Welcome to the second quarterly book review, where my love for books that are more appropriate for a menopausal woman are revealed! I got on a major No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency kick this month and read the rest of the entire series, with the exception of the most recent one (and that's only because I would have to pay to borrow it from the library since it's so new). I also think I did an OK job of reading better quality books, although I still mixed in plenty of fluff books.
You can find my first quarterly book review here.
I'm trying out this Amazon thing in case you want to buy or read more about one of the books I recommend. Just so you don't think I'm being sneaky - I will get a little kickback if you buy any of these books (or anything else from Amazon, for that matter) through my Amazon Associates link.
As always, I love comments and welcome feedback and book suggestions!
Review & Grading System
I am grading each book based on the type of book. Just as you wouldn't rate a Taco Bell Bean Burrito on fine dining standards, I won't rate a cheesy romance using quality novel standards. So a C for a cheap romance does not equal a C for a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
25.The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 4)
by Alexander McCall Smith. Oh, how the lives and times of Mma Ramotswe and crew delight me. Another good book that has a unique brand of subtle humor that I can't get enough of. I'm still surprised this series is written by a man. A
26. The Full Cupboard of Life (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 5) by Alexander McCall Smith. A good book in the No. 1 Ladies' series, but it was my least favorite so far. Something about the writing seemed a bit hurried or just not as true to the characters, maybe, as the other books. The ending was also a little odd. But, in spite these things, I still enjoyed it. B
27. Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody. This is true story about Diablo Cody's (writer of Juno) life as a stripper in Minneapolis. I found the story fascinating in a train wreck kind of way, but the overwhelming emotion I felt while reading it was one of sadness and pity. How can a woman be so disconnected from her own body and mind that she enters into stripping on a whim? My reaction is exactly the kind of one that she would roll her eyes at, and yet there it is. I'm grading this book on quality of writing/story-telling, but reader's beware. B-
27.5. Family Trust by Amanda Brown.
I picked this one off the shelf randomly after I read that it was the same author who wrote Legally Blonde. I didn't read Legally Blonde and I don't think I ever will as I got about 60 pages into this book before throwing it across the room in irritation. It's just bad and the characters and plot-line don't ring true (really there would be no problems with taking a recently orphaned 5-year-old on a business trip to China? REALLY?). I think the movie version of this book is coming out soon, and hopefully this will prove to be the rare case where the movie is much better than the book. D-
28. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This book was soooo not what I expected. When the word "cock" appeared in the first pages, I realized it wasn't the prim and proper period piece I had somehow envisioned. Really, really interesting and a fascinating concept, but I kept having some questions about the whole situation that didn't get answered which annoyed me a bit. I found Clare terribly irritating at times. I also, unfortunately, saw the movie first and I know that it colored my impression of the book. I really wish I could time travel back and undo that (heh). B+
29. The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle. Light, fluffy and French. One of my favorite genres of books are those that combine cooking/food and travel/living abroad, so I generally enjoy Mayle's work. He's a cheeky old fellow, that Mayle. B
30. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Sign Language by Diane Ryan. I chose this one by the basis of it being the only one available at the library the day I thought to look for books on baby sign language. The writing style irritatingly assumes that people are not capable of reading something from cover-to-cover and thus repeats a lot of information. The books was also a little cute-sy for my taste. However, irritations aside, I got good, solid information from it and put it to use very effectively with Bella. So it was helpful, in spite of some generally minor problems. B
31. 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 by Harvey Karp. Good old Dr. Karp. This book doesn't seem quite as groundbreaking or helpful as Happiest Baby on the Block, but I still got useful information from it. One sort of ridiculous thing about this book is that he insists on comparing toddlers' stages of growth to the evolution of man. This analogy is a big stretch to begin with and forcing it to work within the concept of this book was a mistake in my opinion. I'm also not sure if I'm totally sold on speaking "caveman" with your toddler, but - hey - worth a shot, right? B
32. Voyager (Outlander) by Diana Gabaldon. This book was not what I expected, and, quite honestly, irritated the hell out of me at times. It's OK for a husband to physically discipline a wife just because it's the 18th century? WTF? And the sex scenes! So ridiculous at times. Plus the book dragged on and was boring at times. And yet I find myself wanting to read the next book in the series. So, in the end, I give it a B-
33. Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts. Ridiculous, COMPLETELY PREDICTABLE and I enjoyed it, just like I enjoy Say Yes to the Dress. B+
34. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (6) (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) by Alexander McCall Smith. This installment in the series felt more in line with the other books after the 5th book felt slightly off. Good times. A-
35. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive: The New Novel in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Seriesby Alexander McCall Smith. Another good one, although I was whipping through these so fast I don't think I was fully appreciating them. I especially enjoyed the antics of Mms Makutsi in this book. A-
36. Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 7) by Alexander McCall Smith. A really nice book in this series. Mma Makutsi featured more prominantly and it also gave an interesting look inside marriages in traditional Botswana. A
37. Summer Island: A Novel by Kristin Hannah. Kristin Hannah's books run together in my mind so I had to google to remember what this one was about. Good for an easy read, but not her best work. Definitely not memorable, anyway. B-
38. Galapagos: A Novel (Delta Fiction) by Kurt Vonnegut. Husband is on a Kurt Vonnegut kick so I read this after he finished it. I really liked it. Vonnegut's writing style has you jumping all over the place, but it was surprisingly satisfying to keep getting doled out pieces of information throughout the book. A
39. Windfall by Nora Roberts. OMG, so terrible. Like a bad Lifetime movie. So, pretty much what I expected when I took it off the shelf. C-.
