Friday, January 20, 2017

Books, Books, BOOKS! Reading Roundup I

I read a lot of books last year...I do 100% of my leisure reading on my kindle now, so it's pretty easy to go back and track my digital content over any period of time.  I haven't written a book review post in a long, long time (I actually just went back and checked out my last post from April here).

I just finished checking out the various "best read" lists issued by the Guardian, NPR, the Times and other publications, and compiled a bunch of books that I missed.  Is there anything better than a long list of good books that you plan to read - the promise of entirely new worlds and people you have yet to meet, awaiting, just beckoning for you to enter?

In listing out most (but not all) of my reads this year, I realize that I turned steadily toward light, entertaining, or fast whodunit reads.  For 2017, I am hoping to set aside the time and patience to sit with some longer, slower reads, to appreciate the prose and lyricism of great works.

I'll pick right up where I last left off, starting with my summer reads.  Summer kills it with my favorite guilty pleasure - page-turning thrillers, fluffy romantic comedies, and stories with just the best, zippy, plot-driven, zingers.

The Matchmaker, The Island, Here's to Us - all by Elin Hildebrand.  This author is prolific and churns out a ton of books, but for good reason - she is the queen of the intriguing beach or pool read!  The books are all set on Nantucket and usually centered on women (friends, friends that fall out, lovers, ex-lovers, etc.) I had previously read and loved her book, The Rumor.

The Vacationers, by Emma Straub.  I picked up this book because Straub got such rave reviews for Modern Lovers.  The book centers around a family vacationing in Majorca and the secrets and strains of a marriage that arise even (or especially) when you're supposed to be having fun.  Honestly, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I'm going to wait and give her other book a try before I put this author at the top of my list.

The Rocks, by Peter Nichols. I read this book back to back with Beautiful Ruins, and it was fun to see how similar yet also different the books were, given they were both set on sunny idyllic islands in Italy.  The author jumps masterfully back and forth over several decades, slowly letting the reader piece together all of the characters and their connecting bits. 

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter.  This book has won such critical acclaim that I felt I had to give it a second try (the first time I picked it up, I put it back down after a few pages).  This time, the story stuck, and I was pulled into the charming twists and turns of the tiny seaside resort by the Ligurian Sea.  Also told by jumping back and forth between current day and decades past, this book made me smirk at Hollywood producers (but when do I not) and dream of sailing around Italy.

The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney.  What a fun read!  Is there anything better than a delightful romp into the spoiled and entitled hearts and minds of trust fund babies, each of whom nakedly yearn for their money?  The story centers around four siblings (well, maybe really only three) and they all may finally have to grow up when their inheritance is not what they expected.

Breathing Room, and First Star I See Tonight, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips!  I will read anything she publishes.  She has a few disappointing works, admittedly, but overall her books are such feel-good modern day romances full of wit and sass and good repartee.   Imagine my delight when I realized I had somehow missed her book "Breathing Room."  Continuing my adventures in Italy, I settled in for a good read about a fun and challenging romance set in Tuscany.  "First Star I See Tonight" is book #8 in her Chicago Stars series, which is probably my favorite series of hers, so I also knew to expect good things.

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld.  For a while, I wasn't sure I wanted to read this book.  I love "Pride and Prejudice" and, while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the original is just so freaking good that I cringe at every remake, prequel or sequel. No, no, just no.  But I'm glad I gave this one a try.  The author was wise enough to set it in modern times and channeled (uncannily and remarkably) the spirit and essence of the characters to a tee.

The One That Got Away, and Results May Vary, by Bethany Chase.  I enjoyed both of these books thoroughly, because while the plots are very classic (for the first one - missed chances (duh, look at the title), young love (college!), and temptation and choices (do you, or don't you?), for the second - secrets unearthed, what it means to know someone, and what it means when you're wrong about nearly everything you thought you knew) the characters are multi-dimensional, the dialogue is strong, and the stories feel real and good.

Biglaw, by Lindsay Cameron.  This is a loosely cloaked memoir of a young associate's first few years at a large law firm in New York City.  I thought it would be "fun" to read another associate's experience and compare and contrast.  Unfortunately, reading this gave me some pretty horrid flashbacks and also woke up that "an assignment could come up at any time" dread always curdling at a low-to-medium pitch in my belly.  It didn't help that the building in which this semi-true novel is set, turned out to be the very building in which I used to work.  Stepping back from my personal PTSD, overall, it's a pretty entertaining novel of the "Devil Wears Prada" ilk.

The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne.  This book was very, very long.  I believe the author is also a first time author, and while there were fantastic things about the book and characters (fast dialogue, a sweet but not saccharine enemies-to-lovers plot line, great interactions), this author needs a better editor.  I do hope Thorne continues to write, though.

One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  Reid is another talented author of the contemporary romance.  She really impressed me with her book "Maybe in Another Life," which explores the two paths one life can take based on one choice made on one night, and since then I've been on the lookout for her novels.

Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty.  Moriarty has been a favorite of mine since I read 'Three Wishes" and "What Alice Forgot," and I continued to read "The Last Anniversary," "The Husband's Secret" and "Big Little Lies" - they are all fun and fast and have strong characters and crazy but still somewhat believable plot lines.  But after struggling through this latest one (I valiantly flipped page after page through verbiage and dreck, hoping that the author would somehow vindicate the story and the characters)... I am probably not going through that again.

My next post will be on the remainder of the books that I read throughout the year. 


  1. What the what?! There was a new Chicago Stars book?! I just downloaded it from my library before even finishing this post. Looking forward to trying Bethany Chase too - I've never read her!

    1. Ohhh yes! I hope you enjoy the story! I recall it was a fast and fun read :) The perfect escape. I hope you like Chase as well. Happy reading friend, xx.

    2. So I downloaded the Chicago Stars book at 10:30 last night and finished it at 3:00 this morning. I blame you for this entirely. It was a fun fluffy read - looking forward to trying Chase! Though I may force myself to wait to download it until tomorrow so I can get some sleep tonight!