Reading

What I Read: Part VI

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In 2012, I aspired to read a book a week. I fell short at 41, which was still a noble effort. Well, this year, with my latest business well underway, I already know 2013’s reading efforts won’t match its predecessor. And that’s OK. In fact, I used to read for hours before bed before I’d even feel the slightest bit drowsy; these days, I make it five pages once my head hits the pillow before my eyelids unwillingly close.

ReadingI did, however, discover that Tennessee has an excellent regional libraries e-book network, so I hope to save some money on Kindle reads this year and check them all out, old-school instead. Here are the handful of books I’ve finished so far….

Reading

1. Reached by Ally Condie

This was one of those dystopian trilogies I started several years ago and just had to finish despite not loving it from the start. It’s definitely no Divergent. And while I’m glad I stuck with it just to figure out if the world ends at the close of the series, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone when there is so much great young adult lit out there these days. Do yourselves a favor and just skip this entirely in favor of Divergent or Delirium.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

2. Masked Ball at Broxley by Rhys Bowen

I’m sure by now you’ve figured out I have a thing for Lady Georgiana, Rhys’ royal heroine from the Spyness series. Given my mom and I share an account, this prequel to the first book popped up in my queue a few months ago, and I was pleased to get to read how certain characters first entered Georgie’s life. You should only read this short story if you’ve already tackled a few prior Spyness novels.

My rating: 4 out of 5

3. Rules of Civility by Amor Townes

I’d been having one of those dry spells where nothing I read was just mind-blowing. And then I picked up Rules of Civility, which immediately upon finishing made it onto my list of 10 favorite books of all time.

I have to confess I was initially turned off by the title of this post-Prohibition Era novel, but enough bloggers whose opinions I value recommended it, so I gave it a go. The beginning was slightly slow as it starts a couple decades in the future from the year the majority of the book takes place (1938). But a few chapters in and you’ll be hooked, this I guarantee.

The protagonist, Katey Kontent, is smart, driven and extremely likable, and I’ve always found something about 1930s New York quite romantic in a literary sense, despite the hardships its people experienced during that time. This was one of those reads without a discernible plot—rather, it follows a volatile year in the life of a working class immigrant’s daughter as she finds herself running with the upper crust of Manhattan society—and yet, that doesn’t even matter. It’s a love story in a sense, but I think coming-of-age tale is more accurate, or even more simply: one of the best books you’ll ever read.

The prose is lyrical—it’s the only book I’ve read on my Kindle that had me highlighting paragraphs at a time in the same way I’d underline Hemingway as a teen—and what’s even more impressive is that it’s the only book that the author has penned. In fact, his only other published work was a short story in The Paris Review in 1989.

My rating: 5 out of 5

4. The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey

And after my reading slump, I was suddenly on a roll with two phenomenal back-to-back works of fiction, both based in NYC (which, I have to admit, made me the tiniest bit nostalgic for my own time living there). The Cranes Dance follows a pair of talented sisters who make the leap from dancing in a company in their hometown in Michigan to going pro in New York when they’re still of high school age. I mean, what girl hasn’t been intrigued by the destructive world of ballet at one point or another? The book was written by a former ballerina, so I’d like to think it’s a pretty authentic portrait of what the industry is actually like; it’s a little bit Center Stage and a little bit The Black Swan, equal parts dark and twisted, without being actually scary (unless you count the damage ballerinas knowingly do to their bodies).

My rating: 5 out of 5

5. Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

When I was at the library getting my library card, the heavily-made-up librarian—with electric blue eye shadow and hair that deserved its own zip code—told me I could check out two books that day while they reviewed my application and called my references (“what?” is right). She then gave me a 10-minute tutorial on how to check out books and a lecture on not incurring late fees. Because, at 30, clearly I looked like I’d never stepped foot in a library before. Still, I got giddy over the thought of actually checking out a book, old-school like, for the first time in ages, so I meandered down the fiction aisle and picked up the first book by an author whose name I recognized.

Emma and Nicola wrote the wildly-popular The Nanny Diaries, and while I loved it back in the day, I’d never heard of Dedication and checked it out based on their crowd appeal alone. At first, I found it a bit boring and dragging. It seemed almost too cliche. Girl in her 30s returns home over Christmas to show her ex-boyfriend, who turned into a world-famous musician, what he gave up.

But the format, which switched every chapter from a high school year back to the present, wound up being a great way to tell a story, and even though I never dated a musician or anyone famous for that matter (though SVV may be famous on this blog, ha), I found the teen angst and the scenarios simultaneously sweet and relatable.

