It's the final day of 2015! I've been meaning to post my 26 Books in 2015 wrap up this past week - but to be honest...I JUST STARTED my final book last night! I have always been a "by the seat of my pants" kinda girl. With that being said...here are my 26 books. I starred my new favorites above!
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey - This is the second book in a series. The first being The 5th Wave (which I loved!) I really enjoyed this continuation of the story. It's fast paced and original and there were some unexpected twists that kept me guessing. I also like the multiple POV's and the development of Ringer's character. Only downside is that this is a trilogy and the final installment doesn't come out until May 2016. The upside...the story is a modern, sci-fi funride complete with aliens, romance, action, and suspense. BONUS - the first movie is out in January! I bought The 5th Wave for Matt for Christmas because I know it is a story he will enjoy.
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger - I have mixed feelings about this book. It was just so-so. I liked Bianca's strong voice and her loyalty to her friends. I did not like the body shaming undertones and it was hard for me to believe that Bianca would get involved with the guy who insulted her in the first place! In the end, Bianca and Wesley help each other through some obvious coming of age dilemmas - divorce, alcoholic parent, peer pressure and social expectations - and I appreciated that Bianca stayed true to herself. SIDE NOTE - the movie is horrendous! Huge script changes from the book. It was so bad, it made me grumpy.
Mosquitoland by David Arnold - I loved this book. It (and Where the Moon Isn't) is what lead me to add the "siblings" prompt to next year's challenge. I love books with complicated family dynamics. Books that rearrange our thoughts about family and love and the lengths we will go to for both. Mosquitoland is one of those books! It's told from the POV of a teen girl who jumps on a Greyhound bus to locate and "save" her crazy mother. The people she meets along the way, the real-life, hard truths she confronts and the growth these two things bring about in her, are what I loved most about this book.
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - One of my favorite books of the year! I love an unreliable narrator and this book has THREE. It is dark and twisted and at times, I got a little annoyed with Rachel's drinking and wanted her to straighten herself out and make sense of her haunts...but her drinking adds to her jealousy and feelings of betrayal and the overall creepiness of the whole book! I loved how it all came together and how at the end, I didn't feel good, but I did feel extremely satisfied as a reader.
November 9 by Colleen Hoover - Hoover is a one-click author for me. She writes, I buy, I read. Like many, I got hooked by Slammed and then became unequivocally sold after Hopeless. But her last few books haven't been so great for me. Maybe Someday's plot turned me off (cheating makes my stomach turn) And Confess felt like it was rushed to me. (Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed both books and gobbled them up on release day, but they just didn't give the same Hoover FEELS that her early novels had given me.) November 9 is Hoover back at her best, IMO. Hoover, once again, excels at witty back and forth banter and the story is angsty and romantic and yet full of heartache. The plot is reminiscent of One Day (which I loved) and I liked the artistic theme of a book within the book. If anyone knows how to write a swoon worthy "Book Boyfriend," it's Hoover. And Benton James Kessler fits the bill perfectly.
The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar - I went into this book knowing nothing other than my best friend (also an avid reader) had texted me saying, "You must read this book right now! I'm a few chapters in and I need to discuss it with someone." So I downloaded it and began without reading one review or even the synopsis. I'm so glad I did!! Because this is one of the most bizarre starts to a book I have ever read - and had I read the synopsis, I probably would have given it a pass. But after the first 50 pages, I couldn't put it down. It is gripping and thrilling and unique and unexpected and some of the prose is so thoughtfully written it's almost poetic at times. It's a story of love and betrayal and family and rage and vengeance and power and forgiveness and redemption. And it all starts with a gun pointed at the heroine's head. I promise you'll be thinking about it long after you finish.
Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino - There are so many good things I could say about this book, but I'll keep it to three. 1) It starts with a missed connection on the subway that leads to a letter posted on Craigslist! (Imagine the train pulling away as they press themselves up against opposite sides of the glass!! Hello - you want to read it now, don't you?!) 2) I love romance books, but rarely do I come across a good one that has main characters similar in age and experience to my own - this one DOES! It was refreshing to read. 3) Even with #2 being true, it's a story about first loves and all the magic and heartache that accompany that. It's a book about beginnings and endings and second chances and having faith enough to navigate the ups and downs of life so that you end up right where you were always meant to be. I texted my BFF as I turned the final page, saying "That's the best I've felt at the end of a book in a long time."
How We Deal With Gravity by Ginger Scott - I really enjoyed this story, but when compared to some of the other books on this list - it was just okay. I enjoy Scott's writing for the simple reason that her stories include relatable characters and HEA's. How We Deal With Gravity is just this. It's the story of a young, single mother of an autistic boy and her second chance at love with a guy from her past. It's fast, light reading and I enjoyed how the music in the story brought the heroine's love interest and her son together. The whole instalove/reformed man-whore plot that is overplayed in NA books right now is present here, and there are parts of the story I feel could have been developed better - but it was still a fun read.
