Looking for a good book? I can’t promise I read one this year you’ll be interested in reading, but below are short reviews of what I’ve read so far this year. If you’re still looking, check out what I read in:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
I’ll admit that the style of letters in the very beginning made my brain hurt. I thought there was no way I would ever keep all the characters writing back and forth to one another straight, especially seeing as they seemed to jump right in without much warning or explanation. But before I knew it I was hooked. A wildly fast read, but so utterly lovely. This book is truly about characters; the caring and adorable heroine, the cast of crazy and unusual islanders, the dramatic suitor, lovable child, and intriguing Elizabeth. Something about learning of their lives via letters enables you to feel as if you know them in a deeper way than most narratives which I really enjoyed. By the end of the book I wanted not only to visit the island of Guernsey but meet the cast of characters from this sweet book. A great vacation read.
The Art of Racing In The Rain, by Garth Stein
I have an affinity for books about dogs. Being a dog lover to the 200th degree, touching and unique books about dogs always wiggle their way into my heart. This book being no exception. Stein did such a lovely job of bringing Enzo the dog to life in a way that is not usually portrayed in fiction. I often found myself looking to my own dog and wondering if inside her quirky head was a stream of consciousness as advanced as mine, trapped inside by her ‘dog tongue’. The only portion of the book that would lose me at times were when Enzo would expand on his, and his owner Denny’s love for racing. Although Stein did a masterful job describing what it feels like to be a professional racer, bringing to life scenes from the interior of a dedicated racers mind, I found myself almost skipping over them. I fell immediately in love with Enzo the dog, but I was never able to love racing as he did. This book is fast, an emotional roller coaster, and full of life’s most simple passions. To love, and to be loved. Do read this.
The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown
I enjoyed The Lost Symbol up until the final ‘reveal’. The book lacks literary substance for sure, but for most of the book I was happy to enjoy the suspense and twists of the book, remaining interested in how the book would solve the layers of unanswered questions. Dan Brown will never win a Pulitzer, but he at least keeps a reader interested as is a well researched author. The ending though left me irritated and bored. Without giving anything away I found myself unable to believe after all the hype that THAT was what everyone was searching for. Possibly my lack of spiritualism kept me from believing the importance of the ending, but I found myself thinking, “THAT’S IT?” A good vacation read, with some suspenseful moments that keep you turning pages, but a terrible ending. In my opinion at least.
Firefly Lane, by Kristin Hannah
This is your typical beach read. Cheesy, a tale of two girls and the way their lives and friendship change with the years. Even though I wanted to be SO above this book for being flighty and lacking substance, of course I cried at the end. BUT, I cry with amazing ease, so don’t take my omission of tears to mean anything about the quality of writing. If you’re looking for something easy and fast to read about female friendships then this is your book. If you’re looking for complex dialog, meaningful descriptions, and a solid plot, then pick something else.
The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
I am a sucker for any memoir that depicts with crystal clear detail a life that is insufferable. The Glass Castle did not let me down. The writing is simple yet compelling as you watch Jeannette turn from an excited and proud member of the worlds most dysfunctional family to an adult trying to run away as fast as she can, yet still love the people she was raised by. Most of the time I wondered what it was that could create two adults who behaved as her parents did. What had happened to them to make them so completely off base? At times I couldn’t believe what she wrote was a real life that four children were forced to grow up in. The realities they faced on a day to day basis of finding food or simply staying warm are so basic to my life I couldn’t fathom growing up without them. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been raised in this same family if I would have come out with the drive and determination Jeannette seems to posses. This story is both heartbreaking and triumphant. You HAVE to read this book. So good you’ll have trouble putting it down.
If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name, by Heather Lende
This book is a wonderful collection of short stories about life in small town Alaska. I was worried being a TOTAL softy that a book written by the town obituary writer was going to drown me in tears or leave me feeling exceptionally depressed, but thankfully her stories were much more about the beauty of life than the pain of death. Lende does a masterful job of weaving past and present into her stories of small town life. I don’t have any desire to live in an isolated small town in Alaska, but reading this book made me understand why others might choose too. The love Lende has for her community and her town shine through her simplistic yet beautiful writing. A very enjoyable read.
