Hello. I’m still alive. And here’s what I’ve been reading.

Heyo, long time, no write. Life has been crazy hectic, but I miss sitting down to collect my thoughts in one place. I would do an audiobook mega catch-up, but I’ve read so many by now that it would be an endless post that no one would want to sit through. So, here’s a list with a star rating for each one. Since I’m on staycation right now, I hope to start writing more often, to get back in the habit.

The Kind Worth KillingThe Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson–Weird, but mindless mystery. It was a good escape when you’re just sitting in your car: 3/5 stars

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo–Weird in a crazy way. Sounded like someone out of their mind had written it: 1/5 stars

The Wednesday Group by Sylvia True–Not what I thought it would be. I didn’t actually read the description for this. Audible just recommended it and I bought it based on the cover art: 3/5 stars

Dark Places: A Novel by Gillian Flynn–Why hasn’t she written more?: 4/5 stars

Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner OfficeNice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel–Not sure I agree with everything said, but good to know one person’s perspective: 3.5/5 stars

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn–Again, Flynn’s formula is good, she needs to write some more stuff for me to read: 4/5

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero–Another one with a good perspective, but not sure I 100% agree with everything she says: 3/5 stars

Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin–A very cool perspective. I was sad to learn the author embellished instead of keeping it strictly factual/observational: 4/5 stars

The Fold by Peter Clines–A good old fashioned sci fi/fantasy. The writing was good, and the audiobook narrator was good too; 4.5/5 stars

The ResidenceThe Residence by Kate Andersen Brower–This gives you an inside look into the White House through the staff that has served presidents and their families through the decades: 4/5 stars

Armada by Ernest Cline–My expectations were too high for this based on Cline’s Ready Player One. The ending left a lot to be desired, but it’s still a fun ride. 4/5 stars

Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain–This was a recommended book from Audible. Not something I would have picked out, a tad formulaic, but a good escape from real life: 3/5 stars

Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir by John McCain, Mark Salter–I wanted to read this after reading Hillary Clinton’s book. No matter his attitude or record, McCain went through a lot as  POW: 3/5 stars

Currently listening to: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

What books are you reading/listening to right now?

Audiobook Review Overload

I’m supposed to be working on final projects, papers, and presentations for the spring semester, and we all know that this means I’m up at 4am on a Sunday writing a blog instead. I realized that I’d listened to SO many audiobooks and not even told you guys about them. Prepare yourselves. Also, potential spoilers ahead…

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

One Step Too Far Tina SekisI bought this one after I read The Girl on the Train and The Good Girl. Audible was like, “Oh, you like light semi-drama and pseudo-mystery?” and recommended it to me. It was better written than The Good Girl, for sure. The story was pretty interesting as we follow the main character, Emily, who seems perfectly happy and fine–but still chooses to up and leave her seemingly perfect marriage, family, and house. I liked the narrator and what seemed to me to be real life reactions to being thrown COMPLETELY 180*. Can you imagine leaving your life behind one day and trying to start anew–new name, new place, new everything? The writing was so relatable, that I was a little disappointed by the very forced twist at the end. When you get to a well-written twist in a book, you should feel like, “Oh, man! How did I not see that coming? All the clues were there!” But in this one, you get to the twist and think, “Could she just not figure out a way to weave this throughout the book? Did the author just decide last minute that this is how it would end?” I am notorious for being picky about endings, but for how much I invested myself in this narrative, the ending was a little bit of a womp womp.

Rating: 3/5

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the RingDoes this really need a review? I’m sad to admit that while I’ve read The Hobbit and seen all the LoTR movies, I’ve never actually read the LoTR books. Whoops. So when I saw all 3 on sale on Audible as a package, I bought them all on impulse, of course. The narrator for this version is actually really great. He does all the voices and sings the song-parts. I’m not going to lie, his Samwise Gamgee sounds almost like Sean Astin. I know this version prob came first, and Astin just modeled his voice after the audiobook. Or maybe neither knew about the other, I don’t know. I still stand by my conviction that Samwise Gamgee is the best friend anyone could ever ask for. Anyway, if you’re like me and haven’t read it yet but want to listen to it while you sit in interminable traffic, I recommend the version narrated by Rob Inglis. It’s unabridged too! Huzzah!

