Sunday Book Club! The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Happy Sunday!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell.

Initial Thoughts:
One of the biggest benefits of making my way through my Books to Read List is, I’m starting to get a much better sense of what I really enjoy reading as far as genre, time periods, & types of characters. I was excited to start “TOT” because it seemed to be right up my alley, a mystery centered around a strong female character taking place during 1920’s America. My excitement waned a little as the story moves pretty slowly, but once the drama starts – WOW!

Plot:
“TOT” is about Rose Baker, a reserved, plain, young woman that works as a Typist for the NYPD. Growing up an orphan raised by nuns, Rose never knew much about friendship, luxury, or adventure, but that all changes when another young woman named Odalie starts work at the precinct as, of course, a typist. Odalie is Rose’s exact opposite, she’s alluring, gorgeous, & rich. Eventually the two women form a friendship based on, it seems, Odalie’s desire to help Rose break out of her shell. She invites Rose to move in with her at her posh, expensive hotel penthouse apartment, she dresses her in fabulous clothing & jewelry, & takes her on wild adventures that usually involve finding their way to a speakeasy. Rose is very quickly out of her element & realizes that Odalie’s lifestyle is not the pure, virtuous, law abiding life she had. Unfortunately, she’s in too deep, Odalie has bigger plans for Rose than just helping her break out of her shell & the friendship becomes obsessive & controlling on both sides. I won’t get into the actual mystery because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are some dark twists & turns that really surprised me, although, if you’re really paying attention, there are scattered clues as to how the story will end.

Characters:
Rose is an extremely complex character. Rindell did an excellent job of revealing details about Rose through small doses. At first you think they’re inconsistencies in the writing, but upon closer examination, you see Rose is changing, losing hold of her convictions & the way she presents herself. At first I felt like she was a relatively modern woman, enjoying her lifestyle, secure & proud of the choices she’d made. I found her attitude relatable & refreshing for a story set in 1920’s Prohibition Era. Later, however, she reveals herself to be terribly insecure & prudish, desperately seeking approval from Odalie & willing to do anything to strengthen their bond. She becomes very stalker-ish & it’s almost amusing to see how she rationalizes her crazy actions.

Overall/Rating: B
“The Other Typist” was a little slow & dry at parts, but for the most part, was a quick & easy read. I don’t want to compare this story to “Gone Girl” because I think that gives away the nature of the big twist. However, the front of the book offers the comparison so it’s not like I’m really spoiling anything. “TOT” is the result of “The Great Gatsby” & “Gone Girl” having a literary baby. When this book was published Rindell was in the dissertation phase of her Ph.D program, concentrating on 20th century American modernism. The influence of her education is clear in a few monologues where Rose contemplates innocence, youth, & the effects WWI had on her generation.If you’re at all a fan of 1920’s America you’ll at least enjoy the imagery & those monologues, even if you’re not a fan of the actual mystery within. In regards to the mystery, I still had unanswered questions which frustrate me because I’m not sure if I’M missing something or if Rindell left it vague on purpose. Please read “The Other Typist” & let me know what you think!

Have you read or heard of “The Other Typist”? If so, what are your thoughts? What’s your favorite genre or time period in history to read about? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

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Sunday Book Club! Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Happy Sunday!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Turn of Mind” by Alice LaPlante.

Initial Thoughts:
As I usually say each Sunday, I don’t remember why I added this book to my list. This is an especially painful irony given the subject matter of “Turn of Mind”. The fact that the main character has dementia hit close to home for me, but my interest was also piqued because of the overall mystery. Keep reading to see if this is a book you might be interested in as well!

Plot:
“Turn of Mind” is a fictional story that focuses on the life of Dr. Jennifer White, a successful hand surgeon who suffers from dementia. Her husband James has passed away & her children, Mark & Fiona, now have control over various aspects of her life. The story shifts back and forth between past & present as Jennifer struggles with dementia – plus that fact that her best friend Amanda was murdered & she’s the prime suspect! While Jennifer mourns the loss of her friend, when she actually remembers she’s been murdered, she also can’t help but wonder if she DID murder her. While extremely close, the women shared a tumultuous past with many secrets & when her mind is right, Jennifer fears one of those secrets was Amanda’s undoing.

