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Book Report 1/11/17

Back in December of 2012 I made a resolution to read more.  I have continued with this goal ever since.  After I finish a book I like to write a few sentences about my thoughts and whether or not I would recommend the book to a friend.  As for restrictions or descriptions as what constitutes a book, this is a term that is going to be used very loosely. These “books” can be novels, collections of short stories, thinking books, trashy romance novels, New York Times Best Sellers, or school/work related books. Anything goes, really. Here are the books that I have read and my thoughts about each one:

JANUARY 2017

1. In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell

This was one of several books to choose from for the Kindle First look.  I chose it because it sounded interesting and is historical fiction which I tend to enjoy.  Also, it takes place in 1928 which is the time period of the manor house where I am a docent.  The main character, Kate, has a sort-of Titanic-esque tale.  She happens to meet a millionaire on a transatlantic ocean liner and catches his eye.  He is the heir of Lemont fortune of Chicago and well above Kate in social status.  But, she captures his heart and they’re married.

Once she meets her new family she starts to get the sense that something isn’t quite right.  She becomes a prisoner of the family estate, Lakecrest, and starts to question everything and everyone around her.  The family has some skeletons in the closet and Kate tries to unravel them without getting herself tossed out into the street.  I rather enjoyed the story and found it a light and quick read.  Four out of five stars.

OCTOBER 2016

16. Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh

I read this book at the suggestion of one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris.  My husband and I went to see a book reading/talk that he gave and he talked about this book and how shocking/surprising that it was.  I couldn’t resist the bait that he had set so I bought the book and read it.

The book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the literary masterpiece that I was expecting based on the praise of Sedaris.  It is about a young woman, Eileen, and the days leading up to Christmas when her life changes dramatically.  I did find it to be well written and compelling to read.  I would recommend it, but it’s only 3 out of 5 stars for me.

AUGUST 2016

15. The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I thought that this book was a great Summer read.  Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character which I think is a fun way to move the plot forward while giving exposition.  The writer did a nice job of fleshing out each character’s voice and switching between them.

Having said that, I did have some trouble keeping the different characters straight at first.  It took me a little longer to remember who each of the players were and how they were all connected.  This book is about a small town community and those who live there.  It’s a little Desperate Housewives in that it focuses on how outward appearances often belie inward truths.  I read it quickly and I would recommend it to someone looking for one last book to cap off their Summer reading.  I give it 4/5 stars.

JULY 2016

14. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

I got this book from the library.  As I was browsing the shelves it jumped out at me.  I’ve read another book by this author, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, some time ago and I thought I would give it a go.  At first it was difficult for me to get into this book.  In fact, I was debating on returning it unfinished because my books were due.  But, I renewed it because a few days before the due date I had started to “get it.”  I finished it and found that I liked it more at the end than the beginning.

It’s about a woman, Greta, who goes for electroshock therapy.  And when she has the procedure she wakes up in a different time period.  The 3 time periods are 1918, 1941, and 1985.  Present day is 1985, but it takes awhile to figure that out.  Also, this is not a continuous time period– it’s not like she is transported back in time to when she was 20, 43, and 87.  She is the same age in each of the time periods.  Also, all of the same characters are present in each time period, but they are different.  It’s a bit like Dorothy and Oz with all the characters.

Her Aunt Ruth is the only person who she tells the truth and she believes her.  Ruth is able to recognize that she is rotating between 3 different Greta’s.  Once Greta figures out the pattern to her time jumps she is able to start anticipating when she will wake up next.  She has this idea that she can fix some of the things in the lives of the different Greta’s, but it doesn’t always go as planned.

It’s an interesting plot device, but I’m not sure I would have read the book if I knew it was another one about time travel.  And, considering that it took me so long to get into it, I would rate this a 3/5 stars.

13. Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Back in May 2013, I read The Happiness Project by this author and absolutely loved it.  The central tenets of that book still ring true for me today.  I have wanted to read more of her work, but I’ve been torn between her two books: Happier at Home and Better Then Before.  I’ve already read my FREE Kindle book for the month and my other FREE book isn’t available until the end of the month.

So, I went to the library.  Last Summer I settled my debts and cleared my account so that I could check out books.  But, then I started heavily using the Kindle and I forgot all about the library.  I checked out 2 books, one non-fiction and one fiction.  Since I’ve been reading a lot of fictional novels I thought that I would switch gears and start with this book.

It was a quick and easy read.  I love the way that the author walks you through her process of studying the subject at hand—in this case: habits.  She tells you about her initial musings, what she learns from research, and then how she goes about using that information.  She talks about how people usually fall into one of 4 categories: the upholder, obliger, questioner, and rebel.  Based on which of the 4 you are can give you valuable insight into how to find habits that will work for you.  There is a quiz at the end of the book to help you determine which of the 4 you are, but I wish that the quiz had been at the beginning of the book.  I think I would have read the advice for each of the 4 types differently if I had known which I was.

I’m not sure if I read the book too quickly, or what, because most of what I’ve read has already been forgotten.  I can’t say that I really gleaned all that much from the book which makes me terribly sad because of how much I loved the previous book.  It does make for an interesting read and something that a lot of people would enjoy.  3/5 stars from me.

12. When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

Be careful what you wish for, or so they say.  I’ve been bemoaning the books that I’ve read recently because they haven’t moved me or made me feel things.  Well, this book shattered that streak!  As the novel opens one of our main characters, Luke, has just had to bury his wife.  She died of cancer and he suddenly realizes that everything is about to change– starting with the fact that he is now a single dad of 3.

And then a letter arrives in a blue envelope.  It practically stops Luke in his tracks because he recognizes his dead wife’s handwriting on the letter.  And, it ends up being the first of many.  In these letters his wife, Natalie, reveals many truths that Luke was not aware of.  In the scope of this book he goes from being a devastated widow, questioning the fidelity of his wife, to acceptance of life’s hurdles.

Boy oh boy does this book give you feels!  I was 75% of the way through it and the story started gaining momentum.  I stayed up reading for 2 hours until I finally came to the last page of the book.  Afterward, I tears were streaming down my face as I processed the book’s ending and life, in general.  I would recommend this book and I even thought about checking out the author’s other novel, Wreckage.  4.5/5 stars on this one for me!  I think that may be the highest ranking I’ve given a book. . . .

11. Midair: A Novel by Kodi Scheer

This book is touted as a “suspenseful psychological drama of a young girl’s descent into darkness and the secrets we keep, even from our selves.”

I was hoping that it would be like Paper Towns by John Green but it just didn’t rise to that level.  Nessa, the main character, feels slighted by one of her “friends” and abandoned by the death of her brother.  Because of these feelings she devises a plan to jump off the Eiffel Tower during a French club trip to Paris.  Although the feelings were very real for her, I sort of just kept thinking to myself how naive and immature the protagonist was.  C’mon– who doesn’t remember having their pride hurt because of some one in high school?  That’s life!  That’s what toughens us up for the adult world.

It was a very quick read and I was pushed forward from the momentum of the story, but in the end it just wasn’t a great plot line.  Perhaps that’s cruel and insensitive me to say, but you can’t  overreact when life doesn’t go your way and fantasize about these dramatic plans to commit suicide.

