Book Reviews: September 2015

Here’s something a little different that requires a bit of explaining. See, I’ve been trying to keep my book review posts on a monthly basis, but sometimes it’s difficult – my book review is accompanied by an outfit, and it’s not always easy to find a book that lends itself well to a sartorial interpretation. Besides, I usually read more than one book a month, and I want to talk about them as well.

Then I got an email from a long-time reader, Mike, suggesting the idea of an informal book club where we can all share what we’ve read. I think it’s a great idea – I’m always on the lookout for new books. So I decided that on the last Wednesday of every month, I will post about the books that I’ve read and you guys can discuss what you’ve read as well. Then, on the next Wednesday, I will post my outfit as inspired by one of the books that I’ve read, as usual (this is the same format that Gracey of Fashion for Giants uses for her Literary Styling link-up.) I’m just going to try it out to see how it goes.

So, without further ado, here are the books that I read this month:


Nemesis by Jo Nesbø:

This I had to read for work (I was editing the Vietnamese translation). It’s a very standard hardboiled detective story centering around Harry Hole, an alcoholic police inspector in Oslo, so it’s not my kind of book at all, but it’s pretty good if you like crime thrillers. This one (it’s #4 in a series) focuses on Harry as he tries to solve a series of bank robberies while also proving his innocence in the death of an ex-girlfriend. Even though I have no desire to read the other books in the series, I’d still say it’s entertaining. I just wish it wasn’t so… typical. 3/5

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins:

Yes, another crime thriller. Everybody and their mother have read this, so I was curious to see what the fuss is all about (the Harry Hole book must’ve influenced me.) It revolves around Rachel, a divorcee who takes the same commuter train every day and fantasizes about the seemingly perfect life of a couple she sees from a signal stop, until one day the woman goes missing and Rachel finds herself entangled in the case in more ways than she can imagine. It’s being hailed as the next Gone Girl, and I can definitely see the similarities – it features multiple unreliable narrators, female protagonists, and deals with the dark side of marriage and suburban life. However, it lacks the depth and the social commentary of Gone Girl, and the mystery, when resolved, is disappointing to say the least. 2.5/5

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel:

A series of interweaving stories taking place before, during, and after a flu pandemic that sweeps across the world and brings about the collapse of civilization? Now this sounds like my kind of book… except it’s not, really. When I read the blurb, I thought it was just about the band of performers traveling around the desolate post-apocalyptic landscape to perform concerts and Shakespeare to survivors (which sounds awesome), but it turns out that was just one third of the book. So it’s not the Mad Max story I imagined – it’s actually closer to Babel. But this doesn’t mean that it’s not good. Some parts are really moving, some parts are disturbing, and the way the stories are connected is pretty satisfying. It’s just slower than I’d like. 4/5

So those are the books that I read in September. If you guys have read any of these and want to start a discussion, or if you just want to share your own books, feel free to comment!


7 Comments on “Book Reviews: September 2015”

  1. Mike says:

    Hey, thanks Salazar for the brief intro there and your willingness to try out my new idea. I do hope that this works well for your blog!

    Anyway, for those who don’t know me, my name is Mike. I’ve been a dedicated reader on Salazar’s blog since the beginning of 2014. I’m really glad to be here and very appreciative to Salazar and the other bloggers in her circle that allow me to participate in discussions here and on their respective blogs. I will continue to do my best to support them all as best as I am able to.

    So without further delay, let me share with you what I have been engaged in. Being an introverted bibliophile, I’m constantly surrounded by books and I love to read all sorts of titles, both of the fiction and the non-fiction variety. I try to read at least one book a month. And I listen to at least two audio books in a month, or more, to help broaden my range of genres that are out there. I’m currently reading a great book right now that’s called “I Will Always Write Back”, by co-authors Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka, and Liz Welch. It’s a great non-fiction story about how two people, Martin and Caitlin, became overseas pen pals and eventually best friends. So far, I’m really enjoying the book and I will be finishing it soon. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish it in time for our debut book club discussion, so I will write a full review for it next month when we have this again.