Characters:
– Dr. Jennifer White: Jennifer’s dementia & the way LaPlante formats her story make for a unique relationship with the main character. The reader gets their information through Jennifer’s eyes, so we’re just as in the dark as she is. She can’t remember if she killed Amanda, so you aren’t sure either which leaves you with mixed feelings towards her. You feel sympathy because of how dementia is ravaging her brilliant mind, but on the other hand, if she’s a psychopathic murderer, you want nothing to do with her! Normally in a story like this the main character tries to prove their innocence, but Jennifer isn’t sure she’s innocent, most days she can’t even remember she’s a suspect. All of this adds up to an extremely complex character that provokes a lot of thought & discussion.

Overall/Rating: B+
The depiction of dementia is SPOT ON with what I’ve witnessed from my grandparents. It was so accurate that I wonder if LaPlante knows someone with dementia or if she did a lot of intense research. If it’s the latter, it really paid off! This is great insight to the fragmented mindset of someone with dementia & how they become increasingly confused, frustrated, agitated, & even dangerous. Some may find the disjointed nature of the narrative confusing, but that goes with the territory of the disease, so I felt that was an authentic choice for LaPlante to make for a character with dementia. I rated down a bit because I felt like once the mystery was solved, I wouldn’t want to revisit this story again. I also rated down because the pace was pretty slow, barely moving enough to keep my interest. You don’t get an answer to the big whodunit until literally the last few pages of the book, & I was a little disappointed because I still had some unanswered questions!

Have you read or heard of “Turn of Mind” or Alice LaPlante? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is August 28th & the book is “The Other Typist” by Suzanne Rindell.

Sunday Book Club! The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, & One Man’s Quest to be a Better Husband

Hello again!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Journal of Best Practices…” by David Finch.
Disclaimer: In no way do I intend to offend anyone with my Review. I have very limited knowledge of Asperger Syndrome or the mental health community as a whole, so please take my personal spin on this with a grain of salt, or feel free to educate me/start a conversation in the Comments below.

Initial Thoughts:
Many years ago I dated someone whose brother had AS & I was somewhat convinced my ex did too to some degree. As I’ve stated many times before, my To Read List is THAT old! I came across this book because I was researching AS, desperate to find an explanation for my ex’s awkward/bad behaviors. I realize now how sick it was to wish that he had AS, but I wanted an explanation that would be “fixable” & I felt like there might be a connection because of the family history & the many similar symptoms/traits the brothers shared. What gave one the diagnosis of AS & what made the other “just acting like a guy”?  Obviously that relationship ended long ago but this book has stayed on my To Read List mainly to educate myself somewhat on AS & out of curiosity to see what I’ll take away from it at this point. Keep reading to find out what that is…

Plot:
“The Journal of Best Practices…” is the Memoir of David Finch, a regular guy with a regular life that seems to be going downhill at a rapid pace – until he’s diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. While it seems odd that a diagnosis such as this would be a change for the better, Finch & his wife Kristen are thrilled at this discovery because it explains so much of Finch’s behaviors. He’s not an insensitive jerk, his brain just doesn’t process life the same way. With Kristen’s help, Finch sets out to identify his most destructive behaviors & try his best to change them. The Journal of Best Practices is a reference to Finch’s numerous notes, reflections, & realizations that he comes upon during this journey. “TJoBP” tells the story of a couple fighting to make their love work despite great odds.

