Monthly Archives: February 2018

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give – Ada Calhoun

Review (Amazon): 

We hear plenty about whether or not to get married, but much less about what it takes to stay married. Clichés around marriage―eternal bliss, domestic harmony, soul mates―leave out the real stuff. After marriage you may still want to sleep with other people. Sometimes your partner will bore the hell out of you. And when stuck paying for your spouse’s mistakes, you might miss being single.

In Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, Ada Calhoun presents an unflinching but also loving portrait of her own marriage, opening a long-overdue conversation about the institution as it truly is: not the happy ending of a love story or a relic doomed by high divorce rates, but the beginning of a challenging new chapter of which “the first twenty years are the hardest.”

Calhoun’s funny, poignant personal essays explore the bedrooms of modern coupledom for a nuanced discussion of infidelity, existential anxiety, and the many other obstacles to staying together. Both realistic and openhearted, Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give offers a refreshing new way to think about marriage as a brave, tough, creative decision to stay with another person for the rest of your life. “What a burden,” Calhoun calls marriage, “and what a gift.”

My Review:

Executive Summary: meh

I am so ahead of the game this year. First book club book of the year, and I’m already writing the review. Let’s see how long I can keep this up!

I thought this book was really just kind of snarky and not in a good way. The premise of the book is how all wedding toasts are sappy and unrealistic. Well, duh. No one wants to hear a wedding toast that talks about how marriage is incredibly challenging to make work, and how most marriages don’t last. Why would anyone want to hear that on their wedding day? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the most sappy and sentimental person in the world. My now-husband and I went out to dinner before we got engaged to talk about whether we wanted to have kids, how we were going to handle the finances, and whether I was going to change my name. Maybe I should write a book.

Anyway, back to the book. Ada talks us through how marriage means paying for not only your mistakes but also your spouse’s mistakes, how you have to compromise, how sometimes (a lot of times) things are boring, how sometimes your spouse does things that you hate but you have to think about the good things so that you can stay married. Nothing newsworthy here. Marriage 101.

The book just sort of flits along with stories about someone she knew or the weird old timey summer camp where she worked (which I don’t know why that was included), and some more relevant stories of her own life. I enjoyed the part about the pre-Tinder type of mail in dating service where she worked because I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into a tiny flash in the pan in time. Some of them are good, some of them not so much. I didn’t need a whole background about her cousin Jeremy to be introduced to his friend who was Ava’s “soul mate” when she was 15 for her to then explain that soul mates are overrated.

She goes into a little detail about how her husband, Neal, had an affair. It took a lot to get over but they did (she honestly goes into more detail about her trip to Gettysburg than she does about his affair), and then a lengthy bit about how she made out with an old boyfriend while on a book tour, and when she told Neal about it, he mentioned that he flirted with someone they both knew, and how they talked through her makeout session and moved on.

She talks about love and death, and then at the end of the very short, 192 page book, she writes a lengthy wedding toast which she would give at a wedding which is completely unlike the rest of the book, incredibly serious and dry. I get the point wrapping the book up that way, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me. I can’t imagine a person who wrote this book also writing that speech.

Verdict: 2.5 stars

On the plus side, this book was a quick read, and it wasn’t boring or anything that should warrant such a low rating, however, it just didn’t strike me as a book that needed to be written or to be read. I felt a bit like I had wasted my time, and I rarely feel that way about reading even if it’s a book I don’t like that much.


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2018 Book Club List

I’m really going to try to do better with my blog this year! I felt like I fell behind a little a lot in 2017, but moving onward and upward!

We’ve actually had some updates in our book club – a few members have moved, and a few new members which is always exciting!! Similar to last year, we all picked our categories, and then brought to the meeting a few different options in our category and then we collectively pick one for the year.

My category for the year was sci-fi/fantasy which is one of my favorites. The big challenge for this category is that a lot of the books are the start of a trilogy or series. So I picked three books as options, all which I felt were fairly different in context. The two runners up were Noumenon by Marina Lostetter and The Power by Naomi Alderman. Both seem like really great books, that I will definitely try to read this year on top of my book club list! And without further ado, here is the list for this year!

