Books, Books, and More Books


I looked back to see when I last wrote a book review post and realized my most recent proper reading roundup was in July! I wanted to make sure I shared my final book review roundup before the year ended. There are a few, so settle in. You might also enjoy this post I wrote on Reading Habits, which recapped the first half of my year of reading in a fun format. 

*The following are shortened versions of my Goodreads reviews, so if you want full reviews, follow me there!
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (4.5 stars)

This book is a WWII novel based on a real event and was absolutely gripping. It's told from the point of view of four (fictional) narrators, and the chapters rotate. At first it was confusing trying to get the stories straight, but it didn't take long to figure out what was happening. This book made me very interested to research more about Operation Hannibal. Just don't read this if you are looking for something light and cheerful, because this book is neither of those things. But it reads very easily and will not take you long to finish.

The Secret Place by Tana French (4 stars)

This is the fifth Tana French book I've read. She writes murder mystery novels with a different main narrator each time, usually a character we've met in a previous book. Per usual for Tana French, I thought the book could have been shortened 50-100 pages and been perfectly fine, but I still enjoyed it and the story kept me guessing. Each chapter moves back and forth between present-day solving the murder to the past, and that allowed me as an outsider to see more of the story as it was being solved in present time, which I liked. I should note that there is some sexual content and cursing in this book, specifically the F word. If you're interested, I would rate French's books like this best to worst: The Likeness, The Secret Place, Into the Woods, Broken Harbor, Faithful Place.

City of Thieves by David Benioff (4 stars)

I was on a WWII kick for a bit this year and read five books from that era, City of Thieves being one of them. It is set in Occupied Russia, and there are two main characters, both of whom are incredibly likable for different reasons. At first I wasn't entirely sure if I was all that interested in the main premise--two young Russians try to find a dozen eggs during the Siege of Leningrad where there is no food to be had--but I really got into it. Note: there is some cursing and sexual references, sometimes a bit more than I would prefer, so just be aware of that. There are also a few scenes (maybe 2-3) that described violence and it gets pretty graphic.

Congratulations, By the Way by George Saunders (4 stars)

This short book took me about 10 minutes to read (so should it be classified as a book? I don't know). It's the commencement speech given at Syracuse University a few years ago that was published in a book form after it went viral online. Saunders says some really lovely things about kindness and life regrets, and I think this would be a creative and useful gift for a recent graduate or just anyone who wants to read a few words about kindness.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame (4 stars)

This is the first book in JK Rowling's series of detective novels, and I really enjoyed it! There was some swearing, but it felt necessary for the characters and I did not feel like it was excessive. It also wasn't scary at all, which is important since I get scared easily. I didn't guess the ending, although that's not saying much since I normally can't guess the ending. Many reviews on Goodreads state that this book starts slow, and I can see why someone would say that, but I didn't find it slow. I did get lost just a bit near the end because there were a lot of characters that all get interwoven, but it didn't bother me. The two main characters are believable and extremely likable, and I am definitely going to read more in this series!

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner (3.75 stars)

I loved the writing, the story, and the characters. It's the story of two sisters who are deported out of London during WWII but return and end up separated during the bombings. I only rated this a little lower because I found the beginning and ending a little slow. There are diary entries from one of the characters that take up a pretty good portion of the last quarter of the book, and I started skimming them because they were really detailed and I wasn't into it. But overall this was another good WWII novel. You could most likely finish this over a weekend!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (3.5 stars)

This story is very unique, and at first I didn't think the author would be able to pull off making Harold's walk/pilgrimage believable, but actually I did buy the premise, so I didn't have to suspend too much disbelief. I liked the characters, and I think the author had some good conclusions to make about life and friendship. I did get a little bit bored in the middle portion, but I would recommend this for anyone wanting a book that's a relatively quick read but with some deeper emotions.

Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever (3 stars) 

I am a huge fan of Little Women, but I had never read anything about Louisa May Alcott before. I found the subject matter fascinating. I had no idea that the people and places in LW and the rest of the series were based heavily on real events! Unfortunately, I found the actual writing style and tone of this book annoying. For one thing, the timeline jumped around a bit, and the author included extra historical information and people and events that sometimes didn't feel necessary. Overall, I did enjoy reading this; I just didn't like that sometimes it did not read like a traditional biography. But if you usually find biographies boring, you might like this one because it will probably be easier to get through.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (2.5 stars)

This was my least favorite of all the WWII novels I read this year. I felt like it was slow, and although things happened, I didn't actually feel like anything happened, if that even makes sense. I kept waiting for some climactic moment, but the story arc seemed rather flat. And when dramatic moments did occur, I didn't feel any weight behind them. However, the writing was lovely and the story itself was creative. This book had good reviews on Goodreads, but for me it was kind of a bust.

