About- The final installment in the Divergent series; Tris and Four finally learn the truth behind the factions.
Why I picked it- Even though I didn’t love Insurgent as much as Divergent, I wasn’t going to leave the series unfinished.
Grade B In the end, I was kind of disappointed in this series. I really enjoyed the first book, but for me it all went downhill from there. I was less enthused by the second book and by the end of the third book I was over it. There’s a lot of information dumping in this novel, which just gets tedious. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the ending at all. It’s a bit of a twist and I won’t give it away, but to me it didn’t make that much sense in the context of the rest of the novel. Who else has read this series? Did you like it more or less than I did?
About- Essays on various “White Girls” (hint: the author’s definition of ‘white girls’ is different from the obvious interpretation).
Why I picked it- This was a book club pick, so I didn’t choose this one.
Grade D Eeek, this one was a real struggle for me. Remember, last time I was having trouble finishing it? Well, we set a date for a book club meeting this month, so I knew I had to pick it up again and power through. Sadly, this was my least favorite book in recent memory. I didn’t enjoy the writing style or the subject material. My impression of this book is that the only people who would enjoy it are some of the people mentioned in the book or the author himself. Yikes, that was harsh, no? But really, I didn’t like this book and if it weren’t for book club I wouldn’t have finished it.
All in all, it was not the best month in terms of reading for me! One very good note though- I started The Goldfinch a few weeks ago and I’m loving it. I’ve sort of been reading it slowly on purpose, so that I can savor it. Granted, I was watching the Olympics a lot and it’s a huge book (nearly 800 pages), so it’s been pretty easy to space it out. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through right now, so look for it to pop up in next month’s post.
I’d love for you to tell me what you’re currently reading in the comments below!
Instead of doing this every other month, I’ve decided to do these mini book review posts monthly. I think it will be better because you’ll get recommendations more often and it will be easier for me to remember the details of each book. January was a bit of a strange reading month for me because I started six books, but only finished four. More on that later!
About- Set in a futuristic London, it’s about a girl with clairvoyant abilities whose very existence is considered a crime.
Why I picked it- After Divergent, I was on a major YA dystopian novel kick.
Grade B I like this book, but I think it could have been better executed. The premise is interesting, but the author spends so much time explaining certain aspects of this world she’s created. Everything has it’s own term and it’s a lot to keep track of. Sometimes I was so bogged down by jargon and information- I just wanted to get back to the plot. That said, the author is pretty young and perhaps by the next book she will have refined her writing style a bit. This is supposed to be the first of a seven-book series, so I probably will pick up the next one if/when it comes out.
About- Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and attempting to settle back into civilian life.
Why I picked it- We had a little poll of favorite books read in 2013 at my workplace and this book won, so I knew I had to check it out.
Grade A+ If you follow along with these book posts, you’ll know that I don’t often read nonfiction. However, I heard such good things about this book that I had to read it. It’s great, really and truly great. It’s also heartbreaking and eyeopening. The soldiers who are the subjects of this book suffer from severe psychological trauma and have a lot of difficulty adjusting to life after war. In many cases, the author talked to both the soldiers and their family/friends and described the experience of the returning soldiers from those different perspectives. It’s stories about people’s lives, which is why I didn’t mind so much that it was nonfiction. Ugh, this book is so good and also depressing, so if that’s your thing, this book is for you.
About- I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that the main character has to deal with death, as well as attempt to save her city from civil war.
Why I picked it- I read Divergent in December, so Insurgent was up next.
Grade B Hmmm, I didn’t like this one as much as Divergent. I found the main character, Tris, more annoying in this installment. Maybe the first book was more interesting because it introduced all of these new ideas, and the second book plateaus a bit. I’m still interested to see how the series ends and I’ve just started the final book, Allegiant.
About- An ex-military man leads a quiet life until one night when he bumps into a young girl who’s running away from something that terrifies her.
Why I picked it- The publisher sent me a free copy and it sounded interesting, so I downloaded it and started reading.
