Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books Read in 2015

Another year in the books (hahaha)! I managed to finish 60* this year—2 fewer than 2014, but, as in 2014, several of them were Very Easy Reading, so that 60 deserves an asterisk.

I was lucky enough to meet a couple of great authors this year—Rainbow Rowell and Lois Lowry;  read a great author for the first time this year—Kurt Vonnegut; and "discover" some new-to-me authors I look forward to reading again—Sarah Vowell, Andy Weir, and Paula Hawkins.

These are the books I finished in 2015. You can follow the links to their journal entries on BookCrossing; those books without a link were either borrowed, or are in my permanent collection for the moment. (E) indicates they were read on my Kindle/Nook/iPod Touch; (A) means they were audiobooks; (L) means I borrowed them from my local library; (R) means I re-read some old friends.

My favorites this year? "Grave Surprise," "An Ice Cold Grave," and "Grave Secret," by Charlaine Harris; The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein; The Martian, by Andy Weir; and Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell.

January
1. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick (A)
2. One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson (E) (L)
3. Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (A)
4. The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer
5. Top Secret Twenty-One, by Janet Evanovich (E) (L)
6. The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams (R)
7. How to Care for Your Monster, by Norman Bridwell (R)  

February
8. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (E) (L)
9. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins (E) (L)
10. Journey Into Narnia, by Kathryn Lindskoog
11. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling (E) (L)
12. Dark Summer, by Iris Johansen  

March
13. Misery, by Stephen King
14. Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
15. Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham (E) (L)
16. Grave Surprise, by Charlaine Harris
17. The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith
18. Orange Is The New Black, by Piper Kerman
19. Pete's A Pizza, by William Steig  

April
20. The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton
21. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce (E)
22. We Were Tired Of Living In A House, by Liesel Moak Skorpen (R)
23. Celestial Land and Sea, by Amy McLean (E)
24. An Ice Cold Grave, by Charlaine Harris  

May
25. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein (A) (L)
26. Third Girl, by Agatha Christie
27. Argo, by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio (A) (L)
28. Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
29. Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, by Christopher Moore
30. The Beginner's Goodbye, by Anne Tyler (A) (L)
31. Every Seventh Wave, by Daniel Glattauer  

June
32. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
33. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney
34. Grave Secret, by Charlaine Harris (E)
35. Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel, by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
36. The Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick  

July
37. Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks (A)
38. Charleston, by John Jakes
39. Thumbelina, by Hans Christian Andersen
40. The Moon Lake, by Ivan Gantschev
41. The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde
42. A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson (A)
43. The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Mary Street
44. Happiness Is A Warm Puppy, by Charles M. Schulz  

August
45. The Outsider, by Jimmy Connors (A) (L)
46. Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman (E) (L)
47. Slow Decay, by Andy Lane
48. Emma: A Modern Retelling, by Alexander McCall Smith (E) (L)
49. The Martian, by Andy Weir  

September
50. Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis (R)
51. I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak
52. Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell (E) (L)  

October
53. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell (E) (L)
54. Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell (A) (L)
55. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala  

November
56. The Girl On The Train, by Paula Hawkins (E) (L)
57. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut  

December
58. Prosecco & Paparazzi, by Celia Kennedy (E)
59. Tremors In The Cloister: A Memoir, by Allan Spiegler
60. Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own, by Doreen Orion

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Prosecco & Paparazzi, by Celia Kennedy

LibraryThing Early ReviewersReceived from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in October 2015.

It has been a long time since I read a romance, so when I read the description of this book, "a contemporary romantic comedy about what happens when the paths of a celebrity god and a mere mortal collide," I was interested. Who doesn't wonder about what would happen if they met their ultimate celebrity crush?

It started off well. A cute meet. A dream of a night. But then it took a really weird turn that it never quite recovered from. There were too many inconsistencies in character and plot that kept distracting me from the story. I  enjoyed the glamorous settings—the French Alps, New York, London, Ireland, the French Riviera, Rome, Barbados—and the glamorous people, but I was looking for that one real thing that would make me care about these characters and I just didn't find it. I was interested in Charlotte's romance, but she was cheated by having to share her story with too many characters who were too obviously being set up for their own stories, as this is Book One in The Passport Series.

All in all, Prosecco & Paparazzi could have benefited greatly from a couple more rounds of editing. There were too many insignificant details, too much uncontrollable laughter, too much prosecco, and not enough paparazzi.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library. Finished reading this morning because I'm going to see/hear Rainbow Rowell tonight.

