One item on my blog that I’ve really missed is the ‘What I Read’ series. I’m an introvert and a reader, so when things get overwhelming, I turn to literature. Most of what I read is fiction, and the ‘fluffy-ness’ of what I’m reading is inversely related to how crazy things are in my life. Even so, I’ve managed to read what I think are some really great books lately! I hope you enjoy my first installment of ‘What I Read: 2015’.

LEavingLeaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

Leaving You is the story of Jenna Metcalf, a young girl whose mother abandoned her as a baby. Together with a psychic and a private investigator, Jenna is determined to find her mother and learn what happened the night her mother left. One the way, we learn a whole lot about elephants, which was actually a surprisingly intriguing aspect of the plot. Overall, I found this story very engaging, and was pleasantly surprised by the conclusion. I would happily recommend it to anyone who wants to dive into a pleasant piece of literature- perfect for vacation.

Undress MeUndress Me in the Temple of Heaven, by Susan Jane Gilman

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is the true story of Susan Jane Gilman and a classmate, chronicling their post-graduate round the world adventure. Armed with very little knowledge of the world, and entirely unprepared for what they would encounter, the girls begin their journey in China—and very nearly don’t make it out. I think I was drawn to this book because of my own foolhardly travels when I was in my undergrad, and I was somewhat horrified at each twist a turn. I don’t know what to make of this book- the events within are real, so it’s not like there’s a conflict, climax, and conclusion…well, there is, sort of. But, as in reality, life continued without a very satisfying conclusion. Overall, I was very interested in this book, and I don’t regret spending the time to read it. On the other hand, I’ll recommend it to my sister who is moving overseas in the autumn, but probably not too many other people. So, choose your own adventure with this one!

AllAll the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of Warner, a young German orphan, and Marie-Laure, a blond girl who has to flee Paris following the Nazi occupation. I generally don’t prefer to read anything set in the time of the Holocaust, actually, but Anthony Doerr does a really amazing job highlighting the very common ways that people are inherently good, even in the worst possible circumstances. The stories of the two protagonists are kept separate, for the most part, but the narrative is woven in such a way that it’s not confusing or frustrating at all- it’s just beautiful. All the Light We Cannot See is one of two amazing books that I’ve read this year (even if some of my book club thought it started a little slow) and I would recommend to every single person, regardless of age or gender. It’s just a really good book.

YouYou, by Caroline Kepnes

You is the story of Joe Goldberg, a bookstore clerk who encounters a very desirable customer, and commences with the most creep tastic stalking ever. I must say, this book was very well written, even if I don’t love the story—I had to put it down several times, but I always wandered back to find out what was going to happen next. The thing is, the protagonist is so effective in his stalking and so absolutely nonchalant, that the entire thing is very believable; as in, this could be taking place regularly in my city relatively easily without people realizing. Overall, it’s not one that I texted my sister recommending, because I was really disturbed, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it- it was oddly addicting.

Okay, that’s part one! So tell me- what have you read lately that was really remarkable, either positively or negatively?

What I Read This Spring, Part 2

We’re back, with the second half of what I read over the past few months. As ever, these are my real reactions to what I’ve been reading, so feel free to disregard whatever you don’t agree with 🙂

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This book, my friends, is well worth the time that it takes to read it (which is not inconsiderable, considering that it’s over 700 pages long). The book starts out with really heartbreaking story of a terrorist plot that left Theo without a mother. The rest of the book chronicles the various stages of his life that follow: temporarily living with a classmate’s family, moving to his Dad’s in Vegas, leaving Vegas, and then life as an adult. Each section of Theo’s life is a story unto itself, and is relatively engaging. There were a few portions that I sort of zoned out in, but in a book this long, I wasn’t particularly surprised or upset. Overall, I absolutely loved it, and really felt that Donna Tartt did Theo’s life story justice- the length allowed her to tell an entire story, and I really appreciate that in a book.

Eleanor and ParkEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. You know, this was a sweet book, but I think that I’m about over my YA fiction phase. I dipped back into YA for the Hunger Games, and kept reading because of the Fault in Our Stars, but this book let me know that it’s just about time to move on to other genres again. Eleanor and Park is the story of two teenagers who don’t fit in particularly well. They grow together in their ‘outcast’ status, and fall in love. Eleanor comes from a rough family situation, which provides most of the conflict in the story, and is endearingly melodramatic in her feelings for Park: “I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together.” The end was pretty abrupt and unsatisfying. Many people like this book, and I’ll probably read something else by the author, but I didn’t love it.

Labor DayLabor Day by Joyce Maynard. I just found out this is going to be a movie, and I’m actually really looking forward to seeing it- I think the story will lend itself really well to film! So as not to ruin anything for anyone, I won’t go into the plot, but will say that I enjoyed the book and, even if it weren’t gaining popularity, would recommend it to others. There were several parts of the book where my loyalty was torn between two characters, and I was really rooting for everyone. I wasn’t thrilled with the ending, but I was satisfied with the sense of closure. Overall, a great read, and I highly recommend that you read it before you see the movie!

