Tag Archives: book list

mcpolish book list: year 11

15 Nov

Well, Interweb friends, we’ve come to the end of RY2017, and reviewing the list of books I’ve read this year, I can say it’s been a good reading year.

Well, let’s face it. Any year that I read is a good reading year.

Don’t be alarmed that partway through this list my ambition to give you a quick, three-point review fell by the wayside. Life, it turns out, is very tiring, and sometimes you just need to let some things go in order for your head to not explode. And sometimes, that thing is explaining what you liked about a book, rather than just tacking on a recommended asterisk. And sometimes sometimes, that thing is also ensuring that your coat is buttoned properly, and you haven’t skipped a button thus throwing off the alignment of your coat and bewildering you for hours as to why your coat suddenly doesn’t fit.

Look at me! Growing! Learning! Being an adult and shit!

Anyway, here you go, reader friends. Perhaps you’ll pick up one of these paperbacks/hardbacks/ebooks, and if you do, won’t you share what you think? And if you have any recommendations from your own reading lists, you know who to send them to.*

*Me. You should send your recommendations to me. 

Books completed between November 10, 2016 and November 9, 2017

So as not to get too wordy, I’m taking the same approach as I do with my movie lists, and giving you three sentences or less about each of these books.**  You’re welcome.

**And then, as you’ll see, eventually three sentences just got to be too much. So we’re back to the * denoting those books I recommend, no explanation of why or how. I’M A MYSTERY LIKE THAT. AND LAZY.

  • My One and Only*–Kristan Higgins (1. Turns out I like Kristan Higgins’ standalones as much as I like her series! 2. I like the Cape Cod setting, and now want a cottage there. 3. I’m not so sure I like Harper and Nick together, I feel like he still has some growing to do.)
  • If You Only Knew*–Kristan Higgins (1. Not quite as romance-y as her other books, and I liked that about it. 2. Definitely a good, fast read. 3. I wanted to slap some sense into the married sister, but in the end I really liked her.)
  • Foreign Affairs–Alison Lurie (1. This book won a Pulitzer in 1984 for fiction. 2. I don’t really know why. 3. It was a nice book, but I didn’t find it enthralling by any means.)
  • Four Friends–Robyn Carr (1. I think this may have been a departure from Carr’s romance novels into more of women’s fiction. 2. I didn’t like it as much as I liked Virgin River. 3. For some reason this reminded me of the show Designing Women, and I have no idea why.)
  • Someday, Someday, Maybe*–Lauren Graham (1. Did you know Lauren Graham wrote a book? 2. I couldn’t help but read the main character’s voice in Lorelei Gilmore’s voice. 3. I want there to be a sequel to this book so we can see how her acting career turns out.)
  • Radio Girls*–Sarah-Jane Stratford (1. This is a time period [the 1920s/1930s] that I’ve really enjoyed reading about lately. 2. I totally looked up to see what about this story was fact, and what was fiction. 3. Lesbians! and Gays! in high society in the 20s and 30s!)
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend*–Katarina Bivald (1. I didn’t want this book to end. 2. I didn’t want this book to end. 3. I didn’t want this book to end.)
  • Unfinished Business–Nora Roberts (1. It’s amazing when you read a romance novel that is well written vs. one that is horribly written, and Nora Roberts is that difference (in that she writes romance well, particularly given how prolific she is). 2. I love reading romance novels from Back in the Day, as it’s always a bit jarring to realize we’re talking about a pre-smartphone, pre-Interwebs era. 3. The main characters are just soooooo overwrought and dramatic.)
  • Eligible*–Curtis Sittenfeld (1.This is the first book by Sittenfeld that I’ve actually enjoyed. 2. I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice, but do I really need to, as this seems to be the exact same thing just with emails and planes rather than carriages and letters? 3. Why Liz Bennet doesn’t just throw her sisters and her mother off a cliff I don’t know.)
  • The Inn at Rose Harbor–Debbie Macomber (1. Was this the first book Macomber ever wrote? Because it reads like it. 2. Surprisingly, I got to the end of this and realized it’s the first book in a series and yet had no desire to read the subsequent books. 3. The writing lacks style.)
  • The Interestings–Meg Wolitzer* (1. Gad, I just love Meg Wolitzer’s writing style. Dense and beautiful and engaging. 2. Jules’ character never really grows up, does she? She kind of stays an annoying, emotionally stunted teenager well into her 50s. 3. Ash is annoying. And so is her brother.)
  • Staying at Daisy’s–Jill Mansell* (1. I wasn’t expecting much, since I picked this up as part of a 99 cents box set from Book Bub, and was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed it. 2. This makes me want to move to the English countryside. 3. Egads there are a lot of plotlines going on in this story.)
  • Millie’s Fling–Jill Mansell* (1. Ah, Cornwall. How I wish to visit thee. 2. I particularly like how Orla Hart’s storyline ends. 3. Again with the other romances/narratives taking more of a prominent role than the one that’s top-billed.)
  • An Offer You Can’t Refuse–Jill Mansell* (1. Strange–or not–that the Lola/Dougie narrative seems to take a backseat to every other plot in this book. 2. This seems to be a regular thing of Mansell’s books. 3. It’s a light, fun read so I don’t much care about which narrative does what, to be honest.)
  • The Unexpected Consequences of Love–Jill Mansell* (1. Sophie’s story, while billed as the main story, really comes across as secondary to the rest of the characters. 2. Wow, they really gloss over some major trauma, and yet, I’m perfectly okay with that. 3. I want to go live in this seaside village, it sounds so quaint and uncomplicated[ish].)
  • Lola’s Secret–Monica McInerney (1. This may be the first MM book that I really did not so much care for. 2. It’s been a loooong time since I read The Alphabet Sisters, and thus, I couldn’t keep Carrie and Bett straight, and honestly, didn’t really try. 3. I’m bothered by the fact that the storyline of the young girl whose parents always fought didn’t have an outcome that was as happy as possible for the situation, given that’s how the other storylines of hotel guests turned out.)
  • Fast Girl: Running from Madness–Suzy Favor Hamilton*
  • Today Will Be Different–Maria Semple*
  • The Woman Who Stole My Life–Marian Keyes* (This read almost like two separate stories to me. Odd.)
  • Vintage–Susan Gloss
  • Lizzie Pepper: Movie Star–Hilary Liftin*
  • The House at Pooh Corner–AA Milne* (I read this to Baby McSwedolish, but we read the whole thing so that counts, right? I’m counting it.)
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story–Liane Moriarty*
  • Until There Was You–Kristan Higgins*
  • Dream A Little Dream–Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (I think I actually read this book last year, but I don’t see it on the list, so I’m just adding it here. See? This is what I get when I don’t record these books as I complete them.)
  • Maine–J. Courtney Sullivan* (1. Sad. Everyone in this book is just a bit of a sad sack. Good characters, but all of them, tinged with sadness that makes me sad for them that they can’t be happy. 2. None of these women strike me as particularly strong, and I found that frustrating. 3 Despite the first two points, I did enjoy the book, and it’s got great writing style.)
  • The Cinderella Deal–Jennifer Crusie*
  • The Cornish Guest House–Emma Burstall
  • Summer of Love–Katie Fforde
  • Trade Me–Courtney Milan
  • Big Little Lies–Liane Moriarty*
  • Hillbilly Elegy–JD Vance*
  • Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay–Jill Mansell*
  • In Farleigh Field–Rhys Bowen* (Slightly darker than her usual books. Is this the beginning of a new series? If I have a vote it is YES PLEASE.)
  • Cruising Attitude–Heather Poole*  
  • On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service–Rhys Bowen* (Latest in the Royal Spyness series. I know I thought these were kind of silly when I first started reading them, but now I love them and I can’t get enough of these books! I get so sad when they end because I have to wait for like, a whole year for the next one. Sigh.)
  • Some Girls: My Life in a Harem–Jillian Lauren*
  • The Fifth Letter–Nicola Moriarty* (Yes, she is the younger sister of Liane Moriarty)
  • Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery–Jenny Colgan*
  • The Travelers–Chris Pavone* (I liked this one way better then Ex Pats)
  • The Cafe By the Sea–Jenny Colgan*
  • Lucky Us–Amy Bloom*
  • The Royal Treatment–Melanie Summers






