The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address by Joseph Rodota

35098706I got excited about this book because I am a bit of a history nut for Watergate and Richard Nixon. So when I saw this book I knew I had to read it.

This was a very well researched book. There is an amazing amount of information and detail.

The book starts with the challenges of finding approval for the building and all the controversy of having a structure that would be taller than the monuments in Washington. At the time, this was a pretty avant-garde type of architecture, especially for Washington. I found it interesting that it was designed by an Italian architect.

The author did a good job of mirroring the events of the Watergate scandal and the scandals that surrounded the financing of the Watergate complex.

Because the complex was so convenient for politicians, ‘rivals’ would basically chit chat in the hall or cordially exist outside of the political arena.

My challenge with the book was that it got a bit mired in details sometimes and that impacted the flow of the story.

If you are a fan of Washington DC history, or of architecture, then this is definitely a book you would enjoy.

I gave it a 3/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from Edelweiss for a fair and honest review. (Thanks Edelweiss!)

 

Valentine’s Day: Book Loves

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Love it or hate it, today is Valentine’s Day!

I thought I would do a quick post and talk about my favourite love stories…in books. I mean, other than my love story with BJ…awwwww.

Two came to mind.

The first is from Me Before You. I really liked this book a lot. I feel like any book that can evoke emotions is a good one, and this had an ugly-cry-box-of-kleenex ending. The love story between Louisa and Will was charming and heartbreaking. I think what I liked most about it was that it represented what I think love is: it makes both people better.

The other story that came to mind was Jamie and Claire from Outlander. I mean, I think that this is the ultimate love story. Who doesn’t have a crush on Jamie? Right?!! The writing in the book is so good and the characters are so well written. I think what resonates with me about this couple is basically that they have each other’s backs. They have an unconditional love and support for each other even though they both know their arrangement could be temporary.

I could go on, but I need to save some for next Valentine’s Day!

However you are spending it, I hope you have a lovely day! Might I suggest you get a little chocolate, and sit down with a good book and enjoy!

 

White Houses by Amy Bloom

35876524This is a fictionalized account of the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.

Hickok is a reporter and is assigned to interview Eleanor Roosevelt. They form a bond, and the story traces their friendship and relationship over the years.

The book is written from Lorena’s point of view. The narrative goes back and forth between ‘present day’ and Lorena talking about her roots growing up in poverty in South Dakota.

I am intrigued with books that take real life people and weave a fictional narrative around them. I think that would be more challenging than coming up with complete fiction: you need to use facts and portray the real-life characters as they are known.

Overall I really liked this book. It took me a bit to get into the narrative and get used to the flow of the book – the flipping back and forth in time. But once I got over that, probably 25 or 30 pages, I really got into it and enjoyed it.

I found two things particularly interesting…

The first was that, at least according to the book, it was an open secret that both Roosevelt’s were having affairs. I am not that familiar with the history, so I am assuming that this is somewhat rooted in fact. That was back in the day before full-on media coverage and social media. Today to be able to pull that off would be unthinkable. How times have changed.

The second interesting thing was around the progress of the ability to be openly gay. Hickock is a lesbian and has many relationships and affairs. They aren’t secret, but they aren’t flaunted around openly either. This theme runs through the book with another gay character, a man.

This was a good read, and great story. I would highly recommend it.

I gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)

Fifty Shades: My thoughts

10818853I was originally going to call this post: In Defence of Fifty Shades.

But I am not really looking to defend it.

Full disclosure: I read the Fifty Shades series (yes, ALL of them) and I liked them.

Just because I liked them, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to. And yes, I get why someone wouldn’t like them. I also get why people might not even want to read them. But that is the beauty of books, you don’t HAVE to read them. If they don’t interest you, if you find the topic offensive, then you don’t read it.

Here is the thing that i need to get off my chest….

I see posts, or hear people talking about it ….. that never read the book. The Facebook post/conversation would go something like this….

I haven’t read the book BUT….

Then there would be a whole tirade about how the book wasn’t well written, or that it was misogynistic, or promoted rape culture…or a litany of ills that the book seemingly portrays or represents.

First, if you haven’t read the book….how do you actually know? You don’t. So don’t make judgements or assessments on something you don’t know about.

Second, it is completely reasonable to say, I refuse to read this because of the subject matter. And, even more reasonable to say, I don’t want to read it because the subject matter makes me uncomfortable. But that is difficult to say. I think it’s easier to trash the book and look for reasons to hate it, then to admit that either the subject matter offends you or makes you uncomfortable.

Here is my take: the book was wildly popular. The trilogy has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide (yes, I had to google that fact). And it’s possible (here is where my opinion comes in) that people read that book that haven’t read a book in long time…or even ever.

I remember when the Harry Potter series came out and there was backlash that children shouldn’t be reading about such violence and magic. I was like, are you kidding me? That series has got so many people reading books, including children and young people, and how can that be wrong. As a reader and book lover, that gets me excited…to see other people get excited about reading.

Also, (again, my opinion) this was a way for women to start to explore their sexuality and have words to talk about what they want or don’t want. I think that is pretty empowering.

