Observations in a Bookstore

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved bookstores. Sometimes when my dad came to visit me as a child, we would go to the Barnes & Noble in Little Rock and spend hours there. We had nowhere to be, and were content to spend an afternoon lost in another world. Sometimes we would sit together at the little table and chairs in the children’s section and he would read stores to me, and sometimes we would pick out books to read on our own before retiring to the comfortable, overstuffed armchairs hidden in nooks and crannies of the big bookstore. It was great, but I’ve come to realize that while that was something I used to love doing, it’s not something I’ve done in a very long time. I can still spend a good amount of time in the bookstore, but all of that time is spent browsing, not sitting around reading or just observing what is going on around me, because as an adult, that goes against most everything else I am programmed to do. We’re taught to be efficient, not idle or wasting time, so if you’re in the bookstore, you should be making the most of that time, looking for books to purchase, not just sitting in a comfortable chair being content with your life at that very moment, but today I went to Barnes & Noble, and decided to change that. 

My brothers and I went to the bookstore this morning because they were in town visiting, and we were looking for something to do, and since it was very cold outside and we all love books, so we decided Barnes & Noble was the place to be. Upon entering we all split off, I towards the new releases just to the left of the entrance and my brothers to I don’t know because I wasn’t with them. I browsed for a while, falling into my regular routine of finding interesting books and taking pictures of them so I could search for cheaper copies later online. I’m the reason bookstores keep closing. After a while, out of the corner of my eye,  I noticed that one of the big comfortable chairs over in front of the windows was vacant, and as if being pulled by some outside force, I found myself being drawn in towards the chair. I sat down and was immediately engulfed in comfort, instantly taken back to a simpler time. I didn’t grab anything to read, because once I saw that the seat was open, I knew that I had to make my move immediately since those seats are a coveted luxury at the bookstore, and taking time to find a book would cause me to miss my opportunity. 

There were people in the chairs on either side of me, both with books that they weren’t really reading. Despite the fact that they had something to read, that they themselves had selected from the thousands of books in the store, both people were completely immersed in the cell phones they were holding. It seemed a little sad, because while cell phones have completely changed our lives, mostly for the better, they distract us from the little things that we used to love. I spent years sitting in chairs at the bookstore without having to have a phone in my hand, and was completely happy, but now it seems, at least from my observations, that people are no longer content just to read. I fantasized about a life where I could come to the bookstore every day. I could come first thing in the morning and get a cup of coffee and a croissant for breakfast, then find a book that interested me before retiring to my corner to read the day away. It sounds nice, but then again would it become too routine, the daily monotony of it all, making me grow to loathe it? I really don’t know, but I’m not going to be in danger of that anytime soon because I have a real job to go to, but maybe one day I’ll be able to try a new way of living, where the bookstore is the focal point of my day. There’s so much to learn, so much to read. Until then, I’ll make an effort to go back every once and a while and spend some time sitting in a big, comfortable chair, lost in a book, just enjoying life. 

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Good Reads for the Long Weekend

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If your weather is anything like where I live, then it’s going to be the perfect weekend to curl up under a big blanket with a good book to read. There’s snow on the ground here in Memphis and the temperatures aren’t going to get above freezing tomorrow, so at least for the time being, it looks like my life is going to have that peaceful white backdrop, which is best complimented by staying inside the warm house, and with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, I’m looking forward to a long weekend stuck inside with all my books. My goal for the year, as it has been for the last couple, is to average reading a book per week for 2018, which is 52 books, and as of right now, I’m ahead of pace having finished 7 books. I’ve told you about the first five, so I’m sure you’re all dying to know about the last two books I read this week. You’re in luck because we’re going to talk about them now.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks: This is the story of a pushover mother who, finally tired of being stepped on, embarks on a trip back to her hometown with her rebellious daughter so she can confront the girl who bullied her in high school twenty years ago. Unfortunately, her bully wasn’t the only reason for her never wanting to return back home, but now that she’s back, she must confront everything. With her outspoken daughter by her side, encouraging and prodding her along the way, Caroline Jacobs does the things that she needs to do, and gains a new friend as her once tumultuous relationship with her daughter, is given a second chance. From the moment I picked up Matthew Dicks’ book, “Something Missing,” in a used bookstore several years ago, I’ve been captivated by everything he has written, and “The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs” was no exception as I stayed up a lot later than I should have to finish the book on a Tuesday night, because I HAD to find out the ending. If you’re familiar with and enjoy the writing of Matthew Dicks, you will certainly enjoy the story of Caroline Jacobs, and if you aren’t familiar with him, it’s time to do yourself a favor and get acquainted, because he’s quickly rising on my list of favorite writers.