Grey by EL James - Before you read this, you might want to read my take on 50 Shades in general. It will help you understand why I even picked up this book. I had my misgivings, of course, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. Like I said in the linked post, I didn't like Christian in Fifty Shades of Grey. And that's probably because his growth didn't really occur until the middle of Book 2. But this retelling from his POV gave me some insight into his mannerisms and control freakerishness that was much appreciated. I liked seeing Ana through Christian's eyes and knowing his thoughts as he pursued her. What I really wanted at the end, however, was for EL James to write books 2&3 from Christians POV - like, what was he thinking as other people were bidding on Ana at the Masquerade? And what went through his head when he saw she had tossed her martini in Elena's face? Did his life flash before his eyes as Charlie Tango crashed? Come on, EL. Don't leave a girl tied up like this!
Chasing River by KA Tucker - Tucker is another one-click author for me. I have read everything she's written and enjoyed them all! This book is the third in a 4 book series - but they are all stand alones that build on characters introduced in the first book (Burying Water.) This series was my first delve into a the "romantic suspense" genre, and I must say, I LOVE IT! Tucker's characters are always well written, but the added suspense of secrets and broken laws and forbidden relationships and foreign mafias really keep you turning the pages. This book is set in Ireland - a place I've always wanted to visit - and is a story about a badboy attempting to reform his ways while still embracing where he comes from and a girl who can't decide if she should fight for love or do the sensible thing and walk away. This book, and book 2 (Becoming Rain) were my favorite of the series.
Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater - Shiver was my pick for book club around three years ago, I think. Sinner is the fourth and final book in this unique series about angsty teens in Mercy Falls who shape shift into WOLVES. I started it long ago - eager for Cole St.Clair's installment in this fun line of stories, but for reasons I can't remember, I never finished it. I picked it up again for this prompt knowing the desire to learn Cole and Isabel's fate still interested me. Stiefvater is a master storyteller and her characters (even the minor ones) are always well developed. Cole and Isabel are two of the strongest willed among the Mercy Falls bunch and their personalities, regardless of how attracted they are to each other, don't always mesh. With that being said - I really think you need to read the full series if you are going to enjoy this book. Unless you already have a love for these characters, you might not have the desire to push through their trials in order to discover their conclusion.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - I've left this prompt for last! I started this book last night, but I can already tell you I'm going to enjoy it for two reasons. 1) My friend, Rachel loves it. 2) A witch falls in love with a vampire. Hello people, this book was made for me. I'll come back a write an update in a few days when I'm done!
Sweet Girl by Rachel Hollis - So that friend Rachel I was just talking about? She wrote a book. Actually, she's written THREE books!! (The GIRLS series - Party Girl, Sweet Girl and Smart Girl) But we're just talking about his one right now. I had the privilege of reading Sweet Girl before it went to print. (Fun shit like that happens when your friend is a legitimate author who knows how to make your year!) And let me just tell you, I read this entire book on my iPhone, in PDF format, in one sitting. Rachel's books are pure joy. With each one, there are parts that feel like she sat down and wrote them just for me. But you know what? I bet if you read her books, you'll feel the same. Her "Girls" are lovable and relatable and so very much fun. Sweet Girl holds a special place in my heart because I feel like I relate most to Max out of all of the girls - she's rough around the edges and a bit of a tomboy. She has a potty mouth and always seems a little bit in a bad mood. Don't ask her to talk feelings and don't you dare give her a hug! Furthermore, Max is a baker - the fast-paced scenes and tough-love relationships that happen in the "back of the house" where she works were so nostalgic for me. My career before children was managing a restaurant and baking their desserts, so you can see why Max's story got me all feel-y. But then Rachel goes and adds in Bennett TAYLOR and his tattoos and his "working oven," and his not giving up attitude where Max is concerned and....SWOON. I flove Sweet Girl. It's bigger than your average "beach read," in that it deals with very real life issues in a very honest and responsible way. But it's just as fun. There's a pan of potato chip brownies and a visit to a Renaissance Faire and a Bingo game that had me kicking my feet and squealing out loud it was so good. I chose this book for this prompt because of the growth Max goes through. It's a journey all women can relate to, and I really appreciate that Rachel has Max do the work to find herself, and get to a good place, on her own. Not for a boy or because of a boy, but yes, with the support of a boy and some very good girlfriends. I love that Max follows her dreams even when they scare the shit out of her. And I love that Max faces her demons even when it's the most painful road to travel. She's my perfect, imperfect heroine. I really hope you take the chance to meet the GIRLS and fall in love with them the way I have! Smart Girl is out January 26th!!!