A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah
The courage it took to relive this horrible story, and the struggle it took Ishmael not only to survive but to have the strength to write this book captivated me. That being said, I didn’t find myself having the same emotional connection to Ishmael and his writing the way I did while reading “What Is The What.” There lacked a certain amount of detail and description in the story that kept me disconnected from the author instead of feeling as if I was struggling along with him. However, it still remains a haunting story worth reading and I often wondered if in his same situation if I would have had the courage to continue to fight for my life. The reality that Ishmael ever trusted another soul after what he lived through is a testament to the healing power of a child’s mind. A haunting read.
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
The thing I found most interesting, or maybe the most horrifying is that the crime surrounding this book which was the senseless murder of a family of 4 seems so absolutely unshocking in todays society. In the 50’s the fact that two men could kill at pointblank an entire family for what amounted to about $40 shocked and terrified not only a community, but the nation. Today though a murder of a family of 4 might only make the local news, definitely not national news. And no one would go on to write a book about it. We are so desensitized to crime and especially murder these days it’s quite shocking how little I felt while reading the descriptions of the murder. It’s a very well written book, but for myself it ended up being more about my own reflection of how desensitized I am to murder, than about me being engaged in the actual act that took place. I’d be interested to hear if anyone had the same feelings while reading the book, especially to see if I’m especially tuned down to the horrors of homicide…
Kindness Goes Unpunished, by Craig Johnson
This was my least favorite of the three Craig Johnson books I’ve read so far in the Walt Longmire series. Set in Philadelphia while Walt is visiting his daughter, I simply could not find the whole “cowboy in the city” idea interesting. The attempt to connect sheriff Longmire and his wild west roots to a murder case in Philly that followed a white Indian (yes you read that right) complete with characters looking for clues at famous statues of Indians just had me daydreaming. When the characters were riding on horseback through a Philadelphia park, and one of the characters was wearing full Indian war paint, in the rain, I could hardly continue. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, and I can only hope that sheriff Longmire heads back to WY where he belongs. Fingers crossed.
Catcher In The Rye, by J.D. Salinger
I added Catcher In The Rye to my ‘to-read’ shelf after Salinger died and people where signing CITR’s praises. I ended up reading the book in only a few days, but I never found myself understanding what the big fuss was. Maybe I missed something? I’ll admit that the writing style is different, and I did enjoy reading a teenage ‘falling from grace’ story from the perspective of a kid who is trying to lessen his tragic pain, but it just never grabbed me. Ultimately I found it all very depressing. Is that why people love this book so much? Because Holden is so depressing? All I wanted was poor Holden to just head home and get himself a therapist to deal with the death of his brother already. So tell me? Why do you all love this book so much?
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon
I haven’t been this bored by a book in a very long time. The back of the book features comments and reviews from some of the top magazines and papers that use words such as, “dazzling, breathtaking, and awesome,” to describe the book. I wonder if we read different stories.
This is Not The Story You Think It Is, by Laura Munson
I wanted to hate this book, I really did. A woman is told by her husband that he no longer loves her, and he would like to move out and eventually get a divorce. Instead of telling him he’s being immature, instead of losing it over the next four months as he acts like a CHILD, she practices self love, restraint, and ultimately support towards her husband. And I wanted to hate her for this, to call her weak and a push over for letting her husband treat her like garbage for four months always hoping he’d come back around. But, she was right. Giving into his midlife crisis, going tit-for-tat on his insults, blaming herself, and generally losing it would have simply ended their marriage. And I realized I’d used her tactic before. Waiting and watched until the drama is over, the drama that I know doesn’t have anything to do with me, but is directed at me passes because I’m simply in the splash zone. Because eventually this person wakes up, sees what they were doing, sees how you understood, gave space and waited, and ultimately you’re able to grow and learn from it, instead of walking away because it got hard. Intriguing really. A quick read worth taking a look at, if only to see another side to a relationship.
Another Man’s Moccasins, by Craig Johnson
If this book was anything like book three of the series I had vowed to stop reading the remaining books. Thankfully Johnson was back to his old ways, and back to WY where Walt belongs. I enjoyed the flashbacks between the current murder investigation and Walt’s time in Vietnam, and was pleasantly surprised by the ending. A good, fast read that has reawakened my love for this series. But I swear if Walt heads back to the city in a future book I am DONE. You’ve been warned Johnson.
