Being a part of The Manuscript Dr has fulfilled me in ways I never expected. I get to exercise my brain doing things I am the best at as I build operational systems and grow our business. So when my business partner and founder asked if I wanted to help with building content for the company blog, I immediately said yes! I reviewed one of my favorite books, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, talking about one of the most impactful things my Creative Writing degree coursework at SNHU has taught me: theme. If you’re interested, check it out HERE.
Category Archives: Book Reviews
Yes, I know it is already well into 2019. As with most things in my life, I’m behind a bit. Maybe I could count the first quarter of 2019 as a trial period and we just pick up as if nothing left off from here? I like it. Pretend it is early January if that doesn’t work for you.
At any rate, here’s my recap of last year’s reading. It is a very long list (in the order read because OCD planning last year prevailed). It’s also more for my own look back for future reference. But if you see something you like here and pick it up because of my brief recommendation then I’ve done something good to pay things forward for the authors.
I’m proud of myself for reading as much for leisure as assigned and textbooks in 2018. A win if any I’ve heard for last year! Here’s to keeping that trend up in 2019.
- It Came From the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror, K. Scott Forman (editor) – I have a story in this one so it was very cool to read. Many of the authors are friends and it was a pleasure reading such great stories. Not sure you love horror or want short bedtime stories, pick this one up!
- Monster Hunter Alpha (Monster Hunter International #3), Larry Correia – I wanted to like this more but maybe if you’ve read one you’ve read them all?
- Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty – this was a book club pick and what a great little gem it was! Great characters and great story.
- Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Malone Scott – this was an amazing read for anyone in management or leadership especially. It is good for anyone in the business world – more so if you work in a culture full of passive-aggressive folk. Highly recommended!
- Artemis, Andy Weir – almost as good as his first one and very entertaining.
- Personality: Theory and Research, Cervone – textbook!
- Henry V, William Shakespeare
- Sonnets, William Shakespeare
- Macbeth, William Shakespeare
- A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini – book club pick
- The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
- Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare – can you tell I took a Shakespeare class? Sigh… at least it is behind me now!
- Flipped, Wendelin Van Draanen – book club pick
- What Immortal Hand, Johnny Worthen – this one started out a little slow but SO worth the build up. By the end I couldn’t put it down.
- Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov – a classic but I’m not sure how I feel about it after having read it.
- Hamlet, William Shakespear
- Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal – the latest buzz book at work. It was just meh for me.
- Rot & Ruin, Jonathon Maberry – I heard lots of great things about this one and I had to pick it up after I met the author in person. No disappointment here! There are lots more in the series which I will likely return to when I have more time.
- Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1), Leigh Bardugo – another one with super hype. It didn’t suck but it is clearly written for a young-adult audience and I didn’t love it enough to read more in the trilogy.
- Red Clocks, Leni Zumas – amazing book that an agent who I pitched my own novel to said it sounded like. Sure enough, this is very similar to the world my own novel is set in. Both awesome and a let down at the same time. To make myself feel better, I made my book club read it, too. They loved it, which was very cool.
- Wonder, R.J. Palacio – book club pick
- Feed, Mira Grant – pretty interesting new take on zombies.
- Love on Location, September Roberts – written by a friend and such a fun read (romance erotica genre)
- American War, Omar El Akkad – read more because it is a comparable title to the novel I wrote last year. It was interesting but took a while to really get good.
- Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture, Stanley J. Baran – you guessed it, text book!
- Criminal Behavior: A Psychological Approach, Curt R. Bartol, Anne M Barton – love me some psychology textbook (seriously, though. Don’t judge me!)
- The Code Red Revolution: How Thousands of People are Losing Weight and Keeping it off Without Pills, Shakes, Diet Foods, or Exercise, Cristy Code Red Nikel – my new lifestyle starting point. If you want easy to follow Keto-based life, this is very easy to follow with clear and simple “rules” to live by. If you want just the details and don’t need all the inspirational stories, I recommend the actual book (or Kindle version) because the audible you can’t skip around as easily.
- The Red Tent, Anita Diamant – book club pick
- Human Evolution and Culture: Highlights of Anthropology, Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember, Peter N. Peregrine – turns out I really love anthropology!
- Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction, Kristin Denham, Ann Lobeck – textbook!
- The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas – one seriously amazing book that everyone in America should read. No, really. Go read this book. (The movie was not as good!)
- The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah – book club pick. Kristin Hannah never disappoints and this one was great.
- Playing Big: The Unsexy Truth About How to Succeed in Business, Kim Flynn – very fluffy entrepreneur book for people who may have never worked in the business world. Maybe I’m just far more well-rounded than most but I found not much new or noteworthy in this one.
- Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
- Authority, Jeff Vandermeer
- Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer – I read this entire trilogy back to back as if it were one big book. Because of that, I had a complete story and was not disappointed. Had I waited in between (or read them at the rate they were being published) I would have been pissed. Overall a cool story. The movie sucked in comparison.
- The Raven Boys – Maggie Stievater – book club pick. Another interesting YA that I probably won’t continue. If I didn’t have to read so many textbooks, I might have read more.
