Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I chose to read this book based on a YouTube recommendation. Ultimately, the book wasn’t for me. I enjoy a good thriller from time to time. I enjoyed “Gone Girl”, but this is not “Gone Girl”. It’s not even the UK version of “Gone Girl” in my opinion.
Hannah is presented as this strong, independent woman, living in New York until she meets and marries Mark. Then, she becomes this paranoid, jealous, needy woman all of the sudden. She can’t get a job, she doesn’t think ahead, and she jumps to pretty outlandish conclusions. Chapter after chapter, I just got really annoyed with her character. Even if everything turns out worse than she thought (which I won’t spoil it for you, don’t worry), by the middle of the book, I just stopped carrying. She does go through some character transformation, uncovering things about herself and her husband’s family, but she whined and worried through all of it.
The writing, at times, was very repetitive. She comes across some information about another one of the characters and reads stories about what this character has done. This was two whole chapters of newspaper excerpts about this particular situation. I got the gist of the issue after the first story, and I didn’t feel like new things were being revealed in the following stories.
The plot, probably because of the writing, was slow and chaotic. The build is very slow, and the reveal is kind of abrupt. There are a few plot twists to the book, but by the time we uncover them, I stopped really caring. I found myself almost skimming the last few chapters.
I don’t think there was a lot of profanity if any. But there were violent and sexual themes in the book. There is a rape scene included, though it was done in the past. And there was a murder that is uncovered (a few actually) as well.
To me, the book wasn’t really all that creepy. It wasn’t the thriller I was hoping to read this year for October, and it took me so much longer to read it because I simply didn’t want to pick up the book. I think part of the problem was the advertised “it’s the Gone Girl UK version” that really wrecked my expectations. It’s not a book I think I’ll be keeping on my shelf.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had heard so many people talking about how good this book was, and I thought it would be perfect to read in October. It’s a double murder mystery with many twists and turns.
Stevie loves a good murder mystery. It’s an obsession, really. And when she has an opportunity her junior year to attend a ritzy school with free tuition that also had an unsolved murder, she took it. But when there is a death on campus, her detective skills have to work overtime, to the detriment of her relationships and schoolwork.
The plot is pretty fast-paced. Most of the chapters include both the present day story and snippets from the original murder mystery from the 1930s.
Stevie’s character transformation was really well done. She arrives at the school with anxiety and a loner mindset but slowly learns to trust, have that trust broken, and trust again. The ending revealed a surprise that might test that trust yet again. I’m looking forward to learning more in the next book.
There is profanity in the book. It shows up in the later chapters so it took me by surprise. As far as sexual content, there is a makeout scene, kissing, and some discussion of sex but no graphic sex scenes. And the violence in the book is not graphic at all. The deaths are not discussed at length, though they do describe the position the body is present day is found in.
Overall, I thought it was a good mystery, not too scary and perfect for this month. The book ends in a major cliffhanger, so I’m definitely anticipating the next book in January!
Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am a big personality assessment nerd, so when I found out that one of my favorite podcasters wrote about book about personality assessments, I had to read it. Anne Bogel takes us through her own journey of eight different personality classifications. It was really interesting because I hadn’t heard of some of these tests (which I will definitely remedy in the near future).
She doesn’t just talk about her own outcome with each of the assessments but also gives a brief overview of the other types in each assessment. She also gives suggestions, whether the free tests you find online will give you an accurate assessment or if you will need to go on a more professional route. She also suggests books that can be helpful for a more in-depth look into your particular type.
I really enjoyed the book, overall. It was like sitting down over coffee with a friend, discussing personalities. It’s not by any means an exhaustive look into personality, but it is a fun jumping off point for several different ways you can look into yourself. Also, I really liked what she said about why we should look into these different perspectives of personality. “When I understand myself, I can get out of my own way.”
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a very popular book last year, which came out as a movie in October, so I thought it was appropriate to read it now.
The book is so good. It’s pretty fast-paced, and I felt totally immersed in this world throughout the entire story. The content of the book is pretty heavy, dealing with racism, grief, and injustice, but it’s really appropriate for today’s culture.
The story is about a girl named Starr who witnesses her friend get shot by a police officer. She and her friend are black and the officer was white. In her everyday life, Starr straddles two worlds – one in the poor black neighborhood where she lives and the other in a predominantly white private school where most of her friends and life are. When this shooting happens, her worlds start to come apart and she has to find out who she really is.