The Foreigner: A Novel, by Francie Lin
This book does a wonderful job of allowing you to really become sucked into the drama of the story, and never once did it feel kitschy or overdone. Francie Lin is a great writer, creating moments of extreme duress and chaos thrown right in with moments of tenderness without making the book feel fractured. When it ended I found myself wanting to know what happens next. Great read.
The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister
Oh dear I loved this book. In the very beginning I worried the flowery language used to describe cooking and food would bore me seeing as I wouldn’t describe myself as a “foodie”, but as the stories continued I absolutely fell in love with the writing, and even more so the students of The School of Essential Ingredients. Suddenly, I want desperately to take a cooking class…
The Space Between Us, by Thrity Umrigar
This was a lovely book, weaving together the story of two very different women: the servant living in the Bombay slums working tirelessly for her mistress, and the upper class housewife/mistress. I enjoyed how the author never pushed you to hate or empathize with one particular story but wound their lives together and allowed the reader to see both sides of the class divide. Of course my heart broke for Bhima the servant, but not in a way that felt contrite or predictable. Equally loved that the author wrote a little in the end of the book about where the characters came from in relation to her own life growing up in a middle class home in Bombay. Worth a read.
Is there a 0 star? Because I’d like to give this book a zero rating. I clearly hated this book. The author wanted her stories to make a statement about “self-help” and the more unique ways in which we can learn to better ourselves, but really, the writing was HORRIBLE, the stories were irritating, and I wanted to chuck this book out the train window. Do. Not. Read.
This was a very well written and extremely interesting book. The writing was deeply honest, and the authors portrayal of everything from how he found religion, to how his faith grew, to how his view of God slowly fell apart kept me hooked. The combination of personal story weaved in with reflections back on some of the biggest news stories from the last ten years involving the Catholic church were woven together in a way that made the book feel at times like an adventure novel. Very good read.
This is one of my favorite of the series so far. The book jumps back and forth between past and present time which took me a second to get used to, but once I had my rhythm down I enjoyed the back and forth. Very suspenseful without being corny. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything having to do with horses. Can’t wait to read the next one!
(After finishing the Craig Johnson book I went on to read the entire Harry Potter series again before I watched the final movie. It was a month long journey back into the world of Harry Potter and I recommend re-reading, or even simply reading that series no matter your age. Fantastic books.)
I am obsessed with Barbara Kingsolver, so I knew if nothing else I’d love the way in which she presented her argument for eating local. Of course I already try to subscribe to the mission behind her families year of growing and raising what they eat, and having a large garden last year, and a failed one this year made their daily farming struggles very real and understandable for me.
I’m in awe of how dedicated their family was to the project, and I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to run off and move to my own farm and give it a try. Of course I know I’d never have their stamina (NO vacations in August and September, ever!), but I admit the book inspired me to improve certain aspects of my own eating/purchasing. Living in Alaska my carbon footprint seems about 12 times bigger than I can manage, but I’m making a pledge to buy my produce from the farmers market and the one grocery store I know carries locally farmed veggies. Next year I will increase my own garden as best I can as well.
I found Barbara’s narration to be very compelling and interesting, her husband’s features were fact filled and drier, but still interesting, and I really began to detest their daughter’s haughty sections. Her pieces at the end of chapters were the only ones I began to loath, and the only ones that felt “preachy.” But I guess she does have big shoes to fill, being Barbara Kingsolver’s daughter and all…
A great read, inspiring and eye opening, while also well littered with family stories and your typical Barbara Kingsolver narrative voice. A must read.
I really enjoyed this book. As a huge fan of the book The Road I worried the similar topic of The Raven’s Gift might leave me feeling less engaged, almost like I had already heard the story before, but this wasn’t the case.
Set in a tiny blip of a community in the middle of the Alaskan tundra this book was so much more than the struggle to survive. The author did a wonderful job of weaving in three versions of time, the far removed past before the sickness, a few weeks after the sickness, and the present. You never felt confused or disjointed, and I think mixed time up in this fashion helped keep the reader in suspense. The book gave you so much more than a story of survival and I particularly enjoyed the peak into the life of an outsider moving to a native Alaskan community.
A suspenseful read.
This is a very small and very fast read, but it is riveting. Somaly Mam is such a modest but amazing woman and the steps she has taken to make positive changes in the lives of victims of human trafficking is truly astounding. The retelling of the pain and misery Somaly has lived in her own life was captivating for sure, but her story of how she turned her own pain into positive change in Cambodia made me want to meet her. Read this book.
For all the hype about this series, I was very very close to giving up on this book for the first 300 or so pages. I’m not sure if it’s a translation issue or what, but no book should be dull as dirt for 300 pages, and then kick into high gear and be crazy interesting for the last 150. The excitement of the story in the last 150 pages does help with the fact that the start was so slow, but I can’t help but feel like a smart editor would have asked the author to focus less on the weird beginning and beef up the good stuff near the end.
Of course though since this is a series, I’ll see it through to the end. Hopefully book number 2 doesn’t bore me with nonsense for the first 300 pages as well…
This book blew me away. I devoured it. The twisting story lines of three characters all intertwined around this one home was at times absolutely painful to read. The author did an amazing job of allowing the reader to emphasize and understand the conflicting points of views of all three characters simultaneously. When I opened the book I never in a million years could have predicted the haunting path it would take… You must read this book.
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thankfully this book was infinitely better than the first book. There were some times where Stieg gets too bogged down in details I feel are completely irrelevant to the story, but overall the story was interesting and suspenseful. I enjoyed this book so much so that the second I finished it I started book #3 in the series. Any book that ends with a plot hanger like this one begs you to immediately start the next book. I’m very interested to see how the plot and issues in this book can be resolved in book three…
I think this was my favorite of the three books by far. It’s interesting how the entire series seems to exist just so this book can wrap up. This book had the least amount of unimportant blathering on than the two before it which was a nice change, and focused mostly on the mystery at hand which I liked. This was the fastest read of the three as I found myself genuinely interested in what would happen next, and I was thrilled to see how it all came together in the end. It’s a shame though that the 3rd book leaves you with a hint of book four, and we know we will never actually know what Steig had planned next…
This book was slow, but flowed in a lyrical manner that kept me interested from the first to last page. I think I was most interested in the characters of this very northern small town in Canada because it felt like a glimpse into my new life in Alaska. I loved the way the characters spoke about the north, and how living way up here changes the way you think about your friends and neighbors. As well, the way they spoke about the vastness of the wildness around you reminded me of the eye opening experiences I’ve had all summer exploring Alaska. A really lovely read.
I never imagined this book about three generations of farmers living on a 1,000 acre plot of land would have ended the way it did. The writing was simple but captivating, and the twists and turns of the family drama on this single farm just got more and more out of control. Jane Smiley is a fantastic author, and I look forward to reading more of her work from here on out.
This book seemed to have far less whiskey, and far more banking/government than I originally expected. But, I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot, and although it started as a slower read I was tearing through pages near the end waiting to see how it all played out. I love a good mystery, and historical fiction always fascinates me, so I thought this was a very interesting mix of the two.
I had hoped to love this book a lot more than I did. Being part Basque, there sadly isn’t that much I know about my Grandmother’s side of the family and about the people my Great Grandmother left behind when she immigrated from Basque country to America. The story was interesting, but I expected to connect more with the characters. Instead the book was lightening fast, fairly simple in writing style, and was over before I’d felt I had a chance to really know these people and this culture. The one thing this book did do for me though was made me wish I had asked my Grandmother more questions while I had the chance.
I will admit the writing style of the book was hard for me to digest at first. Reading the entire book as written from the viewpoint of the 5 year old boy took some time getting used to. But once I’d adjusted to his writing style I was sucked into the story of these poor people. It is both a heartbreaking story of survival, and a look at what happens when a child is sequestered from the normal world. More than anything it’s amazing how as children we simply adjust to the world around us, no matter how disturbing that world might be. Definitely worth a read.