I would rate this a 2.5/5 stars.

JUNE 2016

10. Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

I have been a fan of Tessaro’s since her debut book, Elegance, in 2003.  I loved that book so much that when her next book came out I immediately read it.  I liked that book, too, and I’ve followed her ever since.  I knew that this book came out earlier this year, but I was going to wait until it was released in paperback to add it to my collection.  But, then I didn’t want to–I wanted to read it now.  So, I bought it for the Kindle because I already read the free book and a book from the lender’s library.

This novel is about Maeve Fanning. She is a first generation Irish immigrant from Boston who eventually finds herself in New York.  After some poor choices she winds up in a mental hospital.  After she is released, she goes back home to Boston and lands herself a job at an antiques shop.  While working one day she comes into contact with a wealthy young woman who turns out to be one of the people that she met in the mental hospital.  The two become friends despite their differences.  But, Maeve has to decide who she is and what she wants to do with her life.

I liked this book well enough– I thought it was interesting and finished it within a week.  But, it wasn’t as good as Tessaro’s previous novels.  There wasn’t anything about it that moved me or gave me the feels.  I’m not any better or worse for having read it.  I would give this book a 3/5 stars, but I would recommend her earlier novels in a heartbeat.

9. Timebound (The Chronos Files Book 1) by Rysa Walker

I was looking for a new book one night in bed and my husband was looking over my shoulder.  I try to read books that are free or very cheap.  I had already read the Kindle First free book of the month, so I turned to the lender’s library for another freebie!  As I was scrolling, the cover image for this book caught the eye of my husband and he suggested that I read it.  That’s about all that it takes for me to choose a book sometimes!

Our main character, Kate, discovers that many members of her family have a special gene that allows them to time travel.  Her grandmother has a special medallion that allows them to jump to different time periods.  Kate doesn’t know what to make of it, but she is told that she has the power to fix events in the past that erase her mom and dad.  But, if she goes back in time to undo the actions she will lose the boy that she falls in love with– he will have no memory of her.

I thought that the characters were mostly well-developed.  The author’s description was also satisfactory.  The plot was well-developed but I found it to be confusing because of the different timelines.  In one timeline, Kate would be alive and have a mom and dad, but in another timeline her mom and dad would have been erased from existence.  The plot did weave in elements of history and I enjoyed how they were intertwined with the story, but that was about it.  This book didn’t affect me in any way.  I didn’t find myself wrapped up in the characters or the plot or dying to read and find out what happens.

One major complaint is that I can tell that it is meant to be the first book of a series because the story seemed unfinished.  That might be great for some who want to read the next book, but for those of us who want this to be a stand alone novel I feel that we are cheated.  I might recommend this to a young adult reader, but it wasn’t my favorite book.  3/5 stars from me.

8. Intrusion: A Novel by Mary McCluskey
This was my pick for the Kindle First free book of the month. This was a quick read and I did enjoy the book. At the outset, we have a married couple that is dealing with the recent loss of their 18-year-old son, Chris. The husband, Scott, throws himself into work to help grieve but the wife, Kat, takes the opposite approach. She leaves her job and wanders around their home day in and day out trying to make sense of the world.

Then enters Sarah Cherrington. She might be described as a “frenemy” to our girl, Kat. Sarah was part of upper-class society as a girl, but poor. Eventually, she finds her way in to money and seems to have everything that she wants. Against the wishes of her friend, Brooke and sister, Maggie, Kat asks Sarah for help.

The only question is whether Sarah is helping or hindering. You won’t find out until the end which reaches somewhat of a dramatic climax. My only criticism, and this is true of many books that I read, is that there is not always a lot after the climax. It often feels like the author spends half the book on the exposition and rising action, hits the climax, and then there is very little falling action and/or denouement/resolution. After reading 10 chapters of exposition and rising action, I expect a little more than a few pages of resolution. But, the characters are well-developed and there aren’t any big problems or issues with the plot. The description was so-so– I don’t really know what Kat and Scott look like. I couldn’t describe them to a sketch artist or assign a famous actor to play them. I would recommend this book as a fun little Summer read, though. 3.75 stars out of 5 from me!

7. The Burned Bridges of Ward, Nebraska by Eileen Curtright
I think that the general consensus is that in most books you are supposed to like the protagonist. In this particular book, I leaned more towards dislike of the main character than anything else. But, not in a way that I feel was intentional. Oddly enough, this was a Kindle First free book from several months back. I selected it, read the first handful of chapters, and then abandoned it for something else. Since I had a week or so left in the end of May until the next batch of Kindle Free books came out and I had lots of free time to devote to reading, I picked it back up.

I started over from the beginning because I couldn’t really remember what happened. Let’s just suffice it to say that I know why I stopped reading the book the first time: it isn’t very interesting. It was described as a comedy, but I just didn’t get it. I didn’t think that it was funny. I spent most of the book being confused on how to feel about Rebecca Meer, the central character. Also, nothing really happens in the book. When it opens she is celebrating being made partner at the fertility clinic where she works. But, that all starts to unravel pretty quickly. She has a son that she is very fond of, but he seems like sort of a screw-up.

I didn’t really like this book and I would not recommend it. 2 out of 5 stars.

MAY 2016

6. We’re All Damaged by Matthew Norman

I loved this book!  It has been a while since I have gotten swept up by a book and I love the feeling.  I started reading this book on the 16th and finished it two days later on the 18th.  I was reading it before bed and it hit the climax and I just kept reading until I finished the book and it was 2 a.m.

Our main character, Andy, is in a low spot in life—his wife breaks up with him at a crappy restaurant, he ruins his best friend’s wedding reception, left his job, and ran away to New York City.  But, his grandpa is dying and his mom makes him come back home to Omaha.

And then Andy meets Daisy.

This book is by no means a literary classic, but the characters are fully developed and there were a few plot twists that caught me by surprise.  It’s the kind of book that I would like to write, myself.  I would recommend that you read this book and/or check out this author— I know that I am going to.

4/5 stars

APRIL 2016

5. While You Were Mine by Ann Howard Creel

April’s book was historical fiction.  I never would have imagined myself liking historical fiction, but I credit my love of the genre to the Titanic movie of 1997.  It was that movie that made me fall in love with being immersed in a real-time and place and factual events, but having creative license to make your characters do whatever you want.

This book is set in 1945 New York.  Almost any book that has New York as the setting or backdrop is already getting at least a star from me!  It draws you in with V-J Day and the idea that our main character, Gwen, is the woman in the iconic picture of “The Kissing Sailor.”  But, that’s not where the book goes.  On that day, Gwen becomes the mother to the child of her roommate, Alice.  Alice is married to a soldier who is away fighting in the war.  She gives birth to their daughter but then falls in to a depression and cannot even look at the infant.

Gwen steps in without hesitation and Alice soon departs.  Gwen begins raising Mary as her own child and has her whole (new) world come crashing down around her when, one year later, the father of the child appears on her doorstep looking for Alice and his child.