Rating: This is a classic. Just read it.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

everything i never told you by celeste ngThis was another Audible recommendation. I guess it was supposed to be “mystery lite.” But it’s more focused on dysfunctional family dynamics and how we don’t really even know the people we think we know best. And why? Because they try to be who we think they are, or because they want to make us happy. It also focuses on how a single event or a seemingly tiny occurrence can change the course of people’s lives. Here’s the Amazon summary:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart.

You can see where it FEELS like it’s going to be mysterious, but it’s more about the mystery of family relationships. I might have liked it more if I had different expectations to begin with.

Rating: 2/5

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In John ScalziA decade and a half in the future, a strange virus sweeps the world that essentially “locks” people in their bodies. They still have full brain function, but their bodies are pretty much in comas. Fortunately, technology has advanced so much that these people can still participate in society through android bodies called “Threeps” (after C-3PO) that connect to their brains through a neural network. People who got the virus but didn’t experience “lock in” can also connect to the neural network, and give the locked people the chance to do things with a real body (like eat a cheeseburger or go skydiving). These people are called “integrators.” This is totally cool, and all. Until someone messes it all up by hacking the system and killing people. What?!

There’s a whole police unit dedicated to people who are locked in using threeps or integrators, and this novel follows 2 officers from that unit–one who used to be an integrator and one who is locked in and using a threep–as they try to solve a murder mystery that’s even bigger than they or anyone imagined it could be.

This wasn’t serious literature, but once I got a few chapters in, I really started to like it. It was a good mindless read, and the “mystery” part was a lot more interesting than some of the previous books I read.

Rating: 3/5

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girls With all The GiftsHas anyone heard of that fungus that takes over ant brains, making them do what it wants? It changes the ant’s behavior, eventually making it climb to the top of trees and help the fungus reproduce. It makes them “zombie ants.” Well, in the dystopian future, this fungus has evolved to take over humans (see also: The Last of Us)! The book is an exciting ride, and the ending is one that IS satisfactory. One that all signs point to, but it doesn’t seem contrived like One Step Too Far. I don’t want to give TOO much away, but that’s part of the fun of the book. So, here’s a review of it, and I recommend you read it/listen to it too. The narration by Finty Williams is also pretty good.

Rating: 4/5

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneMy boss recommended this book a few months back, and I finally took the plunge and downloaded it. Why did I wait so long? This is another “dystopian” future, where the real world sucks so much that everyone lives on the internet. The virtual utopia is called the OASIS, which consists of thousands of online-worlds. James Halliday, who created the OASIS, left an Easter egg somewhere in the tons of virtual worlds. When he passed away, he “stipulated in his will that the person who discovers the egg will inherit his entire estate, including management and control of the OASIS itself” (source). This means EVERYONE is searching for it, including the mega-conglomorate Innovative Online Industries or IOI–a multinational corporation bent on taking control of the OASIS so they can control and monetize it.

So the story follows Wade O. Watts (WoW), and his friends as they attempt to be the first to find the egg. This will entertain anyone who enjoys video games, 80s trivia, arcade games, 80s movie, etc. It ends how you think it will (though I wish Cline would have just written a few more paragraphs, as I felt it ended before what SHOULD have been the real conclusion). But it’s still worth the ride. Also, they’re making a movie out of it, so you need to read this before it comes out.

Rating: 4/5

Want more audiobook reviews?

Ten Years of No Progress is No Progress.”

Nonfiction Avalanche

Good for her! Not for me.”

All this happened, more or less.”

“Ten Years of No Progress is No Progress.”

It’s that time again. I’ve been catching up on my “reading” with audiobooks during my mega-commute. Here are some of the books I’ve been listening to:

(To read my other audiobook reviews, click here and here and here.)

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the DomeI bought this physical book a LONG time ago and was planning on reading it in all the free time I had to read books for pleasure after graduating college. I barely got into it before I decided it was a little too graphic for me. Fast forward to around Christmas when my mom was telling me about the TV version of the book that had just been made into a show. She loved the TV show, so I had to re-try the book. This is also the first Stephen King novel I’ve read. Yep. I’ve read his nonfiction book On Writing (which I absolutely recommend), but never a fiction piece by him. Anyway, this one is about a small town that has big problems. No one realizes it, though, until they all get stuck under a giant seemingly magical dome that traps them in and everyone else out. The town splits into factions–some standing behind the good-guy Dale Barbara, others choosing to follow the corrupt Big Jim Rennie. From there, the two groups battle it out on their own as the federal government tries to figure out how to get rid of the dome.

