January 2018 Reads – #fantasy, #scifi, #nonfiction, #mystery

February 9, 2018 3 comments
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For more shots check out my bookstagram

Happy New Year everyone! I started my new year off with a reading bang reading a total of 6 books. I can’t say I’m too terribly surprised as the weather has been pretty…gross in New England. I’m not anti going outside in the cold but even I struggle to enjoy it when it’s so cold you’re at risk of frostbite if you’re out for more than 30 minutes. (It’s dangerously easy for me to tip over into that range with my commute using public transit). Anyway, nothing feels cozier than reading inside while it’s awful outside. While I had a range of reads this month, overall I read a lot of fantasy.

I started off the month with Honeyed Words by J. A. Pitts. My husband picked it up for me at a used bookstore in the $1 pile based on the cover and the fact that it was an urban fantasy starring a queer woman. That man knows me. Unfortunately, it turns out it was the second book in the series, and unlike a lot of urban fantasy, not enough was explained for me to be able to follow along very well. Sarah, the main character, is a blacksmith who also has a magical sword and fights dragons who run the world but usually appear as people? It was very confusing but I did enjoy the different (for urban fantasy) main character.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: gift)

Next I read the audiobook version of Connie Willis’s new scifi Crosstalk. This is about a near future with a surgical procedure to let partners feel each other’s feelings but when Briddey has it she finds herself able to hear the thoughts of the company weirdo and nothing from her boyfriend. I loved Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog but I was disappointed in this one. The plot was predictable in most ways. I didn’t actually like either of the main characters. The female main character in particular was disappointing…very little intelligence or self-starting. I did really like the little niece but I felt the adults who were supposed to be the heroes pushed her around far too much and refused to listen to her. Let’s put it this way: if this was my first Connie Willis read, I wouldn’t be seeking out more. So thank goodness I found To Say Nothing of the Dog first, or I’d have missed it.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I picked up a print book next, which I originally acquired from an indie publisher thanks to hearing good things about its YA fantasy with LGBTQ content – Valhalla by Ari Bach. Set in a near future where corporations run everything, a teenage girl finds herself with the opportunity to get vengeance for her parents’ death but only if she legally dies and lives with a group who work to keep the world in order. This was a weird book. I really had trouble getting past the ability to resurrect a person in their entirety so long as you have their brain in-tact, and I also found the politics odd and the plot ridiculous. It was readable and action-packed but I did a lot of eye-rolling. I won’t be continuing with the series.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

Our trip in December to the Grand Canyon reminded me of a book I’d bought a while ago on the history of the US National Forest Service (not to be confused with the National Park Service) – The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. I already knew a bit about the history the NPS and NFS thanks to my time in service in Americorps. While I enjoyed everything I learned in the book, it is confusingly organized and repetitive. It needed more editing. For instance, I thought I was reading a book about a fire but a large part of the book was about literally everything about the Forest Service surrounding the fire. While that was informative, it wasn’t what I thought I was getting. Similarly there were passages of the parts of the book about the actual fire that really dragged–how many times do I really need to read about what the burned corpse of a horse looks like? So while I did learn a lot, which I appreciate, I do feel like it could have been better organized and streamlined.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Amazon)

One of my reading goals is to read two print books a month, so I picked up a second after finishing Valhalla. I have a bookshelf of all my print books and I use random.org to randomly generate a number to select one. So my next read wound up being The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell a British mystery told in dual time-lines, one being modern day with a woman recovering from a horrific miscarriage and the other being in the 80s with five college friends sharing a cottage and trying to go off-grid basically. The women in the modern day dealing with her grief is given this same cottage, and the mystery is how the two timelines will intertwine. While the ending did surprise me, everything leading up to it was boring and predictable and led to me skimming a lot. I’m glad I read to the end because I found the twist interesting but the experience leading up to it wasn’t fun for me per se. I also think that consequences weren’t explored enough.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: PaperBackSwap)

I finished up my month by finally picking up the third book in a series I started ages ago – the Riders of the Apocalypse series by Jackie Morse Kessler. This YA fantasy series explores the four hoursemen of the apocalypse as beings who have to get replaced occasionally by new humans who take on the role and in this series each is being replaced by a teenager. Famine was replaced by a teenager with anorexia in the first book, and War by a teenager who self-injures in the second. The third horseman is Pestilence, and I wondered what mental illness would go with this. I thought maybe Factitious Disorder (previously known as Munchausen Syndrome) but it turns out the main character in Loss is a victim of bullying and a partial caretaker for his grandfather with Alzheimer’s. I wanted to like this so much but I just didn’t. I didn’t identify with the main character at all, and I also felt like the representation of sickness and health was overly simplistic (with a weird huge focus on the bubonic plague). Nothing felt as fully fleshed out as I would have liked it to have been, and I don’t think relating bullying to Pestilence works the way anorexia to Famine or self-injury to War did.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Amazon)

Hm, turns out in spite of all the reading this was a bit of a mediocre month! Here’s hoping something strikes my fancy more in February.

