Tag Archives: books

i read and i know things.

2 Jan

Okay, that title is kind of a misnomer. I definitely read things–though this past reading year I read fewer (32 books) things than in years past–but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that means I actually know things. I know nothing, really. If I have concluded anything in life, it is that I know nothing.

I made a goal in 2019 to “actually finish any interesting book club books” and seeing as how I’m not in two–yes, two–book clubs, this meant that quite a few of the books on this Reading Year’s list stemmed from these groups. And there were some real gems: The Great Believers blew me away; Where the Crawdads Sing was read for both clubs, funnily enough; Stillhouse Lake was great, but there is no chance in hell I am going to read the rest of the series (because really I don’t need to be reading about serial killers, though the other gals in the book club really enjoyed the other books that followed it, so feel free to take their recommendation if you’re into it).

I will say there are a few book club books that I wasn’t able to finish–not that they weren’t good, or interesting, though perhaps they weren’t AS interesting as I thought they were going to be, or wanted them to be, if they didn’t capture my attention enough to keep reading them? I feel like there’s something psychological here I should poke at and evaluate, but yet not, because listen, there are so many books, and so little time, which is just the truest adage I’ve ever found in life. Maybe I’ll get around to finishing them this Reading Year. Or maybe I won’t. Hard to say, really. You just never know what a Reading Year will bring.

Year Thirteen of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2018 and November 9, 2019

Lucky Thirteen!

 

  • Transcription–Kate Atkinson* (Book club read) (There’s a bit at the end that is revealed that I was like, wait, what? But it didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed reading this book in the least.) 
  • The Royal Runaway–Lindsay Emory (Hmm…I guess I liked it? Kind of?  If there were a sequel I’d probably read it.) 
  • Christmas on the Island–Jenny Colgan* (ebook) 
  • Those Other Women–Nicola Moriarty* (ebook) 
  • Heartburn–Nora Ephron* (ebook) (What a strange, delightful book.) 
  • You Will Know Me–Megan Abbott (Book club read) (Terrible ending.) 
  • The Heirs–Susan Rieger* (ebook) (Book club read
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows–Balli Kaur Jaswal* (ebook) 
  • The Identicals–Elin Hildebrand* 
  •  Fast Friends–Jill Mansell* (Not my favorite of Mansell’s books–this one packs a LOT into multiple years of the plot–but still an enjoyable read.) (ebook) 
  • Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop–Jenny Colgan* (ebook)
  • Nine Perfect Strangers–Liane Moriarty* (Book club read
  • Exit West–Mohsin Hamid* (Book club read) (I’m giving this a recommended asterisk, but I’m honestly not sure if I recommend this book or not. I think I need to think on it a bit.) (Edited to add: Yes, I definitely recommend this one.) 
  • The Great Believers–Rebecca Makkai* (Book club read) (This may make my top 10 books of all time list. The writing is beautiful, the story–particularly the one set in 1985–is gripping [the one set in 2015, eh, it’s fine, but not as grabbing as the 1985], and it’s a look into a time and a culture that I’d never truly considered before. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me heartbroken for all the lives lost too soon and too fast.) 
  • The Boy is Back–Meg Cabot* (A super-fast, cute read, though if you don’t like stories told entirely through emails, fictitious newspaper articles, texts, etc, this one is not for you.) 
  • Daisy Jones & The Six–Taylor Jenkins Reid* (It’s like a rocumentary, in book form! So fun.) 
  • The High Tide Club–Mary Kay Andrews (Not my favorite of her books, but a good beach read nonetheless.) 
  • The Wife–Alafair Burke* (Book club read) (It seemed a little slow, but picked up toward the end. But then again, I don’t read many thrillers, so maybe this is just normal pacing and building of the story?) 
  • Little Beach Street Bakery–Jenny Colgan* (ebook) It really says something about a book that even though you’ve read its two follow ups, so you totally know what happens, yet you still never want it to end anyway.) 
  • Where the Crawdads Sing–Delia Owens* (Book club read)
  • Save Me the Plums–Ruth Reichl* (A short, but entertaining read, and you get an inside look at her time as editor of Gourmet.)
  • The Kiss Quotient–Helen Hoang* (Wowee, she is not messing around with the sex in this one! Not for the prudish heart!) 
  • Rich People Problems–Kevin Kwan* (A fitting end to the trilogy!) 
  • Fame Adjacent–Sarah Skilton* 
  • The Bride Test–Helen Hoang* (Book club read) (A good follow up to her first book.) 
  • Everything’s Relative–Jenna McCarthy 
  • The Bookshop on the Shore–Jenny Colgan* (The ending of this one seemed to wrap up a little too fast, and it was a little confusing–she shouldn’t stay in the house with her son and the troubled 9 year old who almost killed him? But she does anyway, because the girl gets psychiatric help? Also, did she start her own bookmobile? I feel like I may have missed something–but all in all it’s another Jenny Colgan novel that I couldn’t put down. Le sigh of happiness, and wishing I could live in the Scottish Highlands.) 
  • Stillhouse Lake–Rachel Caine* (Book club read)
  • Ellie and the Harp Maker–Hazel Prior* 
  • Love and Death Among the Cheetahs–Rhys Bowen* 
  • Ask Again, Yes–Mary Beth Keane* (Book club read)
  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota–J. Ryan Stradal* (Book club read)

