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Book Worm: November Book Reviews

Oh my word, we are into December already! I am 12 books behind on my Goodreads reading challenge to have read 52 books in 2015. If I accomplish that, December's book review post is going to be a long one.
This month I was all about YA novels, dystopian societies and fairy tales. To be honest, it was a really nice break from all of the other books of "literary merit" (read: Man Booker nominees) that are currently filling my reading list. Without further ado, here are November's reads:

1. Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard

This is the first book in a series, the second book Glass Sword is due in February of 2016 and I cannot wait! The setting for this novel is a dystopian society where the classes are segregated by blood type. The reds (red blooded) live in oppression and poverty while the silvers (silver blooded) live in the middle and upper classes. Our heroine, Mare, is a red who finds herself living in the midst of the Silver Royal Court and the royal family, but what they don't know is that she's working with an underground rebel group planning to overthrow the Silver Monarchy. If you were a fan of the Hunger Games or the Divergent Series, you'll like this.

2. The Lunar Chronicles: Scarlet, Cress & Winter, Marissa Meyer

If you've been following me you already know that I read Cinder earlier this summer and never got around to finishing the following books in the series. The final book in the series, Winter was released this past month so it seemed to be a good time to finish them up. I loved these books! Of the three I think that Cinder and Scarlet were my least favorite, but I loved Cress and Winter. Each book takes elements from a classic fairytale and puts a new futuristic twist on it. The characters were well developed and the storyline was fast paced and fun as our band of rebels work together to overthrow the Evil Queen Levana. Interlaced with action are romantic moments and comic relief. I enjoyed that the final book wrapped up the saga beautifully and all of the storylines were resolved in the end. These would make a great gift to the fantasy reader in your home. I highly recommend them.

3. After You, Jojo Moyes

In the sequel to Me Before You we find Louisa Clark struggling to get her life together after losing the man she loves to medically assisted suicide. In the aftermath of Will's death we find Lou struggling to keep herself together until one day a fall from her rooftop forces her to re-evaluate her life. Personally, I struggled a little with this one. I found Lou to be incredibly frustrating throughout the book, but was happy in the end. I think that this provided some much needed closure for fans of the first book who were heartbroken with the ending. In my opinion I could see a possible third book, but time will tell.

4. For the Love, Jen Hatmaker

Of all the books I read this month, For the Love was my favorite. I will sing from the rooftops, go and buy this book. Go get it on Audible so you can listen to it while you're in the car or out for a jog. I don't care how you get it, but just get it. Jen Hatmaker is absolutely hilarious. I want to be her best friend - for real. We live in a world where we as women are continually striving to be just as culinary artistic as Martha, as stylish as a fashion blogger, as funny as Kristin Wiig, the list is endless. I feel the pressure all the time! I feel that social media doesn't help with this at all - the endless scrolling of perfectly curated homes, outfits and dinners that leaves us feeling inadequate. I'm always thinking, if only...
Jen hones in on this so well and reminds us that these glimpses into the "daily lives" of others are often staged snippets of the best pieces of that person's world. She speaks about "balance" as if it's a unicorn - uh it is! Balance is a mythical beast that we're all searching for but unable to find! Her piece about fashion was on point and hysterical. But what I love about Jen Hatmaker most is how authentic her faith is. This is a woman of God who just gets it and I love that.
Jen Hatmaker, if you ever come to Washington, look me up. I seriously think we could be best friends. #bffs

And that's it for November. As always, if you have any recommendations I'd love to hear them!

Book Worm: September & October's Book Reviews

September and October totally got away from me! Between the start of Kindergarten and a hectic work schedule I didn't get a chance to write up my book review for either month.
Forgive me?

Anyway, here's what I've been reading.

1. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee

Here's what I think about this book. If you're going to enjoy it at all you need to read it as its own novel aside from Mockingbird. If you're like the majority of America, you loved Mockingbird. I did. Atticus Finch was my hero (especially in the form of Gregory Peck). But this book is very different from Lee's earlier work and I found myself having to read this with the understanding that the characters are now different and much time has passed.

2. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I was a little behind the 8 ball on reading this, it seems like everyone and their mother read it last summer. I enjoyed it. I thought it was interesting how the characters were all related to one another and how their decisions inadvertently affected one another. I think this would be a good airplane read.

3. Tales From the Back Row, by Amy Odell

Hilarious. Now Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell describes her experiences as an early fashion blogger. I loved her stories and tongue in cheek style of writing. She's able to pick out and poke fun of the fashion industry in a way that made me want to be best friends with her.

