February 6, 2015

January Books 2015

Well, now that I'm actively updating my Goodreads account, I see it as a to-do list and the best thing to do with a to-do list is to start checking things off.  I don't know if there will be an update on here every month, but I do need to document this all because that's what to-do-list-oriented people do.

Then I realized how many books I actually read in January.  

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.  12 months of reading/posting/thinking about books probably made that habit permanent. This monthly feature might never ever go away.  I'm numbering the books this year.  Last year, I had to constantly go back and count to figure out where I was.  (That makes me sound like an idiot, I know.)

#1 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr D-
I had HIGH hopes for this book.  I'd seen many people blog about how great it was and was excited to get started.  I was looking at it in a way of "This book could change my life", because WWII novels like Sarah's Key still run through my head often. However, I never really got into the story.  The characters weren't likable and the story wasn't believable and it was just…dull.  This book has 4.21 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, so I do understand that I'm in the minority.  But…man, this was boring.  I mean, if all World War II books were written in this way (with such little context), history would truly be boring.  I don't even really have any specific complaints other than "it will put you to sleep while you're driving down the road listening".  In fact, if my new Audible credit would've been available to me, I would've stopped and listened to something new.
I can say with certainty that the book does not get better toward the end.
Also (and it's been mentioned in other reviews) there is not a description of what the Nazis were actually doing during WWII.  The story shifts between a boy in Nazi training camp (the Hitler Youth) and then a blind girl in France.  The two stories relate to each other by the end of the book, but neither story relates to anything else that is going on during the war. There is no historical context other than one reference to a Jewess and the Great War (WWI).
Such a disappointment.  If you like exciting, thought-provoking WWII books…read something else.

#2 Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead B-
This was a great story for the 10-12 year old crowd.  There's bullying, friendship, parent troubles, etc.  Reading it as an adult, it didn't do a whole lot for me, but I can see how it'd be a terrific book for a kid.  I won't summarize it because I don't get paid by Amazon or Goodreads to write summaries, but if you have a student in the intermediate grades, they should probably read it.  Just because this author is amazing and famous in the children's literature world and reading all her books can't be a bad thing.

#3 The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarity A+....++
I enjoy the way this author puts together all these unique characters and has the stories intertwine. It keeps me interested.  Plus, I love listening to her audiobooks.  They're narrated by Caroline Lee and the Australian accent really puts you in the story.
I liked this story way more than I liked What Alice Forgot but I don't know if I liked it more than Big Little Lies.  I mean, I'm going to give it an "A" regardless, but I'm not sure if I would call it my favorite of hers.  In a Love Actually-fashion, there's a bunch of characters and the stories relate to each other. Has anyone read Three Wishes?
For what it's worth, I made a prediction in chapter 12 that ended up being confirmed a few chapters later.  Anyway, this was a fabulous book, intriguing plotline, and the characters were interesting and likeable.

#4 The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin A
Back in 2005, I read Elsewhere and it was one of the best books I'd ever come across.  It made me cry and books don't often do that.  However, it was such that I could never read it again because it was a sweet and depressing story all at once. I gave it away at a book exchange a few years ago.
When I saw that Zevin had another book out, I put it on my short list.  I honestly didn't know what kind of book it was though.  Elsewhere was juvenile fiction.  This book mentioned the word "hangover" on page 1.  I knew then that it was not a kid's book.  Also, there's swearing so that further convinced me that I was reading a book meant for the 18+ crowd.
I liked this one.  I enjoy the way Zevin never tells you everything at once and you're left to draw your own conclusions and sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong.  It's comparable to an illusion. She makes you think one way and then gives another detail a chapter later and then you realize you were completely off.  That happened a couple of times in this book, but I won't tell you where.  And, like in Elsewhere, she brings it full circle by the end.  I like that. It's on Kindle unlimited so if you have that, go for it.

#5 The Ex Pats by Chris Pavone A-
See review here.

#6 Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller A++
Oh this book.  You should read it.  I've never read a better memoir. I started it simply because it was free on the Kindle app and then, an hour into the audiobook, I didn't want to turn it off.  There were teeny parts of it that reminded me of Mommy Dearest. I can't even imagine what it would be like to live with a hoarder, let alone how you could cope with it as a child and not end up completely screwed up as an adult.  Years of therapy I suppose.  I do know that I am one of those who will start to feel like I am suffocating if things are messy…I'm not a neat freak exactly.  I don't have OCD.  But if my car is dirty or my floors are dirty or my counters are dirty…I especially get annoyed with the car thing because there is literally nothing I can do about it until I get home.  And clutter.  I hate clutter.  If it were up to me, I'd throw away half our stuff.
By the end of this memoir, I wanted to go help Kimberly clean her parents' apartment.  She's actually a blogger, internet personality, and fitness expert these days, but I think her calling is definitely that of writer.

