2016 Reading

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One of my specific goals for 2016 and ongoing goals for life is to continue to make time to read for pleasure. It’s so easy to get home from work and sucked into television or netflix, but I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to spend some time in the evenings reading, especially before bed. A few other factors helped me reach my goal: Joining a book club provided incentive to read more and to look outside of my usual favorite authors and genres. I also traveled quite a bit this year and I always bring a book to read while traveling – reading intently during take offs/landings/turbulence helps distract me and ease any stress I feel while flying. I’ve always been partial to having an actual book in my hands, but I have loved using my kindle since Adam gifted it to me for our anniversary back in March.

Here are my thoughts on some of the books I read during 2016 – let me know what you thought if you’ve read them too and leave some comments about what should go on my 2017 reading list!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, connected by one magical city.There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad king-George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered-and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the rougish heir to a flourishing empire. White London-a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I’m kind of into fantasy novels so this book was right up my alley! The first book of a trilogy, it was a fairly quick read that kept my interest and made me want to learn more about the universe the books were set in. I just purchased the second in the series from Amazon and am planning to start it in the next few days. The final book of the trilogy comes out next month!

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The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest,” which they are months away from finally receiving.

Something like a cross between a Liane Moriarty book (for character development) and Devil Wears Prada (for dysfunctional NYC elite) and The Goldfinch (for post-9/11 art) without being quite as good as any of them, but still really good. I was pulled in by the story of each of the Plumb siblings and the sort of overarching sadness that the family held.

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

On one of my many work trips to Chicago, I finally decided to start reading the Divergent Series – appropriate as it takes place in a futuristic dystopian Chicago. The first book was so, so good and I literally could not put it down. Book 2 was good, book 3 was meh. As with the Maze Runner series below, I just never seem to like the subsequent books in a series as much as I like the originals.

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Maze Runner by James Dashner

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

 When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

 Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

 Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.  Everything is going to change.Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

 Remember. Survive. Run.

COULD NOT STOP READING the first book in the series. Or the second one, which I bought on a later flight. By the third though…I was struggling and ultimately dissatisfied with the ending and I haven’t bothered with the two prequels. Like many YA fantasy series, Hunger Games, Divergent (see above), my interest fades after the first couple of books and I am almost always disappointed by the third. So definitely read the Maze Runner but then maybe just stop there?

 

The Rosie Project by  Graeme Simsion

The art of love is never a science: Meet Don Tillman, a brilliant yet socially inept professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman possesses all these qualities. Don easily disqualifies her as a candidate for The Wife Project (even if she is “quite intelligent for a barmaid”). But Don is intrigued by Rosie’s own quest to identify her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie―and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you. 

This book is a super cute, light-hearted read. I couldn’t quite stop thinking of the main character as Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.I ended up reading the second book, The Rosie Effect too which I didn’t like quite as much (I also read it in the throws of morning sickness not realizing that much of the book is about Rosie’s pregnancy), but still found to be entertaining and I enjoyed the ending.

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In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez 

It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas―“The Butterflies.”

In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters―Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé―speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression. 

This was a book club book that I loved! Based on a true story and told from the point of view of each of the sisters, this pulled me in and captured my attention the whole way through. Even though you know there is ultimately a sad ending, you can’t help but root for the sisters as they fight for the cause against an oppressive dictator.

 

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty 

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

I’ve seen that this book, Liane Moriarty’s latest, has gotten some negative reviews, but I have to disagree! It wasn’t my favorite of hers (Big Little Lies), but I still loved it. Something about the way Moriarty develops each character with so much insight into their personality keeps my attention even as the “big mystery” of the story was pretty slow to unravel. I wouldn’t say it’s an uplifting read as the characters are dealing with some heavy and depressing stuff, but if you’re looking for a good, juicy novel, this is it.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

I don’t typically read non-fiction, but like most of my books I bought this in an airport and the options in Houston were fairly limited. Good thing I love Mindy and the writing in her book is similar to the writing on her show, the Mindy Project. It kept my attention, kept me laughing and gave some interesting backstory into her career and relationships.

 

What books did you love last year? What should go on my 2017 reading list? 

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