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Mirkat

Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.

Currently reading

Twisted
Mike Chamberlain, Laurie Halse Anderson

Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier

Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier - Mark Frost, Annie Wersching

The way I found this book was I was doing an online search to figure out what had just happened in the final episode of Twin Peaks the Return. I found a couple of articles that cited this book as filling in gaps and explaining some things that are suggested on the show but not fully explained. The story is told in the form of FBI case files reported by the FBI agent Tamara Preston. Annie Wersching does a great job with the narration. 

Very specific audience: If you have seen the new series and would like good gloss on what you just saw, definitely read/listen to this book.

Getting to Yes

Getting to Yes: How to Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In (Audio) - Dennis Boutsikaris, Roger Fisher, William Ury

I think this is one of those books that anyone can benefit from.  Everyone needs to engage in some form of negotiation, and this book provides valuable strategies anyone can use.  Recommended for all human beings.

Where There's Smoke & Larger Than Life

Where There's Smoke (Short Story) and Larger Than Life (Novella) - Jodi Picoult, Kathe Mazur

"Where There's Smoke" is a short story, and Larger Than Life is a novella.  These two short pieces are mini-prequels to Leaving Time.  The first features psychic Serenity Jones, while the second is narrated by Alice, the elephant researcher whose disappearance in Leaving Time forms that book's central mystery.

 

This was a quick, four-hour listen, and was a bit like accessing DVD extras, filling in some background information on the characters in question.  The stories are not essential for readers of Leaving Time--I'm glad I read the novel first, but  I don't think that reading in the opposite order would hurt anyone's enjoyment of either work.

This is Me: A Self-Help Memoir

This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today - Chrissy Metz

As Goodreads reviewer Katrina wrote, "I can see this getting mixed reviews because it [toes] the line between memoir and self-help. The result is that it does neither very well."  I agree.  This book ends up being a self-help memoir, and I think it would have been better to choose one lane, namely the "memoir" lane.  I can appreciate the desire to help others with the tools and insights Chrissy Metz has found for herself--but perhaps she could have framed them as "here are techniques that work for me."

 

Metz had a difficult childhood, with an abusive stepfather, an absent father, and a mother struggling to raise five kids and keep things together.  She found an inner strength and forged a path to make her dreams come true.  And she is eager to help others overcome their own struggles, and that's awesome.

 

Some misgivings I have:  Metz seems to be an adherent of "The Secret"/"Laws of Attraction."  I have issues with this, as expressed in my review of The Girl Code.  I can appreciate the spirit behind that perspective, but I feel it has some unfortunate implications.  I can also appreciate reflecting on a difficult situation/experience and considering "What can I learn from this?"  But I have much more trouble with the idea that the universe conspired to create the situation/experience in order to issue a lesson.  Just no.

 

Related to that, Metz's stepfather was horrible to her.  He was both physically and emotionally abusive.  She maintains a relationship with him, having accepted a clumsy apology from him, and notes in the book that his abuse made her feel that nothing can break her.   I have some serious misgivings about this.  Although it is obviously not her intent, I have seen this type of statement used as a justification for abuse.  This reasoning has been used by abusers and has also been a reason for victims of abuse to perpetuate the cycle of abuse on their own children/wards.  "This is how I was treated, and it made me tough, so I will do the same thing to my own kids!"  Again, I am not suggesting that Metz in any way endorses this reaction, but I can't help thinking her words might be misused that way.

 

I really appreciated the story that Metz shared, as well as her conversational, sit-with-me-and-I'll-share-my-story tone.  Metz has great insights into human behavior and shares some excellent strategies for navigating conflict and prioritizing one's personal dreams.  I recommend the book for those aspects, with the caveats noted above.

Secrets She Keeps

The Secrets She Keeps - Michael Robotham, Lucy Price-Lewis

Meghan is a popular mommy blogger married to Jack, a sportscaster.  They have two beautiful children, six-year-old Lucy and four-year-old Lachlan, and Meghan is pregnant with their third child.  Agatha, who works part-time stocking shelves at the London grocery, is an avid fan of the blog and watches Meghan from afar until a chance encounter in the store leads to a friendship.  Agatha tells Meghan that she is also expecting a baby, right around Meghan's due date.  

