Reading Sara on Gratitude (and a book recommendation!)

I know it has been awhile, readers. I have been reading quite a bit – perhaps so much so that I have not had as much time to write about what I am reading. In the coming weeks look forward to reviews on Everything Brave is Forgiven, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, The Mothers, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko and The Wonder (see?! Lots of reading!)

With the passing of Thanksgiving, I have felt myself thinking a lot about gratitude and how lucky I am to be where I am today in this life. I am healthy, have an incredible circle of family and friends, I enjoy what I do for a living, and I am able to read frequently. Terrible things happen every day. Many people are living in fear right now here in the United States after the Presidential election. I am reminded how lucky I am. I have a warm home, a comfortable bed, and many blessing to count. There is a lot wrong with our world, and I want to work every day to protect those causes that I care most about. But right now, at this time of Thanksgiving and as we near the holiday season, I am simply grateful.

An excellent book to read if you are feeling grateful, or perhaps, ungrateful and need a dose of happiness is Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life. It is short, I promise. But it is full of beautiful musings written with the empathy and compassion that Quindlen possesses so naturally.

Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (October 31, 2000)

No official rating on this one because it is so short, but I highly recommend it. After reading it, pass it along to a friend or make it a holiday gift. Here are some favorite bits of wisdom that I took away from it:

“I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.”

“All of us want to do well. But if we do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.”

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”

“But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at your desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.”

 

 

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Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh

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Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Berkley (May 3, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10

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Reading Sara Review: For me, a good crime/mystery book can be rated on whether or not it is predictable. I Let You Go gets a good rating because it was full of twists and surprises. I picked this one up because every once in a while I like a mystery. The Woman in Cabin 10 fed that need for awhile, but with the Halloween season upon us, I thought this would be a good one too. If you didn’t see it, I had a special Halloween post for recommendations on some good mysteries!

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray who moves to a remote coastal town to escape after a tragic accident. As she starts to rebuild her life, the secrets of her past come to haunt her. On the other side is Ray and Kate, the detectives trying to uncover the mystery of driver who killed a young boy. It is a story of two sides: people trying to escape the horror of that day and people trying to bring closure to the tragedy.

This book isn’t what you expect. It took it awhile to get to the first (of many) surprises. But when it did, I was completely shocked. The following surprises are not quite as dramatic, but they do unravel an interesting story and a great mystery. I found myself sympathizing with characters that I did not think I could, and terrified of others. Any writer who can make the reader feel strong emotions about the characters should definitely keep writing.

Mackintosh spent 12 years in the police force, so this book feels more realistic than other mysteries that I have read. While the story is fiction, she draws on some of the cases that she experienced.

Wine Recommendation: Read this one on a cold weekend and pour yourself a glass of strong red wine. It’s the perfect fall mystery. I recommend a Cabernet Franc, which you can get at pretty much any price range. There are some really great ones that come out of California, but as usual, I like the Loire Valley blends the best. They are fruity, but with a little kick – which makes it a great transition wine into fall. Look for a Loire Valley one from the Chinon region that is about 5-10 years old, that will make it smoky and drinkable immediately. Tell me when you find one that you love!

Special Edition: Book of the Month Club

Reading Sara Recommends: Book of the Month Club!

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I believe I have mentioned in previous posts that I am not in a book club right now. I love them and have had incredible groups over the years. My favorite part of them is the recommendation of books that I would not have otherwise read or even picked up. I get most of my book recommendations from friends, other blogs that I trust, review lists and on Goodreads. There are a few reasons why now is not a very good time in my life for a book club, but I did feel like I was missing the exposure to other books. Though I love my readers on here and feel that we have a virtual book club,  I still felt like something was missing…

Then I heard about Book of the Month Club! Book of the Month Club has curated books each month, about 5 to choose from, that are recommended by other authors, actors, or influencers. There are various plan levels for how far in advance you feel like committing, but they are all reasonable and less expensive than buying the hardback yourself.

I haven’t been tempted to skip a month yet because I am always interested in multiple books, but that is an option (especially if you are behind in reading!). The picture above is an example of some of the great books I have already received – reviews coming soon for the ones you haven’t seen yet!! And should you want two of the recommended books, you can do that too, just by paying a little extra, again, cheaper than on Amazon or most bookstores.

