Don’t worry, NO SPOILERS!

I asked for (and got) Gone Girl last Christmas. Once I found out they were going to be making a movie of it, I thought I really should get to it soon. When the movie came out, I flew through it, desperate to finish it without being spoiled for anything. And I made it!

And I really liked it. There’s just so much going on – very twisty – that I can’t really talk about it too much without giving something away, so I’ll pretty much just leave it at that. I will weigh in on the somewhat controversial (so I’ve heard – again, I was desperately avoiding being spoiled so I didn’t actually click on any of the articles expressing outrage over the ending) and say that I thought it worked. I thought it was a good way of leaving things – maybe not very satisfying, but very real for everyone involved – at any rate, I definitely did not feel an urge to fling it through the nearest window as I’ve heard other people have.

My rating: A-

Let’s start at the very beginning…

So while I was in Colorado, I finally caved and drank the Kool-Aid that is Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series, but the only one the bookshop had was How the Light Gets In which is, like, the ninth one in the series, I think? Well, I was finally able to start back at the beginning and get to know everyone in order!

Still Life by Louise Penny

I can’t speak much to the actual mystery that’s being solved here as it is an engrossing, but fairly standard mystery. The real stand-out in Louise Penny’s books (or at least the two I’ve read so far) is the large cast of characters and the village of Three Pines. While I was able to get to know everyone during How the Light Gets In it’s clear that this is more of an introductory version of everyone. And this one actually made me kind of like Clara Morrow who was my least favorite character from the ninth one. Inspector Gamache is smart but not infallible and his supporting cast are all individuals with their own personalities and back stories. I can’t wait to keep reading about Gamache and what else happens to Three Pines and its residents!

My rating: B+

Yes, I Read Romance Novels

There. I said it. I’d say it again if I had to.

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

This is the second book in Sarah MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrels series. I’m sure I read the first one, but I really don’t remember it at all! But this one was good, so I bet that one was good, too. The heroine is plucky and likable and the hero is smart, sexy, and only a teensy bit brooding. There’s some drama, but not too much – and super, amazing sexual tension! I was reading this in the car on the way back from Laura and Tyler’s wedding and at one point Drew tried to talk to me and I was like “Can’t. Talk. Finally got to. The first sex scene.” He was very impressed that it was a good 2/3 into the book before things finally got a bit heated – and so was I! I’m not super psyched for the Temple’s story – I don’t like him as much as I like the other three scoundrels. But I’m SUPER psyched for the fourth one – Chase’s story…I want to read eeeeeeet!

My rating: B+

Getting Caught Up: Book Edition

Part of my plan to get through the worst of my depression included rekindling my love of reading, something that the depression was sucking the joy completely out of. Frankly, since working at HK, I think my reading had been slightly less voracious – not entirely surprising when my job consisted of a lot of reading (after reading a set of pages for 8 hours at work, the last thing I really wanted to do when I got home was crack open a book). So one of my many goals is to read at least just a little bit every day. (Over the summer, to supplement our lack of income, Drew and I were doing plasma donation which basically meant a mandatory two hours of reading time each week and that definitely helped get me back into the habit of reaching for a book.)

And it seems to be working! Back in August, I set myself a Goodreads goal of finishing 10 books by the end of the year (I figured better to start off super achievable and make things more difficult if I reached that goal). Well, by early September, I’d already met that goal, so I’ve upped it to 20 books by the end of the year. We’ll see how I do! In the meantime, here are quick reviews of the 11 books I’ve read so far (from first read to most recently read):

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

When I spoke briefly with a counselor on campus, he suggested trying to live mindfully and recommended a couple of books for me. I have a couple others on the shelf that I need to get through, but I decided to try this one out. It was not really my thing… A little too floaty for my tastes, I think. I’m keeping my mind open to mindfulness, but I”m hoping the other books I have to try out will be a little more down-to-earth.

