Meags' Books

Thoughts on the books I've read.

The Storyteller - Jodi Picoult

This book is what I love about Jodi Picoult. I have read a large selection of her work, and I think this book by far is the best I have read yet. It was a completely different formula than most of her stuff (that formula being: ripped the the headlines-esque traumatic incident, courtroom drama, huge twist, weird resolution). This one took several threads of intertwined stories, but in a timeline that made sense. We started out of nowhere with a smidge of vampire story, then we begin with our main narrator, Sage. We learn about her family, her past, and her current situation. She has an acquaintance with an older gentleman. He comes to her in confidence, asking for an assisted suicide, because he has a huge burden of guilt over his past. Then the narration changes to him, and his story, and then to her grandmother, and her story, all the while the vampire story reappears and disappears. It ends in a back and forth of Sage and a government employee that she meets to help her sort out the stories she has been hearing.

 

Without giving too much away, this book was fantastic without all the usual tricks that Picoult usually employs. I would gladly label this as literary fiction, and not genre or pulp fiction. We learn about the characters in a way to be able to connect with them. The main theme of the book is about the monstrosity of humanity. I've read a few reviews that complain about the ending, wherein Sage doesn't seem to learn very much from the past mistakes of others. But I think it is fitting. We make mistakes, especially when we don't have all the information. It seemed like a very logical response, even if maddening. 

 

Trigger warnings: violence against women / Nazi concentration camps

Equilateral: A Novel

Equilateral: A Novel - This book was a boring waste of time. I'm glad it was short. I got the recommendation off of NPR and I can't help but feel that the idea that NPR is pretentious is sometimes well deserved, because this fits the bill. The characters and the story are boring, and nothing really happens. It was all ridiculously obscure and long words for no reason other than being "artsy" or "literary". The author should have spent more time thinking up a plot and less browsing his thesaurus.
Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They'd Ask): The Secrets to Surviving Your Child's Sexual Development from Birth to the Teens - Justin Richardson, Mark A. Schuster I only read the beginning chapters of this book, the part that pertains to children from birth to age 4. But from what I read, I can say that it gives a frank discussion of how to answer questions from small children, how much detail you can give (and what you can maybe skip), and right and wrong ways to approach different things you might "happen upon". I felt like the authors were aware that there are lots of ways parents can approach this topic and that they were respectful of all of them. I still don't know how I'll react if and when my child asks me where babies come from ("did she eat the baby? how did it get in her belly?"), but I feel like I have an idea of how I might go about explaining things in a developmentally appropriate way.

The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child's Sleep

The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers:  Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child's Sleep - Elizabeth Pantley This book is excellent if you have never googled "toddler sleep" before in your life. For everyone else, it just kind of organizes that information into sections. Most of the 8 basic ideas of helping young children sleep are common sense. Dark room, white noise, relaxing bedtime routine. I was mostly interested in night weaning which is barely even mentioned in the nighttime nursling chapter. She basically just goes over her "Pantley removal plan" which was rubbish for us. My daughter would just keep relatching no matter how many times I tried it. The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning was much more helpful in this regard. tl; dr: I don't recommend any of the No Cry Sleep books so far.
Based on a True Story: Fact and Fantasy in 100 Favorite Movies - 'Jonathan Vankin',  'John Whalen' I really enjoyed this book, not because I'd seen every movie, but because it's interesting to think about the real life stories that we think we know are really changed in the telling. I never really considered that a lot of things in movies based on a true story are full of fiction. Several characters are smushed into one composite, random "inciting incidents" or motivations are given that never really happened, and timelines are completely switched around. Fascinating! The best part about this book for a busy mom of a toddler is that the chapters are only a couple of pages and it was easy to read one or two in between building with Legos and reading books. I definitely recommend for bibliophiles.
Raising Your Spirited Child Rev Ed: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic - Mary Sheedy Kurcinka This book was really good -- for parents of older kids. I skipped a bunch of sections, stuff like going to school isn't going to be useful to me for several more years. I felt like a lot of the suggestions were good, but most of them requires being able to talk to your child and have them understand, and then listen to their reply. I've been looking high and low for a book that will help me navigate my spirited toddler who doesn't use much language yet, but I'm not having very much luck. It's especially frustrating that she shows her real spirited colors around me and diminishes them for other caregivers, so obviously, people think I'm exaggerating. Being a parent is hard.
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn I was really disappointed with this book. I had started by recommending it wholeheartedly, as I was reading it. It was interesting and edge-of-your-seat. I wasn't expecting all the crazy twists. The characters are a mess, but that's fine. But the ending... that takes this book down from "favorite book of 2013" down to "totally can't recommend to anyone, ever". I would have given this book 5 stars, all the way up to the last chapter, when I was like, this is seriously not ending like this, is it? Is it? It is!? NOOO! The ending of the book is the final impression that you get. It basically influences how you view the entire work. When it sucks, the whole work suffers. It's like those "it was all a dream" endings (this is not the ending, just an example), where you wonder why you wasted your time going on this journey with the creator. To sum up, don't read this book unless you like getting kicked in the shins by your entertainment. And not in a good way.

