Tag Archives: reading

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.


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 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.)



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.


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.

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.)


2015 mcpolish fall reading list

7 Oct

Listen, you guys, reading is serious business, and I am a serious person.


And this is proven by the feat I accomplished this past summer, wherein I finished reading not one, but TWO books on the Summer 2015 McPolish Reading List: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, and Firefly Lane, by Kristin Hannah. While I won’t spoil my thoughts on the books—I’ll save that for my debrief of what I’ve read this year next month–I will now pause for your applause on such an amazing accomplishment.

Oh you guys! You flatter me!

You guys, for real. Now you’re just embarrassing me…….

……I have to move on now, you guys. Your hands are getting chapped and we’ve got other books to discuss.

So, since I experienced such phenomenal success (by my standards) with my summer reading list, and because autumn is my spirit animal (actually that has nothing to do with anything except to divine truth about myself upon yourself) (I don’t even really know what I said right there) (the takeaway here is that I love fall), I want to keep the book list momentum going, and with any luck I will go all Dolph Lundgren-as-Drago-esque on my fall reading list and be all, “I must break you.”

Except instead of Rocky Balboa,** I will break books. And by break I mean read the shit out of.

So! Here’s what I will (maybe) read this fall:

Words, words, words

Words, words, words

The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay—Michael Chabon

The Golden Compass—Phillip Pullman (Yes, I realize it was on the summer list. Stop judging me. I am determined to read this one.)

Malcom X—Manning Marabel

Nobody’s Baby But Mine—Susan Elizabeth Phillips

A little bit of this genre, a little bit of that genre, all mixed together for what I hope will be another great reading season.

What’s on your fall list this year? Anything I should add to mine?

*Not really.

**I just realized that this is a horrible analogy, as Dolph Lundgren’s Drago gets his ass handed to him by Sylvester Stalone’s Rocky. I would like to not have my ass handed to me by books.

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.


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.)








wherein i did something (i think is) pretty spectacular

30 Jul

Remember that time a month(esque) ago I put together a book list in all seriousness, and then completely undermined my own goal seeking by admitting I rarely, if ever, actually get around to reading the books I put on my book list?

Ha HA!

I’ve foiled my own plan!

I’ve undermined my undermining!

I’ve finished not one, but TWO books on the Summer 2014 McPolish Reading List! And I’m working on finishing a third!

No, it’s true. I really have accomplished such a feat.

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m as stunned and amazed as you are. Feel free to pat me on the back the next time you see me, because my arms are getting tired from doing it myself.

The first book to get a strikethrough was Mary Kay Andrews’ Ladies Night, which I would recommend if you’re looking for a great beach read. There were a couple of parts that struck me as a little thin, plot-wise, but overall I escaped quickly and happily into this book. Andrews has a way with descriptions that, as I’ve said before, makes me wish I was an interior designer or another career along those lines.

The second book I finished was Amy Falls Down, by Jincy Willett. Oh, Jincy Willett, how I love, nay, adore your writing. Amy Falls Down is one of those books I want to read slooooowly so I can savor every page. It’s a follow up (kind of? Maybe? I guess. It’s not a sequel, that’s for sure.) to The Writing Class, which I read a few years ago and enjoyed as well. (Though not as much as Amy Falls Down, to be honest.) Willett’s writing often goes off on tangents before coming back around to the original point or observation, but it’s done so deftly that you find yourself happily going along for the ride.

Third in line for finishing is Scott Johnson’s The Wolf and the Watchman. I’ll admit—I’m having a hard time engaging with the book mainly, I think, because I’m not accustomed to reading non-fiction. Despite this, I’m a third of the way through, and while it’s a good story, I’m curious to see where it’s headed. The general theme so far seems to be, “My dad was CIA. It made for a very challenging life for him and our family.” I’m just hoping we get to see what those challenges are.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the library. The rest of this list isn’t going to read itself, you know.


How is your summer reading going so far, Interwebers? What have you finished? What are you reading now? What’s been added to your list?

mcpolish summer 2014 reading list

4 Jun

Chicago Public Library copy

It’s June, which means Memorial Day has come and gone, and in between trying to locate my white pants which I think I stored in a plastic tub behind a box of plates and Christmas ornaments, and trying to decide whether or not it’s appropriate to show up to my tennis lesson with a pitcher of margaritas (it is) (I’ll share!), I’ve been busy tackling my absolute favorite summer activity, which is Putting Together a List of Books I Probably Won’t Read.