I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll: Imagine you are on a train, and you observe something taking place, like two teenage girls talking and becoming acquainted with two complete strangers who just got out of prison. This is how the book begins. As a mother, she knows that if her son was in a dangerous situation, that she would want a responsible adult to step in or to at least get in touch with her so she could try and intervene, but just as she decides to try and get in touch with the girls’ parents, something happens and causes her to change her mind. The next morning one of the girls is missing, and the guilt at not having tried to help is eating her alive. She tries to do what she can, recounting the story and giving descriptions as best she can, but it seems that it’s too little too late, so like the rest of the country, all she can do is wait, and hope for the best. A year has gone by since the disappearance of the girl, but someone is determined not to let her forget her part in all of it, sending her threatening cards in the mail. Told through several different perspectives, the witness, the friend, and the father of the missing girl, “I am Watching You” is a wild and suspenseful ride filled with lots of guilt and questions about what each of them could have done differently, not just on the night of the disappearance. I’m aware that we are less than two weeks into 2018, but I’m going to go ahead and put this book on my list of best books that I read this year.
You won’t go wrong choosing either of these books, or any of those that I’ve read previously. The important thing is that you find something that you enjoy and read. Winter is here, and there are few things as satisfying as sitting beneath a warm blanket with a mug of hot tea or coffee on the table beside you, and a good book in your hands.

Thoughts About Some Books

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Let’s talk about books today shall we? Well, seeing as how this isn’t your blog which gives you zero say in the content decision making, I’m going to do it anyway, because that’s what I want to talk about. I know I’ve already written a book review this week, but I’ve read three books since then, so to keep from falling behind to the point where I have to cram too many books into one blog post, it only makes sense that I do them after several books, regardless of how much time has elapsed since the last one. So here’s what I’ve read the last few days, ranked from least favorite to favorite.

3. Heather, The Totality by Matthew Weiner: It’s not that this book was terrible, because it was actually pretty interesting, but the other books I read were just better, which is why this one has the lowest ranking. It’s the story of an above average income family living in New York, a father, mother, and their only child, a teenage daughter. Despite having enough money, the household is in disarray as the mother and daughter constantly butt heads, allowing the father to step into the role of favorite parent, which only furcates the mother further. When someone moves into the penthouse apartment above them and begins a renovation project, things take an unexpected turn when the construction crew shows up, causing dramatic actions to be taken. I can’t say anymore without giving it away, but it’s definitely an enjoyable and quick read, less than a hundred and fifty pages, so it’s definitely worth checking out. The one thing I didn’t particularly like about it was how quick everything happened in the end. With all of the buildup in the story, page after page of crescendo, the peak was quick, short lived, and left me wanting more.

2. The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson: Days before her birthday, a young girl witnessed the murder of her dad, sister, her best friend, and her best friend’s mom in the family’s lakeside cabin. Ten years later she is still unable to come to grips with what happened, convinced that the police were wrong in thinking that it was in fact her dad who had committed the killing before turning the gun on himself, because she was sure the man she saw leaving the cabin was somebody entirely different. Her personal struggles and substance abuse keep the police from seeing her as a reliable resource when she sees the man she calls “rat face” driving past her outside of a bar late one night. She’s convinced that he’s the man who killed her father, and if the police won’t do anything about it, then she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands. “The Girl Who Lived” is a fast paced thriller with action packed just over the course of a few days, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner and will keep you guessing until the very end. If you are a fan of suspense and reading late into the night to find out what happens next, this is the book for you.

1. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine: If you’re unfamiliar with Liv Constantine, it is the pen name adapted by two sisters who write together, which for some reason, an unknown notion that I hold, did not appeal to me. I don’t know why, but I just figured that two people writing a book together wouldn’t be as good or flow as smoothly as a single author, but I was an idiot, because “The Last Mrs. Parrish” is definitely one of my new favorites. It’s the story of Amber, a girl who befriends the rich Mrs. Parrish with the intention of getting close to her family, especially her husband, with the hope that she will eventually be able to steal him, and replace Mrs. Parrish with herself. Told from two different perspectives, the first half of the book by Amber, and the second by Mrs. Parrish, it is a very unique and enjoyable read. There are lots of secrets and you come to realize that not everything is what it seems. I would highly recommend “The Last Mrs. Parrish” to anyone that wants a lighthearted and fun read, that is also full of secrets and betrayal.

What to Read: 2018 First Edition

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It may be a new year, but I’ve got one of the same goals that I had the last two years, read fifty-two books. I’ve fallen short each of the previous times that I’ve made the attempt at averaging a book per week, but I’ve gained momentum, reading more last year than I did the year before, so perhaps 2018 will see me actually reach my goal. As always, I’ll keep you up to date on my progress, reviewing what I read along the way, recommending good reads, and warning you against bad ones, that way you’ll know what to add to your reading list, and what to scrap. Aside from not telling you about them at all, it’s literally the least I could do. You’re welcome. Anyway, the year is off to a good start as I’ve already read two books in the first four days, which might seem like I’m off to a great start, but I started off strong last year, and slid back as the year progressed, so I’m not putting much stock in my quick start to 2018.

The first book I read was “A Stranger in the House” by Shari Lapena, one of the books I got for Christmas that I was probably the most excited to read because of how much I liked her debut novel, “The Couple Next Door,” last year. Much like her first book, “A Stranger in the House” is a very quick and thrilling read, the suspense doled out liberally all the way through, keeps the reader hooked and turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next. It’s the story of an upstate New York housewife who has a car accident, which wouldn’t normally be something to think twice about, but this one is different. Following the car accident, she doesn’t remember anything about that night, why when she left her home earlier in the evening, she did so without taking her phone or purse, or why she didn’t lock the doors, but more importantly, she doesn’t remember what she was doing in that part of town at that time, where a murder had just been committed shortly before her car wreck. It’s very fast paced and with plenty of twists throughout, you won’t be sorry that you picked up this book. While I liked Lapena’s first book, “The Couple Next Door” more than I liked this one, Stranger was a very entertaining read and it did not disappoint.

The other book I read this year was “The Book of Joe,” by Jonathan Tropper, an author I have never read before, but one I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. A bestselling writer, Joe, who grew up in Bush Falls, Connecticut, hasn’t been back home in seventeen years, and has thought of doing so, until he gets the call in the early hours of the morning, informing him that his father had a stroke, and is in a coma in the hospital. Although he isn’t close to his father anymore, Joe feels that it’s his duty to be there, so he leaves Manhattan the next morning, heading for his Bush Falls, where just about everyone in town hates him, since his bestselling book, titled after the name of his hometown, made many of its residents, the people in the town growing up and the inspiration for the characters in his book, look bad as he wrote about them, exaggerating facts and jumping to conclusions about the people that he hated. Now he has to face them, and what follows is an entertaining story of one man’s struggle to survive a trip back home, while trying to reconnect with his estranged family and staying out of the way of everyone that his book pissed off. The pages flow so smoothly and quickly that I finished “The Book of Joe” in a day, and I would highly recommend you checking it out.

Whatever your goals are, whether you want to read more or do something else, like learn Portuguese, I wish you luck, and hope you are off to a fast start. If you want more book reviews and recommendations, keep coming back to the blog, where I’ll dedicate to writing about books at least once a week, and feel free to share this with your friends, because I’m sure everyone could use a good book every once in a while.