This is a long one, but it kept my attention the whole 30-something hours. I definitely recommend it. The narration was good for this one, too, if you choose to go the audiobook route.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean InWhen this one first came out, I remember listening to reports about it on NPR. There was some controversy surrounding this book, and I remember sitting at a red light listening to another woman talk about how Sandberg was all wrong. And then I read it. And I love it. I can see why it made some people mad, as Sandberg talks about how women can succeed in today’s workplace. Her solution includes working WITHIN the classic gender role system to move yourself up instead of bucking the trends. So, yes, I see why people can be mad that she recommends women ask for raises differently than men. But, in my mind, she’s just trying to tell us how to get what we want instead of waiting another 50+ years for equal pay and treatment in the workplace.

Some of my favorite elements of this book include the results of an interesting study about Heidi/Howard syndrome:

“In 2003, Harvard Business School ran an experiment to test perceptions of men and women in the workplace. They chose the case study of Heidi Roizen, a real-life entrepreneur. The case described how Heidi was successful thanks to her outgoing personality and networking abilities. The same story was read by 2 groups of students with one difference: one group was working on Heidi, for the other, her name was changed to Howard. When asked for their thoughts, both groups found Heidi and Howard equally competent, which made sense, their accomplishments were identical. Nevertheless Howard came across as the more appealing colleague, whilst Heidi was seen as ‘selfish’ and ‘not the person you would like to work for.’ The same data with a single difference – gender – created very different impressions.”

Also this:

“We’ve ceased making progress at the top in any industry anywhere in the world … In the United States, women have had 14% of the top corporate jobs and 17% of the board seats for 10 years. Ten years of no progress. In those same 10 years, women are getting more and more of the graduate degrees, more and more of the undergraduate degrees, and it’s translating into more women in entry-level jobs, even more women in lower-level management. But there’s absolutely been no progress at the top. You can’t explain away 10 years. Ten years of no progress is no progress.”

So let’s go and get in our favorite position, ladies: CEO.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThis book kept showing up at the top of the Audible charts. I’ve trusted Audible before and loved some of their recommendations and have been burned on others (like when I tried to listen to All the Light We Cannot See–I really wanted to like that one… But The Martian was phenomenal). This is the story of a seemingly pitiful woman, Rachel, whose life has mostly fallen apart. She’s divorced, an alcoholic, jobless, and all-around in a sad state of affairs. She takes the daily train from where she rents a room to where her job used to be so her roommate/landlord doesn’t know she’s jobless. The train stops at the same spot in the middle of her trip almost every day where she sees a happy couple often sitting on their patio drinking coffee or wine, talking, and enjoying life. She makes up an imaginary life for them, which comes crashing down when she witnesses something that changes everything.

Our narrator, an unreliable source of information at best, gets involved in the scenario. Her obsession is cringe-worthy, but the more you read the more she becomes integral to the story. It’s a thriller you’ve got to read/listen to. Sure, it’s not mega literature, but it’s definitely a fun read.

And in searching the internet for more info about it, I see that DreamWorks has acquired it for a film. Huzzah!

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl novelThis was another Audible recommendation. It’s about the kidnapping of the rich Dennett family’s black sheep daughter, Mia. Don’t worry. This isn’t a spoiler. The way the story’s written establishes that from the very beginning. I’ll admit that I’m actually not finished with this book, but I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out less than halfway in. I won’t spoil it, but I’m not going to say this one’s 5 stars out of 5. The writing is painful at times, and it’s even more obvious when someone else is narrating it (the joy of audiobooks!). The way the story is told is an interesting concept: shifting narration from character to character and jumping through time before and after Mia’s escape from her abductor. However, the execution of the story leaves something to be desired. Apparently, this is the author’s debut novel, so a lot of people are cutting her some slack due to that. I’m going to finish it (mostly to prove that I’m right about who’s behind the kidnapping), but also because I paid for it outside my Audible subscription.

What books are you reading or listening to?