 

*Recommended 

You’ll see this year that I denoted which books I read that were ebooks. I was just keeping track of this out of curiosity’s sake. I feel like this year there were a disproportionately low number of ebooks, but that’s entirely me guessing, seeing as how I’ve never kept track until this year.

mcpolish book list: year 12

15 Nov

A lot of reading happened this year. A lot. Possibly my best reading year yet, numbers-wise? Could be. I’d have to go back through my files and check. But just trust me that it’s probably my best reading year yet, because frankly I feel too lazy to actually go back and check.

I can attribute all the reading to two big factors. First, that for much of this reading year I had a lengthy train commute to and from work. Second, I had another baby.

Wait, whuut? What does having a baby have to do with an uptick in reading? As I explained last time I had a baby tiny humans expect to be fed frequently, and there’s not much else you can do while feeding them except read books or watch TV. (Or read books while watching TV.) And while there are many shows I’m engrossed in, and rewatching (I’m looking at you, original Will & Grace series), TV gets real old, real fast.

So. BOOKS!

And voila, we have a lengthy list for RY18.

Check out the list below!

Books completed between November 10, 2017 and November 9, 2018

  1. The Bookshop on the Corner–Jenny Colgan* (I have found a new author to love and now I MUST READ EVERYTHING SHE’S WRITTEN.)
  2. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe–Jenny Colgan*
  3. Paw and Order–Spencer Quinn (This is one of the books in the middle of the Chet and Bernie series, I think. I liked it overall, but I could not overlook the fact that Chet always describes things vividly in color, though in real life dogs see in black and white.)
  4. Just One of the Guys–Kristan Higgins*
  5. Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery–Jenny Colgan*
  6. Rumor Has It–Jill Mansell*
  7. Marrying Up–Wendy Holden*
  8. Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams–Jenny Colgan*
  9. The Christmas Surprise–Jenny Colgan*
  10. You and Me, Always–Jill Mansell*
  11. Little Fires Everywhere–Celeste Ng* (Book club read)
  12. Solo–Jill Mansell* (It’s like every time something can go wrong in this book, it does.)
  13. Shades of Milk and Honey–Mary Robinette Kowal (Book club read)
  14. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris–Jenny Colgan* (Interestingly, I was not as in love with this book as I have been her others. I’m not sure what it was. By the end of it I was definitely into it, and it seemed to pick up speed. But…eh, I don’t know. It seemed a little…disjointed? Is that the word I’m looking for? Perhaps. I did like the recipes at the end, though.)
  15. The Woman in the Window–AJ Finn* (Book club read) (First of all, let’s talk about how I didn’t realize that a guy wrote this book. I’m not sure if that matters or not, but it kind of shocked me. Second, I stayed up way too late finishing this, and then had to wake up Swede to talk to me because I was too jacked up to go to sleep. It reminded me a lot of The Girl on the Train, but with a much more likeable heroine.)
  16. An American Marriage–Tayari Jones (Book club read) (I don’t think I liked ANY of the characters in this book. The story was interesting, but I kept getting side tracked by my dislike of all the characters, with the exception of a few of them, like Big Roy.)
  17. The Tuscan Child–Rhys Bowen* (Another standalone from Bowen. The descriptions of the Italian countryside and food are simply terrific. I will say that the solving-of-the-mystery part seemed a little vague to me, though. Like, the main character had all these THOUGHTS about the solution, and then, oh, hey, yes, it’s all true. It could have used some beefing up, maybe? But maybe that’s just because I didn’t want the book to end.)
  18. The Weekenders–Mary Kay Andrews*
  19. My Kind of You–Tracy Brogan* (WOW that wrapped up really fast at the end. Almost like her editor was all, “Okay, we’ve reached page and word count. Need to get this thing ended.”)
  20. Perfect Scoundrels–Ally Carter*
  21. Double Crossed (novella)–Ally Carter
  22. Fools Rush In–Kristan Higgins
