Review: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan

Title: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes

Author: Jessica Pan

Publisher: Doubleday

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir

Source: library (Hoopla Digital)

Publication Date: May 28, 2019

Jessica Pan is a shy introvert- a shistrovert, as she calls herself. But, after having a breakdown in a gym sauna, fully dressed and crying over an issue of Men’s Health, she decides it’s time for a change. She’s jobless and all her friends have moved away, so she makes a list of things to do that will break her out of her shell: solo travel, improv, a public speech, and talking to strangers on a train. Before long, she’s afraid that’s she’s taken on too much, but, determined to see it through, continues on with her plan. She really wants to find out, is life easier for an extrovert? And how will she survive this year?

This was an enjoyable read. I liked Jess’s journey from being incredibly shy and withdrawn to learning to expand her boundaries. Her various experiments were fun to listen to, although I do wish she’d slowed down her speech a couple times. She’s a very fast talker, a fact she acknowledges in her book, and a couple times it was hard to understand her. Still, that didn’t detract from the book overall, and even added some character.

I had hoped the book would give me some advice on how to meet more people and make deeper connections with them. I’m fairly withdrawn even when I’m with people, more of a listener than a talker, which is odd, because I love to talk. In the book, there’s advice on some questions to ask and how to make deeper connections, but I can’t really remember them and am a loss on how to do it in my life. Still, the sense I got was that this was less self-improvement and more memoir, so there really didn’t need to be actionable steps. I just wish there had been.

Overall, I enjoyed listening and looked forward to my drives so I could listen to the next part every day. Looking forward to it definitely means the book did something right.

If you, like me, enjoy reading about people as they tackle one year challenges, this is a good book to add to that collection. If you’re an introvert looking for reassurance that extroverting isn’t that bad, give it a try. And if you’re an extrovert looking to understand what’s going on in a introvert’s head, this is an excellent book to read.

How do you identify: introvert or extrovert? Let me know in the comments!

Review: The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Title: The Beautiful

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Genre: YA, horror, paranormal fantasy

Source: Purchase (Barnes and Noble)

Publication Date: October 8, 2919

Celine Rousseau has fled from her life as a dressmaker in Paris to a convent in New Orleans after a traumatic event. Hoping to start a new life, she struggles to find her place in the convent, as her skills as a dressmaker aren’t in high demand. Then, a woman named Odette, commissions her to sew a costume for a masquerade ball. Celine agrees and finds herself swept into a world she’s never dreamed of. Odette is a member of a mysterious underworld called La Cour des Lion, and Celine quickly becomes entangled with them, especially after catching the eye of the leader Sebastian Saint Germane. The two clash and attract each other, an attraction that quickly becomes suspicion when the body of a convent girl turns up on the doorway of Sebastian’s club.

Now, Celine finds herself both a suspect of the murder and the object of the murderer’s obsession. People connected to her start dying, and she’s determined to uncover the truth. The truth, however, comes with a devastating price.

I really liked this book a lot because I loved Celine so much. She’s strong and dark and a little twisted. She’s a misfit that’s not quite trying to fit in as much as find the place where she belongs. When she discovers La Cour des Lion and Bastien, she’s intrigued and enamored and feels very comfortable. She feels her own desire for power is met in Bastien’s, and she fits easily into the world.

I also really liked her friendship with Pippa, another girl from the convent. Celine is hiding a dreadful secret and it’s a heavy burden for her. She’s afraid to open up, but also desperately wants to. I like her tentative overtures of friendship towards Pippa, and how they are met with welcome and understanding.

The setting was amazing, too. The supernatural and New Orleans has been done, but that doesn’t meant it can’t be done again. And Ahdieh does it so well. New Orleans on the cusp of Lent, with the parties and parades and decadence that surrounds the upcoming week. It made me desperately want to be there and experience it in a way I didn’t even get in my reread of Interview with the Vampire. It was just so vivid and rich; I felt like I was there.

My only slight knock to the book is that I was completely confused at the ending. Now, this may not be the book’s fault. I was completely convinced the bad guy was one character, and then it wasn’t… but maybe it was? I didn’t quite get who the antagonist was and what their motives were. I don’t know if I didn’t read closely enough, I wasn’t willing to give up what I thought, or it just really didn’t make sense. I don’t know. But, I ended the book baffled, but pleased I’d read it and looking forward to the next in the series.

If you like atmospheric books with strong female characters, sexual tension, and vampire-like creatures, you’ll enjoy this book. And if you get the ending, let me know, because… I think I need to read it again. Not that it’d be a chore. 🙂

Review: The Self-Care Solution

Title: The Self-Care Solution

Author: Jennifer Ashton, M.D., M.S.

