Saturday, January 31, 2015

Review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really struggling with rating this novel. It falls somewhere between a 3 and a 4 for me. There were some aspects of this novel that I think were fantastic but others just didn't resonate with me.

The exploration of the immigrant experience was very interesting to me and I think Henriquez did a good job of offering a myriad of experiences in order to give the reader a fairly comprehensive idea of what immigrating to America looks and feels like. This novel definitely gives the reader an opportunity to an opportunity to better understand the difficulties facing immigrants ... putting a 'human' face to the issue of immigration.

Much of the story centers around a teen romance which is one of the things that felt off for me. The romance itself was fine but I feel like it ended up taking away some of the impact of the overall story of immigration rather than support it effectively. It just didn't feel like it helped bring the overall story together in a way I would have liked. Henriquez seemed to focus the novel around the romance but I can't help but wonder if it would have been better to have focused the novel around the immigrant families in another way?

Either way, I am really happy to have read this and definitely recommend it if you are interested in better understanding immigration in America. It's a fairly quick read and doesn't require a huge commitment from the reader.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

An Untamed StateAn Untamed State by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This book is one of those books that stand out from others because it's brutal in content but also beautifully written. Despite the very real horrors in the story, I could not stop reading. I am rarely moved by a novel like I was by this one. I cried a number of times and had my breath taken away many times. After years of working with sexual abuse victims as they heal, I was very taken by how very real this novel felt - raw, honest, and brutal. I feel like Gay has expertly captured the experience and feelings of someone being violated in this way. I feel like this sort of thing is rarely done well in the novels that I've read ... and this novel blows almost all of those out of the park.

Roxane Gay has an incredible voice. The things she explores through the experiences of Mireille really resonate with me as a woman ... and as a human. Although this is in no way an easy read, I think it is a very important one. I haven't been able to get it off my mind since finishing ... it's truly stuck with me and continues to make me think.

I don't think this is a book that's for everyone. If you're a survivor of sexual abuse, this novel may be too difficult for you to read. If you're uncomfortable with themes of abuse, especially those graphically depicted, you may want to skip this book. But, if you can get through it, it is definitely worth taking the time. I feel strange saying that I loved this novel (given its content) but I am very glad that I read it.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie

The Romanovs: The Final ChapterThe Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Robert K. Massie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always had a bit of fascination about the Romanovs, especially the fact that there are so many who claimed to be the children. My dad suggested that I might like this book, especially if I was interested in the imposter piece since a large chunk of the book focuses on those individuals.

I found this book to be very informative and I feel like it gave me a great sense of what took place and how everything flowed from that. There was so much detail explored in this book, that it sometimes even felt too detailed.

If you have interest in this family, what happened when they were executed and how it was possible that so many claimed to be members of this family, this is probably the perfect book for you! If you aren't interested in any of that, this book won't be particularly interesting to you!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You (You #1)You by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although it took awhile for me to adjust to the second person narrative, I ultimately think it was perfect for this particular novel. This is a disturbing, twisted novel about obsession, stalking, and psychopathology. It's definitely not for everyone. If you are disturbed by graphic violence, sexuality and language, I'd avoid this novel completely.

If you are OK with the graphic content, I think this is a really well-told, compelling novel that lets the reader get into the head of a stalker/psychopath. The story is multi-faceted with a lot of twists and turns ... all of them dark. This is a quick book that I read in just a couple of days. Very compelling and interesting read. Very creepy and thought provoking. There is a lot of interesting stuff about technology that intertwines with the plot and that gave me a whole new perspective on how social media opens us up in so many new ways.

All in all, I recommend this one if you can handle the graphic nature of the novel.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really good thriller - fast paced, interesting characters, solid story. It certainly didn't blow me away but I really liked it. I hate that it keeps getting compared to Gone Girl because I think that is an unfair comparison. This is a solid book on it's own and I think the Gone Girl comparison comes with expectations that are unnecessary.

I definitely think this one is worth reading but I suggest you don't read a lot about it before you start. This is one that is better enjoyed with no information. And so I am keeping this review vague and non-specific.

I enjoyed how the story was told in alternating voices and I think the pacing was spot on. I will say that I felt the ending came together a bit too precisely for my taste but I still enjoyed the book overall. I love an unreliable narrator and this is a really good one! I recommend you give it a shot!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review: The Kitchn Cookbook

The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens & Tips to Inspire Your CookingThe Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens & Tips to Inspire Your Cooking by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderful this cookbook is ... I've never read the Kitchn blog but I think I may now. This cookbook is so much more than a traditional cookbook - it has elements that are rare in a cookbook but so great to have. This is really a resource book PLUS a cookbook and it offers something for everyone.

In addition to almost 150 pages of recipes, this book offers sections on setting up a kitchen, an overview of cooking tools and equipment, caring for the kitchen (cleaning/organizing), stocking the pantry & planning meals, and a fantastic cooking school section with 50 essential skills. As you can tell, this is so much more than 'just' a cookbook. It's a fantastic resource to both new and advanced home cooks!

The book itself is well constructed - sturdy cover, great photographs and heavy paper pages. Really nice cookbook to hold in your hand. It opens easily and feels heavy (but not too heavy). My only complaint is that I wish there were a photo for every recipe - it drives me crazy when cookbooks only show some of the dishes.

As for the recipes, there are so many different options for any and all sorts of meals. I'm really interested in the following recipes -

Breakfast Pizza
Sticky Lemon Rolls
Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken
Slow Cooker Carnitas
Risotto with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Parmesan Cheese
Greenest Green Goddess Salad
No Bake Banana and Peanut Butter Caramel Icebox Cake
Meyer Lemon Bars

All in all, this is a fantastic resource for any home cook. I highly recommend this one if you need/want a comprehensive guide to all things cooking!

NOTE: I received this cookbook from the publisher for an honest review.