The Wolf and the Watchman

What I Read: Part VII

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I’ve been a bad reader this year. Part of starting a new business on this scale means very little sleep and even less free time. As such, I went from reading 41 books last year to a whopping 11.5 so far. (Also, I blame Candy Crush, which now consumes those valuable minutes right before I visit the Land of Nod.)

BooksAs soon as KEEN is over—uh, that would be in 19 days—I plan to read a whole lot of books. But until then, here are the few I’ve read this summer and fall (and here’s a link to those I read earlier in the year):

7. Cruising Altitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet by Heather Poole

I’ve been a fan of Heather Poole’s pithy social media banter for years now and bought her memoir on life as a flight attendant for a major carrier the second it came out. But it took me till summer on the ship to finally start it. If you’ve ever dreamed of working for an airline, this will be a page-turner for you. It’s particularly interesting as Heather started in this crazy career back in the glamor days of flying and documents how the role of “stewardess” has changed since then. I found it delightful: Heather is not just hilarious but also brutally honest…perhaps to a fault at times (that said, I do love the insight into the pilot-flight attendant social divide). But even if you have no desire to quit your day job and go work in the skies, I guarantee you’ll find this read entertaining. I can’t wait to see what Heather writes next (she says it will be fiction).

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

8. The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son and the CIA by Scott Johnson

During our San Francisco days, Scott and his wife Alison were two of our favorite people. (They still are, I just haven’t seen them since our big cross-country move.) I remember on drives to Tahoe, I’d pester Scott with a zillion questions on what it was like having a CIA spy father growing up. For Scott, that was the normal way of life: moving from Pakistan to Yugoslavia (which it still was at the time) to India to Virginia—all the time, not knowing what his dad was doing when he left for work each day and didn’t come home until the wee hours of the morning. It was only fitting then that Scott would go on to pursue a parallel career and end up being one of the greatest war correspondents of our time. (Funny story: He, Alison and I all worked at Newsweek at the same time—three different bureaus on three different continents—and none of us knew each other then.)

If you think the memoir-of-working-in-Iraq-during-the-height-of-the-war thing has been overdone, I challenge you to throw that idea out the window and pick up this book. If you love Homeland, I promise you’ll find this book—which spans four decades and many administrations—fascinating. Not only does it read like a novel, but Scott is the one journalist whose writing I most admire, and he manages to talk about his time in the Middle East in a lyrical, almost poetic nature. He’s another writer whose next work I absolutely cannot wait to devour.

My rating: 5 out of 5

9. Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen

I’ve mentioned before my love for the Royal Spyness series—light and funny historical fiction taking place in 1930s England where the protagonist is a descendant of the queen’s—and Heirs was the most recent installment to come out. I’ll be honest: It wasn’t my favorite. In Heirs, Lady Georgina goes to live in the country in a very Downton-like home to help teach an Australian hillbilly the ways of the uppercrust. The reason I like the other Georgie books far more than this one is the pace. It seemed to lope along at times, and none of the real action took place until around the 85 percent mark. Still, you’ve gotta love the plucky heroine, and I’ll stick with Georgie until the very end. I’m Twitter friends with the author, and she told me that the next book is done and has Georgie heading for Hollywood! (And if you haven’t read these books, I encourage you to start from the beginning and do so.)

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

10. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Separately, my sister-in-law and my mom each turned me out to the magical world of Sookie Stackhouse years before it ever became a hit HBO series. And much as True Blood spiraled into ridiculousness, so did the books after the sixth or seventh installment. As such, I didn’t immediately pick up the conclusion to the 13-book series when it released in the spring. It wasn’t until my mom said that it was actually pretty good that I finally read it. And I’m glad I did: Not only did it tie up all the loose ends that so many TV and book series often don’t (hi, Dexter, I’m looking at you) but it got back to the core of who Sookie Stackhouse is and why so many people fell in love with her in the first place. And—spoiler alert!—it has a happy ending, so after more than a decade of following the goings-on of Bon Temps, that was greatly appreciated.

My rating: 4 out of 5

11. Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

I don’t even want to merit this book with a review. It was pretty horrible. And I love some of Sophie’s other chick lit (such as the Shopaholic series). But this read about a magazine editor who tries to sabotage her sister’s wedding night with the wrong guy so that she won’t consummate the marriage? Just…no.

My rating: 1 out of 5

Currently, I’m reading What’s Left of Me: The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang, a YA author I met while speaking at the Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, Georgia last week. It’s indulging my love for a good dystopian read, but I’m skeptical yet whether or not the concept of everyone being born with two souls is too creepy for me to pursue—though I will hand it to Kat: The writing is incredibly solid, particularly for this genre. (She has a second out, and the third of the trilogy releases next spring.)

