Book Reviews

Books I Read in 2020

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As we all know, 2020 was a roller coaster of a year and definitely not one we want to repeat. In the last year I lost my job after only 7 months of employment, ultimately due to my position not being of necessity. I stayed unemployed until recently and I had to move states to even get a nibble of anything. I moved from Texas back home to Minnesota in early November because my mental health was in the gutter. I’ve felt a huge sense of loneliness in the last couple of years even though I was living with my fiancé. I realized how much I disliked Houston and missed the Twin Cities. I needed a break from everything around me and a change in my life so I decided to move home and so far it’s been the best choice I could have made. 

2020 also brought I large change in my interests. My best friend got me back into watching anime – something I haven’t heavily done since high school – and I sort of hyperfixated on watching as many shows as possible. Streaming services became a huge part of my life and my interest in reading declined. That’s not to say I won’t ever read again; I have two books just waiting to be cracked open and I’m really going to force myself back into reading during 2021. However, before my shift in entertainment interests changed I did read a few interesting novels. 

Out of the 5 novels I read this year, my favorite had to be Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chboksy. It was creepy, suspenseful, and entirely unexpected. It’s the absolutely terrifying tale of Christopher and his quest to save his town from the devil. Christopher disappears into the Mission Street Woods for six days after moving to town, much like David Olson who vanished into the same woods 50 years ago but was never seen again. Christopher is instructed to build a tree house by Christmas day by the “nice man” that Christopher meets in the woods, and that tree house becomes the portal between the real world and the imaginary world. Every time Christopher returns from the imaginary world, he becomes more knowledgeable to the people around him, but it also makes him sick and believes he is being hunted by “the hissing lady.” The towns people start to feel the same sickness, minus the hissing lady, but with an added violent streak. By Christmas the town is completely against each other. The end of the novel reveals that the tree house actually serves as a way for the imaginary world, which is Hell, to come into the real world. The nice man is the devil. The hissing lady, who was seen as evil, is actually Eve and in the end, with Christopher’s help and strength, is able to deliver Eve back to Heaven and be forgiven by God. 

Imaginary Friends was extremely different from Chbosky’s other novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is one of my favorite books of all time. It was thoroughly enjoyable though and kept me awake most nights. The other books I read this year were all very different from each other and mostly enjoyable. I wasn’t a huge fan of When We Were Vikings but I think it was ultimately due to the writing style. It’s written in the first person point of view from a main character who suffers from FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). I commend the author for writing in that way but for me it was difficult to comprehend at times. 

I’m hoping that 2021 won’t be as much of a hell as 2020 and that I can put an even amount of time into my interests. I also have to make sure to keep focusing on myself and my mental health but I believe I’ve already accomplished the hard part by accepting I needed to get out of the living situation I was in. I also hope that everyone out there prospers in the new year and may it be better than the hell we just endured. 

 

Full 2020 Book List

  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
  • Truth Be Told – Kathleen Barber
  • Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
  • Imaginary Friend – Stephen Chbosky
  • When We Were Vikings – Andrew David MacDonald

Book Reviews

Books I Read In 2018/2019

When I went to write about the books I had read in 2018, I just couldn’t. I kept putting it off week after week and eventually it was half way through 2019. Depression can hit you hard sometimes. And then there was an engagement (genuinely excited about that!) and life just went on. But, better late than never.

I decided to combine 2018 and 2019 because I wasn’t going to put out the 2018 list halfway through the next year and I honestly didn’t end up reading a lot through 2019 due to a lot of personal things. It seemed the best idea to just put them all together; the books of 2018 still deserved to be recognized and 2019 was a short stack of novels. Enough though about the reason for this combo, here are the books I’ve read in the last two years.

2018 2019 collage

I branched out a bit in the novels I read in the last couple of years. Still stuck to the fiction realm and heavily into the suspense, but I threw in some “self help,” historical fiction, and one absolutely bizarre science fiction piece that was honestly my favorite of the 16 books. The Anomaly by Michael Rutger was the one book I couldn’t put down.

The AnomalyA group of unlikely adults work together on a YouTube channel that seeks to find the “anomalies” of history, places that haven’t been truly identified in modern day. For this search they’re off to find a cavern in the Grand Canyon previously “found” by a man named Kincaid who discovered the cavern over 100 years ago. However this time, they are being sponsored by a foundation to possibly turn their channel into a TV program. A member of the foundation accompanies them on their journey, along with a journalist. To the group’s surprise, they actually find Kincaid’s Cavern and seek inside the cave to find if it has what Kincaid wrote about. What they find leads to an almost Cabin in the Woods type inner-workings where an unknown force is trying to recreate former demon like creatures to wipe out the world and start anew.

Once the team had discovered the cave and began their adventure into it’s nooks and crannies, I almost thought it was going to turn into something along the lines of The Hills Have Eyes, but no. There were no mutated men trying to eat the team. Instead, strange creatures conjured out out of a mystical pool deep inside the cavern and it starts to take out the team. Could. Not. Stop. Reading.

Our Kind of CrueltyNow, on the other spectrum of extremely enticing is the “can’t get into it.” That book for me was Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall. I tried so hard to finish this book but I could only get about halfway through, and even that took time. I’m not the type of person to read multiple books at the same time so I missed out on racking up more titles to include in this yearly list. I started Our Kind of Cruelty in 2018 and gave up finishing it in 2019. I can’t even remember how many months it took me to decide to just put it back on the bookshelf and move on. It was a lot of repetitive scenes that weren’t leading anywhere. Stalker ex boyfriend thinks he can win his way back into said ex’s heart by playing a game they played while together. Not my thing.

