December 22, 2017

The Best Books I Read in 2017

This year has been a pretty weird year for reading. Until this year, I always felt like I had to finish every book I started but I gave up on a lot of books this year. There were so few books that I actually enjoyed that when I started a book I couldn't get into, I barely gave it a chance. I feel like that's a good thing though because if I'm being honest, there has only ever been one book I've read that I actually enjoyed after a slow start (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, if you're wondering).

Despite the weird year, I can say that I did read a few books that I really loved. Here's a list of my favorite books I read this year:

1. The Shadow of the Wind, The Prisoner of Heaven, and the Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - I loved every single one of these books. If these had been the only books I read this year, I would have been happy. These books in Ruiz Zafon's series, "The Cemetery of Forgotten Books," are desert island status. I loved each of these books in more than the last and I can't wait to read the next book in the series when it comes out this year! They are so beautifully written (and translated!) and I love how each book dives into the history of a character from the previous book. I couldn't recommend these books enough!

2. Britt Marie was Here and Beartown by Fredrik Backman - Fredrik Backman could write graffiti on a cardboard box and I would read it. This man is brilliant and I love everything he has written. I discovered his books last year when I read "My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry" and "A Man Called Ove." I liked "Britt Marie Was Here" but "Beartown" was intense. I loved that book. It was raw and emotional and touched on a very heavy subject, all while delivering exceptional character development in a brilliant plot. If you haven't started reading Backman, cancel your plans through the New Year and go read all of his books.

3. The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows - I discovered Annie Barrows when I read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" last year but I really loved "The Truth According to Us." Set in a small West Virginia town during Prohibition, I was surprised at how much I loved this book. I recommend either of her books because they're both wonderful stories that are beautifully told!

4. The Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French - Murder mysteries aren't a genre that I'm typically drawn to but I've really loved Tana French's books. They're quick reads and I feel like every book I've read is better than the last. Each book in the series is primarily centered around a different detective in the Dublin Murder Squad solving a different murder. The latest I read, "The Secret Place," was my favorite. While I feel like all of the books could desperately use an epilogue, I keep reading them because they're quick page turners!

5. Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach - I normally don't enjoy travel writing but this book was brilliant. Alice Steinbach was a journalist for the Baltimore Sun who spent time traveling the world, learning things...taking a literature course about Jane Austen in the village where she grew up, taking a cooking class at the Ritz in Paris, learning to fold origami in Kyoto...Every chapter brought her story to life and I felt like I was learning these things with her myself. 

Every year, I set a Goodreads challenge. This year, my goal was 55 books but I only managed 41. With a little over a week in the year left, I don't see myself hitting that goal but at least I did manage to read some books I really loved!
What were the best books you read this year?
You can link up with Carolann and me to share! I'm desperate for good recommendations for next year!

December 18, 2017

We Bought a House!

Excuse the radio silence these last few weeks. This Time, it's for a reason other than being swamped with work. The Pilot and I bought a house! 

We closed on the 8th and moved in on a very snowy Friday. Moving has been adventurous and full of unexpected (and slightly unwelcome) surprises but I'm so excited and I can't believe this whole house is ours!

It's a 3-story row house (ahh!) with 4 bedrooms and it's more than double the size of any apartment I've ever lived in! Seriously, moving from a 2 bedroom apartment (that only had one furnished bedroom - the other had a desk, bookshelf, and nothing else) to a house this big is crazy. I have no idea how we're going to furnish it all. If you want to come visit, it's BYOB - bring your own bed...and at the moment, BYOL - bring your own lamp because our house was built without overhead lighting except in the kitchen, but I don't care. I don't mind carrying a lamp around to every room in our house because it's OURS! Obviously, we will buy lamps, but that might take a few days!

It has a huge kitchen with an eat-in dining room, a deck off the kitchen that I can't wait to spend every minute on once the weather warms up, and the biggest laundry room I've ever seen. It also has a fireplace that's been roaring every night since we moved in. 

There are so many things to do (like unpacking) but none of it feels like a chore because it's all so exciting! I can't wait to get settled so that we can start some fun home projects and really making it feel like home! I'll be sharing more pictures and as we get settled! 

December 1, 2017

Everything I Read in November

I've always been one to finish every book I've started. I have always felt that the book deserves a chance or that I'm so invested, I might as well just finish.

Lately, I'm moving away from that. Life is just too short and there are too many good books out there to read the bad ones. I've written almost every month that this has been a weird year for books for me. I haven't really read anything I've loved and, in fact, I've really disliked most of the books I've read this year. So, I've taken to giving up on books. I've done that 3 or 4 times this year, twice this month. 

As a result, I've only finished two books this month. Take a look:

"The Trespasser" by Tana French - I read "In the Woods" earlier this year, the first in French's Dublin Murder Squad series (which don't need to be read in any kind of order) and picked up her newest book before I headed to London. Another murder mystery, I found myself drawn to the story and slowly figuring out who the murderer might be along with the detectives, which is how I like a murder mystery to unfold, but this book desperately needed an Epilogue of some sort. The case was solved but leaving several more questions than answers and I finished the book really needing those answers to be solved. I felt the same way about "In the Woods." Her books seem to end when the detectives have solved the mystery rather than going a little bit further. "In the Woods" did go a bit further but again, still left a lot of lingering questions. Overall, I would give this book 3 stars. 

"China Dolls" by Lisa See - Lisa See wrote "Snowflower and the Secret Fan," one of my all-time favorite books so I was excited to read her newest book about three Chinese-American girls who meet in San Francisco and pursue careers in entertainment. This book dealt with a lot of heavy stuff - the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the targeting of Japanese (and Chinese) people, as a result, the racism that followed, and a lot of other topics, but I really hated the characters. There was so much betrayal in this book, it felt a little bit like "Mean Girls" but with much heavier subjects, which I really didn't like. Again, I would give it 3 stars.

"Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng - Full disclosure: I haven't finished this book. This is the Beyond Words Book Club pick this month and Carolann and I were discussing it the other night, and I told her I didn't plan to finish it. I'm not sure if this is still true. This book touched on a topic that I'm really sensitive about right now and I really didn't want to continue reading once I hit that. I did manage to get a little bit further into the book and I can't believe how wildly vindictive the characters in this book are. They're so unlikeable and it seems like everyone is out to get everyone. Set in Shaker Heights, OH, which is meant to be this idealist, utopian town (which Ng reminds you of every 5 pages), the book follows a mother-daughter outsider duo who move into the town and get involved with the oh-so-perfect Richardson family, which it seems like will have devastating consequences because of Elena Richardson's vindictiveness. Again, I haven't finished it but given that the book jacket says, "Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs," I think it's pretty obvious that that will be catastrophic. So far, 2 stars. 

I'm desperate for good book recommendations, especially with a week off coming up at the end of December! If you have any, please share! I promise I'm not a harsh critic - this has just been a weird year for me picking all the wrong things to read!

If you're part of Beyond Words (or want to be!), next month, our link up will be about your best reads of 2017 (mine will be a short list!) and I hope you'll join! We'll pick back up with our picks in January and the poll is open now! You can vote or suggest books to either of us at any time!

As always, happy reading!

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