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:
This is one of the better apocalyptic books I’ve ever read. In typical Stephen King fashion the book is highly detailed and descriptive and heavily relies on the battle between good and evil. You can always count on Stephen King to surprise you, killing off characters you fell in love with, creating twists you could never have seen coming, and enabling you to believe in a world where everything is on the line. I really enjoyed this book, and I see now why The Stand is listed as one of King’s top ten books of all time. Must read if you’re a King fan, and, even if you’re not you should probably read this.
Adam and I read this book chapter by chapter, finishing a chapter and then speaking about the steps asked of us by David Bach. There were two big things we took out of the book. First, obviously, talking about money with your spouse is the most important thing in a relationship. As two people who have been talking about money together since, honestly, the first month we met, this was nothing new for us. But, we did enjoy the exercises that asked us to talk about our long term goals, and how we would actively plan, save, and execute them. The second big thing we took away from the book was I finally signed up for my 401k. I know, I know, it’s something you’re just supposed to do, especially since I work for a company where they offer a 401k AND even contribute! But, I simply couldn’t see the value in taking money away from what always felt like a too small paycheck to begin with. But Bach did a great job of explaining the benefits of putting away 10% of my income into a 401k that I finally grasped the importance. And after my first 401k payment went out of my paycheck, simple math showed that I was still coming out way, way on top. I think if nothing else, reading this book with your significant other, and talking about it together is a right step. Even if it inspires you to do nothing else but talk frequently about your financial future. So thanks Bach, and here’s to Adam and my future as early retired millionaires….
Classic Craig Johnson and I enjoyed this book as I have enjoyed those crazy Walt stories in the past. My only beef with this book was that as a woman who is getting married this summer, if my father pulled HALF the BS that Walt pulls on his poor daughter the week of her wedding, I’d probably have killed him. Probably wouldn’t hurt for Walk to begin becoming a little more aware of how his actions affect those around him… I know we’re supposed to love him for his outlaw antics, but shesh. Year after year Walt simply proves he’s a self involved ass. But, I guess he’s still lovable.
This book is one of the first books I put on my “to-read” shelf when I created a goodreads account because I’ve heard about it for years. Written in The Little Prince style fable writing, I know the author was attempting to create a big sweeping metaphor for living our lives in search of our true selves… but ugg. I just couldn’t get into it.
I especially loved that the book begins with Grisham saying that as his first published book this is still his favorite. It wasn’t his breakout title, it wasn’t the one that made him famous, but it’s the one he loves the most. And I could see why. I’ve never read his work before, and it just so happened to be a great book to read while I traveled across the country for work. The characters we’re horribly complex, but the story was engaging and it did force me in the end to wonder if I’d been that same jury how I might have voted. If you enjoy Law and Order, you’ll love this book.
I have never read a book before where the loss of a loved one to cancer is treated in this way. The switching back and forth from current day struggles to say good-bye, to the reflection on the couples earliest days was such a great way to really feel that you know characters deeply. The author brought such reality to the pain of letting go of a loved one, and the fact that the relationship was exposed as one with real struggles, human difficulties and not the typical “perfect storybook marriage” was refreshing. I admit the correlation between the wife’s death and their first sexual encounter in the last chapter seemed to take away from the heart wrenching reality of her death… But maybe that was the intention of the author. I’d be curious to hear what others thought of the final few paragraphs.
In the fourth grade our teacher read the Hobbit to us. Day by day we dove into the story. Rereading it as an adult was really interesting. I expected from memory of the book, and seeing the movies for the book to be wildly descriptive, almost Steven King like. And yet, Tolken blows through fights, scenes, journeys in a few paragraphs. They’ll turn the single book (and I can see why) into three different movies, and yet Tolken fit all of this amazing adventure into a single 400 page book. Of course I still find the story and the world Tolken created to be superb, but I couldn’t help but think I would have given the whole adventure five stars if I’d just had more. More detail, more description, more more more.
But, I guess lucky for me, there’s still two more movies to come. So I’ll get my more fix.
A murder mystery. A love story. A tale of the ravages of war. Of a man lost. A marriage. All these things and more all wrapped into one singular book. Did he do it? Did they do it? Are they alive, dead, together, apart? There is no answer and nothing tangible and that makes it so real, so exciting to read because in life so often it doesn’t work out like an episode of Law and Order. It’s messy and we hope we get it right, but more often than not we’re unsure if we actually really know anything.