My total for the month of January 2018:

  • 6 books
    • 5 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 4 female authors; 2 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 2 print books; 1 audiobook

2017 Reading Stats!

January 2, 2018 2 comments
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The most liked shots for 2017 from my bookstagram

Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats.  You can see my stats for the years 2009201020112012201320142015, and 2016 by clicking on the years.

Total books read: 56
Average books read per month: 4.67
Month most read: February with 8
Month least read: A tie between May and December, who both had 2
Longest book read: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey with 1,015 pages.
Favorite book read: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Fiction: 50 (89%)
Nonfiction: 6 (11%)

Female Author: 43 (78%)
Male Author: 13 (22%)

Ebook: 31 (55%)
Print: 12 (22%)
Audiobook: 13 (23%)

Top Genres:

  1. Chick Lit: 17 (30%)
  2. Fantasy: 8 (14%)
  3. Scifi: 8 (14%)
  4. Thriller: 6 (11%)
  5. Nonfiction: 6 (11%)
  6. Historic Fiction: 4 (7%)

Star Ratings:

  • 5 stars: 0 (0%)
  • 4 stars: 28 (50%)
  • 3 stars: 22 (39%)
  • 2 stars: 6 (11%)
  • 1 star: 0 (0%)

Thoughts and Goals:

My only goal for the year I set for myself was to read 12 print books, and I just barely hit that. I continue to be out of room for my print books at home, though, so this year I’m going to up that goal to 24. Since I generally aim for one book a week that’s two books a month in print.

My Audible subscription is for one book a month, and I had some credits stockpiled, so I’m happy to see I read just more than my subscription is for. Currently I have three extra credits, so I’d like to read 14 audiobooks this year.

I’m disappointed that I only read 6 nonfiction books this year but I also understand why. I needed my reading to be down-time, and I struggled to identify nonfiction reads that would be relaxing in addition to educational. My goal this year is to hit 12 nonfiction reads that I enjoy.

I aim for over half of my books to be by female authors, and I way surpassed that this year. I think this reflects how much chick lit I read more than anything!

Speaking of which, while I’m not surprised by the fact that chick lit has taken the most read genre, I do want to express appreciation to my readers who’ve stuck with me. I know I used to be a primarily scifi/fantasy blog, and I appreciate you continuing along on my reading journey wherever it leads.

I am shocked that I didn’t have a single 5 star read this year but pleased that my reads at least skewed toward highly enjoyable with so many 4 star reads. I hope next year I find at least one 5 star read but of course I can’t set that as a goal because that’s something that just happens to you.

Thank you to everyone for sticking with me in a year where I was struggling to find a way to fit book blogging into my life in a way that still works for me. I think the monthly summaries will ultimately work well for me, and I’m excited that I got caught up on 2017 in time for 2018. Looking forward to recapping my January 2018 reads for you all. If you want to see or hear from more of me in the meantime, I welcome you to follow my bookstagram.

 

 

December 2017 Reads – #chicklit

January 1, 2018 1 comment
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I didn’t read very much this month because we went on vacation to Las Vegas, Nevada. You’d think with that long of a plane ride (between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the tail wind) that I’d have completed a lot of reading but on the first flight I slept and on the second it was a redeye so I tried to sleep while listening to my audiobook. There’s no complaints from me, though, because the trip was amazing! We saw so much natural splendor – rode a Harley through Fire Valley, hiked the Red Rocks, saw the Grand Canyon and hiked below the rim (something I’ve read only 20% of visitors do). Sometimes reading takes a back burner, and that’s ok.

I did see some bookish things on the trip though. We seek out indie coffee shops when we travel, and one had the wonderfully eclectic book selection you can see above.(If you want to see some more pictures from the trip, check out my Instagram!) We also went to the National Atomic Testing Museum and saw their reading room of archives. Oh and I can’t forget that one of the Grand Canyon’s gift shops had a wonderful graphic novel version of Native American tales that I wanted but couldn’t fit in my luggage.

On to what I actually finished reading in December, both of which were chick lit.

