29883629Title: The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Pages: 340
Year: 2016
Publisher: Gallery/Scout (Simon & Schuster)
Time taken to read: 2 weeks
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisIn this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

I know I’m a little late on this one, but better late than never, right? Anyway, I finished this today and I’m actually writing a timely review, so that’s something.

I could have lived my life without reading this book. The main criticism I have is that there were SO many characters, and I had no idea who any of them were and what relation they had to Lo. So I didn’t really care to speculate about who may have been the killer because they were nothing more than names to me. But I did like Lo. I liked the open way Ware talked about her anti-depressants and her panic attacks, and it was kind of fun that she was made to seem unreliable, so I was wondering all the while if she really had seen anything at all.

I was pretty shocked at the outcome, and not really in a good way. Since this book is a few years old now I think I can spoil it–I don’t find it plausible that Carrie could have passed as Anne for so long. Additionally, I didn’t really understand the ending. I think the implication was that Carrie shot Richard and escaped, but I don’t see why she would have done that. She could have left him without shooting him. But maybe I’m completely wrong anyway.

Carrie also seemed a little stereotypical and one-dimensional. All the “he loves me” stuff was old before it even started. If she was so in love/obsessed with him that she’d assist him in murdering his wife, she turned on him pretty quickly to let Lo go free. I just don’t really buy any of it. But the book ultimately kept my attention enough, so it wasn’t all bad. Everyone compares it to The Girl on the Train, and I didn’t like that book either. I think this one is a smidge better, but neither of them are really amazing.

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30531895Title: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
Author: Meik Wiking
Pages: 225
Year: 2017
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Time taken to read: 3 days
Rating: 1/5

Goodreads synopsisEmbrace Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) and become happier with this definitive guide to the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Why are Danes the happiest people in the world? The answer, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is Hygge. Loosely translated, Hygge—pronounced Hoo-ga—is a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience,” Wiking explains. “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe.” Hygge is the sensation you get when you’re cuddled up on a sofa, in cozy socks under a soft throw, during a storm. It’s that feeling when you’re sharing comfort food and easy conversation with loved ones at a candlelit table. It is the warmth of morning light shining just right on a crisp blue-sky day. The Little Book of Hygge introduces you to this cornerstone of Danish life, and offers advice and ideas on incorporating it into your own life[.]

I saw this book in Barnes & Noble a while ago, and it looked really interesting. Lucky me, my cousin had an ARC and passed it on to me (along with a lot of clothes!). I was psyched to read it, and I finished it rather quickly, as you can see. However, it was a pretty rough disappointment.

This is what you will learn from this book:

  • candles are great
  • spending two hours being snooty and trying to find the restaurant with the “right” lighting is great
  • hot drinks are great
  • blankets and pillows are great
  • thunderstorms are great

Thank you, The Little Book of Hygge. I had never thought of that before. My depression is cured. Gosh, sorry, that was a little aggressive. But honestly, I kind of thought this book would change my life. But it didn’t. It just made me angry.

I Googled “what makes Denmark so happy,” and the first thing to come up was a review of/article on this book on The Independent, which says, “While hygge clearly plays a major part in Denmark’s happiness, Wiking is keen to emphasise that the welfare model is what fundamentally underpins the nation’s well-being — they have high taxes but receive social security, universal healthcare, and a universal pension in return.” But I have to disagree. Wiking does mention this. Once. Maybe twice, but I’m pretty sure it’s just once. But candles are mentioned on, like, every other page.

The article also mentions that anti-depressant consumption is rather high in Denmark. To this, Wiking says, “The real story is, these countries recognise mental illness and try to treat it in some way.” He says that “being a society that acknowledges that people suffer from mental illnesses” is what makes the country such a good place. Now I wonder, where was this discussion in the book? This is what’s important. Not candles. Not restaurants and thunderstorms. What matters is how the Danish government and how their systems take care of their people. That’s why Danish people are happy. We have candles here in America. We have hot chocolate, and we have dreamy weather. We don’t have systems in place that support our citizens. This book takes a very privileged and rather hipster view of the world, and I do not care for it. This book will not change your life. Not one bit of it. It won’t tell you a thing that you don’t already know. Okay, maybe I didn’t know that Danish people are obsessed with Christmas. But it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know that’s actually useful.

My apologies for the harshness of this review, but I am a book reviewer, and I give my full and honest opinion always. Thanks for reading, my friends.

35099655Title: Natural Disaster: I Cover Them. I am One.
Author: Ginger Zee
Pages: 288
Year: 2017
Publisher: Kingswell (Hachette)
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee pulls back the curtain on her life in Natural Disaster. Ginger grew up in small-town Michigan where she developed an obsession with weather as a young girl. Ginger opens up about her lifelong battle with crippling depression, her romances that range from misguided to dangerous, and her tumultuous professional path. This cyclone of stories may sound familiar to some-it’s just that Ginger’s personal tempests happened while she was covering some of the most devastating storms in recent history, including a ferocious tornado that killed a legend in the meteorology field. This book is for all the mistake makers who have learned to forgive others and themselves-even in the aftermath of man-made, or in this case Zee-made, disasters. It’s a story that every young woman should read, a story about finding love and finding it in yourself.