Grade A- I enjoyed this book. It was a quick and thrilling read- the action starts almost immediately and doesn’t really stop until the end. As you find out more information about the girl he runs into, you may think you know where it’s headed, but there was a twist in the last third of the book that totally surprised me. This book made me think of the movie, Taken. I think Liam Neeson could totally play the main character of this novel.
I mentioned above that there are two books that I started this month that but haven’t finished yet. This is unusual for me because typically I only read one book at a time. I like to be fully immersed in one story before I move on to the next one. One of the books I haven’t finished is White Girls by Hilton Als. I’m reading this for book club and I’ve found his writing style really difficult to get into. I’ve read about fifty pages so far, but I’m drawn to reading other books that I find much more interesting.
The other book I haven’t finished yet is The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. I’ve never been a huge fan of audiobooks, but I decided to give them another try this month. I downloaded the audiobook version of this title and started listening to it, but I still don’t like it. I’m not sure whether it’s the narrator’s voice or the pacing, but I’d just prefer to read it on my own. Now I’m waiting for the ebook version to become available at the library and then I think I’m going to start this one over. So far I have nothing against the story, it was just the format that I didn’t like!
Tell me: Do you usually read one book or several books at a time? How do you feel about audiobooks?
Disclaimer: Runner was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes, but these are my honest thoughts and opinions about the book.
Thanks to the holidays, I got lots of reading done in November and December! My final total for the year was 44, so in 2014 I’m aiming to beat that and setting my Goodreads goal at 45 books. Keep reading to find out what I thought of each book (click the titles for links).
About- A teenage girl dies suddenly and her mother tries to pick up the pieces and discover what lead to her death.
Why I picked it- At the time I was looking for a little bit of a thriller and I saw this recommended on Grace’s blog.
Grade B This is great if you’re looking for a quick and captivating read. There were a couple twists in there that I didn’t expect. I think I also saw this recommended somewhere for people who are fans of Gone Girl. I didn’t think it was nearly as great as Gone Girl but it was a good read.
About- Two strong women who face a lot of heartbreak in their lives and a special painting that connects them.
Why I picked it- I really enjoyed Me Before You so I thought I’d read this latest book by Jojo Moyes.
Grade A- This book is set in two different time periods and it was a bit of a slow start for me at first. Then, just when I was getting hooked on Sophie’s story (the first main character), the narrative switches to the second main character, Liv. The author does do a really good job of weaving the lives of these two women together. My only little complaint is that I wish a bit more of the book was written from Sophie’s perspective because I thought her life was more interesting.
About- An ordinary girl whose life is changed forever when she makes a dangerous new friend.
Why I picked it- It was recommended somewhere, but unfortunately I can’t remember where.
Grade B+ This book actually turned out to be more sinister than I thought it would be. Rose, the protagonist, meets Odalie, the villain, at the beginning of the book and then we see how Rose’s life basically falls apart in the span of one year. I really enjoyed the setting- Prohibition era in New York. The most interesting part of this book for me was understanding what motivates each character to act the way that they do.
About- A quiet teenage boy named Miles and the girl he loved.
Why I picked it- Both my sister and Hope told me I should read this book. Plus The Fault in Our Stars was so darn good- I wanted more John Green!
Grade A- Ugh, John Green, why are you always pulling at my heartstrings? I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say I was tearing up a bit with this book too. I didn’t hit me as hard as The Fault in Our Stars did, but I was still surprised by the turn of events. There was one quirky thing about Miles that I really liked; he has a knack for remembering famous last words. It’s kind of morbid, but also interesting too- I felt like I learned something.
About- A young woman gets a job at The Circle, a powerful internet company, and her ambition drives her to climb higher and higher up the ranks.
Why I picked it- Many of the early reviews said this was a good read and I thought it would make a good pick for my book club.
Grade B So this actually ended up being a very divisive book for my book club: two people didn’t like it at all, one was in the middle, and two of us liked it. The people in book club who’d read other books by Dave Eggers tell me that his other works are much better. For me, this book was all about the critique of social media and how it’s taking over our lives. As a blogger, this hit close to home and raised some interesting points. This book sparked a lot of discussion and even though it wasn’t everyone’s favorite, I stand by this as my book club pick!
