Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)


Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

It's been a light month for reading! Crime and Punishment took up a lot of my audiobook hours, and I'm slowly working my way through Infinite Jest on Kindle.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline: I like Kline's writing, but unfortunately too much is known historically about the book's main character, and the answer to "Who was the woman in the painting Christina's World?" turns out to be pretty boring. I also cringed hard at the way she depicted Christina's attitude toward her disability.

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie: This was a solid Poirot mystery. There weren't any of the jaw-dropping plot twists that characterize Christie's very best, but neither did it have the secret identities or logical leaps that make some of her books too complicated or unbelievable. I enjoyed it.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: While at times it was a bit too quirky for my taste, this book did have a lot of great elements — sweet misfit characters, mysteries, and multiple unexpected plot twists. It's about losing the chance for the happy ending you wanted and finding a different one instead. I'm glad my book club recommended this one.

Faithful Place by Tana French: I wasn't as on the edge of my seat with this one as with the first two, but the characters also pissed me off way less, so it was a wash. I'm still enjoying this series and plan to pick the next book eventually.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: I liked this better than The Brothers Karamazov; the characters were more complex and the book felt less didactic and moralistic. Dostoyevsky did a nice job of conjuring up the main character's feelings with pacing and language. It wasn't perfect, but I liked it, and the audiobook was excellent.

The Hollow by Agatha Christie: This was a nice change of pace from the typical Hercule Poirot novel. We spend more time with the various characters than on the murder investigation, and the clues are sparse and all dead ends. It's worth the read just for the character of Lucy Angkatell.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Best of the Bunch: July 2017


Today I'm sharing the best book I read in July.

This has been a pretty terrible month for reading. I read 10 books, and I had no 5-star reads or even 4.5 stars. I had four 4-star books, so I guess I'll pick my best from those:

In the Woods by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana French

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

My feelings on both Tana French books are strongly mixed (like "I loved this book" and also "I hated this book"), and the Hercule Poirot mystery is one of the better ones but nothing special, so I'm going to go with the fourth option.


While at times it was a bit too quirky for my taste, The History of Love did have a lot of great elements — sweet misfit characters, mysteries, and multiple unexpected plot twists. It's a story about loss — of love, of a manuscript, of a family member. It's about losing the chance for the happy ending you wanted and finding a different one instead. I'm glad my book club recommended this one.


What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!





Saturday, July 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)


Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

This has been a rough month for reading! One really stellar book, and the rest have been a mixed bag.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult: I have mixed feelings about this book. I admire the research Picoult put into it and the difficult ethical questions she raises, but I had some issues with the way it was executed and the attention to detail in the writing.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach: I've loved Roach's other books, and in this one her research was just as thorough and well-written. As her first book, she kind of got too much in the way of her own writing — the humor was cringeworthy at times — so I'm glad she toned that down in future books.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour: I absolutely loved this unconventional YA romance. There's a mystery, and a huge undertaking, and messages about family and loss and independence. I had tears rolling down my face at the end.

In the Woods by Tana French: French's writing is amazing, and I couldn't put this book down. I was disappointed at the ending (but not for the reason it seems most people are) and I hated the main character, so that put a damper on what was otherwise an excellent psychological thriller and mystery.

The Likeness by Tana French: Like with the first book, I loved French's writing and the world she created, and I got utterly frustrated with the main character's decisions. If the third book is more of the same, I'm probably done with this series.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: This was such a slog to get through. I get that it's a satire, but there's a LOT of awful characters to sit with through 800+ pages. I can't grasp what has resonated with so many people.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: I can't quite figure out how this book got so popular. It's a decent exploration of some heavy topics, and I felt for the characters, but they were all one-dimensional. It also stretched credulity that people could live together for so long without ever talking about anything they were feeling.

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie: This one is middle-of-the-pack for me. It has all the hallmarks of a classic Poirot novel, but the solution is so convoluted and far-fetched that it was less than satisfying.

I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World by Eve Ensler: I would have infinitely preferred reading a collection of interviews with girls around the world than reading Ensler's guesses about what girls around the world think about. There was no nuance to the portrayals, and the writing was just not great.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: I like Bryson's nonfiction more than his memoir, in part because his humor tends to come at the expense of others, and it seems less offensive to mock a governmental organization than an individual person's laziness or obesity. This was a mix of history of the Appalachian Trail and his experience walking it, so my enjoyment of it was also mixed.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Best of the Bunch: June 2017


Today I'm sharing the best book I read in June. (I'm also counting two books I finished on May 31 because last month's BotB posted on May 30.)

