Friday, November 16, 2018

Nonfiction November 2018 - week 3

Nonfiction November is back! I love participating, and if you want to too, you can find more information here. Each week there is a new nonfiction post prompt. This week, it's talking about being an expert.

Week 3: Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Well, I can't think that three books about any topic can make you an expert, but I'm going to go with it and, in honor of Michelle Obama's new memoir, call myself an "expert" on first ladies. I've read more books about presidents than first ladies, but I think I did either presidents or the Kennedys last year. While I still have a long ways to go in my first lady reading, here are some of the first lady biographies and memoirs I've read in the past few years and really enjoyed.

One of my favorite books read this year. Very engaging, never boring.


Three compilation books, the first presenting stats on the first ladies, the second examining first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama, the third written by White House chief usher J. B. West discussing working for the first ladies from Eleanor Roosevelt through Pat Nixon.


Some of my favorite biographies of Jackie Kennedy (all using real black and white photos for their covers, something I didn't realize until I saw them all together here).


And finally, a rather straightforward biography of Bess Truman by her daughter Margaret, and memoirs by Barbara and Laura Bush.

What I plan to read soon:

Two very different first ladies: Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan.

Have you read any books about first ladies you think I'd enjoy? Please leave me a comment below!

Monday, November 12, 2018

What I'm reading this week (11/12/18)

It's getting toward the end of a long, heavy reading year, and I'm getting a little exhausted writing a review. for. every. book. Forgive me if I flag a bit. I'd always rather read than review, but I'll try to stop "circling the chair" and get started.

Last week I finished:

Way back in the spring or early summer, when I discovered a presidential thriller coming out written by James Patterson and President Clinton, I was very, very excited. Being the presidential book nerd that I am, I started counting down the days until The President Is Missing came out. And then when it did hit the shelves, there was so much hoopla over it, I kind of lost interest. Because nothing makes me lose interest in something more than other peoples' interest in that thing. Go figure. But when the dust finally settled, I bought my copy and commenced reading. The plot is this (warning, possible unavoidable spoilers): President Duncan has gone missing just days before he's scheduled to have a hearing regarding his recent involvement with a known terrorist. The president is involved in an underground plot to stop cyberterrorists from taking down American computer systems, sending us back to "the dark ages." I pretty much got what I expected with this one. The writing isn't great, the action is rather unbelievable, but the whole thing was fun. It was sort of nice to be carried away by a book that is fast-paced and had cliffhangers at the end of every (very short) chapter. I kind of resented all the red herrings and being kept on a need to know basis, but I just rolled with it. I also questioned why America going back to no computers would put us in the dark ages instead of say, the 1970s, but maybe you have to suspend disbelief more than I was willing to roll with that. Also, knowing that Patterson only outlines his books, then gives them to a staff of writers to actually write, and knowing that Clinton, though billed first and in equal font size as Patterson, likely only "consulted" on the book, I wasn't terribly invested in the collaboration or its product which might have softened my opinion had I known it to be a true collaboration. I don't know if this book is representative of Patterson's work, as it's my only Patterson read, but it's possible I'd pick up another of his books to see. The very long book (over 500 pages) read very quickly, and while I likely won't return to it, I had a fun time. In short, keep your expectations low, and you won't be disappointed. My rating: 3 stars.

I love a good mystery, but thrillers are something I've never spent much time seeking out or reading. Still, I've heard good things about Tana French's books, and my TBR is dangerously short, so I read a bit of her first book in her Dublin Murder Squad series, In the Woods, and decided I really liked the writing. And since I'll read pretty much anything as long as it's well-written, I got on the hold list of the audio of this book. This is the story of a murder investigation of a girl in the same area where the Dublin Murder Squad investigator, Rob Ryan, lost his two best friends in a presumably grisly way when a boy. Together with investigator Cassie Maddox, the team try to solve the current-day crime while wondering if it's related to the twenty-year-old cold case that Ryan has almost no memory of. This is one of the best books I've read this year. French is everything she's been lauded as, and I can't say enough about the mastery of her writing. The pacing was excellent, and the characters were some of the most real I've met this year. I loved how French lets us into the minds of the investigators who are asking the same questions we are. They never know more than we do. My only quibble was that the ending seemed to drag--in fact, it seemed like there were several endings. I'm a bit nervous, having liked Ryan so much that he is not in the second book, but I'll definitely be continuing on with the series regardless. I listened to this book, and the audio is top notch. I did not want it to end, and each CD was perfectly timed with a cliffhanger. For sensitive readers, I will caution that the book, by nature of the crime, is intense. There is also the expected rough language and swearing. I will say, though, that neither the intensity nor language or adult situations are gratuitous. I highly recommend this one for those with the predilection to enjoy a good thriller. My rating: 5 stars.

Being the history buff and presidential nerd I am, I am really not all that interested in the policies of most presidential administrations, especially old administrations. Still, being a big fan of Chris Stirewalt's political analysis and almost encyclopedic knowledge of political history, I was eager to read his first book, Every Man a King. In it, he discusses American populists like Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Huey Long, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan. The book wasn't exactly what I expected. Stirewalt is a rather longwinded bloviater, and I was hoping, since the book was short, this would be cut short a bit, too, but not so. I think I just wasn't all that interested in the topic, but whether that was my problem or the author's for not making it interesting enough, I can't say. I didn't get a good feeling for American populism's effect on American politics, I think, so I left the book with pretty much the knowledge I started it with. It wasn't a bad book, and I'm sure I missed something by not being a policy wonk, but I just didn't love it. (Though I still love Chris.) My rating: 3 stars.