  23. The Immortalists–Chloe Benjamin* (Book Club read) (To be honest, I had a lot of issues with this book, mostly with the pacing of Varya’s story, and Klara’s ending seemed to come out of nowhere, but overall it’s a good read. And I guess makes you think. Really I recommend it for Simon’s story, which was the best one by far, IMHO. After his they all seemed a little meh.)
  24. I Take You–Eliza Kennedy (Very funny in spots, but toward the end it gets pretty preachy about bed hopping, which was distracting.)
  25. Crazy Rich Asians–Kevin Kwan* (I liked this book a LOT, and am looking forward to reading his others, but I have to say that the ending was incredibly disappointing and anti-climactic.)
  26. Now That You Mention It–Kristan Higgins*
  27. The Curvy Girls Club (Book 1)–Michele Gorman*
  28. All Fall Down (An Embassy Row Novel, Book 1)–Ally Carter* (I like this book a lot, and I am excited to read the next books in the series, but like with other books of Carter’s, there were points where I felt like the writing was trying to be too…something. Descriptive, maybe? Or metaphorical? I’m not sure what exactly, but it left me confused in spots, like she couldn’t quite nail writing how a plot point gets discovered or resolved by a character, and just sort of writes around it. It was distracting, but didn’t really harm my overall enjoyment of the book.)
  29. China Rich Girlfriend–Kevin Kwan*
  30. The Death of Mrs. Westaway–Ruth Ware* (Book club read) (It’s labeled as a thriller, but I didn’t find it as gripping as I did Woman in the Window. That said, I was very intrigued by the plot line and finding out the answers to the mystery questions.)
  31. Once in a Blue Moon Lodge–Lorna Landvik*
  32. Beautiful Lies–Lisa Unger (Book Club Read) (I wish the author had answered a few more of the questions that came up in this book, and there was definitely a little over-explaining filler that could have been edited out/revised, but all in all it kept me reading until the end, so that’s a good thing.)
  33. Perfect Timing–Jill Mansell*
  34. This Could Change Everything–Jill Mansell*
  35. Sheer Mischief–Jill Mansell*
  36. The Endless Beach–Jenny Colgan*
  37. The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Elysees–Rebecca Raisin
  38. Four Funerals and Maybe A Wedding–Rhys Bowen*
  39. A Walk in the Park–Jill Mansell* (Thank God she has written so many books because I apparently am reading ALLLLLLLLLL of them this year.)
  40. Take a Chance on Me–Jill Mansell* (See? ALLLLLLLL THE JILL MANSELL THIS YEAR.)
  41. Good at Games–Jill Mansell* (ALLLLLL of them!)
  42. Somebody to Love–Kristan Higgins*
  43. The Next Best Thing–Kristan Higgins
  44. Sophia of Silicon Valley–Anna Yen*
  45. The One You Really Want–Jill Mansell* (ALL!)
  46. Falling for You–Jill Mansell*
  47. Thinking of You–Jill Mansell*
  48. Paris for One–Jojo Moyes* (Was not expecting a collection of short stories but there you have it, and they all have a happy ending. Bonus.)
  49. The Naturals–Jamie Lynn Barnes*
  50. Don’t Want to Miss A Thing–Jill Mansell*
  51. Head Over Heels–Jill Mansell* (This is getting a little out of control.)
  52. The Trouble with Lexie—Jessica Anya Blau
  53. Three Amazing Things About You–Jill Mansell*
  54. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine–Gail Honeyman* (Book club read) (This is, hands down, one of the best characters I’ve ever read.)
  55. One Plus One—Jojo Moyes* (Book club read)

 

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
  • The Expats–Chris Pavone(RECOMMENDED I GUESS BUT OH MY GOD THE THING THE HUSBAND DOES WHERE HE TICKLES THE WIFE’S PALM WITH HIS FINGER TO INDICATE HE WANTS SEX TOTALLY MAKES ME WANT TO PUNCH SOMEONE IN THE FACE AND THROW THIS BOOK ACROSS THE ROOM AND THEN INTO A SHREDDER BECAUSE WHEN SOMEONE DOES THAT THE SENSATION IS SO FUCKING GROSS LIKE WHEN SOMEONE TICKLES YOUR ELBOW. PLUS TICKLES IS A HORRIBLE WORD IN GENERAL. TICKLER IS ALSO A FUCKING UNFORGIVABLE WORD.)
  • 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

 

*Recommended

 

 

things i’ve been meaning to tell you: june 2017

7 Jun

One: I’ve come to the conclusion that 87% of children’s books are F’d. Up. I’ve already mentioned the fact that Jamberry? Motherf-ers had to be hiiiiigh when they wrote that shit. And now, I have to say I take umbrage with the book Frederick.