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: self-improvement

Source: library

Publication Date: December 30, 2019

Dr. Jennifer Ashton is an ob-gyn and top medical correspondent for Good Morning America. In January one year, she announced on air that she was having a dry month – thirty days of no drinking. By the end of the month, she felt so good and inspired, she decided to set up monthly challenges for herself including push-ups and planks, drink more water, eat more plants, and walk more. By the end of the year, she felt fitter, healthier, and happier than she could remember being in the past.

Part memoir, part self-improvement, The Self-Care Solution is a light, informative, and entertaining read.

I loved this book. Between the topic and Ashton’s narration on the audio book, I loved listening to it and implementing her advice. At first I wasn’t sure if it’d be for me; I don’t drink, and therefore couldn’t really relate to her “dry month” challenge. However, once we got past January and her challenges branched out, I was hooked. Even though she does things month by month, I’ve rushed ahead and have been trying to incorporate some of her challenges in my daily routine. I’m up to 16 push-ups and 1 minutes of planks. I’m drinking 96 oz of water a day and I’ve started walking during my lunch time.

This book is similar in content to The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine, but I enjoyed this much better. It was written in a more engaging manner and a lot easier to follow for me.

I also liked the mixture of memoir and advice. Each chapter starts with Ashton’s story, then delves into the science before turning to how the reader can accomplish the same challenge.

If you like books on self-improvement or books about people tackling challenges during their year, this is one for you. I highly enjoyed this book and hope others give it a chance.

If you were to try and improve one habit for thirty days, what would it be? Let me know below!

Review: Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown

Title: Modern Girls

Author: Jennifer S. Brown

Publisher: Berkeley Books

Genre: historical fiction

Source: borrowed from Mom

Publication Date: May 1, 2016

Dottie Krasinsky is a modern girl. She’s a bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan who’s just gotten a promotion, has a steady boyfriend, Abe, with whom she’s madly in love, reads all the latest fashion and home magazines, and has a group of girlfriends with whom she regularly socializes. At the same time, she’s a good Jewish daughter to her immigrant parents on the Lower East Side. However, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself pregnant after a drunken night with a charming and totally unsuitable man.

Rose Krasinsky, Dottie’s mother, has had five children and assumes that she’s done. She’s anxious to get back to her own life of social activism. As a young woman, she’d been on the front lines protesting and rabble rousing and, now, with tensions rising in Europe, she’s ready to get back to it. And then, disaster strikes: at forty-two years old, she finds herself pregnant once again.

Both mother and daughter are in impossible situations and have to navigate a changing world, making choices they never thought themselves capable of.

I am so glad I finally read this book. I kept putting it off as my TBR list grew, but I finally made time for it, and it’s really a gem. As a Jewish person removed from my heritage, I like reading about Jewish families and how they navigate the world. This book was rich with descriptions of Sabbath, food, Yiddish terms, and the Jewish immigrant experience. It also explores the differences between the families on the Lower East side and the more wealthy families in Manhattan and how they navigate being Jewish in the modern world.

Beyond the Jewish aspects, it’s just a great story. I really felt for both Dottie and Rose and loved reading their unique perspectives on life in their voices. To Dottie, at the beginning, her mother is quaint and old fashion, very traditional, and living in the past. When you read from Rose’s perspective, though, you see a woman with strong beliefs and passions who is determined to put her stamp on the world and make it a better place. Like Dottie, she views herself as a “modern woman” who is settled in the new world and navigates through with confidence.

Truth be told, I liked reading Rose more than Dottie, although I did enjoy both POVs. Dottie is so headstrong and determined to fix all her mistakes herself. While admirable, she’s also very young and doesn’t always think things through. Rose was more steady and thoughtful in her decision, although she runs into trouble as well. Maybe it’s just my age showing, but I related more to Rose even though I haven’t had five children while living in a two bedroom apartment.

This book has a vivid setting, wonderful characters, and a gripping story. It was hard to put down and kept me engaged the whole way through.

I recommend this one two levels. One, if you’re Jewish or interested in Jewish life, this is a great book to read and a picture of that life. And, two, if you like reading realistic historical books about the 1930s and see a slice of life, as fraught as it is, then you’d like this book a lot.

Review: The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Title: The Vampire Lestat

Author: Anne Rice

Publisher: Balltaine Books

Genre: paranormal, vampires

Source: library

Publication Date: 1985

The vampire Lestat, the villain from Interview with the Vampire, is back and ready to tell his side of the story. Rising from his grave after being drawn by the irresistible music of the age, he decides to flaunt all the rules that he’s learned about being a vampire and expose the supernatural to the human world. He joins a band and writes an autobiography, detailing his long life of looking for love and answers in the world.

