Showing posts with label favorites. Show all posts
Showing posts with label favorites. Show all posts

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2016!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2016!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?


I am fully aware that I have not been the best blogger lately, but I just love making my end-of-the-year best-books list, so I had to throw in my two cents before 2017 rolls around!

As in past years, this list is in no particular order:


1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley


I lied, this part of the list is definitely in a particular order, because this was absolutely the best book I read all year.

2. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


Many would write this off as "chick lit", but I found it very thought-provoking.

3. Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich


Villians and intrigue and spectacular writing.

4. Alice & Oliver by Charles Bock


ALL THE SADNESS.  But I loved it anyway.

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


More sadness!  Like seriously, so much sadness.  But SO SO GOOD.  Can't wait to see the movie and cry my eyes out.

6. Run the World by Becky Wade


I read a lot of running books this year, but this is the one that stuck with me the most.  I love Wade's fresh perspective and diverse discussion of the world of running.

7. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave


In a literary world full of WWII stories (not to be trite, but that's true), this one is a stand out.  The dialogue alone is reason to pick it up.

8. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


What would my best-of list be without the latest Picoult release?  Pointless, that's what.  But seriously, this has to be the most immediately socially relevant book she has ever written.

9. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


This book reminded me why I really, really need to read more Ann Patchett.

10. Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco


As an amateur yogi, my perspective of the practice was completely changed by this book (for the better!).  I learned so much from it, and I know I will refer to it for years to come.

That's a wrap!  What made YOUR best-read list for 2016?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Starting to wrap up 2014 with...a Month of Favorites!


Gooood morning, reader friends!  It is December 1, and instead of posting a monthly wrap-up for November, I am jumping into the Month of Favorites event, hosted by Estella's Revenge, GirlXOXO, and Traveling with T.  All month, we'll be discussing our favorite books (and book-related things) from 2014.  Since I always do a best-of list at the end of each year, I figured this would be a great way to do it...just all month long instead of one day, because I know you can't get enough of me.

Today we're doing a bit of an introduction:
"About YOU and Your Reading this year (eg. fave genre, fave author, how you read (percentage (%) physical, eReader, audiobooks), when you read, what genre did you read the most from this year, which author was most prolific on your reading list, how many books did you read, give us a clue about what your fave book read this year is – but don’t tell us – let us guess!)"

Well, most of you know a lot about me already, but here goes...

Favorite genre: If I had to pick one (ridiculously broad) genre, it would be contemporary fiction.

Favorite author: Can't just pick one!  Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Jon Krakauer, Audrey Niffenegger, Emily Giffin, Michael Pollan, Gillian Flynn...I'll stop there.

How I Read in 2014:
I broke this into a few different categories.

1. Total books read: 43 (so far!)
(My goal was 40, so I am patting myself on the back.)

2. E-book vs Paper
I read 14 e-books, 28 paper books, and 1 audiobook.  This will come as no surprise, given my struggles with e-reading earlier this year.

3. ARC/Tour Books vs. "Free Range Reading"
I read 15 ARCs/tour books and 28 books of my own choosing.  I made an effort to cut back on ARCs this year, and it seems I did well!  I am looking forward to a few more in 2015 though.  Ready to get my early-reviewing hat back on.

4. Most-Read Genres
21 contemporary fiction, 11 young adult, 5 nonfiction, 3 women's fiction, 2 classics, 1 mystery/thriller.
This, of course, is based on my subjective decision on what falls into each of those genres (a mystery can be contemporary fiction too, but I had to choose one category for each book read).  I was originally surprised at how much YA was there, but then I remembered the Rochester Teen Book Festival--that explains that!

When I read: In tiny snippets!  That's how it feels these days.  I often wake 10-15 minutes before the kids and my husband, just to get a few pages in at the start of the day.  I used to read in the afternoon when Small Fry and Tater Tot had overlapping naps (90 glorious minutes! Shared with housework, but still)...HOWEVER, Small Fry no longer naps.  So now I usually read while snuggling with him on the couch for about 15 minutes during an episode of Dinosaur Train.  :)  At night, my husband and I spend as much time together as possible after the kids go to bed, so I usually don't pull my book out until he goes to sleep...and manage about 3 pages before I conk out myself.  Ha!  But I maximize my reading time as much as possible...and have been known to pull my book out if I end up in a long line at the dentist, or the grocery store, or the post office...

As for my favorite book of the year?  I generally don't pick one favorite for the year--my M.O. is to make a top 10 list (in no particular order), because I find it too hard to choose only one.  However, I've already started thinking about my list, and unsurprisingly, it's mostly contemporary fiction novels.  If you have any guesses on what I loved the most, leave them in the comments!