I thought that the novel started out rather slowly.  I read the first few chapters and was interested enough, but then it crawled along.  I went for several days without even picking it up.  My husband asked me how it was and all I could say was “I don’t know.”  For most of the reading of this book I felt ambivalent about it.  It did get better towards the last third of the book and I was interested to know what would happen to Gwen, Alice, John, and Mary.  But, in the end I didn’t really feel satisfied–the ending was too easy for the characters.  I would not recommend this book to others as I could take it or leave it myself.  I give this a solid 3 out of 5 starts because it is predictable and has too much of a happy Hollywood ending.

MARCH 2016

4. Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey

I put “read a finance book” on my New Year’s Resolution list and March was the month that I tackled that goal.  I needed a book and I figured it was as good of time as any to read my finance book.  Plus, my husband and I were in the process of getting our taxes done and money and finances were all swirling around.  I was pretty sure that I went I wrote read a finance book that I meant a Dave Ramsey book, but I wasn’t entirely sure.  My husband introduced me to Dave Ramsey because he would often listen to his radio show (podcast?).  About two years ago, he introduced me to Ramsey’s “7 Baby Steps” and it challenged what I thought.  Previously, I was a Suze Orman follower.  Orman’s thought is that you should tackle the debt with the highest interest rate first and then put the money that you were paying on that bill towards the next highest, so on and so forth.

Ramsey’s view is that money and finance stuff is not so fun and that psychologically we need small wins to feel good and gain momentum with paying off debts.  He suggests that you should tackle the smallest debt first and then put that payment towards the next biggest one, so on and so forth.  I can see the merits of both arguments.  I think that in Orman’s plan you might repay less debt, overall, but only if you stick with it and don’t quit or give up.  I do like how in Ramsey’s plan you have to wait less time before you see the fruits of your labor.  I have adopted somewhat of a middle ground between the two.  I have listed my debts in order of smallest to largest AND in a column next to that, highest to lowest interest rate.

I liked this book, but I am not so sure that I learned a lot of new information.  But, the description tells you that if you are already following Ramsey, you won’t learn a lot of new stuff.  There were two chapters with information on insurance and mortgages that were of good use to me, but the early chapters on budgeting and saving money were not.  Also, he refers a lot to his other book(s).  So much so that I started wondering if maybe I should be reading that book, instead.  I am not sure that I would really recommend this book wholeheartedly.  I’m wondering if I picked the wrong Dave Ramsey book for my situation.  Anyway.  3/5 stars.

FEBRUARY 2016

3. All the Lasting Things by David Hapson

This book is about The Fisher family.  Specifically, about Benji and what his family thinks is a suicidal plea for help.  I chose it because the description talked about how it paints a picture of family and our legacy.  In a way that’s the book that I got, but in a way it is not.  I felt that this book started out on a high note.  I loved the description of Benji as he flees from a theater and goes into the woods.  I love how the reader knows what he is thinking as the so-called suicidal incident happens.

I even liked the middle of the story and about how Benji was forced to play the role he did as a child while he convalesced.  But, it was somewhere after that part that I started to lose interest.  It seemed like the book took 90% of it to climax and then fell sharply from there.  I think that I was supposed to feel more for the cello virtuoso than I did.  I just couldn’t bring myself to care about him as a character.  And, I don’t understand the subtext story that was told to me between the chapters of the main story.  If I had stopped reading this book half way through I would have liked it more.  Then last 25% of the book just didn’t do it for me.  I didn’t feel satisfied at the end.  I would give this a 3/5 stars and wouldn’t put it at the top of my “recommend list.”

JANUARY 2016

2. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a writer that I was introduced to back in my formative years, not once but twice!  First, by my favorite English teacher of all-time in high school and then again in college when I chose a course studying the fiction of Morrison.  I thought that having already read 2 of her novels would give me an advantage.  Between these two educators I read and discussed Morrison’s first 7 fictional novels.  I have since kept up with her published works.  Last week her newest novel, God Help the Child, was released in paperback.  I bought it on Tuesday and finished reading it on Wednesday evening.

It is a slim novel– perhaps even bordering on novella territory, but nevertheless.  It is at once a quick read and a not so quick read.  In fact, I feel as if I may have missed some of the depth of the book by speeding through it.  I think that all of Morrison’s books are like that.  There is the surface story– what happens with the main characters of the book, A.K.A. the plot, and then there is the rest of the story.  All of the things that are mentioned in passing but mean so much more than just the color of someone’s shirt, for instance.  It’s like the plot is just the tip of the iceberg and the true understanding is in processing everything else that lies beneath the surface— a huge iceberg of information.

I don’t want to be negative, but I enjoyed Morrison’s earlier works better.  Part of my is trying to decide if that’s because I discussed them and studied them in the context of the education system, or just because I thought that her plots in those novels was thicker and more substantive?  I thought that the plot in this book was thin and weak.  The main character, Bride, didn’t seem to be as fully developed as characters in previous novels.  Bride seemed more 2-dimensional than Beloved, for example.

But, I would recommend this novel to others (but not my personal copy for my collection) and rate it 4/5 stars.

 

1. The Moonlit Garden by Corina Bowmann

This book begins with the main character, Lily Kaiser, being handed a beautiful and unique violin and being told that it belonged to her by a strange man.  What follows is Lily’s adventure to find out how the violin belongs to her and why.  Along the way we pick up a few characters that plan important parts in the unraveling of the mystery: Sunny, Ellen, Gabriel, and Rose.

I thought that the story moved at a nice pace, but the characters were not very complex.  They were somewhat developed, but maybe not quite enough.  The other thing that was difficult was having put together the jigsaw puzzle before the main character does.  I found it a tiny bit frustrating that I knew the answer to the mystery but Lily couldn’t figure it out.  That seems to happen, a lot.  In this instance it’s because there is a separate story being told within that gives the reader valuable information.

It was a quick little read and I enjoyed it, but not to the point where I would add this author to my list of “must read.”  I would rate this book a 3/5 stars.

I did it!  I made my goal for 2015 of 12 books for the year.  And, if you look closely I even had one extra in there for a total of 13!  I read a lot of books about teaching this Summer and I feel that it really made a difference for me.  I think that some finance books might be in order for 2016.

DECEMBER 2015

13. Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James

Yes, I will admit that I read the 50 shades trilogy.  I wasn’t one of the first to jump on the bandwagon, but eventually I did.  I think that I read them in 2012 because all 3 books were published, or the last one was just being published as I started.  I can’t really remember.  But, I read them in the course of a week, one right after another.  The books/story is not a literary classic, but it was a captivating story.  And I try to read lots of different types of books and things.  I think that quite a few people in my personal life were surprised that I read them.

I thought that it was only fitting to read the story from Christian’s point of view.  Plus, I think that it is a brilliant marketing concept.  You are just re-writing the same story– there’s little to no new content.  And, I think that James can certainly get 3 more books out of the story.  Good for her!

This book was good, but not great.  I saw a different side of Christian since I was able to know the thoughts that were running through his head, but I don’t feel as if it is true.  I know, you’re thinking how can you say that, it’s from the same author?!?  In my mind’s eye/opinion of Christian I think that he is very strong, calculating, and cold.  And I know that Ana unravels his whole world in the span of 3 books.  But, I think that it’s more believable of a story when it’s from her point of view and not his.  Plus, the dirty bits weren’t as good from his point of view, IMHO.

It was a quick read and if you liked the original 50 shades trilogy I think that you would like this book, also. 3/5 stars.

