Friday, December 26, 2014

Next year I'll read less; it will make a shorter blog post.

This year I found a study that stated,  
"As of January 2014, some 76% of American adults ages 18 and older said that they read at least one book in the past year. Almost seven in ten adults (69%) read a book in print in the past 12 months, while 28% read an e-book, and 14% listened to an audiobook." 
You can read more about the numbers of it all here. The numbers were lower than I expected, being a fan of reading myself. Then I wondered, "when was the last time I read a NEW book?" I have a tendency to find one book I like and then read it over and over and over again, rotating through a collection of about a dozen books within the year. How lazy am I? So, with the help of my iPad and Peter's library card from Seattle, I made a goal to read more new books this year. 

I made it to 52. Here's my list. I didn't include books I did not finish, but maybe I should have, because there were several that I tried to read but were not worth it. 

1. My Story - Elizabeth Smart
The memoir of young kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart. The author manages to take something so horrifying and hideous and produce an uplifting story, a task that I did not know was possible. She explains her experiences with eloquence, but it is for sure a harrowing tale; I found myself needing to skip to the end, when Smart was recovered, before going back to read it through again. 

2. Looking For Alaska - John Green
You know those books where the words are just so pretty the way they are strung? This is one of those books. The characters are flawed and realistic, angsty but sympathetic. I took an emotional roller-coaster for the day that I read this, because I couldn't tear myself away from it. Does contain language and teen sexuality. 

3. Piece of Cake - Cupcake Brown
Another memoir (I adore memoirs, le's be real). Not for the faint hearted. Cupcake Brown (yes, that's her real name) tells her story starting at the age of 11. She faces foster care, child abuse, prostitution, gang involvement, drug addiction, drug dealing, and homelessness, however, is now a working attorney in the United States. This story... wow. I repeat, not for the faint hearted, you have strong language and horrifying situations from the very first chapter, but I felt an incredible sense of compassion for Cupcake and other children like her failed by the court systems, and gratitude for my own life. 

4. The Fault in our Stars - John Green
I honestly wasn't a huge fan of this one. Had I been a young teen girl, I am sure I would have been going crazy for it, though. Cute, heartwarming, but also crippling, teen love story about a girl with terminal Cancer who falls in love with (wait for it) another Cancer patient. I did really enjoy the fun quips and jokes that Green put in this book. 

5. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Another one I could not put down. I essentially live tweeted my emotions to Allison my entire way through this book. Amazingly written so that every step of the way YOU JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT TO BELIEVE. My opinions of each character fluctuated from start to finish. Gillian Flynn captivated me, flipped me upside down, and continuously punched me in the gut, yet somehow in a really beautiful way. Contains language and sexuality. 

6. Before I Go to Sleep - S.J. Watson
Another mystery, although one which is less rapid and quick moving than Gone Girl. S.J. Watson does a good job at presenting several different possibilities for the reader to cling to without ever nudging you in one direction or the other. Twisty and surprising. 

7. Exposed - Jane Velez-Mitchell
An analysis and overview of the Jodi Arias murder trial. If you followed that trial, or you like court proceedings, you'll like this, if not, you won't. Contains sexuality - readings of explicit texts and emails. 

8. The Amityville Horror - Jay Ansen
Ahh!!!! This book put me on edge and meant that Peter got several easy scares out of me for the week I was reading it. Creeptastic, and full of supernatural thrills, I strongly recommend this book for a cold, windy, stormy night. 

9. Catch Me if You Can - Frank W. Abagnale jr.
Memoir of the famous conman, this book was intriguing and informative. I enjoyed being amazed by his audacity and tenaciousness, although I am pretty sure his tactics would be less effective in our modern day. Abagnale has a good voice for story telling, and his stories are unbelievable. 

10. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby
Another book with truly beautiful language and prose. The memoir of a man suffering from locked-in syndrome. Short, but stunning. Bauby is a poet. 

Okay, and 10 book descriptions is proving enough for me for now. Here's the rest of my list. Gander through and if there is another book you would like to discuss, comment below! 

11. Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
This narrative voice felt mildly pretentious to me. It was an interesting story concept, however, it did seem to drag in getting there. A dual narrative split between modern day and World War II, both discussing the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942. Moments of beauty, but also moments of slow "why are you telling me about your failing marriage?". You win some, you lose some. 

12. Ava's Man - Rick Bragg
For a biography of the author's grandfather, a man whom he never knew, Bragg portrays a deep love for his family, and for a particular stretch of dirt road along the Alabama-Georgia border. Ava's Man is an intimate piece of American history as it was experienced by the working people of the Deep South. Granted, it took me a while to get into the rhythm of Bragg's voice, but once I did it felt like warm Campbell's soup.  

13. Between the Shades of Grey - Ruta Sepetys
Follows the suffering of a Lithuanian family in a work camp in Siberia under Stalin's communist regime, which is something I cannot say I have read about. An easy read, and one that still flirts with young romance, among the grit and the starvation, I enjoyed Between the Shades as educational yet guilt free story telling. While I was presented with pain and suffering, somehow I didn't feel entirely like a hideous human being or like I wanted to go cry forever. I appreciate it when I'm not made to suffer over things I can't control, so thanks for that, Ruta. 

