Thursday, August 20, 2020

Book Review - Volume Six

As the end of August nears, I’m sharing with you some of my final reads of the summer (although I’m sure I’ll squeeze in one more in the next week and a half)! Even though summer hasn’t gone as planned, or 2020 for that matter, I’ve certainly read my share of books. 

This installment features five books, including historical fiction, a psychological thriller, and a memoir. I'm sure you'll find something that strikes your fancy. 

As before, I've included the summary of the book, as well as my rating (1 to 5). Let’s get started. 

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy―two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia―trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

Rating: 1/5. I had heard a lot of great things about this book, and to be honest, I thought it was OK at best. There were large gaps in the story line, and parts were unrealistic - the head of the cartel sparing your life because he was in love with you? I doubt it. I also thought the sporadic use of Spanish felt forced, and the story marginalized/romanticized crossing the Mexican American boarder. 

The Guest List

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Rating: 4/5. I devoured this book, and loved all the twists and turns. Each chapter showcased different characters and seamlessly intertwined them together. I loved the premise of a "who done it" at a wedding - it kept me on my toes until the very end.  

The Only Woman in the Room

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side and understood more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis and revolutionize modern communication...if anyone would listen to her.

Rating: 5/5. This book was absolutely wonderful. I was not familiar with the background of screen siren Hedy Lamarr, and how she was an absolute genius. To this day, her inventions literally are part of our everyday life. This book only skimmed the surface of this multi-faceted woman and definitely made me want to learn more. A must read for anyone that loves historical fiction, WW2, and old Hollywood. 

The Giver of Stars

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England.  But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice's greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who's never asked a man's permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. 

What happens to them--and to the men they love--becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic--a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond. 

Rating: 5/5. This book may possibly be one of the best books I've ever read. The story was phenomenal and introduced me to the Packhorse Library, which I had never heard of before. The characters are beautiful, courageous, and had so much depth. It really showcased the strength of women during a time when women were just expected to be housewives. I recently saw that the book is going to be made into a movie, and I can't wait for it!

Open Book 

This was supposed to be a very different book. Five years ago, Jessica Simpson was approached to write a motivational guide to living your best life. She walked away from the offer, and nobody understood why. The truth is that she didn’t want to lie. 

Jessica couldn’t be authentic with her listeners if she wasn’t fully honest with herself first. 

Now, America’s Sweetheart, preacher’s daughter, pop phenomenon, reality TV pioneer, and the billion-dollar fashion mogul invites listeners on a remarkable journey, examining a life that blessed her with the compassion to help others but also burdened her with an almost crippling need to please. Open Book is Jessica Simpson using her voice, heart, soul, and humor to share things she’s never shared before.

First celebrated for her voice, she became one of the most talked-about women in the world, whether for music and fashion, her relationship struggles, or as a walking blonde joke. But now, instead of being talked about, Jessica is doing the talking. Her audiobook shares the wisdom and inspirations she’s learned and shows the real woman behind all the pop-culture clichés - "chicken or fish", "Daisy Duke", "football jinx", "mom jeans", "sexual napalm..." and more. Open Book is an opportunity to laugh and cry with a close friend, one that will inspire you to live your best, most authentic life, now that she is finally living hers.

Rating: 4/5. I just finished listening to this on audio book, and really enjoyed it. I was shocked by how vulnerable Jessica Simpson was in her memoir (she narrated), and just how much depth there is beneath the surface. She shared some of the traumas and heartaches she's been through in life, as well as opening up about her alcoholism. She discusses how she finally dealt with her demons and is now living a sober, happy life. This is the perfect book to listen to while you're taking a road trip or driving to work (it would also be a good book to read too)!


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