Reading List

Books a Million: My Reading List, Part IX

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This year’s reading is going slightly better than last; however, I tend to find myself falling asleep on my Kindle 10 minutes after getting into bed. Much of my reading these days is done during daylight hours on the treadmill or stationary bike instead.

Speaking of my trusty e-reader, I just upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite. This was not intentional, but after my four-year-old, first-generation Kindle kicked the bucket a few months ago, and then SVV’s first-gen Kindle (which I promptly stole) bit the dust 10 days ago—or rather, the screen went insane on me—I frantically hopped online and impulse bought the Paperwhite within minutes. Two days and $139 later (plus another $30 for a case), I was back in business. (What on Earth did we do before Amazon Prime came along? I can’t tell you how much I love the free two-day shipping and heavily discounted overnight shipping.)

Kindle Paperwhite

So let’s chat briefly about how much I love my Paperwhite and why.

The pros: it’s smaller, lighter, but the side-lighting—which allows me to read in the dark while SVV snoozes and also in the sun—is clutch. It has a touch screen; who doesn’t love that? It’s got so many added functions that the original did not have. It seems pretty intuitive so far. Really, it’s just a thousand times fancier than my first gen.

The cons: I tend to spend a lot of time in the sun reading while laying out, meaning holding the Kindle in one hand. This is easy to do as the Paperwhite is light, but hard to do in my left hand as there’s no longer a “next page” option on both sides (just the right). So that’s slightly annoying, but hey, if that’s the worst complaint I have, I guess I’m doing A-OK.

2014 Reading List

And now, what I’ve read so far in 2014:

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

I told you all about the Chet & Bernie series in my last book post, but I’m not sure you all took me seriously. I get it, I get it, a dog as a narrator? Sounds hokey. But somehow Spencer Quinn does it in a way that lacks any sort of cheese factor and really makes you think you are in the shoes—er, paws—of Chet the Jet, who tells the stories of the PI team’s follies from his POV. In this installment—the first of the series; I accidentally skipped around (which is OK, as you don’t necessarily have to read them in order)—the fearsome duo take on a case to track down a missing 15 year old girl who is the daughter of a real estate magnate and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. There are always guns, always fights, always a high-speed chase (at least one), but always humor.

If you don’t like dogs, you probably won’t find these books nearly as charming and hilarious as SVV, my mom and I do, but if you’re a canine lover, I must insist you at least give one of them a go. Oh so funny and cute. Start with the short story, a Cat Was Involved, then read this one first.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn

I loved the plot line in the second of the Chet & Bernie series even more as they take on a case at a dog show; they must serve as the bodyguard for the circuit’s current frontrunner, Princess, a froufrou dog who I envision to be strikingly similar to my Ella’s posse. Shortly after Chet and Bernie land the gig, they get fired—and Princess and her owner are kid/dognapped. The chase leads Bernie to a ghost town in the desert, where he is attacked and separated from Chet. Meanwhile, Chet (the dog) finds Princess, and the two set out across the desert in search of their people. Again, these books are just so clever, and you really do feel like it’s exactly what a dog is thinking, from him being motivated by food to needing to mark everything in his path to his reactions to felines.

My rating: 4 out of 5

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

Let me preface this by saying: I. Love. Fannie. Flagg. If you don’t love her work and her quirky, quintessential Southern character, then I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. Sure, some of her books are a bit cheesy but every last one is lovable in a different way.

Well. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is my absolute favorite to date. In the beginning, I didn’t think I was going to love it as the protagonist is a fussy, middle-aged woman from small town Alabama who just seemed…silly. But then a second character is introduced, a Polish girl growing up in Wisconsin in the 1940s. You find out down the line what one has to do with the other, but the book goes from the early 1900s up to the present, with a big focus being World War II and the WASPs—Women Airforce Service Pilots—who were the first female military pilots. This program was disbanded, brushed under the rug, and only declassified within the last decade. After I finished the book, I had to go and read all about them; I particularly loved this NPR segment about them.

Anyway, educational but fun and an intriguing story of two different women living in two different areas of the country in two very different eras and how their lives are intertwined.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

I’m just going to go ahead and come out and say it: Mark Darcy is dead. Yes, Colin Firth met some untimely demise in Africa, and the book begins a few years after his passing. If that’s not the opposite a setting for the other two Bridget Jones books, I don’t know what is.

But all around, this was a lame attempt to revive a brand that was great…a decade ago. It didn’t need to be brought back from the dead; we didn’t need to catch up with Bridget, no more mature at 50 than 30, later on in her life. Especially not when she’s going after 29-year-old “toy boys” as she calls them (that term alone annoyed the crap out of me). The dialogue seemed forced, and while it did have some of its token “Jonesey” humor, overall, the plot line fell short. And the scenes about “nits” (i.e. lice)? Ewwwwwww. Did not to read about that (and subsequently itch) for a solid third of the book. Skip it; don’t waste your time.

