This book was a Christmas present and I have to say it is my favorite book I’ve read this year. While it started out slow, I’m not exactly sure why I thought it was slow because there was a home invasion but I wasn’t really feeling it. But then I got to Lo’s time on the boat and wow I could not put it down!
Maybe it’s my unhealthy obsession with the Titanic and tragedies at sea (a story for another time) but I was hook line and sinker for this book. I would describe this book as a psycho-thriller, I was on edge the whole time and just as I thought I figured it out, there was a plot twist to hide the truth yet again.
I will say I had some serious Shutter Island vibes going on here. But I was completely wrong, there’s so much going on here and that’s the least of Lo’s worries.
If you’re looking for something to keep you on the edge of your seat that isn’t scary (I’m not good with horror movies) this is it!
Welcome to What I’m Reading Valentine’s Day edition! You might be thinking “The book was called Autumn but it’s February” and well get to that!
Over break I went into Boston and while I was on Newbury Street I stopped by Trident Books. It’s right next to Pure Barre and I don’t know how I never stopped there before!
They have this cute bookshelf at the front of the store called Blind Date with a Book! Ta-da! So I’m writing today to tell you all about my blind date. How this works is that all of the books on this shelf are covered in paper bags and have pictures drawn on them so you have no idea what’s underneath.
The shelf was filled with so many books and I was so torn on what to pick until I saw this:
I took the commuter rail in to the city and on the way home I finished the book I was reading at the time and so I was left with a decision: open the book now and risk tearing the paper or wait until I could show my mom (she’s also a huge fan of Trident Books). Still having 30 minutes left on the train I opened the book. Very. Carefully.
The cover was absolutely stunning. I fell in love with the book almost immediately.
So now onto the real deal…
Autumn by Ali Smith is the first in a series of 4 seasonal novels. Summer has not been released yet which is fitting as it seems summer is years away at this point.
At first glance, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Smith’s writing can be overwhelming until you get used to it. She alternates between the story and another narrative that took me awhile to pick up but I’m so glad I did.
If you like linear plots, this is one you should put aside (unless you want to challenge yourself and expand your bookshelf of course). Smith switches between past, present, and everything in between. This book covered everything from intergenerational friendships, a pop-artist, feminism, and Brexit.
The wise people of Goodreads have put my feelings into words and I will share that with you know: I’m not exactly sure what I’ve read. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed what I read, I’m just not exactly sure I picked up on all of the references she included. I think Smith is a brilliant writer and I will definitely be picking up the other two, and eventually a third, but I don’t think there’s anyway I could have possibly picked up all of the things Smith addressed.
While I was able to understand the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Gluck, and I fell in love with it, the Pauline Body part was just too much for me. If there had been less Body I think I would have enjoyed it more but it tied together Elisabeth’s childhood to finding her thesis. It’s just that it kept going on and on and on.
That being said, I am very excited to pick up the next few books in her series. Something I find extremely interesting about this series is that it’s called a “series quartet” in that they’re stand-alone books that relate to each other as seasons do.
The first book I finished in 2019 was Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach and I have to say it was slightly disappointing. I was so excited to read this one as I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from cadavers in my anatomy lab and it didn’t live up to my expectations. This was the non-fiction book I selected for my book club and luckily they picked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine instead, I may not have been allowed to choose another book.
Before I get into the book itself, I’ll explain what I was looking for. Retrospectively, my expectations are kind of unrealistic. I was looking for the backstory to Gail, Ruth, Richard, or Robert- the cadavers we see in class. I wanted a book that gave me the backstory of how a librarian becomes a cadaver. The story of how the charter boat captain with PAD found his way into my anatomy lab. I wanted the biography of someone who I don’t even know their real name (we only use first names to protect their identity). I wanted to learn how they were embalmed, wound up at the medical school and then transported to my school. Although I have asked my anatomy professor and she said the two bodies that are new this semester were dropped off while we were all in class his summer! So you see, my expectations were slightly unrealistic and now I’ll get into the actual book.
There were parts that really intrigued me but there were parts that I wanted to skip over completely.
Here are the topics that fascinated me:
The first chapter started out really strong: the use of cadavers so that surgeons can practice their skills. I found this section particularly interesting because it surrounded plastic surgery and using cadaver heads. This was particularly interesting to me because we cover the head all year. I love anatomy lab but I think I would feel very differently if we dissected this part.
Later in the book it talked about crucifixion experiments. I found this chapter intriguing because it talked about the physics and physiology of crucifixion. There have been multiple people that have studied the nail placement and this chapter was a quick look into the research that has been done using cadaver arms as well as the living.
The topics that were interesting but went on for too long:
The use of cadavers as crash test dummies. The Test Track dummies you find in Epcot are used along with cadavers to make sure your car has a high vehicle safety rating. I’m not even going to hide the fact that Test Track is the reason I was interested in this section at all. I imagined all of the impact testing that use to be featured in the queue line and replaced the dummies with cadavers.
This is another one that had never crossed my mind: using cadavers to analyze a crash site. The bodies at the site of a wreck can give you as much information as the black box can. The most interesting thing from this section in my opinion: bodies found in the water.
