Another year, another attempt at reading 25 books! I’m determined to bounce back after a less than stellar reading year in 2014. I’m off to a better start this year than I was this time last year, so here’s hoping I can get ‘er done this time around. I’ve got a to-read list, but can always use more suggestions, so feel free to send them my way. Here’s what I’ve read, with a 1 to 5 star rating, and a little something about each book.
1. Number the Stars – Lois Lowry (4 stars)
My daughter recommended this one, she was assigned it to read in her 6th grade class. It’s a really sweet story about two friends living in Copenhagen during WWII. I loved it, made me feel even better about my Danish heritage.
2. The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival – Carine McCandless (2 stars)
Meh. I really loved Into the Wild, and looked forward to finding out more about the story in this book, written by Chris McCandless’s younger sister Carine. Carine’s main objective with this book seems to be to convince the world what horrible people her parents are (and they do seem to be pretty awful), and also to talk about herself, a lot. It did not provide inside look at the Chris McCandless story that I’d hoped for.
3. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (5 stars)
SO GOOD. This is a suspenseful page turner with absolutely no likable characters. You know its a winner when you still can’t stop reading even though you can’t root for anybody.
4. The Black Dahlia – James Ellroy (3 stars)
Set in one of my favorite time periods, 1940s Los Angeles. You’d never know it was published in 1987, it feels like classic Ross MacDonald type noir, but more gritty and graphic. A little too graphic for my taste, to be honest, but a good read.
5. Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood (5 stars)
She never disappoints. Stone Mattress is a collection of short stories, each one a page turner. The first three stories are connected, the rest are standalone. They’re all at least a little creepy.
6. Leaving Before the Rains Come – Alexandra Fuller (4 stars)
I am weirdly fascinated by Alexandra Fuller, ever since a friend recommended her book Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, which I read in 2013 and loved. Her latest book is the story of her divorce, the reasons for which I simply can’t comprehend. Why one would leave an adventurous husband who clearly loves his wife and works hard to provide a nice life for his family, I have no idea. What I would give for three kids and a financially secure household. But then I didn’t grow up in the chaos of Southern Africa, and it sounds as though she needs some kind of chaos to be happy. Give me calm and security, with a dash of adventure once in a while, any day of the week.
7. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro (3 stars)
This story line of this book was right up my alley. Weird and creepy, but just realistic enough to make you think… this could totally happen. Something about the writing style annoyed me though, a lot of starting a thought or story element and then “but I’ll get back to that later”. It just made me want to skip things. Still a good read.
8. Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage – Molly Wizenberg (4 stars)
Back in 2010 I was browsing in the bookstore near my office and picked up A Homemade Life, a book Wizenberg wrote following the death of her father. It was an impulse buy, based off the pretty cover photo of glassware and a quick read of the jacket. Turned out to be a great decision, and I now gift that book frequently. So when I saw that Wizenberg had followed up on A Homemade Life with a book about opening a restaurant with her husband, of course I had to give it a read, and I wasn’t disappointed. Delancey is witty and engaging, and her inclusion of an occasional recipe will encourage you to get yourself in the kitchen. For an ongoing Wizenberg fix, you can check out her blog, Orangette.
9. Esperanza Rising – Pam Munoz Ryan (4 stars)
I’ve had this one on my list for a while, actually to read with the kid. But she’s been preoccupied with the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series for a long while now so I read it without her. I definitely recommend, its lovely read, with a lot of relevance to California agriculture and immigration. And you can probably read it in two days.
10. Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver (1 star)
This book was recently on a list of top 100 books of the last decade, and I saw that my library had it available without a waiting list for kindle checkout I decided to go for it. I cannot for the life of me figure out why it was on that list. You’ll love it if you like reading about entitled rich kids who drink too much, treat each other (and their parents) horribly, and repeatedly make terrible decisions.
11. Still Alice – Lisa Genova (4 stars)
I haven’t seen the movie, but the book sure both heartbreaking and super interesting. I’ve never given Alzheimer’s Disease much thought, but after reading this it sure scares the bejesus out of me. Genova writes the family dynamics in a way that left me feeling very conflicted about how I would handle being the wife or daughter of someone with Alzheimer’s. I second guessed the family’s behavior constantly, but of course can’t imagine how I would behave in the same situation.
12. Paper Towns – John Green (3 stars)
I picked this one up because the kid wanted to read it, and I wanted to read it first to make sure it wasn’t to questionable for an 11 year old. It was cute, a quick little YA read that I’d say is the best of the John Green bunch.
13. The Drowning Pool – Ross MacDonald (4 stars)
I really can’t get enough of Ross MacDonald. I don’t know if its a fascination with mid-century noir, or because these Lew Archer books have settings in San Diego, Los Angeles, and a fictional Santa Barbara type place, but I love them. Thank goodness my library has all of them available for kindle, I can’t keep one handy at all times.
14. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo (5 stars)
This book could not have come into my life at a better time. I read it just as The Boyfriend, and pseudo-dad to The Kid, of over eight years up and moved out of our house and our life. It was the perfect time to go through the house and purge it of things that don’t bring me joy. Highly recommended if you are going through a personal transition in life, a move, or just want to create a happier space for yourself.
15. The Martian – Andy Weir (5 stars)
A friend of mine recommended this one, said she and her son and liked it a lot and my kid might like it too. So I picked it up, the kid started reading it and was hooked. It wasn’t until I started reading it a couple of weeks later that I saw that the first line of the book contains an f-bomb. Oops! Guess I should have read this one before the kid too! Truth be told, its a fantastic book, and the cursing is completely unoffensive and I didn’t mind that the kid read it at all. I’d be cursing too, if I were in Mark Watney’s shoes, and so would you.
16. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – Leah Remini (3 stars)
So I grew up a stones throw from the Gold Base near Hemet, CA. We never called it the Gold Base, we knew it as Golden Era, the Scientology place, and the rumor was that people were sent there to be punished, like stories of people being forced to walk in circles around a “punishment pole”. It was the place you went to in High School to creep yourself out late at night by driving out there and turning off the headlights and driving around the compound. You can actually drive right through it. Anyway, I digress, Remini talks about the Gold Base, along with all kinds of other Scientology nuttiness in her book. Its a good follow up to the HBO documentary Going Clear, which is also a book (haven’t read it). Recommended if you’re into reading about weird culty religions.
Ok, its December and I’m only on 16 books. The goal of 25 is looking a little lofty at this point…
Curious about what I’ve already read? Click away…
2013 Reading List
2012 Reading List
2011 Reading List
Me and Books: A Reunion (Part 1)
Me and Books: A Reunion (Part 2)