And I’m counting the days until KEEN’s done the conclusion to the Divergent saga releases on Oct. 22. Other than that, I’ve got about 100 unread books in the archives of my now-deceased Kindle (another thing that’s been holding me back: my first edition Kindle finally kicked the bucket!) so I can’t wait to devour them over the holidays.

What have you read lately that you’d recommend I add to my reading list?

  • October 9, 2013

    I have the Wedding Night book and have yet to start it… this review makes me want to just take it to GoodWill. I do love her shopaholic series though, which is too bad that this one is so awful.

    • October 9, 2013

      Give it a try. My mom didn’t hate it. It’s just a bit of a lackluster plot and seems too contrived for my liking.

  • October 9, 2013

    If you haven’t read it, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness is a really unique YA dystopian novel. I’m almost finished with the second one. Quite enjoyable.

  • October 9, 2013

    I have read very few books since my kids were born and I started blogging. I also got discouraged because I kept trying books that seemed like something I’d enjoy but ended up being boring. I recently bought some new ones and have started reading more (including Jhumpa Lahiri’s new novel because I loved her other books), but I will get the Scott Johnson and earlier Bowen books.

  • October 9, 2013

    I admit that I have not been reading very much lately and I blame it all on Candy Crush! I even started a book club to get back to reading more and I (re)read our first book in the 3 days before the meeting and I have not started the next book which I need to have read in the next 10 days. The first book we read was Divergent, which I chose because I had read it before and loved it. Everyone got mad at me though and said things like “Who picks a trilogy for the book club?!?!? Now we just want to read the next books instead of anything else!” Our next book is The Husband’s Secret which is supposedly about a letter written by a husband for his wife to read only upon his passing. She finds it though when he is still alive, and reads it. I cannot tell you if it’s good or bad though yet.

    • October 10, 2013

      Candy Crush: killing readers’ aspirations since 2012.

  • October 9, 2013

    I really needed some book recommendations, so thanks for these! I used to be such a voracious reader but lately I’ve not read a single book.

    • October 10, 2013

      Blame the Internet! At least, I do 😉

  • October 10, 2013

    I feel the same way. Trying to finish Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte but keep getting side tracked. Paulo Coelho books are great to read on the road (The Alchemist and Pilgrimage).

    • October 10, 2013

      Loved The Alchemist, and his book The Zahir is one of my favorite 21st century novels.

  • October 10, 2013

    I think the internet is turning us away from good books.

  • October 10, 2013

    if you are a chick lit fan, i just read anna and the french kiss by stephanie perkins. i’m actually embarrassed to even type that title, but it was such a sweet and easy read. i seriously wanted to hug the book when i was done. both my girlfriend and i are borderline obsessed with it actually. i also love gayle foreman’s books. once again, young adult fiction, but they are such feel-good reads and i get lost in them. at some point this year I need to get out of the young adult writing section and back into my own age bracket, but until then…

  • October 11, 2013

    Haven’t read any of these! Definitely adding them to the never ending list. Unfortunately Candy Crush is also taking over my precious moments of free time, something I’m not very proud of. I am slowly making my way through The Art of Racing in the Rain.

  • October 12, 2013

    Oh my goodness… I cannot wait until Oct 22… and also so glad that I didn’t read the first two books until this summer so my wait has not been long. I just finished The Fault in Our Stars and starting Ocean at the end of Lane this week. I’m late to the party but very much enjoying them.

    • November 15, 2013

      OK, now that I’ve read it…what did you think of Allegiant???

  • October 13, 2013

    wait did your kindle die? does that mean my bookmark could be used now? haha! i also recommend poisonwood bible by kingsolver, not sure if youve read that already

    • November 15, 2013

      The bookmark can always be used as I still read actual books when at home, too, ha 😉

  • October 13, 2013

    The Chronicles of Narnia – Oh how I love these books. We still have one left to go to get through the whole series.

  • October 19, 2013

    I read Dead Ever After. Book amazing with thrilling story.

  • October 21, 2013

    I love a good book post! (In fact, I just made a draft for my own blog about books I’ve read this month, and I’ll be making it a series too.) Thanks for the recommendations and I’ll be checking out some of these titles! 🙂

  • October 28, 2013

    Loved, loved, LOVED The Rosie Project! You can read it in under a day. It’s my favorite book this year. Wild, The Turk Who Loved Apples and Radio Shangri-la are other books I’d recommend. Hope that helps!

  • November 1, 2013

    Love this post 😉 Two books that I greatly enjoyed this year were The Cuckoo’s Calling and Ender’s Game. But I’m still trying to get through J.K.’s Casual Vacancy… It’s good, but just takes perserverence!

    • November 15, 2013

      I just saw Ender’s Game tonight and plan to read the book next week on vacation! The series is one of Scott’s favorites; he’s been trying to get me to read them for ages.

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