Category Archives: Books

January 2018 Books

February 3, 2018

I read 7 books in January! Not as many as I would’ve liked, but it was a hectic month. There are Amazon links to the books in this post, but they’re not affiliate links because I don’t know how to do that.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in a housing project without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore.

My thoughts:
I liked this book a lot but not as much as I wanted to. The cover is gorgeous (one of those ones that feels really nice under your fingers, too) and I loved the mysterious, almost mythical elements that the summary had, but ultimately this book just didn’t live up to the (self-created) hype for me. The imagery was really beautiful and I loved that not everything was spelled out, but I didn’t like the ending. I think I’m really tired of 1980s novels set in Manhattan where there’s a manic pixie dream girl-ish character.

Sing Unburied Sing by Jesamyn Ward

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

My thoughts:
I’ll be honest. I didn’t feel like I initially got this book when I read it. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me. But then I read more online (sometimes I feel like reading others’ opinions helps clarify my own) and I grew to appreciate it a bit more.

This book is so well written. It’s heartbreaking and sad and gritty and raw and it’s not a fun read, but it felt important.

All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey

rating: 2 stars | amazon

The plot:

Mixing Didion’s affected cool with moments of giddy celebrity worship, Massey examines the lives of the women who reflect our greatest aspirations and darkest fears back onto us. These essays are personal without being confessional and clever in a way that invites readers into the joke. A cultural critique and a finely wrought fan letter, interwoven with stories that are achingly personal, ALL THE LIVES I WANT is also an exploration of mental illness, the sex industry, and the dangers of loving too hard. But it is, above all, a paean to the celebrities who have shaped a generation of women–from Scarlett Johansson to Amber Rose, Lil’ Kim, Anjelica Huston, Lana Del Rey, Anna Nicole Smith and many more. These reflections aim to reimagine these women’s legacies, and in the process, teach us new ways of forgiving ourselves.

My thoughts:
I did not like this book. A few of the essays were good, but overall it was not a book for me. I appreciated most of her thoughts about celebrities and our relationships to them. Celebrity culture is super weird – we basically idolize these versions of people that are sold to us, with no real regard for whether that’s their actual persona or not. I wish she talked about this a bit more. I will admit I did skip some of the essays about people I didn’t care much for so she may have done that in those. Also, I misunderstood the title; I thought it was going to be about her actual famous friends. That’s totally on me though.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

My thoughts:
Somehow I made it to age 24 without ever reading this book! I liked it a lot and I’m excited to see the movie. A quick, easy read and my first L’Engle novel.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.

My thoughts:
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this book. I’m committed this year to reading the Harry Potter series all the way through (I’ve said this a million summers now and never done it, but this year I really intend to) and this was obviously the first step!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

rating: 5 stars | amazon

The plot:
Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

My thoughts:
I loved that this book was a letter to Coates’ adolescent son. I read it one sitting and I found it an important commentary on what it’s like to inhabit a black body in America. I absolutely recommend it, especially if that’s not your situation.

One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

rating: 4 stars | amazon

The plot:
You want less. You want fewer distractions and less on your plate. The daily barrage of e-mails, texts, tweets, messages, and meetings distract you and stress you out. The simultaneous demands of work and family are taking a toll. And what’s the cost? Second-rate work, missed deadlines, smaller paychecks, fewer promotions–and lots of stress. And you want more. You want more productivity from your work. More income for a better lifestyle. You want more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends. NOW YOU CAN HAVE BOTH–LESS AND MORE.

My thoughts:
I’ve been struggling a lot with focusing on one task at a time and a friend recommended this book, so I borrowed it from her. I don’t think I got as much value out of it as she did (a lot of it has to do with the business word or creating your own venture) but I still took a few good things away from it. My favorite was the chapter about setting up your ideal day. I’d love to read it again in a few months and see if I get anything else out of it.

In total this month:

Total number of books: seven
Number of fiction books: four
Number of nonfiction books: three
Books by people who are not white dudes: six
Total number of books this year: seven

2018 Reading Goals

January 19, 2018

I read 75 books in 2017. I’m hoping to have a post up soon about my favorites from 2017, but if I wait to write that before I write this post, I could be waiting all year. The short version is that because I succeeded in reading 75 books last year, I decided to up my goal in 2018 – with a few extra twists. This is mainly because I love challenges and plans, and having some direction in my reading life is really great.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the diversity of voices in my life and the diversity of voices in my books specifically.