It’s not that I don’t want to read them—exactly the opposite, I desperately want to read them. It’s more, well, that I am not, frankly, the best at STICKING to reading lists. I tend to get distracted by other books, and then the next thing I know, my lovely list of beautiful books has fallen by the wayside in favor of reading these other books that caught my eye, and then sometimes even those books fall by the wayside when I am distracted by yet more books and so at any given point in time I have 22 books checked out of the library or sitting idly on my shelves, and really this is all my parents’ fault, because if they’d just made me a trust fund kid like I’d asked them to I wouldn’t have to work and thus would have time for both the list of books and the distractor books and the idle books and also probably a pony.

God, they are cruel people, my parents.

Anyway, so I’ve gathered a list of books—some recommendations from friends, some from reviews I’ve read in newspapers and magazines, some random covers that caught my eye at the library that one time I showed enough restraint to not check out 17 books at once—and have put them together for the McPolish 2014 Summer Reading List.

Side note—I have big plans to read most of these as actual paper and ink books, rather than on my kindle. Not that I don’t love my kindle (I do, muchly), it’s that I recently realized, Hot Damn! I miss the sensation of turning an actual page, rather than a figurative one like on an e-reader or like Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band.

The takeaway friends, is this: I’m going to read some books, and this is what I (might) read, in case you yourself are looking for something to read in the coming sweaty months.*

The Summer 2014 McPolish Reading List**

Ladies’s Night—Mary Kay Andrews

The Wishbones—Tom Perrotta

Amy Falls Down—Jincy Willett

Lola’s Secret—Monica McInerney

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves—Karen Joy Fowler

The Wolf and the Watchman—Scott Johnson

Neither Here Nor There—Bill Bryson


*You’ll notice that the list is quite short, by McPolish standards. I’m working on behavioral changes lately, which focus on setting goals for myself that are “reasonable” and “realistic.” ANd being “patient.” Gah. The fact alone that I am attempting this I think means I’m in over my head. Wish me luck.

**These are just my own thoughts on what to read, and I’m linking to Amazon not because anyone paid me to but because it was the easiest place to link. 

book list 2013

13 Nov


That, as you will see, is the number of books I read this past year.

No, I don’t know when I had time to read that many books, either. Though for more than half of this year of books, I was commuting 90 minutes each way during the week. That may have had something to do with it. And the purchase of my kindle a little over a year ago definitely helped matters.

But this list! Oh, this list. Reviewing it, there seems to be a lot of fluff and trash on it. And you know what? I’m happy about that. If there is one thing I’ve learned in talking to other book fiends, it’s that sometimes you just get on kicks where you want to read All the Romance, or All the British Murder Mysteries, or Any Graphic Novel in a one million mile radius, or Every Nonfiction Everywhere. And that’s just fine by me. Read what you like, when you like, that’s what I say. If you’re happy and you’re reading, I can’t imagine anything better.

And if you’re looking for something to read, check out the list below. There might be something that strikes your fancy.

Interwebers, have you read anything recently I should check out? I’m always looking to add to my To Read list.

Year Seven of Books

Books read between November 10, 2012 and November 9, 2013

 1.    To Catch An Heiress—Agents for the Crown—Julia Quinn* (I think this may be my favorite Julia Quinn novel yet. Good plot, dashing characters, excellent sex scenes—it’s what a romance novel should be.)

2.    Lucy Wagner Gets in Shape—Claire Matthews (Meh. There’s not much else to say about it other than that.  The writing was not terribly engaging, predictable plot, and an overall sense that the author was just trying too hard to be funny or witty or clever with a lot of inside jokes between the characters  that needed to be explained to the reader, and it just didn’t work for me.)

3.    Gap Year—Sarah Bird* (Oh my God, the tears, the TEARS! in this book. It’s ridiculous. Not the characters, I mean MY OWN. Dear Christ, I was on the damn TRAIN for God’s sake, and I’m trying to keep my shit together at points reading this book, because hello, it’s a story about a mother and daughter and that is just fraught with tears if you’ve ever been one or the other or both. [Unless you had a crappy mother or  shitty childhood in which case I’m not sure what to say.] Beautifully written, and I found myself vacillating between rolling my eyes at the mom and wanting to punch the daughter for being a bitchy brat. That’s some good writing there, if it makes me want to PHYSICALLY HURT FICTIONAL PEOPLE. And another reason why Sarah Bird remains one of my favorite authors.)

