystal blue that I could see to the bottom. I wasn’t writing reviews at the time, so there are none available.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab:

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

My Memory of this Book: I read this book as an audiobook. Although I wasn’t writing reviews at the time, I do remember enjoying this book and would highly recommend it.

Night Shift by Stephen King:

“You will encounter all manner of night creatures”, warns the author of this book. “None of them are real. The thing under my bed isn’t real. I know that, and I also know that if I’m careful to keep my foot under the covers, it will never be able to grab my ankle…”

Despite describing himself as ´the nicest sort of fellow you’d ever want to meet´, Stephen King is the author of three hugely successful horror novels, CARRIE, ´SALEM’S LOT and THE SHINING, all of which have been made into major films. In the foreword to NIGHT SHIFT he gives a fascinating insight into why he writes horror – and why people will always be enthralled by it. NIGHT SHIFT is your guide through the darker side of the human mind.

My Memory of this Book: I was reading this book as a edoc. I always enjoy Stephen King books, so I liked this one too.