Book Review x 3 + GoodReads

I love you all and I love my decade-by-decade music posts. They have been so much fun to do so far, but my poor planning has made today a book review day. All the better, because I've only read like … 3 books in the last 2 weeks! ;)

Anyway, I decided to join GoodReads this morning and started filling in all of the books from my 2015 challenge. Honestly, it's been a stressful year trying to read so many books in so little time. I have no idea how others do it. According to GoodReads, I've read 8373 pages in 25 books of which 7 were published in 2015. Let me just say – WOW! That doesn't even include (most of) the Wattpad books I've read! My original goal was 24 books in 2015; should my new goal be 10,000 pages before 2016? I think I can do it…

The book list so far…

• the After series by Anna Todd
• A Lion In Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
• I Sold My Soul to the Devil For Vinyls … Pitiful, I Know on Wattpad
• Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
• Refinery 29 by Piere Gelardi and Christene Barberich
• Frites by Anne de la Forest

• Summer Rain on Wattpad
• Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
• How to Travel the World on $50 A Day by Matt Kepnes
• Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

• No Capes on Wattpad
• The Bro Code on Wattpad
• He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird

• Cookie Love by Mindy Segal
• Sweetapolita by Rosie Alyeah

• Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren
• Salsas & Moles by Deborah Schneider
• Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson
• Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

• All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

• Fatal Vision by Joseph McGinnis
• Color Mixing Recipes for Watercolor by William F. Powell

• Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
Walking the Highline by Joel Sternfield

• Captive by Ashley Smith
• 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper

• The Conversation Handbook by Troy Fawkes
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy by Dinty W. Moore

And now for the new books reviews…

Apparently this month I've been all about self-improvement, and that started with The Conversation Handbook. If you knew me personally, you would know I'm not a great conversationalist. Half of the time I can't think of how to respond to questions and statements alike. And if there are multiple people in the conversation? I may as well just disappear. I will not fight for talk time and thus my thoughts and opinions are kept to myself. I think I once heard that it's better to appear dumb then open your mouth and prove it, a truth I've held dear for a number of years since.

One of the great and more useful aspects of The Conversation Handbook is that author Troy Fawkes not only talks to you about conversing, but he also provides questions and activities to get you thinking about how and why you converse in the style you do. Do you think you are gaining something by keeping quiet? Then he goes in depth about how to be a better listener, how to communicate ideas better, and how to relate to others. He even provides further reading ideas if you are interested in continuing to learn about this topic.

Most of the concepts within The Conversation Handbook are shockingly simple and things you will be thinking to yourself "I should have known that!" but other concepts, for example easter eggs in conversations (who would have thought?) are a little bit more complex. While I'm not entirely sure this book was extremely helpful for me in terms of conversation, I'm hoping to go back and work through the activities at a slower pace for helping in terms of blog writing. Apparently, writing and speaking are very similar forms of communication, and reading this book sparked ideas for how to communicate more effectively, for me, through my writing as well as my speaking.

The Conversation Handbook will be most useful to people who can read books on a kindle or tablet (it's only an e-book currently in PDF form) and who are interested in improving their communication skills. I recommend taking the time out to answer the author's questions and complete the book in it's entirety to get the most value from it. Plus, it's a nice and easy read! I got through my copy in less than a day! :)

Check this video out to discover why
Kristin Hannah wrote The Nightingale.

Next up, I tackled Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, a fantastic historical fiction account based in France during the 1940s. I must admit I was a little concerned when a family member mentioned being aware of the authoress, but I had no need to be. The book started off a little bit slow, but only developed as the author and her subjects became more aware of their situations.

The story begins when 18 year old Isabelle, a vivacious teenager, is kicked out of her boarding school. (Or at least that's where the story caught my attention.) She returns to Paris to her father, but he will have nothing to do with her. He works out a deal with a family friend to get Isabelle to the country so that she can live with her sister, Vianne. At this time, he is completely aware of what is going on with the war and how the Germans are taking over France (and specifically Paris), but he doesn't share this information with Isabelle. Finally the day comes for her to leave. The minute she gets in the vehicle a woman looks at her and asks what she brought with her, a seemingly friendly question. When Isabelle responds with "books and clothes", the woman has a few angry words to say and treats Isabelle like a nuisance for the rest of the ride. Only, they run out of gas before they make it to Vianne and Isabelle becomes separated from the family she is suppose to travel with. Rather than stay at a hotel she cannot afford, she begins the long journey to the countryside later being joined by an ex-convict who has been let go and is interested in defending France in the war.

When Isabelle finally makes it to Vianne's lovely countryside home, Vianne's husband has left to fight on the front leaving Vianne's daughter Sophie, Isabelle, Vianne, and a German billet living in the home. Day by Day, Isabelle's anger towards the Germans gets worse and worse until her sister is no longer comfortable with Isabelle living with them. All is well though because Isabelle has a plan that involves returning to Paris and helping her compatriots get to spain and out of the German grasp. Can she do this without getting killed herself?

Meanwhile Vianne speaks up for the Jews (and therefore against the Germans) at work and manages to get fired. Running out of her husband's money and with very little food and objects to sell, how will she keep herself and her daughter alive?

At first, the German billet was super nice and offering to help with providing food for Vianne, and I was thinking "psh! Where is the real story? Did this author know anything about the war or was I reading a chic lit kind of book?" It only got worse when Isabelle meets the ex-convict who asks for a kiss in exchange for taking her with him to the front. Anyway, while the author, Kristin Hannah, does border on chic lit at times, the story finally does become more realistic as it gets further along and further into the war (which makes sense).

I recommend this book if you are interested in good historical fiction stories and (as was recommended to me) if you like Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. It's nice to see a book about female heroism although I'm not sure how accurate this author's depiction of the war was. Don't let the female heroism color your view on the book though – you will read of death and despair both inside of concentration camps as well as out. This is not a book you take to the beach and read to make you happy. It's a thought provoking, dark book with just a hint of love and beauty. I did enjoy it though, and definitely recommend it. :)

I decided to take on Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy in an effort to hone my craft. I've been saying for a while that I wanted to read some writing related books, but so far the only one that had caught my interest ended up boring me after about 2 paragraphs. It's one thing to read a drawn out fictional book that bores, but to read a non-fictional help guide that you can't relate to? Honestly that's even worse!

When I picked up Moore's book, I was excited to take on a fun, humorous book on writing. I hoped to gain inspiration from the author and develop my skills. What I got though was much less than expected. :( With ratings of near 5 stars on Amazon, I had high hopes and expectations. I turned away other potential good reads for one funny book. *sigh*

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy is written in a combination of letters written to the "author" and his responses as well as mini essays to emphasize his points. The essays are great – very well written – and the book itself is an easy read. I read all 187 pages in one sitting. Even the picture "sticky notes" are an exciting and fun way for the author to communicate with his readers. But overall, I found myself skipping over whole sections because I was just that bored. I found myself often thinking "Can't you get to the point?" It was just a struggle

Point being, pick another writing book. I don't recommend this one. Sorry Mr. Moore. :(

And a teaser…

What have you been reading this year? Any of the books I've read? Do you have any recommendations for me? 

* I received Dear Mister Writer Guy and The Conversation Handbook for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

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