OCTOBER 2015

12. The Prettiest One: A Thriller by James Hankins

This was a Kindle First Choice for September, but I didn’t get around to reading it until October or thereabouts.  It was a good book, but not my usual forte.  I remember selecting it because it was the one that appealed to me most out of the 4 choices.  Although I read this in/around October I did not post my response in a timely manner (it’s December.)  From what I can remember I liked this book, but did not love it.  It is about a young woman who wakes up with blood all over her and doesn’t really know where she is or what happened.  She gets in her car and drives home, but when she arrives her husband is shocked to see her.

She walked out 7 months ago and hadn’t been seen since.  She was presumed dead and her husband was suspect number one.  From there the plot has a lot of twists and turns that has you searching for the truth along with Caitlyn Sommers.  A good read, 4/5 stars.

SEPTEMBER 2015

11. About That Fling by Tawne Fenske

This was another free preview through Amazon Prime.  I selected this book because I wanted something that was going to be light and easy to read.  Plus, I think that a little Rom-Com/risqué romance is fun.  I knew that school would be starting and I would want something that didn’t require much brain power– sort of like watching a sitcom like Seinfeld.  I enjoyed the book but I can’t say that I would recommend it or make it a point to read more of her books.  This is not literary fiction– it’s just a quick read about a one-night stand and what happens afterward. 3/5 stars.

AUGUST 2015

10. Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel

This book was a free preview through Amazon Prime.  I selected this book from the 4 or 5 that were available because it seemed most like something that I would enjoy.  I started this book early in August and then I went on vacation and took a long hiatus from it.  When I returned I reached a point in the book where it started to move along at a nice pace.  However, it is a suspense/thriller type of book and I found it frustrating.  Normally, when I can’t put a book down and I stay up all night reading it is the mark of a great book, but not this time!

The author had me so frustrated with the plot that I found myself hurrying and rushing to get through it.  I feel as if it was intentional because it puts you in the shoes of the main character, but the forced dissonance made me aggravated and caused me to skim/skip large sections of the book just to figure out the “answer.”  I didn’t even really read the final pages of the book and I don’t feel as if I am missing something.  I don’t think that I would really recommend this book on the account of I didn’t like how it made me feel when I was reading it.  I would rate this a 2.75/5 stars.  I would give the author a second chance and try one of her other books, but not just yet.  I’ve already got another book waiting to be started on my Kindle Fire.

JULY 2015

9. A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White

I recently discovered that through Amazon Prime I am eligible to borrow one free book a month.  I didn’t realize how that worked until recently.  Also, there are monthly deals that Amazon Prime sends out where I can read one of 4 books that is soon-to-be-released free.  I discovered this last month and I wanted to read Teach Like a PIRATE after reading Learn Like a PIRATE but I had already used up my one book so I had to wait until July.  In the meantime, I took advantage of my other free offer and selected A Dark Lure.

This book was like reading an episode of Criminal Minds– a t.v. show that I happen to thoroughly enjoy.  However, I will say that I thought that the book could have been a bit better.  It was quite obvious to me part way through what was going on and how everything was going to shake out.  And, that’s not exactly what I want from a book.  If I could guess the ending from the middle what would be the point?  It wasn’t like Gone Girl that had me guessing at every turn and twist.  I think that if this book was an episode of Criminal Minds it would work a lot better.  There is a red herring plot line in there that I think could be great for t.v.– but in the book it was just too obvious (at least I thought so.)  I enjoyed the book, but I don’t necessarily feel compelled to look up the author and see what else she has written.  I would give the book 3.75/5.

JUNE 2015

8.  Learn Like a PIRATE: Empower Your Students to Collaborate, Lead, and Succeed
by Paul Solarz

I selected this book because it was a free book from the Kindle lending library.  But, that’s not to say that I wasn’t interested in reading it.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I thought that it gave a great description of a student-led classroom and some interesting insights into how to run a classroom.  I also particularly liked that since I was reading it on the Kindle there were many links that I could follow to learn more about certain theories or activities that Solarz was implementing.  In this instance, the PIRATE acronym stands for peer collaboration, improvement focused learning, responsibility, active learning, twenty-first century skills, and empowerment.

My only gripe was that this teacher focuses a lot on his own classroom— 5th graders.  I had a bit of trouble seeing how I could use the systems that he does in a college setting where I only see the students 2x’s a week for 15 weeks.  I would recommend this book highly, though, and I am definitely going to read Teach like a PIRATE which is the “original” book in this series.  Learn like a PIRATE is sort of a spin-off.  4/5 stars

7. No One Understands You and What to Do About It by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Have you noticed a bit of a theme with the books that I’ve been choosing lately?  I guess we could call this the Summer of Self-Help.  One thing that I have been spending a lot of time doing lately is reading.  I love to read, but when I have a lot of other things going on I don’t always have the time to devote to it.  But, since I have the free time now I am taking full advantage of it!

This book sheds some light on why people may not understand you– it gives some great insight to how we process individuals and come up with our opinions on them.  Many times we are viewing them through different lenses and unconsciously projecting thoughts and feeling on to them that may cause us not to like them (unfairly) or to really like someone (unfairly.)  But, where I would say that this book was lacking was in the second claim of the title: what to do about it.  I don’t think that it offered enough advice on how to change someone’s perspective.  Many times we are not going to be privy to the lenses that they are viewing us through and why they feel a certain way about us.  I would have liked for it to deal more with what I can do so that I come across the way that I want or how to change someone’s opinion.  But, it didn’t quite get there.  That is the reason why I am giving this a 3.5/5.

6. Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson

This is one of those books that you always hear about but may not really know anything about it.  At least that’s how it was in my case.  After I finished my last book I asked my husband for a recommendation for my next book.  He suggested this one.  I didn’t know that it was the shortest book ever!  In fact, after I finished reading it in about an hour I felt slightly cheated out of my $12.

I did enjoy this book and it gave me more perspective about dealing with change–something that is inevitable.  But, I’m not so sure that it is an “amazing” way to deal with it– just a different perspective.  I think that this is one of those books that your mind processes in the background and effects choices and decisions that you make without you even knowing it.

My rating for this book is a 3 out of 5.  I would say read it, but check it out of the library or borrow it from a friend– it’s not worth $12 IMHO.

MAY 2015

5. Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Everyday. . . no matter what by Angela Watson

After receiving my course evaluations for the past semester (some good, some not good/hurtful) I decided that I wanted to focus on becoming a better teacher.  So, this book was a choice made to facilitate that.  I enjoyed this book, but I did find that not everything that author talked about or recommend applied to my situation.  Don’t get me wrong– I know that not everything applies to everyone and there may be something in there that you can apply or adapt to your own situation.  I would recommend this book to those who teach K-12 because it has a lot of information that is helpful for that environment.

I did like the latter half of the book and find more in it than the first, but that’s just me.  I found the book to be somewhat inspiring and help me to think about things in a new way.  But, the best part is that the author has a website where you can find a lot of items that she mentions in the book.  I find that resource quite helpful.  I would rate this book a 4 out of 5 stars– but if only if you are a teacher.  Otherwise, it won’t have much in it for you!