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – finally got around to reading this one. I think I liked it more than I would have because I watched the first season of the Hulu series based on the book. Overall, pretty disturbing and fantastic all at the same time.
- Design Solutions – Robin Landa – textbook (I kind of hate graphic design, for the record)
- The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stievater – okay, I lied. I found time for the second one of this series after my oldest read it.
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson – I thought I would like this one more than I did. It was fascinating but not always the easiest to follow.
- The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gillman – school assigned
- The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker – fabulous read of the Trojan War from the women taken as slaves in the Greek camp. I made the book club read this one, too.
- Tear Me Apart, J.T.Ellison – a quick and satisfying mystery.
- The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1), Mary Robinette Kowal – I love this author and follow her podcast but this was the first book that struck me as something I would like to read. Alas, I was pretty disappointed. It was interesting but not compelling.
- Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi – one of the best reads of the year. Interesting and full of diverse characters and cool magic.
- The Devil’s Only Friend (John Cleaver #4), Dan Wells – I keep coming back to this series but I’m not sure where it is headed. I had limited time between classes and wanted something I could read quickly.
- Literary Theory: The Basics, Hans Bertens – one of the most dreaded classes that ended up being one of my favorites. Who knew!
- A Cold and Lonely Place, Sara J. Henry – probably shouldn’t start with book two in a series even if it is a stand-alone story. I just couldn’t get into the character who I assume readers knew more to keep them reading from the first book.
- Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch – just meh for me – British police who also hunts ghosts story.
- New Family Values, Andrew Solomon – one of Audible’s free reads that was very compelling and made me think about how we define family in our current culture.
Time again for my annual housekeeping where I archive for my own posterity the things I read over the course of the year. These are in reverse order because I successfully avoided the OCD trap that screamed I needed to put them back in order of reading. I initially aimed for more reading in 2017 but fell short. Since I’m still in school and a lot of the books on the list this year were textbooks, I count it as an overall achievement that I read more than the year before.
- I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Iain Reid – this was a short read over Christmas break. It was confusing during the reading but couldn’t put it down because it was so different. It left me with a WTF kind of response but it keep me thinking about it for days later which was pretty cool. If you like psychological mind twists, this one is good.
- Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline – read for upcoming book club discussion. A quick read that gave me some insights to events in American history that I hadn’t heard of before. I wish it had been longer and gave more details but it was entertaining.
- Enchantress from the Stars, Sylvia Engdahl *didn’t finish* – It is rare that I don’t finish books but sometimes it happens. No one has time for books that don’t hold your attention and this one read like Star Trek fan fiction rife with “telling” rather than showing. After giving it a fair shot, I put it down. It was a book pick for a SciFi/Fantasty book club I’m in but it wasn’t for me.
- The War of Art, Steven Pressfield – highly recommended for artistic types. This was a quick read but had a ton of “Ah-ha!” moments (as well as “oh shit” ones) when I discovered a lot of behaviors I had been doing that follow self-sabotaging patterns. 2018 will be much more productive because of this little book.
- 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories, Heidi Pitlor (editor) – one of my textbooks for my creative writing degree. Great collection of short stories arranged by decade. I enjoyed it as a reader and as a writer studying successful authors.
- The Book of Joy, Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu – a book club read. If you’ve ever read any self-help/enlightenment books it will seem like a recap but if you haven’t ever read this particular genre it was a great one to start with.
- First, Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham – I read this after I became a supervisor of people at the recommendation of my manager. It has lots of insights about the nature of people and how to play to their strengths (instead of focusing on weaknesses) to lead more effectively. It was a great book, if you’re into that kind of thing.
- IT, Stephen King – this was a re-read after I watched the latest movie version. I initially read this when I was a teen and wondered if it would scare me as much as an adult. Surprisingly, I remembered so few details and I thoroughly enjoyed all the tie-ins to the Dark Tower series that I hadn’t realized were there until now. Still love this book.
- The Real World: Introduction to Sociology, Kerry Ferris – surprise, a textbook! This course taught me that while I really enjoy reading about Sociology, I don’t like writing papers about it. No more plans for a Sociology minor for me.
- A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman – a book club pick that I didn’t love in the beginning but ended up SERIOUSLY loving by the end. It’s a slow build but so worth the read. One of the best books I read this year.
- Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – finally read this one when I saw the trailer for the movie coming out in early 2018 and after hearing a bunch of hype from friends who had read it. It’s a fun book, mostly because I’m a child of the 80’s and lived all the things that were referenced (and adored) in the book. A surprisingly enjoyable read based solely on the entertainment value.
- Unwind (Unwind #1), Neal Shusterman – I had several people recommend this book to me when they heard the premise of my latest novel. It was a quick, YA read that held my attention enough to entertain me but not enough to keep reading the series. Another example of the dystopian YA trend that has been done to death in my opinion.
- The Art of Writing Fiction, Andrew Cowan – a fabulous book on how to write that was used as a textbook in one of my classes. I made a ton of notes, used it to build a new presentation that I taught to high school creative writing classes, and will continue to reference. If you’re a writer, you should have this on your to-be-read list.
