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Monday, January 02, 2017

Books of December 2016

I'm going to do my year in review post in a moment, but here is a quick look at my December books. I pumped up the (reading) volume in December, but it didn't take me over 60 books for the year. Whoops. (Luckily, my goal was 55.)

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Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Rating: 4 / 5
Eleanor is an interesting character and I could see how some won't enjoy reading about her. I found her entertaining and was happy she surrounded herself with such nice men (/and Timby). She says the things you (I) think, but gets into situations that are a bit embarrassing (luckily not too uncomfortable to read about).

I loved the artwork for The Flood Girls and I liked that side of Eleanor's character. The second section was also an interesting departure from Seattle. The final part with her husband was a surprise, but I didn't mind it. Good for him.

The one thing I truly hated was related to Yo-Yo! I couldn't stop thinking about him and it bothered me so much! Thankful for the resolution.

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry
Rating: 4 / 5
I won this (audiobook) in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. 

First, the narrator was not great. He got better as it went, but his speaking style was stilted. Occasionally a New York-type accent came out, which I actually enjoyed more. (He also reads a lot of crime novels and best sellers, to which I think he must be better suited.)

I wish Dave Barry had narrated his own book. I heard him talking about the book on NPR after I entered the giveaway, so what a happy coincidence when I won! I've read his work before and I'm pretty sure my mom liked(/s) him, so maybe I've actually heard him read his own stuff.

Anyway, this was a funny look at silly situations in Florida, along with a handful of touristy stops. He hit some old, some new, but all weird. I enjoyed the section in The Village and the mermaid place (which I looked up, then spent a while reading the mermaid bios).

This was a good listen during work.

If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison
Rating: 5 / 5
I won this in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. 

This was my second book by Harbison and I enjoyed it even more than the first. What could have been an eye-rolling chick lit novel about a women waking up 18 again, was well done: humorous and smart. I liked that the main character, Ramie, was self-aware (as much as you can be in this situation) and used her financial-analyst logic to try to figure out her situation.

There were times where I thought I knew where it was going – and I guess I ultimately figured it out, but only a few chapters from the end – but overall, the story was even better than I expected. I enjoyed Ramie revisiting her past. I can't imagine waking up at 18 and having to go back to school for a few days. Nightmare. (Mainly because I, too, can't remember my schedule)

Anyway, this was a pleasant surprise. Maybe not a "best book ever" 5 star, but I flew through it and didn't groan once. That's a huge milestone for me lately!

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
Rating: 3 / 5 
I'm so glad I listened to the audiobook. I don't think I would have enjoyed this without Amy Schumer's narration.

I would say this fits between Mindy Kaling's (low) and Tina Fey's (high) memoirs. I appreciated the organization of topics/essays. They flowed nicely. Schumer is silly sometimes, but honestly this book isn't funny. She deals with some "heavy" topics including her father's illness (MS), divorce, cheating, abuse, and gun violence. It was a bit too raunchy for my taste because the sex talk really seemed to be there just to further her "persona" - which she also fights against. Her stance isn't consistent: "I'm not a slut!"/"Here's a chapter about my vagina and what's been in it!" "I'm not into weird sex stuff"/"Here's a weird sex thing I did."

Again, it was entertaining, but I had a hard time figuring out how I feel about Amy Schumer. On one hand, I'm glad she can be herself and she's a different type of female celebrity (not here to please everyone). On the other hand, I wish she'd calm down. She'd speak of her confidence and make lists about how awesome she is, but instead of sounding insufferable OR confident, it sort of came across as desperate. Like, "see how cool I am despite what the internet says??" I wish she'd just own it. Maybe in her next book!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Rating: 4 / 5
I have no idea why I got this, but I'm glad I did. At first, I didn't enjoy it. I think that's because the first section was full of drugs and emotional and sexual abuse. I thought Sugar's way of answering questions with a story of her own was odd - almost as if she was trying to prove just how wild her life was. But then something clicked. Duh. Those backstories made the advice less "do this" and more "have you considered this?"

I recommend the audiobook. I don't think I would have gotten through the book. The author is the narrator, which is always good with personal non-fiction. She's had a crazy full life (you've read/seen Wild, right?) but she's a decent person and she gives great advice. And I really appreciated when she called people out on their bullshit (A Big Life). She's sympathetic, she states the obvious, and she made me feel like I could stand to live a little!

Don't I Know You? by Marni Jackson
Rating: 3.5 / 5
I won this in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway. 

Based on the summary, I thought this would be kind of goofy, but it wasn't. The collection of short stories follows Rose through her life as she encounters several (famous) storytellers. Marni Jackson is a great writer, so it was easy to fall into Rose's world.

The first half was so well done and felt real, but about halfway through the stories began to get a little absurd (Keith Richards, Van Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen...) -- mainly focusing on celebrities in new careers, trying to live outside of the spotlight. I kept reading, even if I had to suspend my disbelief and wondered if we'd find out Rose was dreaming/ in a dissociative fugue during that last half... but it wrapped up so nicely in the end, I guess she wasn't. (Or was she?)

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes the celebrities mentioned in the summary or enjoys short story collections with a unifying theme. My favorite encounters were John Updike, Joni Mitchell, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Charlotte Rampling, and even Agnes and Jimi. Gwyneth and Adam Driver made me laugh.

I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
Rating: 4 / 5
I enjoyed this more than Heartburn, probably because she could be honest (not hidden behind her fictional account) and jump around between topics.

Nora Ephron was a funny lady. Sad to say was because the last essay is about life's lessons, how friends are dying around her, and what happens in the end. Despite that semi-sad ending, there were several passages that made me laugh out loud. I especially enjoyed her rants about staying pretty (glad I don't live in NYC), the beginning of her essay on modern parenting ("blame the backlash against the women's movement..." -- I see where she's coming from!), and her long story about her beloved apartment.

Short, but sweet. I kind of want a cabbage strudel.

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As always, these reviews were taken from my Goodreads. For past months, click here.

What's the last book you read?
What are you looking forward to reading? 

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