While I was in treatment, my cousin went to a signing of this book, and she bought me a signed copy and mailed it to me because she thought that it could help me and that I could possibly relate to some of Ginger’s stories. I wasn’t sure how much I could relate to the life of a famous meteorologist and TV personality, but I was pleasantly surprised. Ginger describes all the mistakes of her twenties, which made me feel a lot better about my life as a young adult. The fact that she showed up to her first adult job in flip flops and became so successful is pretty reassuring. At least I’ve never done anything like that, but I have done some stupid stuff at work I’m sure. Her narrative is truly hilarious, and it kind of makes me want to watch her on TV. However, I felt like she sort of skated over some of the intense topics that she claims to delve deeply into. She mentions her eating disorder very briefly. If this is truly a tell-all, why doesn’t she talk about that more? I felt that she should have at least told us why she wasn’t going into more detail about that. If she didn’t want to, that’s totally her right to keep that time of her life to herself, but I felt short-changed because I thought she was really going to get into a conversation about mental health and the stigma surrounding it, but she didn’t. It kind of felt like she skipped huge chunks of her life, so that made her story feel a little disjointed. But ultimately, I really enjoyed reading it and it is a memoir I’d recommend to pretty much anyone, as it’s surprisingly relatable and very interesting.

34138013Title: What Happened
Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Pages: 464
Year: 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Time taken to read: 1 month, 11 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisFor the first time, Hillary Rodham Clinton reveals what she was thinking and feeling during one of the most controversial and unpredictable presidential elections in history. Now free from the constraints of running, Hillary takes you inside the intense personal experience of becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party in an election marked by rage, sexism, exhilarating highs and infuriating lows, stranger-than-fiction twists, Russian interference, and an opponent who broke all the rules. This is her most personal memoir yet. In these pages, she describes what it was like to run against Donald Trump, the mistakes she made, how she has coped with a shocking and devastating loss, and how she found the strength to pick herself back up afterward. With humor and candor, she tells readers what it took to get back on her feet—the rituals, relationships, and reading that got her through, and what the experience has taught her about life. She speaks about the challenges of being a strong woman in the public eye, the criticism over her voice, age, and appearance, and the double standard confronting women in politics. She lays out how the 2016 election was marked by an unprecedented assault on our democracy by a foreign adversary. By analyzing the evidence and connecting the dots, Hillary shows just how dangerous the forces are that shaped the outcome, and why Americans need to understand them to protect our values and our democracy in the future. The election of 2016 was unprecedented and historic. What Happened is the story of that campaign and its aftermath—both a deeply intimate account and a cautionary tale for the nation.

I have been putting off this review, I must admit. This book was extremely emotional for me. The election really put me in a low place, and reliving it through What Happened was difficult. Yet, it was also deeply inspiring. Hillary Clinton is one of my top idols. I watched every Presidential debate with tears in my eyes, in awe of how insanely qualified she is to run this country. I spent months imagining that moment when America would elect our first female President. Instead, I spent election night riding the subway home to my apartment in Manhattan, crying hysterically, snot pouring out of my nose, with two girls, complete strangers, comforting me. So What Happened was a wonder to read as well as incredibly bittersweet.

This book hit me right in my soul. This woman did everything right. She stood tall despite being criticized for being “over-prepared” and being called a “nasty woman”. She was ready to take this country further than it has ever been. And yet, she ultimately lost (despite crushing the popular vote). And people say her book is all about blaming other people for that fact, but I believe she has every right to blame other people. If she had been a man, she would have won, easily. If Comey hadn’t said what he said, I think she would have won. If the Electoral College was abolished like it should have been long ago, she would have won. I truly believe that she could not have done anything better. The system was against her. And her memoir outlines that, although she is incredibly humble and of course doesn’t put it that way. But I’ll say it for her.

I loved how this book balances personal life and policy. She talks so much about her family, and I got to know her in a way I hadn’t before. At the same time, she outlines everything that’s wrong with this country and everything she would have done to fix it, and she does an incredible job. I really love the way she takes the time to make sure all the information is accessible to those not in the political science field. I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of years by constantly watching CNN, but I’m still not a political expert. Yet, she helped me understand everything, and now I feel more prepared to defend her and every other woman in America and the world. Also, I’m obsessed with inspirational quotes, and this book is loaded with those. Here’s one of my favorites:

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger. —Friedrich Nietzsche (and Kelly Clarkson)”

That quote says a lot about this book, particularly about its (and its author’s) power and humor. I’m so proud of Hillary for rising despite feeling so low and so defeated. She has shown so much grace and positivity throughout this dark time in our history, and I will always be one of her biggest fans. Thanks, Hillary.