My rating: 4 out of 5

6. Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre deRoche

I’ve followed Torre for several years now, since she just returned from her trip sailing around the world, so I feel as if I “know” her. Thus, I was stoked when her e-book got picked up by three publishing companies in three different countries for a print run. Hyperion sent me an advanced copy as I plan to feature her in a women’s magazines, and as I started to read the book, I was afraid I wasn’t going to like it (which, hello, how awkward when you have to give someone with whom you are virtually friends a bad review on her debut book). The reason being that Torre and her boyfriend Ivan use a whole lot of “baby” this and “baby” that when talking, and I found it very distracting throughout the book (and I must say I am absolutely averse to baby talk or PDAs of any kind…maybe this doesn’t bother the average reader).

But luckily, a chapter or two into Torre’s endearing tale of moving from Australia to San Francisco only to fall madly in love with an Argentinean and agree to sail around the world with him won me over. Even though this is a memoir, it reads like an adventure novel, and I had to remind myself at times that all of this truly happened to the two main characters. As adventurous as I think I am, this self-proclaimed “fearful adventurer” has me beat in spades. I’m not sure I could take off on a little sailboat across the Pacific with just SVV for emotional, technical and medical support. What I loved the most about this book was how Ivan and Torre would immerse themselves in a culture, as they did in the Marquesas, and truly live like locals, sharing glimpses of islander life with readers. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to mimic their trip now—though, diver or not, at the end of the day I’m still extremely terrified of the ocean.

This book is a must for anyone who has had grand dreams but been too afraid to act on them; Torre is living proof that fear doesn’t have to be a dead end to the path to a great adventure, but merely a minor roadblock. (The book doesn’t come out until May but you can pre-order it now via Amazon.)

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

*****

I’ve been avoiding Requiem (the final installment of Delirium) for too long as I don’t want that trilogy to end, even though it popped up on my Kindle the day it came out, so that’s up next on my list. I also feel I need to get a start on the Cassandra Clare books finally, as the movies are already in the works.

So now, it’s your turn: What are you reading and loving so far this year?

COMMENTS
  • April 1, 2013

    I don’t always love period novels, but I also LOVED Rules of Civility. It was such a compelling read.

    I also love your fisheye lens!

    • April 2, 2013

      It’s a GoPro–thanks! I never actually use my real Canon fisheye, ha.

  • April 1, 2013

    Well OBVIOUSLY I’ve been keeping up the Spyness series. You know I can’t resist!

    Also, I’ve enjoyed a couple of Mary Kay Andrews books–light reads and nice, neat endings, and you don’t have to think too hard.

    For a more literary read, check out Sara Bird’s Gap Year. It’s absolutely lovely.

    Also also, I totally just checked Rules of Civility out of the library last week! I haven’t gotten to it yet, though. Because I have a horrible habit of checking out 17 books at once (give or take). And then going home and checking out books for my kindle as well.

    It’s entirely possible I need therapy for my library habit.

    • April 2, 2013

      Ooooh I’ve never heard of Gap Year. I love getting recs from you guys that I’ve never heard of. Libraries are addictive!

      • April 2, 2013

        They are totally addictive, and if that is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

        I love when you publish these lists–there are always at least a few books I jot down on my To-Read list!

  • April 1, 2013

    YES to Rules of Civility.

    Have you read City of Women yet? That’s a good one. I recommend it often. By David Gillham.

    • April 2, 2013

      Haven’t heard of that one—adding it to the list!

  • April 1, 2013

    Rules of Civility has been on my radar for a while so will definitely be adding this to my next book order.

    I just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and it was fantastic! I considered rereading it immediately after finishing the last page!

    Before taking my first trip to Cambodia in February, I read First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge. Haunting but extremely well written. It should be required reading for anyone traveling to that country.

    • April 2, 2013

      You know, I started Guernsey right before we left SF, and I was LOVING it but I never finished it (it was an actual book) as I think it got packed away in our library (that’s still yet to be unpacked). Thanks for reminding me that I need to dig it out and finish it!

      Also, First They Killed My Father had been on my list, too, and I never got to it pre-Cambodia, but I’m still very much interested in reading it, particularly after meeting several Cambodians who went through similar scenarios with their own family members during the Khmer Rouge.

  • April 2, 2013

    Since last year, I’ve been seriously into memoirs (and just bought a new one!). Right now I’m finishing up “Devotion” by Dani Shapiro which I love. Definitely asks some of the questions about lief and spirituality that many of us are afraid to address ourselves.