mcpolish book list: year 10

18 Jan

Despite the fact that I did very little blogging last year, I did, in fact, do some reading. Because reading is a constant for me. Without books, I would be a terribly lost soul.

Plus there was the whole had-a-baby, taped-to-the-couch-while-nursing-particularly-in-the-first-month-and-there’s-not-much-else-to-do-but-read thing.

So I had a particularly good run there toward the end of RY2016 (Reading Year 2016. Much like a fiscal year, but without having to deal with money. Which makes it WAY better.) thanks to the baby. Though as a whole, it wasn’t my best reading year, in terms of sheer number of books. In fact, if that was the barometer to go by, it may in fact have been my worst. And that’s more than a little wonderful, because it means there are that many books out there that I still can read!

If you’re looking for something to read, take a look at the list below. If you read something over the past year that you absolutely loved, please do tell, because I never mind an ever-expanding To Read list.

Year Ten of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2015 and November 9, 2016


  1. The Royal We–Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan* (I’m not a Royal Watcher, and I could give a crap about Prince William and his wife in real life. That said–and I say that because this book reads like a fictionalized version of their love affair–this was such a fun read, if an unsatisfying ending. It wasn’t a BAD ending–though literally the last page was a little too shmoopy and over-written IMHO–more like an “oh…really? Ugh. Blargh. Letdown.” Because it’s a fairytale, and even though the point of the book it to show how much of a fairytale this life ISN’T, there’s still a part of me that hoped for the fairytale ending. Anyway, all that aside, I love Cocks and Morgan’s writing style–it’s fun, it’s witty, it’s totally engaging, and this was one of those books that I’d read on the way to work and almost miss my stop because I didn’t want to put it down.)
  2. Beach Town–Mary Kay Andrews* (A fun read, which is to be expected from Andrews. This time it’s set in Florida, for a change of pace from her usual Georgia, but it’s still filled with the charm and great descriptions Andrews does so well. A little too much over-explaining in places, but I can forgive that for an easy read. A good beach read–no pun intended–and I think Eb may be my favorite hero of Andrews’ yet.)  
  3. Life After Life–Kate Atkinson* (While I absolutely adore Atkinson’s Jackson Brody series, I am kind of back and forth on this book. I still recommend it, as noted, but it took awhile to get into, and fully understand the premise. [Atkinson truly amazes me in her ability to weave characters and storylines and time and space and…<POW>…Gah. I think my brain just exploded thinking about the complexity of actually writing this novel.] And once I did catch on to the structure Atkinson was following, it made it a bit easier, and I could relax enough to get into the book. And it’s lovely, with Atkinson’s lovely writing. But there was still something that…huh. I don’t know. I guess I didn’t find it *quite* as engaging as I did her Brody novels. All that said, it’s still a good read, and maybe I’m being unfair, comparing LAL to JB novels. They’re apples and oranges, really. And I will add that I did like this enough that I’m excited to read the related A God In Ruins.)  
  4. The Improbability of Love–Hannah Rothschild* (Oh, what a lovely book. I’m not sure how to classify this–women’s fiction, perhaps? But I was thoroughly engaged with the cast of characters, their ups and downs, as well as sinking into a bit up the upper class art world. Rothschild has a flowing writing style and draws out a very good story that involves love, money, intrigue, and Nazis. [Also, what the what? Two books in a row that have an aspect/focus on WWII. Odd. But not in a bad way.] This has been one of the books I’ve enjoyed reading most, and I actually put other books aside to focus on it [a rarity for me], and NOT just because it was a book club read. Do pick it up, will you?)  
  5. The Hen of the Baskervilles–Donna Andrews* (It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Meg Langslow mystery, and I think the break did me good. This was a fun read. And I’ll leave it at that, per my rule about Andrews’ books. 🙂 ) 
  6. The Good, The Bad, and The Emus–Donna Andrews* 
  7. Great Kitchens of the Midwest–J. Ryan Stradal* (Okay, admittedly, I do love books that have a food theme to them. And books that seem to have disparate storylines that somehow tie together. And this book has both. And I loved it. I wasn’t so sure about it in the first chapter–all the talk of Lutefisk, blech–but it picks up and then I couldn’t put it down. I loved the writing style, it flowed so beautifully, and kept moving, and while the storylines were complicated, and the characters had a lot of shit not go their way, I was purely satisfied with how it all turned out in the end.)  
  8. Nobody’s Baby But Mine–Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Not really a fan of this one, because I think the premise it’s built on–a genius woman wants to have a baby and tricks who she thinks is a “dumb” football player into getting her pregnant–is both horrible and swept under the rug WAAAAAAYYY too easily. Almost like it’s making light of the situation, because Love! It’s all overcome by Love! And Heady Sexual Wants! And….yeah. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s like, hey, here’s this really underhanded thing a woman did, something that yes, other women have done,  BUT JUST BECAUSE SHE HAD GOOD INTENTIONS DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY. There are so many other routes Philips could have gone with this one, and I don’t like the route she chose. It didn’t work for me. Meh.)  
  9. Beautiful Ruins–Jess Walter* (This book started out strong, and then started going in a direction that I was not expecting–you know those times when you think the book is going to be about one thing, but it ends up being about another thing entirely? Yeah, that’s this book. So about a third of the way through I was kind of like, oh….well, okay. And it took me a minute to get back on board with the book, though once I did I enjoyed it muchly. It’s very…thinky. Quite a bit of philosophizing, but not necessarily in a bad way. Walter creates characters that you care about enough to forgive him for being a little heavy-handed with the life’s philosophies, and for jumping between multiple styles of writing. It all links together quite nicely, and could have easily been a disjointed mess, but it’s not. I don’t get the whole bit about it being a social satire that critiques Hollywood culture as many have described it, but whatever. Still enjoyable.)  
  10. The Best Man–Kristan Higgins* (The first in the Blue Heron series, and oh dear. It seems I’ve fallen in love with another series. Get excited, people, I’ll be reading this straight through. I heard Higgins speak at a conference a couple of years ago, and she was just terrific. Now, having read one of her books, I think she is even more terrific, as is her writing. It’s fun, it’s lovely, and she makes the setting in this book just as much of a character as the people. Speaking of which, I love the characters she’s drawn in this book, and that’s a lot of what makes me want to read the others in this series, just to see them and hang out with them again. ← I swear I live in reality and not in the pages of a book.)  
