Monday, September 2, 2013

Books I've Read This Year

Okay, well. I think we gave up the charade of this being a relevant blog that is lovingly maintained about... forever ago. Now that this has been established, I'm going to proceed to show you pictures of as many of the books I can remember reading in 2013 as possible. I made this list using a fool proof method of wandering around my house, focusing on the areas where piles of books tend to accumulate, and looking through the various stacks in the hopes of seeing titles that I've read. Then I scientifically cross referenced this list against previous blog posts. So basically, anything that I checked out from the library (and presumably returned), borrowed from a friend, loaned out, or gave to Goodwill in a fit of (always failed) house cleaning didn't make this list. Then again, I tend only to give Goodwill my most shameful books, ones I don't want to be seen reading, so maybe it's for the best that these books didn't make the list.

I loved this book super hard.
5 stars.

This books is interesting, but probably more interesting if you like science or are super smart. I am neither into science nor super smart, so I found it dragged a little. 
2 stars
I probably should have liked this one more than I did. I like Jeffrey Eugenides, and I loved Middlesex, but I though this book was a tad boring and most of the characters unlikable. His portrayal of the character (don't remember his name) with bipolar was well done though...
2.5 stars.

When flying for work recently, I sat next to a Dad and his 12 year old daughter who was reading this book. Every time her Dad talked to her, she'd be all, "Gawd Dad, SSHH!" Eventually I asked her (extremely chatty) Dad what she was reading, and the girl showed me this cover. When I told her I'd already read it, she thought I was SO COOL. She is probably the only person who thinks I'm cooler for having read this book. It's not entirely fair to assess this book by the same standard as the others in the list because it is for children. But in a Hunger Games type of way, so I liked it. So what?
4 stars.

The sequel was pretty lame.
1.5 stars
I can't get Blogger to format this properly. I'm pretty sure it's Blogger's fault and not mine.One of these days I'll stop bitching about Blogger and just change servers.

Hilarious and spot on. I heart Michael Ian Black. And memoirs written by comedians.
5 stars.

Oh Mindy Kaling, any interest in being my friend? The title alone is genius because how many times have I asked myself this VERY SAME QUESTION? Plus, her dress is cute on the cover and the stories are hilarious. Also, see above feedback about memoirs by comedians.
5 stars

Meh. Maybe just the wrong book at the wrong time, but I couldn't stay engaged.
1.5 stars

This book was quality reading. The beginning sucked me in and then it tapered off midway and I had to focus on the Steinbeck qualities of her writing to get through the slow plot and unemotional characters. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, it grabs you back up and gets good again.
4 stars.
I'm probably supposed to be cooler than this, but sometimes I like me a little Jennifer Weiner book. And this one didn't disappoint.
4 stars (probably not fair to the Orchardist to give them the same number of stars, but oh well. There you are)

     Oh man this book sucked. I thought it was going to be a classy, dirty book but it was just a slightly better written version of 50 Shades, which was maybe the worst book in the history of books, but at least it got me hot and bothered.
Zero stars Sylvia Day, ZERO. I'm sure Sylvia Day is all "Hahahaha! I could care less what you think because I am super rich from writing knock offs of shitty books!" And to you, Ms. Day, I say, "Well played, well played."

As long as I'm admitting shitty books I read this year, I might as well cop to this one. And you can just stop giving me that judgey look right now - because I got enough of it from my husband. Truth is, this book was an airport purchase that started as a joke and.... ended as a joke. I mean, I read it. But it was just as ridiculous and terrible as I thought it was going to be. But my weird obsession with the Kardashians knows no bounds.
0 stars 
Such a well written book. It dragged a few different times, but never for very long and the main character was strong enough to carry you through the slow parts. 
4.5 stars
I'm not much for Non Fiction, but this book was amazingly done. Highly recommend.
5 stars.
I actually don't know if this book was as good as I remember, but I really enjoyed it and loaned it out to several people already - so far, they've all shared my opinion. It would be a great vacation read.
4.5 stars
This was a quick read and I remember liking it, but I read it during a busy work month while traveling for an event, so the details of why are a little hazy.
3.5 stars
All the cool kids were doing it, so I read it too. And I liked it. Apologies to all of you with better taste in literature.
4 stars.
This book surprised me because for some reason it seemed like a Dude Book. But I loved it. Dry and witty with a quick moving plot and more than a touch of historical fiction. Plus, the author photo is HANDSOME.
5 stars
Not terribly well written, but an interesting story about a batshit crazy lady who lied about being in the Twin Towers on 9-11. I'd probably suggest watching a TV special about this story instead of reading the book.
2 stars.
I loved this book. Very engaging, well written with lots of drama and magic. There were one too many hints at pro-life politics behind the story line for my liking, but that's really my only complaint. The rest of the book was excellent.
4.5 stars
Slowest book ever. Hilary Mantel is supposed to be amazing, but I was underwhelmed. The writing was solid, but the story was depressing, and also depressing.
2.5 stars

Meh. Not bad and not good.
2.5 stars
Jeff bought me this book of short stories, which isn't really my bag. The writing was very solid though, so I read 90% of the stories.
3.5 stars (4.5 if you love short stories)
Pretty typical for Emily Giffin, which I think I'm getting a little too old for.
2.5 stars