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

As I said earlier, Drew and I mainlined our way through the HBO Game of Thrones series this spring. Originally I’d been intending to read the books first cuz I”m a snob like that, but these books are door stops and it just wasn’t going to happen. But it’s kind of worked out for the best because between the TV show and the books, I think I’m finally understanding what’s actually going on. It’s hard to tell all the bearded men apart on television, so a lot of things are making a lot more sense now that I’m reading the books. I’m about a third of the way through the second book and so far the story lines all mirror the show’s pretty closely, but I’ve heard that later on they’ll diverge, so I’m interested to find out what the differences are.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

So super interesting and made me wish I could still go to space camp! I really hope I live to see us send someone to Mars.

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

A fascinating look at the ways people have tried to prove the existence of an afterlife.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I knew Steve really enjoyed this book, so when I was selecting books to stay with me versus books that would be relegated to the basement, I decided to keep this one handy on the bookshelves. Then when i started listening to I Don’t Even Own a Television, I saw that one of their episodes was dedicated to this book. What?! I cried, But Steve really liked this book! So I decided to get to the bottom of things. I devoured this book in the car on the way to Colorado with my parents and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then I listened to the podcast episode for this book and, yeah, I could sort of see where they were coming from, but I decided that I don’t care – I fell for the nostalgia. I liked this book.

Girl Walks Into a Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle by Rachel Dratch

I’ve been writing these mini-reviews as I become inspired and this is the last one left. And I’m not inspired. Rachel Dratch seems likable enough, but I just feel kind of blah towards this book. Not bad, that’s for sure, but I can’t think of anything to say about it, so make of that what you will…

How the Light Gets In (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #9) by Louise Penny

Louise Penny dominates my Facebook feed and I don’t even follow her! It’s that almost all of my friends from Borders adoooooooore her. So after chatting with Ruth, Missy, and Cayt a few weekends ago, I decided that I would finally drink the Kool-Aid. And it tastes gooooood! Unfortunately, I had to start with the 9th book in the series, but according to Louise Penny’s very own website, the books are written to stand alone. I would like to disagree (and I think Missy and Linda, at least, have my back). While I could follow along perfectly well with the story, it was clear that there were other, larger story arcs and character development that would have meant a bit of a deeper read had I started at the very beginning. But, as Linda pointed out, all this means is that I’ll get to read this one again when I’ve finished with the first eight.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Awesome, awesome book. Sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, always interesting. The main thing I took away from reading this book was that I, Anne of myblankpage, being of sound mind, do hereby bequeath my body to science, once any helpful organs have been donated.

Big Fat Lies That Women Tell Themselves: Ditch Your Inner Critic and Wake Up Your Inner Superstar by Amy Ahlers

I’ve never read a self-help book before, but I know self-confidence has always been a problem for me and decided that, as part of my get my life back together and get through this depression, I would set aside my reluctance and give it a go (though with a grain of salt). I liked the chatty, conversational tone the author strikes – it doesn’t feel condescending or anything, it feels like she’s speaking from having been there herself. But I will confess to an eye roll or two along the way and I didn’t really feel inspired to do the little challenges that go along with each Lie. However. I think I may need to revisit this one because last weekend, I was shopping for a dress to wear to Laura and Tyler’s wedding next weekend and found myself getting more and more frustrated. Finally, I was trudging through Younkers, my shoes wearing a blister into my toe, and with each painful step, a voice in my head said,”You fucking deserve that, you dumb fat fuck.” So, yeah, there’s a bit of insight into my inner critic and I definitely need to work on that.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

While I was reading it, I didn’t like it. But when I finished it, I was like “Huh. I think that was a really good book.” Sort of like a modern, short story, tangled, Dickensian web.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I’ll be honest. I did NOT like the main character. Not. One. Bit. But I liked the supporting characters and I found myself turning the pages despite myself. I could have done without the calculus, though. And the footnotes. Unlike Mary Roach, John Green does not pull them off. But I didn’t hate it, so…

Beware the White Devil!

The White Devil by Justin Evans

Argh! I can’t think of what to say about this book. I was in the mood for another ghost story, so I picked this one up, but I was never really taken in by it, even though I toughed it out to the end. I think it was that the characters didn’t particularly click for me – none of them were very likable, didn’t make good decisions, and, honestly, I didn’t think that they were very well fleshed out or consistent. The ghost was certainly creepy – and frankly, a little gross toward the end – but I didn’t really buy his motivation. So a kid shows up at Harrow who looks like Lord Byron and the ghost of his spurned lover goes nuts and starts killing people? Just because somebody looks like his old boyfriend? I don’t know.