January (Memoir): Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun

February (Bestseller): Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

March (Romance): Café By the Sea by Jenny Colgan

April (Young Adult): The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

May (Sci-Fi/Fantasy): An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King (MY BOOK! 😀 )

June (Classic): Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

July (Literary Fiction): A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

August (Book to Movie): The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

September (Non-fiction): How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life by Lily Singh

October (Mystery): An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James

November (Historical Fiction): Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

December: Book Swap!

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2017 in Review

2017 was a pretty weird year, especially for Houston which is where I live. I’m still volunteering a lot with my animal rescue work, and in 2017, I started a new project at work, which both helps and hinders my reading schedule (more airline travel but also busier in general). This is also…the fifth year for this blog!! I’m happy to say I read about the same amount of books as I did in 2016, but I’ve been a bit slow in the last 6 months (timeline with the new project at work) for putting my posts together. In fact, one of the books has never gotten a review, but I’ll do my best to get it written!

For this year, I had less of a variety of genres. No classics, no romance. A pretty even split between Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Historical Fiction (arguably my 3 favorite categories) and then a pretty even split on the others.

2017 genres

Also for this year, I spent a bit more than usual on books – a little over $50 for the year. But really, in the grand scheme of things, that’s just over $4 per month on books. It’s nothing. I do try to utilize the library and borrowing books when I can, but sometimes, you just gotta read!!

I varied between a 2.5 and a 4.5 rating (one on each end of the scale), and the split between book club and non-book club books was relatively even.

Sixteen books, or 1.3 books per month, and 5,752 pages read, equating to just under 16 pages per day! Two years in a row I’ve held steady at 16 books. Will this be the year that breaks the cycle?!

Happy reading in 2018!

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The Girl from Everywhere – Heidi Heilig

Review (Amazon): As the daughter of a time traveler, Nix has spent sixteen years sweeping across the globe and through the centuries aboard her father’s ship. Modern-day New York City, nineteenth-century Hawaii, other lands seen only in myth and legend—Nix has been to them all.

But when her father gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. Rae Carson meets Outlander in this epic debut fantasy.

If there is a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place and any time. But now that he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, the year before Nix’s mother died in childbirth—Nix’s life, her entire existence, is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years.

My Review:

Executive Summary: creative

We ended up selecting this book for our October 2017 bestseller (originally listed as TBD), and generally, I thought it was pretty good.

Unfortunately, my review on this is quite a few months late, so it’s going to be a bit limited on details, but if you like time travel and pirates, it’s definitely one to check out.

The ship, the Temptation, is captained by Slate. It isn’t obvious at first that this is the father of the main character, Nix. Nix and her father don’t really see eye to eye, and throughout the story we piece together why. The ship is controlled like the captain in a way similar to a normal ship, however, with the Temptation, if the captain has a map, he can not only find his way to the place, but also to the specific time in which the map was made. It’s not really explained (obviously because it isn’t a real thing), but it’s called Navigation, and only Slate can do it. He’s trying to get back to Hawai’i in 1868 where Nix’s mother died, awaiting Slate’s return.

The crew, including dreamy Kashmir, set off on various quests to acquire various items. Some are things like the bird who can allegedly cure any ailment, to things like tigers for bargaining for new maps. When they first arrive in Hawai’i, it’s 1884. They missed the year by a lot. Nix goes to speak to her mother’s friend Joss who still lives there in the opium den (now an “apothecary”) where Joss gives Nix her mother’s dragon and says she does have a map for them which they will get later. On her way back, she meets a white boy with a fancy family named Blake. He’s an artist and shows her some secret parts of the island and tells her about some of the legends of Hawai’i.

A sketchy sort of man named Mr D turns up to talk to Slate. He has an 1868 map to sell for $900k, and an additional catch is that the money has to be stolen from the Royal Hawaiian Treasury. It’s obvious through the discussion is the intention to replace the king with a new leader. Slate agrees to think about it, and he will give an answer at the upcoming ball where he’ll be able to see the map.