The topics that I really could have lived without:
Army tests in cadavers. Don’t get me wrong I think this is very important research that needs to be done but even though I read this chapter yesterday I couldn’t tell you too much about it. This is another thing I didn’t even know you could use cadavers for and although it’s an interesting concept I didn’t retain anything.
Cannibalism for wellness. I don’t even think I need to expand on this one.
So if you’re looking for the story of Gail, Ruth, Richard, or Robert… this isn’t the book for you. There are still six topics left to be discovered in this book and I suggest you go for the topics that interest you. I personally felt that this book took me forever to get through and I would have enjoyed it more if I read the parts that intrigued me and skipped over the extra ten pages on crash test dummies.
While this wasn’t one of my favorite reads I am glad I read it as it expanded my view of cadavers. Going into this read my only knowledge of them was being wheeled out of a freezer and peeling the skin back to pin muscles but now I can appreciate more areas of science that I didn’t know existed.
A question you may be asking is will I do it? This is a question that Roach answered in her book and I thought it would be fitting to share my point of view. Nope. Probably not. Once you donate your body to science there are a number of places you could end up. While I’ve benefitted from dissection in anatomy lab and plasticized brain tissues in my neuro lab, I wouldn’t want the Mark Sloan’s of the world practicing their Botox skills on me. And I’ve learned from this book that while I could mark off certain things I wouldn’t want to end up doing there’s no guarantee some future PT would learn about the origins and insertions of all the muscles from me and that’s the thing I would want the most. But sign me up for organ donation… in fact I just donated blood today!
Happy reading! Let me know what’s on your to be read shelf in the comments!
This January I’m participating in two fun challenges! The first is the Winter Warrior Challenge. This means that every day in the month of January I’m walking/jogging/running/hopping at least 3 miles! I’ve done this for the past three years but I’ve only done 1 mile a day. This year I have my eyes on the prize with three, although there are some people out there doing five!
The other challenge I set for myself is on Goodreads, I’ll be reading 30 books this year! I set the goal of 13 books last year and I ended up reading 15! Between incorporating reading into my everyday routine and not being in school this summer I can’t wait to achieve this goal!
So how’s it going? Four days into the New Year and I’m still in the newlywed phase. Starting the walking challenge was a little difficult and I was lacking all motivation but now that I’ve started I want to see it through. As for my reading challenge: I’ve already finished one. I’ve even found a way to tie these two things together: by walking the 2 miles to the library to pick up new books.
I know there’s a lot of stigma about creating resolutions but I personally feel like if you’re really making a resolution to better yourself and it’s something you’re passionate about, keep going! Don’t let the jokes about how full the gym is this week deter you, you deserve that elliptical as much as anyone else.
What goals and challenges have you set up for yourself this year? Let me know in the comments!
I had The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society in my To Be Read pile for quite some time now and I wish I had picked it up sooner!
Historical fiction is my favorite genre and one of my favorite time periods to read about is is WWII. You can see there were pretty high expectations to live up to and this book knocked it out of the park! I fell in love with each of the characters and I can say that now Guernsey is on my travel bucket list.
Just to give you a little background information: Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands. It is not part of the U.K., although they are a British Crown dependency. Guernsey was occupied by the German army from 1940 to 1945. The Germans landed there and thought they would sweep through the U.K. only to realize it would not be that simple. The army continued to inhabit Guernsey until the end of the war.
This novel by Shaffer and Barrows follows the life of a writer, Juliet, who published a series of short stories about life during WWII. She is asked to continue writing her Izzy Bickerstaff books but Juliet wants to venture out and create something new. A resident of Guernsey stumbles upon Juliet’s name in a book and suddenly she is pulled into the life of a literary society in the midst of the German occupation.
One of my favorite things about this book was that it takes the form of a series of letters. It’s a narrative you don’t see often and it was a nice change from the usual.
Another thing that I loved about this book was all of the characters. Falling in love with Juliet and all of the residents of Guernsey was so easy and I could have kept reading about them forever.
It does have a movie adaptation on Netflix but I haven’t dared to watch it, the book was that good! If you’ve watched the movie, let me know if you think I should give it a try!
Let me know what you think of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and be sure to leave any book recommendations in the comments!
I discovered The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle from @between2covers_ on Instagram. I’ve discovered so many bookstagrams recently and I’ve made a bad habit out of adding these snaps to my saved list… it’s only bad because my reading list had at least quadrupled.
I’ll admit what drew me to this book was Audrey Hepburn on the cover but I was reeled in after learning more about it. The Dinner List is about Sabrina who gets to live out the age old icebreaker question of having 5 people, living or dead, with her for dinner.
The main character, Sabrina, chose four people she knew and Audrey Hepburn to join her for dinner in an old school assignment. Little did she know, that school assignment would come to life on her birthday years later. The book alternates between the present, the dinner party, and the past, her life surrounding her boyfriend Tobias. I really enjoyed the premise of the book and I loved that the chapters alternated between “reality” and Sabrina’s past because you got to understand the way her mind worked better. But, about halfway through the book I was over it. I was left feeling like Sabrina’s friend Jessica and I was ready to kick Tobias out of the party myself. To me it felt like Sabrina was so infatuated with the idea of him rather than in love with him.