Final Book Review of 2017

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It’s the last day of 2017, which means that if I’m going to give you my last book review of the year, I’m going to need to do it now. I put it off so long because I had a goal to read 52 books in the year, and I wanted to reach that goal before I gave my final review so I wouldn’t leave anything out, but unfortunately I didn’t reach my goal. I fell short by ten, only having read 42, but there’ve been some good and some bad, and to this point I’ve told you all about forty of them, so get ready for the final two, because here they come.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus: Have you ever seen the tv show Gossip Girl? If not then you’re really missing out, as it’s one of the greatest television shows in history in my completely biased opinion. It’s about a website called gossip girl that posts rumors and secrets about the kids that go to a private Manhattan high school and the quest to find out who is behind the website. That’s kind of what this book is about. A group full of kids is in detention after school one day, when one of them mysteriously drops dead, poisoned by the glass of water he’d just gulped down. The dead kid had started an app much like gossip girl, where he posted secrets about other kids in the school, the only difference is, everyone knew that he was behind it, and every single person in detention with him that day, had a reason to make sure he didn’t make his next post, because he had secrets about all of them. It’s a thrilling whodunit story that will leave you guessing about who the culprit is until the very end. It’s a fun, quick read that will keep you turning the pages late into the night, desperately searching for the truth behind the murder.

John Dies at the End by David Wong- This book, written and narrated by twenty something video store clerk David Wong, is the story about his unfortunate discovery of paranormal forces existing in the universe. It’s something he would like to forget, or better yet un-know, but something is always lurking around him, lurking in his brain, a constant reminder of what he knows and what might happen. Along with his friend John, they must save the universe or at least protect their loved ones from meeting the same unfortunate fate as other people in their small midwestern town. It’s part sci-fi, part humor, and all exciting. A four hundred plus page book that you will not be able to put down once you start. I’m not really a fan of science fiction, but this book hooked me in from the beginning, and I can’t wait to read the final two books in the series because the story is just that good. I highly recommend checking this one out, because if you like an exciting story, then John Dies at the End is the perfect book to get lost in. I wish you all a happy new year, and I think starting the year out reading either of these books will guarantee that your 2018 gets off to a great start.

Three Books: A Review

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At the beginning of this year, like most years, I came up with a list of goals to work towards this year, and just like every other time, I’ve failed on just about all of them, but there is still one that I have in my sights. Although it will be tough, and is very unlikely, there’s still a chance that I can achieve one of my goals, reading 52 books in the year, averaging one per week. After starting the year off strong, reading ten books in January, it’s been downhill from there, wherein there are some months, like November, where I didn’t read a single book, but still, the goal is within reach. As of today, December 12th, I’ve read 40 books, which means I’ve got twelve more to go, with nineteen days left, and I’m almost finished with the book I’m currently reading, so that really only leaves eleven. My point is, I’ve got a lot of reading to cram in here at the end of the year, which means I’ll be reviewing more books through the rest of December, so bear with me. On the bright side, I’ll be giving you some good gift ideas for the book lovers in your family. You can thank me later.
 
Last Thursday I started reading “This is Where it Ends” by Marieke Nijkamp, a book that piqued my interest on Amazon. I’m not sure how I came across it, whether it was on the list of bestsellers or recommended based on what I’d been viewing, but regardless of how I found out about it, it sounded really interesting, so with an Amazon gift card given to me for my birthday, I purchased it. When it came in the mail mid September, I opened up the book and read the description on the jacket, and it sounded like one of the most thrilling books I’d ever seen. Unfortunately, what would have been the blood chilling, shocking point of the book, was given away by the synopsis, so I knew that a gunman would be in the school auditorium surrounded by and terrorizing his former classmates.
 
Each chapter composed of four different perspectives and only spans a couple of minutes as the story is told through their eyes. It’s interesting, but a bit tiring at times. It’s a pretty good story and a quick read which I finished in less than twenty-four hours, but it’s just not that exciting since you already kind of know what’s going to happen before you even start reading the book. believe it’s Nijkamp’s first novel, and I would definitely be open to reading more of her work in the future because “This is Where it Ends” was a very intriguing concept, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations of how thrilling it would be. Later that night I began “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman, a new book I found while perusing the (somewhat) new bookstore in Memphis, Novel.
 
“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” is the story of a thirty year old woman who works in a graphic design office, not as an artist or designer, but in the accounts receivable department, which is as boring as it sounds, but Eleanor doesn’t mind, in fact she likes the monotonous routine of her life. She’s content to live our her days in the same exact way, until on the way home one evening, her and a coworker that she barely knows, witnesses an elderly man falling in the street, which sets in motion changes that will completely alter the course of her life, and for the better, although she doesn’t realize it at first. It’s a good story, the inner dialogue Eleanor has with herself is hilarious, and is one of the better new books of 2017. It’s not going to be the type of book that will keep you up late into the night turning the pages as fast as you can trying to find out what happens next, but it’s a good, well written and enjoyable book.
 
