Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Book Reviews - the May Edition

Last month I only had 3 books to review, but I made up for it this month. I read 5 books! Once again there was a nice mixed bag of just ok and fabulous.

1. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle. ★★★★★ There is a voice of longing inside every woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good mothers, daughters, partners, employees, citizens, and friends. We believe all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives, relationships, and world, and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful. We hide our simmering discontent—even from ourselves. Until we reach our boiling point.

Four years ago, Glennon Doyle—bestselling Oprah-endorsed author, renowned activist and humanitarian, wife and mother of three—was speaking at a conference when a woman (Abby Wambach) entered the room. Glennon looked at her and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. … Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both a memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It offers a piercing, electrifying examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth; shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost; and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world’s expectations of us, we become women who can finally look at ourselves and recognize: There She Is.

The Bug Says: Oh man is this a GOOD book! Each chapter is a little kick to the gut (in a good way). Some are vignettes from her life and others are discussions with us about how to become true to ourselves. I highly recommend it.

2. The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. ★★★ Alaska, 1974. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival. Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

The Bug Says: I loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, so I was excited to read this book. But oh my goodness – it was like she thought of every possible stereotypical thing that could happened to a family & just threw it all together to see what would happen. Every chapter contained something that would have been the denouement in any other book, and yet this one just kept going. The ending was somewhat satisfactory (in an ABC Afterschool Special kind of way).

3. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. ★★★★ IN THE YEAR 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

The Bug Says: This was a lot of fun to “read” (I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Wesley Crusher Wil Wheaton). There was a LOT of 80s trivia. And there was a very satisfactory rebellion against a corporate giant. Apparently a movie was made (the book came out in 2011) – I haven’t looked to see if it’s any good, but I might have to check it out.

4. The Deep, by Alma Katsu. ★★★ Someone, or something, is haunting the ship. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the Titanic from the moment they set sail. While some of the guests and crew shrug off strange occurrences, several--including maid Annie Hebbley, guest Mark Fletcher, and millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim--are convinced there's something more sinister going on. And then disaster strikes.

Years later, Annie, having survived that fateful night, has attempted to put her life back together by going to work as a nurse on the sixth sailing of the Britannic, newly refitted as a hospital ship to support British forces fighting World War I. When she happens across an unconscious Mark, now a soldier, she is at first thrilled and relieved to learn that he too survived the tragic night four years earlier. But soon his presence awakens deep-buried feelings and secrets, forcing her to reckon with the demons of her past--as they both discover that the terror may not yet be over.

Featuring an ensemble cast of characters and effortlessly combining the supernatural with the height of historical disaster, The Deep is an exploration of love and destiny, desire and innocence, and, above all, a quest to understand how our choices can lead us inexorably toward our doom. 

The Bug Says: This was a very interesting twist on the Titanic story, and I really enjoyed all the name dropping of famous passengers (I kept looking them up to see if they survived). But for some reason it just fell flat for me. This is a case where I actually think this would work better as a movie.

5. Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (Agatha Raisin #3), by M.C. Beaton. ★★★★ Agatha Raisin has a crush on James Lacey. In order to endear herself to him, she takes up gardening, hoping to participate with him in the prestigious Carsely Horticultural Contest. But as the contest approaches, plants are being mysteriously uprooted, poisoned, and burned. When the prime suspect turns up dead, Agatha must solve the murder mystery.

The Bug Says: I loved the first book in this series, but the second book was meh. This one was a lot better than the second one – mostly because despite that first sentence in the description, Agatha spent most of the book not having a crush on James Lacey. (I was heartily sick of her crush in the second book.) This is lighthearted English murder mystery fun.

Just today I finished a Jen Hatmaker book (5 stars), started a Nora Roberts novel, and am in the middle of a British murder mystery (the 13th in a series). Also, on my list to read: Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation, by LaTasha Morrison, and How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. What are you reading?


  1. not seeing anything I'll try but I am reading The Starless Sea from your last list.

  2. Ready Player One was an entertaining movie, especially if you enjoy gaming. I hope you'll watch it. It'll take you outside yourself for a much needed respite from all the dark dramas surrounding us these days. The acting's decent too.

    I watched when it was first released. Perhaps I should watch again but have been caught up in the Mr. Whicher series. The stories are often painful and uncomfortable but I do enjoy British mysteries. The cinematography, casting and settings make the stories come to life. I understand why so many people in the old stories fell down narrow flights of stairs, how the Mrs. Rochesters can scare the devil out of unsuspecting governesses--the old England was dark with only candles and fireplaces to light the way; I get why there was such dread and fear of fires, how crimes made the headlines . . . Poverty tinted the everyday lives of ordinary people. The lines that divided the haves and have-nots were as strong then as they are now. No, they were stronger. Mr. Whicher stories keep you riveted because you don't want to miss a clue! Oops. Ready Player One? LOL.

  3. I read "Ready Player One" too and liked it a lot. It's very popular with kids, which is interesting to me because they're WAY too young to have first-hand experience with '80s culture!

  4. I really liked The Nightingale, too. I've read several of Kristin Hannah's books, but they were not nearly as good as The Nightingale. I really like it when bloggers do book reviews. Thx.

  5. I am just at the end of the audiobook 'Mythos' by Stephen Fry. I have never got to grips with Greek myths but this is working for me. It helps that I can listen to it everywhere... bath, bed, kitchen...

  6. My wife has read some of the Agatha Raisin book's and got me watching the show on television. The show is fun and lighthearted, but still a mystery. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

    The Deep really sounds like a book I could enjoy. I've been reading novels pretty much along those lines recently.

  7. I'm reading the Harry Dresden books (by Jim Butcher) and trying to keep in order. I've read some of the Agatha Raisin books - the character get a bit tiresome after a while, I think.


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