Category Archives: Best of the Best

This is the section where you will find all of the books that I enjoyed the most. In my highly esteemed and professional opinion, these are the books that will knock your socks off. For those of you who are grade grubbers, these are the books that I gave an A- or higher. Happy reading!

An Invisible Thread

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny

By: Laura Schroff

Synopsis: Laura Schroff was hustling down the street when she walked right by young Maurice. And just then, something (an invisible thread, if you will) yanked her backwards and right into Maurice’s life. The close friendship that follows makes for an interesting story and a strong case for the existence of fate.

Thoughts: So what do I do with myself with my last fairly (a.k.a. entirely) empty day left of an internship and I’m running on fumes in my motivation tank? I suppose I kick that nasty procrastination habit and update the old blog! Hopefully that will carry me through to lunch, which will carry me through to my afternoon coffee break, which will carry me through to my afternoon Sudoku session, which will carry me through to the last of my commutes from hell. Just absolutely killing it on life right now, huh?

Ok, so book…book….book…I have to confess that I finished this about two weeks ago. But never fear, this steel trap of a memory is amped up on coffee and about to kick into high gear.  Anywho…

An Invisible Thread was a really lovely and touching story. I feel like I’ve been having a sort of weird, introspective summer and the idea of fate and random connections with people kind of gets me going these days. I loved learning about Maurice’s life – he’s of one of those wise-beyond-his-years little fellas – as well as seeing the positive impact that Laura and Maurice had on each other over the course of the book.

One teeny tiny complaint – I think Schroff’s insistence on telling us every little detail of her life took away from the main point of the story a tad. It wasn’t a terrible thing –just made me sort of zone out during the Laura chapters and zone back in during the Mo-Lo (a.k.a. Maurice/Laura – I’m a wizard with nicknames) chapters.

Overall Grade: B+

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Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking: True Stories

Magical Thinking

By: Augusten Burroughs

You guys, we’re getting really exciting up in here today. For the first time ever, I’m reviewing an audio book. I know, I know – big changes! But why, you ask? Well, if I’ve talked to you in the past 7 weeks, you’ve probably heard me mention (read – bitch, complain, bemoan, etc.) my 3 hour per day commute. I came to the realization last week that I should probably look out the window of my train once in a while – and that definitely wasn’t going to happen with my nose constantly buried in a book. And while diving into the world of audio books feels a tad as though I’m being unfaithful to my lovely books, I kind of just felt like a change. You know, #YOLO and all that (I’m terribly sorry for writing that. I’ll never throw YOLO into a post again).

So here goes – audio book review numero uno.

Synopsis: Tales of an ex-advertising New Yorker turned author. You’ll come to learn things that you’ve always wondered about, such as: what it’s like to date an undertaker, how to kill a mouse that has found its way into your bathtub, and the best method for dealing with a thieving dwarf house cleaner.

Thoughts: I used to listen to audio books all the time. Traffic in LA is always a bit of a monster, and audio books provided a nice distraction from road rage. The thing with audio books is that there are two components that can make or break the experience. First (and most important) is the content. A bad book is a bad audio book. Full stop. And second (also very important) is the narrator. A bad narrator can turn a great book into a painful experience. And on the flip side, a good narrator (a.k.a. the master of audio book narration, Stephen Fry, who expertly narrated the Harry Potter series) can really make a book come to life.

So first – the content of Magical Thinking. Augusten Burroughs reminded me very much of David Sedaris – just a little raunchier and a bit less funny. I think each of his stories made me laugh out loud at least once which A. is a pretty good sign and B. makes me look like a crazy on the train. My one complaint is that he seemed a tad full of himself. I think what I like about Sedaris is his self-deprecating nature. Burroughs, on the other hand, talked a tad too much about how attractive he was for my taste. But looking past that, I did enjoy most of his stories.

And the narrator. Well, in this case, the narrator was Augusten Burroughs himself. Especially in the case of a memoir-type book, I felt like hearing the stories from the author gave me a better understanding of the nuances behind some of the stories. Which, at least in my opinion, enhanced the experience.

So there you have it. Overall an enjoyable listen (and I’m sure the same goes for the read). If you haven’t read any David Sedaris, go for his stuff first. But if you’re looking for something else, this wasn’t half bad!

Overall Grade: B+

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The Kitchen House

Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Synopsis: Lavinia is orphaned aboard a ship from Ireland to America. The ship’s captain takes pity on the poor girl and allows her to come to live and work at his plantation with his slaves. Though she clearly stands out in her new home, she is welcomed warmly into the family. Soon enough, Lavinia is accepted into the big house because of her white skin. But the more she becomes a part of that world, she realizes she can never leave behind her true family.

Thoughts: Oh my gosh, you guys, go buy (or borrow…or steal…) this book right now. I’m serious. Don’t even read the rest of this – just get yourself this book, find yourself a comfy seat, hunker down for a few hours and get yourself ready for a terrific read.