SisterlandSisterland, by Curtis Sittenfeld. Sisterland is the story of two sisters with ESP, so it had the potential to be very mystical, but chose not to take that direction. Rather, Sittenfeld really just told the story of twin sisters who took very different paths in life, and how their relationship fared through various life changes. I really enjoy reading Curtis Sittenfeld, and this book was no exception. This is a book about women, about sisters, about their lives and real choices that each made and how they coped with them. The plot line is well woven into these themes, and I think it was a great read- I highly recommend it.

Life as we knew itLife as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Yep, we’re keeping it real with these recaps: Life as We Knew It was the final nail in the YA coffin for me. The idea of the book is interesting- there’s a meteor that knocks to moon out of alignment, causing a number of catastrophic changes in nature, and eventually leads to the downfall of a good portion of the population. I’m not much for doomsday stories, but it was an interesting premise. The problem is that the book is written largely as a diary of a girl who might be fifteen…and I found the immature voice of the narrator to be less than engaging. On the other hand, as YA fiction, this is geared towards young adults- and I’m sure that it’s perfect for that audience! Just maybe not for me, for right now. So, take that as you will.

Flat water TuesdayFlat Water Tuesday, by Ron Irwin. My sister recommended this book to me, but I feel like it came completely out of nowhere- I’d never heard to title or the author, and it was just something she picked up by chance. What a serendipitous choice, because I adored this book! Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I rowed in college, so the subject matter was already endeared to me, but I had a hard time putting this book down. Flat Water Tuesday is the story of Rob, a young guy who kind of taught himself to row, and was on scholarship with a boarding school. He struggled to fit in, both with the school culture and with the rowing team, but earned a spot on the prestigious ‘God Four’. I’ll let you read for itself, but this was a great story of growing and adapting, embracing challenges, and of devastating tragedy. The last quarter of the book was awkward, but in an interesting way. Overall, it’s a highly recommended book on my part- I’ll probably read it again in the winter, and several more times beyond that.

I know I asked for recommendations in my recaps last week, but I’ll still take any new title or author suggestions- I need to fill up my Over Drive queue for the rest of the summer!

What I Read This Spring, Part 1

Happy Wednesday! I’ve been doing a ton of reading this year, and wanted to recap whats been in my Overdrive queue. Some things I’ve loved, and some things I’ve hated, so this is a no holds barred recap 🙂

Truth and BeautyTruth and Beauty is the sometimes dark story of the friendship between two women who met in college. It was a pretty swift read, but with an engaging plot. While it wasn’t particularly challenging or deep, I’d still recommend it to others, and likely reread it myself- the message regarding loving and supporting someone who is self-destructing was worthwhile, for me.

The House GirlThe House Girl is told from the perspectives of two protagonists, one in the modern era and one in the 1850s. This isn’t my favorite form of narration, but it wasn’t terribly distracting in this novel. In the modern setting, a young lawyer is working on a case regarding reparation for a client, while the historical setting relates the story of a young enslaved woman. To be honest, the plot line relating the two stories was a bit weak and predictable. I did, however, really enjoy the story set in the 1800s. I don’t mind that I spent time reading this book, but I wouldn’t read it again, and might not recommend it to others. On the other hand, it was a NYT Best Seller, so what do I know?

Dad is FatDad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan, is unexpectedly hilarious! Actually, it was unexpectedly a lot of things. As you may know, Jim Gaffigan is a comedian whose comedy is both funny, and family friendly. In this autobiographical book, he’s self-deprecating in his examination of his children, his relationships, and his take on parenting. It’s both laugh out loud funny and surprisingly sweet- you can see that he really cares for his family, and values his wife and relationship with her. After I’d read about a third of this book, I went to Amazon and ordered another copy for my pregnant sister in law. So, yes, I would read this again and definitely recommend it to others!

Night CircusThe Night Circus– I loved this book. Loved it. Emily Morgenstern tells the story of two magicians who have been raised since childhood to compete with one another in their craft. This is a love story, a magic/fantasy story, and story of relationships and complicated webs of cause and effect- it’s wonderful. I highly recommend it, and I recommend that you prepare to really engage with the book- it’s not really a light read or chick lit, it’s a book that requires that you pay some attention if you really intend to follow the plot.

An Abundance of KAtherinesAn Abundance of Katherines. I chose this book based purely on the author, John Green, since I adored The Fault in Our Stars. I have mixed feelings about this novel- it’s the story of a kid who keeps dating, and being dumped by, girls named Katherine. In the end, it’s supposed to be the story of discovering and reinventing ones self, but I mostly just kept getting caught up in how irritating the characters were- I was legit frustrated by Colin, the main character, who I think was supposed to be the quirky kid. I wouldn’t dissuade others from reading it, but I wouldn’t likely re-read, or actively recommend it to friends.

