Book Reviews: December 2014

jane eyre, aunt sass, the fever, dash & lily's book of dares, dear daughter, perfume, the winter people, the selection, the elite, the one, the selection series, one plus one

It turns out that I can get a lot of reading done when I don’t have go to my day job! With all that time off, December was a really great reading month for me. We’ve got 11 books to get through, so let’s jump right into my mini reviews (click the titles for links).

JANELast year I made a list of the top 10 classics I’d like to read or reread and Jane Eyre was on my list. I think I read it when I was much younger, so I remembered very little of the story. I see it as a coming-of-age novel about a young woman trying to find her place in the world. Jane is an orphan and she doesn’t have the happiest childhood. The story follows her as she grows up, goes to school, and eventually ventures out into the real world for a position as a governess.

I feel wary commenting on classics, but I’m really glad I reread this one. Jane is a wonderful character and I admire her spirit. She handles tough situations with grace. She has strong opinions and she’s not afraid to voice them. Also, she doesn’t let her lower economic status hold her back. She dreams of doing bigger and better things with her life.

Classics can sometimes be intimidating because of the language and size, but they are classic for a reason. This book is quite long, but once I adjusted to the writing style, I really enjoyed it. I even giggled out loud at a few bits. Jane is sassy! If you’ve been thinking about reading this book, I say go for it.

AUNTI won this book from a twitter giveaway, which was awesome. Who doesn’t like winning things? This slim little volume is a collection of stories written by P.L. Travers, the same author who wrote the Mary Poppins stories. They’re labeled as Christmas stories because she wrote them for particular friends of hers and gave the stories to them for Christmas.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. There are three stories about three different people and it was interesting to see how these people had an impact on her life. My favorite story was the titular one about Aunt Sass, who was the real-life inspiration for Mary Poppins. Aunt Sass is strict and prickly on the outside, but underneath she has a heart of gold. She’s the kind of aunt who’s done all sorts of interesting things with her life and has an anecdote for every situation. This was the first thing I’ve read by P.L. Travers, so now I’d like to check out some of her other work.

FEVERIn a small, rural town, a teenage girl suddenly falls ill with a mysterious disease. Soon another girl is affected, and then another. Paranoia and panic sets in as the townspeople wonder what’s causing this illness and why only teenage girls are affected.

The premise sounds great, right? There was a lot of buzz when this book came out earlier last year and I really wanted to read it, but I didn’t get around to it until last month. I thought this was good. I was intrigued by the story throughout and I enjoyed the author’s writing style. I was a bit disappointed by the way it all came together in the end, but not so much that it ruined my reading experience.

DASHThis book is a perfect read for the holidays. It’s set in December in NYC, which is a magical time of year. Also, it involves the Strand, my favorite bookstore in the city, so I already knew I was going to enjoy this book.

Dash, one of the main characters, is browsing the books at the Strand when he discovers a little red notebook full of clues. He decides to play along and follow the clues . They lead him to the other main character, Lily, and the two of them start to exchange stories and dares through this notebook.

It’s a pretty cute story with a dash of adventure and romance. I’m glad I read this last month because my sappiness threshold was a bit lower than normal (y’all know I’m nutty about Christmas). It is a young adult novel and it is cutesy, which, you know, I’m not always in the mood for. I thought Dash as a character was a bit pretentious and annoying (I feel like he’d grow up to be a wannabe writer in Brooklyn. No disrespect to wannabe writers who currently live in Brooklyn and #nodisrespectoBenAffleck). Overall, I enjoyed this though.

DEARI don’t think I realized I liked thrillers until I read Gone Girl. Or maybe I did know that, but I’d just forgotten. Anyways, ever since Gone Girl became such a huge hit, every thriller that came out afterwards has been compared to that book. And in my mind, I’m measuring all the thrillers I read against that book. Dear Daughter is no Gone Girl, but I did think it was pretty good.

Janie Jenkins is charged with the murder of her mother and goes to jail. Ten years later, she gets out on a technicality and makes it her mission to figure out exactly what happened the night of her mother’s death. She can’t exactly remember the events of that night and she didn’t have the best relationship with her mother, so she’s afraid that she may actually have killed her.