  11. The Perfect Match–Kristan Higgins* (The second book in the Blue Heron series, and just as delightful as the first. I like the twist of the story line so it really separates Honor’s story from Faith’s, but still with all the charm that makes you want to live in Manningsport.) 
  12. Waiting on You–Kristan Higgins* (Again, do we need to talk about my love of finding a good series and then reading the shit out of it? No. No, we do not. Higgins jumps out of the Holland family and into the O’Rourke family–which in some regards may just as well be the Holland family, and I mean that in a good way–and damn if Higgins didn’t change up the story line. What I like about the conflicts in her stories is that they’re all different, but all very relatable, which is not always easy to do. I zipped through this one just like I did the first two, and I regret nothing.) 
  13. In Your Dreams–Kristan Higgins (Huh. Well, it was bound to happen. This was not my favorite of the Blue Heron novels so far. [And I think I only have one more to go.] The romance seemed thin and not terribly believable so much as it was convenient, between Jack and Emmaline, and there was just a LOT going on with the characters mentally. Disparate things that never seemed to gel–Jack’s actual heroics, Jack’s savior complex, Emmaline’s weight, Emmaline’s  feeling like her parents love her adopted sister more, Jack’s inability to stand up to his ex-wife. Nothing ever seemed to really click into the believable realm for me. Nonetheless, I still zipped through this one, because Higgins’ writing is funny and engaging and I just love reading anything she writes.) 
  14. The Assistants–Camille Perri (I remember jotting down this recommendation from The Skimm, and being very excited about it. And the plot of the novel is good, and intriguing, but it all comes off as a little….thin. The romance between Tina and the lawyer in her company seems forced, like her editor asked her to include a romance just to spice things up, but it ended up falling flat, and none of the characters seem all that well developed. A few chapters in I started wondering how Perri would sustain this plot for an entire novel, and she does it–by adding new complications and new characters. Which, yes, that’s what should be done, but nothing ever gets terribly developed so it all comes off like a blah fairytale with a happily-ever-after-ending for the modern age. Is it because I’m not a Millennial? Is it because I’ve never [THANK GOD] suffered from crippling student loan debt? Maybe. Maybe not. A fast read nonetheless, just don’t expect too much out of it.)   
  15. The Princess Diaries, Volume XI: Royal Wedding–Meg Cabot* (I’m not sure if this is the last book in this series or not, but if it is I have to say it’s a nice wrap up. I like seeing Mia grown up, and all the shenanigans and issues–though some were more well played out than others–and I feel like many loose ends were tied up. I would be thrilled if this is NOT the last book in the series, and we got to see her ruling over Genovia and raising twins [sorry, spoiler there] as a princess.)  
  16. Anything for You–Kristan Higgins* (The latest book in the Blue Heron series–and possibly the last–I feel like this one goes back to everything I loved about the first couple of books in the series. More believable characters, not as many story threads that get lost in the shuffle. It feels more focused than the last one, and was just a joy to read.) 
  17. I’m Glad About You–Theresa Rebeck* (The first thing I will say is that I found the ending, the very last chapter, unsatisfying. It was beautiful, but I desperately wanted an epilogue to see how these characters’ lives turned out, that’s just the type of person I am. I totally get why it ends when it does, and I respect that. But still. I wanted more. I felt like the characters were really on a roll, and I wanted to see where that path took them. The second thing I will say is that much of this reads like a play. To be expected, as the author is a playwright, if I read the bio flap correctly. And that it reads like a bad thing–not at all! It was quite a nice change, and I could completely picture the characters acting this out on stage, the dialogue, etc. An absolutely wonderful read overall, though the Catholicism stuff was a bit heavy-handed in spots. Yet it worked on the whole, so I’m cool with it.)  
  18. Crowned and Dangerous–Rhys Bowen* (The latest book in the Royal Spyness series, and it’s just as charming as ever. And set in Ireland! The romance of Georgie and Darcy continues, and I continue to be smitten with these lovebirds. The only qualm I have is that the “mystery” plot is wrapped up awfully quick at the end–I would have liked to see it drawn out a little bit more, with a bit more intrigue. But overall, I just love these books.)  
  19. Family Baggage–Monica McInerney* (I love Monica McInerney, and this may be my favorite of her books yet. She is tremendous at weaving storylines that are compelling yet realistic, but with just enough that is a step beyond ordinary to keep you engaged. Plus after reading her books I always want to visit Australia. Even though half the time her books are sent in England. Whatever.)  
  20. The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life–Kerry Reichs (Cute, but too much, I don’t know, self-actualization? Self-discovery? Of the main character throughout the book. The first half of the book, where she’s in a million weddings, combined with the second half of the book, where she moves on from her high school love and meets the main romantic partner, could have been combined, and cut like a third of the book out. Plus, yes, I get it, the protagonist has changed her view that marriage is not the end-all-be-all she once thought it was. Please stop beating us over the head with it, and explaining it every fifth page. Jesus. Have some faith in your reader.)  
  21. Shopaholic to the Stars–Sophie Kinsella* (I haven’t read anything from this series in a while, and though it was nothing groundbreaking, and the protagonist is still as ditzy and self-absorbed as ever, it was still a fun read.) 
  22. Shopaholic to the Rescue–Sophie Kinsella* (Part 2 of Shopaholic to the Stars, and I recommend it only so you can find out how some of the story lines wrap up. And again, still a fun read.) 
  23. Just Like Heaven–Julia Quinn* (Oh, it’s feels like it’s been forever since I’ve read a Julia Quinn novel, and I’m reminded how much I enjoy them. I liked this one–and it was an easy starting point being the first book in a new quartet of books, seeing as how I can never remember which of the books in the Bridgerton series I’ve read–and it’s a cute story. I will say that the conflict wasn’t very conflict-y, and did read as if a bit phoned in. But that didn’t bother me terribly much, to tell the truth.) 
  24. Hello From the Gillespies–Monica McInerney* (I think this is my favorite Monica McInerney novel. I also think I say that every time I read something new of hers. But it’s such a good story, and it really made me want to visit the Australian outback. And shear sheep. And just visit Australia in general.) 
  25. Odd One Out–Monica McInerney* (This isn’t a full book, but since it’s a novella I’m counting it anyway. I think I finished it in about two hours. Unlike what I said above, this is not my favorite of McInerney’s stories, though I liked it all the same. But it just didn’t have the oomph that her other books had. The conflicts weren’t really anything major, but that was okay. It was kind of nice to read a book that is just…happy. With only a few minor qualms for the main character, that were resolved fairly quickly. Sometimes you need that in a story.)