About- A stay-at-home mom has a secret that she has to hide from everyone in her life, including her husband.
Why I picked it- A friend was reading this for her book club and I was intrigued, so I borrowed it from the library.
Grade B- This book had a really interesting premise, but it just jumped all over the place. I wanted to love this book, but the disorganization threw me for a loop. Don’t get me wrong, it was interesting, but it was often unclear what time it was or what the setting was in any given chapter. Also, once you figure out the main character’s secret, I wanted a lot more backstory. I always want to understand what drives a character and I didn’t get enough of that here.
About- One special book changes a boy’s life and causes him to investigate the mysterious life of the book’s author.
Why I picked it- Recommended to me by a friend at work.
Grade A+ Unsurprisingly, I love books about people who love books. This book would definitely have to be my favorite of the bunch. It’s wonderfully written, the story is intriguing throughout, and I love the gothic setting in post World War II Spain. When I went home last month, I discovered that I had another book by this author in the original Spanish. I hadn’t read that one, but now I’m thinking that I’ll read another one of his books, but maybe attempt to read it Spanish (that would certainly be a challenge)!
About- A young girl who lives in a dystopian world where being different is very dangerous.
Why I picked it- Another one that Hope recommended it to me. Thanks Hope, you’re really knocking it out of the park with your recommendations!
Grade A- I’ll admit it- I really like YA fiction. This book hooked me and I read it in one day. I’m dying a tiny bit because I wanted to read the next book in the series right away, but I’m still waiting for it in the library queue. Since I was in the mood for fantasy/dystopian YA fiction, I picked up The Bone Season to tide me over (more on that in a future post!).
About- The War of the Plantagenets and the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a woman who rose from commoner to queen.
Why I picked it- I spotted this in Alex‘s room and asked to borrow it for my trip home last month.
Grade B+ I really like historical fiction. I went through a phase in middle school/high school where I read several Philippa Gregory novels. I didn’t know a lot of the history behind this book because it precedes Henry VIII and The Tudors, so I enjoyed learning about that time period. Also, apparently they made a miniseries based on these books and it aired on Starz last summer, so I’d love to watch it if I can find it.
Tell me: What was your favorite book in 2013?
Today I have another set of book recommendations for you guys! I’ve been keeping up the pace and in September I hit my Goodreads goal of reading 30 books over the course of the year. So, I decided to raise my goal and now I’m attempting to read 40 books this year. I’m happy that I’m keeping up with my reading, since it’s really important to me. As you know, I will be hopping on a plane to Mexico early tomorrow morning, so I’ll have plenty of time to read during my travels. If you have any recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them in the comments! (click the titles below for links to each book)
About- It’s a collection of stories by Leandra Medine, the founder of the popular fashion blog, Man Repeller.
Why I picked it- This was sent to me by the publisher, and honestly I probably wouldn’t have bought it on my own. However, I was curious and it looked like a quick read, so I decided to give it a go.
Grade B- As part of the fashion blogging community, I’m definitely aware of her blog, but I don’t read it regularly. I thought this book was ok. Some anecdotes are a bit funny, but I don’t always love her writing style. To me it seems like she uses some words just because they sound fancier, when she would be better served by a simpler word. Sometimes I felt like there were issues with her sentence structure too. Gosh, I sound like such an English teacher, but these are the thoughts that came to mind when I was reading this book. If you’re a fan of her blog and looking for something light, quick, and easy to read, then you might like this.
About- A young actress trying to make it in NYC.
Why I picked it- It’s written by Lauren Graham, aka Lorelai Gilmore, aka Sarah Braverman. I’m such a fan of her acting that I had to find out what her writing would be like.
Grade A I really enjoyed this. This was another light and breezy read and I was a little sad when it ended. I liked the main character Franny and anytime she talked about struggling to get by in NYC, I could totally relate. If Lauren Graham decided to make a series of Franny’s life and continue the story, I’d definitely read it.
About- Another food memoir set in Paris.