The last book I read over the weekend was “Sellevision” by Augusten Burroughs, his debut novel. Last year I fell in love with Augusten’s writing when I read “The Wolf at the Table” and having read several of his other memoirs, his words still haven’t lost their luster. I believe this is the only novel he’s written, and I have to say, as much as I love his memoirs, his novel can stand alone as a good book. “Sellevision” is about a TV channel like QVC or the Home Shopping Network and the employees that work there. Nothing is at it seems on the surface, and everyone has something to hide. It’s funny story and a quick read, I read it all on Sunday, and I would highly recommend, just like everything else I’ve read by Augusten Burroughs, that you should read this book. I’ve got to get back to reading, but I’ll be back again for another blog tomorrow, and most likely some more book recommendations near the end of the week. See you then.

Two Books in a Fake Tree: A Review

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Oh man, last night was crazy. I was up past midnight, on a Wednesday! I guess you could say that I am the life of the party, if the good people down at Webster’s redefined party as staying up really late and reading a good book, because that’s exactly what I did last night. It’s been a couple months since I’d read a book with a story so compelling that it was genuinely hard to put down, but Tuesday night, I started reading “The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware, and it hooked me from the very beginning. It’s the story of a journalist who gets to go on the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise ship, who when on board, witnesses something incredibly disturbing…the disappearance of one of the other passengers. Lo, the main character has her own idea about what happened, but nobody seems to believe her as she pleads her case to anyone on the ship who will listen, the head of security, another journalist who just so happens to be her ex-lover, and eventually, the owner of the cruise ship himself.
 
She should have left it alone, because neither her, nor I could have guessed what would happen next. “The Woman in Cabin “10” is thrilling from start to finish and is filled with suspenseful twists and turns all the way to the very end that will leave readers helplessly flipping the pages as quickly as they can to find out what happens next. I didn’t pick up this book on Tuesday night expecting to have finished it before I went to bed on Wednesday, but once I started I just couldn’t stop, immersed in the world of journalist Lo Blacklock on the Aurora cruise ship. I’ve read some really good books this year, but “The Woman in Cabin 10” is easily near the top of the list. It’s the first novel I’d read by Ruth Ware and I’m so excited to read more from her. Luckily I have one of her other books on my Christmas list, so maybe sometime early next year I’ll be able to tell you about that one too, but until then, if you like suspense and thrillers, then you definitely need to read this book.
 
Before that I read the latest offering from John Grisham, “The Rooster Bar”, and like many of his other books, it was a solid read and did not disappoint. I feel like Grisham is far removed from the novels that are intensely thrilling like “The Firm” or “The Pelican Brief”, but that’s not to say that his newer books aren’t enjoyable. They are still solid, just not as exciting as some of his older work, but “The Rooster Bar” took a step back in the right direction. This is the story of a law school student who killed himself, and his three friends who tried to move on following his death, which not so surprisingly, wasn’t the easiest thing to do. With one semester left until graduation from law school, Mark, Todd, and Zola are all in astronomical debt having borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to finance their education at a third tier law school. With no job prospects on the horizon and their friend gone, they just can’t bring themselves to keep going to school, so they drop out.
 
Before killing himself, their friend had been digging and trying to uncover a scam, one that ended with them, the students being insanely in debt without a means to repay, but began with one man, Hinds Rackley, a billionaire who owned multiple “for profit” law schools but had thus far been able to keep his name out of the press. Without law school bogging them down, the three friends decide they don’t need a degree to practice the law and start up their own independent law firm, thus beginning a wild ride of illegally practicing the law, just trying to get by, but also looking for a way to bring down Hinds Rackley. Whether you are a Grisham fan or not, “The Rooster Bar” can be enjoyed by a variety of audiences, even if you don’t know anything about the law. There were times when the book really gripped me, and had me feeling legitimately worried for the well being of the characters, and other times I felt relief when something worked out in their favor, bringing me, as the reader, into the story, which is always nice when you’re able to be immersed in that way. I would recommend it, although I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, nor would I recommend it more highly than “The Woman in Cabin 10”, but you won’t go wrong if you decide to read this one. The important thing is to just read. Do it now.