Tag Archives: 2014 books

Book Reviews Part 3

Here’s the next installment of book reviews! According to Goodreads, I’m 9 books ahead of my 2014 goal, which is 37% done. I have a feeling I’ll exceed the 30-book challenge, which is A-OK with me. That just means I’ll need to up my game and increase my reading goal next year. So since the last book reviews post I have read 4 more books, and currently reading one as well. So let’s do this!

  • Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon

This book was recommended to me by Amber. She had said it was one of her favorite books of all time, and since I was in a lull waiting for books at the library to become available, I decided to read this in the interim. My friend Jackie’s husband was also reading it at the time! The book takes place in 1945 Barcelona and follows the story of Daniel, who, after the recent death of his mother, finds a book with the same title tucked away in a bookstore. He finds out that this book is a bit “controversial” because he finds out there is a man who goes around burning every copy of the book, which has Daniel wondering why. So he goes on an epic journey around Barcelona to find out about the author of the book, and what the mystery is behind the man wanting to burn each copy. It wasn’t a bad book, but it didn’t get more than 3/5 stars from me on Goodreads. It just didn’t have me reeled in until some where in the middle. It was a bit slow moving, but the descriptions of the city of Barcelona are absolutely fantastic. I felt like I was there, with Daniel, on this epic exploration of the city. The back of the book also had a map tracing where Daniel went in Barcelona, which I guess fans of the book do! Note to self: When I go to Barcelona, walk Daniel’s steps!

  • I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

I wanted to read this book ever since I saw her as a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and she made him speechless with her words. At only 16 years old, she is the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, too. When she was 15 years old, she was shot by the Taliban because she did a lot of speeches in her home country of Pakistan encouraging people to support a girls’ right to an education, which of course did not sit well with some folks who believed a woman’s place was not in school. This book was captivating and honest. I know many countries still oppress their women (India is still a country that does this in some parts), but to read the way young girls were viewed at the height of the Taliban and post-9/11 made me so angry. I would seriously shout at the book while reading. The book has a co-author, Christina Lamb, who I think helped translate the book if Malala dictated parts to her. I felt some of that got lost in translation so at times, the book was kind of dull. With such a title like standing up for education and getting shot, I expected her inspiring talks about peace and a women’s right to education to be immediate in the story line, but there was a lot of back story — some of which I felt was unnecessary. However, I know why there is back story, of course. Regardless, give this book a read. For being twice her age, all I kept thinking was, “Why couldn’t I be this wise and smart at 16?”

  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I have many friends, myself included, who are huge fans of the show, so I knew this was on my must-read book. I probably should have read this before watching the show though. The show almost makes a mockery of what happened and is completely campy in comparison to the novel. I guess they can’t have the show be like the book, because it wouldn’t be that interesting. My brother-in-law was skeptical that this woman actually got tried for her crime in money laundering or drug money trafficking, but it’s actually true. She did get indicted and then had to go to court 5 years later, and then was sentenced almost 10 years after the crime happened. It was interesting to read about her time in prison, and how the prison system works, but again, I shouldn’t have watched the show before reading. In comparison it was kind of boring to read. Like OK, she was in prison for 15 months and the prison she went to was actually pretty nice in comparison to other women’s facilities in the country and hardly anyone is mean to her, so…ta-da…? But I will say this: it’s still worth a read because it does give you an inside look at what goes on, which was the interesting part to read. And to read how she got into her situation. It’s a quick read (under 300 pages), but unfortunately, I didn’t give it 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads.

  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

This was another interim book while waiting for a book at the library. I had heard about this book from many folks. It’s the story of a girl living in Paris, Sarah, during WWII and one night in 1942 she and her parents are taken away by the French police in an event called Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. Basically Jewish family’s were rounded up by French police, brought together, and then sent off to concentration camps. Before leaving, she makes her little brother hide in their apartment and promises to come back for him. Meanwhile in the present (well, 2002) Julia, an American journalist living in Paris is writing about this horrible event. She starts uncovering the mystery of the girl, the story behind what happened and how she is connected to this girl. It was a very easy book to read and I loved the different perspectives, reading about what Sarah was going through in 1942 and what Julia is going through in the present. It was very sad to read and made me once again question why this horrible, tragic event ever happened in the world. It’s heartbreaking really. Definitely pick it up.

And that brings us to what I’m currently reading which is Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It’s on the February hot-list of must-read books and is the first in the Red Rising Trilogy. I haven’t read anything by this author, but both Amber and I are reading this together, like a mini book club. Since we’re both into Sci-Fi and it’s been said to be like Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, it has me intrigued. Check back in a few weeks for that review and I’m sure more!

Book Reviews Part 2

Photo by Amber

Photo by Amber

So in my last post about what I was reading, I listed three books I had read and at the time, I was reading The Shining. I must be a reading machine right now, because since then, I’ve read quite a few more books. Seriously! I figured now is as good a time as any to recap what I’ve read since the last post, and hopefully give some of you fellow readers some ideas/recommendations of what you should read next!

