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Read Lately: Book Reviews

The Secret History by Donna Tartt: Years ago, I read another book by Tartt and liked her voice. So I bought this title only to have it sit on my shelf for TEN years. It was my pick last month for my book club and was delighted to discover that all the ladies were as spell-bound by its story line as I was. The plot follows a handful of eccentric, intellectual undergrads at a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire who, under the influence of their classics professor, find themselves the perpetrators of a series of murders—first of an innocent bystander then against one of their own. It’s a totally chilling tale and Tartt weaves a narrative so compelling you can’t help but feel strong emotional ties to these characters.

Passages I Want to Remember: “We were all of us painfully aware of that metaphoric vial of nitroglycerine which Bunny carried around with him day and night, and which, from time to time, he allowed us a glimpse of, unless anyone forget it was always with him, and he had the power to dash it to the floor whenever he pleased.”

Would I Recommend? For fans of intellectual fiction (this isn’t exactly the lightest of reading material; Donna Tartt is smart and her prose reflects it). Also, this one is perfect for anyone who loves a good thriller. If your last read was Gone Girl, you’ll want to dive into this next!

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth: I admit I got sucked into tucking into these after several friends asked me “Why haven’t you read them yet?!” I’d heard they were sure to be the new YA craze in the same vein as the Hunger Game series and I can totally see how the comparisons got made. (Who knew dystopia would be the best thing to happen to young adult fiction since vampires?!) Yet, I didn’t feel the same pull to these as I did to Katniss and Peeta. The first novel held my attention quite a bit more than the second, but I absolutely loved the ending of the second book and now cannot wait for the third (and final) novel in the series to come out. Also? I’m totally curious about the movie, especially since I highly approve of its cast!

Would I Recommend? Surrrreeee, why not? They’re not perfect by any means, but these are the books you want to pick up for quick summer reads—great for the beach or a vacation with the family.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: It’s rare for me to re-read a book (there’s always too much else out there new to command my attention!) but in anticipation of the new movie, I had to pick my beloved Gatsby back up. It’s funny how different themes of a book resonate with you based on where you’re at in your life. Having just become a mother, this time I was particularly pained by how little love and affection Daisy displayed for her daughter with Tom. Given that Gatsby is one of my favorite reads of all time (I’m a big fan of Fitzgerald’s style), of course this one still holds a lot of appeal for me. And so many great passages to remember, far too many to list individually here.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio: Ohhhhh you guys! I don’t think I can fully express how much I enjoyed this novel. The story centers on August Pullman, a young boy with a face so deformed it’s prevented him from going to mainstream school. But Auggie relents to his parents’ pleas to attend middle school and what follows is a year-long journey through the school year—one full of trials and tribulations—as told by a cast of characters that includes Auggie along with his sister and classmates. The story will tug at your heart strings as it teaches you a powerful lesson about compassion and friendship.

Passages I Want to Remember: “I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.” // “Do people look the same when they go to heaven, mommy?” “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” “Then how do people recognize each other?” “I don’t know, sweetie. They just feel it. You don’t need your eyes to love, right?”

Would I Recommend? It’s the first book I’ll tell people to read when they ask, “What should I read next?” As I was reading Wonder, I found myself thinking back to a Pulitzer Prize-winning feature story I read years ago about a REAL little boy with a facial deformity named Sam. If and when you read Wonder, do yourself a favor and read this article about this kid — he truly is a real-life Auggie.

VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6 To Help You Lose Weight & Restore Your Health for Good by Mark Bittman: I started reading the newest release from Mark Bittman (the legendary New York Times food writer I’ve admired for years) not because I was necessarily wanting to lose weight but because I felt pulled in by Bittman’s personal story about how this method of eating was so beneficial to his lifelong health. I have high cholesterol (darn genetics!) and I’ve been interested in how food can help me control my blood levels, so I’ve been fascinated by this book and find myself truly enjoying the recipes I’ve tried so far. (Mark’s homemade cereal is my new favorite start to the morning!) I’m not totally vegan before 6, but I’m making small strides toward adding more healthy food to my plate, including more vegetarian dishes come dinner time. Small steps go a long way in this area of life, so don’t forget that (words typed by a former Diet Coke junkie!)

Would I Recommend? It may not be for everyone, but for anyone making healthy changes in his or her life, who enjoys cooking and incorporating real food into their diet (news flash—a daily soda ain’t allowed with this way of eating) and is interested in reaping the benefits of feeling better and having more energy, then yeah, pick it up. It’s eye-opening (Bittman doesn’t skip on facts about this nation’s poor health habits) but encouraging at the same time. (Remember, this isn’t about a diet but instead a way to eat for life!)