The rest of the novels I’ve read in the last couple of years all held my attention. Bobby Hall’s debut of Supermarket was another up all night reader, similar to Cuckoo’s Nest in ways. The Whisper Man by Alex North made me ultra aware to keep my doors and windows locked. I learned a lot about a YouTube celebrity I watched constantly several years ago; Lisa Schwartz’s Thirty Life Crisis made me think a lot about my own anxiety issues. And I discovered a truly exciting new trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty. Her City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper are so greatly detailed that you feel completely immersed in the world she’s created – the final novel comes out early 2020 and I can’t wait to see how the story ends.

I’ve already started collecting books for the new year and am truly excited to see what stories are going to take me away. In the new year I’m also hoping to focus on my writing more, and as I’ve been told you have to be a reader to be a writer. I also have a wedding to save and plan for, a new job to enjoy, and a life to just live. I’m hoping that 2020 is really “my year” which I know is how everyone feels but the way the last 6 months of 2019 went, I need it to be, and it seems to be shaping up that way with the new job.

Of course, I hope everyone has a great new year and a great new decade! Here’s to greatness and success.

 

 

 

 

***Many of these novels I found on The Book of The Month, a monthly subscription box for readers***

Book Reviews · Uncategorized

Books I Read in 2017

Happy New Year to everyone, here’s to hoping that 2018 will be a better year than the one we all just survived. One of my resolutions for this year is to write more because I haven’t been writing really at all; you can see there were no posts from me in 2017. It wasn’t that I didn’t lose my love of writing but I felt as though I needed to read more. Reading has always been an escape from reality, at least a little bit, so I read as much as I could this past year and I want to share what I escaped into. The majority of the books I read came from The Book of the Month Club, which I joined toward the end of 2016. Absolutely recommend joining if you love books and reading, they have something for everyone each month. There were only about three novels I picked out on my own from just wandering around Barnes and Nobel or my interest in the author previously. Without further ado, the books I read in 2017:

Collage 1Collage 2Collage 3Collage 4

Of the novels I read in 2017 I would say that two are tied for favorite, Since We Feel by Dennis Lehane and The Child by Fiona Barton. Both novels kept me on edge and wanting more. Lehane’s novel definitely took a turn I was not anticipating and I began to see why it was considered a thriller. Barton’s mystery on who the Building Site Baby was made my head spin with all sorts of possibilities. I’d recommend both of these books in a minute.

Now of course you can’t always get a winner in the books you pick. I found White Fur to be my least favorite novel of the year. Although well written, I couldn’t connect to the characters or the plot of this novel. The female protagonist seemed whiny and reckless and her love interest was lackluster. It seemed like a weird 1980’s Romeo and Juliet but with a high class college student and a low class junkie.

Each novel I read this year served it’s purpose of helping to escape some of the reality going in the world. Now as I go into this first day of the new year I’m hoping that this years selection of novels helps to do the same, but hopefully the world around us starts to shift in a better direction. However it goes, here’s to a new year. Keep on reading!

 

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

In 2011 I took my first trip to Paris and fell madly in love with the city. I visited again in the spring of 2013 and was no less crazy about the city of love and lights. My favorite European city happens to be Florence but I always find myself drawn back to Paris because it was the first city to steal my heart. I think that’s why I read so many books and stories that are focused on Paris, Parisian life, or France in general. I was enthralled with The Paris Wife; one of my favorite movies is Moulin Rouge. And with the book I just finished, I am even more in love with the city and yearn to travel through the rest of France.

This past summer I went into one of my favorite local bookshops with a visiting friend from high school and happened upon Nina George’s novel The Little Paris Bookshop. The title instantly intrigued me and the brief synopsis in the front cover piqued my interest. So I bought it. Life got in the way and I ended up reading other things and got crazy with work. I recently finished J.K. Rowling’s novel for adults The Casual Vacancy and I needed something new to read. I pick up The Little Paris Bookshop and began to read. It was not at all what I had anticipated.

What makes me love this book and want to go back to France so bad is the amount of detailed description George puts into the settings of each place Jean Perdu – the main character – finds himself. Every little detail helps to place the reader inside the story. Everything from smell, the looks of buildings, the types of trees, the feel of the river. George also mentions some landmarks around Paris but not once is the Eiffel Tower mentioned. It’s not a book the focuses on the tourist aspect of Paris but of the life in Paris that Jean Perdu has known.

He experienced love and loss in the vast city. After finding out a shocking truth, he takes to his book barge, accompanied by an author neighbor looking to escape to find his muse. They take in another friend along the way, and then another. But each character is carefully and precisely described, not always by looks but by their personality and how they think and feel.

Not only do we get the story of Perdu and his friends, but there are a few chapters that are written from the perspective of Perdu’s lover who he lost twenty years before. Manon, the lover, wrote a travel diary and personal diary throughout her life with her experiences with Perdu and Luc, her husband. The diary entries are so poetic and questioned so much about love, life, and death. The whole book presented questions about those things as well.

What I loved most about this book other than its detail and relatable characters was that it took turns I didn’t expect. Each chapter kept me wanting more. George kept the story going in a fairly regular rate. There were no unbelievable jumps; it progressed the way it should have. I believed the characters and their lives; I believed that each piece I read could be real. So thank you Nina George for a fantastic read and the longing to go back to France.