Favorite Books of 2015

I had every intention of posting my list of favorite books of 2015 back in January! I guess it’s better late than never.

nightcircusMy favorite book of 2015 is…The Night Circus by Erin Morgentern. This is such a beautiful story that it is a bit challenging to summarize without misleading people. It was not the story I expected, but I ended up loving it, maybe because I have a soft spot for circuses and magic. The story starts as a competition between two ancient magicians that set their pupils against each other. The circus is the venue for the competition. As the competition evolves and the players discover who their rival is, they change the game. Rather that outperforming one another with their exhibits/performances, they begin to court each other by collaborating, and the result is a wondrous dreamlike circus. However, there is one rule that they are unaware of and that is that only one can be left standing. As a side note, I think cirque du soleil should base one of their shows on this book.

Two other books that I really enjoyed reading were Girl on Train by Paula Hawkins and Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline. Girl on Train is thriller in which none of the narrators can be trusted. Some people have said it is the next Gone Girl. I did not think so and I liked it better. Orphan Train is the story of the friendship between two very different people, a 91-year-old lady, Vivian, and a teenage girl, Molly. I enjoyed the story, but it could also be that I have a very special spot in my heart for Anne of Green Gables, and you can see a similarity between Anne’s story and Vivian’s.

Booking Through Thursday: 2014

Booking Through Thursday

What was your favorite book (or books) for 2014? What reading really caught your attention? Sparked your interest? Changed your world? Made you laugh?

 

It has been a very long time since I have posted anything. So I think I will start off by responding to the Booking Through Thursday meme regarding your favorite book of 2014.

My favorite book of 2014 is City of Thieves by David Benioff. The story is about two Soviet prisoners, Lev and Kolya, sent on an impossible mission to procure a dozen eggs within five days or be executed. The story is set during the siege of Leningrad. Lev is a scrawny, shy, young Jew. Kolya is a handsome, reckless, ladies man and Cossack deserter. They are the most unlikely pair that end up forming a bond as their mission progresses. I enjoyed the story because it has excellent character development and the dialogue is entertaining. The book is an easy read and highly recommend it.

Two other books that I really enjoyed reading were Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple and Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is about a daughter’s search for her missing mother. Ethan Frome is the story of the tragic and miserable life of Ethan Frome.

Booking Through Thursday: Vacation

Booking Through Thursday

I’m on vacation this week. I didn’t go anywhere exciting or exotic, I’m just not at work. Spending time puttering around the house, playing with the dog and … oh yeah. Reading. A lot.

Do your reading habits change when you’re on vacation? Do you read more? Do you indulge in lighter, fluffier books than you usually read? Do you save up special books so you’ll be able to spend real vacation time with them? Or do you just read the same old stuff, vacation or not?

It depends on the type of vacation. If it’s a staycation or visiting family or friends, I tend to read a lot more. I don’t really save up any special books; I just keep going down my TBR list. However, if I am going way to a place I have never been before I find that I don’t really read that much because I spend most of my time exploring. I usually pack the book I am currently reading so that I can read on my way there and back. If I am nearly finished with the book I pack an extra one.

Booking Through Thursday: Fluff

Booking Through Thursday You’ve just had a long, hard, exhausting day, and all you want to do is curl up with something light, fun, easy, fluffy, distracting, and entertaining.

What book do you pick up?

During stressful times, I pick up a Pride and Prejudice retelling. I find it fascinating how creative writers can be with retelling a classic. Can you tell I have a soft spot for Pride and Prejudice? I recently read A Wife for Mr. Darcy and Only Mr. Darcy Will Do; both were rather enjoyable. However, if I had to pick between the two I would pick Only Mr. Darcy Will Do. My other go to book(s) would be Anne of Green Gables series.

 

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Elegance of the HedgehogThis was a book I bought when I went on a book shopping frenzy. I had not really heard of the book but the title and description were interesting enough. So when I started reading the book I was disappointed and had a hard time getting through the first part of the book. However, I stuck to the book and was pleasantly surprised.

Part of the reason I had a hard time with the first part of the book was that it was too philosophical. Philosophy was never my favorite subject and will probably never be, mainly because I don’t really get answers. I find that I usually end up with more questions. I also found the characters a bit off-putting. At first it seems that both of the protagonists think they are above others, a little condescending.

The story is narrated by the two protagonists, Renee and Paloma, alternating chapters. Renee is a 54-year-old widow concierge of a posh Parisian apartment building and Paloma is a 12-year-old tenant planning to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. They are both intellectuals who have been disappointed with life and hide their true selves by playing the roles society has dealt them. I found the character of Paloma a bit unconvincing. Renee’s character becomes more dimensional after she shares her history. It explains why she believes people of different social classes cannot mix. I also found it interesting that both had this affinity for Japanese culture.

The story picks up after a new tenant moves in, Monsieur Ozu. Both the characters are so wrapped up in themselves that they failed to notice they were kindred spirits. It is not until Monsieur Ozu brings them together that they see how much they both have in common. It is also this connection that allows the two of them to open up and confide in each other. They also begin to realize that they do not have to follow the status quo and can be themselves.

