Mrs Smith Reads The Unwinding An Inner History of the New America by George Packer, #CBR5, Review 24

The Unwinding

I finished The Unwinding too late to include it on my Best of 2013 Reads list, but if I could, I would totally move it to first place. Everyone should read this book. George Packer has put a human face on the economic collapse of the US over the last four decades, and what he describes is not pretty.

The Unwinding is not a non-fiction economic treatise on bad political and corporate malfeasance used to describe our current inequalities, instead, Packer tells stories. These stories come from North Carolina (my home state), Ohio and Florida. Packer gives us history writ small, detailing the lives of lower middle class and poor individuals struggling to be successful and make a good life for themselves and their families as corporations and our politicians make it harder and harder for anyone but the most wealthy to enjoy anything approaching success.

Mrs Smith Reads The Unwinding by George Packer

Mrs Smith Reads Iron House by John Hart, #CBR5 Review #23



I was recently looking to read something easy and quick and my Mom suggested Iron House by John Hart. A North Carolina native, Hart is one of my Mom’s favorite authors (or, arthurs, as she says it) and I had read The Last Child and enjoyed it, so off I went with her copy under my arm.

Iron House was a quick read, but I think mystery thrillers have changed quite a bit since I last read one. The body count in this book is enormous! I will assume Hart was writing with a movie treatment in mind but I could have done with a little less blood and gore.

Mrs Smith Reads The Iron House by John Hart

Mrs Smith Reads The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro, #CBR5, Review 22



I read a lot of non-fiction books about art forgery and was intrigued by the premise of the fictional novel The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. At the prompting of a friend, I dove in. I won’t say it’s my most favorite fictional story about art and artists that I’ve ever read, but it was reasonably enjoyable, and the forgery details were pretty well researched, so I have to give Shapiro props for making the experience more enjoyable because i wasn’t constantly howling over inaccurate historical details or technical minutiae.

Clare Roth is a painter with a past. She is skilled and talented, but her reputation is tarnished, so she gets by painting reproductions of other artist’s work for a company that commissions sofa art (real paintings that decorators buy for size and color palette rather than artistic merit) which can be direct copies or “in the style of” famous artist’s works. Claire’s particular talent is in imitating Degas’ Impressionistic style.

 Mrs Smith Reads The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Mrs Smith Reads The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, #CBR5 Review #21


The Reason I Jump is a short but informative book written by Naoki Higashida when he was just thirteen years old. Higashida is severely Autistic and generously shares his very insightful answers to some common questions non-Autistics often have as they struggle to understand this unusual neurodevelopmental disorder.

Mrs Smith Reads The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

Mrs Smith Reads The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, #CBR5, Review #20


Having spent some weeks in Barcelona this past summer, I was intrigued to read Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s series of novels about writers and booksellers in Franco-era Spain. I actually started with the third book in the series, The Prisoner of Heaven. I enjoyed it immensely and am hoping to read the other two, The Angel’s Game and The Shadow of the Wind before the end of the year. A fourth novel is expected soon, to complete the set. The books are not time sequential and do not have to be read in order.

Daniel Sempere runs a bookshop with his father, just off Las Ramblas in the gothic quarter of Barcelona. Daniel, his wife Beatriz and their newly born son, Julián live above the shop. They are happy, but Daniel has some doubts about his wife’s commitment to their marriage. Sempere and Son have only one employee, Fermín Romero de Tores and it is Fermín’s story that is divulged inThe Prisoner of Heaven.

Mrs Smith Reads The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Mrs Smith Reads Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré, #CBR5, Review 19


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a book that everyone should read. It’s not a perfect masterpiece of fiction, but boy is it good. If you saw the movie, directed by Thomas Alfredson you might be surprised by how the book differs (and yet not) from the plot of the movie. This is a good reason to read the book too.

John le Carré took a very long time to write Tinker, Tailor. The edition I read, had a very interesting forward by le Carré from 1991, in which he explains how his original draft for the novel revolved around Jim Prideaux, but he couldn’t make the story work from an internal point of view. The character of George Smiley didn’t exist in the first drafts, but his addition—as an outsider to the Circus (a thinly disguised MI-6) during the timeline of the story—solved myriad problems and propels the story into being one of the greatest spy novels of all time.

Mrs Smith Reads Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

Mrs Smith Reads Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson, #CBR5, Review #18



I really should have written this review as soon as I finished the book, which was about two weeks ago. I laughed, out loud, several times; mostly in bed, at night, just as my husband was falling asleep. I did read one passage to him, and he laughed too. He remarked that Jenny Lawson sounds exactly like the type of writer who could make me laugh out loud, in bed, at night, and wake up my husband. She is.

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened is a pretty funny and mostly true story of Jenny Lawson’s completely normal and uneventful childhood. Almost none of her childhood was normal and her agent and editor must have thought it was pretty eventful too, since—well, they published her book. Lots of people have read it, and almost everybody loves it. It is quite funny, which I already stated above.

Lawson (AKA The Bloggess) is pretty inspirational to me. I know most days when I’m feeling really miserable about how out of control my life is, I remember that lots of some people with challenging and unfortunate life experiences go on to write inspiring and very well received books about how they navigated adversity with pluck and a sense of humor. And then I feel better.

Mrs Smith Reads Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—and My Own by Mika Brzezinski, #CBR5, Review #17


Mika: her obsession is to not be judged for being a food nazi.

Y’all, I had such conflicted feelings about this book. Having recently written my own (much shorter) tale of food and fatness, I was kind of surprised when the library let me know Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—and My Own was waiting for me. I had put it on my request list, probably before it was released in early 2013, and had completely forgotten about it. It’s a blissfully short read, so there is that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s engagingly written, and there were a few times when I was totally on board with Mika Brzezinski’s admonitions to be healthier in both mind and body.

 Mrs Smith Reads Obsessed: America’s Food Addiction—and My Own by Mika Brzezinski wherein I give my Top Ten Takeaways from the book.

Mrs Smith Reads A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, #CBR5 Review #16

Hologram King

Alan Clay is waiting for the King. He’s waiting in the Saudi compound of KAEC (King Abdullah Economic City) to make a huge presentation in hopes of securing a massive IT contract for his employer, and he’s going to be there for quite a while. Sounds riveting doesn’t it? A Hologram for the King, the novel, is about life, the universe and everything, albeit on a very compressed scale. The story though is quite human-sized—small, tired, overwhelmed and a little bit pathetic.

Mrs Smith Reads A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Mrs Smith Reads In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson, #CBR5, Review #15


In the Garden of Beasts is not kind to the subject of its story. Erik Larson writes a compelling account of the ambassadorship of William E. Dodd and his family during their time in pre-WWII Germany as Hitler rises to power, but he does not pull any punches with regard to the astounding naiveté and ignorance with which they enter Berlin society during the rise of the Nazi party.

Dodd was considered a milquetoast of a man, quiet and unassuming, a lifelong academic from a poor family in rural North Carolina whose dream was to complete his A History of the Old South. His one ambition was to become an ambassador, and though he would have preferred Paris, he had studied as a graduate student at the University of Leipzig and spoke nearly flawless German, so when President Roosevelt couldn’t find any one else to take the job, Dodd was offered the post of Ambassador to Germany in 1934. Thinking this would be an easy posting with plenty of time for writing and research on his History, Dodd accepted.

Mrs Smith Reads In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson