That time of the year, full of year end lists and reading recaps. You can see our best and worst of last year here. Here’s what we thought for this year:
I had to beg Leggy to let me cheat. I have been mulling and mulling all year trying to pick which I liked better of these two and I just can’t pick one over the other. Considering my favorite book last year was Backman’s Beartown, I guess you could say I am a fan girl. You can see what we though of American Marriage, here and Us Against You, here. That being said, I am such a stingy bitch. I don’t think I gave a single book (not even my faves) 5 stars this year.
- Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
My favorite book this year was A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. I knew immediately I read this that it would be my favorite of the year. I just enjoy the slow burn of this book, how it builds and how well written it is. You can see me gushing about this book here.
- Tell Me More by Kelli Corrigan
- Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
- Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
- The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith. I don’t even know how I made it to the end of the book. It got a 1-star from me and reminded me why YA isn’t always my favorite genre because the mindset is completely far removed from me. She buys her crush a lotto ticket for his birthday, he wins and wants to give her some and she declines and makes such a big deal about it. I mean who declines $20 million? Anyways, its my fault for reading it.
I couldn’t decide between Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool by Peter Turner. You can see what I thought about Emergency Contact here, but I didn’t think the relationship was romantic or appropriate for an 18 year old freshman. I wrote a full review on it on the blog and it’s worth a read, I gave it one star on good reads.
My other pick, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool was just terrible. It’s not a well written book and there was no point to the story. At the end, I was like okay, what was the point of this book? He writes about a movie star he once had a relationship with and spending the last days of her life with him in Liverpool but she was not conscious for most of the book so it really wasn’t about her or her life at all. There was a movie about it and I definitely didn’t watch it.
We’d love to hear what your best and worst books were for the year. Let us know in the comments!
leggy and taynement
I have officially completed my goodreads challenge! Woohoo!! 70 books!! Anyway, instead of giving you just one book review, I decided to do a quick fire review of the last 4 books I have read, that way you have 4 more books to decide to put on your TBR or to decide that you definitely won’t be reading.
1. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hodd
“Very little worth knowing is taught by fear.”
This is the first book in the Farseer’s trilogy. This book follows the story of Fitz, the king-in-waiting’s bastard who his mother drops off when he was 6 in the care of the king’s man, Burrich. Immediately the king- in- waiting hears that he has a bastard son, he abdicates the throne to his younger brother and exiles himself completely from the kingdom leaving Fitz alone in the palace with all the royal politics and treachery. Hobb is a fantastic fantasy writer and i’m appalled that it has taken me so long to get into her books. Also, she’s that rare woman in the fantasy world that writes straight fantasy without much regard to romance which I love. If you’re looking for a book filled with action that starts off with a bang, this is not the book for you but if you’re looking for a slow burn and character development and have the patience to wait it out then give this one a try, you wont regret it. This book was published in 1995 so i’m definitely late on the Hodd train but i’m not getting off anytime soon. Gave this one 4 stars on my goodreads.
2. Strange the Dreamer by Taylor Laini
“On the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky. Her skin was blue, her blood was red.”
This is the first book in the Stranger the Dreamer duology (the second book just came out a couple of days ago). Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has been obsessed with the lost city of Weep since he was 5 years old. He has scoured the entire library looking for even a whiff of this city’s existence until one day he is given a chance to embark on a journey to the very city he has dreamt about all these years with the “godslayer” and his band of warriors. Once he is in Weep he starts dreaming about a blue beautiful girl who talks to him in his dream and who he starts falling in love with. If all the gods are dead, who is this blue girl in his dream who looks exactly like one of the slain gods in the pictures Lazlo has seen in Weep. I think the premise of this book is fantastic, and Laini is a talented writer. I’m rarely ever invested in romance in fantasy novels so I really skimmed a lot of the romance between Lazlo and his blue girl but this is one of those books that you know the sequel will be so much better and I already put that on hold at my library. I gave this book three stars on my goodreads.
3. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
“I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn’t work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.”
In real life, Nora Ephron’s second marriage ended because her husband cheated on her with someone she knew while she was 7 months pregnant, so what better way to get over a breakup and make money off of your misery by writing this exact story in a barely disguised fictionalized form? Ephron’s Heartburn tells the story of the breakdown of a marriage. Honestly, I think I only got through this book because I did it on audio and MERYL FREAKING STREEP reads it. This is just a fabulous audiobook. This book is only 179 pages so I probably would have still finished it if I had done this on paperback but there would have been a ridiculous amount of skimming. Apart from the synopsis I have given you, nothing else happens in the book. Honestly. There is a reason this book is just 179 pages long. There is no depth, no complexity, there is even barely a plot. I have been on a Nora Ephron kick lately, I read all her memoirs which I quite enjoyed and because I love “When Harry Met Sally” the movie, I decided to give one of her novels a shot. I think I enjoyed the listening experience more than I enjoyed the book. Also, this book was published in 1996. I’m really hitting those backlist titles! Gave this two stars on my goodreads.
4. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J. K. Rowling)
“I think marriage is nearly always an unfathomable entity, even to the people inside it.”
This is the fourth book in the Cormoran strike series, this just came out a couple of weeks ago. This book begins right where the old one stops with the wedding ceremony of Robin and the most arsehole, gaslighting boyfriend ever, Matt. Fast forward to a year after the wedding and this young mentally ill boy, Billy, comes into Strike’s office with a story of a strangling he witnessed when he was young. He’s not even sure if it really happened and wants to know if this is just part of his hallucinating. Strike is further intrigued when he gets a call from a politician who he discovers has ties to Billy asking him to take a private detective job in the house of commons. From here the plot gets more an more complicated, involving politics, blackmail, upper class dynamics and murder. I love whodunnit it mysteries, i’m so tired of “this could be the next gone girl” books. So i dived straight into this one once it came out and I was not disappointed. Galbraith writes the crap out of these books and they always keep me guessing. My qualms with this book is that they’re way too long for what it is, and I hope the next ones aren’t this long. Also, I do not want Strike and Robin to get together, I hate Matt and I want her to move on and find love or not but I do not want her to be with Strike. Why can’t men and women just have a good working relationship? Also, Galbraith is terrible at writing romance. Gave this one four stars on my good reads.
main image from here
Don’t leave yet!
I know when people hear the word “loss” in relation to a book, they will immediately think that it’ll be a post full of self help books dealing with grief and loads of sadness but that isn’t always the case and isn’t the case here.
The truth is that life is full of losses that come in many different forms besides death. Loss of a job, loss of youth, loss of a love and so on and so forth and as negative a topic as it may seem, it’s one of those things that is a part of life like breathing.
With this post, I decided to list a couple of books I have read, that touched on loss (in the death form) in some way, BUT isn’t necessarily the whole focal point of the book, just more of a…landscape. I felt like these selections were true to life in that, while it happens, there are still other sides to life that meld with it and sometimes sprout from it. All books touching on loss aren’t necessarily depressing!
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes: Best known for her novel, Me Before You, this was a novel I read some time ago right after I read the aforementioned (and promptly decided to take a break from Jojo Moyes haha). The novel centers on two couples. One in the time of WWII, Sophie and Edouard and in modern times, Liv and Paul. Liv is a recent widow (the loss) and is still trying to navigate life as one. When she starts dating, she meets Paul who recognizes a painting given to her as a gift from her late husband. This leads to a court case and as part of finding proof it belongs to her, Liv goes way back to the past and to 1916 where Sophie and Edouard exist.