    So instead, I will discuss a great children’s/ young adult book series that I have been listening too since the beginning of this year that I think that you’ll really like. I know, I know. You see the word “children’s” and automatically think that this series is only for kids or teens. But I can tell you that even as an adult, I’m finding this book series simply incredible. And I can say with certainty that this series is NOT just for kids. It’s called “The 39 Clues” and is written by various authors, all of which are very good because they keep each book consistent, so the action just flows as you move from book to book. The action began back in 2008 with the first book titled “Maze Of Bones”, was published, in which this whole adventure starts. There are currently 23 books published, which are also divided into four subseries. The first subseries, which is simply called “The 39 Clues”, is the longest of the four and it focuses on two children, Dan and Amy Cahill, along with their au pair, Nellie Gomez, who travel the world in search of the 39 clues, while at the same time, having to compete with their murderous relatives of the Cahill family, who also seek the 39 clues in order to become the most powerful person in the world. The first 10 books focus on Dan and Amy finding and collecting the clues while book 11 is sort of a prequel of how the clue hunt started centuries ago. And at the same time, it sets the stage for the second subseries called “Cahills vs Vespers”. This series, the one in which I am currently on, focuses on the Cahill family setting aside their differences in order to fight the Vespers, a secret organization that holds a grudge against the Cahill family (explained in book 11) and holds several family members as hostages in order to force Dan and Amy to commit high level crimes for the head honcho of the Vespers, who simply calls himself “Vesper 1” or “V1”. I just finished books 3 and 4, which were excellent and I will be starting book 5 soon, titled “Trust No One”. This subseries ends with book 6 and begins with the next series called “Unstoppable”. I can hardly wait to start that one!

    Of all the books that I’ve listened to so far, I think that my favorite one so far is the penultimate book (book 10 of the first series), which sort of brings all of the major characters found in the previous nine together to vanquish a common enemy that is found within the Cahill family. The ending is beyond awesome and not the typical anti-climatic type of ending that one would expect from a children’s series. It sort of provides a nice wrap up to the first series, while at the same time, hints that a greater threat is still out there for Dan and Amy, which there is.

    I also really enjoyed book 11, which sort of serves as an intermission kind of thing as it explains the origins of the Cahill family and the various branches (which play a vital role in the whole series) that were often mentioned in the first 10 books. There are five branches within the Cahill family (Lucian, Ekaterina, Tomas, Janus and Madrigal) and each branch is named after the original founders of the branches, which happen to be the Cahill family’s ancestors. You’ll see why these branches play an important role throughout the series, if you read the books.

    I shall end my review here so as to not take over Salazar’s blog. 😉 But before I do, there’s one more thing I wish to say about the series. While I encourage everyone to read, as reading is sort of the main purpose of the book discussions here, I would recommend that you listen to the audio versions of the books. The reader, David Pittu, is an excellent voice actor and can do the many different accents that are required, as many of the characters are from various nations throughout the world. And he does it so well, that you can always tell who is speaking without question. He even does the female voices quite well. Usually, I don’t like male readers doing female voices in audio books as they don’t sound right to me, but Mr. Pittu does an excellent job with them and you won’t be disappointed. There is so much more that I can say here about the books, but I’ll leave that up to you to find out the rest. So go, read the books, or listen to them. It’s a story that you will carry with you long after you finish it.

    • Noelle says:

      I love a well read audio book. When I listened to Dark Places I really felt the whole experience was enhanced by the haunting voice of the reader. There have been a few that drive me nuts but, overall I find audio books to be an added layer of sensation.

      • Mike says:

        I agree Noelle. A good reader can really bring a story to life. And for me, even after I finish an audio book, if the reader is good, I can remember that story long after I finish it, just by remembering how well the character voices were done.

      • Salazar says:

        I wish I could get into audio books. But I hate being read to – I would focus too much on the voice instead of absorbing the story on my own.

      • Mike says:

        It takes some getting used to. I used to feel the same way. And it does provide a nice distraction when you are working on something else that doesn’t require your full attention.
        On the other hand, listening to a reader that sucks is like total torture. If, within 5 minutes, the reader’s voice grates on my nerves, I stop listening.

  2. Noelle says:

    I never get to read as much as I want but, I always manage to cram something in! This month I read Diary by Chuck Palahniuk, The Nanny Diaries, and Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. Was it books that were turned into movies month? The Diary, while not my favorite of his books, was a decent mystery about how inhabitants of an island regain their fortune every few generations by exploiting a local artist. The prose is captivating in the odd way of Chuck Palahniuk and, even though the story becomes predictable, it’s immersive and engaging.

    The Nanny Diaries and Nanny Returns were just light reads for when I didn’t have a lot of time to become involved in a book. Nan is a nanny to wealthy upper east siders and is often taken advantage of and treated poorly. All of which she endures for the benefit of her charge. The books were amusing and the character of Nan felt more real than most characters in fluff novels. Overall they satisfied exactly what I wanted them to.

    I’m definitely interested in reading Station Eleven and seeing what you do with your outfit.

  3. I read a different Harry Hole book for a book club, and I agree – it was entertaining enough, but so formulaic. Harry feels like he came straight out of central casting – he’s an ex-alcoholic, hard-boiled police detective who clashes with authority, struggles with relationships, gathers a motley crew of subordinates around him and consistently achieves results through unorthodox means. *yawn*……BTW, I’m a Canadian librarian, and I came across this blog through a different blog, Librarian for Life and Style. Nice to meet you (virtually)!

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