This book is prime to become a Lifetime movie. Frankly, I’m amazed it hasn’t been made into one yet. Predictable characters, susceptible plot twists, and even the “twist” at the end was forceable and everyone acted perfect to script. Fast read, but a vapid one.
Jen Lancaster is irritating. Her writing style with the weird diary-like footnotes are irritating. Yet… once she lost her job and life started getting actually hard (which took her till halfway through the book) I began to identify with the story. Lucky for me my unemployment struggle in early 2010 lasted only 6 months and not 2.5 years, yet I understood the fear and the loathing and the feelings of being completely out of control that Jen and Fletch began to feel. YET, as far as the book is concerned, I’m sad this became a NYT best-seller. I mean, come on! The only reason it gets 3 stars instead of 2 is because near the end Jen’s struggle exposed a shred of humanity I could relate to. Otherwise I have no interest in reading Lancaster’s other books, or her blog.
I can’t lie, the first chapter hurt my head as I remembered how to slow down and read Victorian English again. But once my brain got back into the swing of things I was zipping along enjoying myself. The English degree wanted to hate these books on principle when they came out, because how dare someone mess with Jane Austen! But, I have to say I liked the book. The characters and the story has everything you know and love from an Austen novel, the formality, the relationship drama, BUT you also get hilarious bits like a woman being eaten alive while at a beach bonfire, or people casually remarking about how out the window a servant appears to be becoming decapitated by an angel fish. And the fact that they wrote to one another with ink and pen still (Jane throwback) but are able to build submarines and an entire world on the ocean floor? HILARIOUS. It was weird, the ocean is out to get them all, there’s romance, humor, and Jane Austen’s flair for the dramatic. I can’t lie, I want to read more.
I imagine (or maybe hope as I’d love to be her new best friend) that Rhoda Janzen speaks the way she writes. With poise, humor, intelligence with a dash of self deprecating vulnerability. Her weaving of past and present while examining how her Mennonite upbringing formed her childhood and shaped her adulthood was perfection. A quick, lovely read.
I am going to quote my friend Shanna because her review is spot on to how I felt reading the book:
“This book wasn’t long enough or exploratory enough, which is a bit odd given her prior work. Perhaps she was trying to protect her husband’s privacy in some way, where she left everything exposed with her blood family in her previous two memoirs. Nevertheless, it’s Fuller – she’s brilliant and I would read her descriptions about making sandwiches. So hopefully she writes another short on her mysterious affair.”
LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. Bought impulsively before a flight, finished it before it touched down 5 hours later. Bernadette is quirky, intelligent, confusing, brash, loving, weird and wonderful. The way Maria Semple compiled the story as a collection of emails, letters, diary entries, articles and more made the book feel like a treasure hunt instead of a telling of this families lives. I highly recommend this book to anyone, and everyone.
In the span of a week, only a few days after moving to Chicago I kept seeing this book popping up. On blogs, instagram, Facebook, Goodreads. So when I read closer and saw the author wrote this after moving to Chicago herself and going on a quest for friendship, I knew I had to read it.
Let’s just say this is the first book I’ve taken the time to write the author a note afterwards. Not because it was so literary moving that I had to compliment her on her prose, but because I felt like someone finally put into words the hell that is making female friends as an adult. The fun but also the terror and the sweats, the anxiety and the horrible times when you put yourself out there and fail. To make friends as an adult you have to do the work. You truly are dating women, just without the sexual tension. WHICH Rachel points out, does make things a little harder sometimes!
I read the first couple chapter while I was riding the train in my new city of Chicago on my way to a Kentucky Derby party with a bunch of people I’d never met before. But armed with Rachel’s words I started conversations with strangers, looked for commonality, looked for that shared laughter moment and was brazen and asked for numbers of girls I wanted to get to know better. I’m following up now, trying to plan dates, and even though it sucks starting over, Rachel confirms what we all know is true. If you do the work and you put yourself out there, the friends will come.
Maybe I was setup by everyone who told me they LOVED this book, but I simply found it “ok”. Maybe it was the timing of when I started and was reading it. In the middle of a cross-country move, spending my nights when I had time to read, reading on an air bed wishing my things would arrive already, too tired to focus.