Several weeks ago, when I was floundering around looking for a Kindle book, I started the Mutual Admiration Society, and I found it entertaining, but I knew I wouldn't finish it on Kindle. It just wasn't keeping my attention, and Kindle books are the easiest kinds for me to put down and never pick up again. So, I decided to switch to audio to finish it. This is the story of two sisters, Tessy and Birdie Finley, ages 11 and 10, who blackmail people for money and solve crimes in their 1950s blue-collar Milwaukee neighborhood. They've just lost their father, their mother isn't interested in them, and their lives are ruled by nosy neighbors and the Catholic church (at least, this is Tessy's perspective, as she's our narrator). Birdie is a bit intellectually slow, so much of the book, which takes place in a 24-hour period, is spent working within the confines of Birdie's intellect, fleeting attention, and always-hungry belly. Sister Margaret Mary has gone missing, and Tessy saw a man who looked very much like the kindly cemetery caretaker carrying a limp body in the dead of night. They follow the clues and make some assumptions and try not to get caught before they catch the murderer. This book had a very odd undertone to it. There's a current of drunkenness and adultery that sometimes eludes Tessy, but it doesn't elude the reader, and the book often felt a little uncomfortable to me. I get very uneasy when the serious and the lighthearted mix in books featuring children. The book often felt like a middle-grade reader, but then it would trot out some four-letter words and adult situations, and I wouldn't know what to think. I think the author tried too hard to make the book funny, but it just came off as a poor rip-off of the Flavia de Luce books that do this whole child sleuth thing so much better. It was fun, but I didn't love it. My rating: 3 stars.

What I'm reading this week:

Oh my, is this one wonderful!

My Kindle read:

I'm making very slow (but steady) progress on this one.

My nightly reads:

I finished my first current book this weekend, but I'm going to wait to review it.

I started the Annie Leibovitz book of portraits. Wow it is good!

And this weekend I hope to begin Anne Lamott's new book.
My next audiobook:

This is sort of a wild card, but we'll see what happens.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Nonfiction November 2018 - week 2

Nonfiction November is back! I love participating, and if you want to too, you can find more information here. Each week there is a new nonfiction post prompt. This week, it's nonfiction and fiction book pairing.

Week 2: Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Continuing with last week's presidents theme, this week I'm pairing up nonfiction and fiction titles having to do with the presidential assassination attempts. While the assassination attempt is not the main plot point of James Patterson and President Clinton's The President Is Missing, there is an attempt on President Duncan's life that takes the lives of two secret service men.

I'm pairing this current fiction title with the older nonfiction title, Killing Reagan by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Duggard. This book details the March 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life by John Hinckley Jr. who was hoping this stunt would impress actress Jodie Foster, with whom he was in love. Three others were wounded in the attempt. White House Press Secretary James Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled. There is speculation that the assassination attempt and resulting surgery may have caused the president's Alzheimer's disease, and this is discussed in the book.


Monday, November 5, 2018

What I'm reading this week (11/5/18)

I believe this is only the second, maybe third, time that I've not had a book review to share with you in my weekly update. Though weird, this breather is kind of nice so I can focus on Nonfiction November posts. Check back next week for reviews of both The President Is Missing and In the Woods.
This week I'll finish:

This has been a fun reading experience. Though I'll likely not read another Patterson book soon, I'm having fun with this one.

Up next:

I'm really looking forward to this one. Snow and magical realism, two things I normally wouldn't care much to read about, sound quite cozy right now.

My Kindle read:

I think I've finally settled on this for my Kindle read. It was on my Kindle wish list for ages before finally going on sale right after the World Series ended. It's fun so far.

My nightly reads:

Political bloviating and poetical bloviating. Not loving either book, but they're fine.

My audiobook:

Okay, I'm officially a Tana French fan now. Full review of this one next week.

Friday, November 2, 2018

November 2018 reading list

November reading will be a hodgepodge. There will be some TBR cleanup, some new releases, some big names, and some wild cards to keep me interested. Let's hope I don't end up putting as many books aside as last month. I find that too disconcerting. It makes me anxious to bounce from book to book.


Children's Fiction




Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nonfiction November 2018 - week 1

Nonfiction November is back! I love participating, and if you want to too, you can find more information here. Each week there is a new nonfiction post prompt. This week, it's a look back.

Week 1: Your Year in Nonfiction Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

So far this year, I've read 150 books, 72 of which have been nonfiction: 54 biography and memoir and 18 straight nonfiction (decorating, cookbooks, history, etc.).

This year has been a fabulous year for my favorite flavor of nonfiction: presidents, first ladies, first families, and the White House. Here are my ten favorite books from that genre, all read this year (my very favorites are in the top row):

I'm always looking for more titles for my TBR, and I just love seeing what brand of nonfiction others are interested in. Leave me a comment about your year in nonfiction.