4. Somewhere in France: A Novel of The Great War by Jennifer Robson

I think that this novel may have been recommended to me by Amazon after I finished The American Lady.  I have been reading a lot of books that are historical fiction.  I guess I like them, lol.  I liked this book and was excited to read it.  I did read through it rather quickly, but I must admit that I didn’t get as caught up in the love story as I think I was supposed to.  Also, when I was just about finished with the book there was a note that the central characters story continued in a second book and then there were a few more chapters with a secondary character.  I thought that was a bit odd.  I thought about buying the next book, but I’m not so sure that I loved this book that much, you know what I mean?

If you like historical fiction and you are looking for something that is a quick read I would recommend this book.  Even though it is about war, this does seem like a good book to read at the pool.  3/5 stars

APRIL 2015

3. The American Lady by Petra Durst-Benning

This book is part of a trilogy.  I didn’t know this when I purchased it for my Kindle.  This is the 2nd book in the trilogy.  The first book is title, The Glassblower and the last book in the trilogy is titled The Paradise of Glass and scheduled for release in September 2015.  I would certainly read the 3rd book.  This was a good book.  You start out following one character and then when her aunt, Marie, arrives you start to follow her.  By the last third of the book you are following the original character again.

Because I’ve read the 2nd book I don’t feel inclined to go back and read the first book, but I would recommend that you start at the beginning.  I think that this book had enough story and plot to stand on its own and not feel like I am missing something by starting in the middle.  In this book we meet Wanda, the daughter of one of the 3 Steinmann sisters.  This book tells the tale of how Wanda and Marie’s paths meet and the parallelism that can be drawn.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I would say this is a 3.75/5 stars.

MARCH 2015

2. A Perilous Proposal by Michael Phillips

Oh boy.  I must say that this book is not at all what I was expecting.  I would not recommend this book to a friend, or to you.  I am sorry to have to say this because it feels like I am being mean, but the writing was extremely elementary.  There was an over-abundance of exclamation points.  Also, the writer chose to write in dialect and I found it irritating and difficult to read.

The plot itself is not bad.  But, the writing was pretty terrible.  I do not feel inclined to read the next book in the series.  I rate this book 2 out of 5 stars.  Save your time– read something, anything else.

JANUARY 2015

1. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris

With a title that long, you expect the book to be absolutely phenomenal.  But, it wasn’t.  That’s not to say that it was bad.  I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style of Harris and the way that he described certain situations.  But, I thought that the book was going to be a bit more about how I could become 10% happier and it wasn’t.  It really was just the story of his journey to finding what worked for him.  I think that instead of a self-help book, this should be re-categorized as an autobiography— I think that would be more fitting.

Having said that, reading about Harris’ journey has pushed me towards learning more about meditation and Buddhism, but that’s about it.  I didn’t find the key to happiness or enlightenment in this book.  But, I didn’t really expect to, y’know?  I give this book 3/5 stars.

DECEMBER 2014
12. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
I’m reading a biography on Teddy Roosevelt but it’s been a struggle to get through. I don’t know if it’s because of the writing, subject matter, or the fact that it’s over 700 pages! Sadly, I was running out of time to make my goal of 12 books for the year, so I put that book on hold and went with one that I knew I could devour very quickly.

I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn a while ago and decided to go ahead and give another one of her books a read. I am glad that I did! There is something about the way that she writes that just propels you forward and keeps you engaged and wanting to know what comes next. . . and next. . . and next! Also, I found out that this story is also being made into a movie and is going to be released in 2015. Whoo hoo.

This was a very quick and enjoyable read and I give this book 4/5 stars and would recommend it to a friend, or to YOU!

SEPTEMBER 2014
11. The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Some time ago, I stumbled upon the first novel by Tessaro, Elegance. It was a wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed. This pushed me to read her 2nd novel, The Debutante. If I remember correctly, the 2nd novel was a lot like the first, but I didn’t care because I loved it. Then, I read her third novel. I liked that one, too. Many times when I would go to the bookstore I would look to see if she had anything new out, but to no avail. And then I guess that I didn’t look for a while because one got by me! Her latest novel, The Perfume Collector, was published in May 2013. Nevertheless, when I was looking for a new book to read I searched her name and found it!

I liked this book, ALOT. It is a fast and easy read with interesting characters. She uses two time periods and switches back and forth between them to move the story forward. The main character in this book reminds me of one of the characters in her first novel, but it’s a reoccurring character in life, so why shouldn’t it be in a novel, too?! I started this book early in the week, read a chapter or two before bed and then a few nights later I stayed up until 3 a.m. to finish the book! I live for the type of book that draws me in so deeply that I can’t put it don’t! And, I didn’t want to.

This is not the world’s greatest book, and for those that are not already lover’s of the author they may have a lot more criticism than I do, but I am giving this book a 4.5/5 stars!

AUGUST 2014
10. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
I read this book on the advice of blogger Marion at Marionberry Style. According to her, it was a life-changing book that she has read more than once. I liked this book, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was life-changing for me. Throughout the book, Olson is talking about what the slight edge is and how most of us have it working against us in our lives. He gives a few stories to illustrate the concept, but these stories seem like Aesop’s fables. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for him to tell me what specific things that I should do to make the slight edge work for me, but he never really did. In the last chapter I think that he leaves some empty space for you to write specific goals and things that you could work on. But, since I read this on my Kindle Fire I wasn’t able to participate in that way.

I buy into some of what he was saying, and I can see how saving a penny a day for 100 days is better than trying to save 50 pennies in one day, but I didn’t really take as much from the book as I wanted to.

I also feel as if it is a lot like Al-Anon. When I first started reading Al-Anon literature, it all just seemed to go around in a circle and not really tell you concretely what to do, but instead it just gave you a bunch of slogans or mantra’s to repeat. Somewhere along the line, those mantra’s became a sort of saving grace. I think that this book is a lot like that. Right now its concepts are big and fuzzy and hard to grasp, but I think that over time I may be able to hone in on it and apply it more.

The writing of this book is very simple and easy to follow. It was a quick read, but I stretched it out and just read a little each night. I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. I do recommend reading it.

JULY 2014
9. Innocent in Las Vegas: A Humorous Tiffany Black Mystery by A.R. Winters
Sometimes, you just want a lighthearted book that you can zoom through. It is sort of like the equivalent to watching a comedy show on t.v.—something like Seinfeld, Friends, or The Office. I also wanted to read a whodunnit type of book. This led me to selecting this book on my Kindle. And, because it was quite cheap!

Basically, an ex-stripper is the suspected murderer of her rich casino owning husband. Claiming to be wrongfully accused, the potential gold-digger hires an old friend to investigate the case and prove her innocence. Tiffany Black is a little over her head with her first case as a P.I., but she stays in it for the cupcakes and to prove to herself that she has the mettle.

The plot was exactly what I wanted it to be— a light, quick read that I could come in and out of without feeling like I had missed an important detail. The writing wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t bad either. It’s not the type of writing that makes a classic or will be remembered for years to come. There are no quotable passages, but I don’t think there has to be! This was exactly what I thought it would be— a quick, enjoyable read. I would consider reading the next book in the series, but I wouldn’t go to any great lengths to seek it out. This book is a 4/5 stars in my opinion.