#7 The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm C-
Man, I wanted to love this book.  I love the author, I love Penny from Heaven and Turtle Island...I just did not really care for this book.  It was kind of pointless.  Like, I get that she was trying to create a fun science-oriented book for young girls (hello, STEM) and when you look at her past success, I think I just agree with another Goodreads review that said this was Newbery bait.  There was no character depth or true plotline.  They kind of gave away what I thought was going to be a big reveal in the 3rd (very short) chapter. All the chapters were very short, so I didn't feel as intelligent while reading it as I did her other books (well, as intelligent as you can feel when reading a kid's book).  It's directed at the 10-12 crowd, but I don't know who I would give this book to.  It's not a terrible story.  Just kind of stale and cartoonish.  Like, it could be a cartoon series on Disney. It's not children's literature. Holm should stick to historical fiction.

#8 The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins A+++
Geez, I've read a lot of great books this month.  This book.  THIS book.  Read this book.  It's like Gone Girl meets…well, it's like Gone Girl meets one of the other books I read this month, but I don't want to tell you which one because that will give it away.  But seriously, it's a mystery wrapped in suspense wrapped in literary genius.  Maybe that's overstating it a bit.  But I loved it.  I enjoyed every second and since I listened to it, I particularly liked the added effect of the 3 British narrators.  It. is. fascinating.

Any books that I gave an A to are the ones you should check out!

Life According to Steph


  1. SO! MANY! BOOKS! I'm impressed friend! You mentioned Coming Clean earlier I think, and I made a mental note to try and get it. I literally just switched over from your site, went to my library's website, and checked it out. I'll run out at lunch to pick it up! I really enjoyed The Husband's Secret, too! I've seen SO MANY PEOPLE talking about The Girl On The Train--I guess that'll be added to my TBR list too!

  2. I might have to check out The Husband's Secret. I had seen it on my Goodreads, but wasn't sure about it.

  3. Wow so many good books to check out, thanks for sharing! Coming Clean sounds really interesting!

  4. All these books sound awesome, I will be adding some to my ever growing list haha.

  5. I have no desire to read #1 even though people have loved it. I loved #8. The ExPats is on my list.

    I want to read the hoarder book but I'm not sure that I can.

  6. I just bought The Girl on the Train for my Kindle app...I'm excited to read it. Usually I'm not one to jump on a book bandwagon (I still haven't read Gone Girl or a single book by Rainbow Rowell) but it looks really interesting and I've heard great things about it. I generally have really different tastes in books than most people but this one I'm making an exception for.

  7. I'll add some of these books to my list, thank you. I love to read!

  8. Wow! 8 books?! And I thought I was doing good with 3!! lol :)

  9. I enjoyed the husbands secret but havent read big little lies yet. i had heard all the light we cannot see was amazing but it just didn't look like my cup of tea. adding both the Zevin books to my list!

  10. I've want to read The Husband's Secret for a while now! Just added you as a friend on Goodreads. I love to see what everyone is reading. I think after 12 months, I've say that reading is a new habit for me too. I'm so glad because there were a few years where the only book I read was my child's board book.

  11. I'm definitely going to add The Girl on the Train and The Husband's Secret to my Goodreads "to read" list. I've heard so many great things about them both!

  12. #1 is on my list so I'm bummed to hear it wasn't good. I'm currently listening to The Husband's Secret and I too predicted the secret before it came out. At first the Australian accent was distracting but now I like it. I really want to read The Girl on the Train, too!

  13. I read The Husband's Secret a couple months ago and guessed the secret as well. I thought the book was longer than it needed to be honestly. I am so interested in The Girl on the Train now because of the two reviews on it!!

  14. I don't know how I've missed out on Liane Moriarty. I need to start reading these books. I'm currently reading The Girl on the Train. I'm not that far in but I already love it!

  15. The Husband's Secret, Coming Clean and The Girl on the Train are already on my list and I'm so looking forward to reading them. I think I need to add #4. I should do that now.

    Glad to hear that reading is a habit for you now!

  16. I love Liane Moriarity books. I really, really want to read The Girl on the Train. I'm going to add Coming Clean too! Sounds good!

  17. I have several of these books already on my list, but I added Coming Clean thanks to reading your post.

  18. In Goodreads if you set a goal in the Book Challenge it keeps track of your yearly books read. Coming Clean sounds really good, I always obsessively clean when i watch Hoarders so this sounds like it would be the same. At the very least my house would be clean. ;)

  19. I love that you're using the grading system instead of the stars! I set my Goodreads goal a lot higher than I did last year and I'm ahead of scheduled. You're powering through the books, way to go! You're the second one that LOVED Girl on the Train so I'm definitely adding it to my list!


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