Hello Sunshine – Book Club Intro

I took a bubble bath today. Well, I didn’t have anything to make the bubbles, so it was really just a bath with some calming lavender salts. Regardless of the kind of bath I took, I spent 40 minutes in the bath thinking about my life.

Naturally, I took a (very) full glass of wine – I am currently obsessed with Narcissi’s Black Raspberry wine – my phone (for music purposes only, I am very anti-social media when it comes to relaxing) and a book for entertainment. I honestly try my hardest at self-care. I keep a steady skin care regiment, I use a eye mask a few times a week, use hair masks on the weekends, and moisturize every inch of my annoyingly dry skin. I try my best, I really do, but there isn’t a self-care task I love more than a bubble bath, wine, music, and my current best seller.

A few weeks ago, thanks to my love of Reese Witherspoon, books, and a lack of ideas for my Christmas list, I decided I would read every book from Reese Witherspoon’s book club. Thanks to boredom, I created an entire spreadsheet of all of the books included (there is 42 btw – not including the newly added YA selections) complete with columns, highlights, and a section for notes. I sent this spreadsheet to my husband and my mom and would honestly be completely content to only receive books from this list for Christmas.

To add to my super nerd status, I couldn’t wait to start reading and complete this list. So, naturally, I am currently reading my 9th one from the list. Oops. Don’t worry though, there are still so many left for my family to get me for Christmas.

Let’s get back to that bath again. While I was thinking about my life, I remembered one of the items my husband put on his Christmas list – and that was for more Ktwrites. Since I made this blog (almost a year ago!!!!!) as a place where I could review books I have read, I thought it would be silly for me to not write a post (or a few) about my current undertaking.

I’m not sure if I will do a post for each book after this or if I will do a few book reviews in one, but for the purpose of this blog, I am just going to include my spreadsheet that has comments on the books I have read! Once I finish a book, I will update this chart, so make sure you check back!

Book TitleAuthorOwn BookGenreRating and Comments
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineGail HoneymanFiction-Drama9.5/10 – beautiful. I fell in love with Eleanor and all her quirks. I wish there was a little more with Raymond but the twist at the end was perfect!
The Alice NetworkKate QuinnFiction-Drama8/10 – great storyline. I enjoyed Eve’s character the most. Could easily find myself reading this again and again. 
The Lying GameRuth WareThriller8.5/10 – slow moving and then an abrupt end. The cheating was unnecessary between Isa and Luc
Little Fires EverywhereCeleste NgFiction-Drama6.5/10 – there was a lot of hype for this book and I honestly was not that interested. It was nice, but too many storylines for my liking. The messages were good, but it was not necessary for Bebe’s story. Also, not a fan of a mom treating her daughter like that…
The Rules of MagicAlice HoffmanFiction-Drama10/10 – have read twice so far. Prequel to Practical Magic. Beautiful story and great imagery
This is the Story of a Happy MarriageAnn Patchett

The Last Mrs. ParrishLiv ConstantineFiction-Drama9/10 – loved this! The twist was great! I could see myself reading this book repeatedly. I LOVED the three parts with different POVs. 
Braving the WildernessBrene Brown

The Light We LostJill Santopolo√ kFiction-Drama9/10 – beautifully written, but predicable ending. I loved that it was written like a letter to Gabe but then the end was an actual letter to their son. 
Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsBalli Kaur JaswalFiction – Drama7/10 – this was a fun story to read. I enjoyed learning more about the culture. The author mixed in different story types, which made this a compelling story.
HappinessHeather Harpham√ k

You Think It, I’ll Say ItCurtis Sittenfeld

Something in the WaterCatherine SteadmanThriller4/10 – Too much detail on unnecessary things. They were in so many places in the book it was hard to pick up on what was important and what was not. I really wanted to like this book, but I probably won’t read it again. Good concept, though.
Next Year in HavanaChanel CleetonFiction-Drama8.5/10 – beautiful story. Will read the sister’s other stories. The storyline was predictable, but I still really enjoyed this book.
Still LivesMaria Hummel√ k

Where the Crawdads SingDelia OwensFiction-Drama10/10 – WOW. I loved every minute of this book. Beautiful. It reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes. 
This is How It Always IsLaurie Frankel√ kFiction-Drama5/10 – eye opening book with a good story. I just could not get into it. 
The Other WomanSandie JonesThriller9.5/10 – Read this is about 24 hours. The twist at the end got me. 
One Day in DecemberJosie Silver√ kFiction-Drama7.5/10 – A easy to read love triangle story. It’s cliché but I enjoyed the story and would read again. 
The Library BookSusan Orlean

