Card Catalog: December 2016

Some time in early December, I noticed that I was only ten books away from my lofty goal of reading 76 books in 2016. (This was arbitrarily set at one more than I read last year. #stretchgoals) The frenetic pace of my reading this month indicates how I got a little obsessed with making it….until right after Christmas, when I stalled out on a non-fiction book. So I topped out at 73 books this year, nine of which were in December. Full year in review coming soon.

The second Outlander book was randomly available from the library, and I finally felt recovered enough from the emotional onslaught of the first one to tackle it. It took me a good couple of weeks, but it was good! It got more complicated than the first one, with some political intrigue going on that I found a bit difficult to follow, but you can sort of skim those bits and not be too fussed about it if you don’t want to be. Over the weekend I bought the first season of the Starz show and binged on that for New Year’s Eve, and I can highly recommend it as well. Only 7 more books to go in the series! (Book 9 is coming.)

Anne Tyler keeps popping up in things I’m hearing, like one caller in to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s podcast who looooves her and has read all her books. I’ve read a couple now and they are not my favs, but they’re often available from the library as e-books, so I gave this one a shot. At first, I found Mason’s obsessiveness very disconcerting, but as it faded into the background a bit I was able to see why some find this story charming.

I decided I wanted some seasonal reading, so here I go with the Nora Roberts again. The best I can say about these is that they were short. Although maybe their being short is why I didn’t think they were her best works.

I feel like I can truly call myself a writer and/or grammar pedant now that I’ve finally read The Elements of Style. This illustrated version had delightful pictures throughout, which only somewhat distracted from how boring it is to read this straight through, rather than as a reference. BUT, now that I know what all is in it, it will be easier to refer to things.

Another seasonal read, but much more enjoyable than the Nora Roberts ones. Even though it was first published in 2000, Winter Solstice seemed to be having a moment this year, at least in the bookish circles I frequent. A good meaty read, it doesn’t beat you over the head with Christmas, but it had its festive appeal.

I bought Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe on sale for Kindle but then saw it was the sequel to Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, which fortuitously was available from the library, so I read that one first, and I’m glad I did. Not that you need a ton of context for a chick-lit type book, but it helped to have seen the character setup firsthand, if you will. Meet Me was more delightful than Christmas but they were fun to read together. I just started reading a JoJo Moyes backlist book, and she thanked Jenny Colgan as a friend in the foreword, so no surprise that I’ve enjoyed Colgan’s books as well!

Nothing says Christmas like a murder mystery, amiright? I traveled back to Three Pines on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for this second Chief Inspector Gamache book. It was not as charming to me as the first one, but I do love that little town. Except the murder rate per capita is through the roof!

Card Catalog: November 2016

November was a busy month! I traveled to San Francisco for work on somewhat short notice, and got to explore the city a little bit this time. Traveling would be better for my reading life if hotels didn’t have cable. This trip I got sucked into My 600 Pound Life on TLC. It actually made me glad not to have cable at home, though, so that won’t happen with any regularity! I also hosted Thanksgiving for the first time with both my parents and my in-laws in attendance, and it was a wonderful few days. I love getting to craft experiences for my guests and also getting to put a lot of my less-frequently used household items into service!

Here are the nine books I read in November.

No offense to Lauren Graham, but I was a bit surprised by how well-written this book was! The plot moved along nicely and the characters were interesting. I wondered how much of the story was at least semi-autobiographical.

Tara Road had been on my library wishlist for awhile, and it was available every time I checked, but it never seemed like what I wanted to read. It was only okay. I think maybe Maeve Binchy is just not my cup of tea, because that’s how I’ve felt about others of her books I’ve read. Apologies to my Irish family-in-law!

This was a sweet YA romance. I always like when books are of their time but not in an obnoxious way, so the text/IM relationship here was a nice touch.

Not my favorite but it had some sweet moments. This is a classic that I’m glad to be able to say I’ve finally read. It slogged for me through the middle but then caught me off-guard when it finally ended. I bought a Kindle set of all three of these books, so we’ll see if I get around the other two ever.

I’ve never quite been able to figure out Pottermore, so I was delighted to see some of Rowling’s stories that she’s written for it available as inexpensive e-books. I read these out of order, OKAY, so sue me. It’s always fun to re-visit the magical world of Harry Potter, not to mention that reading these three shorties helped propel me a LOT closer to my 2016 reading goal.

Card Catalog: October 2016

I read 6 books in October, but I would only really recommend 2 of them, which is unfortunate. But when you read as many books as I do, there are bound to be some duds. I really need to start noting on my Amazon wishlist why I added a given book to it, or where the recommendation came from. Often, when I go to pick out a new book, I can’t remember why I wanted to read some of the ones on there, especially those that have been there for awhile. It might help me make better informed decisions if I wrote a little reminder.

Anyway, here are October’s reads.

4 stars. I enjoyed learning about an aspect of American history that I had never even heard of before, that of sending orphans to the west via train to be adopted. All of the details were fascinating, and the story was sweet. I just bought another book by Christina Baker Kline on sale for my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it!

2 stars. This was my least favorite Liane Moriarty that I’ve read so far. The central conflict simply wasn’t as interesting as the ones in her other novels. What Alice Forgot still stands as my favorite, though I’m waiting on a few more from her backlist to make their way to me from the library. Big Little Lies is premiering on HBO soon, and I’ll be excited to watch it if I can find it streaming somewhere.

October’s book club read, which we never actually got together to discuss, which is too bad, because I would like to know what other people thought. This was an Oprah book club pick and adapted for TV on OWN, but I wasn’t wild about it. It was an interesting premise but just missed the mark for me.

I only gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, but it was my most talked-about book in awhile, so maybe I should bump that up. This one pushed the same buttons for me as The Happiness Project and the like, and I’ve found myself obsessed with the concept of hygge this winter!

My team at work read this and discussed it in a book club setting. It is so many people’s favorite book, but I really didn’t care for it! I wonder if some of the beauty got lost in translation. I found the story rather simplistic and I didn’t fall for any of the characters. HOWEVER, it makes great fodder for conversation, and I liked thinking about what my Personal Legend might be. It’s a pretty quick read, so despite not liking it I’d actually recommend it, if only for the cultural context.

I read this to get into the Halloween spirit and it was pretty “meh.” I gave it a mere one star. I tried to read The Turn of the Screw but couldn’t get into it either. Oh well.

Card Catalog: September 2016

September saw some voracious reading, including a couple of one-dayers, which are always fun. It boggles my mind sometimes that I can read an entire book AND work a full day. Having a ~1 hour each way train commute and pre-planned dinner helps! I will rarely complain about my commute, even though it’s on the longer side, because I get to read.

I actually can’t remember when I read this first book. I got all excited when I noticed that the e-book version was available from my library, but then when I downloaded it to my Kindle, it was 92% read, which meant I had read it before and completely spaced on putting it into Goodreads!

It was pretty good, but I still think What Alice Forgot is my favorite Liane Moriarty book. (Fun fact: I just learned that her name is pronounced “lee-ON.”) My favorite Goodreads comment:

Did others notice that Easter was portrayed as being in the autumn with the leaves falling and soon after school began? I found this very disconcerting and it colored the book for me. Don’t books have editors anymore?

PSA: It takes place in Australia.

This one was fine to read but it didn’t warrant a rating from me on Goodreads, and now I can’t really remember what I thought of it, which isn’t a good sign. I found the main relationship in it disturbing; well, really, I found the man in the relationship troubling. A theme I’m noticing is that I am made uncomfortable by disordered characters in books. The structure of this was interesting.

This book was sexy, y’all. It featured two highly intelligent academics talking very candidly with each other about sex and had some scenes that goldarn made me blush. This was a one-day read. I was taken aback by the sexiness at first because somehow in my head I thought this was YA, but once I got past that I really enjoyed it. And, a second book with these characters comes out on December 27!

I picked this up as a Harry Potter fangirl, but it totally stands in its own right as a mystery. I think Rowling is a great writer. It’s also interesting to read the story behind why she used a pseudonym and then how she handled it when she was outed. I’m not rushing out to read the rest of the Cormoran Strike books, but I enjoyed this first well enough.

