Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law

How could you not grab a memoir with that subtitle?! And, Haben was a quick read that ran in short chapters and moved along at a good clip. While it had a slow start, about a third of the way through, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a glimpse into all the barriers for individuals with disabilities. Before I read this book, I might have said that Haben and what she has done is remarkable. After having read it, I changed my mindset to all the ways that the rest of us make her life, and the lives of others like her, more difficult. What an eye-opening and engaging read. I highly recommend.

The Wartime Sisters

While I am definitely tired of WWII books, The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman, was a nice exception and a good read. The story is about sisters who grow up in Brooklyn and can’t get along because one sister, Ruth, believes that beautiful Millie attracts all the boys and is favored by her parents. Ruth marries, has twins, and moves away, and ends up needing to reconcile with Millie after tragedy strikes. I enjoyed the twists and switching back and forth between characters, though there were random other characters interspersed, which I didn’t love. On the whole, though, this was a decent and enjoyable pick.

The Chain

The Chain by Adrian McKinty was on the NY Post’s best reads of the summer list. That list had some duds on it, so I was skeptical when I grabbed this one. And, overall, it was a page-turning, alarming thriller that, while I had to suspend my disbelief at first to get into, once I did, I was all in. The basic premise is that a girl is kidnapped and her mom learns that she has to pay a ransom and kidnap someone else to have her daughter returned to her. It’s a chain of kidnappings without potential for end because of the threats and desire to have one’s own child returned safe and sound. Ultimately, of course, it’s about the lengths people will go to for their children. A crazy storyline to be sure, but a good read, nonetheless.

We Came Here to Forget

I’m not sure how I found We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop, but I am glad I did. It’s the story of an ex-skier who has had some kind of falling out with her sister. As the story is told, past verses present, the rift is explained and everything makes more sense. I enjoyed most of this story, but found the last third to be somewhat slower than the rest. Overall, however, it was an interesting story (if not much of a surprise once you find out the whole explanation).

The Escape Room

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin was hyped a lot this summer. And, it lived up to most of that hype. It was a fast-paced, stressful read about a corporate team led to a team-building escape room and the parallel story of another firm employee. Of course, the parallel stories finally come together at the end. And, I, for one, was surprised by the way they did. It was a good read and thriller that was easy and quick. Don’t expect anything deep here, though.

The Gramarians

Overall, I liked The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine, though I didn’t particularly like the twin main characters or the story. Hmmm. I liked the way the sisters lives focused on words from their original twin secret language and the moment their father brought home a huge stand and monstrous dictionary to put on it. It was easy to read and pretty skimmable, in addition to being short. The last ten pages and the ending were the best part of the book. I went into it thinking it was a memoir and was disappointed to discover early on that it was a novel. So, I guess, based on reading my review to myself, I wouldn’t really recommend this one. 🙂

Fleishman is in Trouble

Despite its mixed reviews, I liked Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I liked the voice and the story, but it was unnecessarily long and I didn’t like the ending. It’s the story of Toby who has just separated from his wife, Rachel. He is left with his children and misses a lot of work to figure out how to cover their care. The point of view was somewhat challenging to follow, but overall, there was something about this story that I liked more than I thought I would. But, I didn’t love it and the bad reviews don’t surprise me.

You Me Everything

You Me Everything (why no punctuation?) by Catherine Isaac is a pleasant, quick read with a somewhat predictable ending. However, even though you could suspect how it was going to end, it didn’t make the story less enjoyable. While the subject matter has a depressing overlay, overall, there’s hope. Jess and her 10-year-old William head to France to spend time with William’s father (who Jess broke up with several months after William’s birth). Jess is reluctant to take this trip because her mother is in a care home, suffering from Huntington’s disease. Throughout the story we get glimpses into why Jess is in her current state and why it’s hard for her to take this vacation. There are some elements of the story that are a little annoying — her friendships aren’t fleshed out very well and there are characters that seem unnecessary — but for the most part, this was a nice diversion and would make good escapist or beach reading (and it’s only $5.49 for the Kindle version).

How to Forget

How to Forget is the second memoir written by Kate Mulgrew. While I enjoyed it, I liked her first, Born with Teeth (reviewed here) more. The book is about Mulgrew’s return to Iowa to take care of her parents in the final months of their lives. The first half is about Mulgrew’s father and the second half is about her mother. The section on her mother was tough to read – it’s about her mother’s Alzheimers disease and, because of the eight-year progression (as opposed to her father’s rapid decline and more sudden death), it seemed even more hopeless.

The Secrets We Kept

Reese Witherspoon is letting me down. The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott wasn’t a great read for me (following my disappointment with her other pick, The Whisper Network). The premise of The Secrets We Kept was a good one – Amazon says: “A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice–inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.” (Clearly I’ve gotten lazy and am not even writing my own synopses!) However, the execution left a lot to be desired. I was, frankly, bored by this story. It could have held much more intrigue and excitement. Perhaps part of the issue for me is that I haven’t read Doctor Zhivago, but nevertheless, this was one to skip for me.