mcpolish book list: year 9

18 Nov

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

  1. 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.])
  2. 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.)
  3. 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’.)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.)
  6. Some Like It Hawk—Donna Andrews* (See previous list for the reason as to why there is no description of this.)
  7. 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.)
  8. 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.)
  9. 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.)
  10. 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.)
  11. 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.)
  12. 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?)
  13. 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.)
  14. 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.)
  15. 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.)
  16. 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.)
  17. 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.)
  18. 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.)
  19. 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.)
  20. 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.)
  21. 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.)
  22. 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.)
  23. 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.)
  24. 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.)
  25. 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.)
  26. 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.)
  27. 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.)
  28. 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.)
  29. 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?)
  30. 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.)
  31. 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!)
  32. 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.)


mcpolish summer 2015 reading list

3 Jun


As I have explained before, I am not the best when it comes to making reading lists and sticking to them.

I daresay that last year I proved myself wrong just a little bit and did manage to finish three of the seven books on the McPolish summer 2014 reading list (even if one of those three was completed two full seasons after summer). That’s almost half! I finished almost half the list!

It was a banner reading season.

Maybe it sounds a little silly that I continue to make these lists but so rarely stick to them. But I have decided I regret nothing, and I refuse to apologize for this shortcoming. I also refuse to stop making reading lists, futile as they may be, because in the end, they are a sort of guide. When I am lost in a sea of books, I can find my book list horizon and get back on track. Or if not on track, at the very least I can say, “Oh, hey, yeah, I should read that book! I’ll put it on my To Read list. Oh wait, it’s already there. Huh. Okay, then, I’ll read it now—Ooo…no, this book over here looks even better.”

It all works out in the end. Trust me.

I should tell you that this year’s summer reading list is inspired by something else I always never do—read the books that Swede and I pick up on our annual New Year’s Day trip to Powell’s. Most of the books on this list are ones purchased at some point in the past five years at various bookstores (Powell’s and otherwise) (yes, I do go to bookstores on non-New Years Day days) (sometimes), and yet (obviously) I never got around to reading.

That said, dear Interwebers, here you go—the Mcpolish Summer 2015 Reading List,* in all its glory.

The Summer 2015 McPolish Reading List: 

books galore

books galore

The Golden Compass—Philip Pullman (Swede has wanted me to read this for awhile. I started it awhile ago, so what better time to finish it than now?)

What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained—Robert L. Wolke

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves—Karen Joy Fowler (Yes, this was on last year’s list. No judging.)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)—Mindy Kaling (I borrowed this book from my friend Mare approximately—no joke—four years ago. I should probably read it and return it to her.)

Firefly Lane—Kristin Hannah

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls—David Sedaris (In truth Swede bought this book at an airport bookstore, but as I do enjoy Sedaris’ work, I think it’s high time I crossed this one off my list.)

What’s on your reading list this summer?

 *I’m not linking to Amazon because anyone paid me to, only because it’s the easiest way to link to these reads in case you’re interested in purchasing them and not reading them, too.


photo friday: remember when

6 Feb

Bill Bryson

Remember that time last summer when I casually tossed a Bill Bryson book on my Summer 2014 McPolish Reading List?

Yeah. I finally finished it.

And only five months after summer officially ended!

I think that may be a record.