This was September’s book club read and none of us liked it. We found it raunchier than we prefer to read (and I say this having read things like 50 Shades of Grey). We didn’t find the main character to be likable–she was selfish but never seemed to realize it. And it felt very despairing–there was no redemption or hope at all. So, womp womp.

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Not what I expected but a good book!

A thing I’ve discovered in my reading life lately is going on author binges. I enjoyed it with Liane Moriarty, so I figured why not check out some of Moyes’ other books, since I of course loved Me Before You. This one was pretty delightful, with a fun storyline that ran through time and heartwarming character connections that fell tidily into place.

I should start making notes of how I came to add books to my reading list, because I’m not sure why this one was in the queue. It was a Christian novel of the ilk I would have loved a few years ago, but I didn’t realize that until I started reading it. It took place in Atlanta and offered an interesting take on the Civil Rights movement era in my city, but I could have done without the cheesy Jesus-y bits.

Oh, and I did this re-read in September! I feel like I can’t call a book a favorite until I’ve read it more than once, but I don’t do a lot of re-reading because, duh, so many books, so little time. But I want to have a shortlist of favorites on the tip of my tongue, so I’m trying to go back to a few from recent memory that stand out to see if they hold up. This one did! I need to figure out how to make Goodreads count this toward my yearly challenge number…I don’t necessarily want to lose the data of when I first read it, but unless I change the “date read” to this year, it won’t count. As a stopgap measure I added it to a “re-read” shelf. If anyone has any thoughts, let me know! #booknerdproblems

And, just for fun, a bookish hot take from yours truly:

Now it’s fall and excited to gear up for the holidays and do some seasonally appropriate reading. :)

Card Catalog: August 2016

It’s September, which feels like time for fall and back to school, even though it was in the 90s today and kids in Georgia went back to school weeks ago. College football starts this weekend and I’m looking forward to a three-day weekend. I made it to the beach this summer, a couple of weeks ago, but I went with some friends and hardly read there at all, surprisingly! I also managed to hold book club again in August after having skipped June and July–whoops!

I heard about this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s podcast, What Should I Read Next?, which is a great and dangerous thing for me to listen to every week. I hear about at least 7 books in each episode, with the caller listing 3 books (s)he loves and 1 (s)he hates, and Anne adding 3 recommendations based on those. However, as book lovers are wont to do, more are often mentioned throughout the show, and the show notes are like a bibliography! Anyway, Anne didn’t say too much about this book because she thought the whole description would make it sound boring and…it kind of was to me? It had some sweet moments, but I wasn’t as blown away by it as I expected to be. It does defy description a bit, though, I’ll give her that.

August’s book club read! (Yes, we read Daring Greatly a couple of years ago, SO WHAT?) I think I am in a much more balanced place emotionally than I was when we read Daring Greatly, which covers more of the “vulnerability” part of Brown’s research, while this one focuses in specifically on shame. While I was reading it I was a little annoyed by the formulaic structure, but then reflecting back I realized that was helpful in making it very actionable. We had a great discussion about some of the guideposts, but I can’t say I had any grand revelations.

Another “boarding school novel,” this time set at a prestigious ballet school. Um, y’all, this book was DARK. It was a bit horrifying to think about ACTUAL teenage girls being like these…but one of the authors used to teach at a ballet school, so you have to think she got the basic idea somewhere. Aside from being appalled at how awful the girls were, to each other and to themselves, I enjoyed this book and am excited to see that a sequel is coming out this month.

When I went to grab this linked image, Amazon told me that this book is ranked #1 in books right now, and I can’t even. I don’t really know what to say about this book, er, script, except to say that it was sort of terrible but you should probably read it if you loved Harry Potter. It does not deserve to be called Harry Potter #8, nor can I fathom spending 200 British pounds on tickets to the play. Buy me a whiskey sour some time and ask me more about it and I will talk your ear off (not that I did that to some friends on night this week or anything).

This book left me like, “Huh, what?” I didn’t get it. It was Southern gothic magical realism chick flick literary fiction? It didn’t work at all for me, none of it. But I finished it.

And that was August! One day into September and I’ve already finished a book for this month, so stay tuned to see what else is on tap.