I’m going to read 100 books in 2018 – and 75 of them will be by women and people of color.

This means way less books by white guys. Rachel has a similar goal (but she’s reading way more books than I am!) and I asked her if I could borrow her words for the reason why behind this goal. She says it much better than I can:

“Let me give a little disclaimer here: I do not hate white males. I think they matter just as much as any other kind of person, and my goal to NOT read their books is not because I have some vendetta against white men. But. Here’s the thing: White males are in leadership almost everywhere I go, and their voices overwhelmingly fill my life/mind/bookshelves. This goal is a conscious effort to continue building on my efforts to increase the variety and diversity of voices I choose to listen to and learn from. More women, more people of color, more people of different sexualities, more people with disabilities, more people on different ends of the political spectrum, more people who look/act/think/believe/feel differently than I do.

I will still read books by white males this year, I just want to make sure that I’m consciously choosing diversity OFTEN, not just once every now and then. This will be a major shift in my reading, and I’m looking forward to all that I’ll learn from the voices I’ll be listening to!”

In accomplishing this goal, I’m hoping to bring more voices into my reading.

I’m also going to try to complete the Popsugar Reading Challenge and the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. A friend sent me this list of 46 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2018, and I’d love to read one a month. I’m allowing myself overlap – if I can make one book work for two challenges or even all three, that’s awesome. If not, no big deal. I’d also love to make a dent in the unread books on my shelf.

It’s definitely a lot. I may need to make some sort of spreadsheet to keep track of it all. I might not succeed, and that’s okay. I mainly care about reading the 100 books, with at least 75 of them by women and people of color.

As of writing this I’ve read 4 books so far, so it’s going well. Here’s to lots of happy reading in 2018!

December Books

January 9, 2018

I didn’t read as much as I’d hoped this month (just four books!) but I did complete my challenge to read 75 books in 2017, which is what I’m happiest about! The picture above has 3 because I was silly and let my mom take the last book home before I got a photo. Can’t win ’em all.

72. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue


Lib Wright is an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle – a girl said to have survived without food for months – and soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

This one was weird. I held onto it for over a year before reading it (no particular reason, I just never got around to it) and I don’t think it was worth the wait. The writing is beautiful and the setting of the Midlands of Ireland in the 1800s is described so well, but I found it incredibly slow. The book dragged on for about 35% longer than it needed to. I did enjoy the moral issues raised and trying to figure out the mystery aspect of how on earth Anna would survive without food for months, plus the writing.

73. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

I loved this book! It felt slow at the beginning and I didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up loving Eleanor’s character. Bits of it were very unexpected, and I found her really charming. I loved the way the book dealt with counseling – her experience of going to therapy felt really real and authentic. Bits of this are sad and heartbreaking, and then you turn the page and you’re laughing. Definitely recommend this one – and it’s going to be on my top books of 2017 for sure.

74. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin


How do we change?  Gretchen Rubin’s answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits? Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good.

This one was… fine? Nothing amazing (I much preferred The Happiness Project) and I feel like you can get most of what Rubin talks about from her weekly podcast (Happier with Gretchen Rubin). That said, it was a good non-fiction book that got me thinking about why I do the things I do and stopped me from getting as frustrated with others when they just can’t implement the habits they want to do already!

75. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman


Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

This started off really sad but I ended up adoring it. Ove turned out to be super sweet and lovable, with a lot of struggles that made him grumpy and lonely. I wouldn’t say this one is funny, but it’s well told and well written. From a writing perspective, it’s a great example of “show don’t tell” and a group of diverse characters all with their own backstory.

Total number of books in December: four
Number of fiction books in December: three
Number of nonfiction books in December: one
Total number of books this year: seventy five!!

November Books

December 17, 2017

I started off November planning to get through as many of my Book of the Month picks as I could – I’m great about ordering them, but not great about actually following through and reading them soon after I get them. But then library books and book club and freelance work took over, and I concentrated on reading those things instead. This was a pretty good month for reading: I loved some books, didn’t like some others, but I managed to read a ton.

