Book Review: Wild

I know, it’s officially been forever since my last post. Life has been busy (lots of work, lots of riding, lots of concerts). 

My friend Megan recommended the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed.

Synopsis from

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

This was a really good book and I highly recommend it. Cheryl Strayed has a way of writing that made me want to go out and hike the trail (well, for about 2 seconds, then I decided it was a bad idea). I can’t even imagine how amazing, yet terrifying her journey must have been, and how wonderful it must have been to complete. 

In reading through Cheryl’s Wikipedia page, I discovered that a movie is being made about her journey, starring Reese Witherspoon. It looks like it’s due out in December of this year… I can’t wait to see it!

12 Years A Slave

This is a very special post because it’s both a book review and a movie review of 12 Years A Slave. I read the book by Solomon Northup first (as you always should, in my opinion) and absolutely loved it. Mike and I rented the movie the other night (all of the Oscar movies are now on pay-per-view), and it was good, but as I often find, not as good as the book.

12 Years A Slave Poster (from IMDb)

DirectorSteve McQueen

StarsChiwetel EjioforBenedict CumberbatchLupita Nyong’o, and Brad Pitt

Runtime: 2 hours, 14 minutes

Plot Summary: (from IMDb) Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

Rating: Theater

Let me start with the story line. People suck. Like a lot. It’s amazing to me how awful we can be to each other, because of the color of our skin, our beliefs, or what God we worship. This is actually based on the true story of Solomon Northup, and what an amazing story it is. Lupita Nyong’o deserved every ounce of praise she got for this role – it was raw, heart-breaking, uncomfortable, and hard to watch. Chiwetel Ejiofor is an amazing actor as well… he was believable in how stunned he was not only by his captivity, but the unspeakable cruelty that was done to him and to those around him.

Here’s why I liked the book so much better – it went into a lot more detail, as books tend to do. I think some of the things in the movie almost didn’t make sense without some of the back story, or at least were made more clear in the book because of it.

This is both a must-read and a must-see!

Ratings Explanation:

  • Theater: This means the movie is awesome. Go see this movie in the theater – well worth the $100 you’ll spend for a night out to see it on the big screen!
  • On Demand: Since no one actually rents movies anymore, this category has changed to On Demand. This means it’s a great movie, but it is as good at home as it is in the theater and worth seeing a little sooner.
  • TV: This means the movie is ok. Wait for it to show up on HBO and see it for free.
  • Skip It: Movie sucks, don’t waste your time.

Book Review: When I Found You

The latest book I read was called When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

While duck hunting one morning, childless, middle-aged Nathan McCann finds a newborn abandoned in the woods. To his shock, the child—wrapped in a sweater and wearing a tiny knitted hat—is still alive. To his wife’s shock, Nathan wants to adopt the boy…but the child’s grandmother steps in. Nathan makes her promise, however, that one day she’ll bring the boy to meet him so he can reveal that he was the one who rescued him.

Fifteen years later, the widowered Nathan discovers the child abandoned once again—this time at his doorstep. Named Nat, the teenager has grown into a sullen delinquent whose grandmother can no longer tolerate him. Nathan agrees to care for Nat, and the two engage in a battle of wills that spans years. Still, the older man repeatedly assures the youngster that, unlike the rest of the world, he will never abandon him—not even when Nat suffers a trauma that changes both of their lives forever.

My Thoughts

This was a really good book and a fast read. I loved how she developed both of the main characters. You want to hate Nat because of some of the things he puts Nathan through, but you also love him because he’s just a boy and the world has done nothing but let him down. Nathan, is seriously a saint. He shows a level of love and patience that most of us only dream of having, along with the old saying “With age comes wisdom”. Nathan is a truly honest person, yet it does not come across as harsh. Hands down best quote of the book (and there are many): “The value of your life is your own choosing”. It’s so true, yet I feel like we forget this in our day to day actions.

I’ve actually started reading another by her called When You Were Older. Stay tuned for that review once I’m done!

Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

I was recently invited to join a book club (yay!) and our first book was Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make the book club meeting, but I did read the book and thought it was really interesting.

Synopsis (from Amazon):

A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love, The Time Traveler’s Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come

My Thoughts

This book was really good, but be warned, it’s not an easy read. The story jumps back and forth between Claire and Henry as well as to different times. That said, I love the concept. Henry can’t control when his travel happens, nor where he ends up and how long he’s there for. It’s definitely very different than the typical time travel story. Claire is so in love with Henry that she not only puts up with his coming and going, but patiently waits for him,  not knowing if he’s ok or not. The ending actually made me cry!

This book is definitely worth a read!

Book Review: Sisterland

I read Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld a few weeks ago and have been meaning to do a review on it. Enjoy!

Synopsis (from

From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading this one – I loved the struggle between the two sisters throughout the book – Violet to be understood and Kate to actually do the understanding. In the end, the story became less about one sister being more “eccentric” and rather, the other sister taking personal responsibility for who she thought she was and who she actually was. They story unrolls itself and makes you want to continue turning pages. Definitely read this one!

Book Review: If I Stay

I just finished reading a couple of pretty good books that I thought I’d share. The first is called If I Stay, by Gayle Forman. I think this was another Amazon editor’s top picks book and I was not disappointed at all.

Synopsis: (from

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces – to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make.

My Thoughts

I really liked the story… the idea of having to choose between life and death when it seems like your world has been completely changed is such a great struggle for a main character. To force that decision on a seventeen year old is even more incredible.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is how music plays such a huge role. Mia is an extremely talented cellist and although young, her passion for classical music reminds me of my own at that age. While at times I found the writing a little simplistic, all in all this was a good book and definitely worth reading!

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans

I told you I was behind on my blogging… the book I finished last night is called The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. I think I found this one by searching the top downloaded books on Amazon or something along those lines. It was one of those “I’ll guess I’ll give it a try” books and I’m so glad I did!

Synopsis (from

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

My Thoughts

I loved this book. In fact, I actually laid in bed last night and cried as I read the last few pages. M. L. Stedman draws you into the love between Tom and Isabel, then promptly breaks your heart. I loved learning all about lighthouses and the lifestyle of a lighthouse keeper. I was shocked to read that this is her first novel – it is beautifully written and makes you want to read late into the night because you can’t put the book down. If you read only one book this summer, make it this one!

Book Review: Defending Jacob

One of the books that I’ve recently read is called Defending Jacob by William Landay.

Synopsis (from

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.

Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

My Thoughts

I’m not normally a big legal thriller kind of girl, but this book really hooked me. First of all, William Landay did an amazing job of developing his characters. You truly feel the pain and confusion of Andy and Laurie as they struggle to understand the facts – and come to terms with the fact that their son might be a murderer. It also highlights the struggles between parent and child as they try to understand each other. There is a phenomenal twist at the end of this book… one that changes everything for Andy. This is definitely a must read book!