Characters:
David Finch – I have mixed feelings about Finch. On one hand, I found him to be relatable yet a refreshing depiction of a married man. He loves being married to Kristen & sees the value in their friendship. Once diagnosed he goes out of his way to better their relationship, including reading Cosmopolitan in an effort to find ways to connect with her. I think it’s noble he made the effort to admit changes needed to be made, & then he tried to his best to make them, even at the sake of his masculinity. There are several instances where Finch could continue to let AS get the better of him, but he remembers his marriage is at stake & even though he’s uncomfortable, he fights it. I can somewhat relate to this because my aforementioned ex had PTSD & would pick & choose when it bothered him. For example, we couldn’t go to Disneyland because there were too many people & he would be uncomfortable. However, he was able to go to Galaxy games with his friends in a huge stadium full of people. I tried to be sympathetic/understanding, but eventually it became obvious my kindness was being taken advantage of, so I appreciate people that don’t use their mental health as an excuse to get out of things they don’t want to do. On the other hand, it’s hard to look past Finch’s egocentricity, although that’s part of AS. It’s kind of sad that he didn’t feel a need to change his behaviors until he was diagnosed. I understand because of AS he was quick to shift all the blame to Kristen, but at the same time, it’s a little hard to swallow that he felt NO responsibility for his own happiness.

Quotes:
– Pg 1: I quickly found myself enjoying Finch’s style of writing. It has a real stream of consciousness style that is relatable & comical.
– Pg 94: “Transformation is always an option”

Overall:
“TJoBP” reminded me of “The Vow” by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter. Both are told from the husband’s point of view & tell the story of a young couple fighting for love against neurological medical odds. “The Vow” was a whirlwind romance that seemed hard to believe, but I think readers will find “TJoBP” much more relatable. There’s always that moment when you realize your partner is NOT the person you fell in love with & you have to figure out what that means for the future. To the best of my ability, I understand why the diagnosis was a welcome relief to the Finch family. I was looking for that relief in regards to my ex, as mentioned earlier, because if something’s wrong, there’s an excuse! They aren’t acting this way on purpose, it’s their brain! It’s something that can be fixed with medication or therapy, they’re not an inherently bad person. Finch unknowingly let AS get the best of him & was willing & able to take steps to create a better life. Not everyone with AS is willing & able to do that, so it’s important to note that every diagnosis is different & the severity of each case ranges. Also – note to self – it’s best not to go looking for a diagnosis where none is needed. Sometimes people just change, or rather, reveal their true colors & while it’s difficult to come to terms with, deep down, we know what’s right. On another note, your interpretation/enjoyment of this story will definitely depend on your connection/feelings about Mental Health/”Invisible Illness” issues.

Rating: C+
While I found Finch’s writing clever, I think I’m growing tired of Memoirs. It got a little stale in the middle. I put the book down & almost didn’t care to pick it back up. After the diagnosis, there are some funny, poignant moments but otherwise it’s just the day to day story of this man’s life. While his journey is certainly admirable, is it entertaining? After a few chapters of “Here’s something I’m not good at, Kristen helps me, I struggle, I’m better at this thing”, I was thinking, “OH MY GOOOOSH WE GET IT!!!”

Do you have any experience with AS or other Mental Health issues? If you’ve read this book, would you recommend it? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is June 12th; “Pictures of You” by Caroline Leavitt.

Sunday Book Club! Straight From the Source by Kim Osorio

Hello again!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Straight from the Source” by Kim Osorio.

Initial Thoughts:
I don’t remember how I came across this book, but I was intrigued at the idea of learning more about a woman’s role in the Journalism/Entertainment Industry, especially in a position of power. I don’t really know anything about Hip Hop music/culture, so I wasn’t sure I’d understand the story…keep reading to see my thoughts!

Plot:
“SFTS” tells the real life story – according to her – of Kim Osorio & how she works her way up from unpaid Internships to becoming the Editor in Chief of her favorite magazine, The Source. Before reading this I was not familiar with The Source, but apparently it was considered the “Hip Hop Bible”, so working there was a huge career builder, & being in charge was a huge accomplishment. Along the road to fame, Osorio runs into some complications – not being taken seriously because she’s a woman, being disrespected by her male peers/superiors, & dodging questions & assumptions from others about her romantic relationship with certain celebrities. Eventually Osorio sues The Source for sexual harassment & this story is an exposé of what happened during her time there.

