Book Catch-Up

November 9, 2017

Since I was absent from the blog for around 6 months, I wanted to post what books I read during that time. So, here are the books I read from April-September this year. There are some gems in this list!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
4/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, a party of moose hunters found his decomposed body. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Review: I really liked this book. I really couldn’t relate to McCandless at all, but it was still interesting to read as the author tried to figure out what motivated him to basically abandon his family and everything he owned to adventure in the wilderness. It was heartbreaking to see what this did to his family. Krakauer also tells some of his personal experiences and the experiences of other adventurers to try to better understand McCandless.

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
4/5 stars








Partial Synopsis (from Goodreads): When the NSA’s invincible code-breaking machine encounters a mysterious code it cannot break, the agency calls its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, a brilliant and beautiful mathematician. What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corridors of power. The NSA is being held hostage…not by guns or bombs, but by a code so ingeniously complex that if released it would cripple U.S. intelligence.

Review: Plot twists. So many of them. This isn’t really my favorite genre, but this one definitely pulled me in. If you like a good thriller and plot twists, then you would probably like this one.

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam
5/5 stars








Snyopsis (from Goodreads): Mornings are a madcap time for many of us. We wake up in a haze—often after hitting snooze a few times. Then we rush around to get ready and out the door so we can officially start the day. Before we know it, hours have slipped by without us accomplishing anything beyond downing a cup of coffee, dashing off a few emails, and dishing with our coworkers around the water cooler. By the time the workday wraps up, we’re so exhausted and defeated that any motivation to accomplish something in the evening has vanished. But according to time management expert Laura Vanderkam, mornings hold the key to taking control of our schedules. If we use them wisely, we can build habits that will allow us to lead happier, more productive lives.

Review: Waking up and being productive in the morning is one of my main life goals that I just can’t ever seem to accomplish. I really liked reading the real life examples mixed with research in this book. It definitely did motivate me to once again try to be more productive in the mornings. If this topic interests you at all, then pick this one up. Oh, also it’s a very short book, so it makes for a really quick read.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
5/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

Review: This one is super emotional. It is one of the few books that has actually made me cry. This book deals with grief and the anger that often comes along with it. It is beautifully written and just so moving.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
2/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women — of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.

Review: I know a lot of people love this book according to it’s average rating of 4.26/5 on Goodreads, but I just didn’t enjoy this book. I probably should have just abandoned this one. It really slowed my reading down this year because it took me so long to read it. I just wasn’t exited about reading it at all, so I kept avoiding it. I just didn’t really feel a strong connection to any of the characters and was just honestly relieved when I finished it.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy J. Keller
5/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): This is one of the questions the Apostle Paul addresses as he writes to the church in Corinth. He’s not after some superficial outward tinkering, but instead a deep–rooted, life–altering change that takes place on the inside. In an age where pleasing people, puffing up your ego and building your résumé are seen as the methods to ‘make it’, the Apostle Paul calls us to find true rest in blessed self–forgetfulness.

Review: This was another really small book. You could read this one in under an hour if you wanted to. It is full of wisdom and insight into how we are so self-obsessed.

Until Tomorrow by Robin Jones Gunn
4/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): Christy Miller is now an independent nineteen-year-old college student living in Switzerland, where she’s been attending an international university. After being on her own for nearly a year, Christy is surprised and delighted when her two closest friends, Todd and Katie, come to Switzerland to spend the summer break traveling around Europe.

Review: If you’ve read many of my previous book review posts, then you know I’ve been working on re-reading a lot of books by Robin Jones Gunn that I loved in my early teenage years. First I read the 12 books of the Christy Miller series and then the 12 books of the Sierra Jensen series. Keep in mind these were all short books, probably under 200 pages each. Over the summer I started the next series called Christy and Todd: The College Years. There are 3 books in this series and I finished the first 2. I’m still really enjoying re-reading these books, but as usual will add the disclaimer that they are pretty cheesy and I wouldn’t advise reading them for the first time unless you’re a teenager.

As You Wish by Robin Jones Gunn
4/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): Back in the U.S. after a year abroad, Christy is reunited with her friends. When a couple close to her ends their marriage, it causes her to rethink her relationship with Todd. Will life turn out like she wishes?

Review: See my review for Until Tomorrow.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
5/5 stars









Partial Synopsis (from Amazon): Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…A murder…a tragic accident…or just parents behaving badly?  What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what? Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads.

Review: I loved this book. It’s 460 pages, but I got through it quickly because I could not put it down. Throughout the whole book, you know someone is going to die, but you don’t know who and you don’t know how it’s going to happen. I was hooked until the last word.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
5/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

Review: THIS. BOOK. I know a lot of books with love stories can be cheesy, but this one was so well written. It made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS. I couldn’t stop talking about this one to anyone who would listen. I kept going back and forth on what decision I thought she should make. If you only read one book from this post, this would probably be the one I’d recommend most.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
4/5 stars









Synopsis ( from Goodreads): Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

Review: If you know me personally, then this will not surprise you, but I literally sat on my bed and sobbed while reading the last couple of chapters of this book. The only reason this one doesn’t get 5 stars is because some of the race car talk bored me. If you want a good cry, read this book, but if you don’t, then maybe don’t read it.

American Sniper by Chris Kyle
3/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): From 1999 to 2009, U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history. The Pentagon has officially confirmed more than 150 of Kyles kills (the previous American record was 109), but it has declined to verify the astonishing total number for this book. Iraqi insurgents feared Kyle so much they named him al-Shaitan (“the devil”) and placed a bounty on his head. Kyle earned legendary status among his fellow SEALs, Marines, and U.S. Army soldiers, whom he protected with deadly accuracy from rooftops and stealth positions. Gripping and unforgettable, Kyle’s masterful account of his extraordinary battlefield experiences ranks as one of the great war memoirs of all time.

Review: I listened to this one on audio and thought it was okay. This is one where I might enjoy the movie more than the book. I definitely appreciate the author’s service to our country and the way his life ended is heartbreaking, but I just couldn’t get into the book. My husband really enjoyed it though, so don’t just take my word for it if you think you would enjoy it.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
4/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you’ll never, ever forget.

Review: This was a middle grade book that I picked for my 2017 reading challenge. This fit the category of a book about someone with a disability. The main character in this book, Melody, has cerebral palsy. I love her character, she is smart and funny and you can’t help but cheer her on throughout the whole book. This is a book that is great for kids and adults alike!

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
3/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): SPOILERS: Frodo and his Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom.  And Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape, the rest of the company was attacked by Orcs. Now they continue the journey alone down the great River Anduin — alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.

Review: I felt the same way about The Two Towers as I felt about The Fellowship of the Ring. I really like the characters, but I get a little bored with the overly descriptive writing style.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
5/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads):An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

Review: The library I work for was lucky enough to have Emily St. John Mandel as a speaker at a fundraiser a few months ago. I rushed to finish the book before hearing her speak. Hearing her speak made me love the book even more than I already did. This isn’t your typical post-apocalyptic novel. So even if you’re not into that sort of thing, you should try this one out. Much of this book is about how “survival is insufficient.”

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
5/5 stars









Synopsis (from Goodreads): Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Review: This one was actually a re-read because I like it so much. This book really helped me to understand a lot about myself when I learned that I’m an Obliger according to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. She actually has a new book titled “The Four Tendencies.” I am currently reading the new one, so I’ll let you know what I think at the end of the month.

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