"Fangirl" is a coming-of-age story about a painfully shy and awkward fanfic internet star. The book is full of dualities like that—first, with the main character, Cath, being an identical twin, then with her being reclusive but famous, weak but strong, intellectually smart but socially dumb, having an old boyfriend and new boyfriend, making good and bad decisions, and finally, with hearing both Cath's story and Simon's story.

I can remember working through some of those dualities in myself at that age, so I could definitely relate to Cath as a character. If I had read this book 30 years ago, I think it would be one of my favorites.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell

Borrowed Kindle version from my library because I'm going to see Rainbow Rowell when she comes to town and I thought I probably should read more than one of her books (Eleanor & Park) before I did/do.

I liked this "adult" book. I especially liked the time it was set in—the months before Y2K when half the world was convinced that the world would be ending on January 1, 2000. Oh, those children. I liked the characters, the situations, the humor, and the writing. I will definitely be reading more Rainbow Rowell in the future.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Emma: A Modern Retelling, by Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library.

Alexander McCall Smith's style is well suited to this modern retelling of Jane Austen's Emma. I find his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books soothing, even when there are dangerous situations, and I felt the same level of comfort with "Emma." A tweak here, a tweak there, but never straying too far from the core of the original.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library.

These are great stories: I love Neil Gaiman's voice, even when he's not reading to me (although I will be adding his audio version to my wishlist). From his lengthy introduction to his explanations of each story's origins to the stories themselves, this is Neil Gaiman in top form. Even though the stories were written over a long period of time and for many different reasons, they fit together nicely. And, as a bonus, I get to mark off the top right corner of my BINGO card. Thanks, Neil Gaiman.

The Outsider, by Jimmy Connors

Borrowed audio version from my local library. Read by Rich Orlow.

I love tennis. Watching it, not playing it. I grew up with the Connors-McEnroe rivalry in the early 1980s, or so I thought. Turns out that McEnroe was on his way up while Connors was at the top of his game and it was more a Connors-Borg rivalry in the 1970s. I loved hearing about the "early" days of competitive tennis and Jimmy Connors' role in bring tennis to the masses by exploding out of the stuffy confines of the country club sets. He loved being the bad boy of tennis and he admits to all his "assholery" (his word) with few regrets.

For the most part, Rich Orlow did a really great job reading this memoir. I have only two complaints: 1) he almost always pronounces "Wimbledon" as "Wimbleton," and 2) he pronounces "Vitas Gerulaitis" as "Vitas Jerulaitis." (Either he is wrong on that, or all the sportscasters and newscasters from his era are.) Other than that, his energy, tone, and inflections were spot on.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Catch #250!

This catch is exciting for two reasons: 1) It's a milestone—number 250! *confetti* *cheering* *fireworks* and 2) It's my first catch from the Little Free Library that I have been filling for the past year. Thank you, melissaharris, for using the LFL and journalling this book. I hope it's the first of many. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Catch #249!

Another Panera Bread catch, four months and four days after its release. An AnonymousFinder says: "I found this book while eating at Paneras with my roommates! As a poor college student, finding free books to read is a miracle. I had heard of the book, but the cover made me think it was some sweeping romantic book a'la Nicholas Sparks, which I do not enjoy reading. But I gave it a shot and it was nothing like I thought it would be! I was absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend. Since I will not be returning to that Panera for some time, I will find some other place to release it soon :)"

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Beginner's Goodbye, by Anne Tyler

Borrowed audio version from my local library. Read by Kirby Heyborne.

This book hooked me with its first line: "The strangest thing about my wife's return from the dead was how other people reacted."

The narrator, Aaron, works for his family's vanity press, which specializes in "Beginner's Guides" that aim to help readers cope with all the trials of life. But what about death? How does Aaron cope when his beloved Dorothy's life is cut short by a freak accident, changing the course of Aaron's life? Anne Tyler has laid out a soothing, healing path for Aaron, and for us, to take.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Catch #248!

The Panera Bread community bulletin board in Greensburg, Pa., has been a great place for journalled catches this year. My latest one is "Dead Aim," which I released there on May 1. Sixteen days later, new member leatherman says: "Found this book in Panera Bread while on a layover in Greensburg. Have another book to finish first but looking forward to reading this very soon. It sounds like a good book." Thanks, enjoy, and welcome to BookCrossing!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Argo, by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio

Borrowed audio version from my local library. Read by Dylan Baker.

I was a self-absorbed pre-teen when the Iran hostage event was taking place, so it was really interesting to me to hear the background and details as an adult who can better understand them. Very well read, too. Dylan Baker has a nice conversational tone. The book was quite different from the Ben Affleck movie, but in an OK way. I appreciated the history lesson.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Catch #247!

