January 27, 2017

Reading Lately: January

This year has already been off to a pretty great start reading-wise! When I posted my New Year's resolutions, I didn't talk much about my reading plans for the year. While I didn't hit my reading goal of 52 books in 2016, I still set a goal for 2017 to read 55 books, which would be the most I've read in one year.

One reason I didn't hit my goal last year is because I went from a 90-minute round-trip commute every day to working from home three days each week. When I do go into the office, my commute can be up to 2 hours round-trip, but I'm also spending time in the morning reading, rather than diving right into work when I do work from home. It's all part of that work-life balance thing I'm trying to figure out!

This month, the Beyond Words Book Club read "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruis Zafon. 

I loved this book. I couldn't put it down and long before I finished it, I knew that this would be one of my favorite books. Set in Barcelona in the 1940s, the book follows young Daniel who falls in love with a book he finds at the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books. With echoes of "The Book Thief" and a humor that mimics a telenovela at times. The book follows Daniel's pursuit to find more works by the author, Julian Carax, as he learns that someone has been finding each of Carax's books and burning them. A story within a story that has ironic parallels, this book, despite being translated from Spanish, was beautifully written and follows a story that I never wanted to end. Few books have left me in awe upon finishing and I haven't stayed up until the week hours of the morning reading a book since the first time I read "Harry Potter." Luckily, for me, it's the first in a series, the fourth of which was released in November (but not in English yet). I've heard from friends that the second book was even better than the first and I can't wait to dive into the rest of this series!

Here's a look at what else I've read this month: 

"The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. I picked up this book in a Little Free Library last year and, since the book starts in January, decided to start reading it at the beginning of the year. I found the book mildly insightful and have even implemented a few of her strategies in my day to day (like assessing a situation and staying calm before immediately snapping) but I also found her to be wildly out of touch with reality. I hate the "coastal elite" rhetoric that has floated around this election cycle but this book is everything that that term means in the worst way. Rubin has a cushy career and lives in New York's Upper West Side. She has a good life and acknowledges it. What struck me was how often she brought up that she's already happy.  Someone had written a note in the margin of my book that read "As widow, pay attention," and that really struck me. In almost every chapter, she brings up her constant need for a gold star...after planning a birthday party for her mother-in-law or buying Christmas presents for her sister...I found this selfish and wildly immature. If you need the constant affirmation that what you're doing is good and right, how happy are you, really?

"Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood. My cousin Jen bought me this book for Christmas with an inscription that read, "You seem like someone who has never read a Margaret Atwood book who should definitely be reading ALL of Margaret Atwood books." It's funny because I read The Handmaid's Tale in high school and loved it and have been wanting to reread it ever since. "Oryx and Crake" is a post-apocalyptic novel that alternates between the present day, when 'Snowman' is trying to survive as the last human on Earth and the past that led him there. I gave this book three stars. I found there to be a lot of unanswered questions but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. It's the first in a series but I don't feel a need to read the other books in the series. 

"The Woman in Cabin 10" by Ruth Ware (Audiobook). I started listening to this book on Sunday and finished on Tuesday morning. The first night I read this book, I couldn't fall sleep because I thought I was going to have nightmares. I couldn't stop listening to this book. It had me hooked through about three-quarters of a book. One of my book clubs was reading this hand, while I initially had no interest in reading it because it had been compared to "Gone Girl" (which I hated), I thought this was much better and I really enjoyed it. It was a pretty good audiobook, although the Narrator really struggled with male voices and it almost sounded comical when she was trying to speak male dialogue. Overall, I recommend this for a quick, thriller but I found the ending to be somewhat anticlimactic and rushed and, in the end, I only gave it 3 stars.

Late last year, Carolann and I decided to start picking books for our Bloggers' Book Club two months in advance to give everyone time to get through library wait lists and read each book. If you're interested in joining, you can join the Goodreads group here. Our February pick is "A Man Called Ove" by Frederik Backman and we'll be linking up on Friday, February 24.

What have you read this month?
Have you read any of the books I did? What did you think?
What's the best book you've read lately?

Note: Links are Amazon Affiliates, which means that if you buy one of these books through a link, I get some cash money to buy more books. 

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