And, I get it, this isn’t a serious work of literature. If you want literature, go and read War and Peace (I did, it’s delightful). Criticizing the bad writing or literary value of the book is like criticizing cotton candy for not being more nutritious. It’s not, never will be and wasn’t designed for that.

So if you want to hate on the books and/or the movies. Go right ahead. But hate on them in an educated way. That’s all I ask.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

american marriageWhere to start in unpacking this book. First of all, it was excellent.

I did not read the synopsis of this book before I read it, and I suggest that you do not either. Just trust me, this is worth it. This is my first Tayari Jones book, and it won’t be my last.

There are so many layers and messages that this book offers. Obviously, per the title, it is about marriage. How do you sustain a marriage while one person is estranged, and is away for longer than the two of you have been married? This book is also about family, what makes a family, how do these ties bind you to the past and the present.

One of the things that made this book so powerful was the way the author told the story. It is told through a combination of first person accounts, and letters written between the characters while the husband is away. You never get an omniscient and unbiased view of the characters, you are left to make your own assumptions and judgements.

The plot of the book moves along and never gets boring. Because of the first-person accounts, and some going back and forth in time, it fills in the gaps of the story and keeps you interested.

This was a really smart, engaging, enlightening, heart-wrenching story. If you are looking for a well written book that will make you think, then this is your read. Also, without giving too much away, this is an important story to tell. It deals with race and how people are unfairly treated and judged. Always important story to tell, but even more so today.

I rated this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)

AJ Finn meet and greet…and The Woman in the Window

img_4440About a week ago a post popped up on my Facebook feed, it was from HarperCollins Canada and it was an invite (not just to me…..obviously) to their offices for a meet-and-greet with A.J. Finn, author of the book ‘The Woman in the Window’. I sent an email, and I got on the list. <insert happy dance>

First things first, no I haven’t read the book yet. And yes, there was a goody bag that included a free book and a coffee mug!

I will say this, I was super geeked out to get to go to this as well as to the HarperCollins offices. For me, it was kinda exciting. As I was leaving, there was no one in the reception area. There were a bunch of books on display (yes, I was tempted to just take one! and no, I didn’t). And I had a fangirl moment. BOOKS!

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Honest, I didn’t take any!

Anyway….

The event was really cool. We gathered in a board room and A.J. Finn came out and was interviewed by one of the marketing staff at the publisher.

I have been to many author readings and interviews and they are hit and miss. Just because someone is a good writer, doesn’t mean they are a good speaker and are actually interesting. In the case of A.J. Finn, he was a delight. He was funny and intelligent. I want to hi-light two things.

First, he was very forthcoming about his struggle with depression and mental illness. I think it’s really brave and inspiring when people are upfront about that. It was even ore relevant since it was Bell Let’s Talk Day on the previous day. (For those unfamiliar, the day is about hi-lighting mental health and bringing it to the forefront of conversations, especially in social media.) I appreciate the fact that he was honest and forthcoming about that.

Second, it is apparent (at least to me) that he is a fan of books and reading. He has a background in publishing, and did his thesis and post graduate (I think) study on Patricia Highsmith (of The Talented Mr. Ripley fame). So he has a pedigree in the crime and intrigue book genre. He spoke about his favourite authors: Evelyn Waugh, Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith, Henry James, Kate Atkinson, Gillian Flynn (that’s the short list). I get excited when authors talk about reading and their love of books. And some of his favourites are mine too!

He told some funny and engaging stories. When a member of the audience asked who his favourite authors were, he answered then asked the question back to her. I thought that was nice. I just found him to be a cool dude.

About the book…I am actually very excited to read it. I am pondering pausing my current read to sneak it in. It seems in the genre of Gone Girl (which I loved). As of when we had the meet and greet, it was #1 on the NYT Bestseller List, not saying that makes it good, but it doesn’t hurt.

Overall, it was a delightful evening and HaperCollins Canada were gracious  hosts. Thank you!

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Me on the way out trying to act cool….and failing.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

hazel woodThis was a late addition to the reading list. I got approved for it while I had moved on to my next book. It was one that I really wanted to read, so I put on my reading pants and got to it.

The story focuses on 17 year old Alice. Her grandmother made a name for herself writing dark fairy tales. Alice and her mother move from place to place, seeming to be on the run from something. As usual, I don’t want to give the story away. Because that is part of the fun of reading the book, right?

I really enjoyed this book. I was worried about getting through it quickly since I only had a week to read it (on top of working and packing to move). But it was not a problem. It was easy to get through, and it was easy to get absorbed in.

It’s got a fairy-tale, adventure, magical vibe to it. It kinda has a Neil Gaiman-ish feel to it. Rooted in this world but also in another fantasy world.

It is inventive, and the characters are well crafted. Honestly I had no idea what was going to happen next.

I will say, I did find Alice to be a little bit annoying in the beginning, however, it becomes clear why she is that way as the book progresses. So if you have the same experience, just go with it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and fun read.

I recommend this highly and gave it a 4/5 star rating on Goodreads.

Full disclosure: I received this eARC from NetGalley for a fair and honest review. (Thanks NetGalley!)