My Top 10

I am proud to say, that I finished my 52nd book of the year before mid-night on New Year’s Eve. In years past, I averaged 70 books in a year, but with school taking a bigger role in my life (going from part time to full time student), reading for pleasure isn’t always something I get to do. Matter of fact, several of the books on my list this year were assigned by professors and some were given to me to copy edit by the publishing company that I work for. It should also be stated that only a few of these books were published in 2017, this isn’t a list of the “year’s best” it’s a list of the best that I read during 2017. Nevertheless, 52 novels were read by yours truly, and these are my top 10 of the year, in no particular order…

  1. I See London, I See France- Sarah Mlynowski.
    A fun quick read about two best friends traveling through Europe together. Additionally dealing with life choices, illness in the family, romance and sex. As someone who has been to Europe, I particularly appreciated the detail of the places visited, the story made me wish I were in Rome with my husband.
  2.  The Dressmaker’s Dowry- Meredith Jaeger.
    Chosen by my book club, this story takes you back to San Francisco in the late 1800’s. A young immigrant girl who is forced to become mother to her younger siblings works as a dressmaker making pennies which she relinquishes to her father only to watch him spend it on booze. She decides to take her siblings and run away one night, but the shelter they find may be worse than being home with their father.
  3. The Alice Network- Kate Quinn.
    Two stories intertwine taking place in 1947 and 1915, The Alice Network is made up of women spies. These are women who would generally be looked over by society and cast off, but prove to others and themselves that they are worthy. Meanwhile, current day 1947, a young girl has gone missing and no one in her family will talk about it. The two stories intertwine in an unconventional way and will leave readers guessing at what the outcome will show.
  4. Saint Anything- Sarah Dessen.
    If you keep up with my blog, you’ll know that I am a HUGE fan of Sarah Dessen. I have read every book she has released. I read two this year, and while it was a hard choice, Saint Anything was my favorite. What Dessen is able to do is create characters that you haven’t read before, she is able to portray nuances and quirks that I haven’t found in other books. Saint Anything deals with families who have favorite children, and what happens when the favorite does something horrible.
  5. The Woman in Cabin 10- Ruth Ware.
    One of the first thrillers I’ve ever read, not generally my cup of tea (as I like to sleep peacefully at night). However, I could not put this book down. I think I finished it in 24 hours. Starting with one crime and barreling into another, this story takes place on a luxury cruise ship where a woman goes missing. But, when reported, the ship staff members claim there was never a woman there at all.
  6. The Same Sky- Amanda Eyre Ward.
    This story killed me. Everything within it’s pages is plausible and it parallels so much of what our world today is going though. Two separate stories come together- one in Austin, Texas and one in Honduras. In Texas, a couple want desperately to have a family but are unable to, while in Honduras Carla has to take care of her younger brother once her grandma dies. Dealing with death, drugs, and escape both families are pushed to the brink.
  7. Last Things- Marissa Moss.
    A graphic novel tackling the subject of ALS. The true story of a family with three young children who deal with their father/husband being diagnosed with this disease. The pictures bring the story to life in a way that makes it shockingly real. A fast read that will stay with you long after you are finished, this book helps bring a new light to families who are in awful circumstances.
  8. This is Really Happening- Erin Chack.
    This book came to me at the right time. Filled with personal essays about friendship, life with cancer, and life after cancer, this book was the salve my soul had been searching for. Erin Chack is a writer for Buzzfeed, and she is brutally honest about herself in these essays- the book will make you laugh as well as cry, and is un-put-down-able.
  9. The Last Thing You Said- Sara Biren.
    A story chronicling first loves and first tragedies. Lucy and Ben have always shared a fondness for each other, and once they are finally willing to admit their feelings, tragedy strikes. The safe and happy world they were once in, now seems daunting and unsettling.
  10. Little Fires Everywhere- Celeste Ng.
    This book was thought provoking with thoroughly thought out characters and back stories. In a small town there was a perfectly thought out community where people were well-mannered and high social achievers. But a new family moves to town who do not share the same values. When the two families start to clash, lives are altered and just when you think you know, you find you have no idea.
Advertisements

