2018 Reading List: The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson

Welcome to the Garden, a wondrous, magical place where it’s always warm, the sun is shining, the waterfall lulls you to sleep, the grass is lush, you have friends and books and games, you have healthy food to eat, and all the time in the world to do as you please. But this, my friends, is not the garden of Eden. This is your nightmare.  Continue reading

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2018 Reading List: The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer

I was about to head out on a flight to Kansas City, Missouri for our annual company meeting and I needed to quickly grab a book to read. That’s usually how it goes, right? So I had The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer on my shelf and threw it in my bag. After the first five minutes of reading the first chapter, I thought I’d made a big mistake.  Continue reading

2018 Reading List: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Why would you want to live in a town where women keep (allegedly) drowning themselves?

That’s the first thought I had as the story behind Into the Water by Paula Hawkins unfolded.

This book is a murder mystery by the same author of The Girl on the Train. A woman is found dead in what is known as the “Drowning Pool” – a section of river surrounded by cliffs where the water is calmer. There is a history behind the Drowning Pool. Women have been committing suicide here by throwing themselves off the cliff (hence the name) for years.

But wait – were they all suicides? Is Nel’s death now a suicide or something more sinister? Nel wouldn’t kill herself, right?  Continue reading

2018 Reading List: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

You all know the story of the Titanic (at the very least, you know the movie) – the British ship that sunk in 1912 after colliding with an iceberg, killing over 1,500 people. You might have heard of the Lusitania – the British ocean liner torpedoed by the Germans in 1915, killing almost 1,200 people on board as it sank. But you probably haven’t heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff. At least, I hadn’t.

Which is absolutely insane, because the estimated number of people who died in the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 was over 9,400 people. Picture the terrible, gut-wrenching scenes from the Titanic movie where people are screaming, crying, tumbling off the deck, flailing in life jackets, freezing in the icy waters – and then multiply that six times.

It is a travesty that people, particularly in the U.S., do not know about the sinking of a ship that resulted in the largest loss of life of any ship sinkings in history.

So now that I’ve made my point, if you too have never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff, go read Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys.  Continue reading

2018 Reading List: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

I hate books that get tons of hype when they first come out, and books that are lauded simply because the author’s last book was a success. Luckily, Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green, wasn’t one of those.

John Green wrote the now-famous book, The Fault in Our Stars, which was later turned into a movie that was filmed in Pittsburgh. I saw Green’s new book displayed on every table in Barnes & Noble and prominently featured at the end of an aisle in Sam’s Club. I kind of didn’t want to buy it, just because I thought the bookstores were over-hyping it.

I ended up getting it for my mom as a Christmas gift and read it after she was finished.

This book is a very insightful look at mental illness and anxiety among teenagers. The main character, Aza, suffers from anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. We got to be inside her mind, see how she views the world, experience the things that cause her anxiety the way she sees it. It’s always an interesting perspective to me.  Continue reading

2018 Reading List: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

I will be honest – my book choice for 2018 did not get off to a good start.

I received The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy, as a Christmas gift from my mom. Normally she finds amazing books, and we have similar tastes in genres and authors. I wanted to like this book. It is a New York Times Bestseller, it was on top reading lists, featured in bookstores, and it just looked like an interesting story.

But I didn’t love it. I struggled through the whole book with the Indian names and language. And honestly, I just got lost on the whole plot. I didn’t understand where everything connected, I forgot which characters knew each other or had relationships, and I was completely confused on the whole sequence of events. I tried so hard to pay attention and to get the story right in my head. The book jacket said that it was a love story, beautifully woven, fates entwined, lives braided together – but I just didn’t get it.

I could tell that it was a beautifully written book. I could tell that the author was a thoughtful, poignant storyteller. I knew that there was meaning behind the lives of the characters who had a history and a culture I could never truly understand. But this book was not for me.

I would recap it for you, but I’m afraid that I would do it an injustice due to my lack of understanding. Here’s a better review.

If you find that your book preferences have been in line with my own over the past year (see my list of 2017 books here), then you won’t like this book. But if you’re looking for an intricate dive into a different culture with a storyline that is full of metaphors and hidden meaning then you will find Arundhati Roy’s newest book to be very intriguing.

Have you read The Ministry of Utmost Happiness? What did you think? 

2017 Reading List: Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

This will be my final book in 2017. I read Two by Two, by Nicholas Sparks, because I was looking for something lighter, something less true and more of a story. A novel, not nonfiction, to end my 2017 Reading List.

I am not generally a Nicholas Sparks fanatic. I love The Notebook and Dear John. The movies they’ve made from his books are always pretty good- romantic, sad, and touching. But I’m not the type of person who reads every single Sparks book. I’m not always the sappy romantic type of reader.

Sometimes I am though. But I must admit, part of what made me pick up this book was that the main character works in advertising.  Continue reading

2017 Reading List: It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This next title on my list of books is part of our office book club. This is the book we chose after none of us could get through “The Invention of Nature.” Quite the contrast.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini, is a young adult work of fiction. It was made into a movie in 2010, a movie which I have not seen.

When I first read the plot summary of this book and some reactions about it, I was under the impression that it was, actually, going to be a funny story. I thought there would be some dark humor, some funny quips, some comedic relief. Maybe some people saw it, but I didn’t. I just found it to be a somewhat sad story of a boy with depression.  Continue reading

2017 Reading List: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah Maas has returned to my reading list, at long last. She has again delivered a fantasy novel that I can’t put down.

When I finished Empire of Storms, I was a little extremely disappointed that the next book, Tower of Dawn, would be an off-shoot to follow the character of Chaol. I was over him, and I wanted more of Aelin and Rowan’s adventures.

But Sarah Maas never fails to disappoint. Reluctant as I was to continue with Chaol’s journey, I can see now that it was an important one. However, it took me a little bit to really get into this book. I felt that the beginning of it was a bit slow, and overall, there wasn’t a whole lot of action, until about Chapter 45.  Continue reading

2017 Reading List: A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

As I write this, my dog is sitting on the couch next to me, looking at me with her big, soulful eyes. I spend a lot of time wondering what she’s thinking, projecting my human emotions into her animal mind, putting words into her wordless mouth. I can only hope that my imagination is even slightly accurate.

I imagine she’s full of love, adoration, eagerness, and some sass. I imagine she thinks we’re weird and crazy. I imagine she doesn’t understand how much we love her.

So I read the book, A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, and I found out what he imagines when his dog looks at him with wordless, soulful eyes. And it was amazing.  Continue reading