Miss PMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children– I’m sorry. Many people that I know are reading this, or have recently read it, but I just couldn’t, with this book. I didn’t get the premise, I couldn’t get on board with the story, I was never persuaded to care about the characters and, in the end, this was a book that I couldn’t make myself finish. That made book club a little more challenging than usual, but I just really, really did not care for it.

I have probably two more installments of ‘What I Read’ that will be coming up over the next few weeks, so if you’re looking for a new book, keep an eye out! Have you read anything really good or really bad lately? I’d love some new      recommendations for pool reading 🙂

This entry was posted in Books.

What I Read: January 2014

Guys, I read so many books in January! I love starting the year by reading a ton, because I know that my reading will inevitably taper off by the end of the year, and in December the only thing I’ll end up reading is my email. It’s a struggle of the first world variety, I know!

Anyway, here’s what I read last month. Shannon and I tend to bounce books off of each other, so some of these are recommendations from her, which are usually pretty reliable, and some are books that I brought into the mix. I hope you’re inspired to read one of these this month!

if i staywhere she went

If I Stay and Where She Went, Gayle Forman

I’ve read kind of a lot of young adult fiction this year and it has me wondering why YA literature wasn’t nearly this good when it was more appropriate for me to read it? In any case, I love this two part series. If I Stay tells the story of Mia, a teen girl who is in a coma and watching her life, particularly the reactions of her boyfriend, Adam, from an out-of-body perspective. And, spoiler alert, Where She Went tells the story of Adam and Mia’s lives a few years later. I found both books to be incredibly emotional and touching, in addition to being pretty quick reads. Overall, very satisfying, and I’d recommend both.

just one day

 

Just One Day, Gayle Forman

I mean, after reading the two books above, why wouldn’t I look for more of Gayle Forman’s work? I’ll be honest- if I read a book that I enjoy, I generally read as much of that author’s other work as I can find. Probably not ideal for a broad exposure to literature, but…it’s my thing. Anyway, Just One Day is a full length novel and took a bit of time to get into- the first fifty or sixty pages seemed to drag a bit. Once I got into the meat of the story, though, it was just as engaging as her other books. The story ended with a total cliffhanger, and was perfectly set up for a sequel…you can bet that I’ll read Just One Year as soon as Shannon finished with it.

 

orange is the new black

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, Piper Kerman

Of course, while waiting for Netflix to bring us Season Two, Shannon and I were compelled to read the memoir that inspired the popular series. Like many people, I frequently have problems with books that have been adapted for film or television, but I still enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to see that some of the more startling scenes in the television series matched closely with Kerman’s descriptions, and weren’t particularly sensationalized for the drama. The book is thought provoking, in that it takes to task the prison system in America, and sincerely questions the motivations regarding the current policy; essentially, Kerman makes it pretty clear that the prison system as it stands isn’t interested in rehabbing anyone, or preparing prisoners to be assimilated into society, and is certainly not doing anything to prevent first time offenders returning to prison multiple times.

the dinner

The Dinner, Herman Koch

You know, I’m not sure about this book. Shannon didn’t like it at all, but I really think it might have value. Now, I don’t know that I care for the story- it was pretty dark and I didn’t actually like any of the characters- but the writing really did elicit some strong emotions in me, namely disgust. I think that the mark of poor writing is having the reader not care at all about the story, so I think that my distaste, repulsion, and judgement indicate that Koch was quite successful with this piece of literature. Nothing about The Dinner made me feel good, per se, but sometimes I like to be disgusted. So, yes, I recommend this book, but not if you’re looking for anything light or lovely or inspirational.

 

the last summer

The Last Summer, Judith Kinghorn

This book is the complete opposite of the last one. I was getting particularly antsy waiting for the new season of Downton Abbey, so I started reading books in similar settings. The Last Summer is the perfectly lovely story of Clarissa, who comes from a wealthy estate family, falling in love with Tom, who is the son of the housekeeper. Tom is sent away to the war with the rest of the young men and, of course, heartbreak ensues. This book is very Downton, and is a pretty substantial read at 464 pages. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it’s certainly not as empty as much of the chick-lit fluff that I read, so I would say it’s the perfect book for a snowy weekend when all you want to do is be wrapped up in a love story.

 

the book thief

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

It’s true- I took a ton of my book recommendations last month from movie previews. That’s not even an exaggeration…each time we sit through previews I have to take out my phone and make a note of the titles in my handy Evernote app. So, yes, The Book Thief came out in theaters in November to pretty good reviews, I believe, and that makes sense to me since it was also a pretty engaging book. The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany in 1939 and tells the story of Leisel, a foster child who places an incredibly high value on books. This book takes the reader through the heartbreak of bombing raids, the parades of Jewish prisoners, and the struggle of keeping a Jew hidden in her basement. I really, really loved The Book Thief- Markus Zusak writes with an intensity that it a bit addictive, and completely engaged me as a reader.