Tuesday, January 1, 2019

19 Books in 2019

It's still here.  My blog, I mean.  I haven't been here in so long myself, I wasn't sure.

For 5 years, starting in 2014, I've hosted a FB group for people to post/review books they read throughout the year. You can read the original post here.  My goal has always been to at least hit the number of the last two digits of the year.  Last year was the only year I haven't made it so far.  I'm proud to say I not only made it to 18 this year, I surpassed it by 11 books.

So let's get to it.  Here is my list from 2018.

1. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
2. Iced by Robert Grindy
3. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk  by Kathleen Rooney
4. Artemis by Andy Weir
5. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang
6. In the Woods by Tana French
7. The Likeness by Tana French
8. The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
9. Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
10. Tangerine by Christine Mangan
11. A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
12. One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard
13. Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams
14. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
15. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
16. The Outsider by Stephen King
17. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
18. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
19. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
20. On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman
21. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
22. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
23. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
24. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
25. Crazy, Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
26. There There by Tommy Orange
27. Tribe by Sebastian Junger
28. Elevation by Stephen King
29. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

29 for the year, 27 fiction, 2 nonfiction

9 Recurring Authors: Andy Weir, Melanie Benjamin, Sue Grafton, Beatriz Williams, Ruth Ware, Stephen King, Kristin Hannah, Elinor Lipman, Robert Galbraith

21 Never Read Before Authors (yes, I did the math - two authors for Guernsey): Laurie Frankel, Robert Grindy, Kathleen Rooney, Ruth Emmie Lang, Tana French, Mira T. Lee, Christine Mangan, Chris Ballard, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows, Chloe Benjamin, A.J. Finn, Shari Lapena, Maria Semple, Megan Abbott, Kevin Kwan, Tommy Orange, and Sebastian Junger

Books with Movie or T.V. Tie-Ins (At Least That I'm Aware Of ) : The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (Bravo, Netflix!  Well done!) and Where'd You Go Bernadette?

And now for the best part...the made-up awards!  There are some repeat awards and naturally, some new ones included this year.

 First up: the new awards:

The "First Time I Ever Counted a Previously Read Book On My List" Award goes to... Sue Grafton.
If you read my post from last year, you'll see my explanation about how Grafton's death affected my dismal total last year.  I had to go back to where it all started to get some closure.

The "Welcome Back (It's About Damn Time)" Award...Lethal White
The wait felt like forever.

The "This Writer's Still Got It" Award... Stephen King
Honestly, what other writer do you know who can span decades and still keep you captivated whether it's a 1000 plus page tome (The Outsider) or a quickie (Elevation)?  Not many.

The "I Could Hear the Soundtrack Playing and It Sounded Like a Hitchcock Movie" Award goes to...Tangerine

The "Blew Me Away Debut" goes to...Tommy Orange
There There put him on the map.  Can't wait to see where his career goes.

Now for some repeat awards...

And the "I've Read Everything This Author Has Written" Award goes again to...Melanie Benjamin, but also Elinor Lipman, Sue Grafton, and Tommy Orange too, I guess

"Best New Author Find" goes to... Tommy Orange.  He's a multiple award winner this year.  What do you know?

The "Made Me Cry" Award...One Shot at Forever
Sometimes nonfiction has a way of doing that because you know it's true.

The "Page Turner" Award...The Outsider, Elevation, Lethal White, and On Turpentine Lane

And my favorite, the "Stayed With Me Longest in an Unsettling but Fascinating Way" goes to...There There by, you guessed it, Tommy Orange

There you have it.  Feel free to join us over at 19 Books in 2019 on Facebook.  Hope to see you there.

Monday, September 3, 2018

August Reading Receipt

I'm actually quite impressed with myself as I look back at the number of books I read in August this year.  August is one of my least favorite months (along with April, so cruel) because it is so stressful with going back to school and the heat and going back to school in the heat with no air conditioning...and usually my number of books suffers because of it.

Long story short, I read four books this month, just like I did in June and July.

I picked up a paperback copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple for 50 cents almost a full year ago at our local Friends of the Library sale last Labor Day.  I was between library requests and grabbed it off the shelf it had been sitting on.  Wow.  What was I waiting for?  Loved this.  I really identified with the misanthropic title character and enjoyed her daughter's character so much.  I've got to check out Semple's other stuff now.

Apparently I was still waiting on the library because I read You Will Know Me by Megan Abott next.  I had bought this for Kindle when it was on sale for a couple of bucks quite some time ago.  This was set in the world of competitive gymnastics with the main characters being an Olympic hopeful and her family.  I honestly didn't like any of the main or minor characters in this book except the little brother who was virtually neglected throughout the story due to the parents focus on the gymnast, but the story was a good one in that it moved forward and kept me engaged.

Finally the library did come through for me, but it wasn't the best timing.  I had put in a request for Ruth Ware's newest, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, back in June.  It showed up for me in August the week before I went back to teaching.  I still finished it quickly because it was so riveting.  I've said it before, but every time I read a Ruth Ware book, I like it better than the one before.  This held true for Mrs. Westaway as well.  This one had a premise I could hold onto and a protagonist I empathized with.  So good.

I was surprised to get Crazy Rich Asians from the library so quickly (within a week of the request!) because of the movie coming out and the fact that it has been a huge hit.  It was interesting to look at the whole world of unimaginable wealth, but I felt that the story that it centered on, the romance between everyday Rachel and super rich Nick, had characters that weren't that well-defined.  This was most definitely enjoyable though.  My daughter and I plan to get to the movie ASAP.

Speaking of movies, it seems only appropriate to mention in this post that the Netflix original movie The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society premiered in August, and while it wasn't perfect, it was pretty damn good and wonderfully cast.  Two thumbs up to this adaptation!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

July Reading Receipt

This month is a personal best for 2018 - 5 books read in July!

I was surprised that I got The Great Alone from my library as quickly as I did since I was seeing it everywhere on the internet and Kristin Hannah is pretty popular these days.  Not even 5 days after putting in a request, I got the email saying they were holding it for me.  Yay!  It was very compelling which meant it was read quickly.  The only other book I've read by Hannah is The Nightingale.  At first I was thinking how different these two books are (Nightingale set in France during WWII, Alone in Alaska in the 70's), but realized a day or two after finishing the second, they also had a lot in common - the effects of war on families, what people will do to survive).  I intend to read more of Hannah's books (I even have one I bought for 50 cents over a year ago at our library's annual sale), but for now I can wholeheartedly recommend what I have read from her so far. (Somehow I forgot to take a pic of The Great Alone, maybe because it was a new release and had to be back at the library so fast. So here's a 4th of July picture I love that was taken during the week I was reading it.  Ha!)

I also got The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin from the library quickly.  Four siblings go to a mysterious woman they hear about who can tell you the day you will die.  As you might guess, most of them are not happy with what they hear.  Parts of this really worked for me, especially the youngest who dies at the youngest age and the oldest who lives the longest, and I really liked the exploration of the idea of whether or not knowing how long you have to live changes the way you live.  The story line of the two middle siblings dragged a bit for me, and I never felt the fortune teller piece of the story got developed enough or resolved.

As I've mentioned many times, I do Book of the Month Club (BOTM).  Sometimes a selection will appeal to me enough to order (I like that you can skip months with no obligation), but I don't have time to read them when they arrive.  The Woman in the Window was a BOTM selection I didn't order, probably because many people were likening it to Hitchcock's Rear Window, which is my favorite Hitchcock movie, hands down.  I thought it might be a cheesy, unoriginal knockoff.  But I kept seeing people whose opinions I respect write that they loved it, so onto my library request list it went.  I wish I hadn't let the comparisons to Rear Window deter me because I really enjoyed this as a suspense/thriller.  It was fast-paced and had a number of good twists that didn't feel like they were  thrown in there to conveniently resolve the story.

Somehow I missed that Elinor Lipman released a new book last year.  When I saw someone I follow on FB mention how much she enjoyed On Turpentine Lane, I immediately got online to request it.  It was sitting right there on the shelf, my library request showed me.  I've always felt like Lipman deserves a bigger following than she has as her books always have delightful, real characters who find themselves in believable but somehow unlikely situations.  The woman can WRITE.  Unfortunately, I've read everything of hers now once again and will have to wait for something new.

My last book for July was actually finished on August 1st at 12:55 A.M., but since 99.9% of it was read technically in July, I'm gonna go ahead and count it, mmmmkay?  The Couple Next Door by Shari Lipman was one of those aforementioned BOTM club picks I ordered but didn't have time to read.  Having been pleasantly surprised by The Woman in the Window, I wasn't optimistic that another suspense/thriller was going to work, but it did!  This was a page-turner that kept me reading past when I should have gone to bed.  I didn't love it, but I liked it very much and would recommend to anyone looking for this type of book.

Oh, I also surpassed my 18 books for 2018 this month.  Here's to seeing how many more before the New Year!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

June Reading Receipt

What's this?  I'm actually getting this done in a somewhat timely manner?  That's what happens when you have seven days a week off work instead of two, I guess.

You also have time to read more books.  Four, to be exact.  This month I can recommend three out four with no reservations.

First in June was Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams.  This was the one I was kind of lukewarm about this month.  I had read the very enjoyable Tiny Little Thing by Williams two years ago, so I bought Cocoa Beach when it was on sale for Kindle a ways back.  This dragged for me, and I didn't care for the ending, although I did feel compelled to finish it to see who was lying.

 Another amazing Kindle deal was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  What a treat this book was!  Why don't people write letters anymore?  Never mind, I know why.  But this book made me long for a time when people did.  This story is told entirely (very nearly) through letters.  It is a love story but also a history lesson about the German occupation of Guernsey (which I knew nothing about).  Loved it.  LOVED.  IT.  It's been brought to my attention that this has been turned into a movie for Netflix (to release soon).  My hopes aren't high because I think it would be the perfect fit for a mini-series instead of a movie, but I'll watch it regardless.

Next was The Lying Game by Ruth Ware.  The Woman in Cabin 10 was my BOTM club introduction to Ruth Ware last year.  I liked it, but I read her previous release In a Dark, Dark Wood after Woman and enjoyed it even more.  I also got The Lying Game through BOTM several months back, but I didn't hear much buzz about it and wondered if it would be as good.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be my favorite of Ware's so far.  I'm on the waiting list at the library to read her latest.

Speaking of library waiting lists, I put Stephen King's The Outsider on my list at the library after it was released and was happy that I didn't even have to wait two weeks to have my turn.  This was Classic King that I slipped into like a pair of perfectly fit jeans.  This is the first time I've read a NEW release by King right when it came out (last year I read 11/22/63) since Doctor Sleep was released.  I've forgotten how much fun that is.  Is it weird that a horror novel is fun?  Never mind, I know the answer to that too.

Monday, June 11, 2018

April/May Reading Receipts

Why, yes, I am behind on this again.  Thanks for noticing.  Here's what I read in April and May, along with a few personal highlights.

In April I read Melanie Benjamin's latest historical fiction, The Girls in the Picture.  I'm not sure if it was a coincidence, but with all the #metoo stories coming out of Hollywood, this story was really timely and interesting.  It focused on the lives of silent movie star, Mary Pickford and her screenwriting bestie, Frances Marion.  There were supporting roles from Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, and Douglas Fairbanks, but what these two women did in their day and age really and how they accomplished it, was extraordinary.  I haven't read a Melanie Benjamin book that I didn't like yet.

My other book for April was Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee.  This story showed how one person's mental illness affected everyone around here, and although this was some heavy subject matter, this book read like a dream.

April was busy. It's one of those months that just about sucks me under every year, it seems.  It started with Easter, took a detour to winter, involved a choir trip for the boy and my husband, and ended with nice weather, a concert dream fulfilled, and hatching chickens.  Looking back, I'm amazed I read two books.

In May, I can often see the light at the end of the tunnel with the school year ending and start to believe I'm going to make it. My first book for the month was Tangerine by Christine Mangan.  This was taut and suspenseful, different from a lot of things I've read this year.