    • April 4, 2013

      Ooh, just your description of it scares me, though I’m sure if you liked it, I would. I don’t like those hard questions… =)

  • April 2, 2013
    CJ

    I also loved The Cranes Dance! As a ballet dancer I especially loved the way she described Swan Lake and the villagers. It had me actually laughing! Do you read non-fiction at all? I have 2 good non-fiction recommendations that I thought read like fiction but were fascinating and informative, if you’re interested. Another novel I really liked recently is called The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott– the fictional story of some of the Titanic survivors and the tabloid frenzy they endured immediately after. I thought it was a great new angle on a story we mostly already know.

    • April 4, 2013

      Traditionally, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction; however, every memoir I’ve read, I’ve really loved (Somewhere Inside, The Glass Castle and now Love with a Chance of Drowning, as examples). Let me know which ones you rec! I’m always looking for something to break up all the dystopian lit I seem to devour =)

      • April 5, 2013
        CJ

        The Violinist’s Thumb (Sam Kean) is a history of DNA, but it reads more like a bunch of short stories. I was really surprised that I liked this one because science was my worst/most hated subject in school. I actually read this while backpacking through Argentina and the guy I was traveling with preferred to read over my shoulder than read his own book! And the other I’m currently halfway through listening to is called The Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace (Molly Caldwell Crosby), and so far it’s been fascinating… a heist story set in early 1900’s London; I can’t believe this actually happened! I’m loving the descriptions of the neighborhoods in London, and the general ballsy-ness of some of the thieves. Somewhere Inside and Rules of Civility are both on my list, I think I’ll have to bump them up now! As always, thank you for the reviews!!

  • April 2, 2013
    Ris

    LOVED both Rules of Civility and The Cranes Dance. So funny that we both just read both of them!

    • April 2, 2013

      I know! Particularly as they didn’t just come out!

  • April 2, 2013

    I really enjoyed Rules of Civility, too, and have read the first Royal Spyness and plan to read more.

    I recently read and really liked the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and a few Susanna Kearsley novels – all a bit supernatural and having a story line that jumps between modern day and some time in the past.

    • April 2, 2013

      Added to the list! Love me some supernatural.

  • April 2, 2013

    I finished all three of Lauren Oliver’s trilogy in one week. I absolutely devoured them, and I loved every minute of it. I envy your ability to hold out on Requiem.

    I am about 2/3 of the way through “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides, and I highly recommend it. I also recently read “A Pearl in the Storm” by Tori Murden McClure – who was the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the book is about her failed first attempt, and it is inspirational in so many ways. An adventurer like you would love it.

    Also – I don’t know if you do audiobooks, but I got “City of Bones” on audio (the first Cassandra Clare), and I wish I hadn’t, because the narrator is not great.

    Love these book posts! Adding The Crane’s Dance and Rules of Civility to my list!

  • April 2, 2013
    Briel K.

    Yay book post! I’ve added 3-6 to my “to read” list.

    The only things I’ve read recently that I enjoyed are Tana French’s novels. I can’t remember, have you read any of her books?

    • April 4, 2013

      No, I haven’t, but they are on my quick-to-grow, slow-to-diminish reading list!

  • April 3, 2013

    I just wrote my first quarter reading post as well! I’m ahead of my reading schedule. But I read my first non fiction book and loved it. It was Midnight in Peking. Very well written and the book is left open at the end for you to conclude it yourself. Something I always love. That Rules of Civility was a new release when I worked at a book store over Christmas but it never caught my fancy. I read the back a few times, but the title just didn’t capture my attention. But with your review I might reconsider. I’m finding myself drawn to thriller books lately with a major creep factor. After Gillian Flynn’s novels, I’ve been trying to find another author with her blend of engaging and creepy. I’ve started Chelsea Cain’s Heartsick and I think I might of found it! Best part – it’s a series!!

    • April 4, 2013

      Same here! I resisted reading Rules of Civility for so long, as the name is just unfortunate. But I guarantee you it is more exciting than it sounds!

  • April 3, 2013

    This post had perfect timing – I have a long bus ride tomorrow and was looking for a new book to read!

    • April 4, 2013

      Let me know which one you chose!

  • April 3, 2013

    Looking forward to reading Love with a Chance of Drowning. Met Torre and Ivan last month here in Thailand. Super cool couple with some funny stories to share!

  • April 3, 2013

    your efforts in 2012 inspired me to issue a challenge of a book a week on my book review blog, so far it’s going well. Thanks for the Idea, and I enjoy reading about your adventures.