8. The New Yorkers: A Novel by Cathleen Schine
Sometimes, when I pick a new book to read I don’t do much research. If I go to the bookstore, I usually browse the tables or racks and look for a cover that catches my eye. Many times I will read the synopsis about the book, but that’s about it! Sometimes, I’ve seen a book was on the bestsellers list or it was recommended by a friend/magazine/pinterest list and I will search it out.

If I’m picking a book to download on the Kindle, I might look at the list of what’s recommend to me, or new, or discounted, or whatever. There really is no formula, rhyme or reason. This could be why I never put two and two together that the author of Paper Towns, John Green, was one in the same as the youtube series that I watched and the author of The Fault in Our Stars. Annnnnnd, I’m going to go ahead and also say that it’s why I didn’t realize that I’ve read 2 books by Cathleen Schine before. Long ago, I read The Love Letter and absolutely adored that book. By the end, I practically had that letter memorized. It’s also where I first remember encountering the word “banal.” Last August, I read Fin & Lady and fell in love with the characters and writing. I digress.

The New Yorkers is a book that focuses on the owners of several dogs and how their lives become intertwined mostly because of their dogs. Some people form friendships, some form enemies, some take on lovers, etc. It was a very fast read. In fact, one morning I was reading it and didn’t realize that I finished it until I did so. My BF kept asking me how I liked my new book and I kept shrugging my shoulders. I’m sad to say it, but that’s how I felt throughout the entire book. It never really swept me off my feet and romanced me like I wished it would have. Maybe I shouldn’t have read a book about pets so close to my cat having to be put down, but it doesn’t matter now.

It wasn’t a bad book, it wasn’t a good book. It’s an easy and quick read–maybe something to take along on vacation to read on the plane and at the beach. I would give this book 2.5/5 stars. I wouldn’t read it again and I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend. (I would suggest The Love Letter or Fin & Lady, which I ranked 4.5/5)

JUNE 2014
7. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
When my BF found out that the Kindle has immersion reading, he asked if we could have it read Treasure Island to us. I agreed since it was an easy way to share my love of reading with my BF. I am a very fast reader and can fly through books. I also happen to enjoy reading, very much. But, it is a solitary activity and that can be difficult. So, this seemed like a great compromise. Many nights before bed we would turn on the Kindle and have the professional narrator read to us. We would do a chapter or two, depending on what time it was when we got started. One thing that I liked is that the narrator did different voices for each character. But, one thing that I didn’t like was how slowly the narrator read through the story. In some instances, it was almost painful for me to listen.

As for the story, there were quite a few words and descriptions that I was not familiar with and it made some of the story pretty boring. But, I did enjoy how the author painted a picture of the pirates. Although he spent a great deal of time describing the island and how it was laid out, I couldn’t quite see it in my head. It was a good little story—I had never read it before and can certainly see its influence on adventure stories and our conception of pirates and buccaneers. I’m not sure if I will use the immersion reading on future books, but I could definitely see us picking another book to have read to us. I give this book a 3.5/5 stars.

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I read Paper Towns by Green a few months ago and it caught me by surprise. It’s a book that gave me “lots of feels” as they say. In fact, one of the reason why I loved it so much was that I couldn’t put it down! I stayed up way later than I should have one night finishing it.

This book, The Fault in Our Stars, was close, but not exact. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t meet the expectations of his previous book. Because it has been made into a movie that was released last week there has been a lot of buzz about the book and the plot. Most of the plot surrounds a book that the two main characters share and bonds them together. I have known the power of books and how sharing a book with someone can often tell them more about you than you could ever say, but I found that this idea for a plot device left me wanting sometimes.

I think that I wanted to like it more than I did. But, it’s still well-written and I’m glad that I read it. 3/75/5 stars

MAY 2014
5. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I saw this book at Barnes and Noble a few months back and almost bought it. But, for some reason I didn’t. But, after finishing my last book I decided to go ahead and download this one onto the Kindle. This book was very long and I undertook the challenge with vigor. The book started out with a lot of action and sucked me in from the get-go. There are many characters that I liked and it compelled me to keep reading to find out what happens with those characters. But, at the end of 700 pages I felt let down and disappointed. After investing that much time into the lives of the characters and the book itself, I had expected to walk away with some great new found knowledge. Some sort of great perspective on life. But, I didn’t. At the end of the book I was left feeling empty and sort of cheated. It’s not that I didn’t like the book, I just don’t see what everyone else see’s. Maybe I expected too much from a Pulitzer-Prize winning book? Or, maybe I don’t truly understand what I read/experienced. I’m not really sure. My thoughts about this book seem incomplete and slightly incoherent. I’m almost hesitant to rate it with stars because I feel like I am wrong. Like, one day I will be in the shower or picking out a cantaloupe, thumping it to see if it’s ripe, and it will all fall in to place and make perfect sense. Tentatively, I give this book 3.5/5 stars—it did keep me engaged for all 775 pages, so that’s something.

APRIL 2014
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This is one of those books that I some how managed to not have assigned to me during high school or college.  I didn’t know that it was as small of a book as it is until I saw it in Barnes and Noble.  I thought about buying it, but it was $12 and I had a feeling that I either knew someone that had it, or could buy it cheaper on my Kindle.  And I did.  I bought it on the Kindle for $6.  After I downloaded it and finished reading it my BF mentioned to me that he owned it!  But, who knows if he knows where it is at.

The book is just over 100 pages and I read it from start to finish on Sunday evening.  I had no idea that the plot was as simple and yet as complex that it is!  It follows to main characters from one job to another.  The relationship between these two characters unfolds mostly in the dialogue between them and the reader quickly comes to realize that something is not right with Lennie.

The story that unfolds is one of heartbreaking friendship.  I would like to disclose more, but I fear that I would ruin the plot.  In any event, this book is a 3.75/4 from me!

MARCH 2014
3. Paper Towns by John Green
I downloaded this book on my Kindle and read it over Spring Break.  It was one of those books that I zoomed through really quickly.  One night after my BF went to bed I stayed up reading.  Somewhere around the middle the book gained a ton of momentum and I just couldn’t put it down!  I had to keep reading and find out how the plot ended.  I love when books make me act this way!  This was such a good book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I can’t wait to read more by this author.  This book is a 4/5 stars!

FEBRUARY 2014
2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I don’t know what it is about re-reading books, but so far this year that has been a bit of a theme.  I saw this book on one of my little shelving units while rearranging things one day and decided that since I already owned it, it would be a good book to re-read.  The only things that I remembered about the book was that when I read it in high school, about 15 years ago, I hated it.  I couldn’t tell you why, though.  And, I remember the project that I did in regards to the book, but not how it related to the plot.

It was a quick read and I was instantly drawn into the story.  There were a few times when I hadn’t had a chance to read and I was upset and grumpy because I wanted to know what was going to happen.  When I finished the book, I still had a bitter taste in my mouth, but I didn’t hate it with the same vengeance that I remember hating it in high school.  I think that I understand the book differently than I was able to when I was 15.  But, as a reader I still felt shortchanged with the ending.  The author spends a lot of time letting you get to know the main character and the daily details of her life.  And then, after a lot of pages and a long time the book comes to an abrupt end.  It seems as if most of the action takes place “off stage” so to speak because it isn’t talked about or described in the book.

