Category Archives: Reading

March & April 2016 Reading Recap

You may have noticed I didn’t include a March Reading Recap last month, but March was a bit of a slow month for me since we were on vacation (and you would think that I would read more on vacation but I don’t!). So I decided to combine March and April and include some of my favorites and more popular reads.

I read 8 books in the last two months, which brings me to a total of 20 books this year! My goal is 52 books, so that puts me three books ahead of schedule. I would have liked to read a little bit more so  I don’t fall behind during finals and the move back home, but I’ve still got a bit of wiggle room!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – 3/5 stars
Eleanor & ParkThis young adult novel follows Eleanor and Park, two teenagers who meet at school and slowly fall in love. Everyone thinks Eleanor is weird and she comes from a troubled home, but Park seems to see right through her differences to who she actually is. I really wanted to love this story, truly. Everyone I heard raved and raved about this book, but I should know by now to not set my expectations based on other people’s opinions because I’m often disappointed.

Let’s start with the good. This story took place in the 80s, so this was really refreshing for a young adult romance novel. I love all the quirky tidbits and the lingo that they used, and I feel that Rowell really captured the thoughts and the reactions of teenagers in high school three decades ago. There were thoughts that characters would have that I couldn’t help but giggle or relate to. But there were just so many little things that constantly bothered me in the back of my mind. I tried to push them away until I finished the book, but here we are.

I understand teenage infatuation – I’m only four years out of high school (crazy, yeah!) and I remember the feeling of being swept away by someone (who I am now married to! :heart: ). But their relationship escalated in such a weird way for me. At first they hate each other, and then two days later they are professing their undying love. C’mon. Second, I understand Eleanor’s home life was sucky, but my goodness I felt like she was whining and being so self-deprecating all of the time, and getting mad for absolutely no reason at the one person that made her life better. Third, there were little situations throughout the book that just didn’t make sense to me. For example, near the end of the novel (I won’t go into too much detail to avoid spoilers), Park has to sneak out to help Eleanor and his father catches him. But instead of doing the responsible thing that most parents would do, like accompanying Park and Eleanor to make sure everyone is safe and a dangerous situation, he says, “Sure! Go have fun!” I don’t get it.

Overall, if I didn’t think about it, I enjoyed the book. But the more I stew over it the more it bothers me, so let’s end this long review here. :)

The Martian by Andy Weir – 5/5 stars
The MartianI would like to start out with the fact that I’m really not that interested in science. It was my least favorite subject in school, and while I admit that it’s kind cool, I just don’t really enjoy it. I bought this book for my mother-in-law last Christmas and she has been wanting to talk to me about it but I hadn’t read it yet! I also wanted to see the movie, so I thought a bit reluctantly that it was time to read it.

Mark Whatney is stranded on Mars after he and his crew are hit by a storm and they presume him dead. He has no way to communicate to earth and has to fight to survive in a harsh and unwelcoming Martian environment.

I just, oh my goodness. I don’t know where to begin. I loved everything about this novel, and I’m not even that interested in science. I couldn’t put it down. Mark’s humor was absolutely perfect. It wasn’t a “laugh out loud” kind of humor; it was dry and subtle, but it kept me smirking as I flipped the pages. For example, he takes his laptop out into the Mars atmosphere and when it stops working, says,

Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

Smirk, smirk. Another gem:

I’m traveling 90 kilometers per day as usual, but I only get 37 kilometers closer to Schiaparelli because Pythagoras is a dick.

Also:

They’re not much different than kitchen trash bags, though I’m sure they cost $50,000 because NASA.

I could do this all day, but let’s move on. Weir put so much detail and research into this novel, you would think he was an actual astronaut stranded on Mars and lived through what Mark did. He used such specific numbers and calculations that a lot of the time went right over my head, but were still understandable to an average person without a degree in rocket science. How he managed that perfect balance, I’ve no idea. And through all of the problems and crazy situations that Mark got into, his science-y answers weren’t far fetched. It made sense in a crazy, oh my gosh he’s really going to do that? way.

Hands-down the best book I’ve read all year. I don’t want to see the movie now (though I’ve heard it’s quite good) because I don’t want to be disappointed. D:

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – 4/5 stars
Kitchens of the Great MidwestI love food; I love to eat, I love to cook, I love Food Network, so when I saw had a Goodreads Choice Award and it was about food, it was a no-brainer. The novel follows our food-loving protagonist, Eva, from birth to the height of her culinary career.

The narration of this novel was very unique. The POV changed every chapter to someone that Eva knew – from her father to an ex-boyfriend she dated for a couple months in high school. Every chapter also highlighted a dish that is either important to Eva or to the character currently narrating the story. This was such a fresh and unique way to get to know the different characters but to also see Eva and how she was perceived in the eyes of others.

This was a charming, quick read that I would recommend to any foodie. It will make you hungry while simultaneously warming your heart. Also, I thought it was a wonderful depiction of the absolutely fabulous and kind people that live in the Midwest.;)

Ptolemy’s Gate (Bartimaeus Trilogy #3) by Jonathan Stroud – 5/5 stars
Ptolemy's Gate (Bartimaeus, #3)The first two books in this series that I previously reviewed were good, but not absolutely riveting. The second was actually a bit hard to get through. However, this book was very unlike the others which was such a relief because this series had so much potential, and Stroud was finally capitalizing on it! As the book progressed, I was absolutely glued to the pages. Nathaniel became a likeable protagonist again, Kitty become a likeable character for the first time in the whole series, and their stories were finally intertwining like they should.