Do you know the story? A little family of field mice, getting ready for winter, and while most of them are running around collecting wheat and corn there’s little Frederick, collecting words and colors.

Words and colors.

Words and colors aren’t going to feed you and keep you warm in the winter, dammit!

Please don’t misunderstand me. Whether you can tell or not, I’m a writer. Words are incredibly important to me. Colors, too. But you know what? I’m pretty sure that I could gather some words and colors at the same time I was gathering some of the harvest for our winter hibernation. It’s called multi-tasking, Frederick.

Two: The other day my gym was celebrating its 12th anniversary. There were balloons! And free giveaway things! And food! And booze! And all I have to say about that is if my gym gave away food and booze regularly I would go there a hell of a lot more often.

Three: There has been a significant lack of learning in my life. Sure, sure, I know what you’re thinking: Every DAY is a new learning experience. And it’s true! It is! And that’s great!

But I still want to learn things.

So I signed up for a cake decorating class.

All About Buttercream!

If that’s not a class description that will lure you in, then I’m not sure you and I should speak anymore. That would be like turning your nose up at a class called, “Let’s Eat All The Melted Cheese.” If you can’t get behind that then you and I will have to relegate ourselves to curt nods in passing when we see each other.

I said good day.

Anyway, I’ve picked up quite a lot in this short, four-week class. I can make rosettes! And roses! And primroses! And daffodils! I can make all the flowers! And swag-things that go around the edges of a cake! And shell-borders!

20170527_124904

Making buttercream roses? Surprisingly easier than I anticipated. I’m going to flower the hell out of all the cupcakes near and far.

But you know what I haven’t yet learned?

How to straight up frost a g-d cake.

And so I continue with the learning.

Four: I went for a massage last week and it was wonderful. But there’s always that strange moment when the massage therapist leaves the room, you get undressed and get on the massage table, and then the therapist knocks to come back in. At that point—when she or he knocks—what am I supposed to say? “I’m ready”? Or perhaps, “Come in”? I feel the same way when I’m at the doctor’s office, sitting in my paper gown, waiting for the physician to enter.

Neither of those phrases seems right to me. “I’m ready” sounds oddly bizarre, when you think about the after part of that statement. “I’m ready…for you to start digging your elbows into my back!” Or, “I’m ready…for you to palpate my stomach to make sure there are no foreign objects lingering about.”

“Come in!” doesn’t seem right either. It’s not my home, for God’s sake. It’s a massage studio. Or a women’s clinic. I’m not about to serve my massage therapist tea, or offer my midwife cookies.

Maybe I should go with, “Door’s open!”
What say you, Interwebs?

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.)

*Recommended

 

did you know judy blume has a new book out?, and other things i learned on new year’s day, or: things i’ve been meaning to tell you: january 2017

11 Jan

One: Judy Blume has a new book out. Did you know this? It’s called In the Unlikely Event. Well, it’s not super new, as the copyright says 2015, but it’s new and news to me. I found it while on our annual New Year’s Day trip to Powells, and Interwebers, there is a solid chance I may actually read this book. Which would mean a two-year streak of actually reading one of the books I bought as part of our NYD tradition, instead of just smiling at them a whole lot when I walk by our bookcase. Also, Judy Blume is 78 years old, and I’m just not sure what to do with that information because for the life of me I thought she was ageless.

Two: While on maternity leave I did an enormous amount of binge watching, because what else are you supposed to do when you are essentially stapled to the couch nursing a child? I really think Netflix needs to invest in technology that will let you skip the opening credits of certain shows, because they just are so goddamn annoying. Like the opening theme and credits to Friends, for example. But it shouldn’t be a blanket skipping, mind you, you should be able to pick and choose the theme songs you want to eliminate. While I don’t ever need to hear “I’ll be there for yooooouuuu!” ever again in my entire ding-dong life, I do not mind hearing the swelling of the West Wing opener, nor the ominous joviality of The Americans theme music, or the diabolical sexiness of the theme from House of Cards. Yes, I realize this is why a fast forward button was created, but sometimes you can’t get the timing right, and you end up fast forwarding too much, and then you miss a scene, and then you have to rewind and you end up hearing part of the annoying theme song anyway, and my life is hard and woe to me and my streaming device.

