Monthly Archives: October 2017

September Books

October 28, 2017

I didn’t read as many books in September as last month! Between a trip to San Francisco, races, visits to Disneyland, camping in Joshua Tree, a bunch of concerts, and generally living life, there wasn’t as much time.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone | JK Rowling


Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.

Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

It’s impossible for me to give a Harry Potter book a fair, unbiased rating. I have my favorites, but they are all a part of me. They shaped me into who I am today, and to separate that for an impartial review seems like asking me to choose which of my limbs is my favorite! That said, this is such a sweet introduction to the world of Harry Potter and I adore it.

The Underground Railroad | Colson Whitehead


Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

I liked this one a lot. It really made me think about society, and I thought the subtle magical realism was done well. Whitehead does a wonderful job of saying a lot in very few words – another author could have written this same book but twice as long. I read this for the Diverse Books Club after having it on my shelf for nearly a year, and I’m so glad I finally read it.

All the Missing Girls | Megan Miranda


It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

I loved how this one was told backwards and really forced you to figure out how to fit the pieces together. A friend recommended it to me when I was looking for a plot-heavy book, and this absolutely fit the bill.

Exit West | Mohsin Hamid


In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

I generally don’t love magical realism, but this one was great. I loved how it’s applicable to our current time, but I think it’ll hold up for the future too. I read this one in a day.

The Heir | Keira Cass


Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she’d put off marriage for as long as possible.

But a princess’s life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can’t escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.

Wasn’t crazy about this one. It takes place 20 years after the last Selection book, and focuses on the daughter of those characters. I found the daughter to be whiny and annoying, and those things didn’t endear her to me as a character. I didn’t care much about her. I did like how it wasn’t the exact same story as the first series.

Total number of books in September: five
Number of fiction books in September: five
Number of nonfiction books in September: zero
Total number of books this year: forty nine

August Books

October 25, 2017

Better late than never on posting books I read in August, I guess, right?

Among the Ten Thousand Things | Julia Pierpont


Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn’t mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack’s secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it’s delivered into the wrong hands: her children’s.

I wanted to like this book, because the book jacket described it as funny and engaging. But it wasn’t funny, and I didn’t find that anything of value really happened. It took me weeks to finish because I was suffering through it. I pretty much found nothing redeeming about this book, sadly. I had to push myself to finish it. I didn’t care for any of the characters at all, which is rare – I normally can find one or two redeeming character traits. Not so here. I think my biggest issue was that after the main issue described in the synopsis, nothing at all happened! I normally like character-driven novels, but something about this was absolutely not for me.

Behind Her Eyes | Sarah Pinborough


Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

Before I read this, I’d heard a few things about it: it’s super captivating, you shouldn’t look into it before you read it, and the ending is wild. The first one was true, the second one was a good tip, and I’m totally in agreement with the last one. I stayed up for an hour past my bedtime to finish this book, and I was left thinking “what the heck did I just read?” I regretted it. The book definitely gets people talking, but the ending ruined the whole thing.

The Selection | Kiera Cass


For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I read this one for Collaboreads and covered my thoughts here.

The Elite | Kiera Cass


The Selection began with thirty-five girls. Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon’s heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?

America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America’s chance to choose is about to slip away.

I sat down on my couch with this book and read the whole thing in one sitting. It’s mainly a filler between this one and the third in the series, but I still enjoyed it. ‘Very cheesy and addicting’ is how I’d describe it.

The One-in-a-Million-Boy | Monica Wood


For years, guitarist Quinn Porter has been on the road, chasing gig after gig, largely absent to his twice-ex-wife Belle and their odd, Guinness records–obsessed son. When the boy dies suddenly, Quinn seeks forgiveness for his paternal shortcomings by completing the requirements for his son’s unfinished Boy Scout badge.

For seven Saturdays, Quinn does yard work for Ona Vitkus, the wily 104-year-old Lithuanian immigrant the boy had visited weekly. Quinn soon discovers that the boy had talked Ona into gunning for the world record for Oldest Licensed Driver — and that’s the least of her secrets. Despite himself, Quinn picks up where the boy left off, forging a friendship with Ona that allows him to know the son he never understood, a boy who was always listening, always learning.

I wasn’t crazy about this one. I found it sweet, if a little kooky, but it was a little bit too much like The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which I read earlier this year. Both books are very character-driven, with unique challenges the characters are looking to complete. I’d recommend this one, but it’s not a favorite of this year.

Lone Wolf | Jodi Picoult


Edward Warren, twenty-four, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.

With her father’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?

I’ve read much better Jodi Picoult novels than this one, and I’ve read ones I liked much less. This one falls somewhere in the middle: it was good but not great. It made me think in the moment,, but it hasn’t particularly stuck with me. Still glad I read it.

The One | Kiera Cass


The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.

When I read this one, I could start to see why my friends said these books were pretty cheesy. I just hated the internal monologue of America – everything she felt or thought was frustrating for me to experience. The book has two more companion books that follow it, using different characters in the same universe, but this is the close of the trilogy with these specific characters.

Castle of Water | Dane Huckelbridge


Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to—including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world—just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

Without a doubt, one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. It’s beautiful and heart wrenching and redemptive. It bounces from a deserted island in the middle of the South Pacific to New York to Paris. It’s beautifully crafted and I adored it.

I Almost Forgot About You | Terry McMillian


Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life–great friends, family, and successful career–aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, quitting her job as an optometrist, and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love.

I think this was a good book, but I didn’t read it at the right time. It wasn’t right for me right now. I had to struggle through it, spending many weeks with it on my bedside table as I started and finished other books I liked much more. Finally I decided that I’d invested all that time and I needed to finish it. It was….fine. It did remind me that it’s never too late to change your life, cheesy as that sounds.

Dear Reader | Mary O’Connell


For seventeen-year-old Flannery Fields, the only respite from the plaid-skirted mean girls at Sacred Heart High School at is her beloved teacher Miss Sweeney’s AP English class. But when Miss Sweeney doesn’t show up to teach Flannery’s favorite book, Wuthering Heights, and leaves behind her purse, Flannery knows something is wrong.

The police are called, and Flannery gives them everything—except Miss Sweeney’s copy of Wuthering Heights. This she holds onto. And it’s a good thing she does, because when she opens it, something very strange happens. It has somehow transformed into Miss Sweeney’s real-time diary. It seems Miss Sweeney is in New York City—and she’s in trouble.

So Flannery does something very unFlannery-like: she skips school and sets out for Manhattan, with the book as her guide. But as soon as she arrives, she meets a boy named Heath. Heath is British, on a gap year, and has strangely nineteenth-century mannerisms. In fact, Flannery can’t help thinking that he seems to have stepped from the pages of Brontë’s novel. Could it be that Flannery is actually spending this topsy-turvy day with her ultimate fictional romantic hero?

This book is SO boring. There’s so much magical realism and it didn’t work for me. It’s New York City and books and Wuthering Heights and a diary and none of it made much sense to me. I think it had a lot of potential but the writing was just not good.

Total number of books in August: ten
Number of fiction books in August: ten
Number of nonfiction books in August: zero
Total number of books this year: forty four