My rating: 2 out of 5

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Five words: Do not get the hype. Would someone please tell me what all the buzz surrounding this book was about? Because I do not understand. Sure, the writing was smart, but the narrators—and time frames—were all over the place, and I found myself lost more often than not. And despite having read it cover to cover, I still don’t actually know what the book was about. Here’s Amazon’s description of it, and I would not known this was the whole “point” of the book had I not read it after finishing: “Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs.” If it had just been Sasha’s story, I think I would have liked it—she was enjoyable enough a protagonist—but as it was not, I could have gone without reading this.

My rating: 2 out of 5

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson has such a gift with words; her writing is fluid and lyrical, and she knows how to make an everyday life story into a beautiful tale. I loved Between, Georgia, and Someone Else’s Love Story is right up there with it. It starts with a teenaged single mom of a four year old moving from BFE to Atlanta with her son to attend college; on the way, they’re a part of a gas station robbery, and the experience—and the hero who saved them—will forever change her (in short, she falls in love with her “Thor” nearly on the spot, only he has a past of his own). I sometimes wish Jackson would just give her characters normal names (Shandi? Natty? really?) but that is my only qualm with this eloquent novel.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

People have praised this book into the ground, but it’s simply not my style—I would much rather read a full-length novel than a collection of short stories or essays. But Strayed’s writing is truly magic, nonetheless; I cannot say enough great things about Wild. I do appreciate this book for what it is—candid, real-world advice from one of the greatest modern-day writers—however so many of the letters were painfully sad that I didn’t see it through to the end.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie

Have any of you tried the Kindle First program? It just popped up on my new Kindle Paperwhite and allows any Amazon Prime subscribers to choose one of four books to read for free the month before they release. Pretty cool! Even though the description of this one didn’t sound at all like something I would like—“Why do people cheat? It’s a question we never seem to tire of asking. In Hidden, Catherine McKenzie takes a story as old as the institution of marriage and makes it new.”—I chose it any way as none of the others appealed and read it in on my flight home from the Caribbean.

There are three narrators: Jeff, who is killed in the prologue; his wife Claire; and Tish, his co-worker and almost-lover. The chapters rotate among the three of them and span at least a decade in time, with Jeff’s having taken place before his untimely demise (not from the grave like Lovely Bones), though the past accounts by Claire and Tish take the form of flashbacks from present day and the bulk of the novel takes place the week between Jeff’s death and the funeral. As a fellow writer, I always appreciate an author who can take a mundane topic and sort of non-plot and turn it into an engaging read that I finish in one sitting. McKenzie is a true wordsmith, and I enjoyed this book fare more than I thought I would.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Falling in Honey by Jennifer Barclay

This memoir about running away to a Greek island was one I thought I would love given that a) I adore all things about Greece and b) I’m heading there this summer, but unfortunately the storyline and writing fell way flat. I felt like the author was speaking to me in the most elementary of words—“I went to Greece. I got a job teaching English. I fell in love.”—and that it lacked all the fluent prose I so love in a good read. Sad to say I didn’t make it to the end of this one.

My rating: incomplete

Currently reading: The Dog Who Knew Too Much, #3 of the Chet & Bernie series (I’m almost done with them … woe is me).

What’s on your Kindle/iPad/bedside table at the moment?

  • April 3, 2014

    Thanks for this list. I’d like to read ‘Someone else’s love story’.

    • April 8, 2014

      It’s beautifully written–hope you enjoy it!

  • April 3, 2014

    I am reading Wild right now and it is fantastic!

    • April 8, 2014

      One of the best books I’ve read in the 2000s, for sure!

  • April 3, 2014

    I got a Paperwhite for Christmas and it’s turned me back into a reader – yay! SO much easier and handy for those of us who get around a lot and don’t need anything else big and bulky taking up space in our bags! Also – travel guide books on it, hellz yeah!

    I’m currently reading “Gone With The Wind” as I’ve never read it or seen the movie, so far so good although I’ve only just met Rhett and Scarlett seems like kind of a brat!

    • April 8, 2014

      You know, I’ve never read it either (only seen the movie). Let me know if I should add it to my list!

  • April 3, 2014
    Jane Tillotson

    Thanks for the review of the Kindle. I still have a first gen Kobo which is still going strong but I’d like to upgrade for some of the newer features.
    If you like books narrated by dogs, have you read The art Of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein? Wonderful! And now being made into a movie.
    One of my latest favourites is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

    • April 8, 2014

      No! I have never even heard of it–thanks for that rec. And funny, I downloaded The Rosie Project a few weeks ago when it was a daily deal and plan to read that next 😉

  • April 4, 2014

    Currently reading Shogun – nothing like a little trip to medieval Japan

    • April 8, 2014

      That sounds deadly =)

      (And Japan, *swoon*)

  • April 4, 2014

    Just wrote some of these down for the future. I’m kind of obsessed with books and I trust your judgement on these. 🙂

    • April 8, 2014

      Yay! I want book recommendations from you, too =)

      Also, in Seattle on April 26???