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee (2.5 stars)

I found this book slow in the beginning. Each chapter starts with a flash-forward then moves back to telling the story in present time. We know that a girl is missing, but we don't know who is gone or what happened. I felt like the story picked up in the last quarter, and there was a twist at the end that I didn't see coming, but I'm sure the twist would be obvious to anyone who is better at guessing endings than I am. The story has elements that are really great, but the big problem is that it got kind of dark and creepy as it went along and it made me feel unsettled when I finished.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman (Did not finish)

I picked up this book because it's written by the same author who wrote A Man Called Ove, and I loved that one. But unfortunately I could not for the life of me get into it. I made it to page 114 before giving up completely and returning it to the library, which I hardly ever do but I just don't have time to keep reading a book I don't like. It has a bunch of great reviews on Goodreads, so I tried to push through, but it just wasn't happening. I found the story hard to follow and the characters very strange. I would be open to giving this another try at some point, just not right now.

The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn (5 stars)

I saved this one for last because I don't want to end on a downer like the previous review. I received The Kindness Challenge from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review, and I chose it because I wanted to see what the author had to say about kindness. There is a 30-day kindness challenge included, with tips on how to do it, and she spends the book going through chapters on different aspects of kindness, ways we are unkind without realizing it, pitfalls that keep people from being as kind as they could be, and the positive effects of kindness on both ourselves and those around us. She doesn't necessarily say anything earth-shattering or anything I hadn't heard before, but she says things in a way that makes it very relatable, sharing real-life stories from people who have completed the kindness challenge and how it impacted their relationships. This is the perfect book for me to read heading into the new year, and I want to try and apply some of the tips in my own relationships and just be kinder overall to the people around me. Definitely a book worth checking out!

Now tell me what books I should have on my to-read list for 2017! I want to start off the year with something really good. Suggestions are welcome!
Kristen @ See You In A Porridge said...

i have only read the cuckoo's calling - i liked it well enough but didn't love it, didn't read the rest in the series (i also didn't see the end coming, but like you, that's not unusual lol). City of Thieves sounds really good! adding it. i haven't read the grandmother book, but i've heard mixed things.. though i have also heard mixed things about the man called Ove one. i don't know if i will read either... they are both on my list for now, but i don't know. i know it's a different author, but i read the 100 year old man climbing out a window or whatever it was called, and i wasn't a fan. i've heard they are very similar authors... but who knows. life is too short for bad books, right? haha. i'm going to try and be better in 2017 and not force myself to read something i don't like, but i always feel like i am wasting my time if i don't finish it, you know? which is silly, i know.

Audrey Louise said...

Sounds like a nice mix of books. I've been avoiding the "tough" era/moments in history lately with my reading, but I'd really like to tackle Salt to the Sea soon. Thanks for the review/suggestions!

Beka @ Sunshine to the Square Inch said...

You're an awesome reader. I'm not even going to tell you the number of books I've read because 1. I have no idea 2. I'm sure it is under 5 or so. =)

Unknown said...

I had the exact same reaction to My Grandmother Told Me...and I was so disappointed because I loved Ove! I really liked the entire series by Galbraith aka Rowling so I hope you do, too. I'll have to look up some of your higher rated reads and add them to my list!

Ashley Lillis said...

I just added City of Thieves to my list. That sounds so interesting, and I haven't read a ton of WWII books about Russia which I think would be interesting.

Torrie said...

That's too bad that the Backman one was so disappointing---I hadn't even known that he'd written anything but Ove (and got really excited), but now I probably won't bother picking it up, ha ha. I actually really liked Everyone Brave is Forgiven, but I tend to favor writing style over plot, so that might explain why I liked that one quite a bit more than some people.

Rach said...

The Kindness Challenge sounds like a really good read! I'm going to add that to my to-read list! :)

The Lady Okie said...

I totally know what you mean! I HATE quitting on books but I just have to sometimes. I liked the Cuckoo's Calling, but I also think a lot of books sometimes it just the stage you're in and the mood you're in. Like, I could read a book that's really really good but it just doesn't hit me as much as it would if I had read it at a different time, you know? City of Thieves was super interesting. I hadn't read many books from the POV of people in Russia during the war. The premise seemed kind of dumb at first but I really got into it!

The Lady Okie said...

I really liked it!

The Lady Okie said...

I'm so glad I'm not alone! I tried really hard to like My Grandmother Told Me, but it wasn't working.

Laura Darling said...

My mom just read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and she liked it too. I'm going to have to check that out.

Kayla MKOY said...

I'm always amazed when I see people reading this much...its actually a little sad because I LOVE to read but don't make the time for it. It's one of my goals for the new year; to set aside time to do things (other than photography) that I really love! Go you! I loved reading some of these reviews!

Allison said...

How did I not know that JK Rowling had a mystery series under another name?! What?! Just added this to my Goodreads. I loved Secrets of a Charmed Life and Harold Fry. Have you read the other book about Queenie...not really a prequel exactly, but a companion book of Harold Fry. I thought it was good as well!!

Julie @ Just the Joy's said...

I got off the reading train (because exhaustion) so I'm saving this for future reference! I apologize I do not have any awesome suggestions for you! :)