4.    Bel Canto—Anne Patchett* (Very good book. I’m not sure I liked it AS much as State of Wonder, but I definitely enjoyed it. I like Patchett’s writing, and how she can move along a story  without a lot of dialogue. Beautifully written, and of course some big twists thrown in toward the end. I feel like this is Patchett’s M.O., there being a Big Twist right at the end.)

5.    The Next Always—Nora Roberts (This is the very first Nora Roberts book I’ve ever read. I was feeling like I was kind of missing out on a piece of America, having not ready any of her books, considering she’s written like, 30 of them. And I love that she’s from the Eastern Shore. [I love the Eastern Shore. Mostly.] The book itself was…okay. A very, very easy, quick read. Somewhat janky at points, but then, sometimes I like a little janky, and I need a little janky. And the sex scenes were kind of lame, not very spicy. And I should also note that I read this in large print so yes, I DID feel like a retired Sunday School teacher while reading and enjoying this book. Enough enjoyment that I will read the next in the trilogy, because sometimes it’s nice not to have to think too hard when you read a book.)

6.    The Meryl Streep Movie Club—Mia March* (This was a pretty easy read, and  while the premise is kind of sad—SPOILER ALERT, one of the main characters has cancer—and the storylines are pretty predictable, I still really enjoyed this read. The conversations between characters around the different Meryl Streep movies they watch are a little heavy-handed and obvious, but again, there was something very sweet about the book. Maybe because it was set in Maine, which sounds lovely and is a place I’ve never actually been but have wanted to go? Perhaps. Or maybe, at the time I was reading it I just needed something easy that ended on a positive, hopeful note, because you can never have enough of that. So anyway, yes, I recommend this book for those times when you need a quick and easy read that gives you a smile at the end.)

7.    The Last Boyfriend—Nora Roberts (The second book in the trilogy that started with The Next Always. It was not a bad read. Very easy, very fluffy, and just the type of thing to distract you when you need to not think for awhile. And plus, let’s face it, I can’t start a trilogy and NOT finish it. So if you think I haven’t already ordered the third book from the library, You. Are. Wrong. WHAT?)

8.    Life After Forty—Dora Heldt* (This is a book that  was a best-seller in Germany, I believe, and then translated into English—the author’s first one translated into English. While the writing seemed a bit stilted and jerky at times—which I chalked up to being a translation—I overall enjoyed it. The main character is getting a divorce, and while it’s not perfect, it kind of shows you quite a few sides of the spectrum of being single after being in a relationship for a very long time, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. It overall is a positive book though, about friends and giving yourself time to heal from wounds, and how starting a new life can be scary and exhilarating at the same time.)

9.    Bond Girl—Erin Duffy* (Great book. Very well written [which is getting harder and harder to find these days, IMHO], and smart, and funny, and real. It’s a great look a working on Wall Street, something I know absolutely nothing—and have no desire to know—anything about. It’s substantial enough that you don’t feel like you’re losing brain cells reading it, but light enough that it would be a great vacation—or anytime—read. Definitely recommend this one.)

10. The Perfect Hope—Nora Roberts (The third book in the Inn Boonsboro trilogy, and, IMHO, the meatiest/best  plot line. Definitely the most satisfying ending. All of the hanging storylines are wrapped up, and it was a good, solid ending to the series. Overall, I am glad I read this series, and look forward to checking out another from Roberts. They’re quick, easy reads, not too taxing and always end on a positive note, and ain’t nothing wrong with that.)

11. The Twelve Clues of Christmas—Rhys Bowen* (The most recent in the Her Royal Spyness series. Definitely a clever read—usually I figure it out midway through, but to be honest this one kept me guessing!—and very satisfying movement on the Darcy plot line as well. YAY, Georgie and Darcy!, is all I’m going to say.)

12.  Vision in White—Nora Roberts (Can’t. Stop. Reading. Nora Roberts! This is the first in the Bride Quartet series, and it’s a fun, fast read. I like the background set up for the books—four friends open a wedding business, each handling one aspect of the event that fits their personalities [photography, cakes, flowers, overall coordination]—and the “conflict” of the main character was handled nicely [re: she grew a pair] [mild spoiler alert there, BTW]. The sex scenes are a little spicier than in the Boonsboro trilogy (see above), but overall still a bit tame, which actually was okay. I think anything more would have detracted from the sweetness of the book. That’s a good way to describe NR books—sweet.)