4. Cinder (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles), by Marissa Meyer

Who doesn't love a Cinderella story with a futuristic twist? This is the first book in a series of YA novels. I actually liked it, but haven't finished the rest of the series yet. The next book arrives this month. I thought the concept of a Cinderella cyborg was a little weird, but it worked for me throughout the story. Your teenage daughter will probably like this one.

5. Finding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella

I really enjoy Sophie Kinsella's work and I really enjoyed this novel. Audrey is a teenager with an anxiety disorder. She wears dark glasses to hide her face and has difficulty interacting with people outside her immediate family. Until she meets a friend of her brother who challenges her to overcome her social issues. It was a really cute novel with likeable characters and a great narrator.

6. Why Not Me, by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is one of my favorite comedians. She is hysterical. Just read it. Especially if you're had a bad day at work.

7. See Me, by Nicholas Sparks

Okay I know you're all like, NOT NICHOLAS SPARKS! I know, I know. But this was actually really good! Typical Sparks with his Carolina love stories, but this was suspenseful (albeit slightly predictable) and had me all wound up. I'm sure the book has already been optioned for a movie - so who would you cast as Colin and Maria? I'd love to know.

8. In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware

LOVE THIS. A bachelorette party gone wild in the woods. Think this, you wake up in a hospital and can't remember the events that put you there. Someone is dead and we don't know how that happened and now you're going to go out to the nearest bookstore and get this so you can find out. You're welcome.

And that's it! There are some cool new books due out this month that I'm excited to read.
Anyone out there have a good recommendation for me?


Book Worm: August Book Review

August was a busy month for reading! I got a little behind on my Goodreads challenge of reading 52 books this year so I'm trying to catch up! I feel like August was a good reflection of my reading tastes - they're varied. My favorite for the month was definitely All the Light We Cannot See. I'm not sure why I was so far behind everyone (it seems like everyone read it last summer!) who read this already, but better late than never. Close second was The Rosie Project. Read on for my reviews.

1. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
My take on it: I absolutely LOVED this novel. Please be warned though, if you're looking for a fast paced WWII historical fiction novel, this isn't it (one of those later). This isn't a book that you read for pace, it's a book that you read for the language, the beautiful prose and intricately woven storyline of the characters. I don't want to give away much of the storyline, but it's beautiful, unique and thought provoking.

2. West with the Night, Beryl Markham
My take on it: I wish I was Beryl Markham! Markham's memoir chronicles her life from a eventful childhood in Africa through her adult years when she attempted to be the first woman to fly solo from East to West across the Atlantic Ocean. This book was incredible. Markham's writing is simply wonderful as she tells stories of race horses and elephant hunting in the bush. I especially enjoyed the pieces about her time as a race horse trainer. I have to agree with Ernest Hemingway on this, "She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer . . . [She] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers . . . It is really a bloody wonderful book." Read it, I think you'll be just as enchanted with it.

3. At the Water's Edge, Sara Gruen
My take on it: Let me start by saying that the entire premise of this novel is ridiculous! We all know that taking your wife and best friend on a wild goose chase to prove the existence of the Loch Ness Monster in the middle of WWII is absolutely insane! Yet that's what this book is about and I actually liked it. Once you get over how preposterous this whole thing is the book is actually quite enjoyable. I would recommend this as an airplane book. It's fluffy, and dissolves like cotton candy but still kind of sweet. And the book jacket is beautiful...

4. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
My take on it: This was kind of emotional for me and to be honest I think there are two different camps for this one. You either loved it, or you didn't. We're dealing with a few topics throughout the book, the most controversial of which is assisted suicide. Will is a quadriplegic who prior to being in a freak accident was a highly successful business man living life to the fullest. Now wheelchair bound he believes that he cannot continue to live in a body that is in constant decay. Lou loses her job working in the local café and is hired by Will's family to keep him company. You can guess how this is going to go. I would recommend the read, but be warned social hot topics ahead.

5. The American Heiress, Daisy Goodwin
My take on it: I've heard this compared to Downton Abbey which was why I picked it up. Other than the upstairs/downstairs dynamic it's not very Downton like. I think I enjoyed this book the least which was disappointing to me because I had high hopes. Cora Cash is an American millionaire's daughter who seeking a title (highly promoted by snobbish mother) marries an English Duke. Floundering naively through English society, Cora begins to realize that not everything is as it seems. We have a love triangle (of course!), snooty English butlers, an undermining mother in law and backstabbing friends - all the makings of a great summer read! Unfortunately for me they just didn't come together and I felt that the author didn't know how to end the story. I would say skip this one.

6. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
My take on it:  If there was a novel about Sheldon Cooper trying to find a wife using scientific methods this would be it. I loved this novel. I thought it was charming and funny. Don Tillman has decided to find a wife so he develops the wife project and by way of questionnaire begins to search for the perfect woman. Enter Rosie; a smoking, cussing, barmaid who has enough emotional baggage to load up a train. Definitley not a suitable mate, and wife project reject. Together they set out to find Rosie's biological father - hilarity ensues. Read it.

So there you have it! All of my reads from August. Who has recommendations for September?

Book Worm: July Book Review

As a young Kindergarten student I didn't believe that I would learn to read. My mother loves to recount a story of six year old me crying, "I'm never going to learn to read!" She uses this line whenever I'm in the depths of despair (thank you Anne of Green Gables) to remind me that what was once challenging became a wonderful world opening skill as soon as I figured it out. I love to read. I would much rather read a novel than do pretty much anything else (exception: ride my horse).
Listed here was July's book list and my review of each.
1. Secrets of A Charmed Life by Susan Meisser
Synopsis from Amazon: 1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed.
Review: This historical fiction novel reminded me a little of Ian McEwan's novel, Atonement. Like McEwan's novel, the sisters dwell on the ways they've wronged each other, each living her life with regret and pain that carried over into their relationships and adult years. It's very nicely written with good character development. I felt as if Julia could be my own younger sister, and I as the oldest in my family could relate the Emmy. I can't say that it was a favorite as I found myself getting frustrated with the protagonist. But still, if you like WWII era coming of age fiction this one would be good for you.
2. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
Synopsis from Amazon: In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
Review: I was excited to read the latest novel by Judy Blume. One of my favorite books is Summer Sisters and I was hopeful that this latest novel would be similar. I was disappointed with this novel. I really wanted to like it, but found myself confusing one character with another as the book flipped between narrators. Blume did do an excellent job of describing the time and place, I felt like I could picture Elizabeth, NJ in the early 1950s, walking among the families that lived there. Overall it was slow and didn't live up to my expectations.
3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Synopsis from Amazon: When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.
Review: This was a Skimm recommendation and I'm actually happy that I picked it up. Not a hard hitting novel or thinker, this is your perfect airplane, pool side, road trip read. It's quick, hilarious and entertaining. Think Royals meets Gossip Girl - except in Singapore and instead of spending $20k on a whim it's $20 million. If you're looking for something light and fun pick this one up.
4. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Synopsis from Amazon: "This is a record of hate far more than of love," writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair, and it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles. Now, a year after Sarah's death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of his passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to love-hate. At first, he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. Yet as he delves further into his emotional outlook, Bendrix's hatred shifts to the God he feels has broken his life, but whose existence at last comes to recognize.
Review: I am a classic lit nerd to the core. I couldn't believe that I hadn't read this before! In fact I switched back and forth between the Audible version narrated by Colin Firth and my kindle. I think Colin Firth probably made this even better than it was on its own. He has a way of doing that. This is one of those love stories that you know can't end well, but it's so haunting and emotionally riveting that you can't put it down. If you love a good love triangle and tissues this one's for you.
5. The Master Magician by Charlie Holmberg (Paper Magician Series book 3)
Synopsis from Amazon: While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.
Review: This is supposed to be the "soft ending" to the Paper Magician Series by Charlie Holmberg. While not as good as the first book I did find myself liking this. The magical world in London that Ceony resides in is enchanting (pun intended) and how can you not enjoy Emery Thane? Besides, I want to learn how to make enchanted paper! This is a quick read to add to your summer list before everyone's back in school.
6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Synopsis from Amazon: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Review: I was a little late getting to this one since everyone and their mother read it last summer. I did find it similar to GIllian Flynn's Gone Girl but not quite the same caliber of storytelling. I found myself getting frustrated with Rachel's self pity and drunken black outs (anyone else?). I just wanted the poor girl to pull herself out of it and solve the mystery! Overall though I did enjoy it though I thought the ending slightly predictable.
Have you read any of these books?
I'd love to hear your reviews and ideas about them. Also, I'm always on the look out for new reading material and would love to hear your suggestions!