Three: Why do I not have a cheese emoji on my phone? There is one for crème brulee, but not one for cheese. And I text about cheese way more than I do crème brulee. Someone please explain this oversight to me.

Four: Despite his young age, Swede and I like to read to the newest member of our household (also known as Baby McSwedolish), because really, it’s never too early to instill a love of reading, and plus I made one of my New Year’s Goals is to read the paper more, which is much more entertaining when you can read the articles aloud and use funny voices when quoting police chiefs and aldermen. Sometimes we actually read him children’s books, which is nice too, though I’m pretty sure some of these children’s book authors were motherf-ing hiiiigh when they wrote these books. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’m just surprised, I guess. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy of the board book Jamberry. You’ll understand completely.

img_20161219_211140-1

Sometimes I revise the story as I’m reading, because my version is better. What does Baby McSwedolish know? He doesn’t even have teeth yet.

things i’ve been meaning to tell you: february 2016

10 Feb

1) I loathe paying late charges. I really, really do. I see it as an absolute failure at something so simple, and the sign of a completely disorganized life. I’m guessing that no one really enjoys paying late charges, so I take comfort that I’m not the only one out there (though it’s possible that people don’t find them quite as abhorrent as I do, which is fine, to each her own).

There is one exception to this: library overdue charges. It’s rare I can remember to return my books on time or renew them within the proper window. Why? I don’t know. Possible it’s due to (no pun intended) the fact that I go to the library multiple times in one month and check out oodles of books so they all have different due dates, and it’s not like I’m reading said checked-out books in any logical order. Anyway, the point is I have no qualms about paying library fines for overdue books. In fact, I actually feel quite good about it. I consider it my duty as an active reader living in the City of Chicago. I know part of my tax dollars goes toward funding the library, but whatever the amount actually is I’m going to argue it’s not enough. And while I could just donate directly to the Chicago Library Foundation—and I probably should, no really, I must add that to my To Do list, now that I think about it—CPL will have much better luck garnering monies from me through my lack of attention forgetfulness flagrant disregard for missing due dates.

2) HGTV always seems to be showing marathons of Flip or Flop whenever I’m at the gym, which on a scale of 1 to 10 of my HGTV preferred shows rates a Meh. I like the idea on the whole, and if I didn’t like seeing the transformation from crappy to happy, well, that would pretty much go against everything I love about HGTV. I like Tarek and Christina El Moussa, and I root for them each episode, that they’ll make a profit and won’t get totally screwed over with their latest purchase. And I truly appreciate Christina’s commitment to false eyelashes—to wear them on the daily is no joke, you guys.

But for all that is holy and decent, can someone please give these two some acting or some such type of lessons? Because their monologues to the camera are killin’ me, Smalls.

An example for you–about 8:14 seconds in when Christina starts telling–not describing, telling–the camera everything their plan.)

It’s fine when they’re being filmed going into the house. Their reactions are as genuine as possible for something that’s probably filmed three different times from four different angles. But it’s those moments when one or the other is talking directly to the camera and telling us what’s happening that irk the hell out of me. They are scripted within an inch of their lives, and the lack of emotion just, gah. It really distracts from the excitement they’ve just created in showing us the major transformation of the property.

3) I’m making a concerted effort to watch more movies, both at home and in the theatre. Swede and I love going to see movies, we just…don’t…very often. But! That’s changing–since Christmas we’ve seen The Big Short (holy God, a wonderful movie that makes you lose your faith in humanity) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (FOMO) (kidding) (about the FOMO, not seeing the movie. We did actually see it, and it was quite good) in the theaters. And much like I keep track of books I read, I’m keeping track of movies (and documentaries) that I watch. (PS—Thank you, PBS station on Netflix, for your American Experience series helping in my efforts.) What have you seen lately that I should add to my list? (Don’t worry about me having already seen the flick—I’m notorious for having never seen many a hit movie, including, but not limited to: Die Hard [though I’ve seen Die Hard 2, for some reason], The Godfather, Anything Nominated in 2015 for Best Picture, and It’s A Wonderful Life [though I have absolutely no desire to see that one.]) (Surprisingly, I have seen a hefty portion of movies nominated for 2103 Oscars. How that happened I have no idea, but well done, me.) And if they are available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, all the better.