13. Heist Society—Ally Carter* (A YA book, it’s a very fun read about a girl who comes from a family of thieves, trying to clear her father’s name. It’s a lot like Ocean’s 11 for the teen set, but still entertaining, and very fast read. I’m excited to see if there’s a next book in the series. I think it might be a trilogy?)

14. Bed of Roses—Nora Roberts (The second book in the Bride Quartet, this one about the friend of the group who is the florist. Easy read. Cute.)

15. Savor the Moment—Nora Roberts (Third book in the Bride Quartet. I’m starting to get a little bummed that I only have one book to go! Also, I want the beach house in this book. Read it, and you’ll know what I mean. And you’ll probably covet the house then, too. Trust me on this one.)

16. Happy Ever After—Nora Roberts (The final book in the Bride Quartet. As far as final books go, this was only okay. I wanted to see more about the outcomes. I mean, it was still a good, easy read, given you already know how it’s going to turn out, but I guess I just wanted to see more  loose ends from the other novels tied up as well.)

17. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks—Rebecca Skloot* (Normally I’m not the BIGGEST fan of non-fiction, science-y types of books, but this one was so intriguing and so well-written that I couldn’t put it down. The amazing discoveries that were made thanks to this woman’s cells juxtaposed against the portrait of her family is heavy, and piled on top of that a glimpse into what medicine used to be like, compared to now? GAH. It’s astounding.)

18.  Flat-Out Love—Jessica Park (This book was a big mix of ‘at points’: The writing is good at points, but belabored in others; the plot line was really good at points, but weak and/or convoluted or kind of expected at others, which didn’t seem to fit with the strength of the plot you’d read earlier in the book. The characters were well written for the most part, though at points they seemed a little thin. But I do give props for a book written for that age bracket that seems to be lost in the book world—post high school/early 20s age. That’s a tough one to target. So yay for that, that there is another book added to that age bracket.)

19. Four of a Kind: A Novel—Valerie Frankel* (As I am a Nosey Parker, this book definitely satisfied my love of getting a peek into other peoples’ lives. I think all four of the characters had good development, but just as it seemed to get going the book ended, which was a disappointment. And the ending, like the very last lines, were SUPER cheesy and kind of trite, which detracted a bit. But overall, give this a read.)

20.  Mr. Cavendish, I Presume—Julia Quinn* (Initially I [surprisingly] found this Quinn book a little bit of a snoozefest, despite the fact that the premise is a good one—it’s the second book in the Two Dukes of Wyndham series—that the story is told to be at the same time as the first book in the series is, except from the OTHER duke’s  POV. However, I think too much time had passed since I read the first book [see last year’s list] so while I’m sure it was clever when you knew other things were happening to the other two main characters while now seeing what was happening to Thomas and Amelia, for the life of me I couldn’t remember what those things were. But it picked up and had a terrific [IMHO] ending and wrap-up. And I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just pointing out that I think this was the least sex-filled of the Quinn novels I read, as in nothing really happened until the end. Just putting that out there.)

21.  Spring Fever—Mary Kay Andrews* (Now this was just such a fun read. The plot line was great, the writing was solid, and the characters believable and fun. Andrews does a great job describing places, and it makes me wish I was southern. It’s definitely an easy ready, but an engaging one, and it won’t make you feel like you lost brain cells when you’re done, more that you’ll feel like, “Hey, I wish there were more books out there like this!”)

22.  An Offer From a Gentleman—Julia Quinn* (I thought—with all the Quinn books  I’ve read—that surely I’d gone through the entire Bridgerton series, but apparently not. I think, actually, I have quite a few more to go. Anyhoo, this is another book in that series, and it was absolutely delightful. A dashing story of forbidden love [wait, aren’t they all, in a way?], and it ends exactly the way you’d hoped, and yet, even better in a lot of ways. And just FYI, if you’re going in Bridgerton children order [which I clearly have not been], this book is about #2, Benedict. [Really, that last line was more for my own memory’s sake than anything else, so I can keep track of which Bridgerton novels I’ve read and which I have yet to consume.])

23.  Trust Me On This—Jennifer Crusie* (It has been SOOOOO very long—or at least feels like it has been soooooo very long—since I’ve read or listened to a Jennifer Crusie novel, and boy, did it feel good to dive into one again. A very quick read, the plot moves along well, but what you notice most, as with any Crusie novel, is that A) She doesn’t beat around the bush, therefore making fictional situations seem that more realistic, and 2) Her dialogue is always amazing. If I could write dialogue half as well as Crusie, I’d consider myself lucky. It’s snappy, it’s funny, it’s exactly what it should be for a  book like this. Love it.)