Here's to a month of favorites, my friends!  How did YOU read this year?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation: 1984

Let's do a little Six Degrees today!

As a reminder: the Six Degrees of Separation meme was created by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith.  Basically, they pick a new book each month, and you start with your thoughts on that book...then, through free association, you link it to 6 other books.

This month's book is 1984 by George Orwell.  AND GO!

A year or so after I graduated from college (2006), I started making my way through some of the classics that I was never assigned to read in high school.  1984 was one of them, and I loved it.  This may have been my first real taste of dystopia (before Hunger Games/Divergent/etc made dystopia cool).

Other than working on the classics, another little reading project of mine in 2006 was trying to read my way through the library's fiction section alphabetically.  Yeah, I know.  I gave it up well before I was halfway through the A's.  But one of the books I remember from that project was...

How I Paid For College by Marc Acito

Honest to God, the only reason this book continues to stick out for me is because of the title and the cover.  They are, admittedly, hard to forget.  That said, I just re-read the book description on Goodreads, and I have absolutely no recollection of that plot.  I also gave it a 2-star review, so apparently it was a little bit awful.  Don't you hate that though, when you read a book and then years later, you can't remember a single thing about it?

There are GOOD books with college themes too, though!  That happens to be one of my preferred settings for a novel.  An example would be...

I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

I have mentioned this book on the blog before (here!), and it continues to make the list of my all-time favorite novels.  I connected with so many elements of the novel as Charlotte made her way through a rocky freshman year of college.

Since we're talking about all-time favorite novels, let's give a shout-out to one of mine that I've never mentioned on the blog before...

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

Fun fact: my original college major was pathobiology, and I wrote several of my college admissions essays about this book.  I read it during my junior year of high school, found it completely fascinating, and then decided that I wanted to major in pathobiology, go to graduate school for public health, and eventually work at the CDC to find a cure for Ebola.

Yes, you read that right.  This is, indeed, a book about Ebola.  Timely, yes?  (Also, I think we can all agree that changing my major to family studies was an unfortunate decision for the entire world circa NOW.)  Even though my career goals did not stay the same, I still have a lot of curiosity and interest in biological sciences, and this book continues to be a favorite.  An interesting read for sure if you don't know much about this disease (beyond what you hear in the media).

Nonfiction!  Haven't talked about that a lot around here lately.  I actually just looked on Goodreads and saw that my last nonfiction read was...

Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

WHAT?  I read that back in MARCH!  It's a bit atrocious that I have read zero nonfiction since then.  Thank goodness that Nonfiction November is coming up.  This book was very entertaining though, and reminds me of why I need to get back into the groove with nonfic.

So let's see, what other nonfiction books are on my favorites list (other than The Hot Zone)...

My Life by Bill Clinton

Me sharing the former president's autobiography as a book on my favorites list does absolutely nothing other than reveal the fact that I am an unapologetic liberal and fan of Bill Clinton.

Wait, you're not supposed to discuss politics in mixed company!  Quick, think of a good memoir that's less political for us to talk about!

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Phew, that's better.

This is the strangest train of book thought I've ever had...although, I just realized that I started with 1984 and ended with Steve Jobs...and Apple had that famous commercial based on 1984 way back when.  CRAZY, RIGHT??  I'm a genius.  (Not really, just very sleep deprived, as Tater Tot has croup at the time of this writing.)

Have you read any of these books, friends?  What did you think?  And feel free to share your six degrees as well!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn



Title: How Green Was My Valley
Author: Richard Llewellyn
Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date: 1939
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Huw Morgan, about to leave home forever, reminisces about the golden days of his youth, when South Wales still prospered and coal dust had not yet blackened the valley. Llewellyn's characters fight, love, laugh, and cry, creating an indelible portrait of a people.

My Review:

I picked up this book because I needed a novel set in Wales for last month's Around the World in 12 Books Challenge.  I was pretty excited to read about Wales, because my husband is 100% Welsh (or at least he thinks so...maybe some French Canadian in there?  But mostly Welsh).  And the only thing he has ever been able to tell me about the Welsh is that they are known for ditch digging.  I suspect that's about as accurate as saying my Irish ancestors are only known for being hungry for potatoes.  Ah, stereotypes!

When I finished this book, I turned to my husband and said, "You should read this.  It would make you feel proud to be Welsh."  Because seriously, what an epic, spirited portrayal of South Wales in the late 1800's.  This is easily one of the better classics that I've read in a LONG time.

