2016 Reading List

Here's a list of the books I have read this year along with my thoughts about each. The most recent book I finished is at the top of the list.

49. It just occurred to me that I read a book with the word "moon" in the title, and then a book with the word "sun" in the title. Strange. Circling the Sun is also the last book I have been able to download from the library since the lending platform was changed.  (SIGH) Anyway, Circling the Sun is about Beryl Markham, a lady who was born and raised in Kenya. It is basically the story of her life through the time that she becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, but the flying just comes in at the end of the book. The story of her life is fascinating and kind of sad, too. I enjoyed this book. This was also the 49th book I've read this year, which happens to be the reading goal I set for myself this year, so YAY me! (December)

48. I'm can't remember what drew me to this book, but I'm glad I read it. This is the first story I have read about refugees. The family in this story is from Afghanistan. The husband had been murdered by the Taliban, leaving the wife with two children and another on the way. The wife, Fereiba, was a teacher but was no longer allowed to work when the Taliban took power. With her husband dead, Fereiba makes the decision to leave her homeland and try to get to England. The little family has to travel through Turkey and Greece with fake papers, getting help where they can and trying to stay out of harm's way. The story made me cry a few times, especially when I thought of all the refugees trying to get to Europe now. They are all trying to get away from something so terrible that they would risk their lives and their children's lives in the hope of finding something better. Good story, but the ending left me wanting more closure. (December)

 47. Total chick lit! Bed of Roses is the second book in Bride Quartet series. I liked the first book and I liked the second book and I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy three and four as well. Easy, likable, just enough heat and sweet. (November)

46. Total fan fiction/chick lit that is very similar to the romance between Kate and Will, except Kate is American and her sister is her twin. But Will is there as Nick and Harry is there as Freddie. I don't know. It was ok. (November)

45. Last Chance Llama Ranch is a Reader's Choice book at the library. This is the second Hilary Fields novel I have read (and also Hilary Fields' second novel.) Both of her books are sweet, harmless chick lit that I enjoy reading. It's not the best book I've ever read, but it was fun. (November)

44. I can't quite remember how I heard about The Girls but it made it's way onto my to-read list. I found it at the library on the seven day borrow shelf. The story is set in Northern California in the late 60s. A teenage girl, Evie, sees a group of older teenage girls in the park and ends up befriending them. The thing is that these girls are in a cult-like group with a charismatic leader named Russell. The story made me feel kind of dirty as I was pulled into Evie's life at the ranch and her relationship with Suzanne and Russell and the deterioration of her relationship with her parents. The narration switched between present-day Evie to 1969 Evie, showing how 1969 shaped Evie's adult life.  (October)

43. I got Emmy & Oliver on my Nook through the eLibrary. It might have been a YA book, not that it matters at all because this is a great little story. Oliver is only seven years old when his dad abducts him and moves him across the country. Ten years later, Oliver returns home to California to find his childhood friends have been anxiously and eagerly awaiting his return, including his next door neighbor Emmy. It is a story about how Oliver's abduction shaped the lives of the everyone and what happens when he gets back. I totally loved all the teenage characters in the book and I totally identified with Emmy's mom, too. (October)

42. Lizzie chose The Thirteenth Tale for us to read at the same time. I think she got her copy a few days after I did though because she is still reading it and I finished it in a hurry. The writing of this book is rich and lovely and really sets the mood. It was a great story! (October)

41. The Paris Key was not heavy compared to Room. The story-line of Room is intense and pretty horrifying. The difference was all in the telling of the story. Room is told from the POV of Jack, a five year old boy who was born in Room and has never been Outside. His mother was kidnapped and held in Room for seven years. What was remarkable and engrossing about the story was how awesome Ma was most of the time while they were in Room - the way she did the very best she could for her child under unspeakable circumstances. When they manage to escape, thanks to Jack's bravery, the story takes a different turn as both Jack and Ma learn to live in the real world. It was masterful story-telling with two unforgettable characters. Might have to see the movie now. (October)

40. First of all, how cute is that cover? Here's another story about a woman how leaves the U.S. to live in a foreign country, this time France. Genevieve goes to Paris to take over her uncle's locksmith shop after he passes away. She makes new friends and learns about her past and frets about how to get through French bureaucracy to get a license to work in the country. I kind of struggled with the book because the story shifted from Genevieve to her mother Angela and I didn't really care for the Angela character. It was a little heavy for me. (October)