40. Bookends: A Novel by Jane Green. This was a re-read for me - I must have last read it during my college years. Pretty disappointing and not what I remembered it to be. The main character did not appeal to me and a lot of the other characters seemed to be either flat or too stereotypical ("the gay best friend" or "the bitchy woman"). The plot lines didn't always make sense and the character's motivation was confusing. C.
41. Plan B by Jonathan Tropper. A random book off the shelf that focuses on the angst of turning 30. I found it to be check-minus for the most part and I didn't relate to the characters at all, even though I'm turning 30 this summer myself. Plus, the author chose to put the line..."Thirty...damn." (or something to that effect) incessantly throughout the first part of the novel and it was beyond irritating. So I give it a C....damn.
42. The Miracle at Speedy Motors: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (9) by Alexander McCall Smith. Not my favorite in the series, but still very good and compelling. Sometimes I feel like JLB Matekoni is such a simpleton, though. A-
43. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built: A No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel (10) (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series) by Alexander McCall Smith. Traditionally built refers to Mma Ramotswe's full-figure and I love her pride in her body in spite of many other women looking to become very thin in Botswana. This book was a little boring for me as it focused a lot on football (soccer), but still, as always, a good read. A-
44. Things We Do for Loveby Kristin Hannah. I liked this book much better than the other Kristin Hannah book I read this quarter. I enjoy the settings for her novel (Pacific NW) and the Italian restaurant/family business was a nice touch. Good for what it was - a relaxing, non-thinking book. A-
44.5. "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Husband found this on a shelf in the basement and brought it upstairs to read. After he read it, I gave it the old college try seeing as it's a classic and all and I never finished it when I tried to read it in my early teens. The problem is that I still don't like it and can't get into it. I got halfway through before I realized that I don't have to read this! An all-boy story that mirrors the stupidity of war/mankind just isn't my cup of tea. I'm not going to grade it, because - HI, classic. Just know that it wasn't for me.
45. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink. This was a re-read for me (first read it in '07 or so). Interesting information, as always, and it was nice to think of it from a mother's perspective. As in, he gives tips for how to not eat or drink so much, but I'm thinking of how you can reverse it to increase the water or veggie intake in a child (or a grown up like myself, for that matter). Nutrition and psychology together are always a favorite subject of mine and this book presents it in a light and easy-to-read manner. A
46. Becoming Strangers by Louise Dean. Found this on some random "beach read" shelf at the library and gave it a chance - I'm so glad I did. I found myself really liking this book. The author does a brilliant job at presenting complex - and, at times - unlikeable characters in an engaging way, which is not always easy. I also enjoyed the reerences to the all-inclusive tropical beach resort - reminded me of my wedding & honeymoon. A-
47. Barefoot: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand. Another book from the "beach read" shelf at the library. The story doesn't start very strong, but it really draws you in. Interesting characters and little bits are revealed over time in a way that keeps you interested. I will read others by the author. B+
48. Light A Penny Candle Maeve Binchy. Ah, yes. Another favorite among the menopausal set...and me. A re-read, but I last read it in 1998 so I didn't remember much. I love the Irish-ness of her books and the characters and all the Catholic drama. When it comes down to it, Binchy weaves a beautiful and dynamic story. The ending on this one, though, threw me for a bit of a loop. Still, it was just what I wanted - like a-nice-hot-cup-of-coffee-on-a-Saturday-morning kind of good. B+
49. Promise, Texas by Debbie Macomber. What's wrong with me? I find Debbie Macomber's books to be quite annoying, yet I KEEP CHECKING THEM OUT. It's not unlike my reaction to most people on A Baby Story and yet when I happen to turn on the TV when it's on I get sucked in. Anyway, this book featured the popular romance twist of a couple marrying for reasons other than love...then falling in love. I haven't read any of the other stories in this particular series so it felt like a whole lot of random characters. I'm going to be Debbie Macomber free next quarter, OK? C
50. Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (Paperback) by Chelsea Handler. Funny (though not as funny as I hoped), light and breezy. Pleasantly offensive. A good beach read, obvs. B