I was told I HAD to read this book. NOW. Drop everything! So, I did. And…
I think I might have given this book a better rating, more like three stars if I hadn’t been told first that it was “drop what you’re doing” readable. I mean, it’s interesting. Definitely. The story of a boy growing up without a father figure who turns to a rowdy group of men at the local bar to raise him is my cup of tea. I enjoyed watching how their influence stays with him throughout his life, molds him, and truly raises him.
It’s an interesting story, but at times the author is SO in love with the bar, so in love with this world that I couldn’t connect with him. I could identify with his feelings of inadequacy surrounded by people who had everything, when he felt he had very little, but when it slipped into the power of this bar, I lost him. There were moments when he talked about actually rushing home from NYC, ditching out on friends or moments to hurry back to the bar, and I just couldn’t connect with that impulse. For most of the book JR just felt desperate and unstable.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some vino. Love. And I love a good local bar. I really do. But JR and I, we just didn’t connect like I’d hoped.
Having loathed Moby Dick, I was unsure if I’d enjoy this book. But a friend of mine swore this was her favorite book in the entire world, so I gave it a try. I enjoyed this book infinitely better than Moby Dick, finding the character of Una surprisingly intriguing. In a time when women seemed so one dimensional Una questions everything from religion, women’s place in society, marriage and slavery. The book seems far longer than it needs to be, but seeing as it is a fictional creation spun from Moby Dick, the book that would not end, I guess it seems fitting. Worth a read for anyone who detested Moby Dick and would welcome a chance to imprint a better version of the classic whaling story in your mind.
I loved this book. It was packed with incredibly powerful themes, everything from slavery, to women’s rights, to tolerance, and yet, it conveyed the weight of these issues without being overly dramatic or feel forced. It was both a painful story and full of life lessons, and you couldn’t help but love Celie and Nettie and every other character in between. A quick but great read.
I had heard so many people say this book captivated them, so I wanted to fall madly in love with the story of Kavalier and Clay, and yet… I found myself feeling fairly detached to the whole story up until the last two hundred pages. Maybe my head just wasn’t in the right pace to love this book. Either way I’m glad I read it, but it won’t make the “favorites” shelf. Don’t take my word for it though, I’d suggest you read it yourself and give it a chance.
I’ve only been to one of the Greek Islands, and definitely not in the cold and rainy winter, but I found myself thinking often of my time on Santorini and wishing I was there again. The theme of small island mentality where gossip is king really kept me captivated as well. I thought it was also interesting that the “hero” of the story is often never referred in the narrative by his name, and instead always as, “the fat man.” I found myself wondering if this naming convention will come into play in later books in the series. I’m definitely intrigued though and interested to see exactly what kind of detective the fat man really is. A fun, quick read.
This book is as good as “they” say it is. Bourdain is snarky, out of control, and ultimately raw. I’ve always known I don’t have it in me to be a chef, would simply never be able to withstand the hours, or the standing, but Bourdain somehow makes you feel like if you choose not to join him and his fellow chefs you’re missing out on something exciting. His writing is humorous but well done, and when I finished this book I wanted to watch his show, make something from his cookbook, eat at his restaurant, and read his other books all at the same time.
The first couple stories in the book were funny, clever and wickedly cynical. But then it went downhill from there. 90% of the stories felt like page fillers. Not the Christmas story roundup I was hoping for.
This is a painful story, but one that pulls you in almost instantly. I actually skipped out on holiday activities to hurry up and see how the various plot lines would converge.
When you read the back cover of the book it’s easy to worry how something like Great Expectations and a remote island village could ever have something meaningful to do with one another. Yet almost instantly the story pulls you in. There have been hundreds of characters in books I’ve felt a personal connection with, and only in Mister Pip did I realize the power a character might have for someone in times of isolation and extreme trauma. A wonderful but heartbreaking read.
The most beautiful part of this book are the one liners. Short, sweet, honest, perfect. Witty and dry, honest and lovely. Books about dating and relationships should all be this realistic. Melissa Bank reminds us that there are so many factors than the traditional boy meets girl.
Want to know EVEN MORE about the books I’ve read, am reading, and even maybe the ones on my to-read shelf? Then hop over to my goodreads account and lets be book nerd friends!
Dying for even more Accidental Olympian book nonsense? Well, would you like to hear a funny story about how goodreads made me look like an idiot? You do? Great. I hope you enjoy every minute of my humiliation.