- A Grown Up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson – a book club pick that was very entertaining. Adult themes and a story about three generations of women full of twists. A great discussion at book club. If you’re looking for an accessible book, easy to read with lots to talk about for your book club, I recommend this one.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams – another pick of the sci-fi/fantasy book club. I read this mostly because so many people quote this classic and I felt left out (and not geek enough) having not read it. It was disappointing. I liked the movie much better!
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot – book club pick and a fascinating Non-Fiction read. I came away from this looking at the medical profession and the medical research field completely different. A fabulous read for anyone, especially for a book club.
- The Lie that Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction, John Dufresne – another book on the writing craft used as a textbook. This one had fewer takeaways for my personal writing but it did influence me to do more free-writing to collect character sketches from real-life. A good one, but not a great one.
- A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire #1), George R.R. Martin – I gave into the hype (hubby watches the HBO series and I met George R.R. Martin in person this year) and wasn’t disappointed. Although, I wonder if I would have been able to keep the characters straight if I didn’t have actors to picture from the TV series. I don’t have much time for epic tomes of this size much but I will slowly make my way through the series at some point. (It isn’t like they come out very regularly, so I hear!)
- A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – a book club pick this year which I had read previously. I listened to it again to refresh my memory for the discussion and loved it just as much the second time around. Still one of my all-time favorite books.
- Sustainable Energy, Jefferson W. Tester – a textbook (no surprise) about one of my favorite subjects. I loved this course and would take it again if they’d give me credit for it. Interesting tidbit: three years ago I had a discussion about current research my brother in law (a materials engineering major at the time) was up to. At the time, I used the future possibilities he told me about as world building for my current novel. Then I got to see what had already been implemented and what is already emerging commercial technology now when I wrote the research paper for this class. I’m definitely a science geek (minus the math skills!)
- Introduction to Mythology, Eva Thury – a textbook for a class I thought was going to be my favorite and which was actually my LEAST favorite to date. I wanted this class to be something totally different (not sure why) and ended up hating it. I don’t want to read old texts and analyze them, I’d rather discuss myths and what they all have in common I guess. *shrug*
- Finders Keepers, Stephen King – a second in the series book with only a slight tie-in to the original book’s cast of characters. Not sure I love that approach but I’ve got a signed first edition of the third book in the series so I had to read this one.
- The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson – my attempt to read classics in the horror genre. Apparently I’m a jaded horror girl who doesn’t like her horror subtle. This felt like watching a sixties movie today. So disappointed.
- Bluescreen (Mirador #1), Dan Wells – who knew I liked cyberpunk!? This was a great read from one of my favorite local authors. If you like science and like to imagine what the future is like, pick this one up.
- Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult – book club pick that was just meh for me. If you’re a privileged white person who’s never considered how it is to be black in America, you’ll probably love this book. (Because that’s who it was written for.) If you already read very diverse books, this will fall somewhat flat for you like it did for me.
- Service Fanatics, James Merlino M.D. – I read this because our new CEO at work was quoted in it and I wanted to know the culture of the Cleveland Clinic where he came from. It was a fantastic read! I love that my company will help shape the future of medicine in the U.S.
- Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides – one of my all-time favorite books that someone else picked for book club so I got to re-read it. Just as good the second time around!
- The College Handbook of Creative Writing, Robert DeMaria – the first textbook on the subject I’ve read. It slants a LOT toward literary fiction but it had many great lessons to teach me that I have already applied to my writing toolbox. A great starting point if you’re a writer.
- Red Queen (Red Queen #1), Victoria Aveyard – my teen couldn’t stop talking about this book and finally convinced me to read it. It was, you guessed it, another YA dystopian world. It had some great ideas and was entertaining, but I have no desire to keep reading the series.
- Dark Matter, Blake Crouch – an impulse buy for myself at the bookstore that I couldn’t put down. I ended up picking it for book club this year and everyone else who read it raved about it, too. If you’re a fan of sci-fi and like mind-twisting plots, you’ll love this one.
- Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross – book club pick based loosely on evidence that there once was a woman who pretended to be a man so she could be educated and ended up as Pope. It was entertaining and fascinating from a historical perspective.
- The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7), Stephen King – this rounded out my re-read of the entire series that I started in 2016. Overall, I still love the ending (especially as it plays into the new movie of the same title that came out in 2017.) I love the first four books in the series much more than I love the last three which came out so close together I had never re-read them. Still my favorite King series.
Time once again for the yearly recap of my reading. I’ve read a bunch of books this year and while I no longer have time to do extensive reviews of each on GoodReads, I offer you the following short reviews in case you’re looking for recommendations. This also is my way of keeping track of what I’ve read in one nice and neat format I can look back on. These are in chronological order because this year my OCD got the best of me. Enjoy!
- Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill – I wanted to love this one after NOS4A2 but it was not quite as good. It was enjoyable as a horror/thriller but it didn’t stick with me like previous reads written by Hill.