And then all of the pieces started to fall into place. Just like Rowling artfully pulled every last detail together in the final Harry Potter book, Stroud pulled all of the pieces together so that as I neared the conclusion, I could only go, “Oooohhhh.” I finally understood why certain things happened in the earlier books and saw how Stroud had been planting little seeds throughout the series to finally draw them all together at the end. The ending was bittersweet, but very fitting and realistic. Stroud put all that he had into this last novel and it really changed the whole series for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a perfect ending to an intricate series, so I would definitely recommend! Just be patient with the first two novels. :)

Okay wow! This Reading Recap went a lot longer than I thought. Happy reading!

February 2016 Reading Recap

I did not read as much as I would have liked to this month, but I still read 4 books in February. I didn’t put very much time aside this month for reading (I actually finished two of the books this weekend so I would have something to write about!), so that’s something I want to work on in March. In total, I’ve read 12 books this year and I’m ahead of schedule to finish my goal of 52 books. Since I only have a few books to review, I went in to a little more detail for some of them. :)

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 3/5https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1451445646l/18143977.jpg
I had really mixed opinions on this book. It follows the story of a young blind French girl, and an orphaned German boy in the Hitler Youth during WWII. It portrays what war does to people, how it affects and totally upheaves their lives, and the consequences of actions taken. It is set primarily in France, and really does not offer a whole lot more than what you may find in other novels about WWII. However, the storyline is fairly unique.

A big trend I’ve noticed over recent years is to write the chapters out of chronological order. So the first chapter will be set in June, 1939 and the next in January 1942. In mystery, suspense, or similar genres, I understand this. You’re presenting evidence out of order to create tension and to try to piece things together. In a complex, 600 page novel about WWII, it just didn’t make sense. It was confusing and made everything feel very disjointed.

The novel felt very long to me. It took me nearly a month and a half to finish – which taking a long time to read a book is not necessarily always a bad thing, but in this case it just seemed to drag. I was finding myself waiting and waiting for something big to happen, for the French girl and German boy to finally meet like you know it will, and nothing ever seemed to happen.

All of that being said, Doerr’s writing is absolutely beautiful. He clearly thought out every sentence and meticulously placed each word. The juxtaposition of ideas was flawless, and it really shone through the plot of the novel. The two protagonists were likeable and I couldn’t help but root for them throughout, even if their actions were not always the best.

So overall, a pretty mixed bag. Beautiful writing and unique plot that was not very suspenseful and sometimes confusing because of the unchronological order of the chapters. If you like historical fiction or in general just appreciate good writing, I’d recommend it. But for the average reader, I’d say pick a different book.

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1340478576l/13624688.jpgThe Time Keeper by Mitch Albom – 4/5
I was on the fence about reading this book because it had rather mediocre reviews, but I really enjoyed it! It’s a rather simplistic tale centered around the man that “founded” time. Because of his meddling with God’s gift to creation, he was cursed and confined to a dark cave for six thousand years, and now known as “Father Time.” The only way for him to be released is to help two humans during the modern era.

The book was very simplistic; it reads almost like a fairy tale, with short sentences and clear prose. I found the storyline fairly unique. The novel alternates between Father Time and the two characters he is going to help, which keeps the story moving and helps hold your interest.

One of the main critiques I read about this book is that the characters are very archetypal – one a young, suicidal girl who gets dumped by her crush, and the other an old rich man who wants to be immortal. However, I found this suited the story. I had the mindset while I was reading that this was a fable – so I wasn’t looking for deep insights or vastly unique characteristics. The characters suited the plot and provided lessons that should be learned. I wasn’t deeply moved, but it was an enjoyable book. I’d recommend for an easy read, and the book’s pretty short so that’s a nice plus, too.

The Golem’s Eye (Bartimaeus Trilogy #2) by Jonathan Stroud – 3/5
This book introduced a new character to the trilogy named Kitty, who is part of the small band of Resistance members trying to overthrow the Magicians. Normally this type of plot would intrigue me, but I found Kitty and the rest of the resistance members totally unlikeable. They robbed shops and committed other petty crimes in the name of stopping the magicians, but their crimes were simply that: crimes. Nathaniel, the other protagonist, continued to grow more snooty and arrogant throughout the book. I understand that this is intentional by the author, but it made all of the characters in the novel simply put annoying, except for Bartimaeus. As always, his wit and sarcasm saves the day! I look forward to the third and final book, but this one was a bit of a disappointment.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – 3/5Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1)
This book was almost exhausting to read. I expected a light, funny read about what the title suggested: unimaginably rich Asians. What a got was a book packed full of gossip, tons of characters, and endless experiences, many of which left me practically fuming. The book follows Nicholas Young, the only son of the rich Young family, as he brings his girlfriend home to Singapore with him to meet his family for the summer. Rachel is not rich, nor does she come from an elitist family, and the family thinks she is dating Nick just for his money which results in a disastrous summer vacation.

I did find many parts of the book funny, and it was interesting to read how these people who have more money than small countries live their extravagant lives; but all of the gossip, the torture they put Rachel through, the crimes they are willing to commit to become more wealthy and save face, it was hard and tiring to read. And the ending really didn’t give any closure to all of the problems that built up through the story. It’s extravagant, outrageous, and mildly funny. I’m glad I read it, but I’m also glad I’m done reading it.

Happy leap day!