The Power | Naomi Alderman


In THE POWER, the world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

Mixed feelings about this one. The concept is super cool – it’s kind of a genderswapped history, with women in charge – but I didn’t entirely love how it played out. It felt kind of…forgettable? I did enjoy reading it, I just think it could have been better. Maybe I expected too much.

Little Fires Everywhere | Celeste Ng


In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

I absolutely loved this one. It portrays so many different versions of motherhood and mothering. The characters all felt really authentic, especially the high schoolers (which is important to me). I’m excited that I get to discuss it with my book club in January.

And We’re Off | Dana Schwartz


Seventeen-year-old Nora Holmes is an artist, a painter from the moment she could hold a brush. She inherited the skill from her grandfather, Robert, who’s always nurtured Nora’s talent and encouraged her to follow her passion. Still, Nora is shocked and elated when Robert offers her a gift: an all-expenses-paid summer trip to Europe to immerse herself in the craft and to study history’s most famous artists. The only catch? Nora has to create an original piece of artwork at every stop and send it back to her grandfather. It’s a no-brainer: Nora is in!

Unfortunately, Nora’s mother, Alice, is less than thrilled about the trip. She worries about what the future holds for her young, idealistic daughter—and her opinions haven’t gone unnoticed. Nora couldn’t feel more unsupported by her mother, and in the weeks leading up to the trip, the women are as disconnected as they’ve ever been. But seconds after saying goodbye to Alice at the airport terminal, Nora hears a voice call out: “Wait! Stop! I’m coming with you!”

And . . . they’re off.

This one made me really nostalgic for study abroad! I liked all the characters and I liked the idea of this one, but it’s another case of it not matching up to my expectations. Maybe because a big part of it is set in Ireland, where I’ve spent a lot of time and I’m super conscious of books being set in Ireland being too cheesy or overdone. This had a bit of that, but not as much as others, which I appreciated, so I don’t think that’s really the issue. Basically, it was intriguing and engaging and I liked reading it, but overall kind of flat. I think it mainly just wasn’t the book for me at the time.

1984 | George Orwell


“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes. But as he starts to think for himself, Winston can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching…

I know this book is supposed to be a big cultural touchstone and I can see the value in that, but I didn’t like it. I found it difficult to get through and when I finished it I was like “that’s ALL that happens??” One I’m glad I read but that I never need to revisit.

The Women in the Castle | Jessica Shattuck


Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

I read this one for my book club and loved it SO much. It’s absolutely one of the ones I’d recommend of the books I read this year. It’s a post-World War II book that weaves in flashbacks so well, told from the point of view of the widows of German resisters. I’ve read a lot of World War II books but never one from this POV, so I appreciated a new look into events of the war.

Girls on Fire | Robin Wasserman


On Halloween, 1991, a popular high school basketball star ventures into the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, and disappears. Three days later, he’s found with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of Satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshiping bad influence in lip gloss and Doc Martens. The charismatic, seductive Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image and unleashing a fierce defiance that neither girl expected. But as Lacey gradually lures Dex away from her safe life into a feverish spiral of obsession, rebellion, and ever greater risk, an unwelcome figure appears on the horizon—and Lacey’s secret history collides with Dex’s worst nightmare.

This one was weird. It felt like a combination of The Girls (which I read earlier this year and didn’t particularly like) and The Crucible, but set in the early 90s. It was super violent and dark and it felt like so many other “good girl gone bad” books that I just didn’t enjoy it.

While Beauty Slept | Elizabeth Blackwell


“I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told.”

And so begins Elise Dalriss’s story. When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a minstrel’s tale about a beautiful princess asleep in a tower, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows what actually happened so many years ago. Her story unveils a labyrinth where secrets connect to an inconceivable evil. As only Elise understands all too well, the truth is no fairy tale.

I read this one in a day on Black Friday! It was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, told from the POV of her closest lady-in-waiting. It was a good read, but a bit repetitive, and about 100 pages too long. One of those books that I liked but will probably honestly have no impact on me.

In the Unlikely Event  | Judy Blume


In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

This is another book I liked but won’t particularly stick with me. There were a lot of characters, and a lot of plot, and I felt like it got bogged down in all of that. It was fun to read an adult book from Judy Blume, who I grew up reading, and it was of course well-written, but it’s not one of my favorites.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis | JD Vance


Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

This was a quick read that I found very enlightening. The author’s upbringing was so different than mine, and it was eye-opening to read about his life.