A Piece of the World

A Piece of the World

I cannot get enough of Christina Baker Kline’s writing! This is my third read of hers, and I have another waiting on my shelf. What is so great is her attention to detail of the time periods she writes about. And unlike so many writers, her attention to detail isn’t dragged out. So for those of you who, like me, appreciate a story that tells not only about events of the time but additionally the details of daily life and tools used that are different from what we are used to, Christina Baker Kline is someone whose books you’ll want to check out.

A Piece of the World

How are you perceived through another’s eyes? A perfect question to ask the artist painting the picture. Christina is just a young girl when an illness leads her to having mangled limbs that make everyday life difficult for her, getting worse as she ages. A stubborn girl, Christina refuses to let this stop her from living the life she wants to lead.  Living with her family, and hearing stories of her ancestors from her grandmother, Christina has an idyllic childhood. However, there always comes a time in one’s life to put away childish things and become an adult.

Adulthood proves to be the hardest task for Christina, as her legs, and her lack of a love life bring a bitterness inside she hadn’t expected. Forced to see herself through the eye’s of so many others, Christina is forced to ask herself, is this really me? When she becomes friends with the artist Andrew Wyeth their quiet friendship helps her open her eyes to what is around her and the person she wants to be. Through this friendship, Christina is able to thaw the ice around her heart and make her most brave decision yet.

The Two-Family House

Thetwofamilyhouse

It has been way too long since I last blogged. Just goes to show that once you’re out of a habit, it’s hard to pick it back up. I’ve been reading, just mainly for school, with graduation just around the corner I have been focused solely on keeping my grades up.
Anyways though…..

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman was the right book at the right time for me. I had just finished two papers and was preparing for midterms and I wanted something to capture my attention and take my mind off stressful things and this book was the ticket. Two sisters-in-law, Rose and Helen didn’t have a choice on whether they wanted to share a house with one another and their families. Their two husbands had bought the duplex years before marriage because it was a good investment. Fast forward and Helen and Abe have four rowdy boys while Rose and Mort have three quiet girls. Rose and Helen have become friends and raise their children like siblings rather than cousins.
But one fateful day comes and both Rose and Helen find themselves pregnant. Things are going well with both pregnancies up until the day of the delivery….both women go into labor on the same night while the husbands are away on a business trip and a snow storm is coming down outside.
What happens next will leave readers guessing and second guessing and page turning to find out just what happened that night while the husbands were away.
Told over the span of twenty years, The Two-Family House explores family relationships and male/female dynamics. Why is one person better at math and another better at grammar? This story is an ask-all questions, hold nothing back, force of honesty, betrayal and what it takes to forgive.

Once and For All

Onceandforall

I have been waiting a while to post about this book, this summer has been crazy with reading and school work so I am just getting around to this one. And I loved it. But before I get started, I am going to clear up a few questions I have been getting- I get questions sometimes about the books I post- first off I don’t do this for money- this is just a hobby of mine that I may or may not try and do as an actual job in the future. So really it’s just books that I read for pleasure (sometimes a school book gets on here-hey I am taking “Baseball in America” and so I am sure I will have one of those books blogged about before summer’s end 🙂 Additionally, it was suggested by a friend of mine to only blog about books I liked- and that makes sense. Who wants to wake up to a bad review of their book, even if it is on some random girls blog?? So yea, I only blog on books I enjoy. My goal in the beginning was to post once a week, but then I started school in a town an hour away and with the commute plus daily life that became once a month… now it’s just whenever I find the time, which is why sometimes I blog several times in a week and why sometimes y’all don’t hear from me for a month. It is what it is. Ok, now let’s get back to the book!