Of the 13 books I read in the past month, I had three 5-star books:

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Being Mortal was a reread and a previous Best of the Bunch. This month I'm giving it to...


Even though it reads like a YA book, it doesn't feel like most YA books. The main characters live in LA, work on movie sets, and are just finishing high school when the book opens. Because the premise wasn't typical, the book felt unpredictable in a welcome way. It's a YA romance, but it's about so much more. There's a mystery, and a huge undertaking, and messages about family and loss and independence. The characters are diverse in race and sexual orientation in a way that felt authentic. The book was truly fantastic and I had tears rolling down my face at the end. Highly recommended.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!





Monday, June 26, 2017

Ten Best Books I've Read In 2017 So Far


I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

We're almost halfway through 2017 already! This week, it's time to pause and reflect on what have been the best ten books we've read so far this year. If you've been keeping up with my Best of the Bunch posts, you've already seen many of these. (And if you aren't linking up every month with Best of the Bunch, what are you waiting for?)

Looking back over what I've read, many of my 5-star reads were rereads, so I'm listing here only new-to-me books I've read this year. I'm not going to write descriptions for them because I've written about all of them previously on my Quick Lit or Best of the Bunch posts!

Fiction



Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand


The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob


The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


Nonfiction


American Hookup by Lisa Wade


The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright


Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly


How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King


Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson


What are the best books you've read so far this year?

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Top Ten Series I Haven't Read Yet


I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week is series we've been meaning to start but haven't yet. I last did this topic in October 2014 and talked about how rarely I read book series anymore. And surprise, surprise, I still haven't read half of the series from that list! It just seems like such a commitment to start a whole series when there are so many standalone books I want to read, you know?

Here's a quick review of what I have read since last time:

Famous Five: I read the very first book in the series, and it was cute! I don't have much motivation to pick up any others right now, but I think they'd be fun to read with my kids down the road.

The Infernal Devices: I read Clockwork Angel and actually quite liked it. I got Clockwork Prince on audio and the narrator was so awful I had to stop it, and I never got around to picking it up in print. Oh well.

The Lord of the Rings: I finally read this whole series last summer! Hooray!

The Mortal Instruments: I read the first book. Didn't like it. Didn't read any more.

Persepolis: This is packaged in two volumes in the U.S., and I read both of them and enjoyed them.


Here are the series I'm still interested in reading:


1. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
I have actually read two books in this series, first Going Postal (which I remember fairly well) and then The Color of Magic (about which I remember nothing). So many of the different books in this series have been recommended to me at one time or another that I figure I might as well read them all through in order eventually.


2. Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French
I mentioned that I had hoped to take the first two books on my recent vacation, but the holds still haven't come through from the library! I don't read enough crime fiction for how much I love it.


3. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
I'm not much of a fan of epic fantasy, but Eragon has had staying power and the whole series has good ratings, so I want to give it a try.


4. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
All the books in this series have crazy high ratings! I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about the books' world (I'm a reluctant SF/F reader in general), but if I like Cinder I'd be willing to read the others.


5. March by John Lewis, Nate Powell, and Andrew Aydin
This three-volume graphic novel series has been on my radar for a while, but John Lewis has been more in the spotlight in the past year, and I'm especially interested to read these now that more people are picking them up.


6. Mark of the Lion by Francine Rivers
Rivers' Redeeming Love is one of my favorite books, so when I saw that this series had incredibly high ratings on Goodreads, I decided to put it on my to-read list.


7. Outlander by Diane Gabaldon
With the TV series still going strong, I feel like I need to get caught up on these books I keep hearing about. It's been recommended I read it as an audiobook to experience the Scottish brogue, so that's probably what I'll do.


8. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
I'm a little hesitant to pick these up because they're supposed to be dark, scary, and violent (three things I'm not a big fan of!) but I got through Watchmen OK and really liked it, so I think I could tackle these. The series contains some of the highest-rated books on Goodreads, so there has to be something there worth checking out.


9. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Nothing I've heard about this series (e.g., high fantasy, violence) makes it sound like my kind of books, but so many people have read it that I might as well tackle it eventually. I think I'll wait until Martin's finished writing it, though.


10. Starbridge by Susan Howatch
Several of the people I follow on Goodreads have highly recommended Glittering Images, and it looks like the other books in the series are well-liked as well. Suspense, scandal, and church history? It sounds like something I would like.

Which series are you hoping to start?

