Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fantasy, Non-Fiction

Mini Book Reviews: September 2019 – Part 1

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*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin,  After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Library Book by Susan Orlean, and Gratitude Daily: 21 Days to More Joy and Less Stress by Nataly Kogan

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» A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1) by George R.R. Martin

GameOfThrones

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I’ve been wanting to start reading this series for a long, long time.  Not going to lie, I put it off for YEARS because I was super intimidated by the length of these books.  Plus, it is an unfinished series, so I was planning on waiting until it was finished before jumping in.  When I decided to participate in a GoT inspired read-a-thon in July, I figured it was the perfect excuse to pick up the first book in this series.

 Game of Thrones is full of action, adventure, humor, political intrigue, plot twists, and lots of death.  George R.R. Martin really enjoys dropping all kinds of bombs on his readers for a high shock factor.   I found myself mouthing “WTF?” numerous times throughout this story… probably more than any other book I’ve read.  If you are not a fan of surprises (not necessarily the good kind) and a high death count in your books, let me stress to you that this is not going to be the book for you.  No character is safe from George R.R. Martin and nothing is off limits.

When you have multiple POV switches among a long list of characters, I often find that one or more of the perspectives is not needed or not as engaging as others.  This was not the case here.  Of course I was more drawn to certain characters – Jon Snow, Tyrion, and Arya in particular – but felt that each perspective was equally compelling and enhanced the overall story-line.   

George R.R. Martin not only gives us lovable characters that we can’t help but root for, but he also gives us characters we love to hate.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more satisfaction from a character death than I did in this book.   Furthermore, each of the characters were well fleshed out, including the secondary characters.  Even though we do not see the perspectives of some of the secondary characters, we are given a clear understanding behind their actions and motivations.

I was surprised how easy it was to follow this story despite the complexity of the plot, POV switches, and the overabundance of characters.  I attribute this to the writing not being overly dense and that the story was paced very well.

I was completely engrossed in this book from start to finish.  I cannot wait to read the rest of the books in this series!

***Trigger/content warning: ALL the warnings…graphic violence, rape, incest, abuse…***


» After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

AfterIDo

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After I Do was my third Taylor Jenkins Reid novel.  After reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six, I knew I wanted to read more of Reid’s books.  Whereas Evelyn Hugo & Daisy Jones are more gritty reads with complex (and unlikable at times) female leads, After I Do focuses on relationships & marriage.   Did I love this one as much as Evelyn Hugo or Daisy Jones?  No, but After I do has a very different feel to it…

After I Do is about Lauren & Ryan, a couple that fear they have fallen out of love with each other.  In an effort to save their marriage and avoid divorce, they decide to take a year apart.  We follow Lauren as she struggles to figure out what her life looks like without Ryan…

As you can probably guess from the book description, After I do is a character driven novel.  I would consider this story to be a “quiet” type of read.  We slowly watch the rise and fall of Lauren & Ryan’s marriage, followed by the devastation after Ryan moves out, and finally the rebuilding stage as Lauren picks up the pieces of her broken heart.  This is not an action packed plot, but rather Lauren’s reflection of her relationship with Ryan over the years & her grief over their decision to take a year break.  While After I Do centers around relationships/marriage, I would also label it as a journey to self discovery.  I really enjoyed watching Lauren’s growth and development over the course of this book.

After I Do is, above all, an incredibly relatable novel if you’ve been in a long term relationship and/or married.  As someone who has been with their spouse for 15 years, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t relate to Lauren & Ryan’s relationship struggles.  Relationships are hard & require effort from both parties, especially as time goes on and things start to feel stale.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this book would have worked better as a dual perspective of both Lauren and Ryan.  While we do get to see snippets of Ryan through the emails, I would have enjoyed reading from her perspective and seeing how he spent his year away.

After I Do would make for an excellent book club selection.


» The Library Book by Susan Orlean

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After seeing RAVE reviews for this, I decided to give it a go for myself to see what the hype was about.  When I learned it was about the 1986 fire at the LA public library, I was a less thrilled to read it.  While I am very interested in libraries, I am not very interested in true crime types of novels… or at least that I what I thought.

I knew absolutely nothing about the LA public library fire of 1986.   For one, it happened before I was born.  Secondly, I’ve never been to California, much less Los Angles.  The LA public library fire of 1986 was the largest library fire of U.S. history.  It burned for over 7 hours and reached temperatures of over 2,500°F.  Over 400,000 books were lost, and over 700,000 were damaged.   Even though I was not overly interested in reading about an arson when I started The Library Book, I was completely captivated by this portion of the story: the fire itself, the damage, the restoration efforts, and even learning about the number one suspect, Harry Peak, in great detail.  You can definitely tell that Orlean has a strong background in journalism.

At first, I was unsure of the way Orlean formatted this book.  The chapters alternate between sharing details of the fire of 1986, the history of the LA public library, and Orlean experiencing the library as it is today.   When I started, the book felt a little scattered, but by the end I could see that this was an effective way to weave all of these elements together & hold the readers attention.

I think what Susan Orlean did here that worked so well was not only to talk about the details surrounding the 1986 fire at the LA public library, but also chose to share the history of the LA public library system, and libraries in general.   I loved learning about the history behind the LAPL: the head librarians over the years, the design & building of the main branch, how the library & it’s services have changed and evolved over the years, etc.   I also loved the details about libraries today: the roles of librarians, the issues with homelessness, the shift from libraries solely housing books and becoming community centers, etc.  The Library Book is really an ode to libraries, and how they are such an important staple in a community.

I highly recommend this book to lovers books, libraries, and/or crime fiction.


» Gratitude Daily: 21 Days to More Joy and Less Stress by Nataly Kogan

gratitudedaily

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I would definitely consider myself to be a “glass half empty” type of person, so practicing gratitude is something I need to improve on.  I came across this short audiobook (just shy of 3 hours) on Hoopla, and decided to listen to it as a reading “palate cleanser” after reading some longer & heavier books.

Gratitude Daily is broken up into 21 daily lessons on how you can integrate gratitude in your day-to-day life.  The author’s intent was for the reader to listen to one lesson each day over the course of 21 days.  I chose to listen to the book straight through, and feel that either way you decide to read it would be beneficial.

Listening to this book definitely gave me a fresh perspective on gratitude and the benefits of practicing gratitude.  I love how positive and vivacious the author came across via the audiobook.  You can definitely tell how passionate Kogan is about gratitude & how practicing gratitude daily can bring so much joy.  

I found the tips and techniques in practicing gratitude to be practical and very achievable.  Something as simple as taking a few moments every day to jot down a few things you are thankful for that day – a beautiful sunrise, praise from a co-worker, a delicious dinner, etc – can help you to appreciate the small things in life and bring you more joy.

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Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: September 2019 – Part 1”

  1. Lol! GOT is so good! Glad you enjoyed it that much. I also marveled at how compelling it is and easy to keep up with despite the many POV switches. Each character felt unique so I didn’t confuse them.

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