 

The novel switches back and forth between Meghan's and Agatha's first-person, present-tense narration.  Agatha has struggled to get in touch with Hayden, deployed overseas with the Royal Navy, to tell him that their brief liaison has led to a pregnancy.  Eventually, her communication with a navy liaison forces the issue and compels him to get in touch by Skype.

 

Although the title refers to the secrets "she" keeps, there are multiple characters keeping secrets, and not all of them are female.  The novel is not really a "whodunit," because the "it" unfolds so that the reader knows the doer, and the suspense comes from how the events unfold and how law enforcement figure out what has happened.  I won't get into more detail than that (to avoid spoilers), but I found this book utterly addictive.  

UNbelievable!

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History - Katy Tur

Katy Tur was a London-based NBC foreign correspondent when her network assigned her to cover the Trump primary campaign.  Nobody expected the campaign to be long-lasting, let alone lead to Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee--or winning the general election.  

 

Nor could anything have prepared her for the surreal experience of reporting on the many rallies she attended, the interviews, the ramblings on Twitter, and various other campaign events.  And then there were the times when Trump decided to single her out, complaining about the quality of her reporting, and encouraging his followers to rail against her.  The situation became so dire that Tur actually needed Secret Service agents to ensure her safety by walking her to her car.

 

The audiobook really flew by for me, and I enjoyed Tur's voice both in terms of her writing and her narration.  She relates her experiences and reactions to them with intelligence and humor.  She often had me laughing or scoffing, in reaction to the anecdotes shared in the narrative.  I also appreciated her emphasis on the importance of journalism, not only for keeping the public informed of current events, but also for creating an accurate historical record.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude (Audio) - Gabriel García Márquez, John      Lee

I finally finished this!  I took forever for multiple reasons.  First--I started and restarted probably four or five times, because I was quickly finding myself lost as to what was happening.  After a while, I just went with it--though also checked out the text version to go back and forth.  I also was finding myself going for longer periods between listening sessions and having shorter sessions--my running volume has gone way down, and most of my audio "reading" has tended to happen during runs.  (Plus walking to the office from the parking lot in the morning and walking during lunch.)  There was a period where I was having headphone problems, and there were times when I just wasn't in the mood for this book.

 

It's not the book's fault!  It's Garcia Marquez--it's captivating.  But I had to be in the right headspace for it, and I did get there.

 

The book chronicles seven generations of the family of Jose Arcadio Buendia and Ursula Iguaran.  Jose Arcadio Buendia is the founder of the village of Macondo in Columbia.  Jose Arcadio and Ursula are first cousins, which causes her to fear that their children will be born with tails (of pigs).  They are not, but much later in their line (after some accidental and worse inbreeding), eventually one of their descendants does appear with a tail like that.

 

The family through its many generations keeps repeating the names Jose Arcadio and Aureliano for their male children.  Remedios and Amaranta are favored names for the girls.  The repetition of names reinforces the cyclical nature of time expressed in the narrative.  Political upheavals, wars, and economic cycles parallel historical events in Columbia.  The characters casually interact with ghosts and some of the characters can deliver prophecies.

 

One of my favorite quotes:  

 

"The years nowadays don't pass the way the old ones used to," [Ursula] would say, feeling that everyday reality was slipping through her hands,  In the past, she thought, children took a long time to grow up.

 

Boy, can I relate!

A Higher Loyalty

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership - James Comey

I didn't know what to expect with Comey's memoir, and I ended up being impressed by his sense of principled leadership and ethical conduct. I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with him on every issue, but I can appreciate his thought processes as he describes his reasoning behind various difficult decisions.

 

Going back to working in Rudy Giuliani's U.S. Attorney's office in New York City in the 1980s, to being in the Department of Justice under the Bush II administration, to Barack Obama's appointing him as FBI Director, through Donald Trump firing him (via the TV news), Comey takes the reader on a fascinating ride, with a narrative peppered with humor that sometimes made me laugh out loud (while in public, listening to my little mp3 player). Regardless of what your current opinion of James Comey might be, I think the book is well worth reading/listening to.