So, going into this book, I remembered three things:

  1. Lestat’s mom tells him that sometimes she thought about letting the men in town bang her.
  2. After they were both vampires, they kissed and shared blood.
  3. Louis was wearing a sweater when he and Lestat met again.

So, I didn’t remember much (and have no idea why the detail of the sweater stood out so much to me). Two of those things happened fairly quickly, and I reread the rest of the book almost totally unspoiled. I really liked it and like Lestat better than I ever did before. I still prefer Louis, and I loved him in this book. I really wish the rest of the book were nothing but the love affair of Louis and Lestat, which is funny because I never shipped them as a teenager.

I really like vampire history, and this book had it in spades. I enjoyed the creation of the Theater of the Vampires, but more than that, I liked the history that Marius told of the first vampires. I remember enough of Queen of the Damned to know what was true and wasn’t, but it was cool reading his version again.

The only part when I started to get lost was when Lestat was writing the story that Marius had been told by Mael. I seriously don’t like stories of stories of stories. I want less narrators in the way. But when Marius took over again, it was okay again and I read the last part of the book with a lot of interest.

I really enjoyed this reread, and wish I didn’t have so many books to read before I could get to the next (and, for me, final) book of the series.

I do recommend this if you like vampires and want to read a classic in vampire mythology.

Review: Beyond the Grave by C.J. Archer

Title: Beyond the Grave

Author: C.J. Archer

Publisher: ?

Genre: paranormal romance, mystery

Source: library (audio book)

Publication Date: November 24, 2015

When her stepson goes missing, Lady Hartcourt asks Lincoln to investigate. Even though she’s supposed to be recovering from her ordeal at the hands of a madman, Charlie throws herself into the investigation. Inadvertently, she raises the spirit of a woman who has the ability to override Charlie’s control over her. Now, a spirit is loose in London, Lincoln is furious, and the Ministry is becoming increasingly disapproving of Charlie’s presence in Lychfield. To top it off, Lincoln continues to run hot and cold with his feelings for Charlie, much to her ever increasing exasperation. But when the investigation begins to reveal the darker side of London, one that even Charlie had never known, she and Lincoln find themselves united.

At first, I was very frustrated with this book. The last one ended in an entirely satisfying way for my romantic heart, only to immediately have it dashed by this one. Charlie and I were both bewildered and frustrated by Lincoln’s pig-pigheadedness and stupidity. I had a hard time enjoying it at the beginning.

However, once Charlie began investigating and exploring the dark underbelly of the medical scene in London, it got much more interesting. I loved that she met the spirit of a woman who was competent and smart and who knew a little more about her powers than Charlie did.

The mystery was well done as well. Lady Hartcourt’s stepson goes missing and it seems like it has something to do with the Ministry of Curiosities, since he’d been reading his father’s journals on it. The investigation is complex and requires Lincoln and Charlie to use all their wits to figure it out. I was completely lost for much of it, which made it lots of fun.

The ending was also very satisfying. It calls on one of my favorite tropes, which I can’t tell because it would be a spoiler, but was amazing. I can’t wait to read the next book.

I highly recommend this whole series. Charlie is a wonderful protagonist, her romance with Lincoln is tense and romantic, and the characters are colorful and fun. Please pick it up if you get a chance.

Review: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Title: Atomic Habits

Author: James Clear

Publisher: Avery

Genre: self-improvement

Source: bookstore

Publication Date: October 18, 2018

Making new habits and breaking old ones come down to a simple idea in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits: clear systems. If your habits are bad, it’s because your systems are bad. Clear walks through the four laws that define habit building: make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying. He also explores the inverse of each law and gives actionable examples of how to set the laws in motion to change your systems. After all, as he posits, greatness doesn’t come from making huge sweeping changes, but becoming 1% better in your life. Every time you improve by 1%, it builds until you have something great.

I highly enjoyed this book and found it very informative. Like The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Clear breaks a habit down into cue >routine>reward. However, I found Atomic Habits more actionable with clearer steps as to how to start building new habits and breaking old ones. I like his idea that you only have to get 1% better in every aspect of your life instead of having to go whole hog as well. In addition, the book was easy to read and written in an almost conversational style. The stories and examples he told were straight and to the point and clearly connected to the law he was expounding on. I also liked that he mixed up building new habits with breaking bad ones and clearly showed how good and bad habits were mirrored.

I highly recommend this book. With the new year, it’s the perfect time to start looking at what you want to change in your life and this book will help map out a road map to do that. It’s well written, engaging, interesting, and illuminating. Atomic Habits is a wonderful read.