I’d call Janie an unlikable character: she’s shallow, sarcastic, selfish, and mean, but she’s smarter than she looks and makes witty observations about her life. An important part of thrillers is the way the story unfolds and I thought the author did a pretty good job with the pacing of this book. While I could guess at some things, I didn’t predict all of the events that take place. The most interesting part to me was the relationship between Janie and her mother and the secrets that Janie uncovers. I don’t want to say much more than that. If the plot sounds interesting to you and you like fast-paced books, read this and let me know what you think.

PERFUMEThis book definitely wins the award for the most bizarre book that I read last month, but it’s bizarre in a good way. It’s about a young orphan who’s unloved and unwanted from birth. There’s something unusual about him though- he has an amazing sense of smell. As in, he could smell your food and tell you exactly what ingredients went into it. As he grows up he uses this talent to become a perfumer and one day discovers a scent that he finds completely irresistible- the scent of a young virgin. He becomes obsessed with turning this scent into a perfume and he’ll do anything to get what he wants.

Like I said, this book was strange, but also so interesting. On one hand, you sympathize a bit with this character because he’s basically downtrodden from birth (If I remember correctly, his mother wants nothing to do with him, gives birth in the middle of the street, and promptly dies). On the other hand, his moral compass is set to zero and he does some pretty reprehensible things. A few people told me that that this book was adapted into a movie, so I’m excited to watch that at some point.

WINTERI guess I was in the mood for all of the dark and wintry reads last month. This was another one that had been sitting on my to-read list for a while. When I was heading home, I only wanted to take my iPad with me. I saw that this book was available as an eBook at the library, so I checked it out.

This one is part ghost story and part mystery. It’s set in a small town in Vermont, where there are strange disappearances and mysterious deaths. There are also creatures called sleepers– people who died and have been brought back to life. The story is told from a few different perspectives, one in the past and a few in the present. Eventually these storylines overlap and you see how all of the characters are connected.

The Winter People was good, but it didn’t blow me away. I was most interested in one of the main characters and didn’t feel that strongly about the rest of them. Still, it was interesting to see the way the story developed and I would read another book by this author.

SELECTIONELITEONEThe Selection series consists of The Selection, The Elite, and The One. I read all three last month and feel like I need to review them all at once. A coworker recommended the first one to me if I was in the mood for a light, easy read.

Let me get this out of the way: these books are total fluff and aren’t all that good. In fact, they’re pretty bad. Yet, somehow, I still read the entire trilogy. So I guess they can’t be entirely bad because for some reason, I kept reading. It’s described as a mix of The Bachelor and The Hunger Games. In this fictional kingdom, when the prince is of marrying age, eligible bachelorettes apply for a process called The Selection. Out of the many entries, 35 are selected. Once they’ve been chosen, they move to the palace and compete for the prince’s affections until only one is left.

I’m not sure why this was compared to The Hunger Games because it’s nowhere near as brutal or vicious as some of the events that take place in those books, but I could definitely see elements of The Bachelor in these books. The main character, America is a whiny brat. Yeah, that’s kind of harsh, but I think it’s true. She cries and complains constantly, she’s weak, and her entire existence seems to revolve around boys, boys, boys. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to find love, but it seems that she’s so wrapped up in the boys in her life that her own identity is barely there.

I’m going to limit myself to just three more complaints because I could rant about these books for a while: a love triangle that goes on for way. too. long, characters that are one-dimensional, and dialogue that’s so bad in some places that it’s laughable. By the last book I was rolling my eyes so hard and intermittently yelling, “Whyyyyyy?” and “What?!?” I’m sure my family wondered if I’d been struck with some kind of book madness. If you’ve read these books and liked them, please tell me what you liked about them. If you’ve read them and didn’t like them, please commiserate with me in the comments. If you haven’t read them yet, I’d give these a pass.

I feel a little sorry that I’ve given these books a bad review, but I had major issues with them. However, as I said, I did read all three of them, so there must be some redeeming qualities, otherwise I would have stopped reading and thrown the book across the room (just kidding. I find it really hard to stop reading books once I’ve started. Also, I wouldn’t have thrown it because I was reading these on my iPad and I really like my iPad).

ONE-PLUSIn the summer of 2013, I read my first Jojo Moyes book, Me Before You, and became a big fan of her work. Since then I’ve read The Last Letter From Your Lover and The Girl You Left Behind and really enjoyed both of them. When I heard she had a new book coming out earlier this year I was pretty excited. Based on my track record with her books, I was pretty sure that I’d love it.