The ProposalJasmine Guillory√ kFiction-Drama6/10 – Cute and fun to read. It’s a very basic book but was lighthearted. Very predictable but would probably read again. 
Daisy Jones & The SixTaylor Jenkins Reid√ kFiction-Drama9/10 – SO GOOD. I actually thought that this was a true band and a true story. It is supposed to be based on Fleetwood Mac which makes this so much cooler. I read this so fast over Thanksgiving. Would love to possibly write my own story in this format – interview
The Night TigerYangsze ChooFiction – Drama8/10 – Very interesting story concept. This was a delightful book to read. I could see this being turned into multiple stories!
From ScratchTembi Locke

The CactusSarah Haywood√ kFiction – Drama
7/10 – I liked this one for the cliche story type. The main character is drab (but that’s the point), she falls for someone not her type, and it ends happily ever after.
Whisper NetworkChandler BakerFiction-Drama But w/ Murder4/10 – The beginning of each chapter was written in a different tone/POV from the rest of the chapter – almost like they were summarizing a feminist point before actually going into the story. I am all for feminism, but I wish there was just one tone/POV. It was slow and confusing. Just too many characters and POVs. 
The Last House GuestMegan MirandaFiction – Suspense
6/10 – I was very excited to read this one, but it fell short for me. Compelling, but I expected more of a thriller. 
The Secrets We KeptLaura Prescott

Fair PlayEve Rodsky

The Giver of StarsJojo MoyesFiction – Drama8/10 – Moyes is a fantastic author. I loved her Me Before You series and now I love this one! Her writing style puts you right there in the saddle delivering books. Great story! 
ConvictionDenise Mina
Fiction – Slight suspense
7/10 – I enjoyed this one. To be honest, it is not super memorable, but it was an easy read and a good concept. It tied in with a podcast.
Such a Fun AgeKiley Reid

The Scent KeeperErica Bauermeister Fiction – Drama8.5/10 – such a cool concept for a story. Everything is told from scents! I flew through this book because I have never read anything like it. 
The JetsettersAmanda Eyre Ward

UntamedGlennon Doyle

The Henna ArtistAlka Joshi

The Guest ListLucy FoleyThriller8/10 – little bit of a slow start and not enough closure for Hannah. Good twist on who the killer was and who was killed 
I’m Still HereAustin Channing Brown

Everything InsideEdwidge Danticat√ k

The Last Story of Mina LeeNancy Jooyoun KimFiction – Drama w/ some suspense6/10 – I liked how this story wove together stories of the mom and daughter separately. It’s an interesting story where you learn a lot about the culture. Definitely eye opening. 
His Only WifePeace Medie Adzo

GroupChristie Tate

The Chicken SistersKJ Dell’Antonia√ k

OutlawedAnna North√ k

The SanatoriumSarah PearseThriller8/10 – this satisfied my thriller needs. Semi-predicable and a little bit of a letdown for an ending. Is there going to be a sequel? 
Infinite CountryPatricia Engel

Northern SpyFlynn Berry
7.5/10 – Once you get past the first part of the book, you will not be able to put this down! The plot of the book was good and easy to follow.
The Last Thing He Told MeLaura DaveSuspense9/10 – I absolutely loved this one! The past few book selections were good, but this one blew them out of the water! I highly recommend.
Seven Days in June Tia Williams
The Paper PalaceMiranda Cowley Heller
We Were Never HereAndrea Bartz

If you have read any of these books, drop a comment and tell me what you loved about them! Or if you have any book suggestions, I am always on the lookout for a good book.

As always – Love, KT

KTWrites – Still Alice

I lost my grandma earlier this year to cancer. On good days, I find myself starting to call her cellphone to tell her something exciting. I start dialing her number and then I remember. She’s gone. On bad days I cry, a lot.

I miss a lot of things about her, but mostly I miss getting to say her name aloud, well my name for her, Grammy. I never realized how often I would say that word until I lost her. Now her name gets caught in my throat as if I am afraid to say it. I think I hesitate to say her name now because I know she can’t answer me, at least not in the way she used to. But I don’t want to be sad. I have been sad long enough. I want to talk about my Grammy because of what she means to me.

Before she was diagnosed with cancer, my Grammy was the picture of health. She was superwoman. She took an exercise class that made me feel weak and lazy! Besides a broken ankle, I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t healthy. The only exception to that was the possibility that my Grammy had Alzheimer’s. Though a diagnosis was never given, and my family was split on their beliefs about the possibility, I believed it was possible. Alzheimer’s in genetic and her aunt had it. So it was possible.

During a trip to Italy in 2015, a friend of mine showed me Lisa Genova’s Still Alice. I started and finished the novel in the same day. I couldn’t put it down. I finally had something to help me understand what my Grammy was possibly dealing with. I remember sitting in the living room on my Grammy’s blue chair reading this book and wondering how similar her life could have been to Alice’s if the cancer had not taken her first.   

