August 31, 2018

9 Books I've Loved This Year

I think it's finally safe to say that the reading rut I've been in for almost two years is over. Last year, I fell pretty short of my Goodreads reading challenge because I hated almost everything I read. This year started off pretty slowly too and reading one too many bad books followed by morning sickness that lasted well into my second trimester kept me out of the libraries and left me with no desire to read. It's why I haven't posted any book reviews since January!

But this summer, after finally unpacking all of my books from our move in December, I started reading again and finally have some good recommendations to share!

"A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles - This book was getting a lot of hype last year and I picked it up while in London and wasn't disappointed. Do you ever read a book that moves slowly but in an absolutely perfect way? That was "A Gentleman in Moscow." The book follows the long life of the aristocrat, Count Rostov, who is put under house arrest at a hotel in Moscow for being part of the aristocracy. Amor Towles' ability to craft such a beautiful story that never leaves the four walls of the hotel is remarkable. With a main character whom you grow to love more and more by the page, this book was one that I didn't want to end and can easily be considered a new favorite.

"Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty - I picked this up off of my friend, Carolann's bookshelf when I was in Hawaii. I hadn't read a book in almost two months and wanted a light, easy beach read. Honestly, I had avoided reading anything by Moriarty. Her books never really appealed to me but I loved this book. It was the perfect beach read and I couldn't put it down! I love a good mystery and this one kicks off with a murder but you don't know who was murdered or who the murderer was, which definitely made for a good page turner! I haven't watched the HBO series but I've heard good things about it!

"Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" by Trevor Noah - I listened to the audiobook of Trevor Noah's book and wasn't disappointed. It was a fascinating, funny autobiography about Trevor Noah's life growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. I normally don't read books by celebrities because I've found that they all come across as extremely self-absorbed and have made me really dislike some of my favorite celebrities but Noah's book wasn't a "how I got here" story, it was about his life growing up and made for a good read.

"The Alice Network" by Katie Quinn - Historical fiction is easily my favorite genre and I'll read just about anything written about the First and Second World Wars. I'm not sure why but I'm really drawn to these books. I picked up "The Alice Network" at a local bookstore here in Baltimore and really enjoyed it. Told from two perspectives - that of Eve Gardiner, a young woman recruited to be a spy during the Great War, and Charlie St. Clair, pregnant and unmarried who lands on Eve's doorstep 30 years later, at the tail end of the Second World War. Unexpectedly, the unlikely pair ends up on a journey through Europe trying to find Charlie's missing cousin while the plot hints at a surprising connection between the two women.

"The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Mary Russell - I love a good Sherlock Holmes story. "Sherlock" might be my favorite television show. This novel introduces a young, sprightly, American, Mary Russell who quite literally stumbles on a much older, retired Sherlock Holmes while walking through a meadow with her nose in a book. The two become fast friends as Mary apprentices under Sherlock. I felt like this book did the Arthur Conan Doyles stories justice, adding a female voice to the Sherlock Holmes stories while maintaining some of the originality of the ACD books. While I really enjoyed this and would recommend it, I'm not sure I'll seek out the other books in this series.

"Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik - I picked this up in a Little Free Library ages ago for the title alone and surprisingly, I wasn't let down. Adam Gopnik is a writer for The New Yorker who decided to up and move to Paris with his wife and their 8-month-old son (something I am now trying to figure out how to do). Each chapter is an anecdote and a glimpse into their life in Paris. It was easy to read, enjoyable, and made me want to pack my bags immediately. I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who loves traveling to Paris.

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer - I reread this for our book club this summer and loved it just as much the second time around as the first. This is one of my favorite books of all time. I enjoyed the film but wish it had incorporated more of the letter writing, even just as a bit of background narration. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. It's a beautifully written compilation of letters written by Juliet, a young writer in London and a group of friends she makes (via letter writing) in Guernsey, who tell their stories of living under German occupation during the war.

"Next Year in Havana" by Chanel Cleeton - Like "Paris to the Moon," I picked this up for the title. I will read just about anything about Cuba. As a Cuban American, I'm always looking to read more and learn more about the island that is so much a part of me, but that I have never been to. This is easily the best book I've read about Cuba. Alternating between two perspectives, that of 19-year-old Elena living in Cuba at the height of the revolution, and 31-year-old Miami-born Marisol, Elena's granddaughter who heads to the island for the first time to scatter Elena's ashes. This book wasn't without a few problem points that I won't get into because of spoilers, but I felt like this story so closely mirrored mine and my families that it was easy for me to forgive. If you're interested in Cuba, I recommend this book. It's a wonderful story that feels very true.

"My Life in France" by Julia Child - I'll admit that I never knew anything about Julia Child until I saw the movie, "Julie and Julia" but I've had this book on my to-read list for ages and finally dove in. This story gave me so much life. Julia Child didn't become the Julia Child that the world fell in love with until she was in her late 40s and then went on to have a fabulous career. In a world of food photography and food bloggers, it was refreshing to read a book that doesn't use any pictures to describe mouthwatering foods that had me wanting to run to the kitchen with my copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I loved reading about Julia's and Paul's fascinating life and appreciated just how seriously Julia took her craft. If you're feeling like you're in a creative rut, this might be a good read for you. Warning: Don't read it on an empty stomach!

Have you read any of these? What have you been reading lately?

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