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly Whitmore - This NYT Bestseller and "Summer's Hottest Fiction" pick did not disappoint. It was one of my book club reads (in the Summer, no less) and I was pleasantly surprised with how fun it was while still being well written, unpredictable and page turning. It's a story of wealth and privilege and finally becoming "one of them" and then finding out that with all the luxuries this entails...you are also privy to debilitating, dark, dangerous secrets. It paints the picture of two unlikely friends. One mousey and shy. The other glamorous and flirty. I enjoyed Whitmore's ability to make Genevra's lakeside retreat in Vermont feel like a fairy tale...that turns Grimm. And I especially enjoyed the mystery of Mabel's choices. I so wanted her to make the right ones and kept turning the pages to see if she did.
Selected Poems by ee cummings - My parents both love to read. I have them to thank for books being in my blood. I can remember, at a young age, thumbing through my Dad's dogeared, underlined books of poetry. I may not have understood them all at the time, But what I did grasp, was that the words were special, lyrical, and heavy with meaning. Poetry, for me, is like therapy. It makes me slow down. It makes me step back. For these reasons, and many more that can be found within ee cummings' words, I really enjoyed this book. His poems are as much art as they are literature. Their non-traditional form and eccentrically placed words intrigue me. This was my favorite...I imagine whispering it into the silky crown of my tiny babe's head as I rock him/her to sleep.
Where The Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer - Like I said earlier, this is one of the books that lead me to include the "siblings" prompt in next year's challenge. It is also a book I don't know if I will ever stop thinking about. It's told by a 19 year old boy from his room in a psych ward. He is schizophrenic and constantly replays a night from 10 years earlier that left his brother (2 years his senior with Downs Syndrome) dead. He blames himself for his brother's death and this guilt is compounded by his metal illness. It's a book that you aren't quite sure what to do with when you are done, other than maybe read it again, in order to fully soak up it's hope-filled prose and heartrending humanity.
Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay - If you've asked for a book recommendation from me in the last two years, then I have undoubtedly told you to read this. I can't even tell you how many times I have read it - save for it's more than I can count on one hand. I check Millay's Amazon page at least once am month hoping to find she's written another book. But no. Not yet. So I keep reading this one. I could write forever about my love for this book, but I'm trying to wrap this post up...so here are some of my absolute favorite things: 1) There is no Instalove. As a matter of fact, Nastya makes herself very hard to like at all. Oddly enough, you do. 2) The secondary characters are just as good at the primary ones. I might like Drew as much as I like Josh Bennett - and I like Drew's family even more. 3) Josh Bennett. If ever there was a book boyfriend for me, he is the one. He's brooding and tortured and works with his hands. And he does this thing with a bucket of pennies that pretty much made me want to wrap him up in a tiny little ball and carry him around in my pocket forever. Oh, and he gives Nastya the most unexpected, but perfect nickname. 4) The mystery. Nastya has experienced a great trauma - one that has made her go mute and give up her life long dream. Even if there was no swoon worthy romance going on - learning what caused this, would keep you turning the pages. 5) Nastya's redemption - it's written in a way that is respectful of her pain and yet empowering in her growth. 6) The final few lines of this book are hands down one of the best endings to a book you can experience. I gasped out loud the first time I read them.
Looking for Alaska by John Green - Green is so fucking good at dealing with the big things. Love. Loss. Suffering. Grief. Loneliness. Joy. and doing so in a way that there is no such thing as a happy ending. Just the end. Which is also the beginning. And you turn the last page 100% okay with that. It trips me out. Looking For Alaska is quintessential John Green. You fall in love with it's characters -especially Miles and Alaksa - and their struggles while laughing along side their witty quips and double entendres. You simultaneously rejoice and sympathize with the hard and fast ,coming-of-age (albeit timeless) lessons they must learn. You laugh and you cry - sometimes withing the spans of the same page because the story is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. There were times that I found Alaska a little whiny - but I just had to remind myself she was a tormented teenager for her voice to ring true. The fact that it was written 10 years ago made me feel old. But then again, so was Harry Potter, and that is just mind-blowing!
The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown - this was a book club pick for me as well. I say that because I probably wouldn't have chosen it on my own. Which is precisely why I love book club...it gets me out of my box! For someone who rarely reads non-fiction or memoirs or even historical fiction...this book was surprisingly enjoyable. There were some pages that I skimmed, when it got overly descriptive for me. But overall, I enjoyed the story of perseverance and unlikely heroes made of hard work and teamwork. It was inspiring and patriotic and once again - waaaay more than just a book about sports or WWII and the Natzis. The feel and scope of it reminded me of Unbroken. If you liked that book, I'd venture to say you'll like this one too.
AND THAT'S ALL SHE WROTE, FOLKS...or read. OR maybe read and wrote! I hope my reviews were helpful and you found a new title or two to add to your list! HAPPY NEW YEAR!