- The Finger Trap, Johnny Worthen – great meandering mystery with a main character who has distinctive voice. It was like getting a glimpse inside a middle aged guy and figuring out exactly what makes him tick while he tries his best to become an unwilling private investigator to save his own skin.
- The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick and was heart-wrenchingly good. I cried, I rejoiced, I weeped. A period piece about WWII, which I don’t always love, but was extremely good. Highly recommended.
- Old Scratch and Owl Hoots: A Collection of Utah Horror, short story collection – this was a fun jaunt through the minds of Utah Horror with a western theme. Western is not one of my preferred genres and not all the stories were created equal but there were several that were worth reading that I enjoyed. Short story collections are fabulous when trying out new authors or for fast reads between larger ones.
- Waiting for Sunrise, Eva Marie Everson – another book club selection but one I didn’t particularly enjoy. It was light beach reading with a side of religious overtones. I know lots of people who liked it and thought it was inspiring but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
- The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King – what’s not to love in a story collection by my favorite author? Some were weird, some were frightening and all had something to like.
- Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5), Brandon Sanderson – the “middle” book in the second Mistborn series. I LOVED the first three books and while it is interesting and fun to revisit the world that has evolved around the magic from the first three for 500 years, I don’t love or feel as invested in these characters as I wish I did. A fun fantasy from my favorite fantasy author but not my favorite from him.
- Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku – research for my current novel in progress. Should have been titled “Technology of the Future” since it was more about that than physics. Exactly what I wanted and sparked many of my futuristic elements when writing my future-based story.
- Shadow of the Wind (Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1), Carlos Ruiz Zafon – another book club selection and a fabulous experience on Audible. It was written in Spanish and translated to English and hearing the audio narrator pronounce all the words properly gave it a beautiful tone. Many remarked that this one had so much going on that they felt like it was heavy and needed cliff notes but I loved it because it was meaty with layers that built upon themselves. Highly recommended.
- The Tell Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe – a classic horror tale that I had never read. I don’t always enjoy classics but this one was light and fun and a quick read.
- Living the Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman – I heard an interview with the author on NPR and it intrigued me. Loved reading this one since it applied very much to my own secular life. If you’re a secular person, or love someone who is, this is a great book!
- Strangers, Michaelbrent Collins – I gave this local favorite horror author another try after hearing the premise of this story at a convention. While I liked it better than his zombie series, it was very fast paced and heavy handed. It also left you hanging at the end with a cliffhanger that feels like a ploy to get me to pick up the next installment. Still a huge pet peeve for me when authors don’t finish a story and think it necessary to leave readers dangling. It was fun and gruesome so if you’re into that kind of thing it was not disappointing. Just be aware of the loose ends left dangling at the end and if it isn’t something you can get past, don’t start it.
- Yellow Crocus, Laila Ibrahim – another book club pick that I really liked. This one was a period piece from the era of slavery written from the perspective of the privileged white girl raised by the African American wet nurse. It was very entertaining with great characters that I felt connected to. The story felt fresh to me with a perspective I’ve never considered. Very good pick for a book club discussion on diversity.
- Calamity (The Reckoners #3), Brandon Sanderson – the final installment of this fabulous “superhero” fantasy series that my entire family was highly anticipating. The whole series is well worth your time if you love fantasy or superheroes.
- A Walk In the Woods, Bill Bryson – this started out well but was more a travelog than a memoir. I had hoped it was another like “Wild” but it was merely an account of one man’s attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail in middle age. Skip the book and watch the movie on this one. All the funny parts and none of the boring recounts.
- The Dark, James Herbert – this was a monthly selection of the Horror Afficionado Goodreads group that sounded interesting at a time when I needed something new. It was meh – mostly because it was more suspenseful because the author strung the reader along with very little new information. The reveal at the end was a let down and I realized it was an older book and forgave the shortcomings. If you want a scary story but don’t love the modern horror genre, this would be a good one to check out.
- David (The Unseen #3), Johnny Worthen – I had been waiting for this final installment of one of the best written YA series ever and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy so I didn’t have to wait until the release date. Lucky since it kept getting pushed further and further out. It helps to know the author personally. This was a very satisfying wrap up to a fantastic story. If you haven’t read all three, you should.
- Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline – another book club pick. The premise is that a father and son are driving home late, the son driving even though he only has his learner permit and isn’t supposed to be driving at night, and they hit a jogger on a deserted road. The father decides his son’s future is too valuable to risk and tells his son to keep quiet. I found the story extremely frustrating because the characters kept making insanely bad choices and the plot twists were outrageous and unbelievable. Not one of my favorites but could be a light beach read if you’re into that kind of a story.
- Vicious, V.E. Schwab – book club pick that I really enjoyed. Another take on people with extraordinary gifts where two extremely intelligent college friends become nemesis’. It was a great book for a discussion with readers since there was no clear-cut good guy or bad guy but rather complex and layered characters with believable motivations. Highly recommended.