I went into this book blind, meaning that I had no idea what it was about. I could not let the final book in the Selection series be my last book of the year, so I wanted to squeeze in one more book in the last couple days of December. I think when I tried to borrow this from the library earlier in the year there was a huge queue, but luckily it was available when I went to check it out last month.

Unsurprisingly, I really liked this book; maybe even more so because I didn’t know what to expect. Jess is a single mom in the UK and barely making enough to get by. She has two kids: a step-kid from her ex-husband and her natural daughter. When her daughter has the opportunity to attend a very prestigious private school on a scholarship, Jess tries to do everything in her power to make her daughter’s dream a reality.

That’s only part of the story, but since I didn’t know anything about the plot before I started, I feel like that’s all I want to reveal. I will say that there are shenanigans revolving around getting her daughter into this school that lead Jess to cross paths with a unlikely hero named Ed, who’s going through his own major problems.

The reason why I enjoy books by Jojo Moyes so much is that she’s a gifted storyteller. She really has a talent for bringing her characters to life. I have no trouble connecting to them; I feel like they’re real people. Also, she’s not afraid to touch on difficult topics, such as bullying, in a way that feels authentic. If you haven’t checked out any of her books yet, I think you should.


Phew. If you made it all the way to the end of this lengthy post. I salute you! You’ll see that I switched up the format of my reviews a bit. Let me know what you think and if you prefer the old way. Also, if you have questions about any of these books, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m happy to discuss any of them in more detail down below. If you’re a book nerd like me, you might be interested in my youtube channel where I post all sorts of bookish content that’s different from what’s here on the blog (for example, my 10 favorite books of 2014).

Tell me: What was the best book you read in 2014?

Disclaimer: Aunt Sass was sent to me by the publisher for review purposes, but these are my honest thoughts and opinions. 

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I’m Nnenna and this is my online journal where I write about the books I can’t put down, my personal style, the places I’ve traveled to, the products I love, my favorite spots in NYC, and more!

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  1. sartorialsidelines wrote:

    Perfume is one of my all time favourite books – I first red it as a teenager and was so captivated by it the descriptive power of it. They mad a movie version a few years ago that I seem to remember was decent, if you’re interested.

    Courtney ~ Sartorial Sidelines

    Posted 1.9.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      I agree- the way he describes scents is amazing! I almost felt like I could smell them as I was reading. I definitely do want to check out the movie version too.

      Posted 1.12.15 Reply
  2. Kimberlee wrote:

    11 books?! Damn. I got through one lol and I still need to review it. #slacker

    “Aunt Sass” sounds right up my alley hehe

    Posted 1.9.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      Haha, it was an exceptionally good month! Now I’m back to reading maybe one book a week :) Which book did you read in December?

      Posted 1.12.15 Reply
  3. Now I need to read Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares and Dear Daughter! They sound intriguing! I read the first two Selection books, but need to read the last one! Perfume sounds so familiar! I think there’s a movie based on it.

    Posted 1.9.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      Let me know what you think if you read Dash & Lily or Dear Daughter! There is a movie version of Perfume and I’d like to watch it :)

      Posted 1.12.15 Reply
  4. Lyddiegal wrote:

    I did really bad with my reading in 2014. I mean, really bad. Lots of books I started and somehow never finished, books I bought and are still sitting on the shelf… I’m not sure what happened – I didn’t even do my obligatory summer beach re-read of my favorite chick-lit…

    Well, hopefully 2015 will be better!

    I always love reading your reviews and recommendations, no matter the format!

    Chic on the Cheap

    Posted 1.10.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      I hope 2015 is a better reading year for you too! Do you think it was the books themselves, or you weren’t in the mood to read?

      Thanks Lydia! I really enjoy writing them so I’m going to keep on as long as that’s the case :)

      Posted 1.12.15 Reply
  5. Alex wrote:

    Perfume is really fantastic, right? It’s really good, but yes… really interesting. I thought it was fascinating.

    Posted 1.13.15 Reply
    • Nnenna wrote:

      I agree- it was totally fascinating! It definitely wins the most unique award out of the books I read in December.

      Posted 1.13.15 Reply