Tag Archives: books

Books I’ve read this year – Q2

This post is a follow up to my earlier Books I’ve Read This Year – Q1 (which was inspired by Maggie’s post documenting all the books she read during 2014). Sadly, I haven’t had much time to ready any new books over the past month; most of this list is the result of a week-long beach vacation in March, during which I read a book a day. These days, I’m spending all my time working or house-hunting, which is even more stressful than work and takes up almost as much of my time. (Thank goodness pot is legal in Denver, otherwise I’m not sure I’d sleep at night – just kidding! Mostly. But that’s another story for another day.)

Aimee Leduc Investigation books 3 – 7 (Murder…in the Sentier, in the Bastille, in Clichy, in Montmartre, on the Ile Saint-Louis) by Cara Black. Rating: just the right amount of predictable. The first two books of this series were included in my earlier post. While there’s nothing groundbreaking about the series (the lead character, Aimee, swears she’ll stay away from police investigations and focus on the cyber security business she has with her partner Renee, but inevitably gets pulled into murder investigations anyway), the plot lines are absorbing, the characters are likable, and the descriptions of Paris make me want to travel back. They’re great beach/pool reads; perfect for when you want to be entertained, not necessarily educated or surprised.

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott. Rating: highly recommended, if you have the time. At a whopping 912 pages (which I didn’t realize when I downloaded to my Kindle), this book took me awhile to get through. In the fictional world of Tira Virte, contracts are painted, not written, placing the artistic Grijalva family in a uniquely essential position in society. When a talented young painter discovers lost magic, he becomes powerful beyond his wildest dreams. The story spans centuries and weaves in various story-lines skillfully, introducing new characters and tackling issues like arranged marriage, discrimination, coming of age, familial loyalty, religion, and class oppression. My favorite part of the book was the character development – people were neither wholly good nor wholly bad, they were simply people making choices.

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. Rating: not what I expected at all; pass. This book showed up on my “Amazon Recommendations” list, and based on Amazon’s description, I gave it a shot. “Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.” I guess I should have read a bit further, because it turns out this was romance novel, not a sci-fi book. Maybe the Jane Austen reference should have clued me in? Or the sappy title? There were a lot of clues here, not sure why I thought this was a good purchase.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Rating: pure childhood bliss. This was one of my absolute favorite movies growing up, and I can’t believe I hadn’t read the book until now. It’s the famous story of spoiled, unloved children learning to love a garden and each other. The characters are realistic, quirky, kind, and a little bit magical. I love this book. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I will stop gushing now. But seriously, go read it now.

Books I’ve read this year – Q1

Inspired by Maggie’s post documenting all the books she read during 2014, I thought I’d do my own version. Sadly, I lack the patience and conviction to wait until early 2016 (it’s so far away!) to share my list, so I decided to split my list into quarters (which also makes the accountant in me happy). This list is in chronological order, not in order of preference or enjoyment.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Rating – meh/decent. This was my third Cormac McCarthy book, and I’m experienced with his style, but I thought the other books of his that I’ve read (Child of God and The Road) were better. Both were creepier and more perverse (there are scenes of necrophilia and cannibalism, respectively) so I’m not sure what that says about me. I think I would have liked No Country more if the ending had been different, which is to say that I probably would have had it end with puppies and rainbows and that’s just not McCarthy’s style. Maybe I’m being too high maintenance here.

The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. Rating – enjoyably fluffy. I am absolutely obsessed with the story of Henry VIII, and I devour any/all related biographies and historical fiction books of the king and his many ill-fated wives. I’ve read accounts from several different perspectives, but this is the first I’ve come across that tells the story of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and former Plantagenet princess. I already knew the final fate of many of the main characters in the book (because, you know, historical fiction), and I was still on the edge of my seat. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, but it is a good read.

Postcards from Europe by Rick Steves. Rating – LOVE it. Rick has written what I consider to be the absolute best guidebooks on Europe, but up until recently (when I started following him on Twitter) I had no idea that he had also written a memoir. Rick’s entire philosophy is “travel through the back door”, which means he gives travelers the insider’s perspective on destinations in order to help them engage with locals and have more meaningful travel experiences. In this book, he writes about how he got started and he recounts his favorite travel memories, including the trip he took after high school when his budget was $3 a day. The book was originally written in 1999, so it’s also fun for me to note how travel has (and hasn’t) changed in 16 years. I am addicted to European travel, and this book provided me with a temporary fix until we go again in the fall.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Rating – tiring at points, but overall entertaining and thought-provoking. This story is an examination into the nature of human psychology – what would happen if there were no consequences to our actions? I, for one, probably wouldn’t be a very good person and it turns out Dorian Gray wasn’t either. Dorian is young, rich, popular, and beautiful; a vain boy, but overall rather decent. Then he has his picture painted, and makes a wish that he should always be perfect and handsome, while the portrait grows old. His wish comes true, and Dorian discovers that whenever he sins, the painting suffers the consequences, while he retains his pure appearance. Cue a period of decline and depravity for Dorian. The middle of the book is exceptionally slow, but if you’re willing to skim through that, you’ll be rewarded with a great ending.

Mystery at Geneva: An Improbably Tale of Singular Happenings by Rose Macaulay. Rating – avoid at all costs. I added this to my Kindle because it showed up on a (an?) NPR list of recommended books. Usually they steer me in the right direction, but this was a complete miss. Mystery is book is about strange events that take place during a League of Nations meeting held in Geneva in the mid-1920s. There were funny, insightful bits here and there, and it provided an interesting perspective in international politics at that time, but overall it moved along at a snail’s pace and was just utterly bizarre. The ending was abysmal and poorly concluded. The best thing about this book is that it’s short (only 156 pages), so I didn’t waste too much of my life by reading it.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Rating – absolutely amazing; top 5 favorite books. This one was a little bit of a cheat, since I first read it in high school and have re-read it nearly every year since. I’m not exactly sure why I love it so much, other than every time I read it, I catch a new detail and feel new waves of emotion. Even though I know what’s going to happen, I get a little more out of the experience every time. This was the first time I’d re-read it since being married, and for some reason, one scene in particular completely gutted me. Unfortunately, I was on a plane at the time, so I’m sure the passenger next to me was a little concerned when tears started streaming down my face for no apparent reason. It starts a little slow and one of the characters’ diction is completely impossible to understand; if you get through the first few chapters and skip over everything Joseph says, it’s so worth it.

Murder in the Marais by Cara Black. Rating – wonderful thrilling page turner set in Paris. Everything about this book was great – the characters, the mystery, the setting, the writing. The Marais is the historically Jewish quarter in Paris and through the context of a murder mystery (an old woman is found with a swastika carved in her head), the book explores story lines that include Occupied Paris, WWII, racism (both historical and modern day), and forbidden love. I devoured this book in 2 days flat (granted, on 1 of those days I was on a plane for 4 hours) and I’ve already bought the next book in the series.

What about you – have you read any good books lately? I’m headed to my family’s beach house next week where there is nothing to do but eat, drink, and lay on a beach, and I’ve been known to devour up to a book a day, so I’m looking for recommendations!