Recent Reads

Monday, June 23, 2014

I've fallen behind -- again! Despite the fact that I haven't been able to post as consistently as I have in the past, I still love book blogging and want to post when I can. Thank you to those readers who are still here with me -- I don't interact as much as I used to but I am so grateful you are here. And now, on to the reviews.

Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me by Rachel Bertsche

I had to snag this title off NetGalley when I saw that it was by Rachel Bertsche, the author of MWF Seeking BFF, a book I adored last year. A stunt memoir along the lines of The Happiness Project, in Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me, Bertsche takes eight celebrities that have an aspect of life that she admires and she tries to put that element of life into practice. Her writing style is extremely readable, and I binge-read the book in a 36 hour time frame like I was having a lightning-quick weekend with an old friend. An added bonus was learning interesting tidbits about the celebrities Bertsche seeks to emulate -- I am now excited to check out Gwyneth's cookbook, and I might take the Honest Company up on their offers of free diaper samples when baby #2 comes around. Sometimes inspiring, sometimes silly, always entertaining, Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me is a great, light-hearted read that will still teach you something.

4 stars

Warnings: None

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen's magical realism in Garden Spells, and was excited to see this novel show up on NetGalley. Lost Lake doesn't live up to the enchantment of Garden Spells for me, but was still an enjoyable little romance. A young widow, Kate, visits her great-aunt Eby's lakeside camp when she finds an old postcard of the place. However, she little expects the transformation the place will enact in her life.

Lost Lake employs the magical realism present in Allen's other books, but in Lost Lake, it mostly manifests as ghost stories. I was a little disappointed in this -- I love the way magic imbues every little aspect of life in the other novels. In addition, I felt that the dialogue was a bit one-dimensional. While the characters were all interesting and had strong back stories and development, the conversations they had seemed somewhat stilted. The book also wrapped up some pretty big issues with a wave of a magic wand, so to speak, which seemed a little too easy. For this reason, I didn't find the book especially compelling, but it as still an enjoyable, romantic read.

 3 stars

Warnings: Some brief, non-explicit references to sex, brief descriptions of violence, language

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

If you read my "Pick-Me-Ups" post, you know that one topic that always interests me in a book is cancer. I am a pediatric bone marrow transplant nurse, and I always feel compelled to gather stories about people similar to my patients. I think part of it is because I am interested in it in my real life, and that interest remains for my reading life. I also always hope that the stories I read will be realistic and help me to have more compassion and empathy for the families I work with.

My Sister's Keeper has been on my radar -- and literally my night stand -- for a long time. As in, a couple of years. It took me a while to pick it up, I think in part because the movie made me so hysterical with tears that I was worried the book would wreak even worse havoc, and partly because the only other Jodi Picoult novel I'd ever attempted to read had ended up a DNF. However, once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. I binge-read the last hundred pages after telling my husband I would do the dishes "after one chapter." Whoops.

If you've somehow missed all the hype around this book, it is the story of Anna, who was conceived in order to donate umbilical cord blood to her sister, who had a rare form of leukemia. As both sisters grow and Kate's leukemia relapses over and over again, Anna is asked to give more and more of her body to her sister. Finally, she sues her parents for the right to make her own medical decisions.

Picoult definitely knows how to draw a reader in, with constant twists and emotional gut-punches. She has also done her research. While I've never cared someone with Kate's particular diagnosis, many of the procedures and medications are the same, and Picoult was very well-versed. This definitely commanded my respect. I also thought the writing was great for the genre. My Sister's Keeper is a plot-driven novel constructed to shock the reader and draw out emotions, and it is incredibly effective. I have heard outcry (aka negative Goodreads reviews) about "emotional manipulation," but I feel like that is what you are asking for when you read any book, not just one of this genre. Am I right? Don't we read so we can feel things we wouldn't otherwise feel?

Anyway, My Sister's Keeper was an interesting read and definitely a page turner. It has convinced me to possibly try another Jodi Picoult, and given me a window into the outside-the-hospital life and devastation of families that deal with cancer.

4 stars

Warnings: Language, violence, thematic material, some innuendo, one non-explicit sex scene

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