I don't normally count re-reads for my yearly count, but I'm going to this year because it's my party.  And this re-read was significant.  As you know if you're a reader, Sue Grafton passed away this year,  This was a bitter pill to swallow as she was just one letter short of finishing her alphabet mystery series (which I've mentioned several times that I was hoping she would find a way to continue even after the letter Z).  I felt the need to go back to where it all began and re-read A is for Alibi.  And just like always, it was like meeting an old friend for lunch.

Last in May (I finished it on the 31st) was One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard.  I'm usually not a sports reader even though I love baseball and am somewhat knowledgable  about it.  This was an exception as it was a nonfiction account of a high school baseball's team run for the state championship.  Said high school team was from a small town just five minutes south of me.  This really hit me right in the feels, as I felt like I knew these small town farm boys who were very much like the ones I grew up with and it was a great underdog story, the kind of which I am always a sucker for.

May brought with it a wonderful Mother's Day, the boy's 13th (whaaaaat?) birthday, my twin niece and nephew's graduation from high school (again, whaaaat?), lots of dance recital rehearsal hooopty do, the end of my school year, and some strawberries.  All in all, May ended well.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

February/March Reading Receipt

I decided to put these two months together because:
A) I didn't read very much in February and
2) I was too lazy busy to get the post up that month.
Also - the Cubs game for today was cancelled due to the Winter That Didn't Want to End, and so I decided I actually do have time for a post today.

There.  We're done with that.

I'm also going to add a few personal highlights from these months because I feel like I never have time to do that anymore.  I miss it.  If there's going to be no baseball today, I might as well make this post worth it.

In February, I read Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Long.  This has such an ominous, wonderful beginning.  It was really one of the best beginnings I've read in quite some time.  Although I ended up liking this book, I didn't feel like it lived up to that beginning, which honestly would have been hard to do.  It did have what I felt like was a very touching, somewhat unconventional love story to compliment its supernatural vibe.

Just a couple of other highlights from my month of February:

We took our kids and our niece to Comic Con for the first time. They loved it.  The tickets were my daughter's big Christmas present.  Of course, my husband and kids both had the stomach flu a couple of days before the weekend we were supposed to go, so I was afraid we wouldn't make it.  But we did, and I'm so glad.

We had our Valentine's Breakfast the weekend before the 14th, since it is never fun to have a holiday breakfast on a school day when you eat in about 10 minutes.  I've been doing this for years.  I love it.

I also started my first Tana French book in February, In the Woods but finished it in March.  Several people on the internet and IRL recommended French's Dublin Murder Squad series, so when the third one was on super sale for Kindle, I snatched it up.  I didn't feel right about reading the third one first, even though said people told me it didn't matter what order you read them in.  So it sat there, unread, until the first one showed up for super sale on Kindle.  What can I say? I like to read things in order. And even though I've now read two of her books (although still not the third one that I bought first), and I see that it doesn't matter what order you read them in, I'm still glad I read them in order.  All this to get to the point, I really like French's books.  If you're a mystery/suspense fan, you'll be pleased.

I swear I'm really not an OCD type personality (you need only to look at my house to realize this), but I read French's second Dublin Murder Squad book, The Likeness, next.  So yes, I still haven't read the third one which I purchased first.  I did like this book as well.  I felt like the premise was original, but I also felt like it was a tad long.  French does not rush a story along, which I have no problem with, but I found myself a little antsy for some action a few times along the way.

March highlights were:

The girl's 15th birthday fell on the weekend of her first high school musical performance.  The musical was Sister Act, in case you're wondering about her costume.  Wait, did I say 15?  Yeah, 15.  What in the world.

We also had a St. Patrick's Day Breakfast this year. I lucked out that it fell on the weekend this year, plus I had a day off the day before. I've always done this breakfast as well even though I only found out a few years ago that I am, in fact, a quarter Irish.  You can read this post to find out all about how I know how Irish I am.

There's what you need to know for February and March.  Or at the very least,  what I have time to tell you.