39. I saw a list on my Facebook feed of books you should read with your sister, so I asked Lizzie if she wanted to read the same book at the same time. She told me to choose, so I picked Kira-kira. I didn't know it was a young (young) adult book. It had a good rating on Goodreads. It was quick and easy and sweet and sad. (September)

38. After reading Colson Whitehead's book, can you blame me for needing a little light fluff? Nora Roberts was the just the ticket. Vision in White is the first in a quartet of books in this little bride series. The premise is that four best friends own and run a wedding business. Each of the friends has an area of expertise to make the wedding business run. There is a florist, a baker and the wedding planner.  This first book focuses on Mackensie, the photographer. She meets a very nice, slightly nerdy but sexy English teacher. They flirt, they fall in love, they argue. Mac has commitment issues because of her strange family; Carter hangs in there until Mac realizes that she really loves him. Spoiler alert, I guess, but is it? All of Nora's books that I have read pretty much follow the formula. There's just nothing wrong with a little fluff now and then. (September)

37. I heard about The Underground Railroad from Oprah. It was her Book Club Selection last month. I didn't know if I wanted to read it. Generally I don't care to read about the Holocaust or the slave times because people can be so awful to each other that I don't like to read about it. But...I went into the library last week because I had finished Harry Potter and I was looking for another physical book. I have been reading two books at a time lately, an ebook and a physical book. The library has a new shelf right at the entrance with their Lucky Day books. Usually the books are popular new arrivals that you can borrow for seven days, no holds, no renewals and a 25 cents per day late fee. Could I read the book in seven days? Really, I had to have it done in six days since I'm going out of town on the seventh day. I challenged myself and got the book. Thankfully it was interesting enough to keep me reading and I was able to finish it in six days! I returned it today. The story was well written, intense, often ugly and sometimes beautiful. (September)

36. I heard about Eight Hundred Grapes from Barnes and Noble. I think it might have been a Daily Find, but I didn't respond quickly enough to buy it for cheap, so I put it on my elibrary wish list and it became available to borrow. The story is about Georgia. She is going to be married to a cool guy named Ben who just happens to have a child with a famous movie star but he didn't tell Georgia about the child or the movie star. Georgia sees them walking down the street while she is trying on her wedding dress. They live in LA after all. Georgia freaks out and runs away (in the wedding dress) to her family's vineyard in northern California. There she finds that her brothers are feuding with each other, her mom is having an affair, her dad is going to sell the vineyard. That's a lot of drama going on all at once in this family's life! I thought the book was okay. (September)

35. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is when the series turns really dark. The book is quite different from the movie. I'd almost forgotten about Hermione's obsession with the house elves. I'm glad that didn't make it into the movie. I don't really remember it going anywhere in the rest of the books, but maybe I'm wrong. I'll find out as I keep reading through the series. Goblet of Fire is great, as all the Harry Potter books are. (September)
 34. Bliss was a daily pick from Barnes & Noble that I got for a couple of bucks. It's about a pastry chef named Serafina Bliss Wilde who moves from New York to Santa Fe to live with her aunt while Sera restarts her career after making a mess of it. This book is a cupcake of a read - complete mind candy. (September)

33. I have had this book on my radar for months. I read about it in People magazine a long time ago and thought it sounded like something I would enjoy. The premise is that a woman from Sweden has a pen pal in a small town in Iowa. They decide that Sara, the Swedish lady, should visit Amy in Iowa. When Sara arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Amy has just died. The townsfolk take Sara under their wing and she makes friends and has fun and even falls in love. It's all good. (August)

32. I just devoted a whole blog post  to the "Japanese clutter book".  Will the principles of tidying up change my life or will it leave me in tears and even more clutter and confusion? I really hope it helps me. I liked the book and recognize the rightness of what the author says. I'm in! (August)

31. I have had this book on my Nook for quite awhile. My sister chose it for me randomly (see #10 for my random book selection method!). She had read the book and liked it, so I was glad to give it a try. It is charming and sweet and I really liked it a lot. Quick and simple and wonderful. Perfect for my San Diego vacation read! (August)

 30. At least once a year, I like to read a non-fiction book. Real life can be pretty interesting, you know. I found out about Elephant Company on the local NPR affiliate on a program called Radio West. The host was talking to the author of this book and it sounded interesting, so why not? It's about an English man, Jim Williams, who went to Burma after World War I to work for a British teak farming company. He used elephants to harvest the teak. Later, when the Japanese invaded Burma during World War II, Elephant Bill, as Williams came to be called, used the elephants to help Burmese and British people escape to India. The descriptions of Elephant Bill's life and his kind treatment of people and elephants was pretty amazing. I really enjoyed the book. (August)