So, you spend all this time with the narrator/main character and then the really big piece of action takes place between the lines and you just get to sort of fill in the blanks.  Having said that, I still think that the book gets you thinking about politics and adds some great dialogue to an otherwise uninteresting subject, IMHO.  I would rate this book 4/5 stars for the quality of writing, story telling, and general comments that it makes on society and politics.

JANUARY 2014
1. Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis
This is a book that was given to me a long time ago by a very influential teacher of mine. I read a good portion of it then, but I don’t recall ever finishing the book. I decided that this would be a good first book for this year. Since it had been so long since I read it, I didn’t remember much (if any) of the plot. This was both good and bad.

This book uses reverse chronology to tell the story. It’s a little confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it gets easier. Some things are backwards, but other things are not. I didn’t really love the story or “get” what it was trying to say. I think that it is a neat concept, but I didn’t really feel very moved by the novel.

Based on my apathy towards the book, I would rate it at 3 stars. It’s a neat concept to tell a story backwards, but other than that it didn’t really touch me.

I DID IT!  13 Books in a Year
December 2013
13. So Big by Edna Ferber
I downloaded this book on the Kindle Fire because it came up in my recommendations and was only $2. Truth be told, I knew that it was the kind of book that I could read easily and quickly. I couldn’t bare the thought of not making my goal! And I was right. The first night that I started reading the book before bed I read half of it. I would say that it was 60% because I liked the book and 40% because I couldn’t sleep. But, it wasn’t long before I finished the book.

I enjoyed the characters, especially the main character Selina. Once the book stopped following her story thread and started following other characters I didn’t love it as much. At the end of the book I was left feeling a little cheated–nothing big seemed to happen. Dirk had a big revelations, which may be the point, but I wanted something more to come of it. But, for it’s character portrayals and vivid descriptions I give this book 4/5 stars. I would recommend it and I would read something else from this author, for sure!

12. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I downloaded this book to the Kindle Fire thinking that it was a different book. I set out to re-read one of my favorite Steinbeck novels, East of Eden, but incorrectly thought that it was The Grapes of Wrath. It wasn’t until I was about half way through the book and I couldn’t recall any of the plot that I was reading that I realized my mistake. But, it was a sort of happy accident–this meant that I was experiencing an entirely new book by this author.

I feel very neutral towards the book. I thought that the plot moved along kind of slowly. And then, all of the action happened in a very short span of pages. I also thought that it ended very abruptly. But, I did like how every other chapter was different–one chapter to describe the scenery and the time period, the next chapter to advance the plot of the book. You could have a very different book if you read all the odd chapters as one and all the even chapters as another.

I am glad that I read this book, but it didn’t have nearly the effect that East of Eden had on me. Also, it took me a very long time to get through this novel—I just wasn’t excited to read it. For those reasons, I would give this book a 3.5/5

August 2013
11. Fin & Lady: A Novel by Cathleen Schine
I was searching for a new book to read on my Kindle Fire while on vacation and this novel caught my eye.  It sounded interesting enough, but the real hook for me was that the synopsis mentioned something about New York.  If you didn’t know, I have a sort of love affair with New York.  If you look over the list of books that I’ve read this year, many of them have a connection to New York.  So, if you tell me it’s about New York I’m sure to consider reading it!

This book started out a little slow.  I read the first few pages in the airport while waiting for my plane to board.  I had no real opinion on the book at first.  It wasn’t the type of thing that I couldn’t put down– in fact, I didn’t do any reading during vacation or on the plane ride home.  It was mostly because of my resolution to read a book a month that I picked it back up.

WOW!  I am glad that I didn’t let this one slip through my fingers.  Somewhere around the middle of the book, I really started to get into it.  The story started to take shape and one of the main characters, Lady, began to take on this indescribable je ne sais quoi.  She was almost like an enigma— only made real through the descriptions of Fin.  If I could compare her to anyone or anything it might be Daisy from The Great Gatsby— there is something eerily similar in the way that Jay Gatsby idolizes Daisy and how Fin relays Lady to the reader.  And then there is the ending– what an ending.

You think that you are learning the story through Fin’s eyes, but you quickly come to realize that it’s through his recollections.  Fin is not the narrator, but the narrator doesn’t reveal themself until the end in a very dramatic way.  The ending of this book was very powerful and emotional– one of the things that I seek from a book.  When the story moves me and makes me feel I have a sense of fulfillment.  Therefore, I would recommend this coming of age story to just about anyone, and I would give it 4.5/5 stars.

July 2013
10. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarity
This is the second book that I have read on the Kindle Fire. Part of me likes the fact that after I’ve read the book I don’t have this tangible object to deal with (my bookshelves are crammed full), but, the other part of me misses the physicality of reading. To me, there is almost nothing more thrilling than turning that page that puts you over the halfway mark. That’s something that you just don’t get with the Kindle. But, let’s talk about the book!

This book follows a woman who chaperones Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922. The five weeks that they spend together change both of their lives forever. I thought that this was a great story. It is about New York, one of my all time favorite places, and set mostly in the 1920’s—the same time period of The Great Gatsby. I loved the historical pieces in the book; a comment on the social times. But, I have to admit that this story started off a bit slow. I wasn’t all that interested in reading it. And then, one night, BAM! there was an explosive development in the narrative and I nearly couldn’t put the book down. I think it took me half the time to read the second half as it did the first. The book propelled to a satisfying ending.

My one criticism is that the book didn’t really move me. I wanted to feel more emotion for the chaperone, Cora Carlisle, but it just wasn’t there. I would still give this book a 4 out of 5 stars though for the strength of its narrative, the conjuring of time and place, and the wonderful twist in the middle.

June 2013
9. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
This is the 4th book that I have read by Sedaris, the others being Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I have even had the luxury of attending one of his book readings/signings. I was introduced to him by my eleventh grade English teacher. He used to read us the pg-13 parts of Naked during class. This is also the first book that I have read on the Kindle Fire. My dad knows how much I love to read books and he has indefinitely loaned me his Kindle to fuel my passion. I’m not sure how I feel about reading on the Kindle yet, though.

This book is a collection of short stories and essays from Sedaris’ life. Although, some of the essays are written from the point of view of an unknown author. Many of the essays had me laughing out loud, while others I sort of just read through. I am always delighted by how he takes a seemingly ordinary situation and imparts it with comedic value. He makes it look so easy that I often think that I could do it— and what person doesn’t have some great gems of childhood stories that highlights the dysfunctional parts of their family? This was a quick read, but sadly there weren’t very many memorable stories or descriptions. I’ve enjoyed some of his other books more. I would give this book 2.5/5 stars not because there was anything fundamentally wrong with the book, it just didn’t move me.

8. Paris in Love by Eloisa James
This is the third, and final, book from my Target book-buying excursion back in May. It is not a novel, but a memoir. This book is structured very differently from other books. Instead of having one long narrative of novel length, or short stories that resemble chapters, this book had “twitter-style” notations. I say “twitter-style” and in quotes because they were all longer than 140 characters. But, they weren’t quite long enough to be called a journal entry. These updates were between a sentence and a paragraph. But, then every once in a while there would be a story or a memory shared that was several pages long.