What are you still doing here? Go!!!

Ok, I’m done. But as you can tell…this book was SO GOOD!!! It’s been a while since I read something that truly grabbed at my emotions as much as this did. I honestly could not put this book down – I loved every bit of it. Every character was strong, regardless of how big or small a role they played, and each character played a very integral part in the story. It was one of those stories in which the bad guys were so vile that you wanted to reach through the pages and slap them, and the heroes (mostly heroines in this case) were the perfect combination of delightful and sorrowful.

I could go on and on, but I’ll save you my ramblings. I will say that one of my absolute favorite touches of the novel was that the main character Lavinia was dubbed “Abinia” by her new “family”. It was so simple an addition to the book, but it managed to be one of the most powerful parts.

Overall Grade: A

Up Next: Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa Klaussmanm

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Bright Lights, Big City

Bright Lights

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

Synopsis: A young man takes New York City by storm.

Thoughts: I’m failing you guys so badly here. Life has been extremely hectic lately (ahem, UK visa approved! Woot!!) and I just haven’t carved out any time for my reviews. I finished this book two weeks ago and I’m in struggle city because though I really enjoyed this read, I’m having trouble getting myself back into it.

So the quick and dirty…this book reminded me a tad of Jesus’ Son (probably due more to my just having finished it, rather than any exceptionally significant ties. And since I’m running somewhat on empty here, I’m going to stick with the comparison). The overall themes and subject matter were quite similar, however the glaring difference lay in the tone of the main characters’ thoughts and actions.

While I thought Jesus’ Son was a decent enough book, I enjoyed Bright Lights oh so much more. The narrator in the former was sad and hopeless and I found it difficult to understand where he was coming from. The narrator in Bright Lights is essentially just as pathetic, however there were momentary flashes of positivity, which captured my interest and allowed me to connect with him a little easier.

And for bonus points…in searching for a pic to post, I discovered that this book was turned into a movie in the late 80s with Michael J Fox and Kiefer Sutherland. Now this I’ve gotta see!

Overall Grade: A-

Up Next: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

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And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Synopsis: Hosseini delivers a story that isn’t confined by the walls of its plot. True to form, he tells the story of a group of people linked in some way to Kabul. A storyline forms as the characters reveal their connections with each other, but it is overshadowed by the characters and relationships that develop over the course of the novel.

Thoughts: I swear, Khaled Hosseini could write a biography about Barney (yes the purple dinosaur) and I would probably eat that ish up. He is seriously one of the most gifted writers I have come across. You can tell each sentence is crafted meticulously and they all come together in a beautiful and somewhat heart-wrenching cadence. In this case, the story didn’t quite match up to The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Sons (seriously – how could he beat that book??), but it really didn’t matter. I just adored this book.

The synopsis lets us know that the plot is extremely broad in scope…and even that may be an understatement. Each chapter is narrated by a different character and serves as a kind of short story about that person. It took me a while to remember all the characters, and even longer to get all of their stories straight. So I didn’t really understand the flow and character connections until the second half of the book.

Almost all the characters have moments as the protagonist of their story as well as the antagonist of another’s story, so you are able to see the full scope of each person (the good, the bad, and often times the ugly). And the absolute cherry on top – as the story comes together, your perception of each character shifts to bring you somewhere closer to the truth. Pure magic!

Overall Grade: A

Up Next: 84 Charing Cross by Helene Hanff

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Jesus’ Son

Jesus' Son

Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

Synopsis: A sad, but powerful portrait of hopeless American youth. Johnson’s short stories touch on homelessness, addiction, crime, and other such light hearted topics.

Thoughts: I read a review of this book that piqued my interest a long time ago and for some reason decided to check it out from the library the other day. I’m not always sold on short stories – I think it’s a pretty fine art of making each story stand on its own two feet but also making sure they all have a connection with each other. The stories of Jesus’ Son were a little less independent than your typical short story collection, but they definitely flowed well.

All of the stories are pretty shocking (I love me a good drug-fueled homeless man tale), which makes for an interesting read. But go beyond that and you’ll see a picture of deep loneliness. It’s a short and fairly easy book to get through, but it sure isn’t easy to stomach at times.

Overall Grade: B+

Up Next: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

I solemnly swear not to ramble…this one is going to be mega short. I re-read Where the Sidewalk Ends (sounds like someone was feeling a bit nostalgic last week, huh?), and though I’m not going to write a review, I just wanted to post two poems that resonated. Enjoy!!

MAGIC

Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,

Eddie touched a troll,

Laurie danced with witches once,

Charlie found some goblins gold.

Donald heard a mermaid sing,

Susy spied an elf,

But all the magic I have known

I’ve had to make myself

 

ALICE

She drink from the bottle called DRINK ME

And she grew up so tall,

She ate from a plate called TASTE ME

And down she shrank so small.

And so she changed, while other folks

Never tried nothin’ at all

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