The Pact: A Love Story

The Pact: A Love Story - I keep waffling on how I feel about Jodi Picoult's books. I enjoyed Nineteen Minutes, Perfect Match, and Picture Perfect. The last couple that I've read have been really disappointing, but not so much in the entire book, just the resolution. I'm not saying that I like all of my stories to wrap up perfectly in a tidy bow, but some of the endings have been so flabbergasting that I don't know why I just wasted ten hours reading it. Which brings us to The Pact. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was expecting more than this. I kept feeling that there was something more just waiting around the corner, some bomb that Picoult was waiting to drop on the reader, but it never came. The trial was interesting until Chris basically confessed everything and the jury found him not guilty anyway. What? Emily went from sympathetic and understandable to a hot mess, that I didn't know what she was doing. I get that she was depressed, but also unmotivated but yet still motivated? And what exactly did Melanie read in her journal? I was honestly expecting that either James or Michael had been abusing Emily for years, or that she was secretly promiscuous or something, but no, one event (understandably) traumatized her so much that she became depressed almost ten years later, and no one noticed? Was is the pregnancy that pushed her over the edge? It seems like Picoult wrote half the book, then got bored and gave it to some monkeys to complete.

Then Came You

Then Came You - Jennifer Weiner I used to love Jennifer Weiner. I adored "In Her Shoes" and "Good In Bed" and even "Goodnight Nobody", although it wasn't as good. But her last few books have been subpar. This one was pretty bad. First, there were too many protagonists, and they were very difficult to keep straight because they weren't all that different. Second, the story was kind of boring. It kept building, but then fizzled in some weird deus ex machina endings. I don't know if I'll be picking up any more of her books unless one gets some rave reviews.
Matched - Ally Condie This was a pretty good book, but it has some serious problems. A lot of the events that moved the plot along were really convenient. Of course, the whole thing about "her" official becomes more clear in the end when you find out that Cassia is just part of the officer's graduate thesis, but the love match between Cassia and Ky is just really forced. Why is there always a love triangle? I did appreciate that both Xander and Ky are genuinely good guys, and neither is a "villain". The only outburst that Xander has is totally understandable because Cassia agreed to the match and then basically cheated on him. I just didn't feel like a lot of the plot points and twists were organic to the story, like randomly removing Ky in handlocks. More subtle hints about the violent side of the Society early one would have helped. I did like the subtle plot points about her parents being rebellious and not just automatons, and how her grandfather was a catalyst to the change. Some of the criticism I've read is about how the author just plunges into this world without any exposition about how it works, but that I liked. It really immerses you into it and feels more genuine. Some of the explanations were a little clunky, as though Cassia was just stepping back and narrating, then diving back into her story. Also, the part I liked the most, the set up of the dystopian society, turns out to be basically copied from lots of other books. This makes me sad, and it affected how I feel about the book as a whole. I'll probably read the rest of the trilogy, but I was a little disappointed that the best part of the book is not original. Is anything original anymore?

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character - This book was pretty interesting, but it was structured weird. It was basically four stories, one about KIPP and other charter schools, one about problem schools in inner cities, one about problems that affluent (basically uber rich) kids face, and then a huge section on chess clubs. I was hoping for more about early childhood education, and that's where the book starts, by talking about tools of the mind preschool programs. (Which I love the idea of and WHY DON'T THEY HAVE A LIST OF PARTICIPATING SCHOOLS GARGH ARGH /end rant) It was really mostly about how to fix problems that are already happening from lackluster parenting. So, interesting read, but useless for me. Actually, probably useless for anyone that would actually pick up this book.
Unplanned - Abby Johnson, Cindy Lambert This book was pretty interesting from a story point of view, but honestly it was way too long and kept repeating certain points of the story over and over. It could have been much shorter. I think an article or blog post would have summed it up nicely without getting too much into it. The only part that was interesting was the last chapter about the hearing, and the verdict of the lawsuit. But then it just kind of ended. I think the book would have been better coming from a neutral viewpoint, with lots of different stories and both sides.
Mockingjay - Collins Suzanne I watched the Hunger Games movie first, and then decided to listen to the trilogy after repeatedly hearing how fantastic it was. The first two books were pretty good, the second I would consider GREAT, but the third really tanked. It left a poor taste in my mouth for the whole series. Katniss, our heroine, pretty much spends the entire book unconscious, in the hospital, or on drugs. There is only one scene that is good in my opinion, and that is near the end, when she makes a split decision to assassinate Coin instead of Snow. That was fantastic. We'll see if the movie can change it to make it tolerable.

The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old

The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old - Harvey Karp, Paula Spencer Like many of the other reviewers, I found Dr Karp's first book helpful but this one? Not so much. But for different reasons. I have a "high need" child, as I've mentioned, and while he does devote a little space to different toddler temperaments, unfortunately his advice just won't work for my kid. I've tried it (not a ton, because I felt really foolish doing the cave man Toddlerese), but when my kid gets worked up in a tizzy it's really really hard to calm her. I need more strategies to avoid the tizzy rather than dealing with it once it's here. So I will continue trying to find other tricks that will work.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams I forced myself to finish this. It was pretty boring. The writing was just too meh, and I wasn't really interested in the non-plot. I probably won't read the rest. I tried it!

Keeping Faith

Keeping Faith - Jodi Picoult This book had some parallels to her other book "Change of Heart", although I didn't find it anywhere near as compelling. I kept waiting for the Picoult twist at the end, and it never came. The ending kind of fizzled. Characters were slightly meh. I did enjoy Millie Epstein, the grandmother. If you really like Picoult's stuff, you'll probably like it, but otherwise I'd pass.

Currently reading

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus Vol. 4
Andi Watson, Christopher Golden, Dan Brereton
One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good
Regina Leeds
The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life
Timothy Ferriss
MaddAddam
Margaret Atwood