This month I kept it consistent with last month (unintentionally) and read 7 books: 5 audiobooks and 2 physical books. For some reason I’m reading physical books really slowly lately – even slower than I read them when I was working full time AND doing graduate school. All I can say is, thank goodness for audiobooks and a job that allows me to listen to headphones for most of the day. But enough about me… Let’s get to the books!
When You’re Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (4 Stars)
In this book of essays, David Sedaris recounts more of the absurdly humorous moments of his life, including: the time he accidently spit a throat lozenge into a sleeping woman’s lap on a plane, when he seriously considered making a cup of coffee using the water from a flower vase, and the trip he went on to Tokyo to help him quit smoking.
But my description could never do Sedaris justice – just take my word for it that he is HILARIOUS and this book cracked me up numerous times! His sharp and witty humor isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy an honest, albeit sarcastic, take on life give him a try. He usually records his own audiobooks too, which makes them all the more enjoyable.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (4 Stars)
A group of nine Oxford College friends have maintained a tradition of spending part of the Christmas / New Years holidays together. This year, they’ve planned a trip to a remote, idyllic Scottish estate where they plan on enjoying each other’s company, hiking, hunting, and, of course, drinking. But longstanding grudges and secrets are beginning to break the friends apart and by the end of the trip one of the group is dead… and one of the others is to blame.
This was a fun mystery to read, particularly because it was extremely atmospheric. The mystery itself wasn’t a huge surprise and the ending was rather abrupt, but the mysterious and dangerous setting made up for any plot shortcomings.
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (4 Stars)
Four best friends, Isabel, Fatima, Thea, and Kate, were expelled from Salten, a boarding school near the English Channel, following the mysterious death of the schools’s art teacher, Ambrose (also Kate’s father). Their expulsion, complicated by a game they used to play called The Lying Game, caused them to fall out of touch for many years – but that all changed when Kate sent out a group text stating simply, “I need you.” The women all rush to her side as a secret they’ve tried to keep buried begins to come to the surface.
I love Ruth Ware’s stories and this book was no exception. The Lying Game was a perfect combination of Pretty Little Liars and an Agatha Christie style mystery. While the ending was a little complicated, I enjoyed the twists and turns – it certainly didn’t end the way I imagined it would!
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (5 Stars)
The Glass Castle is Jeannette Walls memoir of growing up with two parents who refuse to live life on the grid; preferring instead to nurture non-lucrative ambitions (which were usually delusional) of becoming artists, free thinkers, and corruption fighters – oftentimes to the detriment of their four children. Jeannette and her sisters and brother had to fend for themselves by finding food in unusual places and working hard in school to build more stable futures. But as Jeannette aged and became a successful, gainfully employed journalist she reflected back on her childhood and grew to appreciate the freedom of marching to the beat of her own drum, much like her parents did.
Jeannette’s story is fascinating! I was completely hooked on this audiobook and had a hard time hitting the pause button. Her stories from childhood are often heartbreaking, and yet the pride she has for herself and her family make her anything but pitiful.
BlacKKKlansman by Ron Stallworth (4 Stars)
I’m sure you all know Ron Stallworth’s story by now since the movie adaptation of this book came out last year, but just in case… Ron Stallworth, the first black detective of the Colorado Springs Police Department, infiltrated the KKK in 1978 launching one of the craziest undercover investigations of the prolific hate group ever. Working with Chuck, one of his fellow undercover cops who became the “white” Ron Stallworth, Stallworth was able to attend meetings, sabotage cross burnings, and even trick David Duke himself into becoming his “friend.”
This was a fascinating story, and the movie was also great. The writing in this book wasn’t anything special. Stallworth repeated himself a lot and the sentences were a little choppy, but the story was so intriguing I had to give it 4 stars. Besides, Ron Stallworth has been busy serving as a detective for all of his professional career, not perfecting his writing skills, so I had to cut him some slack.
China Dolls by Lisa See (5 Stars)
Three young women, Grace Lee, Helen Fong, and Ruby Tom, meet and bond during an audition for the Forbidden City, a new nightclub in San Francisco’s China Town. Their friendship blossoms as they navigate the world of entertainment together – sharing in and encouraging each other’s dreams of stardom, fame, and fortune. But when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and World War II suddenly becomes a real threat, some buried secrets come out and a terrible act of betrayal threatens to break up their friendship for good.
Lisa See is wonderful storyteller who combines two of my favorite things: feminism and historical fiction. China Dolls is full of female empowerment and resilience, and focuses on an aspect of American history, the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in internment camps, that is often swept under the rug.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (5 Stars)
Shadow wants nothing more than to be released from prison so he can go home to his wife and start his life over. But when she unexpectedly dies on the day of his release, nothing goes according to plan. On his way to the funeral, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday, a mysterious older man who seems to know all about Shadow and his past, and quickly becomes embroiled in his schemes. What follows is an adventure Shadow never could have dreamed up.
This book was fantastic! Gaiman crafted a vision of America that is diverse, imaginative, and a little dangerous. In his America, gods are real and they walk among us, forever influencing and being influenced by our beliefs and faith. I was a Religious Studies major in undergrad so maybe I was predisposed to enjoy this book, but regardless, American Gods quickly jumped to the top of my Neil Gaiman favorites list.
Have you read any of these books? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 🙂