Why I picked it- I will never get tired of these. First of all, it’s set in Paris. Secondly, it contains many recipes throughout that sound absolutely delicious. Also, remember how my friend recommended a different Paris food memoir to me and I read the wrong one? This is the one I was actually supposed to read!
Grade A Like I said, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this genre. For a little while I’m transported to another country through the author’s narrative and this helps ease my wanderlust a bit. Next on my list in this category- Mastering the Art of French Eating.
About- A young girl who’s more interested in living in a fictional world than the real world.
Why I picked it- I loved loved loved Eleanor & Park, so I was pretty excited when I heard the author was releasing a new book.
Grade B+ I find Rainbow Rowell’s work very engaging. I get invested in the characters and I want to see them grow and be happy. She left the ending somewhat unresolved, which can be frustrating as a reader, but I think I do understand why she did it. I also learned about fan fiction, which was a term I’d heard before, but didn’t really know much about.
About- Falling in love with someone without ever meeting them.
Why I picked it- It’s another Rainbow Rowell book.
Grade B- This was my least favorite of her books. First of all, the premise is a little creepy: an IT guy at a company is tasked with checking employee emails for inappropriate behavior. He basically snoops on one of the employees and finds out all of these personal details about her and slowly falls in love with her. The catch is that he’s never met her in person and she doesn’t know he’s reading her emails. I mean, that’s a total invasion of privacy, right (he keeps reading her emails, even when they’re not flagged with anything inappropriate)? Also, I thought her characters were a bit flat and not as fleshed out as they tend to be. However, I believe this was her first book, so I can cut her some slack here; her other books are much better.
About- An old man who takes in two orphan girls and does his best to protect them.
Why I picked it- This was our latest book club book, so I actually didn’t pick this one.
Grade B It was a little difficult to write what this book was about, because there’s not really much as far as plot goes. The book was really well-written and the author described things excellently. When we were discussing this in book club, one of my friends mentioned that it was an short story idea that turned into something much longer. I can see how it’d be difficult to pare this down into a short story, but I also thought it was too long. There are whole portions that I thought could have been cut because nothing was really happening. Then again, it wasn’t really about what happened, but more about certain ideas that the author wanted to convey. So I guess I’m torn. It’s not a book I would have picked up on my own, but that’s the whole point of our book club- to expand our horizons and read outside of our preferred genres.
About- A young woman who moves to America for a better life and in the end returns to her home country.
Why I picked it- I’d been on the library waiting list for this one forever, so I was really excited when it was finally ready. The author is Nigerian and my family is Nigerian, so I thought I would definitely be able to relate to the story. I’ve only heard good things about her work too, so I was really looking forward to this one.
Grade A This book didn’t disappoint. I don’t think there are really a ton of books out there written from this perspective- a Nigerian-American. I feel like I got an extra kick out of this book because I knew about a lot of the Nigerian things she was referring to, but I do think any one from an immigrant family could relate to this. She brings up lots of interesting points about race and describes what it’s like to acclimate to American life. I definitely found this book interesting and I look forward to reading more by this author.
About- A group of students at a liberal college who murder one of their own friends.
Why I picked it- A friend told me that she was reading this book and that it was really great. A little later, I saw this on Flavorwire on a list that was called something like “The 20 Best Books You’ve Never Heard of.”
Grade A- From the very beginning of the book, you know that one of the main characters is going to die, but you don’t know how or why. That’s a pretty great way to hook the reader in. This book is a bit long and dense, but I wouldn’t ever say I was bored. There are layers upon layers, and slowly the author pulls them back to reveal what’s underneath. You can also tell that the author is extremely intelligent from the way she references classical texts thought the novel. It’s not pretentious though- you don’t have to know every reference to understand what’s going on and it is in line with the story since the characters are studying classical Greek. She recently released a new book, The Goldfinch, and the critics are raving about it, so I’ve added that to my to-read list as well.
Thanks for reading all the way through! I won’t be posting while I’m in Mexico, but I’ll see you back here this time next week!
Disclaimer: Man Repeller was provided to me by the publisher for review purposes, but these are my honest thoughts and opinions about the book.