The book was okay but I found the story of Sophie and Edouard more compelling than Liv. Although, now that I think about it, that may have been the intent. I think it is a good addition to a TBR list but not necessarily a must read.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich: It’s summer 1999 in North Dakota within a Native America tribe and Landreaux Iron just realized that he has accidentally shot his neighbor’s 5 year old son, Dusty (the loss). Dusty also happens to be his son’s best friend, LaRose. Following an ancient tradition, he and his wife decide to give LaRose to the grieving parents as retribution. The book shows how LaRose blends into his new “family” especially his new mom, who has a heavy darkness within her.
This book was a great example of words woven beautifully. There were so many components and many points of views that gave a whole picture of how a lot of the characters were feeling and also gave good lessons on Native American culture. That being said, this book wasn’t for me. I can’t pin point any particular reason why and I also don’t have any strong criticisms and it simply could be a case of reading it at the wrong time but I will admit it is a unique premise and would recommend reading to see if it is for you.
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs: Nina was 37 and a mother of two boys when she was diagnosed with cancer (this was while she was caring for her mom who was also battling cancer and she had a grandfather who had breast cancer). Not long after, she found out it was terminal and decided to journal about her experiences.
I’ve been dying to read When Breath Becomes Air but I just can’t bring myself to, so it’s a bit surprising that I picked this up. But I did because the book was sold as being helpful and having tools in dealing with death but it absolutely wasn’t about that. Nina had such a great demeanor for someone dealing with terminal cancer. She lived life as usual and was funny in many parts and truly enjoyed her last days on earth. Hmm, maybe that was the point of the book? To appreciate life in all its glory.
Fun Fact: Nina’s husband finished her book when she died as did the wife of When Breath Becomes Air and last I checked those two were dating.
The Blessings by Elise Juska: I don’t know how I stumbled on this book but I loved this book a lot. The Blessings are a close knit Catholic family and the death of John Blessing (the loss) rocks the family and we see the aftermath of who they become after his death from cancer. Each chapter focuses on a different family member in a different time period as they grow older. I loved this book for how it depicted a family who is as messy as any real life family. The stories were very compelling and there was something for everyone in terms of relatable issues.
Love, Loss and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi: Best known as the pretty faced host of Top Chef, Padma writes a memoir that chronicles her life from India to where she is today with all the messy in betweens. Padma is pretty honest about her life in this book and also her love for cooking and passion for ingredients. She talks about her daddy issues which explains her love for older men romantically, her battle with endometriosis. How it affected her marriage and was a contributing factor to their divorce. She also talks about how she was told she would never have children and ended up getting pregnant and not knowing who the father was.
She was hoping the person she was romantically involved with at the time was the dad. He ended up being diagnosed with cancer and she chronicles the downward spiral of his sickness to his death (the loss) and how it affected her and her daughter. This was a pretty quick and easy read and I think the way she sprinkled in illustrated recipes in between pages was a nice touch.
Well, those are my “loss” picks. Are there any that intrigue you? Let me know in the comments!
This book encompasses the saying “do not judge a book by its cover”. The cover is gorgeous but unfortunately, the contents were not. I heard about this book from a trusted book person, who described this book as fun. I love fun, fluffy books especially as a palette cleanser when I’ve just read something really hard and deep, so I decided to pick it up. I don’t even know where to begin with this review. I hate writing reviews for books I did not like and can’t find any redeeming qualities for.
The main character, Penny Lee, has just graduated high school and is headed to Austin for college. She is very excited to get away from home and from her mum. She’s off to college to learn how to be a real writer. Sam works in a cafe and is Penny’s roommate’s step brother. He is going through a very hard time in his life, is broke, just dropped out of college and is an alcoholic. And this is the hero the writer has built for us and her 18 year old heroine. They meet, they swap numbers, and their romance play out via text messaging so yeah, the stereotypical millennial love story.
I hated the main character. She was super judgmental and uppity. She thought every single thing was beneath her. She doesn’t like being reduced to a stereotype because she’s asian (very valid point and I love how she calls out people on casual racism) but then she does the same to other people. She assumes for a second that Sam is gay simply because he is holding an espresso cup (With the comically small espresso cup in his thin hands, Penny wondered for a second if he was gay), stereotype much? She looks down on her roommate for being into makeup and being girly. She thinks the fact that she’s not into make up, girly things, boys and partying makes her more mature.
