Book Roundup: October 2016

This was an embarrassing month for me, books-wise (life-wise it definitely had its ups and downs… more later). Usually I crush 12+ books a month. This month, due to a series of circumstances, I only read 11 books – and 3 of them I had read previously. SORRY.

This was due to the weirdness of October. I spent one week moderately sick with ear infections, and just wasn’t in the mood to dive into anything more substantial than books I already owned and could just glaze my way through. The next week, I was on vacation in London (woe is me!) and was too busy tourist-ing and spending time with my boo to do much reading.

So, sorry folks! Hopefully I’ll embarrass myself less in November…

STATS:

Number of (new/unreviewed on Goodreads) books read: 9 (8 new, 1 new-to-my-GR)

Number of female authors vs. male authors: All women! #NastyWoman

Ratings spread: Three 5-star books; Three 4-star books; Two 3-star books; One 2-star book

Want more? Goodreads, baby.

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WHAT I READ: Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, Ramona Ausubel

WHY I READ IT: Review from another blog!

WHAT I THOUGHT: I kind-of liked it, but think I would have liked it more had I lived in the 1970s and could compare my experience with what this book was representing.

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WHAT I READ: The Secrets We Keep, Trisha Leaver

WHY I READ IT: Book club!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Mostly negative things. This book has a really interesting premise, but the actual story fell short for me. Way too many generic characters; unrealistic action; and just not creepy enough for what I wanted.

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WHAT I READ: First & Then, Emma Mills

WHY I READ IT: It was described as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights. Need I say more?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Strong book for me. Great relationship growths, mostly good secondary characters, largely a delightful read.

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WHAT I READ: Shrill: Notes From A Loud Woman, Lindy West

WHY I READ IT: Everyone spent the summer freaking out about how good this book is.

WHAT I THOUGHT: LOVED it. Very funny, frank, open, and important book for everyone to read.

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WHAT I READ: Holding Up The Universe, Jennifer Nivens

WHY I READ IT: Another blog rec!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Another strong 4-star YA novel for me this month.

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WHAT I READ: Something Blue, Emily Giffin

WHY I READ IT: In the midst of my ear infection, I reached for this book (largely set in London) to comfort myself and pump myself up for my upcoming vacation!

WHAT I THOUGHT: It may sound dumb, but I really love this book. I haven’t read the first book (Something Borrowed -a movie was made with the same name) in a long time, but I love rereading this one. The author does a good job at growing the main character, and of course I love anything set in London. The only thing I didn’t love is that the author blithely ignores visa laws. An American can’t just move to England and live there forever! (I wish, though.)

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WHAT I READ: Paris for One, Jojo Moyes

WHY I READ IT: I’ve enjoyed other things the author has put out!

WHAT I THOUGHT: I never hugely love short story collections, and I didn’t LOVE this one. The first and longest story was delightful, but the short little guys after that were just shrugs for me.

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WHAT I READ: Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

WHY I READ IT: The first book of this duology – Six of Crows – RULED.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Yes, yes, yes. Exciting from start to finish. When’s the movie?

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WHAT I READ: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli

WHY I READ IT: This is a highly praised book in the YA community, guys!

WHAT I THOUGHT: Charming, quirky, utterly delightful.

 

And that’s it! Excited to see what I dive into come November. I have a lot of work travel this month, so I’m hoping to get some good plane reading in.

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A Man Called Ove

One of the most challenging questions I receive is the dreaded, “What book should I read?” It’s just so loaded. There’s a million books I love, but I can’t say for sure if my taste will align with yours, if you’re going to judge me for what I enjoyed, or what type of book perfectly fits your mood at the moment. There are just too many variables!

After last year, though, I found my go-to book to recommend: A Man Called Ove. Words cannot express how much I adore this book, and how strongly I feel everyone should read it. If you need a book to read, any book, I implore you to read this one.

My Goodreads review is short and simple: “Best book I’ve read this year. If I could give it ten stars, I would.”

WHAT I READ:

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (technically not read in 2016… sorrrry)

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 grumpy Swedish men, I give this 10 anthropomorphic cats.

