Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Year in Review- the Best Books I Read in 2015

I would say that 2015 was a very good year.  I read many great books this year, but the following are my favorites for the year.  They come in no particular order and they are all wonderful reads!

Product DetailsRobin Sloan, in this gorgeous work, talks about the right book at the right time.   This definiately was that book for me.  It has a colorful cast of characters, all richly developed and a delightful plot with a purpose.  I loved it.   If you haven't read it yet, it's fantastic and if you are doing the PopSugar Reading Challenge -  it does have a yellow cover.  :)

Product Details  Not just one of the best books this year, but one of my favorite books ever ( don't get excited, the list is long and distinguished).   Me Before You is a book that I put off reading forever.  It was recommended by friend and I should have read it immediately as this friend never steers me wrong.  I have since read EVERYTHING of Jojo Moyes and loved them all - but this one is my favorite.  If you haven't read it, stop what you are doing and read it NOW, before the movie comes out in 2016.

Product Details This was one of the best fantasy novels I have read in a long time.  It was sort of like The Selection meets the Hunger Games with a little Red Rising thrown in for good measure.  In spite of that though, the plot was original and the characters enchanting.   I simply adored Mare and have the sequel, The Glass Sword on automatic download on my Kindle.  Can't wait.

Product DetailsThis book was just plain FUN.  I couldn't put it down.  All the twists and turns keep you guessing throughout.  Plus,  I'm a Kindergarten teacher and I could definitely see the parents and some of the scenarios described.

Product DetailsI absolutely loved the first book in this series, Red Rising,  but as good as it is,  this book was ever better.  It packs a POWERFUL punch as a space odessy/ dystopian sci-fi.   I loved every second.  Darrow is a brilliant character with depth of emotion and the story line is complex and well thought out. This  probably was my favorite book all year because it's enjoyable, fast paced, but still complex and well developed.  The third installment comes out in February - I am counting the days!

Product Details  This book has all the feels.  It's about two young people, Violet and Finch, who met while they are both on the roof contemplatng suicide.   This book isn't about that though,  it's about the ups and downs of mental illness and what it really means to live your life.   It stays with you long after the story is done.  Sometimes when I have just finished a book, I can't remember the characters names but this time, Violent and Finch are still with me.   This book makes you think and changes attitudes.  It's a wonderful, wonderful book.

Product DetailsJessmyn Ward was a new author for me in 2015.  I read this one for the PopSugar Challange because it was an award winner.   This book really opens  the mind to experiences and different lifestyle choices.  I hate animal cruelty in all it's forms, but I could understand why some of the characters did what they do in the novel.  I think that it richly describes how poor people live in certain parts of the country and accurately describes one families experiences leading up to Hurricane Katrina.

Product DetailsWinner of the 2015 Pulitizer Prize for Fiction - this award was so well deserved. This book is fantastic.  It has lavish vocabulary with stunning descriptions of people, places and emotions.  I could taste the peaches the writing is THAT good.   It took me a little bit of time to get into the story but this one is well worth the effort.

Product DetailsI  LOVED this book. It's the story of  Zan, a chimpanzee who is adopted by a reseracher and his family and raised as a human.  The hypothesis of the research was the effort to teach chimpanzees American Sign Language in order to communicate.   The young boy in this family, Ben, is resentful of Zan and the attention he gets at first, but comes to truly view the chimp as his brother.  This is a story about love and what really makes a family.   I loved it so very much!

and last but never least.....

Product Detailsthe Pulitizer Prize for non fiction for 2015.  This book is fascinating - scary, but fascinating.  I loved the science and the detailed discussions especially in regard to the Rhinos and the Golden Panamanian Frogs.  I remember reading about the mass extinction of the frogs in the last 70's or early 80's in Ranger Rick magazine - true story.  At any rate, especially if you are a naysayer on Global Climate change - this book is for you.

Yes, 2015 was a great year and I am looking forward to 2016.   Happy Reading everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Kissing In America by Margo Rabb

   I've waited a long time to read thisbook.  I've been waiting forever and finally,  it went on sale and I scooped it up.   I almost never pay full price for a book  unless it's an author that I buy without even reading the cover - like Leila Meacham,  Kate Morton or Gillian Flynn.    This book was somehow both more and less than what I thought it would be.

The book is about a girl, Eva,  who lost her father to a terrible tragedy.  As a result of her and her mother's inability to deal with their grief,  Eva seems to be floundering aimlessly, until she meets Will.   You konw,  he's the perfect boy that has  some commonality with her that just seems to "get it" and when she's with him, even her grief goes away.  Vomit.    But alas,   Will has to move to CA to be with his dad and maybe our star crossed lovers will never see each other again.

Now for the REAL part of the story-  the abiding friendship between Annie and Eva.   They plan an across country trip to participate in a game show - The Smartest Girl in America.  Eva, of course, wants to see Will ( vomit)   but also to help Annie win the show so that  she can achieve her life long dream of  attending MIT.

I won't give away any more of the plot.  Here's what I liked:  I loved the real grief that Eva has for her father.   I adored the friendship between Eva and Annie and that Annie finally learned the true value of that  friendship.  I hated Eva's weakness when it came to boys and I absolutely despised what a complete douche  that Will is.     In spite of the great travel scenes, the flavor of America,  the  lessons about living life - this book was only eh for me.  I gave it three stars because it is well written.