For me the best part of the book was the story of Jean Arthens and the camellias; beauty in its simplicity can give us hope. Although, I struggled with the book I did enjoy the end even if it was dramatic and unexpected. The one thing this book left me with is that sometimes we are all too busy and wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t see each other. So it might not be a bad idea to take time to observe people—who knows we may find a kindred spirit.

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah E. Harkness

A Discovery of Witches: A NovelI love reading fiction, especially ones with witches and vampires, so when I heard about A Discovery of Witches I just had to read it. It also gave me an excuse to finally use my kindle since the next book I bought would be an e-book. I was really enjoying my reading experience with the kindle up until the end; not the kindle’s fault.

A Discovery of Witches is about Diana Bishop, Matthew Clairmont, and the Ashmole 782. Diana Bishop is a respected historian of alchemy that comes from a long line of distinguished witches. However, she refuses to embrace her powers due to the tragic death of her parents but later we discover that there is more to that. Matthew is a 1500-year-old, hot, scientist vampire that is also doing research at Oxford like Diana. The Ashmole 782 is a bewitched manuscript that is believed to possess the history of all species and have unknown powers. For the most part Diana is able to stay away for the world of magic with a few exceptions. However, that ends when she unknowingly requests Ashmole 782. The moment she gets the manuscript is the beginning of chaos and a forbidden love story, no surprise there. Interspecies dating is prohibited.

The one thing that made me a bit iffy about this book was the comparison to Twilight some people were making. I read the Twilight series and don’t exactly care for it. At the beginning of the book, I really liked Diana because she was independent, affirmative, athletic, and had a bit of spunk. In the middle, she began to remind me of Bella Swan, who can’t be without Edward. Well, not to the same extent. I felt that the middle of the story was mainly about Diana drinking tea, eating toast occasionally with eggs, drinking wine, and being tucked into bed. I am not sure how much tea a person can drink, since I drink more than my fair share of coffee I am not too critical of it, but it is just boring to read about it. Off course this change happens after she starts hanging with Matthew Clairmont and becomes too dependent on him. Like Edward Cullen, Matthew is over protective and torments her with a very brief separation; felt like déjà vu. I did find Matthew Clairmont more appealing than Edward. Finally, in the final chapters of the book she accepts her powers and starts acting more like a heroine and not so much as a damsel in distress.

The pace of the story slows downs in the middle but really picks up towards the end which felt rushed. I also felt the end was abrupt and wanted to throw my kindle. I was glad to be reading this book on my kindle since it is over 500 pages and would be quite heavy to lug around. However, with a book your are always aware when the end is approaching but with the kindle you have to pay attention to the progress bar which I stopped doing during the middle since every time I checked no progress was made.

I enjoyed enough of the book but I would not say that I could not put it down especially when I was slogging through the middle. I really think it would have been better if some sections from the middle were left out. I thought the author did a wonderful describing the settings and weaving in different historical time periods and figures, like Darwin and Newton. She also spends a considerable amount of time describing different wines of which I would love to try a few. I will be reading the sequel mainly because I have the irritating habit of having to finish a series once I read the first book. If I did not have that habit, I would be hesitant. I am just hoping that she does not it make too long.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle

I was hooked after reading the first couple of pages of The Glass Castle. It is the memoir of Jeannette Walls, a well-known journalist and writer. It has been a long time since I have read a memoir and can’t remember reading one that I enjoyed as much as this one.

Jeanette Walls does a wonderful job narrating her childhood memories in such a way that she is able to transmit the development of her understanding as she matures and becomes aware of just how unconventional her family life had been. She and her family lived as nomads moving from town to town along the Southwest region of the U.S. until they finally settled in Welch, West Virginia.

As a young child, she viewed everything her family did as one big adventure; always on the run from the bad guys. Slowly she started to realize how impoverished and destitute her family situation really was as well as how eccentric her parents were. It is clear that her parents loved them but were reluctant to embrace their roles and responsibilities. Her father suffered from alcoholism and her mother appears to suffer from emotional/mental issues although she is described as a free spirit who did not believe in parenting. It is not until she and her siblings decide to leave their parents and move to New York that they are able to have some semblance of normalcy. As a reader, you will cheer for their success as they save up to move each other to New York.

However, through it all I admire the love and unity that the Walls family had despite all their tribulations. Jeannette is able to convey the love and admiration that she felt for parents as a young child particularly for her dad. As an adult the love that she has for her parents is still strong even though she is aware of everything that they put them through. Her parents eventually follow them to New York and the family is once again somewhat together but living in their own worlds. I loved that she is honest about her disappointment in them but still loves them.

I think that the full enjoyment of the book was marred by the knowledge that children live through such hardships. I cannot understand how such parents can exist. I was appalled that a parent could down play the molestation, starvation, or stability of their children. I understand that sometimes people need to learn from their experiences but children do need some guidance. However, this memoir also shows just how resilient children can be and how love can make it possible for them to overlook the shortcomings of their heroes, in this case her dad.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. This book will make you laugh, cry, shudder, reflect, and maybe even appreciate your parents a little more.