Now, when I say this book would fill you with Welsh pride, I don't mean that everything in it is happy.  OH NO.  This book has tons of sads and feels.  The description above doesn't tell you much, but Huw is the youngest of six brothers, and he also has three sisters to boot.  The Morgans live in a valley of South Wales and work primarily as coal miners.  (Ditch digging, almost?)  The book begins with Huw as an adult, leaving his family home, but you don't find out why just yet.  Nope, because Huw then backtracks to when he was just a little boy (age six, I believe) and begins to tell us the story of his upbringing.

I love a well-done coming-of-age novel, and I daresay that Huw Morgan might be tied for my favorite coming-of-age character (alongside Francie Nolan of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn).  Llewellyn did an absolutely terrific job illustrating how Huw grows physically and emotionally throughout his life.  When the story opens, he's just an innocent kid living in pretty prosperous times.  But as the novel progresses, he faces his fair share of hard knocks (as does his family), and he matures before your eyes.  Llewellyn does this in such a way that the progression is evenly-paced, but not painfully slow (as can happen with some epic stories).  I was never, ever bored while reading this novel, and I found myself rooting for Huw all along the way.

Huw was obviously my favorite character, but the others in the novel became near and dear to my heart as well.  Each of Huw's MANY siblings had a distinct personality and passion that came through loud and clear.  For example, his sister Angharad, who became one of the best female characters in the history of ever when she told off a male suitor with this line:

"I am Angharad Morgan," she said, and the river never ran colder.  "Go to hell."

YOU SING IT, SISTER!!  PREACH!

And two of his friends (Dai Bando and Cyfartha) were probably my favorite side characters, because they were HILARIOUS.  (There are some really great one-liners in this book, which is not something I normally say about a classic.)  Honestly, the entire village of people around the Morgans was an amazing, cohesive unit that puts modern day neighborhood friendships to shame.  The comraderie and support among all of the characters was inspiring, and a big reason why I told my husband that this book would make him proud to be Welsh.

But one of the best characters of all?  WALES!  And you're thinking, wait, that's the setting.  EXACTLY.  Llewellyn basically turns this South Wales valley into a character all its own.  It's not just the descriptions of the picturesque mountains or the ever-changing winds, but the way that the setting plays a crucial role in many of the important events of the characters' lives.  This novel couldn't be set anywhere else and be able to tell the same story.

I haven't read a real epic classic in a while, mostly because Middlemarch scared me off a couple of years ago.  How Green Was My Valley was my first foray back into that territory, and I am not sorry. This is a truly fantastic book and it's going on my favorites shelf.  READ IT!

Other reviews of How Green Was My Valley:
Caribou's Mom
Impressions In Ink
Book Light Graveyard

Do you have a favorite classic?  And have you ever visited Wales?  Because now I want to go to there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library (e-copy)

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.


My Review:

You may remember that I mentioned this book as one of my favorites of 2012.  However, I had no review to share at the time, because I read it before I started the blog.  I decided that needed to be remedied, so I put together a brief review of The Night Circus because I want to make sure I properly share its awesomeness with the world.

I ADORED this book. Which is funny, because it falls into a million categories for things I would normally NOT enjoy about a novel. For starters, it's about magic. **side eye**  And, there's a cartoony-looking circus depicted on the cover. (Remember, I even mentioned this in my Cover Snobbery post??)  AND, it has a pretty strong romance/love story as a defining plot line, which is not my usual cup of tea.

Guess what?  IT DOESN'T MATTER! This book 100% illustrates the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover". I think the writing is part of what did it for me. It's beautiful and descriptive without being too flowy or verbose. And it's concise without being brusque. Morgenstern makes the circus (a complex and very VISIBLE character in the novel) come alive in your mind.  If she hadn't taken the time to carefully craft the words to do this, the book wouldn't be even half of what it is.  I can't remember the last time I read a novel where I could call myself a happy customer just based on the writing style alone. The characters, the ending, the plot movement: they could have sucked (even though they didn't), and I would still have been impressed by the writing.

Plus, the love story is so well done. I, the anti-romance-novel reader, have never gotten behind the love of two characters like I did with Celia and Marco.  And I think the fact that their romance was part of this big, darker "challenge" helped a lot. It was romance with a purpose, not a romance for fluff's sake.

This is getting gushy.  The point is: the plot moves along. There are excellent twists at just the right times. Overall, great reading, and totally deserving of a place on my Faves list...even though I did not expect to feel that way when I initially judged the cover.


Other reviews of The Night Circus:
Book Hooked
Leeswammes' Blog
A Cup of Coffee and A Book

Have you read The Night Circus?  Fave or flop for you?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Deja Vu Review (2)

The Deja Vu Review is hosted every Sunday by Brittany at The Book Addict's Guide.  It's a chance to mini-review books that I read pre-blog.  This week's topic is to choose some of the longest books you've read.  I was tempted to jump right to Stephen King (The Stand and Under the Dome?  Hello!).  But I read a lot of King, so I mixed it up.  Instead, I have 2 very different books to contribute!