But I did manage to finish it, so I guess it can’t have been all bad – near the end I was skimming just to find out what was going to happen (not that I cared about the characters it was happening to). Frankly, I’d say that if you want a good ghost story, pick up Anna Dressed in Blood instead of this one.

My rating: D+

I’ve been putting this off for a couple of reasons…

Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

Mostly, writing this review is making me feel like I’m a pretty bad person. The author’s love for his wife and his grief at her loss really comes through and I appreciated Sheffield being so open and honest in his writing. And, I’ll admit it, I cried pretty darn hard during the chapters dealing with his wife’s death and his grieving process, but mostly I just couldn’t identify with either Sheffield or Renee. It may be because they are infinitely cooler than I’ll ever be, at least when it comes to music and being on top of the Next Big Thing – or it may be because they’re just enough older than me that even though I recognize some (about half, I’d say) of the bands and songs Sheffield mentions, I wasn’t grown-up enough to have the same sorts of memories associated with them that they do. I’m not sure I’m being clear – basically, when Sheffield and Renee were busy being a broke newlywed couple drinking beer and listening to The Smiths or Nirvana, I was a junior high kid singing along to Mariah Carey.

If you’re 10 years older than I am or you have an older sibling who was 10 years older than I was, you’ll probably find yourself liking Sheffield and Renee a lot better than I did. No matter how old you are, though, it will make you think about the fragility of life and love and cry a bit about it.

My rating: B-

What a lucky bitch!*

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

When I started this book, I kept thinking “Ugh, I’m gonna hate this lucky bitch” – I mean, she gets to eat at the most fabulous restaurants in New York City (in the 90s) on the New York Times payroll – jealous, much? But I didn’t hate her – she’s still a lucky bitch, but I definitely didn’t hate her.

She came across in her writing as funny and thoughtful and honest and, holy hell, does she know how to talk about food! It must be one of the hardest things to write about, right up there with music – how do you describe something in words that can be experienced with every sense except…well, reading isn’t a sense, but you know what I mean. But she definitely manages it – I could picture, smell, and almost taste every dish she wrote about, even the bad ones!

Part of the fun of the book is also the disguises she comes up with, completely disappearing into other personas in an attempt to dine anonymously – some bring out the best in her (Brenda) while others are the worst (Emily). I found her less pleasant identities a little awkward to read about as she really did go all out and very nearly become the characters she created, even the pretentious, rude ones and it wasn’t fun to read about her being horrid to waiters and every once in a while, her fellow diners. At her worst, Emily, it is Marion Cunningham of all people (not Ritchie’s mother, but the cookbook author instead) who brings her around and leads to one of my favorite moments in the book. I won’t ruin it for you, but it’s worth the slog through Emily’s night out to get to the end of the story.

But mostly it’s a love letter to the food scene in New York City – and not because all of the restaurants are fabulous, they’re not and she includes those reviews along with the positive ones (I think there’s only one restaurant that receives a 4-star review included in the book, I don’t know how many she [or, for that matter, other reviewers] handed down over the years she spent reviewing for the Times). It’s a love letter to the vibrancy of the variety and options available in New York – she goes to super fancy restaurants like The Rainbow Room, Le Cirque, and the Box Tree but she also goes to noodle joints (though it sounds like those aren’t cheap either) and a friend of hers takes her on a food tour of New York towards the end of the book that sounds like heaven.

I wish I had the financial resources – or the job at the Times – to gain her level of knowledge about food and wines because it sounds like it brings the experience to a whole other level.

My rating: B+ (I would have given her an A, but I’m a petty, petty blogger who can’t bring myself to give such a lucky bitch an A even though she probably deserves it)

*[Yes, I know she’s not just lucky, she’s talented and worked hard to get where she is, but I’m going to comfort myself with the lucky bitch thing.]