    As good as everyone says it's going to be. It's a pretty major burn on Seattle  - which was a little anoying since I live here. But I can take a good joke. I only wish her Seattle specific jokes were a little more original. I mean, everyone knows we all drive Subarus...let's come up with something little more cutting. And I've lived here forever and never heard anyone describe something as "hinky" - that particular burn was lost on me. But despite that, I loved the characters and found the book really addictive.
4.5 stars

Very engaging mémoire. I sort of hated Eat Pray Love, so was worried this would be more of the same, but Cheryl Strayed is way less rashy than whatshername.
3.75 stars

Standard Philippa Gregory book here. Except without the disgusting incest that some of her books feature. So, bonus.
3.5 stars

Monday, December 17, 2012

Summer Reads

So. This is awkward. It's like you've called and left a few messages and I haven't called back. You're not sure if I'm mad or just flaky. Well, the answer is flaky. I've been updating my personal blog regularly ( but my book blog has taken a major back seat this year. I'm still reading - in fact I'm now in 2 book clubs! - but A. Many of the books have been sub-par and B. I can't seem to muster the energy to write about them right after reading. Which means that unless I loved the book, I remember almost nothing about the books I read this summer. So without further ado, I give you a list of books I've read over the last 6 months or so with only a star rating of 1-5 stars.

Through Rushing Water - Historical fiction and my hazy memory gives it 3.5 stars

Spring for Susannah - More historical fiction (it was a bit of a phase) and this one was 2.5 stars

Caleb's Crossing - Fellow book-clubers found this one hard to read. It's sort of old timey-English but I give it 3.5 stars for the strong female heroine and fascinating insight into this period of history.

We The Animals - 1 star. I strongly disliked the self-conscious style - it read like a short story from a budding writer who was trying too hard.

Sweetness in the Belly - 4 stars. This was an interesting look at Ethiopia in the 80's but could also be relentless at times.

Juliet - 4.5 stars. This was romantic and interesting and a good read about Romeo and Juliet old times and present day.

Family Fang - 4.5 stars. Witty and interesting.

Seating Assignments - 2.5 stars. Meh. I felt about this like I did Emperor's Children - the plot didn't go very far and I disliked all the young, apathetic characters immensely.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spring Reads - Recap

The Leftovers
I really enjoyed this book that was recommended by Jeff's aunt Carolyn and would definitely recommend it.  We read this for book club (full disclosure - it was my pick this month).  The Leftovers is a total WTF plot in which tons of people all over the world literally disappear at the same time on the same day.  This particular story follows the lives of people all from the same small town in middle America.  Some of them have had family members and loved ones disappear with no explanation.  Some try to move on and others don't seem capable.  It's super fascinating in a 'what if' type of way, but also VERY readable. I had some complaints about minor flaws in the plot (like how come people don't think it was ALIENS?), but none strong enough to prevent me from recommending this book.

The Lock Artist
I can't wait to loan this one to my Dad.  This story hooks you in the first page and I couldn't put it down until it was done.  The Lock Artist is about a young man who as a result of a childhood trauma hasn't spoken since. Like, not a single word.  But he narrates the book and from the first chapter you learn he's writing his "memoir" from prison.  He learns early that he has a special skill and can open just about any lock put in front of him.  His skills make him a target for some criminal types and he's off on a life of (silent) crime.  But there's aching romance and the plot is fast and well written.  Thanks Jessie for gifting me this book!

When I Reach You
A YA (young adult) book that was confusing at first, but by chapter 2, very addictive.  This was another gift from my friend Jessie, who always has winning recommendations. My only problem with this book was that I never read A Wrinkle in Time as a child.  I'm not sure why, I think it might have been required reading around the time I changed schools and therefore missed the opportunity - but this book made me excited to read it with Edie when she's older. The story of this book quasi-coincides with the story of A Wrinkle in Time and heavily references it throughout the story.  Nonetheless, the mysterious plot line still hooked me and it's YA Fiction after all, it's not as if you can't fill in the blanks. The book follows 6th grader Miranda in the 1970's while living in New York City with her mother.  She starts having problems with her best friend Sal at the same time that she starts receiving anonymous notes in her apartment.  The mystery unfolds!  Try it - you'll like it.

The Emperors Children
Blergh.  I couldn't get on board with ANY of the characters in this book - they were all so lazy and self absorbed and annoying.  I think that was maybe the point of the book, but I found it hard to enjoy and didn't look forward to reading it before bed.  I can't argue with the fact that it was well written prose, I just didn't really like anything about the people in the book and since there wasn't really a plot (it's more a character driven novel), I couldn't fall in love.  I have a feeling there are people out there who really loved this book, which reminds me of the time I didn't like any of Zadie Smith's books for the same reasons and got cranked messages from Zadie lovers around the globe (or at least in Seattle).  What can I say? I like a heroine.