24. Hissy Fit—Mary Kay Andrews* (I absolutely loved all the house and home descriptions in this book, TOTALLY made me wish I had an eye for interior design and/or lived in an old antebellum mansion in Georgia. Good plot line that moves along, and doesn’t seem overburdened, even though there are a few different major plots happening at the same time. A very good, fun read. I’m glad I’ve rediscovered this author!)

25. A Royal Pain—Megan Mulry* (I’m recommending this book, but with reservation. I liked it, but there was something underlying throughout that kind of annoyed me. Maybe it was that it felt like the main character’s sailor-like swearing kept being beaten into  the reader. Okay, we get it, she says fuck and shit and goddamned a lot. And that’s different than her more polite royal boyfriend. WE GET IT, STOP FORCING IT ON US. Or maybe it was that I felt like I was reading a better-written version of 50 Shades of Gray, even though I have no idea if that’s correct because I’ve never actually READ 50 Shades of Gray. I don’t really know. But I kept reading to the end, and it was definitely a worthwhile read, if for no other reason than Mulry knows how to write a steamy sex scene, and that’s never a bad thing. And in general, the story is very well written—maybe a little overwritten in places, but that comes with the territory, I think.)

26. Summer Rental—Mary Kay Andrews* (Great read to get ready for summer,  and made me want to try and finagle how EYE could take a month off in August to summer with my best friends on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Loved the setting, and the story line tripped along nicely, well-paced. Loved the descriptions of the house, and the character development was solid. Nice, easy, and fun read that will definitely keep you entertained. I am just loving Andrews’ books!)

27. Rules of Civility—Amor Towles* (Absolutely beautifully written, and I love the details of life for a mid-twenties girl in  1938 New York City. The book had some Gatsby-like elements to it, I think—it’s been awhile since I’ve read the Great Gatsby, but there were definitely parts that struck me as such. Though I do not say that as a bad thing. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Despite me having to renew it twice from the library [re: it took me a while to get through it], I couldn’t put it down. This is a book you don’t want to rush through, but rather savor every page.)

28. Blue Christmas—Mary Kay Andrews* (Easy reading novella, set at Christmas time, natch. Quick, fun read.)

29. I’ve Got Your  Number—Sophie Kinsella* (I’ve burned out on Kinsella’s “Shopaholic” series of books [Okay, we get it. She’s got a shopping problem. She likes Stuff.], but I’ve enjoyed her other fiction novels, and this one is no exception. In fact, I think of all the other fiction of Kinsella’s that I’ve read, I like this one the most. A very fun premise, and the main character is a strong voice [even if she’s a pushover, as we come to learn], and while the ending is a bit unbelievable, it’s also very fitting and sweet, and happy. Definitely a good vacation read.)

30.  Arcadia—Laura Groff* (Quite beautifully written, and really intriguing storyline that makes the book move along nicely. But it’s sad. That’s the best way I can put it, this is just a SAD book, like there is a gray cloud over all of it, everything, which is quite the juxtaposition, given that the first part of the book is set at what is supposed to be a commune where everybody lives in happy harmony together. It’s a very introspective book, and is occasionally a little overwritten in the descriptions, but overall I enjoyed it, and recommend it, sad, gray cloud and all.)

31.  One Last Thing Before I Go—Jonathan Tropper* (Tropper is one of my absolute favorite authors, though I have to say of everything I’ve read of his, this is my least favorite. Not that it’s not good—it is absolutely a terrific book, and I would recommend it to anyone, but I think having just read Arcadia, and then reading this, which is also incredibly introspective [lots of thinking about life by the main character], was a lot of Thinky-Pondery in a short span. But in true Tropper form, his characters are fantastically flawed and real, which makes his books such a wonder to read, and the dialogue spot on.)

32.  How to Marry a Marquis—Julia Quinn* (This might be one of my favorite Quinn novels to date. It’s the follow up to “To Catch an Heiress,” and the Ravenscrofts do, in fact, feature into the story later in the book, in an absolutely hilarious scene. Overall a very fun read, a good tale, in true Quinn fashion.)

33. Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson—Maria Murnane (Eh. A really quick read, it was an only okay read. There were definitely parts that were funny and some of the writing was quippy, but overall, I felt like the main character, Waverly, had “quirky” characteristics that just felt incredibly forced, re: constantly making offbeat “observations” about life. Also, the characters, practically ALL of them, use the phrase “ya know” incessantly, which gets really old, really annoying, and really unimaginative really quick. And while there was some conflict, about halfway through the book, all of these events start happening that just seem over the top. I get that this is fiction, but I mean, come on. The overall tone was…flighty. Does that even make sense? That’s the best way I can describe it. Yet at the same time, there were definitely funny parts to the book [the dates she goes on, for example] that kept me reading, AND a [totally expected] happy ending, and I’m a sucker for those, as we all know. J )

34. Crazy Little Thing—Tracy Brogan* (Truth: I didn’t realize this was a “romance” novel until AFTER I  read it, and knowing that kind of shed a better light on it. I spent a lot of time while reading this book thinking, “Jesus, lady, get some self esteem and not all guys are complete dicks.” For some reason, realizing this fell into the romance genre changed my impression. Not really sure why. But even NOT knowing that, it was a fun read, the characters were very visual, the dialogue snappy, and it being set on a beach in Michigan got me excited for summer. Definitely a wonderful beach read.)

35. It’s a Waverly Life—Maria Murnane (Okay, you’re probably wondering why I bothered reading the second book in this series, considering how lackluster and depthless and often annoying the characters were in the first one. And this second book has issues galore as well: A) The said-by-everyone phrase changed from “ya know?” to starting sentences with “Hey now,” which makes me think the author should get a better editor. 2) Things, while going slightly downhill for our heroine, don’t go downhill for very long, and quickly go uphill. These occurrences, which could be ripe for conflict and strife, are almost glossed over, it seemed to me, I guess because the main thrust was if Waverly was going to get back together with Jake and if he would have her. But even that’s all jumbled up, because there are three other storylines going on at once. And I get the idea of that—that’s how life works after all, it’s not concise, and neat, it’s messy—but none of the plotlines really have any depth. III) Her father, who’s kind of a mooch in the first book, and who is made out to  be someone who Waverly avoids if at all possible, is no longer this way. Yes, they have a reconciliation in the last book, but it’s as if in doing that all the personality of the dad is gone, and in its place is this meek, unrecognizable character, even if he does seem rather sweet and trying to get to know his daughter. I just can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be at least a shadow of his former personality left. So, yeah. It’s a meh, but fine to read if you don’t pay too close attention. [What can I say? I’m picky. And while I like a happy ending where everything turns out at the end, I have to roll my eyes when it happens without anything going terribly wrong in the first place.] Speaking of the ending, there’s a twist that I actually like at the end, that I thought was very sweet, and unexpected. Unexpected in both a good and bad way—good because I didn’t see it coming, and I liked what the twist was, but bad because upon reflection, I would have liked to see just one more “clue” regarding this twist earlier in the book, because there was a small feeling that the author was really reaching with the twist to tie some things together.)

36. Wedding Night—Sophie Kinsella* (This book is completely and utterly unbelievable—but that’s exactly what makes it a great, lighthearted, fun read. It’s like a rom-com movie on the page, going just deep enough into characters to make them real, but not so deep that you just want to yell at them to stop using you as their personal therapist. It’s pretty zippy, as far as the action, and I like the chapters alternating between the two sisters’ perspectives.)

37. Miranda’s Big Mistake—Jill Mansell* (I’m not really sure what to think of this book. It’s kind of a random/romance/light reading/chick lit? book? I honestly don’t really know what category to try and file it in, though I guess it doesn’t really matter. It’s over-the-top and kind of silly and it all ends how you think it will, but the characters are fun—though I thought the main character, Miranda, was a bit thin on development—and it would be great for a beach read, and I will probably read another book by this author, because who doesn’t like fun, funny books?)

38.  The Assistants—Robin Lynn Williams* (This was a bit of a throwback, having been released in 2005, but in a good way. Made me nostalgic for the good old days of….eight years ago. GAH! Eight years ago! Anyway, I liked that we get four different perspectives from four different Hollywood assistants. I didn’t find it to be incredibly over-the-top with the things these assistants are asked to do—and there is a lot of talk about how Hollywood assistants are asked to do some outrageous things—but all in all, it’s a quick, fun read with a happy ending, and the story is played out by the exact five characters you think it would be, including wannabe actress, the one good guy in the business, the hopeful always positive naïve girl, the ambitious guy who chucks it all, and the girl who kinda/sorta grew up in the business and now works in it herself, but not really.)