29. My sister recommended this book to me and my mom. I enjoy books about food. I also enjoy books with a touch of "magic". In this story, the main character is Neely. She is a pastry chef who comes back to her home town to open a bakery after her marriage takes a nose dive. Neely gets "tastes" in her mouth when she meets people. There was quite a lot of going back in time to tell background stories about the town and eventually everything and everyone gets all tied together. I wanted to like this book a lot, but it was just all right. (August)

28. This book popped up as "Recommended for Me" at the eLibrary website. I liked the cover and the idea of the book. Why Buenos Aires? I wondered when I saw the title. Turns out the choice was pretty arbitrarily made by the main character, Cassie, after her life sort of fell apart all in one day and she drunk-booked a trip to a place she had never been.  I was pretty annoyed with Cassie for at least half of the book, or maybe more. What I liked about the book, though, was the idea of going somewhere new and figuring out how to survive and even thrive, making new friends and falling in love. I didn't think much of the descriptions of Buenos Aires; I didn't get a clear picture in my head of the city, just some squiggly images. The book was just all right for me. (August)

27. Third book out of the seven in the Harry Potter series. Can I read all seven this year? That's my goal! Prisoner of Azkaban was my favorite of the movies. The book was good too. Of course. (August)

26. I found out about this book from the library. A couple of times a year (or maybe three times?) the library does a Reader's Choice thing. They pick out 20 or so books for patrons and then we read them and vote on which we like the most. The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs was a winner a couple of cycles ago. I hadn't read it, but I like the title and the cover is cute. The story is about a guy who comes back to his home town after his parents' death to work in their veterinary office. There's redemption and forgiveness and quirky characters and pets. I guess this is the first book in a series. I can't say that I will seek out the second book, but it was a good enough story. I didn't love it or hate it. (July)

25. I gave The Girl on the Train to MT for Christmas last year. He had heard about it because it was a big bestseller and had mentioned that he'd like to read it. He got about 50 pages in and couldn't stand the main character and gave it up. I wanted to read it but kept forgetting about it. After Dog Crazy, though, I was ready for a thriller/mystery. Like MT, I had a tough time with Rachel, the main character. The girl is a mess. Everything she did and said pretty much made me cringe. There were some elements of Gone Girl to this story that made it fun to read, though, and once I got past Rachel's ick factor, I really got into it. It's a good read! I think I'll tell MT to give it another shot. (July)

24. Beachcombers was a purchase from the bargain ebooks at Barnes & Noble. I have read several books by Nancy Thayer and I've enjoyed them. Her characters are nice enough and the stories are fine and the setting is always Nantucket. Makes me want to go there. So I'm reading this story and it seems kind of familiar, but Thayer's books have similar themes. Then I read one chapter and I knew I had read it before. Luckily, I keep a list of books I have read over the years and sure enough, I read this book back in 2011. That's five years; I guess I can cut myself some slack for not remembering the title. These types of books are mindless entertainment, and I was once again entertained. (July)

23. Whenever I go to Target, I usually stop in the book section and read the blurbs on the backs of the books to see if anything strikes my fancy. I'm pretty sure that's how I learned about this book and then it was in the cheap section of Barnes and Noble, so I got it for a couple of bucks. I'm trying to read some of the ebooks I've purchased because I'm buying more than I'm reading since I use the elibrary so much. Anyway...
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is told, of course, from the POV of Budo, the imaginary friend of a boy named Max. Max is "on the spectrum", that is, Budo knows that Max is different from the other kids because he just wants to be by himself, he doesn't smile much, and he understands everything literally, to name a few things. I thought this book was clever and creative and unexpected and pretty wonderful.  I could not figure out how things would work out and I really liked the way the author took care of it. (July)

22. This author, Meg Donohue, has written two other books, both of which I read and liked. I was pretty sure I'd like this book too because it was going to be at least partly about dogs. Look how cute the cover is! As predicted, I did like it! It's about a lady named Maggie who is a pet bereavement counselor. She has some issues of her own to work though and she does with the help a a patient/non-patient, Anya, who becomes her friend. It's a cute story. I cried a few times. I'm a softy for stories with dogs and nice people. (July)

21. Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series. Yes, I have read it before (at least twice) but I am planning on reading all seven books again this year. I love the books and the movies. It's really fun to read them again. (July)