The memoir chronicled one year of the author’s life as she took a sabbatical from her job and moved her family to Paris. Her descriptions of the city are the kind of thing you might expect someone to write on the back of a postcard. I don’t think that this book is bad or good, but that it just is. There were moments that made me laugh, made me cry, and made me think. And that is enough for me from a book. I would give this book 3.5/5 stars. (It just depends on what you are looking for.)

May 2013
7. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
This was one of the 3 books that I purchased at Target earlier in the month. I think that I saw it on someone’s “Summer Reading List.” The book starts out in 1962 when an Italian innkeeper has an American woman arrive at his hotel. It turns out that she is an actress doing work on the film Cleopatra. The story jumps around through different decades and follows the paths of different characters. After learning about the lives of so many people I wanted, desperately, to see how all these people came together. After 300 pages of back story and development, the entire action of the book was summed up in one page.

It was like after you watch a t.v. show or a movie where you’ve been following someone around and seeing their every move every minute of the day, and then there’s a sentence or two the sums up what they’ve been doing for some amazing amount of time— 2 or 3 years.

I liked the book well enough, but it left me feeling unfulfilled and almost feeling duped that I had invested so much time into these people’s lives not to have some big revelation on the final page. I would give it 3/5 stars.

6. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I picked this book up at Target because it caught me at just the right time. A few weeks ago, I had been dealing with the author’s central question of the book: Although I am not unhappy, I wonder if I could be happier? I see other people who genuinely seem happy and I envy them because they emanate happiness. I usually find myself emanating sarcasm or anger. This is not something that makes me happy. (Mostly, I worry about how other people perceive me.) So when I stumbled across this book at the store I knew I had to buy it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Maybe because I saw so much of myself in the pages of this novel. The author feels as if she is not tapping into her true happiness potential. This spurs her on a voyage of research into anything and everything happiness related. Once she has defined a plan, she sets out on a one-year project to be happier. Each month is devoted to a certain area of her life that she feels she could improve upon and bring more happiness. Within each topic area, Rubin defines three to five resolutions for bringing about more happiness. She then describes to the reader what the literature says, both scholarly and popular, how she applies those theories to her life, and her successes and failures. She tracks her progress on a Resolutions Chart. But, it is an ongoing process. After the month is over she doesn’t chuck those resolutions out the window, rather she adds the next months resolutions onto her growing list.

While I think that some of the things that she undertakes seem time-consuming and unrealistic, many of her idea’s seem relatable and do-able. I think that part of the reason why she is able to devote so much time towards her resolutions of a happiness project is partly because writing is her job and she wrote a book and a blog about her happiness project. Regardless, she gave me lots of idea’s for my resolutions, evidence that self-improvement is a worthy goal, and a plan to help maximize my happiness potential.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars! I also purchased two other books while at Target. I’m not sure which one I am going to read next, so keep your eyes peeled for the next update. And for those of you counting, this makes book number 6 towards my goal of 13!

APRIL 2013
5. The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates
I chose this novel because I read many short stories by Oates in high school and college. I also read one of her earlier novels, Blonde, about Marilyn Monroe. So, when I was at the book store meandering around and looking for a book to read I came across her section. The Falls seemed interesting enough, it is by a well-known author that I’ve enjoyed previously, and it was about $15.

The book started and ended in two very different places. That’s not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, just an observation. Although, I will say that the story arcs that it followed in the beginning were more interesting to me than the ones at the end. It felt, to me, that somewhere in the middle the story lost steam.

The book seems to end because there are simply no more pages, but not because the story has ended. In fact, I don’t think that there is really anything that notable that happens in the 80 pages or so. I enjoyed reading about the central character at the start, Ariah, and her 2nd husband Dick Burnaby. But, I didn’t much care for their children’s tales. Royall’s, maybe. But certainly not Chandler’s and not Juliett’s.

I did like this book, it’s just that I enjoyed the first half more than the second half. I would rate this book 3.5/5 stars. I’m ready to start another book. Does anyone feel strongly about anything in particular? I’m always open to suggestions!

MARCH 2013
4. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
This novel is about Tess, an aspiring seamstress, who is hired as a personal maid to Lady Duff Gordon moments before they are set to depart on the Titanic. Tess survives the sinking of the ship, as does her employer, and two men who she met on the ship. Once in New York, life is very different from she could have imagined.

I really liked this book. I purchased it to take with me on vacation to the Outer Banks. I began reading it the second night that we were there and finished it the other day. I have to admit that I was obsessed with the movie,Titanic, that came out in 1997. I was one of those people who saw it several times in the theater! But, it wasn’t just the movie. I became obsessed with the actual ship and the whole tragedy. I would spend countless hours on the internet researching actual passengers that were on the ship and their fate. I even made my parents take me to the Titanic Exhibit in St. Petersburg, Florida on one of our many family vacations. I also went to a Titanic Exhibit at the Cleveland Great Lakes Science Center.

So, I think that this book sort of re-kindled all of those memories of my 15-year-old self. It is one of those books that takes a few kernels of truth and then the author takes her creative license and weaves a magical tale around them. The work of the author is so skillful that after you’ve finished the book you’re left wondering what was truth and what was fiction. I have read other books like this–Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates and practically everything by Toni Morrison, and I always really love them.

This was a fast, easy read that I really enjoyed for the lighthearted romanticism and a reminder of my teenage years, and a glimpse into 1912 life. If you liked Titanic the movie I would recommend this book. If you like against-all-odd’s heroines, I would recommend this book. If you want a fast, easy read I would recommend this book. 3.75/5 stars

FEBRUARY 2013
3. The Art and Science of Teaching by Robert J. Marzano
This is a book about teaching that aims to bridge the research and real world scenario’s. I have read this book before, but I thought that it would be beneficial to re-read it again now that my perspective has changed on teaching. I have only re-read the first chapter and I’m not sure that I am going to re-read the entire thing again. I may not even officially count it towards my goal of 13.

I went to Barnes & Noble and browsed for my next book. I found two or three that I was interested in but one was a hard copy and upwards of $25. The other one was around $20, but I wasn’t entirely sure about it. If you didn’t know, books are expensive and I try to get them for around $15. If I wasn’t so bad at returning books on time I would borrow them from the library. . . .

JANUARY 2013
2. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
I randomly selected this book off of a table at my local bookstore. I liked the cover art and it is a “New York Times Bestseller.” This book is indeed a novel and it is all about New York. I loved this book. It is beautifully written and I finished it quite quickly. It made me want to start writing short stories again. It reminds me a little of Toni Morrison and a little of Kathleen Tessaro’s characters in The Flirt. I am in awe of the beautiful writing of this book and would recommend it to anyone that asked. 4.75/5 stars

1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My BF picked out this book from a table near the front doors at our local Barnes & Noble. I thought that it looked interesting enough and it boasts “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize” on the front cover. I thought that this was a novel, but after reading most of it I realized that it is actually a collection of short stories. I liked the book very much and finished it without any problems. I think that Olive Kitteridge could become one of those enigmatic characters in books that people discuss and dissect for years to come. I am happy to have read this book. 4/5 stars