I only found myself interested in the story towards the end. Seeing the nature of the Stockholm syndrome in full affect. Hostages learning to care and love their captors. The ending though, destroying everything I was beginning to love about the book. In what world does it make sense that Gen and Roxanne end up together? I understand they shared a horrifying experience, but in reality that does not a marriage make. Throughout the book Gen was never one of Roxanne’s fan boys, he never spoke of being transfixed by her music, and yet he leaves his life and his job to follow her around the world listening to her sing? As heartbreaking as it would have been, it would have been more realistic and honest and somewhat beautiful to have the book end with the attack. The fantasy world they’d lived in coming to a brutal end. The same as it started.
I’ve loved Ann Patchett’s other work, but Bel Canto just wasn’t my cup of tea.
I Promise Not To Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail by Gail D. Storey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild says the book is “witty, wild, and full of heart” you read it. And, I wasn’t disappointed!
This is a depressing, heart breaking, demoralizing book, yet it’s light and there are traces of hope and laughter within as well. A very quick read that dives into the seedy underside of Reno, NV.
When I read the final page I closed the book, took a small sigh and just thought, “How absolutely beautiful.” That is this book. Beautiful. From the weaving of past and present together so seamlessly, to the struggle of a young man trying to find his beliefs in the middle of such turmoil, it was a beautiful book about a dark time in American history worth a read.
This book was terrifying and I read it insanely fast. Not because it was particularly literary, but because I have stood in the steps Dan Bigley stood in on the Russian River, I have seen a mother bear and her cubs look at me from across the river, and I have felt the fear that courses through you when her eyes meet yours. I can’t even imagine the horror of what Dan and his friends and family lived through, but it’s remarkable to read about how someone can live through the worst, and come out of it strong and capable. Dan seems like an amazing survivor, but I can’t shake what you read about in those first couple chapters. So glad I read this after I’d moved out of Alaska… not sure if I could have fished in that spot again after reading Dan’s tale.
At times I loved Crawford’s no nonsense sentence structure. His tell it like it is style. Felt it helped convey how lost and tortured his existence was while in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. But other times I hated it. Especially in the middle of the book where he’s explaining his depression, his struggle, his lack of empathy and how being in the Peace Corps is making him hate the people he’s supposed to be helping, I felt his style lacked. Overall it was interesting to read a story of someone being truly honest about an experience many will never experience. Not that all Peace Corps stays are as his was, but it’s interesting to hear someone say, “It’s not what I thought. Even if I didn’t know what to think when I went in.”
A fast read that definitely didn’t make me wish I’d tried the whole Peace Corps thing myself.
Psychovertical is the story of what happens to a nice lower-class kid with dyslexia who gains control over his circumstances by clinging to giant stone faces, thousands of feet in the air, for days at a time. In this case, Kirkpatrick uses his 12-day solo climb of the Reticent Wall on California’s El Capitan as the experience that helps him understand how growing up poor and struggling with dyslexia and low self-confidence set him on a path of extreme adventure.
I have a weird obsession with Law & Order SVU, and equally love Dick Wolf’s work on Chicago Fire, so when I saw he’d come out with his first book I knew I needed to read it. Everything about The Intercept screams Dick Wolf. Even some of the characters reminded me of Law & Order SVU characters. In typical fashion you’re never quite sure how it’s all going to turn out, and you find yourself trying to read as fast as possible towards the end. It’s definitely not going to win a Pulitzer Prize, but it was a great read, and I hope he continues to write more books.
The Piano Teacher was a book that grew on me. In the beginning the alternating chapters between pre-war and post-war world in Hong Kong left me feeling disconnected. Meh, yeah yeah get on with it. But as the characters became more familiar, as the story of Hong Kong during WWII came into focus I began to dive into the story. The story of Will and Trudy became more and more captivating and in the final chapter I was surprised to see how the plot twisted. A fast summer read.