- The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn #6), Brandon Sanderson – had to finish the series but, again, not my favorite. It has more of a steampunk flavor and none of the characters I initially loved from the first three books. It was fun and lighthearted but I’ve come to more fully appreciate Sanderson’s epic fantasy.
- The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1), Stephen King – after discussion with a friend who was reading the Dark Tower series for the first time, I decided it was time to re-read one of my all time favorite series. I more fully appreciate the first installment knowing exactly how the entire series plays out but it is still my least favorite of all seven.
- The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2), Stephen King – being back in the world of the Gunslinger and his Ka-tet, I couldn’t stop. This was the first volume I read – back in junior high when it was first released – and still is so much fun to read.
- The Passenger, Lisa Lutz – book club pick that was layered with suspense and mystery and thoroughly enjoyable. There were mixed reviews from some during our discussion but overall well received. If you like psychological thrillers that keep you guessing, this one is a fabulous one.
- The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3), Stephen King – still my favorite series ever and I loved being back with my favorite characters on their journey.
- Burying the Honeysuckle Girls, Emily Carpenter – this was a book club book that was surprisingly good. About a girl whose mother and grandmother are surrounded by mystery when they go crazy and either died or disappeared. As her own 21st birthday approaches, she tries to unravel the mystery before she suffers the same fate. I really enjoyed this one and later found out it is a debut from a brand new author.
- Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4), Stephen King – still my favorite in this series. I found myself quoting the iconic lines along with the narrator several times. Still one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I believe this is the sixth go for me and I still loved every minute of it.
- The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – this was my pick for the book club since no other book I’d read since my last pick was as poignant. I listened to it again in preparation for leading the book club discussion and it was even better the second time. Such beautiful language and such a heart-wrenching story. Highly recommended!
- Jewel, Bret Lott – book club pick that I, unfortunately, couldn’t find unabridged on audible. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I read the abridged version but found I had missed a lot of the meat of the story once I was mid-discussion at book club. A story about a mother who has a child at a later age, after she already has a house full of children, who has Downs Syndrome. The emotional parts were skimmed and if you’re going to pick this one up you should NOT settle for the abridged version.
- Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5), Stephen King – I realized that while I’d read and re-read all the books in the series leading up to this installment, while I and the rest of the world waited impatiently for King to finish what he started, I had only read this one the one time when it was released. While the first 4 volumes felt like visiting with old friends and reminiscing about all the most loved stories from our past, this one was fresh and new and I’d forgotten a lot of things. Loved it as much as the first time.
- Song of Suzannah (The Dark Tower #6), Stephen King – again, fresh and new and felt like I was reading new material. So glad the last one was on the book shelf and ready to go once I finished this one.
Thanks to Audible and the power of multi-tasking, I was able to read 30 books this year. A number I thought I’d never attain again when life got crazy. So glad technology allows me to continue to enjoy this pastime I so enjoy. Here’s to reading even more in 2017!
Time for the yearly round up and archive of my efforts to remain a well-read person. This year I did not reach my goal but I did read a lot of really great books. Here they are, all summed up, for your reading pleasure. And in reverse chronological order because my OCD did not win that fight – this time.
- The Innocent, Harlan Coben (Book Club) – a light yet entertaining whodunit perfect for the beach or a long weekend. The ending was satisfying although pieces of the story were a tad predictable.
- The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – one of the best books I read all year which definitely lived up to all the hype I had heard about it. There are very bleak elements that leave you feeling grateful for the life you have since they are painted so authentically through the characters. A truly phenomenal book that everyone should read!
- The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Laroux (Book Club) – a classic that I hadn’t read. I probably would have put it down had it not been a book club pick. I just can’t get into period pieces that old but still I’m glad I read it.
- The Good Girl, Mary Kubica – also a good read but only because of how it was written. I found myself trying to solve the mystery of “before or after WHAT” all the way through. The ending was very satisfying. A great read for anyone who likes a whodunit.
- The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – one of the best reads of the year. Finally a smart, adult novel with twists I didn’t see coming and characters with real depth. It kept me guessing to the end and I recommend it now to everyone who asks.
- Birthmarked, Caragh M. O’Brien (Book Club) – a light and easy read that left me wanting far more details than were given since it was written for the superficial YA market who doesn’t demand it. Such a shame!
- All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr – had so much potential but, just like most novels set in the WWII era, left me feeling bleak and unfulfilled. I think it’s safe to say this is not one of my favorite genres.
- The Fold, Peter Clines – I picked this up because I recognized the author’s name from the best scifi book I’d read the last year or so. Little did I know it was a continuation of that story which had stuck with me so much. Very enjoyable read!
- The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg – I disliked this book so much. It was very clearly written for a YA audience who cannot think critically for themselves. The concepts were intriguing but not enough detail was given for anything to be plausible and the whole thing left me feeling insulted. My daughter probably would have liked it when she was eleven. To be fair, that’s probably the intended market so there’s that.
- Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson – a great stand-alone read from the master of epic fantasy. He is still one of my all-time favorite authors.
- Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cunxin (Book Club) – it was interesting to see how poor Chinese live but the book overall was not a very compelling one.
- Mr Mercedes, Stephen King – a good old horror novel by one of my favorite authors.