First up was Little White Lies by Gemma Townley. Natalie Raglan quits her advertising job, breaks up with her loser boyfriend, and moves to London, taking over the lease on Cressida’s flat (another woman who she’s never met). Her life in London is much more boring than she thought and somehow she finds herself opening Cressida’s mail and taking on her life. This was ultimately readable and had a relatively appealing plot but I struggled with being able to really side with the protagonists. Natalie struck me as rather dumb (and not in a lovable way) and there was a particular plot point that bothered me. Natalie works in an upscale clothing boutique and the women who work there are not allowed to wear the clothes and don’t get a store discount. The latter I can sympathize with. The former they seemed to think of as their right, so much so that they borrow the clothes, wear them out for a night, and then pay to have them drycleaned and re-stock them on the floor. Natalie never does this but we’re clearly supposed to think that it’s silly she doesn’t. I’m not sure why it would ever be ok to be selling upscale pre-worn clothes at the expensive price of brand-new. Both of these issues together just made it hard for me to root for Natalie.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Next I picked up an Australian chick lit book that was recommended to me on GoodReads based on my large Liane Moriarty kick. Sex, Lies, and Bonsai by Lisa Walker follows Edie, the daughter of a famous surfer. When she gets dumped via text message, she moves home and takes on a job drawing crab larvae at the local university. When her father’s girlfriend’s much younger brother comes home to roost as well, things take an unexpected turn. This is another book whose plot sounded unique and wonderful but that had some issues that I couldn’t get past that actually bothered me more than those in the other read this month. First I was disappointed that the bonsai is played for laughs and isn’t a more interesting feature of the book. Basically, Edie had given a bonsai to her ex-boyfriend and so when he breaks up with her she takes it with her to her dad’s house but then proceeds to just let it die and throw it away. I actually love bonsai so this really bothered me. I do realize it wouldn’t bother most people, though. Second, both the new love interest and Edie herself are romanticized as tortured artists, a trope that bothers me. There’s nothing romantic about being depressed and you can make beautiful art without that too. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend it.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of December 2017:

  • 2 books
    • 2 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 2 female authors; 0 male authors
    • 2 ebooks; 0 print books; 0 audiobooks
Categories: Book, Review Tags: , , ,

November 2017 Reads – #chicklit, #mystery, #urbanfantasy

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment
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I picked up the pace a bit in November reading a total of 6 books, mostly chick lit but with a mystery and an urban fantasy tossed in there for good measure.

I started the month off with the end of my Liane Moriarty kick with her chick lit The Hypnotist’s Love Story. This book is about a practicing therapeutic hypnotist who meets the man of her dreams except for one thing…his ex-girlfriend is stalking him. This book did not at all go in the direction I was expecting and I’m still not sure the ending counts as a happy ever after (even though I’m pretty sure it was supposed to). If you’re looking for a different chick lit read, you should definitely pick this one up. The story is quite unique.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Next I decided to return to the Bridget Jones series so I returned to Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding (see the first in the series reviewed here). Written in the same diary style as the first and again covering a year, this looks at Bridget’s on again off again romance with Mark Darcy. Normally on again off agains irritate me, but it kind of works in this case, I think because the on again off agains don’t happen too terribly often and are more reflective of things each of them have to work on rather than entirely stupid misunderstandings. I also must say this was much better than the movie. The kind of loathed Thailand interlude comes across much better in the book and makes way more sense.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

At the same time as I was reading this I was finishing up my audiobook, the second in the Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht mystery series – Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson (see the first in the series reviewed here). This isn’t necessarily a series you need to read in order. It surrounds a police investigative team in Sweden and each book regards a different case. The investigator’s personal lives are present but just barely and aren’t the focus of the book. This entry in the series looks at the mysterious death of a pastor and his wife. The story is intertwined with the immigrant/refugee crisis in Europe. While I thought the audio narrator was again phenomenal, I couldn’t get as into this mystery as into the first one. I thought it verged a bit too far into preachy mode as opposed to just telling a story. But that said I’m sure I’ll return for the third entry in the series because the mystery telling is just so different from a lot of the American mysteries. It keeps me on my toes.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I jumped right back into another chick lit with the next book in the Bridget Jones series – Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. It is not a spoiler to tell you this as you discover it in the very first chapter: Mark Darcy dies tragically young so this book surrounds Bridget as a widow with two children. This is clearly a dichotomizing choice. Some readers are fine with it and others aren’t. I’ve never been that into Mark Darcy so I didn’t mind he was gone but I am married and I hated having the idea of losing a partner so young all unexpectedly up in my face in what was supposed to be a relaxing read. Do I think Fielding did a good job telling the story she chose to tell? Yes. Do I think widows deserve to be represented in literature and given a happy ending? Yes. Do I wish I’d known this in advance before picking it up? Absolutely.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I changed pace a bit next by picking up the next book in the Demon Slayer urban fantasy series I adore – Night of the Living Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (see the first in the series reviewed here). Lizzie gets called to go undercover in New Orleans to stop the rise of an evil voodoo church (not to be confused with good voodoo). This was a great entry in the series that delivered exactly what I’ve come to expect. Entertaining and unexpected action sequences, real peril, unique bad guys, and a strong monogamous relationship at the center of it all.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Finally I read the contemporary chick lit Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen. Julia and Michael fought hard to get out of their hardscrabble West Virginia life and now are millionaires living in D.C. But when Michael survives an unexpected heart attack his priorities start to change. Can their marriage survive his change of heart? I was expecting something very different from this book about priorities and marriage and what really matters in life. What I got was….much more fantastical than I had imagined. I could have handled that if it had just taken the final leap into truly over the top but it toed the edge so much that it landed in ho-hum.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of November 2017:

  • 6 books
    • 6 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 6 female authors; 0 male authors
    • 5 ebooks; 0 print books; 1 audiobook

 

October 2017 Reads – In Which I Read Only Books by Liane Moriarty

December 30, 2017 4 comments
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You’ll notice I ended September with a chick lit book by the Australian author Liane Moriarty. Well that started a singular focused reading kick the likes of which I haven’t been on since the Sookie Stackhouse books in the early 2010s. I read every single Liane Moriarty book I could get my hands on. There’s just something about them where even if I ultimately wasn’t a huge fan of everything about the book the experience of reading it was precisely the stress relief I needed. They all are set in Australia. They all do a remarkable job of looking at an aspect of women’s lives but in a jazzed up way that makes it more fun. They just work.

First I read Truly Madly Guilty about a backyard barbecue gone wrong. I thought it was going to be something entirely different from what it was, and what it wound up being was just something that worked so much better than I thought. It’s about marriage and forgiveness and accepting that others make mistakes and not judging people based on appearances, but it’s all of that without being preachy. It also features a subplot about a character’s relative who hoards that was really well-handled.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Next up was Big Little Lies which has an award-winning miniseries based on it. I haven’t seen the miniseries. I can’t bring myself to watch it since it’s not set in Australia (and the Australian setting really makes these books for me). This one at first glance is about in-fighting among the moms whose kids all go to the same school but it ends up being about so much more. I really liked this one because at first you might think it’s one of those books stereotyping women to be catty but in fact it goes much deeper and shows how society can pit women against each other but we’re much stronger when we’re together…and we’re kind of inclined to be that way anyway.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

Finally I read The Husband’s Secret. My own husband kept glancing over while I was reading it asking if the husband’s secret was making me freak out yet, haha. Yes, this book revolves around a secret and no, it’s not what you might think when hearing of a book with that title. I really like that this book looks at how well can you really know someone and considers the question of can one moment really determine who you are.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

My total for the month of October 2017:

  • 3 books
    • 3 fiction; 0 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors (but all the same one); 0 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 0 print book; 0 audiobooks

September 2017 Reads – #fantasy, #nonfiction, #chicklit

December 29, 2017 4 comments
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The end of September was our second wedding anniversary, and I feel like you can see my romantic mood reflected in the last two books of the month. I started out the month, though, with a fantasy and a nonfiction.

The fantasy was Kushiel’s Chosen Jacqueline Carey, the sequel to Kushiel’s Dart that I read in May. In this entry the main character is now a noblewoman instead of a bondservant but she still ends up sucked into the schemings and plottings of the those who would change the course of nations. While I overall enjoyed this entry in the series I felt that the length and action weren’t as well-balanced as in the first book. There was too little plot for the sheer length of the book.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I’ve always been interested in learning more about how to manage money so I picked up a copy of the nonfiction Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. This book seeks to compare and contrast the advice given by a rich mentor and a poor mentor and take the best of each world. While the initial concept is good what is lacking in the book is an ability to understand others and other life situations. There’s not one way that will work for everyone but the book presents the idea that everyone can achieve wealth in exactly the same way. And in all honesty the way presented, while it has some good ideas (such as to ensure you’re investing in assets rather than liabilities) it also relies a lot on other people not managing their money well (for instance in the case of being a lender to someone else or owning property and renting it out to others). While I’m not saying how the author achieved his money is wrong per se I will say that it’s not a way I personally would be comfortable running my own affairs from an ethical perspective. I would also say the book doesn’t necessarily age well. It reflects an ideal property investment market which we do not have currently. I did take away a few good tips from it though, such as the understanding what’s really an asset and what’s a liability tip mentioned before, so it wasn’t a total loss of time to read.
(2 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Next I decided it was high time I read the book one of my favorite chick lit movies is based on–Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. The basic plot of this is a 30-something in London keeps a diary for a year documenting both her attempts at self-improvement and her romantic exploits. I found Mark Darcy to be far more likable in the book than in the movie, and I understood Bridget’s attraction to him better. (In fact, reading the book version of him made me like him better in the movie version too. I was able to see the subtleties going on in the acting I’d missed before). I thought the plot with Bridget’s mother was much more well thought-out and a situation that made me have more empathy for Bridget than in the movie. I also liked how it’s very clear in the book that Bridget is obsessed with her weight but is actually a healthy weight and her friends will actually say something to her when she gets too thin. There was just something touching about her neuroticness in the book. As I said in my short initial review on GoodReads: v. good.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: purchased)

