Tuesday, January 6, 2015

books i read over christmas break

my reading life goes through peaks and valleys. during the autumn months books had a difficult time holding my interest. one novel in particular, big little lies by liane moriarty, an author i've enjoyed reading in the past, was checked out from the library on two separate occasions and yet i still haven't finished it. in fact, i never got farther than the first few pages. i'm hoping the third time will be charmed. 

over christmas break, however, i went through a reading growth spurt. five books in fifteen days! here are my thoughts on them...

love with a chance of drowning by torre deroche  

this is a memoir written by a young australian woman who leaves home to live in the states, promising her family she will return in one year and not fall in love with an american man. one of those promises was broken and the other was bent. it's her adventurous tale about choosing to face her greatest fears (because it was the only way she could be with the man she loved) and how conquering those fears helped her to understand who she is and how she wants to live her life. 

it was a quick, easy and captivating read. it made me want to go on a year-long sailing expedition. except for the part about not showering for weeks at a time. 

the storied life of a.j. fikry by gabrielle zevin

this is a novel about a man who owns and lives above a small town bookstore. the past few years of his life, both personal and professional, have been tough but he discovers an unexpected surprise in the bookstore and it changes things for him.

a.j. fikry says "you know everything you need to know about a person from their answer to this question: what is your favorite book?" although i agree with him to some extent i'd hate to answer that question! how can anyone name one favorite book?! i enjoyed this book, especially how each chapter begins with a book review written by mr. fikry; for mostly classic literature and poetry he considers a must-read.

again, this was a quick, easy read. it was a heartfelt story with a couple small twists to keep it interesting. there was one "twist" that wasn't developed as deeply as i would have liked but it was a side story and not all that important to how the main storyline resolved. even still, the fictional characters in this book inspired me to want to be a better reader.

the girl with all the gifts by m.r. carey

this is not the type of book i typically like but i found myself sucked in and thinking about the story long after i finished it. so i suppose that's the best recommendation i can give! it's a thrilling drama set in post-apocalyptic england. melanie, the main character, is a young girl who lives in a cell. she is removed from her cell to attend school, as long as her hands, feet and head are severely restrained to a wheelchair. the gripping, powerful story builds from there. 

at the beginning i kept reading to try to figure out who melanie is and why she had to be to closely monitored. after that was revealed i kept reading because i just had to see how it was all going to turn out! although every page of this book held my interest and i do recommend it as a good read, there are some gory, graphic scenes. so use caution if that type of thing bothers you. 

the good girl by mary kubica

i read an online review for this book although i have surfed the blogosphere and cannot for the life of me find where i read it. sigh. that review quoted this line from the book:
"I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."

that was enough to get me interested. i don't want to ruin the story for you so i'll leave it at that and hope it peaks your interest too. of all the books i read over the break this went the fastest, completing it in less than four hours. i was able to predict the ending fairly early on but still enjoyed reading to see how it would all unfold. 

11/22/63 by stephen king

i've come to realize there are some big time stephen king fans. they've read every single thing he's ever written...they've been reading his books since they were in middle school...they think he is the king of all authors (pun totally intended). but that is not me. i am not at all intrigued by scary stories. i have no desire to fall asleep (or be kept awake) with deranged characters and freaky plots running through my brain. i saw one movie adaptation of a stephen king book when i was younger and have purposely avoided the author ever since. 

until i started seeing reviews for 11/22/63

it seemed everyone was reading it and loving it. so i downloaded the e-book for my nook and started reading it sometime last year. i got about a quarter, maybe a third, of the way in and stopped. i can't say exactly why. the story seemed too big to be read on the nook, figuratively speaking. anyway, a couple weeks ago as i was headed to check out the rest of these books i happened to walk by our library's sale table and saw 11/22/63, all 842 pages of it, setting out with a $3 price tag. i decided $3 was a great deal for such a huge novel and brought it home with me, wondering if it might be easier to get lost in the story if i was holding the paper version. turns out i was right.

11/22/63 is a fascinating time-travel story about a high-school english teacher, jake epping, who is asked to venture back in time to stop the assassination of president john f. kennedy. he does indeed chose to walk through the "rabbit hole" and discovers what actually happened back then and what might happen to the future if he changes things. he experiences the norms of 1958, keeping on the periphery of life for awhile until settling in a small town where he accepts a job, builds relationships and eventually finds the love of his life. all the while he tracks the movements of lee harvey oswald in order to determine if oswald acted alone or if the conspiracy theories about kennedy's assassination were true.

it was evident king did an immense amount of research about oswald and jfk, that aspect of the novel was intriguing and thrilling - will jake stop the assassination? what will the future be like if he succeeds? i was impressed by the storyline and how the author carried certain themes seamlessly from beginning to end. the plot and the characters were deep and detailed and rich. ultimately, though, there is a romance that unfolds throughout jake's time-travels and i found myself wondering less about the assassination and more about whether or not love will withstand the test of time. 

so that's it. from a reading standpoint i'd say it was a successful christmas break! let's see how long this "peak" will last...

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