I have to say, although I was over it halfway through, I would have to recommend this to anyone looking for something to read because isn’t that what a book is meant to do? To make you feel something? Serle did such a great job creating unique and frustratingly-wonderful characters that I was moved and truly felt like I was the seventh person at this birthday dinner.
I was so immersed in this book, if I hadn’t read it in the middle of my semester I would have finished it in a day. It may be practically winter but this would make the perfect beach read!
I almost didn’t pick up The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne. I went in to the library to get Monday Mornings for my class but this caught my eye when I was walking to the desk to check out. They had a whole display on the importance of having a library card and naturally I was drawn to it. My mom used to think I would be a librarian when I grew up, I am one step closer to that because I am working on creating a Little Free Library on campus but that’s a story for another time.
So I saw the cover and was intrigued and this book certainly did not disappoint. It combined so many things I was interested in into one book and I loved everything about it.
Josh artfully strings together his struggle with his faith, Tourette’s, and how exercise helped him to regain control of his life. Before reading this book I never really had learned anything about Tourette’s. I knew that it often caused people to have tics, but that was pretty much the extent of it. I had never thought about the social and psychological implications Tourette’s had on a person’s life.
My personal favorite part of this book was the end. While having to write a 3-5 minute talk on what implicit bias was for a school presentation, Hanagarne was describing the variety of people who came into the library and he summed up implicit bias without even saying the term,
” ‘That Arab _____ over there is trying to steal someone’s wallet, but I grabbed it from him!’ The “Arab” was a refugee from Ethiopia who was there to attend a job-search class with the International Rescue Committee. He was done using the computer and had picked up his own wallet, which he had set on the desk while he worked.”
There are a ton of lessons to be learned from reading and reading this book can teach you a lot. Hanagarne stressed throughout the book the importance of asking questions and this book will answer questions you didn’t even realize you had.
Happy Banned Books Week! This week I wanted to give you a rundown of my favorite “most challenged” books! Each of these books appears on the list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books. If you wanted to learn a little bit more about each book open up the PDF version of this post and I have linked the GoodReads Page to each cover art option.
I feel like I have been turning into a bookstagram lately but I promise there is a style post coming your way this weekend! I am still working on a post of my Disney trip which will also be up by Columbus Day weekend!
Here are my honorable mentions for other banned books I have read:
Happy What I’m Reading Wednesday! My newest read was Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I picked this one up on the Vineyard when I got Hope Never Dies a few weeks ago. I saw this on the shelf and knew I needed it. I really wanted to see the movie once I saw the commercials with Ken Jeong in them!
I absolutely adored this book! It brought me back to middle school when I was reading the Clique books but on a whole new level! Massie Block’s chauffeur has nothing on the Young family’s Gurkhas, lady’s maids, and private jets. The characters in this book really are crazy rich and it transports you into a whole new world. It also feels slightly Gatsby-esque being centered around the biggest wedding of the century- sorry Will & Kate and Harry & Meghan!
This book follows Rachel Chu (not of the Taiwanese Chus) to Singapore where she meets her boyfriend, Nick Young’s family. While they’ve been dating for awhile, Rachel does not know too much about Nick’s family. She’s in for quite the shock when she finds out just how crazy rich the Youngs are. Rachel then navigates how she can fit into this world that seems a lot farther away than NYC.
My favorite part of this book was towards the end, it seems like the story is wrapping up but Kwan throws in a few more plot twists before he ends it. With the way the story ended I cannot wait to get started on China Rich Girlfriend.
Just a warning, at first the book can be a little much. You are introduced to a whirlwind of characters and there are several narrators. Personally I think that just adds to the story, it truly feels like you are Rachel, being thrown into this complicated family. You learn more about the inner workings of the clan by being able to learn about Nick Your and his many cousins, aunts, and childhood friends.
The Young’s world is very intriguing and I promise if you pick this book up you won’t want to put it down!
The Last Lecture is a book Professor Randy Pausch wrote to go along with the lecture he gave at Carnegie Mellon. In fact, that’s how I came across this book. One of my assignment’s for my Healthcare Language class was to watch this excerpt Pausch gave on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
After watching the video and learning he was a former Disney Imagineer with a motivational message I texted my mom telling her how interesting it was. A few days later I got an email from the post office at school and when I went to pick up my package my mom had sent me a copy of his book! I started reading it during the school year but set it aside because finals got the best of me.
I was happy to pick up The Last Lecture as soon as school was over and the rest of the book did not disappoint. Pausch shares his wisdom through stories of his experiences throughout his life.
While I won’t tell you every piece of advice he gives readers one of my favorites was: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted” (chapter 39).
If you enjoyed Tuesdays with Morrie you will definitely enjoy The Last Lecture. So what are you waiting for, go pick it up and let me know what you think!