  • April 3, 2013
    Sharon Allen

    I just finished “the Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” by Rita Leganski. A mystical, spiritual journey about forgiveness. One of the best in a long time. Highly recommend it.

    • April 4, 2013

      The title alone has me intrigued!

  • April 3, 2013

    Just placed library holds on Rules of Civility and The Cranes Dance! I’m bummed that you didn’t like Reached . . .I have read the first two but I’ve been stalling on the third because I wasn’t terribly into the 2nd. I usually feel compelled to finish off trilogies though, so I probably will. I’m looking forward to finishing off Delirium!

    So this year I’ve read The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure and The Kill Order (all great), Mini Shopaholic (awful), Wither (first in a triology about polygamous arranged marriages, pretty good), Die for Me (first in a supernatural kind of series, ok), Seraphina (first in a series about dragons, ok+), The Gift (meh) and Through The Ever Night (quite good). I also got halfway through Discovery Of Witches before it expired on me, so I’m back on the waiting list for that and I’ve started the first Kingdom Keepers book in the meantime.

    I read like a 13 year old, basically . . .

    • April 4, 2013

      OK, I didn’t love the Scorch Trials. I liked The Maze Runner, then #2 was meh, then I thought #3 was pretty bad; however, I then read The Kill Order, which I found significantly better than the two middle ones.

      So yes, I am obviously with you with having to finish trilogies! The Crossed one was one that I just didn’t love in light of so many better ones (Divergent, Delirium, Legend). Have you read the Mortal Instruments series or Under the Never Sky yet? All in my reader but I’ve yet to tackle them.

      Also, I got halfway through Discovery of Witches and never finished it–didn’t you find it just dragged along? I could never get into it. I am, however, now intrigued by Wither…

      • April 4, 2013

        I think first books are always better . . . so I agree that Maze Runner was better than the other two, then Kill Order was better again (since that was almost a first book, in a way). I did like the whole series though.

        Through the Ever Night which I read this year is #2 in the Under The Never Sky series, which I do recommend. It is a little different than your usual dystopian YA story. There are elements in that series that remind me a lot of Graceling (which I think I read on your rec.)

        Discovery of Witches was LONG, for sure. That’s why I didn’t get through it in time. I do want to finish it though, so I’m back on the waitlist.

        I haven’t read Legend . . . should I?

  • April 4, 2013

    Oh I didn’t know the Nanny Diaries authors wrote more books! Will have to check Dedication out, what girl doesn’t have at least one ex they want to make regret what they gave up? Also I love the cover of Torre’s book! I got the Kindle version the other day (have no idea how it was available in the France/US stores already but it was, so a few of us bloggers seized the opportunity) and I’m really liking it so far, though it’s also making me quite jealous of her adventures!

    I recently read Kitchen Chinese, about an Asian-American who moves to China to find herself (sounds familiar, haha) and also just finished The Painted Girls, based on the somewhat true story behind Degas’ famous painting, three sisters in Paris, and a murder trial in the 1880s. I’ve also picked up The History of Love and am in the middle of the 5 Love Languages, which sounds really cheesy but it’s actually quite an insightful book on psychology and relationships!

    • April 4, 2013

      Just wait until you get closer to the end–it had me mighty anxious! Good thing I know she survived the whole journey =)

  • April 4, 2013
    birdgal (another amy)

    Have you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor? Awesome YA supernatural stuff–on par with the Hunger Games and Divergent in how much I liked it (though this book isn’t ‘dystopian future’ YA like the other two). The second book, Days of Blood and Starlight, is also very good (I believe it’s supposed to be a trilogy, but the third book hasn’t been published yet).

    • April 4, 2013

      No, but now I definitely will be reading it!

  • April 6, 2013
    Erik

    It’s not new or anything, but my perhaps best read ever is The Secret Stoy, if I remember correctly, by Donna Tartt. Awesome.

    • April 6, 2013
      Erik

      Sory, Secret STORY, of course…

  • April 6, 2013

    This book seems interesting. I wanna read this as well.

  • April 11, 2013

    Right now I’m reading “A Storm of Swords,” which is the third book in the series that Game of Thrones is based off of, A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s incredible, but very, very long. I also read World War Z this year, and Gone Girl, which was CRAZY, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which I also super loved…not sure what’s next, but I’m hoping to get 50 books read this year.

  • April 15, 2013

    I also love novels. That books seems so interesting. 🙂

    • April 18, 2013
      Audrey

      You Before Me by Jojo Moyes.

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