I talk a lot about books on this here blog because I am a book nerd (like you haven’t already figured that out). I have been for as long as I’ve known me, and I don’t expect to change anytime soon.
And I make no apologies about that.
In my ideal world I would have a bazillion hours to do nothing but read books and hang out with Swede and the dog. (And the cats, but only if they stop requesting Lillian Jackson Braun at every damn turn.)
Alas, there’s all this BS called work and showering because apparently banks expect you to pony up when your mortgage payments come due (jerks), and the human race appreciates not having their olfactory senses ravaged and offended by body stank (okay, that’s fair).
So it is in between working and showering that books get fit into my life, even though I’d really like it to be the other way around, that I fit into a book’s life. In the past 12 months I’ve managed to fit 32 books into my life, some great, some only okay. The bad ones, or the ones I just didn’t care for, well, those were returned to the library because I’m a grown-ass woman and I’m just not going to suffer through a book just because I feel I should, or because some authority figure is telling me I have to. I’m not in high school anymore.* (I’m looking at you, just about every book in junior year AP English.)
Which brings up a couple of questions before we get to the McPolish Book List: Year 9. One, what was the first book you put down because you Just. Didn’t. Like it.? Mine was The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Just didn’t care for it. Couldn’t give a shit about any of the characters. So I was like, “Fuck it. McPolish, you are a grown-ass woman. No one is testing you on this book. YOU STOP READING IT AND THEN STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF IN THE THIRD PERSON. OR MAYBE IT’S SECOND PERSON? WHATEVER. READ SOMETHING ELSE.”
True breakthrough moment for me, I tell you.
Two, what did you read this year that you loved, hated, or were lukewarm about? Let’s hear it in the comments, Interwebers.
Here’s what I read for the 2014-2015 reading year, along with some personal opinions, and they are just that—opinions. Some probably barely qualify as an opinion, and really are moonlighting as opinions when in actuality they’re half-formed thoughts and run-on sentences. Do with that what you will.
Read on, readers.
*Though my stress dreams would tell you otherwise. Hello, nightmare of having to take a calculus final when I’ve never taken the subject in my life, on the same day when I have to take a French final, only to discover I hadn’t been attending class all semester, all of it ignoring the fact that in reality I’ve already graduated from both high school and college.
Books completed between November 10, 2014 and November 9, 2015
- Lady Be Good—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (It just seems fitting that this year of books starts off with a well-written romance. I know I’m all about the romance, but I do so love Phillips’ style of writing, character development, and the wacky situations her characters seem to fall into. It’s all just a simply charming, delightful package to read, even if I did know the outcome of this book, seeing as how I’ve read later books that refer to these characters. [Another thing I love about Phillips’ books, that the characters are constantly overlapping. I just adore it.])
- Waistcoats & Weaponry—Gail Carriger* (The third book in Carriger’s Finishing School series, and it was just a treat to read. I zipped right through it, and was glad to see that there will be a fourth book out in the spring. Hooray! After the surprising but not surprising ending of this book, I’m anxious to see what happens next. And I furthermore love that we are seeing some of the characters from the Parasol Protectorate in earlier times. Fabulous.)
- First Lady—Susan Elizabeth Philips* (Loved this one. Again, it’s one where I’ve read later books about these same characters, so I knew how it was going to end—and let’s face it, it’s a romance, so we all know there’s going to be a happy ending—not like that—but it was fun to read how they got there. I think this may be one of my favorites of Phillips’.)
- Case Histories—Kate Atkinson* (Well now. This was recommended to me by Swede’s sister, and how glad am I that she did? It’s a terrific mystery, albeit a little expected in the outcomes, but Atkinson did a great job of weaving the different story lines together. I love when stories intersect as they do in her story. I’m excited to read more of this Jackson Brodie character, and see what other adventures and characters he encounters.)
- Neither Here Nor There—Bill Bryson* (If you’re looking for a fast read, this isn’t it. Bill Bryson is a slow boat to China sort of writing, and writes about his travels to boot. There are many reasons to love this book, but I think what I loved most about it was it was a snapshot of travel at a time when there were no cell phones, no Interwebs, and when some of the countries he visits used to exist (but don’t now). You know, the 90s. Good times.)
- Some Like It Hawk—Donna Andrews* (See previous list for the reason as to why there is no description of this.)