Still Alice is a fictional story about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. I will warn you that it is not an easy story to read not because the book was poorly written, but because of the emotions it stirs. Even though Still Alice is a work of fiction, the disease is real and there is no cure. Alzheimer’s attacks the brain, it steals memories, loses words, and eventually forgets how to communicate to the rest of the body. Lisa Genova gives us a story that shows the deterioration of Alice Howard’s life over a two-year period. Genova’s writing emphasizes the stages of Alzheimer’s and forces the reader to understand the inner battle that the victim fights every day.

 Still Alice opens with Alice pre-diagnosis. We learn that Alice is a highly respected woman. She is a Cognitive Psychology professor at Harvard University and is considered an expert in linguistics. Alice is giving a speech at Stanford when the first sign of Alzheimer’s appears. She couldn’t find the word. It wasn’t until the plane ride later that day that Alice remembered the word she was looking for, syntax.

I realize that losing a word does not mean that the person has Alzheimer’s. There could be many different explanations, but for Alice, this stuck with her and impacted her decision to go see her doctor. There were many other instances that factored into her decision to see her doctor, but this one opened the possibility to something being off.

That scares me. Something as common as forgetting a word or losing the name of something could be a symptom of a neurological disease. In one of the lines in the script before the start of the novel, Genova foreshadows the battle of Alzheimer’s and portrays neurons as being strangled by the disease. She writes, “whether it was molecular murder or cellular suicide, they were unable to warn her of what was happening before they died.” This imagery is unsettling to me. It’s powerful and Ican’t help but wonder if this is what my Grammy went through before the cancer took her? If that’s the case, I don’t know which one hurt more: losing life’s memories and all that made my Grammy important or the cancer that took away her independence? I guess eventually, both diseases would take her independence. But neither one ever took her spirit.

Throughout the novel, Alice answers a few questions that she has written on her BlackBerry to test her cognitive abilities each day. The questions involve her home address, daughter’s birthday, current month, office address, and how many children does she have. Each chapter ends with Alice answering these questions. As the novel and the disease progress, Alice’s answers get less specific. Where her home address used to include the full postal address, it now has been simplified to just Cambridge. This subtle technique that Genova uses is one of my favorite parts of the novel. I love how a simple four question test can show how detailed responses become one-word answers. The names of Alice’s children become just the number three showing that even the names of loved ones cannot win against Alzheimer’s.  

One of the more powerful and emotional quotes from the novel deals with love. Towards the end of the novel, Alice asks her daughter Lydia what would happen when she no longer recognized Lydia and didn’t know that she loved her. Lydia responds that she will tell Alice she loves her, and that Alice will believe her. This causes Alice to wonder; “But will I always love her? Does my love for her reside in my head or my heart?” (Genova 267). Science says head while family says heart.

My Grammy never forgot any of her family members. She might mix up our names, but even I do that sometimes. If the cancer didn’t take her and the Alzheimer’s was diagnosed, I think that if she ever came to forget my face, she could never forget her love for me. I don’t think you feel love based on a face or even a memory. Instead, I think you feel love, literally. Almost like a warmth that makes you feel safe and not alone. You don’t have an explanation to why you feel it, you just know that you do. I choose to believe that not even Alzheimer’s can take that feeling away.

Still Alice is a heartbreaking story that resonates with you long after you have turned the last page. It doesn’t matter if you know someone with Alzheimer’s personally or not, Alice’s story will make you see how much the diseases takes from everyone. For Alice, the pain was felt by her husband, her three children, her colleagues, students, and even by the coffeeshop worker that she visited before teaching. Mostly though, Alice herself felt the pain alone. She had a support group and loved ones, but only she truly understood what was happening; “So even when I feel completely normal, I know I’m not. It’s not over, it’s just a rest” (Genova 186).

Alzheimer’s disease is not curable and there is not a true, 100% accurate test to diagnose it. With the help of books like this, we, as a community, can talk about the importance of changing this. The disease is not just for the elderly. Alice was in her 50s when she was diagnosed. Some people start becoming symptomatic even earlier. Still Alice has taught me to have patience with those that are suffering with Alzheimer’s because we will never truly be able to see the battle they are fighting every second of every day alone in their minds. Listen to them, have empathy, and don’t treat them like they are incapable of living. During one of the last good days, Alice gives her final speech for a Dementia Care Conference. In her speech she reminds us, “just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow doesn’t mean that I didn’t live every second if it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today didn’t matter” (Genova 293). Today always matters and it should never be wasted. You don’t get a redo.

  • KTWrites

Genova, Lisa. Still Alice. New York: Pocket Books, 2007. Book.