- Being Mortal, Atul Gawande – a fantastic book about living on our own terms and dying the same way. Every person everywhere should read this book. I expected it to be a social commentary about the current hot topic of Physician Assisted Suicide or The Right to Die which I was also expected to hate. What I got instead was one of the best books about one of the hardest topics any of us will ever face. I wish I’d read this book before my Mom passed away…
- Celeste, The Unseen #2, Johnny Worthen (ARC) – the much anticipated sequel to Eleanor which did not disappoint. Except for the fact that the third is not released yet and so I must wait.
- The Wise Man’s Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 2), Patrick Rothfuss – a much anticipated sequel that fell short for me and felt disappointingly like a setup book for the third one.
- Altered Perceptions, short stories to benefit mental health – I bought this as part of a crowd fund campaign to benefit a local author suffering with a mental health disorder. It is a collection of well-known authors with either deleted scenes or unpublished works. I got it for the Brandon Sanderson early draft of The Way of Kings. And THEN…. It was by far one of the BEST books I’ve read in a long time. Not because of the stories themselves, but because every author included a personal essay about how mental health had touched their lives in some way. Every person everywhere should read this book! Better yet, they should just publish the author essays and that is what everyone should read. Seriously, go read this book.
- The Brand Demand, Johnny Worthen – FABULOUS social satire set in Salt Lake City so it felt like all the politics and struggles were real. One of my favorite books of the year.
- Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd (Book Club) – a novel set around the time of the IRA in Ireland with some interesting facts about archaeology.
- ITIL Service Strategy – a brutal course but I passed the exam and am now certified!
- The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman (Book Club) – an interesting novelization of ancient Christianity with strong female characters. I wanted to hate it but it was a good read.
- The Archangel Agenda, A.K. Alexander & Jen Greyson – this was a light and semi-steamy read but felt like a serialized novel where just the first act of the story was included and you had to buy the second (and probably third) to get the entire story. Apparently that’s the “in” thing now for Kindle readers?
- Cutting For Stone, Abraham Verghese (Book Club) – a very slow burn but a fantastic read with a killer ending.
- Firefight, Brandon Sanderson – much anticipated sequel to Steelheart which Hubby and I both loved.
- Pretty Things, Christine Haggerty – a novella retelling of a Grimm Fairytale. I’m not a huge fan of the fairy tale but this was not a bad read. Not as Grimm or as dark as I had anticipated and it was very short.
It was disappointing to count and realize I only finished twenty four books of the forty total I set out to read this year. That’s an average of two books a month which is better than years past when I struggled just to finish the book club pick each month. I consume most of my books on Audible which means this small list represents the amount of time I had over the year where it was possible to multi-task. Because of that, it still feels like an overall accomplishment for the year. Here’s to bettering it next year!
When Maddie’s father catches her with a boy, he hauls her into town in a pig wagon and finds her a husband. But Peter’s cabin in the woods promises something very different than Maddie’s happily ever after.
Pretty Things, a retelling of “The Robber Bridegroom,” is the first novella in the Grimm Chronicles series. Warning: not your granny’s fairytales!
I’ve never been one for fairy tales – because I always thought of them in the flavor of the Disney franchise or Mother Goose. But this is not your typical children’s fairy tale and it grabbed me from the first line. Christine Haggerty weaves a tale with adult themes of seduction and betrayal with a splash of daddy issues to the classic tale of the Robber Bridegroom.
I’ve rarely been tempted outside my preferred genres, especially when it comes to retelling an already famous tale. However, this one made me wonder how true to the classic it was and I found myself researching the original. While those with a love of The Brothers Grimm and their ancient tales will surely recognize key elements, this is a fresh new take on the old. It is a short novella, easily dispatched over a large coffee, yet the characters are full of depth. At times I found myself rooting for Maddie and other times loathing her and siding with others. This is a gem of a find everyone should treat themselves to.
For a peek at the book trailer, check it out HERE.
Purchase the novella HERE – currently priced at 99 cents.
Christine Nielson Haggerty grew up in rural Utah with three brothers, a sister, several chickens, a goat, and an outhouse. She always loved the escape of fantasy and the art of writing, and her passion for life is to craft stories of strength and survival.
As a former high school language arts teacher and a black belt in karate, Christine has found a niche in combining those skills to help authors write effective fight scenes.
It’s New Year’s Day – time for reflection and putting away Christmas decorations. It has become tradition to capture my yearly list of books I’ve read from the site and archive them as a blog post with a little insight about each one. Long gone are the days I had time (or energy) to review every one as separate posts. However, if you’re on Goodreads, friend me up since I give at least a little blurb and a rating there when I finish reading. Here’s my efforts this year to
become remain a well-read author.
- The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor (work book club) – Self-help is not my favorite genre but this one was fabulous and just what I needed at the time. It even influenced my January blogging.
- These Is My Words, Nancy E. Turner (book club)
- Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell – the movie was better. Rarely is this true, but this time it is.