- The Sisters Brothers—Patrick DeWitt (This was a book club read, a western, and certainly not my usual genre, for sure. I enjoyed it, once I got a few chapters in. The writing style was direct yet somewhat lyrical, almost Shakespearean in its beat, I thought. I’m glad I read it, but I’m honestly not sure if I’d recommend it.)
- One Good Turn—Kate Atkinson* (Oh, Kate Atkinson, how I love thee. I love your twists and turns and connections and Russian dominatrixes. [Dominatrices?] [The latter does not get spell-checked, so let’s go with that.] The second book in the Jackson Brodie series, and it’s entirely possible it’s even more intriguing than the first. And now is the part in the book list where you shouldn’t be surprised if the next eleventy million books on this list are Kate Atkinson novels, as I have frequently expressed my love to read an author straight through when I come upon one I love. I regret nothing.)
- All the Light We Cannot See—Anthony Doerr (So this is kind of a weird thing, wherein I tell you that I liked this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a book club read, and that was pretty much the consensus, that we liked it? Kind of? Mostly? Except it’s not a book that I’m going to push on my friends. And honestly, Doerr needed a damn editor, because it was a sloooooow beginning, and I would say the first third of the novel could have been dramatically condensed. That said—again, weird—it was a good story, if overwritten at times, and once it got going it moved pretty quickly and was pretty engaging. But no, still not going to recommend it, unless you’re super into lit fic and WWII and have the patience for it. [Which I am, sort of, and I do, mostly, but whatever.]) (Edited to add: And then later I learned that it won the Pulitzer, after I’d read it. Go figure.)
- Coco Pinchard’s Big Fat Tipsy Wedding—Richard Bryndza (This book was not terribly good, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Some of the characters were funny, but written as all emails got stale really fast. It took me a chapter or two to realize that this was the second in a series of books, and unlike other series I’ve read, I have no desire to go back and read the first or any other book.)
- Reinventing Mona—Jennifer Coburn (I really enjoyed this book, a super-fast read, but it had a lot of problems. I think Coburn could have used some better editing, as there were some major jumps/plot holes that sort of left you all, “Ehhhmmm….Eh?” I think she could have done with leaving some plot lines out altogether, as they were entirely too short so as not to be worth including [I’m thinking of the lesbian best friend thing, which didn’t seem believable to me, and the Captain being in love with her grandma, for examples]. But! That said, Coburn has a great writing style, and there was more than one part that made me giggle or flat out laugh out loud, and I love when a book makes me do that. So long as you don’t care too heavily about plot, I’d so give this book a go.)
- Gabi, A Girl in Pieces—Isabel Quintero* (Oh my, how I really enjoyed this book. I love the journal style of writing, I love the character of Gabi, I love her friends, and the way she thinks and navigates high-school life as a self-described fat, nerdy Mexican girl. It’s the perfect mix of superficial high school life and hopes and dreams and all-too-real shit you wish no teenager to have to go through. But Gabi does, and it’s messy and it’s beautiful and it’s hopeful and I want to see where she is 10 years later because I guarantee you she will be just as brilliant and neurotic in her own head, because let’s face it, aren’t we all?)
- I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You—Courtney Maum (Eh. There’s only so much I can take with a novel about infidelity and then trying to win your wife back. Pretty much the entire book was one big navel-gaze, with a strong undercurrent of trying to be more literary fiction than I actually thought it to be. I finished it just to see if they end up back together or not [spoiler alert: they do], and it was all very anti-climactic, much like, you know, real life. Except with a lot, a LOT more navel gazing. Which just gets old after awhile. And whiney. You can’t have that much navel gazing without the main character coming off sounding like a whiney, self-oriented ass. Also, apropos of nothing, I downloaded this book because for some reason I thought it was a comedy. It’s not.)
- We Were Liars— Lockhart* (Oh my. Oh my goodness. This book is captivating, it’s engaging, it flies by, and it makes me wonder why can’t someone write ADULT literary fiction like this? No, seriously, of all the adult lit fic I’ve read lately, it all just tries so damn hard to be “intelligent” rather than telling a story, and thus, loses whatever beauty that story could have had. But this book? This book, at first, you might be all, “You’re crazy, it’s TOTALLY overwritten,” and I would kind of agree with you, until you get deeper into the story, and into the character, and you realize it’s not overwritten, it’s a teenage girl trying to make sense of missing memories. Beautiful and heartbreaking and beautiful, this book.)