It’s not, mind you, that I didn’t like the book. In fact, I enjoyed it quite a lot. But if you’ve ever read Bill Bryson, then you know his is not writing you can just zip through reading, or you’ll miss half of what makes it such a delight to read. Couple that with my reading it on the bus to and from work, a process which at most takes twenty minutes, and you’ll understand why it took me a solid seven months and eight library renewals to finish this book.

That said, I do recommend it for myriad reasons—the writing, of course, but also since it was published in the 90s, it’s a fantastic throwback reminiscence of how travel used to be, before cell phones, before the Internet, a time when traveler’s checks were the norm.

Pick it up, I tell you, and don’t rush the ride.

mcpolish book list: year 8

13 Nov

Can you believe I’ve been reading books for eight years? Wait—keeping track of the books I’ve read for eight years? (Because let’s face it—I’ve been reading books for WAY longer than eight years. At least, like, ten.) I know, I’m kind of surprised I’ve stuck to it as well. But then, as I’ve overstated before, I love a good list. Especially when those lists relate to books.

This year, I have to say, was a good reading year. I don’t mean by volume, but in that I discovered new authors to adore, new series to throw myself into, and new stories in which to lose myself, and then be righteously depressed and moody when the book ends. (I’m looking at you, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?)

Scanning over this list, WOW, do I like to read series and read them All At Once Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect 200 More Books. I’d like to tell you that next year I will try and add more variety, not to get so in the throes of series and entire oeuvres of authors, to my reading, but…no. The reading heart wants what it wants. And as its keeper I will do my best to satisfy it. What that will entail I shan’t know until I see it on the shelf.

Anyway, check out the titles below, and if you find yourself diving into any of them, do let me know. We’ll crack open some Diet Pepsi, and I’ll make some popcorn, and we’ll discuss.

What did you read this year? Hits? Misses? Tell me! Tell me!