39. Werewolf at the Door—MaryJanice Davidson* (Okay, Davidson has created such a crazy vampire/werewolf [and now, apparently, zombie] world that is so intertwined I can’t really keep it all straight anymore. But no matter, this was probably one of the best written books Davidson has put out that have to do with the Wyndham Manor/Betsy Taylor characters, and if you don’t think too hard about the plot, the book just whips by, and you end up with a lot of great characters and funny internal and external dialogue. Which is nice.)

40. The Lucky Dog Matchmaking Service—Beth Kendrick* (I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a dog person, so this book really leashed me in from the get go—pun TOTALLY intended. A good story, if a bit preachy at times about how to properly care for and handle dogs that reads more like a Dogs for Dummies manual than a fiction novel, but the little vignettes  within the story about the dogs and their owners had me giggling and smiling. I liked the main character, and her mom, both very realistic, without being boring, and the book was well-paced. Two woofs of happiness from This Girl.)

41. The Time of My Life—Cecelia Ahern* (A great read. Ahern takes a metaphor of  sorts and brings it to life, and what works best is that she writes as if this is perfectly normal in real life, that people meet their Life, and Life is a living, breathing, human being. It’s well-written, the character is flawed but likeable, and caught in a situation that anyone could find themselves in. It’s a book about finding yourself without being cheesy and heavy-handed [though it has its moments] and once I started I couldn’t put it down.)

42. Eleanor and Park—Rainbow Rowell* (Oh goodness. This is such a well-written book. Rowell does a supreme job of capturing that intense, first love feeling, when you meet that person who Just. Gets. You. She unfolds the details so well you just sweep through the book, and she just…I don’t even know. Rowell just nailed it, in all aspects of this book for me. Highly recommend.)

43. Wish I Weren’t Here—Sandra D. Bricker (Eh. The writing is thin, and reads like it was phoned in, which is disappointing, because the premise is a really good set up for a romance novel. But it’s just flat. Everything seems flat—characters, descriptions, all of it. Bummer. The potential was  there, but it fell way short.)

44. Beauty Queens—Libba Bray* (HFS, this is absolutely hysterical. Well-written, and while it could have easily been a one-note “let’s bash pageants!” and “girl power!” kind of a book, it flies over that line and is just kick-ass. The teen characters are believable and the storyline is an adventure. And there were more sections than I could count that made me snort-laugh. Brilliant. Such a fun, and brilliant read.)

45.  Sweet Jiminy—Kristin Gore* (A departure from her Sammy’s House and Sammy’s Hill books, this quick read is much more serious and tackles the much heavier topic of race in America, past and present. A compelling story that moves quickly, though I wanted there to be more, of this to diver deeper into some of the other storylines that Gore sets up. I get why she didn’t—it easily could have become too much—but there’s part of me that wanted to see some of that [more about her mom, for example]. But overall, the storyline she sticks to I think she did very well, and while it’s serious and a little heavy, it’s not overly so.)

46. Grub—Elise Blackwell* (An updated telling of the Victorian era “New Grub Street” by George Gissing, this is a juicy, soap opera-y story of young writers trying [and both failing and succeeding] to make a name for themselves in publishing. While it makes it seem like getting a book published is easier than snapping your fingers [it’s not], overall it’s a great, fun read that sucks you in and you just want to get to the end not to have the book be over, but to see how it all turns out.)

47. Heirs and Graces—Rhys Bowen (The most recent of the Her Royal Spyness series, this was a fun romp with Georgie, as usual. A little slower than previous books in the series, it kind of felt like things didn’t really get going until the last third of the book, and the intrigue was all smooshed together. But a fun read nonetheless.)

48. Code Name Verity—Elizabeth Wein* (This book….. This book. Well. A friend of mine told me about it, and I was immediately intrigued. She gave me a quick rundown of the first and second halves, and I kind of wish she hadn’t, as it detracted a little from the magic of it. But there was still plenty to love about this book, and I really did love reading it. It was engrossing and well-written, but I found myself constantly wondering what’s going to happen next? What’s going to happen next? And I think I missed the effect of what I was reading right then, glossed over it, if you will, because later, thinking about the book I was kind of like, whoa. So my recommendation would DEFINITELY be to read this book, but take your time with it, and let yourself get very involved in it. You won’t regret it.)