I must have been one of the only children who didn’t have to read The Diary of a Young Girl in middle school/junior high. So, I finally made it a reality. I can’t imagine that a child her age was able to be so insightful, positive, to find meaning in her daily life amid so much suffering. It’s a testament to her character and her proclamations of someday becoming a famous writer are heartbreaking and terribly haunting…
Probably my favorite book I’ve read all year. The Snow Child is the perfect blend of loss, love, the wild wonder of Alaska and just enough wonder to keep you enthralled. The prose is inviting and at times almost lyrical, and I found myself missing Alaska more and more with each passing chapter. Such a wonderful book. I’ll read anything Eowyn Ivey writes next.
This book has a very slow build and only begins to intrigue you towards the middle of the title. The heroine quickly becomes so much less and I had expected so much more from her. Her willingness to bring another into her hopeless situation, and not only that, to not follow up on her promise to guide and protect her softened any trust I had in her. The ending attempts to redeem itself, but all one really feels in the end is sadness. For her, for those who came before her, and those who will come after.
This is one of those books that takes you a second to figure out who in the world is who. Once I was settled in with the abundance of names, weird ones at that, one couldn’t help but enjoy the book. Anne Tyler does a great job of displaying the wavering confidence of Rebecca as she reflects on her life. A life that seemed to run her, instead of her running her own life. In the end, a really lovely read.
I am a sucker for historical non-fiction as well as any book/movie/tv show featuring smart lawyers trying to solve a complex case. So to find BOTH of those topics in one book had me hooked. Thankfully it’s not simply the topics that kept me interested. Tara Conklin has woven two beautiful and heartbreaking worlds together and her writing is so fluid it sucks you in. Hours pass and you can’t help but want to read faster, what will happen next? A truly wonderful book and a must read.
If I remember correctly I felt the Hobbit was lacking description and flare, and OH BOY did Tolkien lay it on thick with this book! I know it’s impressive that Tolkien created this entire fictional world, one with fictional creatures, mountain ranges, history spanning decades and even in some cases language, but I couldn’t help myself but want to tell him ENOUGH already as he waxed on and on about historical wars on mountains, rivers, and generations that were impossible to follow along with. I’ve read plenty of fantasy books and not all of them need to give you generations of fictional history impossible to follow along with to feel realistic. Each time he went on another history lesson I essentially scanned and moved forward to the next scene with actual action or progress. The entire book could have been slimmed dramatically had he left out 70% of his history no one could follow. Not sure if I’m going to bother reading the other two. This will be one time I’ll just stick with the movies.
Another super page turner by Craig Johnson. I’ve read all the Longmire titles so far, and even watched and enjoyed the show, but I have to admit sometimes I get a little, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?” regarding Walt’s behavior. Especially in this latest book.
Diving into burning buildings when the fire department is telling you it’s not safe to enter and pulling a body from the wreckage. Refusing to call backup and entering properties with people in armed gun towers. Pushing civilians off the road (a few times) with your car. And the most insane of them all, driving to an illegal oil drilling operation (which is so large it ends up being investigated by the FBI) in the middle of the night with a plan to willingly explode an oil tanker as means to capture “the bad guys”. I mean come on! The whole thing ending with Walt wresting yet again for his life, nearly losing it once again and being saved at the last second… it is getting a little unbelievable. Can’t he solve crimes a little more believably? The final relationship plot twist made me smile, but I have to say o’l Walt is starting to make it hard to believe he hasn’t come out as being Superman with the bullshit he pulls day after day.
But I won’t lie, it is still entertaining. Even if it’s absolutely unbelievable.
One of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. As always King perfectly weaves together the perfect blend of surrealism to pull readers into a world where some of us have the ability to do just a little more with our minds than others and where those who can’t will fight to take it.
This book quickly could have turned into a story where little Danny from The Shinning continues to suffer from the same demons that haunted him at the Overlook Hotel, but King continued to open readers to a larger world, developed complex interesting characters, and leaves readers wanting to spend their entire weekend in his book wondering where in the world this will go next. Definitely lacks the fear level of The Shinning, but if King had tried to top himself and scare readers more than he had in The Shinning he would have let fans down. Doctor Sleep was the perfect direction to take little Danny. If you like King, this is a must read.
A delightful story that builds on itself the more you read.
A multilayered history of a middle America family. I liked how the story would jump across years, from family member to family member, always connected back to their small town in Iowa. Vibrant characters across a plethora of realistic emotions, struggles and successes.
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.