20. I have read several books by Joshilyn Jackson and I have enjoyed them for the most part. This book wasn't my favorite though. It took a long time for me to get through it. I didn't really connect with the main character. I couldn't relate to the life she lead in childhood or adulthood. At the very very end of the book I kind of liked her, but the book was over and that was that. (June)

19. Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors. Her book The Dovekeepers was one of the best books I have ever read. I really loved it. The past couple of books of hers were fine, but didn't pull me in like The Dovekeepers. I wasn't sure what I was getting into with The Marriage of Opposites, but I was hopeful. I'm glad I got it because I really liked it a lot! The setting is St. Thomas in the 1800s. The story is about Rachel. She becomes a child bride and ends up as a widow with several children. Then a young man, the nephew of her late husband, comes over from Paris to run the family business. They fall in love and eventually get married and have some more kids, one of which is Camille Pissarro, the artist who is the father of Impressionism. It's an interesting story that goes back and forth with Rachel and Camille. Very good book! (June)

18. This might be a record: I have read three consecutive books written by men. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a quirky story with lots of characters that cross the path of the main character, Eva. It's about people and food and cooking and it's kind of a charming little story. I really liked how it all came full circle in the end. (June)

17. I'm usually not much into sci-fi, but this book is exceptional - even better than the fantastic movie. Read it. (May)

16. I'm not totally sure what drew me to this book. I have read at least one other book by Nick Hornby and as I recall, I wasn't that great to me. I liked Funny Girl, though. It is a story about Barbara who doesn't want to to stay in her small English town. She has dreams of being an actress and moves to London. The story is set in the 60s, but sometimes I forgot that because it felt pretty contemporary. I liked most of the characters but I felt like more attention was spent on some of the supporting characters than on Barbara/Sophie. It was all right, but not amazing. (May)

15. Look at the cover of this book. Look at the title. Who wouldn't want to read this book? 300 Days of Summer is set in Portugal in present day. It's about a man and a woman who are trying to find another guy. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue. There also another novel within this novel. It was an interesting book. It made me want to visit Portugal. (May)

14. Suddenly One Summer came up on my list at the eLibrary, so I got it. Didn't know anything about it. I was drawn right in. Chick lit!! I read it in about four days. The characters are good looking and highly sexual. There's a bit of a story but it's mind-candy and it was just what I needed. (May)

13. I heard about How to Be a Woman from Goodreads. It was the April selection from Emma Watson's book club, Our Shared Shelf. It's not the type of book I would normally choose, but the description sounded interesting and I think I paid less than $5 from Barnes and Noble. The good news is that the book was totally worth it! I giggled through it and laughed out loud in some parts. There were a few parts were I cringed and there were lots of parts where I cheered and thought things like, "That makes a lot of sense to me." In society today there is a lot of talk about women's rights and feminism and what that all means. This book got me thinking about those topics and clarified my thoughts. Plus it was just damn entertaining. (April)

12. Yes, of course I have already read all of the Harry Potter books, twice, in fact. I read them when the book came out, then I read the book again before the movie for the book came out. But it's been awhile since the movies came out, so I decided that I would like to read the whole series again this year. I hadn't exactly forgotten what a wonderful place Harry's world is, but it was glorious to be reminded. It has been a really long time since I'd read Sorcerer's Stone, the book that started it all. It was completely wonderful to meet Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the group again. I think I'll watch the movie of this book, then get started on the second installment. (April)

11. At the Water's Edge is about a Philadelphia society couple and their friend who travel to Scotland during World War II to try to find evidence of the Loch Ness Monster. There's backstory that goes into why they decided to go on this adventure, but the real story is about Maddie and how she comes into her own while in Scotland. It took me a few days to get into the story, but once I was in, I was hooked. I liked the ending very much. (April)

10. I haven't read many books by Stephen King. I read a couple when I was a teenager, but I'm not really into horror, so I have stayed away from this author for the most part. My sister read 11/22/63 a couple of years ago and said it was great, so when it popped up for a bargain price for the Nook, I decided to get it and I've had it for awhile. Using my grab bag method of book selection - "MT, pick a number!" - this book was the winner. Actually, it turns out I was the winner because this book was cool and interesting and pretty great in all ways. It's an epic story of time travel and changing history and falling in love and murder and terrible things and wonderful things. It's a long book - over 700 pages - and even though it took me awhile to get through it, I was never bored. What a writer. What an imagination. (April)