The Good Daughter | Karin Slaughter


Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father — Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney — devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, and Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself — the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again — and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized — Charlie is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever.

I read this one super quickly. It’s really gripping and engaging. It reminded me of a Jodi Picoult book, but less formulaic (and also a bit less emotional). I definitely would like to read more from this author in the future, despite the fact that I tend to dislike thriller-type books.

The Stars Are Fire | Anita Shreve


In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

This could have been a good story but I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It was very character-driven, which I’m learning I like in some books and dislike totally in others.

Total number of books in November: eleven
Number of fiction books in November: ten
Number of nonfiction books in November: one
Total number of books this year: seventy one

One more month (really 2 weeks, at this point) to go!

October Books

November 3, 2017

There are some months where I’m really busy and read very little (like September) and then there was this month, where I was incredibly busy and still managed to read eleven books. It’s probably some sort of procrastination technique, but it’s productive in its own way so I’m going to take it.

The Nightingale | Kristin Hannah


Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

Talk about a book that wants to rip your heart out. I’ve read a million books about WWII and another half million set in France, and yet this one was different. It really made me think about the choices we make and our responsibility to protect other people. You never know how the tiniest thing can have a huge impact. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

Young Jane Young | Gabrielle Zevin


Aviva Grossman is an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.

How does one go on after this? In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long‑ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A.

A good read about reinventing yourself, double standards in politics, and public perception. I loved that it was told in different ways from the perspective of all the women involved. It was also funnier than I expected. I read this for the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club and then couldn’t attend the online discussion because I was on vacation.

The Sun and Other Stars | Brigid Pasulka


After losing his brother and mother within a year, twenty-two-year-old Etto finds himself adrift in his hometown, where every man’s life revolves around soccer, except for his. Frustrated and lonely, Etto is faced with the seemingly impossible prospect of cobbling together the remaining pieces of his life, including his mostly nonexistent relationship with his father, the town butcher.

Things begin to change for Etto when Yuri Fil, a scandal-ridden Ukrainian soccer star and his tough-love sister, Zhuki, arrive in town, and sweep him into their universe of soccer, celebrity, laughter, and fierce loyalty. Under their influence, Etto begins to reconstruct his relationship with his father and learns a few life lessons: that perhaps the game of soccer isn’t just a waste of time—and that San Benedetto, his father, love, and life itself might have more to offer him than he ever believed possible.

This one broke my heart and then slowly stitched it back together. I picked it up on a whim at the library, and I didn’t expect to learn so much from this novel set in an Italian village about a 22 year old grieving the loss of his twin brother and his mom – about grief, about the Italian obsession with soccer, about figuring out how to move on but never forget. The writing was beautiful, but not in that flowery way that’s often hit or miss for me. I loved it.

The Perfect Stranger | Megan Miranda


Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

I shut off my phone, sat on my couch, and read this book entirely in one sitting. I found it captivating, and enjoyed it much more than the Megan Miranda book I read last month.

Little & Lion | Brandy Colbert


When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

What I liked about this book: a good YA story, genuinely diverse characters, how it tackled sexuality (especially the main character learning that she’s bisexual) and growing up and figuring yourself out.

What I didn’t: felt like it was trying WAY too hard to be “a book set in LA” (I don’t need the name of every street written out when characters are taking a right turn) and I wasn’t fully satisfied with the ending. It felt a bit like this book was pitched one way, and then didn’t follow through like I expected it to.

Amanda Wakes Up | Alison Camerota


When Amanda Gallo, fresh from the backwater of local TV, lands the job of her dreams at FAIR News—the coveted morning anchor slot—she’s finally made it: a six-figure salary, wardrobe allowance, plenty of on-air face time, and a chance to realize her dreams, not to mention buy herself lunch.

As the news heats up in a hotly contested election season and a wild-card candidate, former Hollywood actor Victor Fluke, appears on the scene, Amanda’s pressure-cooker job gets hotter as her personal life unravels. Walking a knife’s edge between ambition and survival, and about to break the biggest story of her career, Amanda must decide what she’s willing to give up to get ahead—and what she needs to hold on to save herself.