- Out of Sight, Out of Time—Ally Carter* (Damn, you, Ally Carter. Damn you! This Gallagher Girls series just keeps getting better with each books, the intrigue factor climbing and climbing. And this is the second to last book! GAH. WOE TO ME. Such a fun YA series, and Carter has done a great job growing the characters and complicating the plot. It’s all terribly engaging in a “Maybe I should call in sick to work so I can finish this book” way. And that’s the best kind of way.)
- House of Memories—Monica McInerney* (This may be my favorite of McInerney’s books, and not just because there is a bit that takes place in Washington, DC. Intriguing characters, absolute heartbreak, and an engaging read. I tore through this one.)
- When Will There Be Good News?—Kate Atkinson* (The next in the Jackson Brodie series, and these books just keep getting better and better. Seriously, I love how Atkinson fits all these seemingly disparate lives together, and it works. There are some loose ends and a minor “eh?” here and there, but in general, yes. I love it all. Yes.)
- Murder Offstage: A Posie Parker Mystery—B. Hathaway (I’m still going back and forth whether or not I want to read the next in the series. I enjoyed the book, a cozy mystery and a very fast read, so I think I will, but probably once I’ve whittled down the other books on my reading list.)
- Prudence: The Custard Protocol, Book One—Gail Carriger* (Oh, this is an enjoyable new series, about the daughter of the main character of the Parasol Protectorate series. Adventures in India, in a dirigible that looks like a ladybug? Yes, please.)
- Save the Date—Mary Kay Andrews (This was a slow start for me, which is surprising for Andrews’ books. I almost actually gave up on it, because I didn’t know how she was going to sustain some of the relationships when they get together so soon. And side note, someone fell down a bit on their copy editing job—I found a bunch of typos and misplaced punctuation marks. If I’m noticing that rather than paying attention to the book, well, that’s kind of an issue. Anyway, I loved the description of the flowers, as well as the rest of Savannah and the surrounding environments. Andrews has a gift for that, for sure, and it draws me in every time. The upshot is, a decent book, though not my favorite of hers by far.)
- Dear Committee Members—Julie Schumacher* (I added this to my list on the recommendation of my friend Ashley, and I’m quite glad I did. It’s a fun, fast read that gives a snarky look into a mid-weight college in the Midwest, and the politics that swirl about. I love the ego of the Jay, the main character, he’s just so insecure and pompous. I zipped through this in about a weekend, I think the letter format lends itself to that.)
- The Girl on the Train—Paula Hawkins* (Not nearly as fucked up at Gone Girl—and let’s keep in mind that I’m a newbie to reading thrillers—but a very engaging read. There were some parts that seemed a little slow, and I couldn’t help but think, “Jeezy creezy, can we move it along, here?” at a few points. But the ending is a deluge of answers, and not a little creepy when you think about it in real-life perspective. Probably should not have stayed up to the wee hours to finish it—commence freaky dreams!—but at the same time, Worth It.)
- Firefly Lane—Kristin Hannah (I feel a little bad about what I’m about to say, because at the end of the book the author has more than one note to readers about how this book was such a personal journey for her. And this is not said at all to belittle her journey. It’s just that I thought this book was incredibly thin, and incredibly superficial. [Quite the accomplishment considering it clocked in around 400 pages.] The characters had no depth, the plot was too predictable, and it just….it just read like the author thought her readers were kind of dumb with absolutely no knowledge of previous decades of life. Since the book starts in the 70s and ends in the early millennium, all the fads and trends that should paint the decade are ones that are just so, so stereotypical. It’s as if the author didn’t live through those decades herself [even though she says she did] and was just pulling stuff from Wikipedia. It was just so…trite. So, meh. Not recommending this one, and probably will not read this author again.)
- United We Spy—Ally Carter* (Oh, what a wonderful, daring, dashing end to this series! I’m sad that it’s over, but I was happy with how it all ended and played out. Such a fun read, I think this series—which I liked to begin with—got even better with each book. Do read it if you like YA, and fun, spy stuff.)