In the meantime, they investigate the treasury. Nix is being wooed by both Kashmir and Blake. She learns that Blake’s father, who is hosting the ball, has many important friends. Blake himself though loves Hawai’i and its history and culture.

Nix learns that the map which got them there was a back-dated map from Joss, so that the Temptation would arrive in the wrong time, and Joss provides Nix with a different map – one of the Qin dynasty of the tomb of the first emperor (the one with the terra cotta warriors)

They attend the ball, see the map, and Slate agrees to the terms. Blake explains later while dancing with Nix that the men are part of the Hawaiian League (the group wanting Hawaii to be annexed by America) and that Nix shouldn’t let her father get involved. Kashmir is found by Nix rolling around with Mrs. Hart and then is caught with the map which Nix stole which is unfortunate because Slate has made an agreement with Mr. Hart alone which is much better than the original plan, but the theft causes him to ever to the original.

Slate is furious, and Nix threatens to go to the police about the plan. He says if she helps him with the plan, he’ll teach her to Navigate…

They meet the Hawaiian League again to discuss the plan, and Nix goes back to visit Joss with this magical bird that they found at the start of the book. It can cure anything, and it cures Joss of her blindness. It is revealed that Joss can Navigate and she and Nix have a very intertwined life. Joss dies in the fire of 1886, but she also came to the exact location after 1886 to get her treasure and then returns to 1841 to live. She introduces Nix’s parents, and reveals that the reasons that none of the maps have worked thus far is that the same person cannot exist in the same place. In every attempt, Nix has been on board the Temptation, and she’s also been alive in the time they are trying to get to.

Blake draws them a map of the exact time they are in Hawai’i so they can return exactly to where they are, and they head off first to ancient China to obtain some terra cotta warriors. Not only did Qin bury the previous emperor with his warriors, but also with the tradesmen and women who made them. This is Nix’s first time to Navigate, and after some work and a few tries, she is successful. Nix and Kashmir use a crude canoe to get into the tomb where they leave the map of Chinatown in 1886 for Joss (she is trapped in the tomb, and apparently somehow escapes using that map) and to awaken some of the warriors to take back to Hawaii with them.

They return to Hawai’i and begin working on the plan. They will use to terra cotta warriors, who Nix has brought to “life” to convince the guards at the treasury that they are the Night Marchers (a legend in Hawai’i). Then they take the bottomless bag and fill it with the money. In a turn of events, Mr. Hart double crosses them and runs off with the money. In the meantime, Blake finds Nix at her post and realizes what is going on. They run to find Slate and Kashmir but no one knows where Mr. Hart is. Slate chased him for a while, and managed to get the bag of money back, but Mr. Hart still has the map. When they are about to bury the bag, they realize that Mr. Hart cleverly has hidden himself in the bag too.

Mr. Hart says he needs to get away from his wife who spends all the money and sleeps around. He wants Nix to take the Temptation and take him far away. Obviously everyone disagrees and are trying to convince Mr. Hart otherwise to no avail. And he has a gun and they do not. A shot rings out and they realize that Blake had been hiding  nearby, and hearing his father confess to shooting Blake’s uncle, the mapmaker of the map they are trying to make, he shoots his father in the arm. Mr. Hart then shoots his own son, and then Kashmir who is luckily wearing a Kevlar vest. Nix jumps on him, digging into his wounded shoulder and he grabs her by the hair, and also the gold all while holding a gun, and then the mystical Hawaiian warriors come and take Mr. Hart never to be seen again, and Blake is healed by the mystical healing spring. He shows them he has the map, and they head to the ship.

Nix approaches her father and tells her she has the map, but he can’t use it if she’s with him. She will have to go her own route if he wants to make it back to her mother. He tells her that Blake has asked to come along on the ship and he has agreed. He tells her that he is no longer going to try going back to Hawai’i because he can’t leave her. The book ends with Slate asking her where they should go.

Verdict: 3 stars

I really liked the idea of this book, but I didn’t like the specific plot. Think of all the various places and things that you could do with maps and time traveling, especially in the age of the Internet, and yet the majority of the book was spent in Hawai’i. I found the ending to be too convoluted and confusing, and I just wanted a bit more.

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