Here's Negan

The Walking Dead: Here's Negan! - Robert Kirkman

I liked this well enough, but it feels kind of unnecessary.  Negan the big bad got that way because reasons.  The reasons didn't strike me as particularly special for a zombie apocalypse.  He was kind of a jerk before the dead started to rise, and then he became a jerk who experienced loss and was able to get other people to follow him, to increase their chances of not dying.  And he obtained his signature barbed-wire bat.

Girl Who Takes an Eye For an Eye

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye - David Lagercrantz, Simon Vance

This book is the second one by David Lagencrantz, continuing Stieg Larsson's series.  At its start, Lisbeth Salander is serving a two-month sentence in a high-security women's prison, for certain actions that she took to protect a vulnerable character in Lagencrantz's first installment, The Girl in the Spider's Web.  Lisbeth's protective instincts are in high gear because of Faria Kazi, a young Bangladeshi woman being terrorized by a brutal inmate who calls herself Benito (yest, after Mussolini).  Salander doesn't particularly mind being in prison, but she minds very much that Benito's reign of terror is going unchecked.  She takes matters into her own hands in her own Lisbeth way, of course.

 

Meanwhile, there is another mystery to relates to Salander's childhood.  Of course, it involves an intricate conspiracy, and Mikhael Blomkvist, famous journalist and Salander ally, is pulled into an investigation. Naturally, there is a ruthless villain who is willing to go to extreme measures to keep the conspiracy covered up.

 

I'd say this is a solid installment in the series, though I can't shake the feeling that I'm reading officially sanctioned "Lisbeth Salander" fanfic.  I will keep reading the books as they come out, so I find out what happens next--and I hope that Lisbeth herself will play a more central role in the next book. 

Added This Edition

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye - David Lagercrantz, Simon Vance

I know I keep harping on this....  But I added this edition.  And again, I am sick of adding editions.  It feels as though for every book that is just "there" for me to shelve, there are 10 that I need to add myself (or settle for shelving the "wrong" edition).  GRRRR.

 

[Venting over...  For the moment.]

Before I Fall

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver, Sarah  Drew

Samantha Kingston reveals a stunning thing at the start of her first-person narrative:  she has died.  Sam is a popular high-school senior in suburban Connecticut, who dies a sudden, accidental death--and then finds herself reliving her last day, February 12 (aka "Cupid Day" at her school), again and again.  She soon finds that she can live that day in any number of different ways, changing various outcomes and learning new things about classmates and teachers; her friends and even herself.  She is not sure if she can somehow undo her death, or perhaps at least discover a sequence of actions that removes her from the loop and allows her to move on to what's next (in the event that reliving that day is not her "next").  

 

I found this book addictive, listening to it any time I could (and also borrowing the Kindle version to read big chunks of it in text form).  Recommended, especially for readers who have enjoyed other books by Lauren Oliver.

Echo

Echo - Pam Muñoz Ryan, MacLeod Andrews, David de Vries, Rebecca Soler, Mark Bramhall, Corky Siegel

 

 

"YOUR FATE IS NOT YET SEALED.

EVEN IN THE DARKEST NIGHT, A STAR WILL SHINE,

A BELL WILL CHIME, A PATH WILL BE REVEALED."

 

This book is classified "juvenile," but I think it's the kind of book that can appeal to readers of all ages.  A boy named Otto gets lost in a dark forest in Germany, and is assisted by three sisters who are somehow also characters in a mysterious fairy tale he bought from a gypsy, who also gave him a very special harmonica.  The sisters need Otto's help to break a witch's curse, and the harmonica will be the key.  A kind of "Fellowship of the Traveling Harmonica" ensues.  The harmonica will be passed along multiple times, and the narrative follows to each person who possesses it.  Just a bit of a warning:  The switch from one narrative to another is jarring when you don't know it is coming, especially since the narrator gets you to care about the characters, takes you to a cliffhanger, and then switches to a new set of characters.  Don't worry--the story comes back to those characters, resolves the cliffhangers, and ties it all together.  Just expect it and go along for the ride.

 

This is an instance where listening to the audio edition is the best choice, because music is so central to the story, and every musical piece mentioned is also played in the audio version.  I can't help thinking something is lost in the text-only version.  