14. Room - Emma Donoghue
Amazing, but frustrating. Told from the perspective of a four year old boy who lives (and has only ever seen/been) in "Room" with his mother. Room is his existence, and his reality. I was riveted and tortured through this entire reading. I felt so incredibly angry at the characters for their life choices. I think if you find yourself screaming at written words for being so helpless, the author has probably done a good job at writing a decent novel. 

15. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick
Trigger warning for self-harm, there was a couple sections at the beginning regarding cutting that I had to skip. This book made me feel glad that I wasn't a teenager anymore, because I could remember feeling a lot of the emotions that Leonard feels. My sister recommended this one to me and after I finish we discussed. I found myself unfulfilled by the ending, but the fact that I felt that way was kind of horrifying and needed to be addressed. Read it, and talk to me.
Contains frequent language. 

16. Daughter's Keeper - Ayelet Waldman
Eh. I did finish this book, so the author at least captivated me, but when it was all over I wondered why I had been captivated. Characters seemed inconsistent to me, but maybe that means they are super realistic, because us persons are never all that constant. If you have phobias of being wrongfully incarcerated, like I do, maybe give this one a skip. Or just skip it because nothing really happens. 

17. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
I did not have the pleasure of reading Fitzgerald in High School, so this was my first exposure to his writing. Very eloquent and descriptive. I disliked that everything important took a long time to actualize, but instead we spent time just being told about the people and the scenery, however, when action actually began, I liked it a lot. I did not expect to feel depressed at the end. Definitely did. Poor Gatsby. 

18. Marley and Me - John Grogan
I love love love love LOVED this book! Have you seen the movie? The book is the movie but with hours of extra scenes slipped in. People say that Marley and Me is a sad book (/movie), but I don't think so. Yes, I did bawl my eyes out at the end, however, I laughed and had a genuine good time in celebrating the hilarious and well lived life of a wonderfully awful pet. If you adore the puppies, you should read this book. Warm, happy, butterflies, and lots of slobbery kisses. 

19. Until You're Mine - Samantha Hayes
Back to the mysteries and fun twists! I liked this book a lot. Another great book for live-tweeting your emotional ups and downs to your BFF. Extra plus, set in England so you have a marvellous voice writing it all. Multiple narrators all telling their sides to a story that you will try to piece together in every which way, and still probably be surprised when it ends (although, I totes guessed who dun it, and felt super proud). 

20. Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen
I can't say I've read a book about a turn of the century travelling circus. Well, I mean, now I can! I liked this. Romantic voice on the beauties and comings of a circus and all that entails. You've got class issues (performers vs. techies), forbidden love, and violent personalities who aren't above murder. Fun all around. 

21. Melissa Explains it All - Melissa Joan Hart
A memoir by our darling 90's queen full of fun stories chronicling her life. I was interested because I love Clarissa Explains it All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but I will admit, once she got into her extensive stories about football parties with her husband, I just didn't care anymore. Give it a miss if you aren't interested in celeb memoirs. 

22. Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn
Dark. Twisty. Super dark. A lot of self injury stuff. I loved it, though. Gillian Flynn just has this magical talent of making you want to stop reading, but also want to never ever stop reading again. Incredibly cruel characters who I hope don't actually exist in real life, and a murder mystery that you hope you're wrong about, but you probably know it from the beginning if you're being honest with yourself. 

23. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
24. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
25. One More Thing - BJ Novak
26. Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
27. The Book of Unknown Americans - Cristina Henriquez
28. Orange is the New Black - Piper Kerman
29. What is Visible - Kimberly Elkins
30. The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling
31. What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty
32. The Psychopath Whisperer - Kent A. Kiehl, PhD
33. Z - Therese Anne Fowler
34. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button   and Other Stories - F. Scott Fitzgerald
35. Wild - Cheryl Strayed
36. Slaughter-House Five - Kurt Vonnegut
37. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs
38. The Weight of Blood - Laura McHugh
39. The Shining - Stephen King
40. Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher
41. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers
42. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
43. Bad Monkey - Carl Hiaasen
44. The Hallowed Ones - Laura Bickle
45. These Things Hidden - Heather Gudenkauf
46. If I Stay - Gayle Forman
47. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery - Robert Kolker
48. Pain, Parties, Work - Elizabeth Winder
49. The Bedwetter - Sarah Silverman
50. Beyond Belief - Jenna Miscavage Hill
51. Mice - Gordon Reece
52. Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

Yay literacy! 


  1. What did you think about Vacancy? I never finished it.

    1. I really really loved the Casual Vacancy. I thought the characters were potent (meaning diverse and multifaceted, but not necessarily fun or loveable) and I found myself invested in all of their stories.
      I thought JK managed to give us a truly gritty and honest novel about rural England. And, oof, those feelings at the end.