The best part is the actual books, but the second best part for me is that each time the package arrives it feels like a present! There are usually fun little surprises in each box like sunglasses, toothpicks, or a fun straw. And you always get a bookmark (thank goodness, because I hate using random envelopes that are lying around the house).

Book of the Month Club doesn’t replace the joy of your local bookstore at all. Browsing the titles, seeing what they recommend, and supporting local can and should still happen. I view this as more of a supplement to that. I am also an avid Kindle reader myself, and it has been fun to mix it up with “real” books. Though seriously, I forgot how heavy they are when I’m reading at night!

Want to try it for yourself? Visit the website here to learn more and get your next great book delivered right to your door!

Yes, if you click on the link above I get a little perk, so feel free to use or not use! But you get 30% off, and your first book is free…so why not use my link? 

Reading Sara Review: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

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Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (August 2, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10

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Reading Sara Review: To begin, I was not alive during the kidnapping, crimes and later trial of Patty Hearst. I have heard about it in passing, but this was my first true foray into the madness, the mystery and the drama that unfolded during that time. With that being said, I enjoyed this book; I thought Toobin did an excellent job of staying neutral and relaying facts while also keeping the book interesting. It may be more interesting to someone who remembers it happening, though. While not a long book, it took me awhile to get through it. I took a few breaks and read some other things – but I did come back to it each time because Patty Hearst is an interesting character study.

For those like me that are less familiar with Patty Hearst, here is a quick breakdown. Hearst was an heiress to a publishing fortune, though always struggled to fit in with that society growing up. While attending Berkley as a sophomore in 1974, she was kidnapped by a group of revolutionaries, who called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Because of the high-profile kidnapping, it was a big story at the time. It got more complicated when a few months later a tape was released of Patty saying that she had joined her kidnappers, the SLA.

There were many characters to keep track of, made more confusing by their nicknames. I wished Toobin would have stayed consistent with which he used. Many of them were extremely central to the narrative, but I kept forgetting who they were – what their background was. Sometimes Toobin would gently remind the reader, but it felt too late, I wasn’t emotionally connected to any of them. Except, certainly, Patty Hearst.

Hearst did not agree to work with Toobin on this book, so we still do not know what happened in Patty Hearst’s brain during those years. What was made clear was that she benefited greatly from her family’s money, her fame, and being a pretty white woman. This does not condemn her – there is other evidence that does that (in my opinion), but it does remind us about the unfairness of the justice system.

It is especially interesting to me how the people involved with the SLA quite literally grew up, moved on, created careers and had families – and for those still alive today, want to be left alone to move on with their lives (Hearst included). Just because they were young, does that mean that they shouldn’t pay for their crimes? Or does this prove that people can change, and perhaps sending people to prison is not always the right way to rehabilitate people? I don’t know all of the answers, but Toobin did an excellent job of keeping me interested in Patty Hearst and her kidnappers.

 

Reading Sara Halloween aka Spooky Recommendations!

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Because it is Halloween, and because it is fun, I thought I would add a special Halloween Post recommending some spooky books to keep you in the spirit of the season!

Note: This post comes from someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy being scared, so my list is pretty tame compared to people who read actual scary books. These are more likely considered mysteries, thrillers, or crime novels than horror. Some still may keep you up at night, though!

  1. The Shining, by Stephen King. Duh. If you haven’t ever read it, it’s a good place to start.
  2. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware. I describe this one as being Agatha Christie-esque. You will keep turning the pages to figure out who to trust and who is murdering people.
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. If you didn’t jump on this bandwagon ages ago, you really should.
  4. The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz. The Passenger is a quick book that is creative and left me guessing until the end. It is a page turner but is not scary or nightmare-inducing. Instead, it is simply interesting.
  5. I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh. The review is coming soon because this is what I picked up to get into the spirit this weekend. You won’t want to put it down, and you’ll be reminded that every once in a while a book like this is a perfect read! It was a little slow to start, and I wasn’t sure where the mystery would come in – but it does, and its surprising and heartbreaking all at once.

 

What are your favorites? Again, I scare easily and don’t do blood/gore – but love a good mystery!

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