Books read between November 10, 2013 and November 9, 2014

  1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie—Alan Bradley* (The first in the Flavia de Luce series, a series my sister introduced to me. Cleverly written, and the main character is a precocious young English girl in the 1950s [?] with a penchant for chemistry. Well-developed mystery as well, and just an overall fun read. Looking forward to the next in the series.)
  2. Murder with Peacocks—Donna Andrews* (The first in the Meg Langslow mystery series. Apparently I’m into mysteries now? I’m just going to go with it. ANYWAY! I feel like there is a LOT going on in this book, and it’s kind of chaotic, but that aspect actually lends itself to the overall feel of the story. Things wrap up nicely at the end, which I like, and I like the characters, and in general it got my stoked to read the next in the series.)
  3. Murder with Puffins—Donna Andrews (Ermm…hmmm… This is the second in the Meg Langslow series. [Yes, I am one of Those People who has to read a series in order. Drives me bonkers to read them willy-nilly.] It was good, though not as good as the first book [see above], and the whole plot of the mystery seemed a little disjointed/haphazard, like it didn’t really matter what was written, and it didn’t matter if it made sense/was coherent, as long as there was something on the page. It was a bit disappointing, but not enough so that I’m not going to read the next in the series.)
  4. Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos—Donna Andrews* (Here we go, back on the train of a fun mystery. Set at a reenactment fair, this was just a joy to read, funny and fast-paced, and you get to see some more of the characters’ personalities come out. What was lacking in Puffins was back strong in this one. Made me certainly want to read the next book in the series.)
  5. Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon—Donna Andrews* (Another success in the Meg Langslow mystery series. I love that these were written in the early 2000s, and I’m just reading them now, because it’s kind of a stitch to see how far our technology has come. Also, Andrews does a good job of setting up some future plots [non-mystery] in the book, though she also throws in some character points that I’m like, huh? Mainly, huh? Meg is a commitment-phobe? Eh, no matter. I’m still moving on to read the next one.)
  6. We’ll Always Have Parrots—Donna Andrews* (This may be my favorite book in the Meg Langslow series so far. Very funny, well written, and I pretty much flew through it in a matter of days. And now, of course, I have to wait for the library to have the next book ready for me for Kindle, which is taking FOREVER, so this might put the kibosh on this series for the moment. But just for the moment. I want to see how the house they buy starts to turn out. I’m a sucker for a good renovation story.)
  7. Sugar Rush—Donna Kauffman (I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like this book a lot. And I did, for the first half, and then I got irritated with it, but it was too late to stop and put it down and walk away from it. But Holy Mary Mother of God, for the love of all that is holy and decent, the over-explaining of Feelings. And Thoughts. And dear Christ, get ON with it. And while it takes place on a small island off the coast of Georgia, with a small town population that is nosy and everything you want it to be, that aspect of the book that I found so charming just sort of disappears in the last third of the book. And crimony, the author or maybe the editor or I don’t know WHO allowed this to happen, but my God, the dialogue and exposition was fraught with….ellipses. And there is nothing that drives me more bonkers than…ellipses in writing. There are many other ways you can convey a pregnant pause than with….ellipses. GAH. That, factored in with the fact that the “resolution” to this love story is a temporary solution at best, and none of the characters seem to acknowledge that, made me just not give a crap about the characters, and I really have no desire to read the next book in this series. Also, the world is saturated on cupcakes. I’m moving on to cookies or pies or some shit.)
  8. Owls Well That Ends Well—Donna Andrews* (Okay, I’ll make you a deal, since I’m pretty sure you all can tell where this is going. [Which, for those of you who may not know, is me reading straight through this entire series probably without stopping until I hit the end. If it ever ends. So far, I think there are 15 books in this series? So, yeah…good luck with that.] It’s obvious I really like these books, and it’s obvious that I’m not going to stop reading them any time soon. But rather than effuse over each and every one of them, how’s about I just write a little something if I DON’T care for a particular book in this series? Because otherwise it’s just going to get repetitive, and you’ll tire quickly of me being like, “Yay! Such a fun read! I want to live in small-town Virginia in a rambling farmhouse with Meg and Michael and Meg’s crazy family!” Deal? Deal.)
  9. No Nest for the Wicket—Donna Andrews* (See? Not saying anything, just recommending. Moving on.)
  10. Little Bitty Lies—Mary Kay Andrews* (It’s entirely possible that I’ve read this book before. I feel like I may have read this book before, but then again, it felt new to me at the same time, if that makes any damn sense. [Probably not.] Either way, it was a great read. Wraps up a little too fast at the end, and a little implausibly [emotional-wise, anyway], but this, IMHO, is probably the meatiest of the Mary Kay Andrews novels that I’ve read, with the most intriguing plot. Definitely a book you can get lost in.)
  11. The Penguin Who Knew Too Much—Donna Andrews*
  12. Beauty and the Billionaire—Jessica Clare* (I read this as part of my judging for the 2014 RWA RITA. Very hot sex scenes, and an interesting storyline, if not a very cohesive one. There was something just a little too…hmm…disjointed? Stilted? About it? Not all over, just definitely parts that seemed to leap from one point to the next with no bridge? I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say, but either way, I’d still recommend it, because Clare does sex scenes quite well, and this book does exactly what a romance novel should do: Take you to a dreamy fantasy world and provide a happy conclusion. This is part of the Billionaire Boys Club series, which I’d never heard of before, but I’m curious to read the others.)
  13. A Valley Ridge Christmas—Holly Jacobs* (Another book for the 2014 RWA RITA. As a Harlequin Romance you can expect the sex parts to simply be hinted at, and that holds true here. But the story is sweet and endearing, and yes, I’ll say it, heart-warming. Just how a romance should be. [If you haven’t noticed, romances should be a lot of things.])
  14. Cockatiels at Seven—Donna Andrews*
  15. A Wedding in Valentine: A Valentine Valley Novella—Emma Cane (Holy Mary Mother, if there is a romance novel that is more generically written, more blasé, and just all around uncreative, I’d like to know. Bleh.)
  16. Uncommon Criminals—Ally Carter* (The second book in the Heist Society series. I liked it, though it took me awhile to get into it, and I did find it frustrating at points. The writing in parts, especially during the caper and some of the plotting leading up to it, seemed vague, and I kept feeling like I was supposed to know what the hell was going on, and if I didn’t it was my own damn fault. In a caper, there are just parts that really need to be spelled out for the reader. There just are. Otherwise, it’s like the characters are all in on a scheme and they don’t want to share it, so the reader has no idea what the shit is going on. Or maybe EYE just need it all spelled out for me. [Let’s be real here. We all know that’s the answer.])
  17. Truly—Ruthie Knox* (Another contender for the RITA award. This? THIS is what a well written, contemporary romance should be. For all the shittily written romances out there, Knox’s writing and story reminds me that romance can be sexy AND well written and make sense and be part fantasy and part reality and FUN and engaging and page-turning and it doesn’t have to be absolutely ridiculous and trite. Thank you, Ruthie Knox. Thank you very, very much. And that’s all I have to say about that. )
  18. Hot Summer Nights—Jaci Burton, Carly Phillips, Erin McCarthy, and Jessica Clare (Another one for the RITA Awards. Can you tell the deadline is approaching? All I can read lately are romance novels, it seems. I didn’t realize until I went to input my scores that I really only was judging the first novella in this compilation. And it was meh. [Hope Smolders, by Jaci Burton] It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad. The sex scenes were pretty hot, so that was a bonus. Of the other three stories in the book, two were also meh, but I liked the last one, about a former almost-Olympic skier and a girl who visits his ski resort town and they fall in love. That story was good (Ice Princess by Erin McCarthy). I thought the characters had great dialogue, it flowed well, the writing was pretty tight, and hot sex scenes.)
  19. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You—Ally Carter* (The first in the Gallagher Girls Academy novels, this is something I’d have wanted to read when I was a YA. I’m not sure if the over-use of inserted phrases or exclamation points would have bothered me as much when I was 12, but I’m hoping not, and I’m hoping that my exasperation with them is only because now I’m 35 and not a tween. Anyhoo, it’s still a fun book and fun concept—an academy where they train girl geniuses to be spies—and has a good adventure with teen dramz and oh, it just makes the spy game sound like so much Seriously, I would have loved this when I was 12. Hell, I loved it now.)