She judges girls who show cleavage and thinks it’s a cry for help. I got so tired of looking up at her riding that high horse with her nose in the air. She hates that her mum is a MILF and that she flirts with men, she constantly judges her mum so harshly even though this woman has raised her singlehandedly for 18 years and provided for her and loved her intensely. I got so tired of her constantly judging her mum and wanting her to live a less full life just because she’s a mother.
The love interest, Sam should not be a love interest for an 18 year old girl. He has way too much baggage to even be looking for a relationship. He is an alcoholic, technically homeless, has mummy issues, dropped out of college and is just hoping for a miracle in order to finance the movies he wants to make. Oh and he is also obsessed with his ex girlfriend. Seriously? This is the man i’m supposed to swoon for and think is a heartthrob? An 18 year old girl who is a freshman in college should not be trying to fix anybody or trying to help this boy deal with his issues when she should be focused on being a kid and having fun!
The romance was blehh. It seemed super forced, the text messages had no real chemistry in them. In fact, the love story was virtually non existent and consisted entirely of Penny telling us how hot Sam is and lusting after him. The author wrote those messages very stereotypically, like what she imagines teenage millennials sound like these days. It was slow paced, uninteresting, I skimmed a lot of it and I rarely skim books.
The writing was terrible. Examples:
Penny never had a cigarette in her life, and if they did smoke together Penny would probably have a coughing fit that lasted forever and ended on an audible fart.
Plus you’d enjoy it. Sam was a dynamite maker-outer.
His right knee brushed Penny’s left and she almost passed out.
She was smitten mitten kittens.
WHICH TEENAGER THINKS LIKE THIS? It’s very obvious the writer wrote these characters exactly like how adults think teenagers are.
The other characters were not fleshed out. Jude, Penny’s roommate, was the only remotely like-able character in this book. Jude’s best friend, Mallory, on the other hand was a racist and classist bitch so maybe that says more about Jude’s character for having such a person as a friend?
I gave this book one star on goodreads and would not recommend. The cover is pretty though.
The location is Nashville and the focus is on two very different families residing in two different sides of the track, so to speak.
Nina Browning is from a small town but is currently married to Kirk Browning, one of the richest men in town especially after a recent business deal. They have a son named, Finch (she loves Atticus Finch that much) and he is the typical wealthy family child who attends the town’s elite private school and has just received admission into Princeton. Nina seems uncomfortable with all the wealth and has recently started questioning who she has become amidst all this wealth.
Then there’s Tom Volpe, the overprotective single dad who is a carpenter living paycheck to paycheck and devotes most of his time to his daughter, Lyla who also attends the private school on financial aid. A party happens, compromising pictures are taken and spread around and suddenly everyone mentioned above is intertwined in some form while dealing with the repercussions of this infamous picture.
Emily Giffin is a chick-lit queen and is almost guaranteed for a quick, easy light-hearted read so that was my intent in picking this up. Also, I find the cover to be mesmerizing. It’s just a captivating blue that’s screaming “pick me up and read!”. But, I forget we live in a time where everyone is having a social issue awakening and as such, this book was no easy, breezy chick-lit. It had substance and a moral compass in it.
I liked how fully fleshed out the main characters were. The book is told from the pov’s of Nina, Tom and Lyla. Giffin goes back into each of their histories and provides enough material for us to know why these characters are the way they are and how they react to the incident, in present time.
Giffin also does a good job of portraying the teenage mind in the way she tells Lyla’s point of view. Any adult reading can expect Tom and Nina’s actions but I can see some head scratching when it comes to Lyla’s till you remember that she is still just 16 and really doesn’t know much yet.
