1st Quarter Reading: January-March 2016

booksAlas, my blog has really fallen by the way side. But, hey! I do a book post every few months. That’s pretty cool, right….?

This has been a bad quarter for reading for me. I haven’t been able to read as much as I want to. I’m supposed to read 90 books this year and I’m already 4 books behind schedule. I have been working on my Real Estate courses (60 hours down, 30 to go) and have really gotten into my crafting (started an instagram, learned how to sew) and you know, basic life stuff. I have this daydream where I get to be all the way by myself for a week in a not too hot, but not too cold (I guess that’s called warm) beach in a beautiful beach house and there is lots of amazing food there already prepared and all I do all day long is read. FOR A WEEK PEOPLE (yes, you are correct — this is said in Craig’s voice from Parks and Rec).

Okay, well, let’s cut to the chase. The books.

My 5 Star Recommendations:

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (304 pages), Middle Grade/YA, Non-Fiction. Outstanding non-fiction about the Romanov family. I’ve always been curious about this part of history and this was such a great way to learn about it. If you’re into aristocracy, communism, & mysteries — this is for you.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (288 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. This is a crazy medical mystery — and it’s TRUE. Yep, recommend this one.

The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America by Arthur C. Brooks (256 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Woah, all of my 5 stars are non-fiction this quarter. My dad read this and insisted I read it (even sending it to me for added encouragement). I loved this book and kept texting pictures of excellent paragraphs to my sisters. Don’t let the title scare you away if you’re not conservative. I think this is an excellent read for anybody and everybody.

My 4 Star Recommendations:

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (416 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction. Brown is able to get your average non-athlete (me) super interested in competitive rowing, which is a feat. Great storytelling about a pretty charged time during world history. There were stretches that got long to me, but overall — excellent.

The View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts (256 pages), Middle Elementary, Fiction/Mystery/Suspense. I love it so much when an adult author is able to tell a story from a child’s perspective and the voice sounds real. Roberts did such a great job with her character, Rob. He sounds like a real 11 year old boy, and he’s pretty hilarious. Oh, and the suspense in this story is great. The ending was pretty intense. Kids will LOVE as a read aloud.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar (192 pages), Middle Grade, Fiction/Suspense/Science Fiction. Oh, Louis. Can I call you Louis? I love you. I mean, HOLES! Wayside School! You are amazing. This story is imaginative and wonderfully told.

After You by Jojo Moyes (368 pages), Adult, Realistic Fiction. I was between a 3 and a 4 on this one, but I think just the fact that the MOVIE IS COMING OUT (the movie Me Before You, this book’s prequel) pushed me up to a 4. This book was good in its own right, but not as good as Me Before You. It also had a lot of racy scenes that I had to skim, which I don’t love.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (432 pages), Adult/YA, Realistic Fiction. This was just a sweet, enjoyable love story. It was about a young woman who has been living in her brother’s shadow, even as he perpetually makes horrible choices. He finally makes a really bad choice that puts him in prison. Sydney has to navigate these tricky family situations in a new school and with a MAJOR creeper obsessed with her (he was the worst part of the book. I wanted to scream every time he was in a chapter).

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (222 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. The comedian memoirs have been falling kind of flat for me (including Kaling’s 2nd book, which I actually picked up before this one). This was a bright exception. This book was hilarious and fun.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (368 pages), Adult, Fiction. Book about a family touched by 9/11 and the Dresden bombings during WWII. It seems like a lot of people don’t like this book, but I really enjoyed it. I thought Oskar was such a wonderful character, and I  just loved him. His descriptions of things seemed so real to me — like calling grieving, having “heavy boots.” I read this for my friend book club and it made for excellent discussion!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (288 pages), Adult, Fiction. Can I please just own a book store on an island?! I think the best adjective for this book is delightful. A.J. Fikry is incredibly depressed over the death of his wife — when an unexpected gift is left in his book store, and it completely changes his life.

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber (320 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/True Crime. This book is seriously crazy. Don’t read it if you have a fear of doctors/hospitals. It is about a serial killer disguised as a nurse. Oh, and it’s true. (And disclaimer: it seems like people in the medical profession who read it say that this could never happen today).

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie J. Davis & Beth Clark (304 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Read for our friend book club and it made for excellent conversation! Katie is an incredible woman who moved to Uganda to serve and help. Her story is incredible. I gave it a 4, although at the beginning I thought I would give it a 2 or 3. She definitely grew throughout writing her book. For my incredibly detailed review, check out my goodreads.

My 3 Star Recommendations:

Home Front by Kristin Hannah (432 pages), Adult, Fiction. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this, so I’m going to copy/paste my goodreads review: It looks like this book really polarizes people, but I feel pretty stuck in the middle. I’d say a 2.5-3 for me. I read because I loved Nightingale and heard that some of Hannah’s other stuff was good too. Maybe this was the wrong one to jump in on. It is about a marriage in trouble, a wife who is in the National Guard and then gets deployed to Iraq, her husband a lawyer incidentally doing a murder case with a victim of PTSD from the same war, etc. It had a lot of touching things and I’d say the last half I was reading quickly and couldn’t put it down. The first half really dragged for me though. I also think the characters were not very relatable–at times, the husband is a little too villanous (followed by a VERY sudden change), the teenager TOO teenager-y. Also the 4 year old ?? Seemed way too baby-ish. My 2 year old talks better than her/is done playing patty cake. Overall, I think it brought up a lot of issues that I’d never considered and helped me understand PTSD a little bit better, but I don’t recommend it.

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti (304 pages), Adult, Non-Fiction/Memoir. Cara goes through her life using books and sharing recipes inspired by those books. I love food and I love books, so this seemed like a no brainer to me. I loved the beginning, because I had read most of the books. As she went on, I had read fewer and fewer of the books and couldn’t relate as much as I wanted to.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (320 pages), Adult, Fiction. Excellent writing and engaging story, but thoroughly depressing.

My 2 Star Recommendations:

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (352 pages), Adult, Fiction. Terrorist attack in the middle of an opera performance. Sounds interesting right? Wrong. It is pretty boring and I felt almost zero emotional attachment to any of the characters.

Total: 17 books. Total Pages: 5,422 pages. Average: 319 pages. 3 children’s books, 1 YA book, 13 adult books. 8 non-fiction, 9 fiction. 

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