26893819Title: The Girls
Author: Emma Cline
Pages: 355
Year: 2016
Publisher: Random House
Time taken to read: 1 week, 2 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisNorthern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

I found this book just chillin’ around when I was in treatment, so I just picked it up, read the first page, and then figured, why not continue? This book has been so heavily advertised by Random House, and it’s a debut, which always interests me, so I thought I’d give it a go.

The Girls has a lot of enticing language in the synopsis and the foreshadowing. I heard a lot about this “unthinkable violence,” and I was really hyped for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to that hype. I really wanted some gore. I wanted blood. I wanted scandals. I wanted psychos. And I didn’t get that until the very end, so that was extremely disappointing. This is much more of a coming-of-age story than it is a psychological thriller.

I’m really unsure about how I feel about the language in this book. It’s unique, that’s for sure. It’s incredibly poetic, though I’m not the world’s biggest poetry fan. Sometimes the lines were interesting and made me look at something simple in a way I had never looked at it before. Other times, it felt like the author was just throwing words together in ways that made no sense but that she hoped people would just pretend to understand for fear of looking uncultured and stupid.

Other than that, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this book. It was different from what I expected, and different from most other things I’ve read. It just wasn’t as good as it’s made out to be by the publisher. But of course, hyping books up is their job. Just don’t expect something amazing from this, in my opinion. I don’t regret reading it, but I could have done without it.

13426334Title: A Prayer for Owen Meany
Author: John Irving
Pages: 617
Year: 1989
Publisher: Harper
Time taken to read: 1 month, 2 weeks
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen doesn’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul is both extraordinary and terrifying. At moments a comic, self-deluded victim, but in the end the principal, tragic actor in a divine plan, Owen Meany is the most heartbreaking hero John Irving has yet created.

I finished this book about a month ago, but I’ve been slacking on my reviews. I’ve kind of been slacking on my reading as well–I didn’t meet my book goal for 2017, but it’s a new year and a new chance to read fifty new books. So A Prayer for Owen Meany I read in 2017. It’s my dad’s favorite book, and he bought me a copy to read while I was in the hospital. I wasn’t sure how our tastes would match up, but I have to say this was a phenomenal read.

I was hooked on the voice (and that Voice) from the beginning:

GOD HAS TAKEN YOUR MOTHER. MY HANDS WERE THE INSTRUMENT. GOD HAS TAKEN MY HANDS. I AM GOD’S INSTRUMENT.

Owen’s maturity and insight at such a young age is absolutely arresting. I could feel how special Owen was.

“IT JUST TAKES A LITTLE MORE FAITH.”
“It takes more practice,” I told him irritably.
“FAITH TAKES PRACTICE,” said Owen Meany

I also loved the detail in the settings and the characters, the incredible commentary on just what it was like to be a kid and a young man at that time that seems so ordinary but leads up to such an extraordinary combination of coincidences, if you believe in such a thing. I will say, sometimes it was just too much, and I was getting lost and tired, especially with the horrific length of the chapters (only nine chapters in 617 pages!). But most of the time, Owen Meany felt familiar in a way, like Owen and Johnny were friends of mine. And their friendship was something I wished I had, their closeness so enviable. And I think I’d read this book again, which is really saying something. It was a hard one to pull my nose and head out of–it stuck with me long past the moment I finished it. It’s a bit of a hike, but I definitely recommend it.

18226389Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Pages: 350
Year: 2009
Publisher: Broadway Books (Crown)
Time taken to read: 1 month, 5 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisLibby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

I’ve been planning to read more of Gillian Flynn’s books, as I absolutely loved Gone Girl. I did enjoy Dark Places, but it doesn’t quite match up to Flynn’s best-known book. It doesn’t really pick up until about halfway through, but I’ve found that problem in a lot of books so I wasn’t too surprised. I loved the way Flynn uses details in her settings and characterization. That Libby is a kleptomaniac is a great example of a small, interesting quirk that really lets us know how she’s been affected by everything in her life. I found myself struggling to connect with Libby, but I almost felt like that was part of her character. She’s distant. She doesn’t let people in. She keeps people at arm’s length, and she did that with us too. Maybe Flynn didn’t do that on purpose, but I found it interesting.

I have to say, the ending let me down a little. Spoiler ahead: I wanted Ben to be totally innocent. I felt so bad for him. He was sucked up into a world of drugs and rebelliousness, and sure, he had anger, but I believed that he loved his family above everything else. His role in the murders was heartbreaking to me. But I can accept it, I suppose. It makes sense why he then allowed himself to go to jail. It just squeezed my heart when he watched his sister die. Maybe that’s what books like this are supposed to do. Either way, I would have changed things slightly, but I still enjoyed reading it, and I do plan to read Sharp Objects eventually.

Sorry for the delay in reviews, my fellow readers. I finished this book like a month ago and just got around to writing about it. It’s not like I don’t have plenty of free time, because I do, but I’ve been putting it off due to pure laziness, and I still have another review to write, so expect that relatively soon, I hope. Happy reading, friends.