Once and For All is the latest book from author Sarah Dessen who is a Chapel Hill native (and an awesome person! I got to meet her! More on that in a minute). I have read every book Dessen has written and she does not disappoint! Her characters are always complex, and far from typical. Additionally, Dessen likes her characters to have cameos in future books- I LOVE THAT. Many of her stories take place in the same town and certain places are mentioned in several of them- Bendo is a band promoting club and Perkins Day and Jackson High are schools mentioned in nearly every text. It’s as if you get to meet each person in the town, rather than just one character.

In the book Once and For All readers meet the character of Louna who works for her mother, part owner and founder, of Natalie Barrett Weddings. Louna has seen all types of brides, flowers, venues… you name it. Not sure how she feels about love until she finds it, Louna goes about her daily life finishing high school and working on weekends.

At a wedding taking place at a beach resort she meets Ethan who quickly makes her feel special and loved. But not long after their meeting tragedy strikes and Louna is alone. Continuing on one day at a time, Louna is back working for her mom and trying to pick up the pieces, in doing so she meets charming, albeit messy, Ambrose. Is he the one who can help Louna move on? Read to find out!

******

Lucky me had the chance to meet Sarah Dessen a few months ago! She came to a local bookstore to talk about Once and For All and additionally she signed books and chatted with everyone- and I’m on the west coast and even though she must have been super jet lagged from her book tour, she was so kind to everyone! She made sure to not only sign books, but personalized them and talked with each person- that was so cool, it made me like her even more.
I will also admit that I got a little star struck talking to her- this is the author who I started reading in middle school and though her books are considered “YA,” I’ve never stopped. She is super talented. My favorite books of hers are “This Lullaby” and “Saint Anything.” Anyway, as I am talking to her, I get up the nerve to tell her about “Sweet Tea and Paperbacks” and gave her a card for the blog. When she saw the name of my blog she knew I was a southerner and started talking sweet tea and bojangles with me! ah, it was so cool! Here is a photo of nervous me- you can always tell I’m nervous if I start using my hands like crazy when I am talking… case in point-

givingsarahmycard

meandSarahDessen

The icing on the cake was when a few weeks later, I’m on Facebook and see that on her page she posted a picture of all the cards and letters she received on tour. And my “Sweet Tea & Paperbacks” card was in the pile! It made my day!! Here is the pic- I did one in color and the next one only my card is colored (not because the other cards aren’t important, but just to show which one is mine)-

sarahdessencard

colorpop

The fact that she kept all these cards from fans is awesome- I think it shows her kindness and the love she has for them all. So thanks Sarah for an awesome meet and greet, and for a lovely new book! Can’t wait to see what you write next!

Miller’s Valley

Miller'sValley

This summer has been a pull between reading what I want, and reading what my professors require. That being said, I was halfway through with The Alice Network, when my husband and I went to visit family and I had to write a paper during the trip, so I did the unthinkable and left my book at home so I wouldn’t be tempted to forgo school work in order to read my book. That was my mistake. Because I finished that paper before the 5 hour plane ride home and so I did what I absolutely hate to do; I bought a book and read it while in the middle of another. I seriously cannot stand to do that. I am a “one book at a time” type of girl. Now I may buy other books and read them after completion of my book (why I literally have over 60 books on my shelf waiting to be read, but hey, who’s counting?), but this was different.

Miller’s Valley was an interesting read- covering the late adolescence of Mimi Miller, we learn about the town of Miller’s Valley and the close-knit community of people residing in the area. Focusing primarily on the life of Mimi and the people who come in and out of it, Miller’s Valley is a coming of age story that touches deeply on first loves and chasing your dreams. Readers will find themselves soaking in the nostalgia of their childhood homes and friends who are no longer there. The reality that discovering your dreams may take you away from the ones who care the most and coming to terms with this, hits hard in Mimi’s life; this is a story of leaving in order to better oneself, and possibly those around you. A story where someone you thought was your friend, changes their beliefs at the drop of a hat and leaves you to pick up the pieces.