- The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson – rocked my epic fantasy world like nothing else since Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
- Wild, Cheryl Strayed – a great read and another surprise since I rarely like memoirs
- A Prisoner of Birth, Jeffrey Archer (book club)
- Beatrysel, Johnny Worthen – one of the best books I read this year. Mostly because it was dark and unique and spoke to me deep down in my core like nothing before it. (Caution: Not for the faint of heart!)
- Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson – more than hooked on this author and this series especially. I devoured it!
- In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, Irene Gut Opdyke (book club)
- The Colony: Genesis, Michaelbrent Collings (not my favorite this year!)
- Eleanor, Johnny Worthen (ARC*) – seriously, if you haven’t read this book go get a copy right now. Kids and adults and everyone in between will love this one. Johnny won Utah’s Writer of the Year for this book and it was deserving.
- NOS4A2, Joe Hill – fabulous horror book like Stephen King used to write.
- The Circle, Dave Eggers – (work book club)
- The Tipping Point, Malcome Gladwell (work book club)
- Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia – great military fiction with a supernatural twist
- Heft, Liz Moore (book club) – one of the best we read this year.
- Copper Descent (ARC*), Angela Hartley – one of my first blog tour posts
- The Shining, Stephen King – I read this as a kid and wanted a re-read before the sequel. Not as frightening the second time around.
- Doctor Sleep, Stephen King – changed the way I look at a mundane piece of the world. Still the master!
- Second Firsts, Christina Rasmussen – (book club) – great read about dealing with loss. It was amazing to help deal with the loss of my health at the time. Little did I know I’d need it on such a deeper level later.
- ITIL Service Operation – technical manual for a certification. Not a light or very enjoyable read, but necessary. I lament all the great fiction I could have read instead!
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (my pick for book club) Amazing, amazing. I love Gaiman!
- Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia – guilty pleasure via Audible
- Plot and Structure, James Scott Bell – great read if you’re a writer
- Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth (book club)
- Divergent, Veronica Roth (book club) – I wanted to hate it after seeing the movie but it was better and I didn’t.
- The Colony: Renegades, Michaelbrent Collings – got a free copy on Audible and hoped the sequel was better. It wasn’t.
- The End of Dieting, Joel Fuhrman – the book my doctor told me to read when embarking on veganism
- Suspect, Robert Crais – recommended author to study on writing action which did not disappoint
- Mitosis, Brandon Sanderson – more like a short story but I had to buy it so it counts!
- Heart of Annihilation, C.R. Asay – (book club) another blog tour visitor (written by my writing group buddy)
- The Giver, Lois Lowry – my oldest had to read it and kept talking about it and the movie was coming out so…
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie (book club)
- ITIL Continual Service Improvement – another technical manual and certification that took far too much time away from “real” reading. But I passed!
- The Martian, Andy Weir – best science fiction of the year that I happened to just stumble upon on Audible.
- The Fault In Our Stars, John Green – did not live up to the hype!
- Revival, Stephen King
- Insurgent, Veronica Roth
- Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler – great stories and a great behind-the-scenes look on the writing process of successful authors.
I have a rule that life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like after a few chapters. This list does not include two books I put down only partially read this year. One of them being Outlander, yes the same one everyone raves about and that they made a television series about. The other was some drivel that I don’t even remember the title of. Given all the time outside of work it took me to obtain two new professional certifications this year, I got a ton of great reading in. Can’t wait to do it all again in 2015! Happy reading to all my fellow readers out there.
*ARC = Advanced Reader Copy in the publishing world. Which means I got to read it before it was available to the public. Always a fabulous thing for an impatient woman like me!
I’ve blogged before about how diverse reader’s tastes are noting that there are so many ways a book can be regarded depending on who reads it. So there must be a way to slog through all the books out there and narrow down which ones you personally will like. Which is why I argue that every reader has an obligation to honestly and objectively review every book they read.
I’m a huge reader. No secret there. What many don’t think about is that the number of books you can read in your lifetime is finite. There are far more books out there than you can read in one lifetime. Yes, even yours. That finite number varies by person depending on how fast and how often you read. For example, I read three books a month on average. That’s thirty six books a year – give or take. If I have twenty more reading years, I only have time for seven hundred and twenty more books. Ever. Which is why you really should choose wisely. For the same reason, I also think you shouldn’t finish a book that doesn’t hook you and keep you entertained either. Unless you’re in a book club since arguably you have an obligation to read those selections regardless.
So how do you pick which books to read so you get the most out of your remaining, and technically very limited, reading time?
Personally, I use recommendations from friends and fellow readers. Another reason I love Goodreads so I can see what people say about books before I decide. (Especially helpful when you have friends who read and enjoy the same books you like so you can see what they enjoyed – or didn’t.) I shy away from books that don’t get at least an average three-star rating (out of a possible five). But here’s a little secret… I usually only read the middle of the road reviews and I especially am interested in the “bad” reviews. Those are the reviews that – if written objectively – give me the best insight. If I see that someone didn’t like a book because of something that I might actually like, I’m more likely to pick it up. If someone didn’t like how dark a book was or how bloody the action was but I really like dark and bloody books, I would probably pick it up.