The character transformation is honest and beautiful. I don’t really want to go into any spoilers but she really is stretched through the whole story and by the end finds out what it means to be her authentic self. There are also some minor characters who go through transformations as well – facing their own prejudices and realities.
There is profanity in the book. In fact, Starr’s younger brother has a thing going with their dad that when he cusses, the brother gets a dollar. The brother gets a lot of money in this book.
There is also sexual content as well. While there are no real sex scenes, there is talk about it and heavy makeout scenes. I did find that the sexual content was approached well and handled responsibly.
There is also violence in this book. Of course, there is the shooting, but there are also riots, fighting, and other violence that happens throughout the book. I felt that it was also appropriate considering the story.
Overall, this is a great book, perfect for this generation. I felt like it was written well and gave a lot of really good perspective. Highly recommend!
The Fields of Glory by Gilbert Morris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m trying to finish this series by the end of the year. I read the first few books when I was a teenager and I held a bit of nostalgia for the series. Up to this point, I don’t really feel like the series has held up over time, but it’s still a good series. It’s Christian historical fiction set during the rise of Protestantism in England. In this particular book, it’s set during the reign of King Charles II, after the death of Oliver Cromwell. This was a point in history when the Royalists (who lost the Civil War to the Parliamentarians) return to England and come into power.
As far as the fictional family, the Wakefields, the author seems to be moving away from the steady father to son legacy that is found in the first three books. In the last book, the Morgan family (distant relative from Wales) made their first appearance, and they take up a good amount of the plot in this book. In addition to that, we are introduced to Jenny Clairmont, another person from Wales and follow her story which intertwines with the Wakefields and Morgans. Also, Morris includes whole chapters on the actual historical figure John Bunyan.
The author seemed to really be a fan of John Bunyan. He even includes some excerpts of Bunyan’s writing in his own story (although to be fair, he also includes some poetry and Shakespearean excerpts as well). This book, however, focused a lot on Bunyan, and with the addition of Jenny’s story and the Morgans, the Wakefields took a bit of a backseat.
The writing, like in the previous books, was flowery and a bit convoluted. We had to hear about everything they ate or wore, what every person looked like and whether they were attractive or not. I found myself skimming those parts, really just wanting to get on with the story. I understand he was building the world, but I just wasn’t interested in every beef broth they ate.
Still, the plot was interesting. Following the independent preachers as they were thrown in jail and then how they overcame was really interesting. I don’t know how much fiction was added to it, but it will give me new perspective when I read a Pilgrim’s Progress again.
Overall, it’s okay. I do enjoy the history, but the writing is only so-so. Nostalgically, it’s been a good ride so far.
I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The very definition of an absolute delight, Bogel’s short collection of essays on reading will call you to the big, comfy reading chair with a cup of tea in hand.
I have been a listener of her podcast for quite a while now. She is kind, welcoming, and completely relatable to me as a reader. This book is just an extension of that. She writes about her love of books, trips to the library and the bookstore, and confessions that kept me chuckling with a knowing “Amen.”
It was quite meta to read a book about reading. Still, I loved following her through her journey into reading. I now want to live right next door to a library (very envious of this fact!). And somehow have the inclination to, again, reorganize my bookshelves.
If you love to read, or even if you used to love to read and have lost that feeling somewhere along the way, I would highly recommend diving into this book. It will motivate you to read more and read often.
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Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have been curious about this book for a while, so since I’ve been reading parenting philosophy books lately, I thought this was the perfect time to read this one.
This book is parts memoir and French history with a bit of practicum added to it. Overall, it was quite interesting, however, there were parts of it (especially the first two chapters) that I found myself constantly rolling my eyes. I can definitely see where some readers would come to the conclusion that she is berating American mothers while putting French mothers on a pedestal.
But I do think there were also some good takeaways from the book as well. I really liked taking on the perspective of educating your child on social norms instead of trying to make them behave. Of course, encouraging individual play and allowing them to discover the world instead of obsessing about milestones was something I want to incorporate into my own parenting as well. I also enjoyed the recipes and play ideas, as well as some of the discipline perspectives.
It’s not a bad book that berates Americans. I read it as a woman’s journey having and raising kids in a foreign country, and how that affected her parenting and her children. Reading it as more of a memoir than a parenting book helps adjust to a more curious perspective. Good, interesting read!