- The Sweet Spot—Stephanie Evanovich (Ehhhmmm….huh. There were parts of this book that I liked, but parts that just confused the hell out of me. I get that she’s trying to work a plot that lends itself to unconventionality, but the emotions of the main characters just got so jumbled sometimes and I was like, “Wait, are they really mad? Or is this just foreplay to sexy time? Or is THIS their sexy time?” I don’t know, it just sort of left me befuddled, and pulled me out of the story too much to really enjoy it. And honestly, when the scandal/major conflict portion happens [more than halfway through the book, which I found odd-ish, but not terrible] I almost put the book down for good, because I just kind of felt like, “Bleh, I don’t really care about either of these jokers because I can’t figure out what the fuck their actual feelings are, and what’s part of the sexy time anger, and what’s not.” You know what I mean? Well, perhaps not. But whatever, those are my thoughts, and I really don’t recommend this book based on my own confusion.)
- We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves—Karen Joy Fowler* (I remember reading Fowler’s Jane Austen Book Club, but I don’t remember enjoying it nearly as much as I did this one. Quirky and off-center is the best way to describe the main character, and the story itself just sucks you in and is both hilarious and heartbreaking simultaneously. Fair warning: If you are at all sensitive to things related to scientific studies conducted on animals, this may not be the book for you. They’re not constant, and only a few passages are descriptive [somewhat], but I did still have a hard time reading parts of this book, as it made me very uncomfortable, yet kind of in a good way. If that makes sense. [It probably doesn’t.] But even so, I highly recommend this book—the writing is beautiful, the story is a great twist on a family drama, and just…yeah. Just read it. I loved it, and couldn’t put it down.)
- Falling Together—Marisa de los Santos* (de los Santos has a lovely writing style, if a little over-the-top at times. I enjoyed this book as a whole, despite the fact that I don’t really find the whole premise believable, would I guess be the best way to put it. Three friends are all attached at the hip during college and then a couple years after one of the friends breaks up the trio and says she has to move on with her life, and they shouldn’t contact one another again. But then two re-meet at a reunion and go in search of the third. And I get that the story is of these two peeps’ growth and falling in love and rediscovering each other—and that is all quite lovely—but the third-friend story line is weak, I think, and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the story. But still. A good read, and beautiful writing, and I’ve heard good things about de los Santos’ other books, so this is an author I want to definitely read more of.)
- The Theory of Opposites—Allison Winn Scotch* (Another book I got from Book Bub for a dollar, or maybe two? Either way, I liked the characters, and I liked the premise of a girl who’s dad is famous for living and promoting a theory of life, and she sets out to prove the opposite. It’s a fun read, though I’m not sure I entirely saw how her way of thinking was different than her dad’s, or bought her dad’s way of thinking to begin with. But whatever, I liked the character, so I kind of let that detail [albeit a bit of a major one] go.)
- Queen of Hearts—Rhys Bowen* (Catching up on the Royal Spyness series. Oh, for why haven’t Georgie and Darcy gotten together yet? GAH. Also, an appearance by Charlie Chaplin in this one! I wonder how long this series will go on?)
- Delicious!—Ruth Reichl* (Oh, Ruth Reichl, you just have such delicious—no pun intended—writing, I could just eat it with a spoon. It’s a fictional story marbled with a healthy dose of food talk, which makes my day. Incredibly enjoyable read.)
- Malice at the Palace—Rhys Bowen* (You know, this may be my favorite in the Royal Spyness series yet. Not only do we have an intriguing read with a good and clever investigation, but there’s a hint of change at the end that readers of the series have been waiting for for quite some time. Plus, I like that this one, as Bowen notes at the end, was based on some historical truths. Quite fun, I have to say!)
- The Vacationers—Emma Straub* (You know those books, when you read them, you think, Gad, that was just so beautifully written? Yet not over-written, and still readable and engaging? Beautiful but not so laden with flowery prose that you’re like, “that’s so lovely….wait, what is actually happening?” That’s this book. It’s beautifully written AND tells a great story, which I find rare in a lot of books these days. It’s weird, right? You would think that the two would be go hand-in-hand, but no, not really, not in IMHO. Anyway, this book does just that, and it’s funny, it’s engaging, it’s sad, it’s just….a good story. That is beautifully written, and I really, really enjoyed the characters and peeking into their lives.)