#FirstFifty SYNOPSIS:

Ove’s day starts like all his other days for the last four decades: a thorough investigation of the neighborhood, carefully noting who may be flouting parking rules, locking up bicycles that should NOT be left by the fence, and ensuring the rules are being followed. However, his afternoon goes awry: just as he is prepared to hang himself, someone backs up a trailer into his mailbox (ignoring the sign prohibiting all motor traffic on the street!). He grumpily decides to postpone his suicide to ensure that these new neighbors don’t muck up the entire neighborhood, helping them back the trailer up correctly. After rudely rebuffing the friendliness of his new neighbors, he goes to the store for flowers and visits his wife at the cemetery – where he has gone to visit her every day for the last six months since her death.

The first fifty pages end with an explanation as to this man: he is a man called Ove. “People say he’s bitter… He doesn’t engage in small talk… He was a man of black and white. And she was color. All the color he had.”

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL:

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NEED MORE?

You guys, if you do only one thing I say, read this book. It’s an international bestseller for a reason. It was made into a movie in Sweden that was a smash hit, and has been finally distributed to some U.S. indie movie theaters. I made my gentleman go see it with me a few weeks ago, which he did a little begrudgingly (remember folks, this is a movie in Swedish and I couldn’t really figure out how to describe it except to say, “It’s about a grumpy old man in the neighborhood”). Reader, he loved it more than I did. At the end of the movie, he turned to me all choked up and confessed he almost cried several times, and that he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

So, if you, too, want to have your heart warmed in this winter of our discontent, READ THIS BOOK.

When You Need Trash Over Treasure

It finally happened: One of the most hotly anticipated books of the fall made its way off the library holds list and into my hot little hands:  The Underground Railroadby Colson Whitehead.

Everything I’ve heard about this book could not be more positive. Oprah picked it as one of her book club reads, it has 10k+ ratings on Goodreads and a 4.07 average, and I’ve been excited to read it for a while.

And yet… back to the library it goes, before I get the chance to crack the cover. WHY?!

A confluence of events, my friends.

  1. Timing. Isn’t it always the case that you’re the 200th person on a library hold list, and the book somehow comes in right before you go on vacation? And said book is a 7-day borrow, with the return date falling squarely in the middle of my vacation… unless I sped through the book in the three days before I left, I knew I wouldn’t be able to return it without a fine.
  2. How I feel about speeding through this book. Normally, I’m a pretty fast reader – on average I can get through a book in about 2-3 days, maybe only 1 day if I’m feeling literary. But even though I had enough time to read it before leaving  for vacation, I just really wasn’t in the mood when it came down to it. I’ve been battling an outer ear infection in both ears this week, leaving me exhausted and in pain as I settle down for bed; far better to distract me with Netflix and a dumb book I’ve read before. So, Chasing Life (to remind me my medical ailment is not all that bad) and Something Blue (because I secretly really like that book) have been my elixirs of choice instead of this one.

 

Sorry, Underground Railroad. I promise I’ll get to you someday.

Cheerio for a week!

All right, loyal readers (aka mom): I’m off for a week with ne’er a post in the meantime. My gentleman and I are headed to Europe!

To say am I excited would be an overstatement. (I mean that literally: the week before the flight, I came down with an ugly case of otitis externa – that’s an outer ear infection for non-nerds – in both ears. It’s been an extremely painful, and expensive week, as  I’ve seen numerous doctors to get this sorted. As I draft this, I have my follow-up with the ENT tomorrow, and I am crossing everything on my body that she will tell me I am good to fly. So, I’m not really that excited about the trip AT THIS MOMENT, lest my dreams get dashed by Ann Walters, ENT PA).

(Second update: Just saw Ann Walters, Angel, and even though she kept me waiting for an hour to see her, she gave me the all-clear! Plus I contributed to the long wait time for others by asking her to put in my eardrops for me and then chatting with her while we waited for the suckers to soak in. Now I’m just paranoid something in my body will break – like, is this how throats are supposed to feel? I CAN’T REMEMBER).

All my ear drama aside, we’ve been planning this trip for about six months and I can’t wait to see it finally happen. This is his first time in Europe, and I’m pumped he picked my favorite city in the world to visit: LONDON.