I audio’d this and thought the narrators did a good job with this, although if you hate southern accents then you might want to skip that. I know I said this book was meatier than her usuals but it was still written with the light hearted vibe of her romantic novels. You don’t feel this heavy weight in your heart due to this writing style. But as a trigger warning, it does address various levels of sexual violation. A character is raped but the details are not mentioned at all; you just know that sex was had without the woman’s consent.
I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Has anyone read it? Leave a comment!
I love British mysteries. As much as I like the mystery thrillers that are all the rage in the US these days, since Gone Girl came on the scene and made so much money, the true love of my life are the simple mysteries that are not complicated and are straight forward. Books that are just simple, delightful reads like the ones I used to read when I was younger. I think the British have this market cornered, nobody does great whoddunits like they do and I’m here to give you some recommendations to add to your already huge summer piles.
1. Lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas
“Do not undervalue what you are ultimately worth because you are at a momentary disadvantage.”
This series is a good retelling of the original Sherlock Holmes with the difference being that the protagonist is a 19th century woman. Observing her surroundings and advising the police department and Queen’s Men while hiding her real gender from the world and her clients. The first book in the series is called “A Study in Scarlet Women”, the second one is “A Conspiracy in Belgravia” and the third one which comes out on the 2nd of October is called “The Hollow of Fear”. All the titles are a subtle nod to the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They don’t take themselves too seriously and I really enjoyed reading them.
2. Cormoron Strike series by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling
“You’re like everyone else, Strike; you want your civil liberties when you’ve told the missus you’re at the office and you’re at a lap-dancing club, but you want twenty-four-hour surveillance on your house when someone’s trying to force your bathroom window open. Can’t have it both ways.”
J. K. Rowling writes these books under a pseudonym. These are really easy to read fun mystery novels with the usual tropes. There really isn’t anything original about these books but they are written well and the characters are very fleshed out. Cormoron Strike is a wounded army veteran with a troubled past, terrible love life and financial woes. He leaves the army and sets up his own private detective agency but has the nagging problem of having no paying clients. He hires a temp secretary who has ambitions of being a private detective herself – Robin Ellacott, gets a high profile case and the rest is history. At the end of each book we get to know more about our two main characters and come to care deeply about their welfare. There are three books already published in this series and she’s currently working on the next one but still no release date available.
3. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
“As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat a good whodunnit: the twists and turns, the clues and the red herrings and then, finally, the satisfaction of having everything explained to you in a way that makes you kick yourself because you hadn’t seen it from the start.”
This is a standalone mystery book and is a mystery within a mystery. Editor Susan Ryeland gets Alan Conway’s latest mystery novel and doesn’t think it’s going to be any different than his previous novels except Alan Conway dies the very weekend he submits the novel – of a suicide. Susan Ryeland rushes to read the manuscript to rush production of the books but finds the last couple chapters of the book missing and we’re off to the races. This book was quite fascinating because we get to read the submitted manuscript and also deal with the mysteries in real time surrounding the missing last chapters and the death of the author. This is a nod to the golden age of mysteries so if you love reading Agatha Christie’s works this book is definitely for you.
4. An Accidental Death (DC Smith #1) by Peter Grainger
“You think it’s just selfishness? ‘just’ makes it sound trivial. All crime is caused by selfishness, I say. It’s the ‘me first, my needs first’. Take that away and you’re like one step from paradise”
Even though there are 7 books in this series, I have only read the first one which is what I will be recommending today. This British police procedural opens with the apparent accidental drowning of a sixth form student, it’s an open and shut case so it gets handed to Detective Sergeant Smith. Detective Smith is just coming back from suspension after an internal investigation involving a previous high profile case that caused a lot of tension in the police department. He is handed the small cases to ease him back in, but it ends up being a murder case. The latest trainee detective to work with him is the son of a member of his former team, and together they begin to unravel the truth about what happened to Wayne Fletcher. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries or Louise Penny, you’ll probably like this too.
Have you read any of these books? Which ones are you likely to read? Let me know in the comments!