Additionally there is an underlying issue of government wanting to take the town of Miller’s Valley for their own economic gains, and the fight the town puts up in order to keep their homes. A small town with a big heart, living on dreams of the past is something worth discovering in this book of growth and nostalgia.

The Alice Network

The Alice Network

A few weeks ago while on vacation with my husband, we visited this super fun cafe in Bend, Oregon. A cafe with yummy treats, coffee and all the books you could read. Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe (http://www.dudleysbookshopcafe.com/) has become one of my favorite bookstores.

Dudley's

(Here I am picking up a “new to me” hardback copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and enjoying the most fabulous staircase I’ve ever seen!) We spent quite a few hours here…. and walked out with several new books. Bliss.

One of those books was The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn is the tale of two ordinary women, who in their own time, become extraordinary women.

The year is 1915 and Eve is a secretary at a law firm trying to remain unnoticed. She speaks three languages and is excellent at reading people, but most disregard her as dumb due to a stutter she has never overcame. In a country at war, Eve like many other women, is doing a job that would likely have gone to a man if one had been there to fill it. But in this job she meets Captain Cameron of the British Army and he has an intriguing proposition for her.  One that will take her from her home and throw her right in the middle of the war, and Eve is more than eager to join up.
Fast-Forward to 1947 and you meet Charlotte St. Clair, or “Charlie” as she’s known by friends and family. Charlie has lost important people in her life to the second world war and tries out a few vices to forget. Vices that don’t just walk away when she’s in polite company. Charlie is now paying the consequences of her actions and being taken to Switzerland until her problem is taken care of.
However, on the journey to Switzerland, Charlie decides to ditch her parents plan for her and make her own way in life. And this includes finding out what happened to her French cousin Rose.

In a story full of ghosts Eve and Charlie, who have become the most unlikely of friends, bind together to help one another face their pasts and additionally their futures. Weaving two lifetimes with one common denominator, this book was “un-put-down-able.”

The Handmaid’s Tale

Thehandmaidstale

I was very apprehensive to read this book. People rave about it, and the injustices about women. They talk of feminism, a lot. But that’s not what I got from this book. The Handmaid’s Tale didn’t anger me like I thought it would, it reminded me of when I read The Bell Jar and I just didn’t quite get what shook people so much. It’s a weird sensation having feelings toward a book that are not common ones. And while I am against what it had to say about Christianity and the way it would twist scripture around to fit the agenda, I preferred to read it as dystopian and leave it at that.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, takes place in a futuristic time in the country of Gilead (which seems to be the “new” America). Babies are scarce and as a result, husbands and wives who have not reproduced bring a “handmaid” into their home for the husband to try and impregnate in order to grow their family and the human population.

Let’s go a little deeper and add some details, like that the wife lays with the handmaid when she’s intimate with the husband, and again when the handmaid is birthing the baby, or that the handmaids don’t have any rights to their baby aside from breastfeeding and once that’s over they are moved to a different home to try and have a baby for another family.

Aside from the sexual part of the story, there are mass hangings of people who break the law,  handmaids have to wear hats that have bowed out wings so they are nearly forced to look ahead and not in other directions, an analogy for their life. Don’t look back. Only look forward. Because, after all, becoming a handmaid was their “choice.” And how can I forget, they do not allow women to learn to read. Brutal.

Another hot topic for The Handmaid’s Tale is that of religion. Christianity is the only faith mentioned in this text, (but it’s not the only faith that’s been distorted) because this book is a blatant attack on the faith using the Old Testament. Personally I feel that additionally the Mormon faith was attacked for their past with polygamy and Islam with respect to Sharia law.

How I actually feel about the book as a whole? If you can separate from your faith while you read, go ahead. If not then I would pass on this one, there are other dystopian books that do not attack the faith that fill the same shoes.