We’re cashing in hotel points to stay 2 nights in a fancy hotel, then finishing the week in an apartment rental in my favorite neighborhood. We’re planning on participating in an East End food tour, seeing a play, hitting up pub trivia, and taking a long day trip to Paris. Basically, we are doing many of the things.

So, I’m outta here. See you in a week!

 

The Best of October

I’ll be honest: I can be kind of a grinch when it comes to October (actually, I’m kind of a grinch about everything – I was complaining my butt off about how the summer was too hot, and look at me getting ready to moan about October!). Don’t get me wrong – I love me some fall cliches, the cooler weather, and finally taking out my sweaters and boots again. But there is one thing about October I don’t love… Halloween.

I KNOW, I KNOW. I’m a monster (every day of the year). But in honor of all the things I do love about October, allow me a non-bookish blog post with a detailed ranking.

Behold! The best things about October:

Reason 47,896: Halloween

I admit it: I don’t love Halloween. Coming up with a costume is stressful and often expensive, it’s usually too cold to wear for the end of October, and I tend to dislike any holidays that mainly revolve around drinking (see: New Year’s Eve, Mardi Gras) and prefer holidays that revolve around presents (see: Christmas, birthdays, also the fact that I am obviously spoiled). So, I sometimes celebrate Halloween – the gentleman is a big fan of clever couple’s costumes, which is stressful in and of itself – but I do it with a slight scowl.

Moving on to happier things!

Reason 5: Mini candy

DUH, October is cool because of the explosion of mini candy bars in the store. Perfect K10 snacking size.

Reason 4: The smells and the cuddles

At my heart, I’m an 85-year-old woman, so nothing delights me more than to finally have a reason to sit on my couch, lit a nice-smelling candle, and cuddle up with a book, Netflix, or a person (sometimes).

Reason 3: Earlier sunsets

OOOH, I’m a maverick! I secretly get stressed out in summer when the sun sets super late, feeling guilty for being inside when it’s *sO gLoRiOuS* outside. An earlier sunset gives me the perfect excuse to stay firmly inside.

Reason 2: The Return of Fall TV

Finally, after a long, dry summer of television, my stories are back.

Reason 1: The *EXCELLENT* Halloween media I always have to consume this time of year

Tradition is tradition, folks. Starting when I was a baby freshman in college, I watched a few Halloween classics with my friends annually: namely, Hocus Pocus (obviously) and “And Then There Was Shawn” on Boy Meets World.

Everyone’s seen Hocus Pocus – OR SHOULD HAVE – but I implore you, go back and watch that episode of BMW. It is genuinely one of my favorite things and brings me a chuckle every time. “We’ll always remember he was this tall.” “You put on weight since the last time you were scared?” It’s just the best, people.

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Since then I’ve added in some other good media selections – Return of the Living Dead (which is just pure absurdity), the Parks and Rec Halloween episodes, and – of course – the Community Halloween episodes, especially the one where they all turn into zombies. Stop what you are doing and watch that RIGHT NOW.

WHO KEEPS THROWING CATS?!

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Note: not from that episode referenced, but also an amazing ep.

In related news, I just realized Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is streaming on Hulu, so excuse me while I do that forever.

 

Book Roundup: September 2016

Bringing back an old favorite (of mine, probably no one else’s) from way back when I kind of blogged in 2014 – a roundup of the books I read each month! I review a ton of books here, but not every book I read – so let’s dive in, shall we?

STATS:

Number of books read: 13

Number of female authors vs male authors: 11 females, 1 male (2 separate novels)

Rating spread: 3 five-starred; 4 four-starred; 3 three-starred; 3 two-starred

 

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WHAT I READ: Proxy and Guardianby Alex London

WHY I READ IT: One of the podcasts I listen to (The Worst Bestsellers – an EXCELLENT listen) recommended it in a back catalogue episode of “Best books of the year.” The best part of this podcast is that the hosts go to my book club, and now I feel like an awkward fangirl who knows these pretty virtual strangers WAY too well.

WHAT I THOUGHT: One of my favorites from the month! Wonderful macro- and micro-studies of humanity in a dystopian world that may not be very far away from our truth. Plus, well-done LGBT relationship, which is rare in YA lit.