The Postmistress
Surprisingly I loved this book.  It was a freebie from my annual "Christmas Box" of books, so it could have gone either way.  Don't get me wrong, it's S-A-D.  But in a sentimental and articulate way.  I'm slow to be moved to tears and this book made me cry like a baby at the drop of a hat.  It takes place during WWII when London is experiencing The Blitz.  It bounces back and forth between London/Europe and Cape Cod - but both story lines follow strong female characters playing unconventional roles during the 1940s.  One is a radio show host in London for the BBC, telling war stories and the other is the unmarried 40-something postmistress in a tiny Cape Cod town.  There are other compelling characters in both stories and having not lived through this era myself, it FELT like the times were captured well in the book.

Five Quarters of the Orange
Just finished this one over the weekend.  It's by the author of Chocolat, and has a similar feel to it.  It took a while (like 150 pages) for the story to warm up, but it's beautifully written and tells a complex story very well.  Without retelling the entire plot, I'll just say that it is a story of mother-daughter relationships, World War II in rural France, food, childhood with a pinch of romance.  About halfway in, this book finally hooked me and I couldn't put it down for the last 2 days.

50 Shades of Grey
Um.  I really don't have anything to say about this. Except that in my defense it was a BOOK CLUB selection and therefore I HAD to read it.  I will describe it by saying that it is essentially Twilight without the vampires, plus 5 years for the main characters and ... it's super naughty!!

50 Shades Darker
Double um. Because I really have no reason for reading this.  I think when we chose 50 Shades for book club, the requirement was only the first book.  And I seriously said out loud and to Jeff while reading the first book in the series - "This is the worst book EVER!" like every other page.  But I have a problem with book series.  I MUST read them all.  Especially when they end the first book with no resolution what so ever.  Needless to say this book was terrible.... and naughty!!

50 Shades Freed
Um, wow.  This was by far the worst book of the series.  Except they were all so terrible that I'm not really sure what ranking system I'm using here.  If it wasn't for the fact that each book takes about 1 day to read, I wouldn't have finished this one.  By the third book it's naughtiness had lost the appeal (and shock value).

Her Fearful Symmetry
Disappointing!!  This is book #2 by the author of The Time Traveller's Wife - one of my all time favorites.  And while there are some redeeming qualities, the characters are boring and poorly developed and the plot seems rushed and missing motivation and explanation.  I'm bummed because I enthusiastically voted for this one in book club.


This is a page turner, but not exactly a quality book.  The writing is good, but the story/mystery is a bit ridiculous and full of those moments where you want to yell at the main character.  This book is essentially a mystery that takes place in rural England.  A snake expert with a disfigured face is called upon to solve the mystery of why people in her tiny town are being besieged with weird snake incidents.  It would be a good plane or vacation read, but you have to suspend disbelief before you get sucked in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Winter Reads

Clash of Kings

I'm not going to lie. After Game of Thrones, this second book in the series was a bit of a snoozer. I still read all 5 million pages but was hoping for more action. I'm also still waiting for this series to get a little romantic. I mean, I love dragons and warriors as much as the next girl, but when are these lonely teenagers going to finally discover each other? And is Shae really just humoring Tyrion? I'm told that book 3 is where it's at, so perhaps I won't drop this series after all, but I will admit to being tempted.

The Sparrow

This was a book club read and while this isn't something I would have picked out for myself, I'm really glad I read it. And it was a great discussion book. The book follows a Jesuit mission to a recently discovered planet containing sentient beings. I was a little bothered by the main character who everyone worshipped, and the creepiness of what happens to him on this new planet stuck with me far longer than I wanted, but there's no denying it was a well written and fascinating book.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

This has been on my bed side table for ages. I will admit to being slightly disappointed by this much awaited read. It was more like a collection of short stories, and I've never been a fan of short stories - preferring a heavy plot that sucks me in and in depth character development that attaches me to the people in the story. I kept thinking all the stories/characters were going to link up, but mostly the chapters just hop around in time and (I suppose on purpose) make you work awfully hard at the start to figure out WHO is narrating each particular chapter. Sometimes I would read the first 5 pages of a chapter totally confused, trying to figure out what year it was and who was narrating. I will grant that the author has a knack for capturing a huge variety of distinct "voices", but that skill was a bit lost on me. I mostly just wanted this book to be about Bennie and Sasha, as the back of the book description promised. And while I suppose you could argue that it WAS about them, it was too peripheral for me.

Night Circus

I very much enjoyed this read. This is a book club pick that we haven't discussed as a group yet, so I'm hesitant to say too much. But I will say that it reminded me of an old timey favorite of mine - A Trip To the Stars in that it's very magical, filled with smart and sad characters and takes place in an other-wordly space. Someone recently compared it to a combo of Harry Potter and Water for Elephants and I guess that's not too far off?  My main criticism is just that the plot felt a little rushed at the end. I wish she'd taken more time with the ending, built the conflict up to a higher pitch before wrapping it up.

The Man from Beijing

While the plot was totally addictive, I remember being disappointed a little by this book.  Time magazine sold me on this being even better and/or more sophisticated than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I disagree.  I kept waiting for the plot to turn more legit thriller on me, but I was never on the edge of my seat like I wanted to be.  Truthfully, it's been too long since I read this book to now review it, so I guess I'll just stop there with my vaguely negative review...