  20. It Had To Be You—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (Oh yes. Yes, definitely. If you are a fan of contemporary romance, then please, please check out Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It took me a moment to realize this book was written back in the mid-90s, but it still holds up two decades later, as far as well-written romance novels go. A good story line, very good character development, and engrossing. I can’t wait to read more of her works. I love when I find an author like this!)
  21. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy—Ally Carter* (Book 2 in the Gallagher Girls series, and just as fun, if not funner [yeah, I said it] than the first. Looking forward to the third book, and man, do I wish I went to this school, the Gallagher Girls Academy, as a teenager!)
  22. Call Me Irresistible—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (I just want to now read everything by this woman. And from what I can tell she’s written a copious number of books, so this should keep me busy for awhile.)
  23. Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover—Ally Carter* (Book 3 in the Gallagher Girl series. I think these just keep getting more and more fun as we get deeper into the lives of these genius girls.)
  24. The Bride Wore Size 12—Meg Cabot* (The latest in the Heather Wells series. Probably one of my favorites of the series, it’s just a fun read, is the best way to put it. A fast read, super fast, and I think Cabot has set up some potentially good story lines for future books. It’s light, it’s fluffy, and like I said, fun.)
  25. What I Did for Love—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (I love reading a series where you encounter characters from other books. Good read, fun story, this is starting to become like Donna Andrews mysteries, where I’m just going to not say anything unless I DON’T like the book.)
  26. Six Geese A-Slaying—Donna Andrews*
  27. Plan B—Jonathan Tropper* (If I’m not mistaken, this was Tropper’s first book, or at least one of his first books, and you can kind of tell if you’ve read other works of his. I don’t mean that in a bad way, because it’s an excellent book, a great story, has tremendous dialogue like only Tropper can create, but it is not quite as refined as some of his other works are. A little over written in places, I would say. That said, I absolutely loved it, and I really enjoyed the less polished-ness of the writing. A little rough, but it works with the storyline, truth be told. It felt natural with the characters.)
  28. Swan for the Money—Donna Andrews*
  29. Stork Raving Mad—Donna Andrews*
  30. Heaven, Texas—Susan Elizabeth Phillips (This is part of the Chicago Stars series by Phillips, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t like it quite as much as I did the first one. But it’s a cute story, though a little flat in places, I thought, and there was a lot of emphasis placed on looks and an ugly duckling becoming a pretty [not necessarily beautiful] swan, who captures the heart of an Adonis-like man. Which I was kind of like, eh, he can’t be THAT good looking, you know what I mean? I get that the characters are supposed to be juxtaposed in that way, but like I said it didn’t ring true/fell a little flat for me every time they harped on it.)
  31. Ladies Night—Mary Kay Andrews* (This may be my favorite of MKA’s books yet. Meaty, though I did feel like the romance blossomed a bit too quickly and superficially for my liking. But overall such a great read, so fun, and Andrews just has a lovely descriptive way of writing that makes me want to be friends with her characters and live in their houses. And redecorate. Even though I do not know the first thing about redecorating. Or decorating to begin with, if we’re being honest.)
  32. Only the Good Spy Young—Ally Carter* (Okay, now things are getting REALLY good with the Gallagher Girls series. While there were still a couple spots where I was like, “Huh? Who? What? What the shit is going on? Who is even talking right now? Am I missing something? Because there’s a leap here, and I wasn’t clued in,” Carter really ratcheted up the intrigue in this book. And in the nick of time, too—not that the other books aren’t a fun romp, but now Shit Is Getting Real, and it feels like the right next step for the characters.)
  33. Amy Falls Down—Jincy Willett* (Every time I read Willett I am reminded how much I absolutely love her writing. It is sharp and beautiful, and it makes me laugh and it makes me think. This book is no exception. It’s a follow up of sorts to The Writing Class, which I read a few years back, and it was absolutely fucking terrific. There. I said it.)
  34. Christmas Bliss—Mary Kay Andrews (It’s good, but not my favorite Mary Kay Andrews book. The conflict was kind of meh, and everything was wrapped up very neatly and tidily all too quickly. I think maybe this was just sort of a filler book? I’m not really sure. Good for a beach read, though.)
  35. One Hundred Names—Cecelia Ahern (I feel like Ahern’s books are so hit or miss. I absolutely loved PS, I Love You, and The Time of My Life, I didn’t care as much for Love, Rosie. And there was another one of her books that I started, but never finished because it just didn’t grab me, but I can’t remember which one. Anyhooters, this latest one I’ve read falls kind of in the middle. The premise is strong—a young woman seeks out to write the story her recently deceased friend and mentor never got a chance to write, all revolving around this list of 100 names that are seemingly not connected at all. And the story is overall good and the characters likeable, but there was just something….missing. A little spice, perhaps, a little vigor. I’m not sure. The ending was sort of flat for me, so I can’t decide if I would recommend it or not. I should introduce some sort of symbol for “Maybe? Read it and tell me what you think?” Could be useful.)
  36. Soulless—Gail Carriger* (My sister recommended this book to me, and I couldn’t put it down. The one time I did, Swede picked it up and started reading it himself. And then I wasn’t allowed to finish it until he did. Gah. Anyhoodles, steampunk romance is not a genre I generally gravitate to, but I’m oh-so-glad I did in this instance. I think the best word to describe it is “clever.” I’m anxious to read the next in the series.)
  37. Etiquette and Espionage—Gail Carriger* (Oh me, oh my, what a fun treat to read. As I’ve been enjoying Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, this YA series is also along those lines—girls being trained to be informants/spies—except it’s set in a steampunk setting. So much fun, and the main character is quite the precocious young lady.)
  38. Changeless—Gail Carriger* (Second in the Alexia Tarabotti novels/Parasol Protectorate. Just read it. SUCH fun, and so clever. Love.)
  39. Blameless—Gail Carriger* (Again. Just read it.)
  40. Heartless—Gail Carriger* (I’m only going to end up repeating myself.)
  41. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?—Maria Semple* (Holy Mary Mother, I tore through this book. Semple’s writing is on target and the story is fantastical and on point and oh, this was just a joy, a JOY to read. I could not put it down, and in fact spent a goodly portion of a Sunday morning curled up on the couch oblivious to the world because I just HAD to finish it. Sharp, witty, well-drawn characters. I can’t even do it justice. Just read it. I’ll tell you that, like 1,287 people told me: You will love it.)
  42. Gone Girl—Gillian Flynn* (That shit’s fucked up, man. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.)
  43. Timeless—Gail Carriger* (A very good ending to the Parasol Protectorate series. I hear there’s a new series coming out in March and I can’t wait to dive into it. I just love Carriger’s books overall.)
  44. Heroes Are My Weakness—Susan Elizabeth Phillips* (One of her few stand-alone novels. She has excellent character development, and the setting is bracing and lovely, you feel like you’re on that Maine island with the whole cast. A fun read, and I will not lie, it was my pick for our book club in October. Well done, me.)
  45. How to Talk to A Widower—Jonathan Tropper* (The entire time I was reading this book I could have sworn I’d read it before. Maybe it’s just so steeped in Tropper style, and that’s why it felt so familiar? Or maybe I did read it and forgot to include it on a previous book list? But I feel like I would have remembered? I just don’t know. That’s not a detraction from the book, well, maybe a little, but I just love Tropper’s writing style, the dysfunctional, loving families he creates. I fall into his books and I always get the book blues—the kind of blues you get when you come to the end of a really good book and you just kind of wish it would go on forever—when they’re done.)
  46. Curtsies & Conspiracies—Gail Carriger* (Book Two of the Finishing School series, and another madcap adventure of young steampunk ladies learning to be spies. I’m not entirely sure I followed the plot—there seem to be a lot of political issues that I’m not sure I fully understand, nor do I know if they were real political concerns of the time, or something else fabricated from Carriger’s imagination. But no matter. A lovely read, and a lovely way to end Year 8 of Books.)