It was a beautiful day at Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater in Mill Run, Pa. I have toured the house several times, so today I got a grounds pass and explored the woods and trails around the iconic home. Around Noon today, I left "Love Among the Ruins" in the crook of a very interesting tree. It was caught and journalled about 10 minutes later, by new member Rayjay22, long before I got home to make release notes! As of today, this is my last release, most recent catch, and the shortest stretch between a release and a journal entry (my previous record had been 23 minutes). A good day!

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Borrowed audio version from my local library. Read by Christopher Evan Welch, who has the perfect voice for a Golden Retriever with an Airedale sire.

I'm surprised I enjoyed this as much as I did. I was expecting a schmaltzy, sappy, mainstream, Oprahesque story with more surface than substance, but the story really spoke to me. It probably has a lot to do with how well read it was by Christopher Evan Welch; I don't know if I would have felt the same connection to the story without his voice leading me through it. I liked the racing bits, and the family drama bits, and the novelty of hearing a story from the dog's point of view.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Celestial Land and Sea, by Amy McLean

LibraryThing Early ReviewersReceived from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in March 2015.

The description of this book intrigued me. I'm a fan of London, time travel, pirates, romance, and adventure, so I was hoping to be a fan of this book. While the broad strokes of the plot had promise, the details of the story left me wishing the book had gone through a few more rounds of editing before being published. There was a lot going on, and yet nothing really happened. The transitions between past and present were handled well, but I never felt that Grace, whether she was Grace or GrĂ¡inne, was fully engaged in either; neither was I, for that matter. Perhaps a younger reader would have more patience for the story. I can't fathom why Grace, a young woman with her whole career ahead of her, would want to keep a job she hates even after gaining the self-confidence she needs to get out of there. Because of a guy? Was that supposed to be her happy ending?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Happy International BookCrossing Day!

I adopted a seemingly abandoned but nonetheless official Little Free Library at a local park last year. It's not quite weatherproof, so I "closed" it for the winter months and decided today—International BookCrossing Day—would be the perfect day for its Grand Reopening. I left 30 books there—a mixture of children's and adults'—and am keeping my fingers crossed for catches and journal entries.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Catch #246!

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/12960342
It was a nice surprise to hear from "Sarah, Plain and Tall," which I released at Point State Park in Pittsburgh a little over four months ago. Sarah was caught and journalled by new member j3nny16, who says, "Such a wonderful little book. Read it when I was 7- and saw the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie with Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. Fun to read again at age 32." Thanks, and welcome to BookCrossing, j3nny16!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Several things made me read "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry": 1) Mom's book club's recommendation, 2) a Facebook post about most overlooked/underrated books of 2014, which led to 3) marking the bottom right-hand corner on my "2015 Reading BINGO" card, and 4) it was just $1.99 for the Kindle version through amazon.com.

Rachel Joyce has a way with words. There is some truly lovely language in this book and a few highlight-worthy lines, including my favorites: "She's a Jane Austen fan; she's seen all her movies," and "I should have raged." I enjoyed every step of Harold Fry's journey, even when it got a little "Forrest Gump"-y for a few chapters. I also enjoyed the interview with the author at the end; it was quite interesting.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library. I was on the waiting list for many months.

Lena Dunham is not quite Hannah Horvath from "Girls," and Hannah Horvath from "Girls" is not quite Lena Dunham, but there is definitely a lot of Lena Dunham in all the girls of "Girls." Many of the stories Lena tells and people she writes about in this memoir have been storylines and characters on "Girls"—not exactly cut and pasted from real life, more like they have been Photoshopped and saved as layers so you can see how Lena's life is sharpened or blurred or blended with Hannah's fictional one.

You don't have to be a fan of "Girls" to enjoy this book. You just have to remember what it was like to be in your 20s, and be interested in what today's 20somethings are experiencing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), by Mindy Kaling

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library.

This was an easy read—light and fluffy like the snow outside. If you believe everything that Mindy Kaling wrote in this book, she is actually a pretty good role model. She's smart, she's funny, and she knows what she wants and doesn't let other people influence her behavior. This should be required reading for the young adult crowd.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Catch #245!

Just a day after leaving Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" pinned to the community bulletin board at Panera Bread in Greensburg, it has been caught! And I know whodunit—new member Krsprincess82. She writes: "My mom works at panera and knows how much I love reading. So she brought it home for me. Can't wait to read it." It's a good one. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library. I was excited to see it was not only available, but available immediately, as it had been on my BookCrossing wishlist for a couple of years—probably soon after my own trip to Paris.