In the past few months I’ve heard arguments from many different people about not wanting to honestly review every book which all boil down to a couple of general ideas that I take exception with:
“I don’t usually review if it is going to be less than 3 stars.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
I think both of these arguments approach book reviews from the wrong side of the issue. I don’t review books for the author’s benefit, my reviews are designed for other readers like me so we can find books we like (and avoid those we won’t). The hard truth that every author must grapple with accepting is that no matter how much effort and love went into writing a book, not everyone everywhere will love it. Reviews are designed to be the unbiased opinions of readers, and everyone everywhere is entitled to their own. Once a book is in the hands of readers, there’s nothing that an author can change about it anyway.
What if every review was a glowing one and there were no differing opinions? Or what if no one reviewed books ever because they were worried about hurting either the author’s feelings or the feelings of those who had a different opinion? Then every book would be as much of a gamble as randomly picking something off the shelf – without reading the jacket. By not giving an honest and truthful review, regardless of how you liked or didn’t like a book, you’re doing a disservice to every reader who comes after you looking for insights on whether they would like to read it. Of course I don’t think you should completely trash a book (or the author) if you don’t like it, but give me an objective and constructive reason why you didn’t like it that can help me decide if I might also rather skip it. Then let me decide.
Because of this, I rate books in the following manner:
- 5 stars = Loved it! I abandoned all aspects of my life in order to voraciously read this book
- 4 stars = I really enjoyed it and I would highly recommend it to others – but I still slept at night, mostly.
- 3 stars = I liked it but I didn’t love it. I found nothing to complain about but it didn’t rock my world either…
- 2 stars = I didn’t like it overall although I did finish it. (Incidentally, books with this rating have generally been ones I read for book club which illustrates the point that it takes all kinds of readers and not everyone likes the same things.)
- 1 star = I either hated it or I didn’t finish it
On top of a star rating, I always give the feel of the book and the impression it left me with overall. I don’t bother with a synopsis of what the story was about from start to finish, you can get that elsewhere. What I really emphasize is what worked for me and what didn’t, and why. Something that would help someone else objectively draw conclusion as to whether they would like it or not. I do this because those are the kinds of reviews I look for when deciding to give a book a spot on my finite list of things I’ve read between now and when I die.
You remember what they say about treating others the way you want to be treated, right? If you are a reader, won’t you consider doing this as well? Future readers will thank you, myself included!
Time for out with the old and in with the new posts recapping the major accomplishments of the past year (and cleaning off the side bar to make room for tracking this year’s list). I thought 2013 was going to see far more books under my belt since last year was truly an overachiever one when it came to reading. However, I’ve had far more energy to be off my couch in recent months and you can’t listen to audible while doing yoga like you can while running.
- The Winter of Our Disconnect, Susan Maushart (book club) – this book changed my children’s lives and is well worth reading
- A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time #14, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson – so much better than I ever hoped for and well worth the 15 years it took to wait for the end of this series.
- Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Rachel Maddow – disturbing and eye-opening
- Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah
- Still Alice, Lisa Genova (book club) – frightening look at Alzheimer’s
- The Reservoir, John Miliken Thompson
- Mistborn: The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
- Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
- 14, Peter Clines – best scifi read this year
- And I Don’t Want to Live this Life, Deborah Spungen (book club)
- The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
- Mistorn #2: The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson
- Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (book club) – this time I read it instead of listened and loved it even more
- The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom (book club)
- Mistborn #3: The Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson – the ending of this series cemented Sanderson’s place as my new favorite fantasy author
- Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
- A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – this was a haunting read that stuck with me a long while
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck (work book club)
- Horns, Joe Hill – one of my very favorite reads this year
- The Rent Collector, Camron Wright (book club)
- Joyland, Stephen King
- Hounded, Kevin Hearne
- The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (my pick for book club so I re-read it in print instead of listening). This is a far different book in print than in audible and I liked the audible far better.
- Hexed, Kevin Hearne
- The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman (book club)
- Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge – not my favorite scifi and proof that if you put something down twice it probably doesn’t deserve getting finished
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – also one of my favorite reads this year – such a great one!
- Mistborn #4: The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson
- Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn (work book club)
- Slim for Life, Jillian Michaels
- Immortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare – I hope the movies are better than the books
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (book club) – I’m now officially a huge Gaiman fan, too
- Mothers & Other Liars, Amy Bourret (book club)
- No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty – oh how I wish I’d read this years ago to make NaNoWriMo easier!
- Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson – read aloud with hubby on our road trip
- The Name of the Wind: The King Killer Chronicles Day One, Patrick Rothfuss – also read aloud for hubby on our road trip after I filled him in on the first half; and yet another epic fantasy series I want to grab the next one immediately.
That’s thirty seven books this year. A far cry from the goal I set of fifty but still impressive since the theme this year was apparently fantasy. I read some major tomes that in terms of sheer number of pages alone could count as several books. I set the goal of forty books in 2014. Whether I hit that goal or not, you can be certain I’ll be reading every chance I get!