I loved that this was written by a journalist! That absolutely added to the book; it felt so real that way. The parallels to the 2016 election were uncomfortably spooky. I heard about this one online and read it on a whim; it was pretty good.

Since We Fell | Dennis Lehane


Rachel Childs is a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself.

Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths.

My first Dennis Lehane book, which seems odd for me since they’re often set in New England. I read this one in a day and a half – I really cared for the characters and was exciting to see how it turned out. Parts of it disappointed me, but I’d still recommend it.

The Crown | Kiera Cass


When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

I’m finally done with these books! I liked this one okay. It was a decent conclusion to a series that was a good escape for me over recent months. The first three in this series are definitely the best.

In The Garden of Beasts | Erik Larson


The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the New Germany, she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

My brother bought this for me (at my request) for Christmas a few years ago and I never got around to reading it. I loved the author’s book Devil in the White City, which remains one of my all-time favorite books. This one is sadly not as good. I read this book partially on Audiobook, which I think helped with a lot of the drier historical testimony. I know a lot about the lead up to World War 2 and the war itself, but I’d never looked at it from this specific perspective. I found it interesting, but the book is about 2x as long as it needs to be.

The Song of Achilles | Madeline Miller


Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

This retelling of the Iliad took a while to get into. I knew that many of my friends had enjoyed its I decided to push through; without them I think I would have abandoned it. The second half was a lot stronger for me than the first, and I wound up being really glad I read it.

Lincoln in the Bardo | George Saunders


On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son’s body.

Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel – in its form and voice – completely unlike anything you have read before.

I honestly don’t understand what people liked about this book. I think it’s because it’s too avant garde for me, and I probably should’ve known I wouldn’t like it. It’s told by over 100 different voices telling stories, talking over each other, and giving you information from a graveyard. It’s a little like a play, except…not? I don’t know. I didn’t totally understand it, and I’d love to know why people liked it so much. It didn’t work for me, and if I hadn’t been on a six hour plane ride, I likely never would’ve finished it.

Total number of books in October: eleven
Number of fiction books in October: eleven
Number of nonfiction books in October: zero
Total number of books this year: sixty

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

COLLABOREADS | A Book in a Series

August 22, 2017

So once upon a time, I had a blog. Then I lost access to it because my email changed. Then I started a new blog, promptly abandoned it, moved to California, and started a new life. And here we are! I’ve been planning to come back to blogging for a while, but haven’t quite gotten my things in order to actually do it. I’m still not officially back, but I couldn’t help but link up with Collaboreads this month.

This month’s prompt was A Book in a Series. I recently finished the The Selection by Kiera Cass, which is the first of a series of three books. I’ve read all three over the past few weeks. There are two other companion books that take place later and are currently sitting at home waiting for me, but these three are a complete series. I’m going to talk about the first one! I previously tried to listen to the audiobook of this but I hated the voice, so I never got past the first chapter. Happy to say reading it myself was a much better experience.

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.

What part of this series could you NOT get enough of? I loved that this book was a Cinderella fairy tale meets The Bachelor meets Hunger Games. I was absolutely one of those kids that dreamed of being a princess one day (when I wasn’t convinced that I was actually a princess taken away from her real parents, that is) so it was really nice to read about girls vying to become a princess. I found this book really easy to read – I think I flew through it in 2 days – and the others in the series just as easy. It’s definitely more of a fluffy type of book than any serious literature, but it was the exact escape I needed these past few weeks.

How did you relate to/care for the characters? What’s your thought on the plot line and twists and turns? I both loved and hated all the characters. I really liked America’s devotion to her family. She entered into The Selection because she wanted to do something for them, and when she gets picked, she remains true to herself while still thinking of how she can help her family. There are some plot twists that definitely surprised me. I don’t want to give specifics because I can’t remember which of the three books each twist was in, but I distinctly remember at one point actually gasping out loud as I was reading.

What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with its themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now? I can’t think of any specific books, but I googled and found this list! I think any book where the society is organized into castes would apply. It’s a bit of fairy tale mixed with a “falling in love” reality show mixed with the dystopian elements of something like The Hunger Games. This doesn’t line up with anything in my life but it was certainly a great escape from the current news!