 

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WHAT I READ: Truly, Madly, Guilty, by Liane Moriarty

WHY I READ IT: I love me some Liane – I’ve read her entire catalogue and lapped up this new release ASAP.

WHAT I THOUGHT: A little soapy, but well written and just so damn entertaining.

 

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WHAT I READ: Leave Meby Gayle Forman

WHY I READ IT: Gayle is another one of my favorite authors, primarily for Just One Day/Just One Year and If I Stay/Where She Went. 

WHAT I THOUGHT: In her first foray into adult fiction, I found a little bit of the magic that I love in her YA novels lacking here, but acknowledge it may be because I can’t relate yet – not being a mother or a wife myself. I’m interested in picking this up again in a decade or so and seeing my thoughts then.

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WHAT I READ: Listen To Me, by Hannah Pittard

WHY I READ IT: I believe it was recommended as a best read of the month somewhere?

WHAT I THOUGHT: Not nearly as exciting as the jacket made it seem. Give this a pass.

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WHAT I READ: Naughts and Crossesby Malorie Blackman

WHY I READ IT: Recommendation from one of my bookish Facebook groups.

WHAT I THOUGHT: A haunting look at racial divide and class structure in our society.

 

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WHAT I READ: You’ll Grow Out Of It, by Jessi Klein

WHY I READ IT: I’m a big ol’ fan of Jessi Klein and her oeuvre of comedian work.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I’m never a super big fan of celebrity memoirs/comic essays, but I mostly liked this one. Some of them were a little dull, but most were interesting enough and this made for a great plane book.

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WHAT I READ: Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plentyby Ramona Ausubel

WHY I READ IT: No idea.

WHAT I THOUGHT: May have hit closer to home were I a young adult during this time period (1970s, mostly) but as it were there was a lot of this I couldn’t really connect with. I think I liked it, though?

 

Additional books read and reviewed on the blog:

Some Kind of Happiness

Mischling

Sisters in Sanity

The Hopefuls

The Secrets We Keep

Happy October, y’all!

A not-so-spooky October book

I read The Secrets We Keep for October book club with great excitement – it seems like an awesome, spooky October book:

A girl takes over her twin sister’s identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters.

I mean, spooky shit, right? I’m all about taking over identities and stirring stuff up. This could have been a super cool thriller. Instead, what we get is just a frankly weird story about a twin kind-of-accidentally taking over her twin’s identity after they are in a car accident, and everyone just being kind of “meh, get over it” about the whole “so your twin sister died PRETTY RECENTLY, bummer I guess.”

I couldn’t get cutthroat about this book given that it is for book club; plus, it was a pretty simple read (I think I started and finished in one day).

WHAT I READ:

The Secrets We Keep (Trisha Leaver), Book #106 of 2016

SNAPSHOT REVIEW:

On a scale of 1 to 5 generic characters, I give this 2 Bitchy Best Friends.

#FirstFifty Synposis:

Maddy and Ella are identical twin 17-year-old sisters who are drastically different: Ella is quiet and focused on art (and applying to art school); Maddy is popular and can get away with anything. Ella is finishing up her art school application late one Saturday night when she gets a phone call from Maddy to pick her up at a party. Ella begrudgingly comes, noticing that the vibe at the party is weird and her sister – who is, surprisingly, stone cold sober – seems to be angry at her boyfriend and her best friend. Ella is driving Maddy home (in Maddy’s car – important *pLoT pOiNt*) when they get into an argument, words are said about how much they hate each other, and then of course Ella accidentally plows into a tree and kills her sister. Casual first 50 pages.

HOW IT MADE ME FEEL

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NEED MORE?

In short, I wish this book was either A) MUCH more creepier (like, removing her sister’s skin to wear as her own, CREEPY. I WENT THERE) or B) had characters reacting in an appropriate fashion to trauma and tragedy. Everything was just treated much too casually for me to buy into it.

I complain more about it on my Goodreads, though.

Also, if you want to read about twins (I don’t know your life) read Fangirl instead. No spookiness but excellent portrayal of sisterhood. And also an excellent portrayal of my first year of college, minus me meeting a hunky and sweet Oklahoma (Wyoming? I forget.) boy.