I rounded out the month with the Liane Moriarty chick lit from Australia – What Alice Forgot. Interestingly, this made it onto my wishlist long before the Big Little Lies miniseries hullabaloo. I just thought the plot sounded interesting. I didn’t even realize it was the same author until I had to wait in line for the book at the library. I decided to stick with starting with the book I was initially interested in, and I’m glad I did. It was such a hoot. Alice is 29, married/madly in love and pregnant with her first child. Then she wakes up and discovers she’s 39 and in the middle of a divorce. (Of course she has amnesia, she hasn’t actually time-traveled). What happened to make her marriage fall apart? It’s a giant mystery for her to solve. I really enjoyed this book. If you’re someone who really believes in marriage then the mystery of what happened to Alice’s really sucks you in. There’s also quite a bit in there about how you change over the course of your 30s and which of these changes are good or bad. I will say the ending was a bit meh to me. It felt kind of rushed and epiloguey and I’m just not sure how I feel about it in the long-run. It didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the experience of the read, though.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of September 2017:

  • 4 books
    • 3 fiction; 1 nonfiction
    • 3 female authors; 1 male author
    • 3 ebooks; 1 print book; 0 audiobooks

August 2017 Reads – #nonfiction, #scifi, #thriller

December 28, 2017 2 comments
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August saw me picking back up some nonfiction (yay!) as well as a thriller and a scifi.

The first nonfiction actually wasn’t on purpose. I logged onto my library’s website and they have a collection of “rarely available” which basically means there’s currently a copy available which is unusual because this book is usually checked out. I checked out the nonfiction Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for amusement but guys…it actually has affected my life. I think of myself as being a pretty organized person but something about her method helped me take it to the next level. I reviewed this read in haiku format here.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Next I saw a book had come out by one an author I like – John Twelve Hawks. It’s the scifi Spark. This follows the agent in a secret special services section of a multinational corporation who also just so happens to have Cotard’s Syndrome – he believes he is dead. The themes are similar to those of author of Twelve Hawks’s works (beware of The Man, no matter who is currently in control) but the focus is on one main character instead of many/the whole world.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

Throughout the month I read a thriller in audiobook format called Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon. This book follows twin sisters who haven’t spoken in years. One lives as a shut-in and the other has been kicked out by her husband and denied access to her young daughter. My enjoyment of this book was hurt by the audio recording. The two sisters were read by two different performers and while one was excellent the other was very stale and boring to listen to. It kept me from getting too wrapped up in the story. That said, I thought the thriller had some unnecessary red herrings, took a bit too long to get where it was going, and I honestly thought the ending was too kind to a particular villain.
(3 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: Audible)

I finished up the month with In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. In this work, Dr. Mate examines addiction in the context of his longtime work with the addicts living in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. The perspective of someone working so closely with victims of addiction is an important one to have. Dr. Mate sees the realities day in and day out. He’s also honest about how sometimes he is able to feel compassion and how other times he gets frustrated. Woven in with his recollections of particular patients are discussions of the science of addiction and Dr. Mate’s own take on it. I did feel that Dr. Mate sometimes got a bit too wrapped up in himself. I found his attempts to compare his music cd buying issues with drug and alcohol addiction to be a bit ill-tasting in my mouth and revisited too often. I also felt it muddied the waters of the people whose stories he was telling and the science he was presenting. The academic in me also wondered how he went about getting permission to include certain people in the book (for instance, those who have passed away). However, regardless this was an important read for anyone interested in the current addiction crisis.
(4 out of 5 stars, buy it)
(source: library)

My total for the month of August 2017:

  • 5 books
    • 2 fiction; 2 nonfiction
    • 2 female authors; 2 male authors
    • 3 ebooks; 0 print books; 1 audiobook