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Yes, I read this monstrosity a few years ago.  It was my ultimate reading challenge for a long time; I had a vision in my head of completing W&P and automatically receiving a bejeweled crown and years of adoration from all that came into my presence.  Instead, I received looks of genuine puzzlement ("Wait...you didn't do it for a class or anything?") and carpal tunnel after holding up that heavy tome for 3 months.

Okay, it wasn't as bad as all that.  It's actually a pretty decent novel (English professors the world 'round are keeling over at me calling War and Peace "pretty decent").  There are a lot of intersecting storylines, all sorts of romantic drama, and hello!  War!  With Napoleon!  Good action there.  It's hard to keep all the Russian names straight, and the second epilogue made me want to cry (it's very philosophical, and I may have skipped it), but otherwise, if you have the time, it's not the boring trudge that everyone makes it out to be.  The bonus is that it will make you interesting at cocktail parties.

I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

I told you I had two very different books to review!  I Am Charlotte Simmons is actually on my all-time favorites list.  It follows the title character as she begins her freshman year at fictional Dupont Univerity (a thinly-veiled Duke).  Charlotte is a bit sheltered, having been raised in a small North Carolina town.  She does not expect that she will so quickly have to deal with things like sex, drugs, and other debauchery when she reaches campus.  The book follows her throughout her first year, as her innocence and values are continually challenged, and she tries to discover herself through a new lens outside of her small town.

I read this book not long after I graduated from college, and I think that is a lot of why it spoke so loudly to me.  If you had the "traditional" 4-year university experience (living on campus, away from parents for the first time, etc), I'm sure at least some part of this book will resonate.  Wolfe does an awesome job of fleshing out Charlotte's character, and paints a realistic portrait of university life (as much as parents and college administrators probably wouldn't want to admit it).  Yes, it is long--but Wolfe takes his time telling Charlotte's story, and it's worth the extra pages.  I've been meaning to re-read this one for a while, because it's worth savoring again!

What are some of your longer reads?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source: borrowed from the library via my Kindle

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?


My Review:

YOU GUYS.  THIS BOOK.  How do I even review it?

If you are a living person with even a passing interest in books, you've probably heard of Gone Girl by now.  It's this summer's most-hyped new release.  It took me forever to read it because I am cheap, and thus do not buy a lot of books, which means I had to sit on the library's wait list for a while before I could get my hands on it.  But it was worth the wait.  I hate admitting that I have given into the hype surrounding a talked-up book, but this book joins Harry Potter and The Hunger Games in my "hype-happy books that I adore" category.

The tough thing about this review is that I can't tell you much about the book without totally giving away the good stuff.  And there is SO MUCH good stuff.

I'll put it to you like this.  The book is broken into 3 parts.  During the first part, I was completely intrigued as it bounced back and forth from Nick's POV, to Amy's diary entries.  I couldn't decide how I felt about the characters, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out.  I felt like the author was doing great things with perspective, so much so, that I thought that must be The Reason why everyone loves this book.  I made a lot of notes to myself like "characters have skewed perception of self" and "Nick as unreliable narrator" etc. etc.

And then the end of Part 1 came and it was like

and I stopped making notes to myself, because the time for thoughtful analysis was over.  It was time to devour this book without mercy.

This book is not just great because of its issues with perspective (though that is part of it).  It is great because it is so unbelievably twisted.  I literally said, "OH SNAP!" out loud at least a half-dozen times.  Flynn has done an amazing job creating a thriller/mystery that is not based only on the action.  This is extremely character-driven, which I think is a tough thing to create when you're in the thriller genre.  I'm dying to read some of her other novels now, in the hopes that I can see this writing style replicated, even a little bit.

The ending.  I've heard it debated: some people love it, others hate it.  I am in the love category.  I think the best word I can use to describe it is haunting.  You want to know what comes next, even though you know it's going to be dreadful.  It sticks with you, that's for sure.

I'm leaving my talk about the book there, because I can't give it away.  It's going on my favorites shelf.  You need to read this.  And then you need to discuss it with me, because I want to know what everyone thinks of Nick and Amy.  I have so many opinions to share!

*Also: I already read that this has been picked up as a movie, with Reese Witherspoon producing (and possibly starring).  I desperately want to see this on screen, but I am terrified that Hollywood will ruin it.  Also, I think Rachel McAdams would be a way better Amy.  And Bradley Cooper is the ultimate Nick, amiright?
 
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