You know you judged these books by their covers. What did you think of them? How did they relate to the contents of the novels? And the font and layout of the pages? I like the cover design a lot! I like that all the books in the series coordinate but are a bit different. The dresses are gorgeous and definitely set the scene for what’s found inside of the book. I don’t remember anything specific about the font and layout, so I assume they were fine but nothing special!

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend? I’d give this four stars and recommend it to a friend looking for some fun escapist literature. It’s nothing amazing, but I really enjoyed the story and flew through all the books, which is why it gets four stars.

Next month’s prompt is to read a book published within the last month (so I’m guessing between now and the linkup on September 26), which is perfect for me because I’m getting a brand new book delivered from Amazon today! We’ll see if I can manage to get some more posts written between now and then, otherwise I’ll see you on September 26!

January + February Books

March 2, 2017

I read a total of 17 books in January and February! I can’t really believe it, but making the commitment to read for at least 30 minutes every day has really paid off. I’ve also been taking advantage of Audible and the free audiobooks from the library – that helped me read a lot of books.

January – 7 books

  • Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (audiobook)
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (audiobook)
  • Euphoria by Lily King (audiobook)
  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (audiobook)
  • Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (audiobook)
  • The Royal We by Heather Cocks (ebook)
  • All the Time in the World (audiobook)

February – 10 books

  • The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (ebook)
  • Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  • Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (audiobook)
  • Siracusa by Delia Ephron
  • These Are the Moments by Jenny Bravo
  • Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (audiobook)

As you can see, I was heavy on the audiobooks in January and heavy on the paper books in February. Part of this is that I spent most of January trying to read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. It’s a 850 page book and I made it halfway through before deciding to set it aside for a while and read some other paper books. I’m absolutely planning on getting back to it (probably in March) but considering I spent half the time I was reading it staring at my accumulating book pile and feeling bad for it, I made the right decision.

Standouts from this list include Modern Lovers, Brooklyn, Dark Matter, and The Handmaid’s Tale. Next month I’ll be better about doing proper reviews, but this will have to do for now!

Collaboreads | The Nest

February 28, 2017

Hi friends! I’ve had high hopes for getting this new version of my blog going for MONTHS (if you can’t tell by the fact that I started in October!) but have had so many other things on my plate that I haven’t made the time. This month’s Collaboreads link-up is the perfect chance for me to get my feet wet and start writing all those posts that are begging to be written! The prompt this month is a book you chose for the cover.

the nest

Here’s the Amazon description (it’s 3 paragraphs long, so I trimmed it a lot!):

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.. Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives. This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down.

What part of the book could you NOT get enough of? I loved reading about  the characters of this book, who were not all that likable. They do some pretty terrible things for money or because of it, and wondering what they would do next kept me engaged. Their family drama and the thoughts of “how are they going to get out of this mess?” were great to read about. I also loved reading about the different descriptions of New York.

How did you relate to/care for the characters? What’s your thought on the plot line and twists and turns? I wrote about this above, but on a deeper level, I found that reading about one family who all had their own problems and how they dealt with them was really interesting to me. That’s not a unique story, be it fact or fiction, but this one was told in such a way that I was very engaged as a reader. The plot line captured my interest immediately. As I mentioned, the characters were often unlikable, which led to me not caring if something bad happened to them and almost rooting for it at a few points.

What other books are like this one? If none, did it remind you of a particular TV or movie with its themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line-up with things going on in your life or the news right now?

Books about dysfunctional families are a dime-a-dozen, yet I can’t think of one right now to answer this question! I actually googled “The Nest read-alikes” and found this article. I don’t recognize any of the books there, but it may be worth checking out.

You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? Well, considering this linkup is about choosing a book based on the cover, I think it’s fair to say that I was really intrigued by the cover! It evokes old, classic boarding schools and rich families and tufted armchairs, at least to me. The pages were well-designed. I was surprised at how short this book was (from top to bottom) because I feel like it’s a bit petite.

How many out of five do you give this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend? I would definitely recommend this to a friend! I gave it to my mom almost immediately after I finished, though I don’t think she’s read it yet! I gave it four stars on Goodreads – it’s probably more like 3.5, but we can say that the cover bumps it up to 4.

And that’s it! The March prompt for Collaboreads is “Green with Envy” – pick a book with green on the cover or in the title. Not sure what I’m going to do for that yet. There’s a chance I’ll read Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World. Stay tuned!