A Bit of Tickle for the Mind by Melinda McIntosh Reading Challenge Task #5

 I read this for my Facebook group's reading challenge - like the PopSugar Challenge - but larger and more comprehensive.   I could have put this book a couple places:   A book with a yellow cover, a book I got for free or a book of poetry but I ultimately chose to put it here because I really don't read that much poetry.  I used to,  I even wrote a bit, some which was published but then I grew out of my teenage angst.  This book made me want to go back.

It's not a large book and the poems range over many different topics.  I would read one or two a day, think about them and move one.  Some of them really spoke to me so strongly, others not so much, but they were all beautifully written.I really enjoyed reading it and I think I will read more poetry going into the future.   I gave this one 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

The Pocket Wife   I read this book for my 2016 reading challenge.  This one is task # 17 - a debut novel. I picked this one up because the cover and title intrigued me and let me just say that I am not usually a fan of mysteries - they have to be really exceptional to get me to like it - and this one is stunning  from start to finish.

This is the story of Dana and Peter - a married couple living in the Burbs  until one day, Dana's best friend and neighbor , Celia,  has something t tell Dana about her husband.   After that, nothing is the same and nothing is what it seems to be.

I loved Jack, the dectective in the case.  I loved all the characters and the unforeseeable twists and turns.  If this is the type of work that Susan Crawford has to offer, then I can't wait for her to write aother book!  There have been so many book - AWFUL books - all compared to Gone Girl or claiming to be "the next Gone Girl".   This is the first one that comes even close with the kind of unexpected plot developements  that Gillian Flynn is famous for.  If you like mysteries or are a fan or Gone Girl,  read this one today.  5 stars. A stunning debut.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

   This one has been sitting on my to be read pile for some time and I finally got around to reading it.  Once in a century a person is chosen by God to be the bearer of the Godstone.   Prophecy says that she will lead her people to the gates of the enemy and fight the realm of sorcery.  The problem is, Elisa is the younger, pampered princess who has no idea how she is to go about achieving this feat.

She is sent by her father and sister into a marriage of convenience to secure an alliance for the coming war.  The problem is, Elisa's husband is more than happy to keep their marriage a secret.  Elisa is unhappy and unsure who she can trust.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away.  I thought that the plot of this story is very unique.  It's about a girl who learns to become more than she thought she was capable of, which is a common enough plot line, but it occurs in a completely new way.   I enjoyed reading the story though was somewhat dissatsified with the ending of book one.   With so many books that I want to read, this will not be a series that I will pursue further but for those who like fantasy and don't have  hang up about happy endings, it may be worth pursuing..

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

   This book was recommended by a friend to our book club for our discussion for the month of Dececmber.  I didn't have high hopes,  it isn't a book I would have selected for myself but can I just tell you that I absolutely LOVED it.

The book starts out when Allan decides that he doesn't want to attend his own 100th birthday party, so he climbs out the widow and has an adventure.   Everything seems so impromptu and yet, if you have any experience with older people, seem somehow completely plausible.   This story was laugh out loud funny and I found Allan to be completely relatable.

I loved that fact that even at 100, Allan still felt like he had life to live.  He wasn't ready to pack it all up and celebrate the past, he was still busy living.   And what a life!    I think that in our society today, older people are often underestimated.   This book really brings that to the fore.  Sometimes it is a bit long, but it truly is  worth every minute spent reading it.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Cutting for Stone

   A friend and co-worker loaned this book to me.  It had been recommended to me many times, but when she put it in my hands, it moved to the front of my TBR list.

This is a powerful book - a story of twin brothers, Marion and Shiva, whose mother dies when they are born and who are abandoned by their father.   They are raised by surrogate paretns, Hema and Abhi.   The brothers are initially very close, but are torn apart by their love for the same woman.  The favored brother, Shiva, is very spoiled and allows Marion to bear the brunt of his actions, causing irrepairable damage to their relationship.

I love that this is a story of Redemption.  It's about realizing your mistakes and trying to make amends.  It's also about Karma.  Certain characters definitely represent the karmic idea that what comes around, goes around.   I loved that there were so many twists and turns that I never saw coming.  The book has a slow start, but by mid-way through becomes a real page turner.   I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

Product Details This is a charming Christmas story told in typical Hilderbrand style.  Kelly Quinn is the owner of the Winter Street Inn on Nantucket Island, of course.  Every year, he and Mitzi put on a big Christmas party that is the social event of the season.  This year though, both the Inn and the family are struggling.

Bart, Kelly and Mitzi's youngest son, is currently deployed to Afghanistan.  The other adult children from Kelly's first marriage are also home iwth an assortment of their own joys and troubles.  When tragedy strikes, will the family be able to come together?

I expected the story to wrap up in a beautiful little Christmas bow, but was surprised when it didn't.  There were story lines just left - literally in the air.   I know this is a series but I was surprised by that.  I enjoyed this book, but not her best.  I gave it three out of five stars and I would recommend it for holiday reading.