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)


Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

I got through a lot of books on vacation this past month! Here are all the books I've finished since mid-May.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie: This has a lot of the same elements as Appointment with Death, but paced a bit better. I guessed many of the pieces, but as usual could not put them all together and definitely did not guess who the killer was.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi: Zoboi has managed to pack a lot of good stuff into one book, from the challenges of being a Haitian immigrant to America to the complications of life in inner-city Detroit. It's a story brimming with complex characters who have to choose between bad options on every side. If you're already not a fan of YA, I don't think this book is going to change your mind, but if you do enjoy YA or you're open to it, I think this is a great book to read.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly: This book was interesting not just because it brought to light something many Americans don't know — the role of black women in the history of what is now NASA — but also because it was a fascinating overview of NASA's history in general. Once you quickly get over the "gee, I never knew there were black women at NASA" that serves as the book's selling point, it's still worth a read for the fascinating history of NASA and of race relations in America.

The Open Adoption Book: A Guide to Making Adoption Work for You by Bruce M. Rappaport: I think this was probably an excellent and timely book when it was published 25 years ago. Today, it's still a decent book, and I primarily found it interesting for the historical perspective it provided. If you know nothing about the way adoption works today, how adoptive families and birthparents maintain relationships with one another, then I think you'd learn a lot from the book. Just keep in mind that it's 25 years out of date.

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob: Jacob manages to weave together fantastic writing, a number of important themes, and a cast of complex, believable characters in this novel that took her a decade to complete. I laughed out loud more than once, and I cried near the end. It wasn't perfect, but I genuinely enjoyed the read and missed the characters when I was done.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I hated the first third of this book, and I loved the last third so much I was nearly in tears. Ultimately the story wraps up in a way that feels maybe a little too neat but wonderfully sweet amidst the honest messiness of life. I think if it had been executed differently I might have really loved this book.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: This is a sweet, quick read about a bookseller's journey from lonely, cranky widow to happy family man whose bookstore is a pillar of the community. It's a heartwarming if somewhat predictable story of character growth, but if you're a bookworm, you'll enjoy it that much more.

Dune by Frank Herbert: This was a mixed bag for me, not terrible, but it became a struggle to get through near the end. I can certainly see why it's appealing to people who love science fiction or fantasy (it has elements of both), but for myself, I can't enthusiastically recommend it, nor do I plan to read any of the sequels.

Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson: Wilson is a talented storyteller, and I was surprised at how relatable I found most of her childhood stories. I'm glad I took the chance of picking up this book based on nothing more than my love for Matilda.

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works by Dan Harris: This memoir was a nice review of the approaches to and benefits of meditation, as well as some related ways to reframe events in order to be calmer and happier. I wouldn't suggest reading this as your sole introduction to meditation and mindfulness, but it's a good companion book for those topics as Harris relentlessly chases the gurus for ways to apply their advice in real life, in practical situations.

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie: This was a decent Poirot novel, with the usual cast of suspicious characters, red herrings, and seemingly unrelated clues. I got a little bit confused with the various false identities, stolen identities, and double bluffs, so that I'm still not entirely sure I followed the whole solution to the case, but they may be partially a result of listening to it on audio.

Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie: The identity of the murderer, and the method of the murder, seemed pretty obvious to me in this one, but I still had no idea of the motive until the reveal near the end. It was very cleverly woven all together.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker: Although I don't tend to enjoy fantasy books, in this book Wecker has hit upon a fantastic way to illustrate the experience of new immigrants to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. It's well done as both an allegory of immigration and just as a story. I don't think fantasy will ever be a favorite genre for me, but this is definitely one of the better ones I've read.

Rx by Kate Fodor: This was bizarre, but also quite funny. It's a send-up of both the pharmaceutical industry and corporate America. I think you'd have to have the right actors to get some of the chemistry that's missing on the page, but I can see how it's definitely possible.

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets Of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko: The statistics presented were interesting, but I hated much about this book, from their focus on acquiring money over creating quality of life, to their constant contradictions of their own ideas. I don't hold it against the authors that this book is now more than 20 years ago and much of it is laughably outdated, but that's the cherry on top of this large pile of reasons not to bother with this book.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: On the good side, you have excellent, sparse yet evocative writing. On the bad side, you have poor decision making, drunkenness, fighting, casual sex, anti-Semitism, and the occasional n-word. Hemingway may have captured the malaise of a generation, but it's not one I'd recommend revisiting.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: This was a reread, and I loved it just as much the second time. I still think it should be required reading for everyone, and I can't wait for my book club discussion later this month.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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