Thursday, January 7, 2016

Books 2015

1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch
Funny. Several chapters seemed to come directly from her blog, but several also had my laughing out loud.

2. Testimony by Anita Shreve
Meh. I don't know. Entertaining, I guess. 

3. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
I enjoyed this one. It was an interesting way to find out the story along with the main character. 

4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Loved this. I wanted to keep reading about Ifemelu and Obinze after it ended. I kept forgetting I had finished it and wanted to pick it back up to keep their story going.

5. The Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins
A good thriller, can't wait to see the movie. 

6. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Meh. I loved We Were Liars so much I thought I'd go back and read an earlier book. I might have loved this in high school. The dialogue bothered me a lot. No one talks like that, especially the popular guys in high school. And it ended basically by saying "hey, maybe Frankie's a psycho narcissist," which was not my takeaway at all. 

7. In the Woods by Tana French
Meh, again. The writing was good, sure, but I so hated the narrator. And ((SPOILER)) the one line in the book that really bothered me was when the narrator says something like "Rosalind fooled me, but then the fooled you too, didn't she?" But she didn't fool me! Not for one second! Give me some credit, author/narrator!

8. Euphoria by Lily King
Apparently I like reading about anthropologists studying river tribes (like State of Wonder by Ann Patchett), because I loved this. 

9. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Way too long. I hated all the characters. Kind of upset I wasted like 2 months pushing through it because it was described to me as "a slow burn." I would say it had NO burn. 

10. The Vacationers by Emma Staub
Bleh. Boring. All the characters were terrible, not fleshed out. 

11. The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
 I enjoyed it, but seeing it compared to Gillian Flynn novels was kind of its downfall for me. It's more like chick-lit with a bit of a dark side. And I was waiting for an even bigger twist/mind-fuck (that was hinted at) at the end that never materialized. 

My two cents: Worth the read, but not as good as I thought it would be. Not as suspenseful as I thought it would be. More chick-lit than I thought it would be

12. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Loved. A very interesting take on a World War II story. 

13. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
I have many thoughts... some of them may be spoilers. 

I probably would have given this 3.5 stars, but I'm feeling generous because the first half was outstanding. Sarah's story was so hard to read, but I'm glad I did. And for the first half of Julia's story I felt I could relate to her. Of course she wants to find out more about what happened in the apartment. 

The second half when it becomes all told from Julia's POV is when I got frustrated. I hated the character of Bertand and not just because he's unlikeable, but because the character was not fleshed out or realistic. First he's sexy, then he's a terrible husband, the he's depressed, then he's a cheater and still a terrible husband. I got whiplash from a character who did nothing to move the story along. I think the whole book would have been better off without him. 

Then I just got annoyed with Julia. The act of finding Sarah and then her son just seemed so selfish. And then the last several chapters set in 2005 felt like an epilogue where she just defended herself over and over. Ugh, it really lost me there. I won't even get started on the sexual tension between Julia and Sarah's son. 

Another tiny complaint - Why was it necessary for Julia to be constantly mentioning like 10 close French friends by name, some of them I don't even think ever came into play? Rosnay needs to learn about writing realistic secondary and tertiary characters. 

The first half was historical fiction with some suspense and a touch of chick-lit and I dug it. The second half was more chick-lit than anything else, and not particularly good chick-lit. 

To wrap up: I'm glad I read it. For the first half I thought it was a slam dunk, a new favorite. The second half: not so much, but not enough to ruin it.

14. Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill 
I remember this was short and written in a stream-of-conciousness kind of way, and... that's all I remember. So I can't really recommend it. 

15. Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
Oh I just loved this. This is what every book about a dysfunctional family (see: The Vacationers) wishes it could be.

16. The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor
Meh. Another forgettable book with no likable characters. 

17. The Book of You by Claire Kendal
I'm starting to think I'm too tough a critic on thrillers/suspense, and if it doesn't live up to Gillian Flynn, I'm disappointed. This book was way too long. I enjoyed it, but as it dragged on it was harder and harder to sympathize with Clarissa for not telling anyone about her stalker. And I felt like there were loose ends, like the Lockyer trial. And it felt strange when Clarissa's friend (Annie, I think) randomly warned her about Robert because there had been no foreshadowing up until then that he wasn't genuine. And then I thought there was going to be some crazy twist at the end that I couldn't see coming, but there wasn't. And there were too many characters with similar names. And Clarissa had all these friends and acquaintances that she mentioned by name but never really factored into the story and I couldn't keep them straight. And and and. It just felt a bit unedited to me.

18. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
In a word: devastating. But I gave it 5/5 stars. Beautifully written and I think sheds light on what goes on inside the head of someone who is depressed and/or suicidal. 

19. The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison
Again, I'm possibly too critical of suspense books, but I was "meh" about this too. I... honestly can't remember how it ends. Maybe when the movie comes out I'll be surprised all over again. 

20. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
I HATED this. I HATED the main character, and not in a good, interesting way. I figured out how the book was going to end a few pages in, and wished it would just get there already. 

21. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
LOVED. I LOOOOOOVE Paula McLain. She writes so beautifully. How someone can write historical fiction this way is mind-blowing to me. She really takes you there with such beautiful detail, and this review is definitely not doing it justice. Her books are definitely not page turners, but I want to read them slowly to digest every word. 

22. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Loved it. 

23. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This was good, something I wish I had read as a teenager. I just had a hard time reading it at this particular time in my life, it was too heavy.

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