      • April 9, 2014

        Oh, I’ve got plenty. Have you read The Fault in our Stars? It’s a tear jerker. I’m also a HUGE fan of Khaled Hosseini. He’s one of my favorite authors.

        I’m so sad that we’ll be missing you again. We’re going to be in NYC at the end of the month. We really need to make a date work at some point!

        • April 15, 2014

          I’ve read everything Green has ever written! Loved Stars, but my favorites of his were Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. Add them to your list if you haven’t already!

  • April 5, 2014

    I have been doing a lot more reading this year. My favorites so far have been The Golem and the Jinni and The Sisters Brothers.

    • April 8, 2014

      Haven’t read either of those–will check them out!

  • April 6, 2014

    Interesting reading list … I’ll have to break down soon and get a Kindle, as it’s hard to backpack with tonnes of normal books like I have been!

    • April 8, 2014

      Definitely a different mix of books than what I typically read!

  • April 6, 2014

    I’ve known that Helen Fielding killed Mark Darcy off for months now, and yet I’m still outraged by it (and I still bought the book, which I haven’t yet brought myself to read). Guess I’m a glutton for punishment?

    • April 8, 2014

      I am still outraged, too! Don’t read it. DON’T DO IT. (It is awful…and not even that sad, all things considered.)

  • April 7, 2014

    These books sound fabulous and I’ve added a couple to my list! I took my besties to Tamp & Tap in Memphis this weekend and we loved it! Thank you! When are y’all headed to Greece? Me and the girls are going to Mykonos and Santorini for 10 days in June – would love any recommendations you have!!

    • April 8, 2014

      Oh yay! Glad you enjoyed yourself (sorry it was so cold…though Texas was even colder!). We are just there for a day as part of an 11-day cruise. June 16, Corfu. You?

  • April 7, 2014
    Briel K.

    I’m with you on the Goon Squad book. Did not like it at all.

    Right now I’m reading some chick lit book that’s not worth mentioning. Not sure what’s next though I am going to add Joshilyn Jackson as someone to check out. I’ve never read her books. Maybe she has strange names in her books because her’s is uncommon too? 🙂

    • April 8, 2014

      I remember you saying that on Twitter, and this is a lesson to LISTEN TO BRIEL FROM NOW ON. Because yes, I could have gone without that in my life.

      And so true about Joshilyn! Re: chick lit not mentioning, I don’t feel like I’ve read a decent pink book in ages (and I do love me a good pink book).

  • April 8, 2014

    I recently finished Cuckoo’s Calling, JK Rowling’s pseudonym-written detective novel, which I found fairly engrossing and entertaining. I also just read The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes. Although it wasn’t a good as Me Before You, there’s a couple interesting twists at the end and it had me a bit emotional. I’d recommend both!

    • April 8, 2014

      Interesting. I could not make it through The Casual Vacancy…did you?

      • April 9, 2014

        Ugh, I slogged through it even though it was painfully boring. This one is MUCH better, especially if you like detective stories.

  • April 11, 2014

    My first gen Kindle died about a year ago, and I agree with you about the Paperwhite! I love everything about it except the difficulty in turning pages left-handed. But the built-in light more than makes up for that (I used to have a light on the cover? How heavy and awkward!)

    Thank you for the reviews- I have just added Someone Else’s Love Story to my queue. I just finished Looking for Alaska (John Green), Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell), and Orange is the New Black (Piper Kerman), all of which I recommend! I am currently listening to A History of the World in 6 Glasses (non-fiction, and pretty interesting if you occasionally enjoy non-fiction), and re-reading the last one of Outlander series since the next book comes out in June.

    • April 15, 2014

      I’ve read the first two (Alaska and Eleanor) and have Orange in my queue! Seems like we have similar reading taste 😉

      Glad I’m not the only one who finds the left-hand Paperwhite turning function lacking…though I do LOVE having a built-in light! I also had that cumbersome light attachment that never would stay clipped on quite right.

  • April 12, 2014

    I would certainly love to read some of the books that you have mentioned! I am currently reading a book on Dalai Lama.

  • April 14, 2014

    I started reading the new Fannie Flagg book (I LOVE her books!) but I only got halfway through it before I had to return it to the library. So much on my reading list, it keeps growing longer and longer. I haven’t even TOUCHED any of the books I bought on our yearly trip to the second hand shop every New Year’s Day. I am a disgrace. 😉

    • April 15, 2014

      You must finish it! The first part was a bit slow, but toward the war years, it gets really interesting!

  • April 21, 2014

    Fantastic site. A lot of helpful info here. I’m sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you on your effort!

  • April 23, 2014

    Thanks for the write-up on the readers. My Kindle Fire is way too heavy for me to take in my purse eveywhere – I’m looking for a lighter one.

  • May 2, 2014

    Glad you talked a bit about your e-book readers. At least it gives me an idea of how long they will last.

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