the book meme, or, “oh, hey, look–she’s talking about reading. again.”

3 Sep

You may have seen the meme going around on the Book of Faces—no, not the one where you dump ice cold water over your head and donate to a good cause, but the other one. The one that asks you to list the ten books you’ve read that have stayed with you, for better or worse. You’re not supposed to think about it too hard, just the first ten books that come to mind.

I apologize for the self-interruption right here, Interwebers, but it has to be said: I weep for those persons who cannot come up with ten books. I weep hard. And then I hand you a list to get you started. And if you tell me you don’t like reading books, then all I have to say to you is this: You’re doing it wrong.  

Anyshoes, when I was tagged for this meme by my friend Nina, I excitedly jotted down my list and posted it to my feed last week. But after some reflection, I realized that ten is a stupid number, and not one I can even remotely stick to, ergo I’ve expanded my initial list, but after careful consideration and taking into account the fact that it is not, in fact, possible, to list 1,572 books and expect people to still pay attention, have capped my New! and Improved! list at 15.

So here you are, the 15 books that, off the top of my head, have stayed with me through thick and thin:

  1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Bah. Gahd, I really hate this book. I really do. Granted, much of my hatred stems from the fact that I tried to read this entire book in a weekend for junior year AP English (because why would I read on a schedule? Pffft…silly organizational skills) and as a result hated the book and still hate it to this day. It was just so DRY (no pun intended). I remember turning page after page and thinking, “For the love of all that is holy and decent get on with it already.
  2. The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God by John R. Powers. I’ve read this book at least eight times, and get something new out of it every time. I love it. I used to check it out from the library at least once a summer, and it’s entirely possible I was the only one who ever did. I love Powers’ books—they are another version of the stories my mom and dad tell about when they were growing up Catholic on the South Side (see Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?). It was probably not until the fourth or fifth reading of Ice Cream God, however, that I connected the prologue and the ending. And when I did I cried like a baby.
  3. The Monster at the End of This Book. Oh, Grover, how I love thee! It’s Grover! Grover is the monster at the end of the book! And Grover is not a monster! I loved this book as a little kid. He’s adorable and silly! And I may or may not insist on reading it to my nephews even though they’re getting a little too old for it.
  4. The Giving Tree/A Light in the Attic/Where the Sidewalk Ends. Give me Shel Silverstein, or give me death.
  5. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. This is one of the most beautiful fucking books I’ve ever read, and yes, I do feel the need to swear about it. That’s how fucking gorgeous it is. And it is just so easy to sink into the stories as they weave together.
  6. The Awakening by Kate Chopin. GAH. Another book that I absolutely cannot stand. I know it’s supposed to be this great feminist work and everything but Christ on a cracker, I wanted to tear the damn book to shreds just to get it out of my face. There was something about the main character that made me want to slap some sense into her, and I felt she was just so whiny and wistful. I get it, I do—different times for women and all that, but Jeezy Creezy.
  7. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. Speaking of Jeezy Creezy, The first time I read this book I almost fell out of my seat laughing while riding the Montrose bus home from work, and realized I probably looked a bit like a lunatic. (But then remembered I was on the Montrose bus and really, I fit right in.) As Catholics we’re taught that Jesus is the human Son of God, but this was the first time I ever really viewed him that way. This was the first time I didn’t think Jesus was a goody-two-shoes with a stick up his dupa, and someone I’d actually like to hang out with.
  8. Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett. If you’ve never read Jincy Willett, DO. She pulls you into her odd little world, twisting and heading off on excellent tangents on every other page, but it’s such a divine ride. There is a scene in this book that involves a bar and shoelaces being tied together that left me gasping for breath, I laughed so hard, and solidified my love of Willett’s prose.
  9. This is Where I Leave you by Jonathan Tropper. The first book of Tropper’s that I read, and I finished it in about two days during the 2010 Snowpacolypse in DC. I don’t even know what to say. I just freaking loved this book so hard.
  10. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I know—I’m as surprised as you are that such a classic landed on my list, because typically I’m a righteous fan of more modern fiction. But we read this in high school, and I found it captivating. I’d like to go back to my high school English class (sophomore year, I think it was?) and read it again, along with the discussions. There is so much I remember, and so much I’ve forgotten, I’d need someone to walk me through it again.
  11. Dawn by V.C. Andrews. Most people might cite Flowers in the Attic as their V.C. Andrews memory, and yes, I read that one too (along with just about everything else by Andrews), but Dawn stays with me, and I have no idea why. But there you go.
  12. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Dear God, please save me from this book. I know it’s been lauded left, right, up and down, but no. I just couldn’t do it. This was the first book that I actually did not force myself to finish—up until that point I would read a book come hell or high water (unless it was assigned for a class. In which case…eh. Maybe I’d read the whole thing and not bullshit my way completely though the exam.) But this one? Not so much. I got about 50 pages in—a feat in and of itself—and thought to myself, “This is dumb. I don’t like this book. I’m going to stop reading it.” It was a big moment for me, to walk away from a book. I’ve grown so much because of that experience.
  13. The Babysitters Club series and Sleepover Friends series by Ann M. Martin and Susan Saunders, respectively. Alright, let’s just get this out of the way: I was on a first-name basis with my local librarians by age 8. And it had a lot to do with the fact that I was constantly filling out the Interlibrary Loan forms so I could get the latest book from both of these series. I know BSC was a big one, but does anyone else even remember Sleepover Friends? I swear I’m not making it up, I just looked it up on Amazon—they really do exist. And let me tell you something: 11-year-old McPolish thought having a sleepover with your best pals every weekend while eating Chinese food and having your own private playhouse in your backyard and dressing ONLY in red, black, and white clothing was like, the coolest thing ever. Like, right up there with Clarissa Explains It All.
  14. Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg. The first time I read this it was called “Coming Attractions” but somewhere along the way they changed the name, and I don’t know why. Either way, this is another book that I’ve read more than a few times, back in the day when I read books more than once. (What happened to that time?) And you know what? Every time I absolutely loved it. Ms. Flagg is a consummate storyteller.
  15. The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro. The scene: A young McPolish, at the airport at the end of a work trip, waiting to board a flight back to Chicago. Reading this book, which she’d picked up a few hours earlier. Doubled over, wheezing with laughter at Notaro’s essays. And then finishing the entire book on the three-hour flight home.

Tell me, Interwebers—what ten (or 15) books are on your list?