Characters:
Kim Osorio – At first I related to Kim while she struggled & jumped from unpaid Internship to unpaid Internship. I sympathized with her because she’s so passionate about Hip Hop & Journalism & wants to make a career out of her passions, but just can’t seem to make the right connections. I know that struggle! However, I became annoyed with her constant name dropping of celebrities & talk of how well connected she was. Most of the story is about Osorio denying that she’s a groupie, but after a while it sort of felt like, “she doth protest too much”. She talks about her relationships with big name celebrities like Nas & 50 Cent to the point that I wonder if they were okay with this book being published. She’s certainly entitled to a relationship that makes her happy, but something about Osorio’s attitude makes it seem like she’s just trying to get her 15 minutes of fame.

Quotes:
– Pg 71: “Sorry, but I didn’t recognize random white chicks who wanted to be down with Hip Hop”
– Pg 272: “I wonder why the hip-hop circle is so damn judgmental” – both quotes from Kim Osorio
This is but one quote in a sea of moments where I felt alienated & judged by Osorio because I wasn’t “down” with Hip Hop. Judgement is part of the reason I don’t really like Hip Hop or the Music Industry culture in general. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE music itself, but I hate that each genre is a clique. Reading Osorio’s judgement made me feel bad because she’s missing the opportunity to share her passion for Hip Hop with a varied audience that might find the same love she has. Then she goes & says that she doesn’t understand why the Industry is so judgmental, she’s part of the problem! Hypocrisies like this are why I’m not a fan of Osorio.
– Pg 260: “…job security was always a [seious] issue…” (I added brackets to point out the spelling error)
I found at least 4 typos along with several missing commas or periods. She was the EIC of a major magazine & couldn’t edit her own book properly!?
– Pg 272: “…I will never be able to recover my reputation…although the girls & I in the network can, as one of my friend jokes, walk up to so many men in the industry & embarrass them by holding our hands up in front of them as a measure of how big or small we know they are…I will never be able to shake my image in the eyes of some people as the girl who slept with a bunch of rappers” – Kim Osorio
This quote continues to confuse me in regards to how Osorio wants to be seen. Sometimes she’s a hardworking, powerful woman that had sexist lies told about her, & other times she says things like this which make her seem like the groupie she keeps denying she is.

Overall:
As mentioned in my “Initial Thoughts” I don’t really have an interest in Hip Hop culture so there were moments where I had little to no idea who or what Osorio was talking about. It wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t understand the overall story, but there were details that a more educated reader would have found interesting, but were over my head. Osorio’s writing style is interesting, there’s heavy swearing & use of slang. I was intrigued by this story, but Osorio’s hypocrisy became too much to keep track of. Besides the constant “I have sex with lots of Industry men/I’ve only had a few relationships with Industry men” story line, there was another plot point where she talks about how she was forced to make decisions for The Source that she didn’t believe were right & it made her uncomfortable because her name was being signed on work she didn’t think was good. Then at the end of the book she talks about how the work you do speaks louder than the place you work, so she’s lucky to always have her work at The Source to show her skills. Didn’t you spend a majority of the book talking about how your bosses forced you to make bad decisions that you didn’t agree with!? So what’s the part of your work that you’re proud of? I always felt like I was missing something or getting tripped up by Osorio’s BS.

Rating: Originally rated B, but while writing this review lowered to a C
At first I gave this book a B rating because it was a quick read that kept me entertained. However, while writing this Review, I couldn’t wash away the bad taste this book left in my mouth. I think this story was meant to be read specifically by Osorio’s peers that had heard the rumors & were judging her. It was her chance to clear the air/cover her ass/name names/kiss & tell, basically one big mass defense of her actions while at The Source, but ultimately unless you were part of the story or the culture, why would you care? I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are familiar with The Source, Hip Hop culture, or the study of Feminism. There are a lot of Feminist plot points that I can see making interesting discussions in a Literature/Gender/Music Industry class or for personal study if that’s your passion.

Have you read or heard of The Source? Have you read this book or other Industry Autobiographies like this?  If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is May 29th & the book is “The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband” by David Finch.