"Anna and the French Kiss" is a charming and surprising YA book. I loved exploring Paris again, living vicariously through Anna who was lucky enough to be there more than a week, and learning a few things for when I go back someday. For instance, I didn't know about the wishing on the star at Point Zero, nor about the Pantheon. Stephanie Perkins managed to convey some good lessons about how to be a true friend without sounding preachy, along with important reminders that the world does not revolve around you. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Looking for Alaska, by John Green

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library.

I was really enjoying the first half of this book as it counted down to some big unknown thing happening. When the something big finally happened, I was afraid it was going to take a nosedive into a preachfest. It was touch and go for a couple of fictional weeks, but I think John Green pulled up on the controls just in time. The characters seemed true to life, with the same foibles and feelings, problems and preoccupations, light and dark, that real teens (and people who used to be teens) have. It's a thought-provoking and thoughtful book. I liked it. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Top Secret Twenty-One, by Janet Evanovich

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library.

This was one of Stephanie Plum's more enjoyable adventures of late. There was a nice balance of familiar characters, obligatory funeral home shenanigans, vehicle demises, and FTA apprehensions to let you know you were still in Trenton. I actually liked Stephanie in this book. She took care of people left and right, including herself. She was confident and stood up for herself and didn't seem like such a screw-up. And there was Ranger. Lots of Ranger. And Morelli. But Ranger. Who says she has to choose?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Catch #244!

My second catch of 2015 (#244 overall) comes six weeks after I left "The Phantom Tollbooth" on top of a gas pump in Murrysville, Pa. The AnonymousFinder says: "Found at Murrysville Sheetz on rt. 22. I remember reading this book back in school. It will soon be on its way to a new site!" Can't wait to hear more!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and acquired from SYNC 2014, which offers two free YA audiobooks each week in May. Well read by Jim Dale, who also reads the Harry Potter books.

This Peter Pan prequel was great fun, with lots of action and humor and nods to the source material. Not only does this book explain how Peter and the Lost Boys and Captain Hook arrived at Neverland, it also explains the origins of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, and the genius of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, among others. This is a book that would make a great movie. I'm satisfied knowing as much as I know about these characters, so I probably won't seek out other books in the series, but who's to say what would happen should they cross my path?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library. It took me 42 days spanning two seasons to get through this book. Not that it wasn't interesting—the material was fascinating—but maybe the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year season wasn't the best time to tackle it, as I had other things on my mind. What made the summer of 1927 one hell of a summer?
Babe Ruth hit sixty home runs. The Federal Reserve made the mistake that precipitated the stock market crash. Al Capone enjoyed his last summer of eminence. The Jazz Singer was filmed. Television was created. Radio came of age. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. President Coolidge chose not to run. Work began on Mount Rushmore. The Mississippi flooded as it never had before. A madman in Michigan blew up a school and killed forty-four people in the worst slaughter of children in American history. Henry Ford stopped making the Model T and promised to stop insulting Jews. And a kid from Minnesota flew across an ocean and captivated the planet in a way it had never been captivated before.
Even though the title of the book would lead you to believe you would only be reading about the events of the summer of 1927, Bill Bryson did a good job of giving you all the background you didn't know you needed to know in order to understand just what made this summer so unique. Disappointingly, there was little evidence of his trademark snark, which only came through the cracks in his narrative. Still, I learned a lot about this one summer in America, primarily that things haven't changed as much as we'd like to think they have.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Catch #243!

What a great way to start off the new year! My first catch of 2015 came with this fantastic journal entry by new member EFVS: "I'm in second grade and I read this book with my mom. We both LOVED it! My favorite character was the centipede. I liked him because he didn't like the earthworm and they were always arguing. This made me laugh. This book had a lot of funny parts, adventurous parts, and dangerous parts. It was truly a fantastic book! Thank you for sharing it!"

Thank YOU, EFVS, for catching "James and the Giant Peach"! I'm so glad you liked it.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick

Written by Matthew Quick, author of "Silver Linings Playbook," and acquired from SYNC 2014, which offers two free YA audiobooks each week in May. Read by Noah Galvin, who gives an exceptional performance.

I think some of the best stories being told today are in the YA genre. "Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock" is an intense, imaginative, and insightful book that I simultaneously want to keep out of and push into the hands of every teen I know. So many different issues that face kids today were addressed head on, fearlessly and intelligently. This was a really good, thought-provoking book, even for a non-teen like me. My favorite part is the ambiguity of the title: Is Leonard Peacock asking us to forgive him or should we be asking Leonard Peacock to forgive us? You'll have to read it and make up your own mind about that.