  • The Shining by Stephen King

Oh. My. God. I loved this book. I couldn’t stop talking about it. You can ask REB, my coworkers and friends…they were probably sick of me talking about it so much. I managed to read this book in about 3 days because I couldn’t stop. My nightly ritual of reading before bed was extended by 30-45 minutes just so I could get in a few more pages before shut eye. My lunch break at work, I would force myself to take because that meant I was able to read. Many people have seen the movie already (myself included), but the book is so much better than the movie. For one thing, parts of the books that were downright scary to read, weren’t even included in the movie and I felt pretty strongly about it and thought they should have been. Reading about Jack, Wendy and Danny was incredible. Even though I knew how this story ended, it was great to read and see the parts that foreshadowed what was to come. It was very fluid, easy to read and kept me reeled in. All in all: I applaud you Mr. King. And to Mr. Kubrick? I say “shame on you.”

  • Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This book was one of the ones I added to my list while I was searching through the “What’s Hot” list on my library’s web site. I later found out that it’s being made into a HBO movie, so I figured I should read it first before I watched it – if I do watch it, that is. This book reminded me of Gillian Flynn’s Gone GirlIt’s a “thriller” or “mystery” but it was kind of lacking in some areas. The overall plot is a mother, Kate, piecing together the mystery of her daughter, Amelia, by looking through social media, talking to friends and reading her phone. Doesn’t sound like much, but there’s more of course! I enjoyed that the book was written from both Amelia’s perspective – as the mystery is unveiled – and also from Kate’s perspective, as she’s piecing together the mystery. It wasn’t the best book I’d ever read, but I would recommend it if someone is looking for a quick, easy mystery.

  • The Ruins by Scott Smith

This book came recommended to me by my friend Amber. She actually owns the book and lent it to me to read. It’s another mystery/suspense/thriller and while it was slow in the beginning, it picked up pretty heavily. It’s about four college grads who are vacationing in Mexico, meet up with some new friends, go exploring the jungles nearby and then become trapped there. Now they have to learn how to survive in their new surroundings for who knows how long, but also endure the strange things that start happening while they’re there. This book is hella descriptive, graphic and at times, had me feeling queasy. REB would come upstairs and ask me what was wrong because apparently I would have a horrified look on my face or my eyes were really wide. I haven’t read other books by this author, but I really liked the way he wrote and again, I liked the way the book was told from all four kids’ perspective. Warning though: because it’s so descriptive there isn’t a lot of dialogue. This was also made into a movie so I’ll need to give that a watch soon!

  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This book is best read in the summer. Perhaps that was my mistake for having read it during the cold Michigan winter. I probably would have enjoyed it way more. It’s a pretty story that spans over 50 years. It’s about a Hollywood star who comes to Italy and the innkeeper who sees her and falls in love with her. The story starts in the 1960s, but it’s also told “in the now” as you read about how he comes searching for her on the set of a movie (similar to Life After Life where you read the same story, but from different time periods or whatever). It’s a cute and an easy read, but I don’t know that I’d recommend it to anyone. It didn’t keep me interested that long and the author name drops a lot of famous actors throughout the novel too.

  • Wild: Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I was surprised by the number of people who gave this book 2 or less stars on Goodreads. This story is another one of those woman-does-something-so-she-writes-a-memoir, but it was good. I had my doubts because I read that horrible, atrocious pile of garbage Elizabeth Gilbert wrote (Eat Pray Love) and hated…and I mean…HATED that book. So having read a book like that, I was really nervous to read this book. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This book is about a woman named Cheryl who, when she was 26 years old, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own, which runs from California up to Washington. The reason she does it? Her mother passed away a few years before and she never really found herself centered.She meets people along the way, is smart about what she packs, but learns a lot. I loved this book, plain and simple. I thought about my life at 26 and what I was doing and “hiking 2,600+ miles” sure as hell wasn’t on my list. Sure, she was stupid in some decisions she made both on trail and off, but she was 26. She’s a grown up but hasn’t gotten it all figured out yet. I read this book in one day. It’s also being made into a movie. Give this book a chance. Especially if you want something better than that other pile of crap.

  • The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

This is another book-turned-movie that I wanted to read. I think it’s actually already out and on DVD/Blu-Ray. It’s a young adult/teen book that follows the story of Sutter Keely, this senior in high school who has a live-in-the-moment view on life. Along the way he meets a girl from his class, Aimee, and feels the need to help her open up from her quiet, sheltered life. It doesn’t sound like much, but I found I could relate to the story in that we all knew that kid in high school. I knew of at least three or four boys in my class who acted like Sutter and I desperately wished I could have been their friend, but I was the awkward, quiet girl who had band friends, but we were definitely deemed as the class nerds. It made me feel like a teen again going through those experiences and imagining what my life would have been like if I had been invited to one of Paul Doerr’s hose parties (only peeps from my school who read this will know who he is). I don’t even know if Paul threw amazing parties, but I heard they were a good time. Anyway, this is a good read. It’s told from a guy’s perspective, which not too many teen/young adult books do and it’s highly entertaining!

I have really enjoyed finding all these different kinds of books to read so far. If you have more you can suggest to me, please do! And please give these books a read if you get a chance. Stay tuned for another installment of book reviews in a few weeks! Happy reading :)