9. Ok, I confess: books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips are my guilty pleasure. It's just pure brain candy. I know it's not the best thing for me, but I cannot resist. Her books are comfortingly formulaic: the heroines are beautiful without knowing how beautiful they are because they have been done wrong by a man who didn't appreciate what he had. The leading man is devastatingly handsome, knows it and only has one thing on his mind - sex with the innocent leading lady. They have hot sex, fall for each other, split up because of something, realize how in love they are and humble themselves to get back together and live happily ever after having lots of sex, but with real feelings. Brain candy. It's glorious! (March)

8. First of all, the title of this book is so great. I heard about this book through Huff Post, I think. I immediately requested it from the library and it took a couple of weeks to become available. I savored it for three weeks. There was no hurrying through this book. I really liked it a lot. The book is centered around a fictional painting, The Improbability of Love, by a real artist, Jean Antoine Watteau. The story is complex, the characters are rich and it was all just wonderful. (March)

7. This book was on my Nook. I'd purchased it some time in the past and I chose to read it through the random number selector method that I perfected during the January vacation. (I number the books I have on my Nook and ask MT to pick a number.) I bought this book during the time we were thinking about a trip to Italy and specifically spending a few days in Florence, so it seemed like serendipity at the time. We haven't actually gone to Florence yet, but it is still high on my list. This book didn't change that desire; Florence seems like it is an amazing city. This story, though, it left a lot to be desired. It's about a woman, Lena, who has dreamed of going to Florence but life got in the way. Her husband, a college professor, gets the opportunity to teach in Florence but rather than uproot their family, Lena stays in the States and spends the semester jealous and bitter. The husband ends up being a cheating bastard, so Lena drags the family to Florence to confront him/win him back. Mostly I found Lena to be shrill and unlikable and I never felt like she redeemed herself. I actually felt sorry for the cheating bastard husband. (February)

6. I like books about different cultures. This book was set in San Francisco during World War II starting just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It's about three young women who meet in San Francisco and become friends. Two of the women are Chinese and one is Japanese, although she tries to pass as Chinese. They work in nightclubs. I didn't realize that there was an active Chinese nightclub scene in 1940s. The characters were good and the story was interesting. (February)

5. I received this hardcover physical book for Christmas from my Secret Santa. (Thanks Josh!) It was a book that I was interested in and I was happy to receive it. It's the first book I started reading this year, but the fifth one I finished. I didn't take it on vacation with me because it is a large 530 page hardcover book, and I wasn't interested in lugging it around. In addition, the subject matter was a bit heavy. The story takes place during the last part of World War II and is about a German boy and a French girl. Their paths don't actually cross until the last 100 pages of the book. In the meantime, there was a lot of ugly things that happen ask you can imagine in a World War II book about Nazis and occupied France. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was well-liked by critics but I found it long. It wasn't that I didn't like it, but I can usually tell by how long it takes me to read a book how engaged I am in it. Even disregarding the vacation break, this book took me a long time to read. (February)

4. I really liked Belong to Me. I liked the characters, especially Cornelia and Dev. I marveled at how the author made my feelings do a complete turn-around with Piper and Lake. I also liked how de los Santos brought everything and everyone together. When I first started reading it, I did not see how it was going to work out, but it did and it was wonderful. (January)

3. More Happy Than Not is a YA novel about a young man, Aaron, who has seen and lived through some pretty terrible things. There's a place that removes your memories and he wants to have the treatment, but things happen and it goes from there. I actually liked this story and the characters even though it wasn't uplifting or particularly happy for that matter. It did make me think about the concept of ridding yourself of bad memories or changing yourself through a medical procedure. Interesting story. (January)

2. "Yay! Chick lit!" I thought when MT picked this book's random number. It was all set up for fun - a movie star, a journalist, fun characters etc, but instead what I got was a couple of hundred pages of people crying and feeling sad and depressed and torn and heartbroken.  I almost didn't want to finish it because I just couldn't see a way where anything would be ok. Turns out there's always a way to bring it all together, even if it was kind of hokey. The first ten pages and the last ten pages were fine. Everything in between was kind of annoying. (January)

1. A Dog's Purpose is the first book I finished in 2016. I had a list of 14 books that I had on my Nook. I numbered them randomly and asked MT to pick a number, then I read the book with that number. This book was the first one and I groaned, "Man, I know I'm gonna cry." I'm a sucker for dogs. The book is told from the dog's point of view and it took me a few pages to get into it, but then I really loved it. And yes, I did cry. Very, very sweet story. (January)

1 comment:

Kteach said...

I always read your list, and depending on your comments I look out for the books. I had read the dog book a while back and I cried too, very sweet.