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What I Read March 2014

It’s a few days late, but today I’m sharing what I read in March. March was certainly a better month than February in terms of books, so let’s jump right in, shall we? (click the titles for links)

THE GOLDFINCH
About- A boy that suffers a traumatic event at a young age and the way the consequences of that particular day affect the rest of his life.

Why I picked it- This was THE book to read earlier this year. I felt like everywhere I turned, someone would mention that they’d just started this book and I wanted to join in on the fun!

Grade A I’m a big fan of Donna Tartt’s writing. I loved The Secret History when I read it last year and I was looking forward to reading her latest work. This book isn’t short (it’s around 800 pages) and normally I would think twice about that kind of commitment, but I trust this author. She did not disappoint and I really enjoyed reading this book. Something terrible happens right off the bat and things don’t improve much throughout the book, yet somehow, I find her writing very comforting. I’d finish a chapter and release a little sigh of contentment because she has a very natural way of bringing sections to a close. The words flow along the page so effortlessly that you don’t really notice how long this is. I’m not sure I’m describing this properly or making much sense, but bottom line is- read this book! I would say this is my favorite read of 2014 so far.

THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS
About- A middle-aged woman who lives a quiet, ordinary life but wants more.

Why I picked it- It was recommended by a friend.

Grade B I mentioned in January that I started listening to the audiobook, but just did not like it (the audiobook format, not the book itself). I finally had the chance to download the ebook version from my library in March. At first I liked this book, but by the end I felt lukewarm. I remember when this book was first published there was a lot of talk about likable and unlikable characters. The narrator is an angry woman. She feels invisible and ignored and is desperate to break out of that mold. I didn’t feel like she was unlikable though- that wasn’t what bothered me. She spends a lot of the book talking about one particular family that had a big impact on her life. When I finished the book, I thought “That’s it? That’s all that happens?” I guess I just expected more; I didn’t quite feel how much they affected her.

MAYBE SOMEDAY
About- In one day the main character’s life is completely turned upside down and she’s forced to rethink everything she’s known up to that point.

Why I picked it- I have a stack of galleys that I’ve received and this one looked like light reading.

Grade C? I’m not sure what to give this book. After The Goldfinch and The Woman Upstairs, I needed something simple and light. It is an easy read. At some points I was rolling my eyes, but there were also parts where I was drawn into the story. I guess I would say don’t expect too much from this book, but at the same time, it did serve its purpose for me.

THE MOON SISTERS
About- Two sisters with opposite personalities have to come together after their mother dies suddenly.

Why I picked it- Another one from my stack of galleys- I was intrigued by this phrase on the back cover “almost-magical realism.”

Grade B The writing is very lovely in this book. One of the key elements in the story is that one of the sisters has synesthesia. I had to google this and see if it was a real thing! This character trait leads to some really great descriptions of things that she sees and hears. Also, I could relate to the idea of two sisters struggling to get along with each other. I remember that when I was younger, it was sometimes hard for me to believe that my siblings and I really had the same parents because we’re all so different. In particular, my sister and I are the closest in age, which means that she was the one that got on my nerves the most. We’ve become so much closer since I left for college though and it warms my heart to think how far we’ve come.

Tell me: What are you currently reading?

Disclaimer: Maybe Someday and The Moon Sisters were provided to me by the publisher for review purposes, but these are my honest thoughts and opinions about these books.

What I Read February 2014

Allegiant

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?

White Girls

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!

January 2014 Books 600x891

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!

The Bone Season

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.

Thank You For Your Service

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.

Insurgent

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.

Runner

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.

November and December Reads

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).

RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA

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.

THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND

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.

THE OTHER TYPIST

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.

LOOKING FOR ALASKA

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.

THE CIRCLE

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!

THE EXPATS

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.

THE SHADOW OF THE WIND

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)!

DIVERGENT

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!).

THE WHITE QUEEN

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?