Today Will Be Different

Today Will Be Different - Maria Semple, Kathleen Wilhoite

 

 

After having enjoyed Where'd You Go, Bernadette, I was excited to find another book by Maria Semple--and especially once I realized she had gotten Kathleen Wilhoite again, to narrate the audiobook.  The two books appear to exist in the same universe, as the central character's son goes to The Galen School, just as Bee does in Bernadette.  

 

Eleanor Flood used to be at the helm of an animated show called Looper Wash.  But that was years ago.  She and her hand-surgeon husband Joe Wallace had traded New York City for Seattle ten years before, based on the premise that Seattle was supposed to be the least religious city in the U.S.  They had a deal that they'd move back to NYC in ten years, switch again ten years after that, and keep alternating for the duration.  But Joe is well ensconced in his position as hand surgeon to the Seattle Sea Hawks, and the topic hasn't been broached in quite a while.

 

So, Eleanor decides that "today will be different," but her plans are interrupted when she gets a call from The Galen School letting her know that her son Timby is complaining that he doesn't feel well.  Eleanor is convinced he's faking sick because the same thing has happened a couple of other times recently, so she takes him straight to the pediatrician.  The visit reveals that the motive for being "sick" is conflict with a classmate, and the doctor prescribes "Mommy time."  An impromptu visit to Joe's office leads to the revelation that Joe had told his staff that the family was "on vacation" that week--which raises the question of what he's been doing while pretending to go to work every day.

 

So things take an odd turn as Eleanor attempts to figure out what's going on.  No, she can't just call her husband and have conversation, because then there'd be no plot!  Meanwhile, she and Timby have lunch with a former co-worker from her Looper Wash days, and he produces something she hasn't thought about in years: a hand-made illustrated book she made many years back, The Flood Girls.  What?!?!  Eleanor never told Timby she had a sister.  "I don't have a sister!"  Well, we'll see about that.

 

There were times when I found Eleanor exasperating, but she never completely lost me, and I enjoyed the payoff.  Kathleen Wilhoite again brings another dimension to the story with her narration.  I do wish someone had coached her on pronouncing "Clowes" and "Groening," though.  As in Bernadette, there is a scene where Wilhoite gets to showcase her beautiful singing voice.  In this case, she sings "Morning Has Broken."  Although I thought it was a pleasant enough song when the Cat Stevens version was popular in the 1970s, Wilhoite did something magical to it.  I almost teared up.  (Must see if library has her CD!)

You'll Grow Out of It

You'll Grow Out of It - Jessi Klein

 

 

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays from Jessi Klein, head writer for The Amy Schumer Show.  I had not heard of Jessi Klein before stumbling upon this audio book, and I enjoyed her voice (both authorial and audio-narrative).  I frequently laughed out loud like a crazy person.  I was less fond of the direction she took with her "Get the Epidural" essay, because I felt it ended up being a little bit overly bombastic in its "GET THE EPIDURAL" refrain.  I agree that no one should be shamed for wanting one, but it felt as though she went too far in the opposite direction.  Like you'd have to be stupid to even consider not getting one.  Personally, I had planned to try labor and delivery without one, while keeping it as an option if I felt the need.  Ultimately, my entire birth plan went out the window, as I ended up with a c-section due to fetal distress.  Klein makes a very brief disclaimer along the lines of, "If you really want to give birth without an epidural, go for it," but that is pretty well drowned out by the frequent shout of "GET THE EPIDURAL!" 

 

As Klein explains in the essays, she was single and dating when she began composing them, and got engaged, married, and pregnant, and became a new mom during the course of completing them.  "I'm a slow writer!"  I would definitely seek out a stand-up special by Jessi Klein, should one become available (are you listening, Netflix?).

Flash Boys

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt - Michael Lewis, Dylan Baker

 

 

I really had no idea about HFT (high-frequency trading), let alone "dark pools," but nonetheless, appreciated Michael Lewis's telling of a disaffected group of finance guys looking to devise a new stock market immune from the loopholes that allow insiders to game the system, to the detriment of the average person with a retirement fund.  No need to be a finance wonk to appreciate this book.  Lewis does a great job explaining a murky topic.