Wrap Up | January 2019

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Michaela

The Hating Game | Sally Thorne- I wanted to like this more than I did. I read it for a quick brain break, and while I enjoyed the tone, the whole book just almost worked over and over again. The entire thing felt...loose. Plot points and themes felt incomplete (yes, I realize this is fluff, BUT STILL) as if the author knew what she was after, but couldn’t quite get it across. An example would be how the novel tries to deal with objectification, if you’ve read it. The story was cute enough, though painfully (so painfully) predictable.

The Descendants | Kaui Hart Hemmings- This gets five stars from me, but I fully acknowledge that I am not objective about this book. The movie holds a special place in my heart for a lot of personal reasons, and though it took me a long time to read the book, I’m really glad I did. I love the tone, the realness, the flawed characters, and especially the writing. This just hit the spot for me personally. I’m also glad that the movie really stayed quite true to the book!

I Am Jennie | Jennie Ketcham- This was our IRL book club’s pick for the month. I thought the story was raw and interesting, but needed a stronger editorial hand. The middle 200 pages just felt like a whirl of characters and disjointed events coming at you at lightning speed, with almost no service to the narrative. That whole section also felt kind of detached, and lost the structure and emotional investment that I had enjoyed in the beginning. The writing here isn’t terrible, though it is amateurish, but then again it was written to share her story, not to be indicted into the literary cannon. Overall, an interesting peek into an experience very different from my own, but I would really love to see her write this now (it was published in 2012) with a little more distance from the events, because I think it would be easier to distill the important parts of this memoir for a higher impact.

The Raven Boys | Maggie Steifvater- I listened to this one on audio, and it was a total win for me. I have a soft spot for YA fantasy and this one did not disappoint. I’m completely in love with the characters, the story was well paced, atmospheric, and had enough mystery to keep the tension high enough to keep me listening for as long as I possibly could. I LOVED the narrator, too. I even tried to read it in print and switched back to audio because I enjoyed him so much. I’ll definitely continue this series, it’s shaping up to be a solid one.

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Rikki

Stoner | John Williams - I’ve needed to take some time reflecting on this novel before I could formulate a worthy review. This novel is hailed as one of the greatest in American Literature. Well, yes, it’s technically perfect. But the story, which is what is said to be so profound, falls a little wayside for me. Having just finished my Master’s in English Studies, you can imagine that I did love the atmosphere of university life and reading about his love of literature. I can relate, my friend. But, the characters that cause so much strife for Stoner felt forced and unfinished. His neurotic, crazy wife, who ruins his relationship with his daughter…the handicap professor who wants to ruin his career — what and why?! I also have little to no patience for passive characters with no backbone, and while there were redeeming moments, I hated that about Stoner’s character. I was rooting for him though and I’m glad I’ve read this novel. I also picked up his other, Butcher’s Crossing, and look forward to that later in the year.

Between Shades of Gray | Ruta Sepetys - What an incredibly unexplored piece of history. The author’s note at the end, was my favorite piece, where she tells how this story was kept undisclosed until the early ‘90s when the Soviet Union collapsed. And slowly, the stories began to unfold and find light. While a truly heartbreaking account of what it was like for Lithuanians during Stalin’s reign of terror and the overlap of WW2, I appreciated the history lesson, the fictional account of a Lithuanian family, and the redemption and fight to live that takes you through the story. I’m looking forward to her other novel Salt to the Sea.

The Great Alone | Kristin Hannah - This was my first Hannah novel, and it delivered. An emotionally compelling page-turner, that makes your heart ache as the story unfolds through the backwoods of Alaska. There is so much devastation that relentlessly piled up, it was hard to catch my breath, but made me believe in the strength, resilience, and love of the human spirit. The story did lay out in a way one might expect, with some cliche to guide you through, but if you’re looking for an easy prose and something to bring out emotion and keep you up reading, this is a worthwhile book.

Salt to the Sea | Ruta Sepetys - Apparently, this is my month of angst and heartbreak. I didn’t find this story to be as difficult throughout as Between Shades of Gray (from an overall scope of the storyline), but the end ripped my heart out. Another page-turning novel of historical fiction, accounting for the most horrific and heartbreaking maritime disaster in history. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this book. Sepetys does an impeccable job at crafting a voice and story for characters who truly had none, who were lost to the sea and the war.

Lolita | Vladimir Nabokov - For months this book has been following me, everyone I spoke to that has read it, loved it. The urge became unbearable, and I finally broke down and opened the book. There’s no denying the difficulty in reading a novel about a man who is obsessed with a child. But Nabakov is an undeniably gifted man, whose most famous novel contains a prose unlike anything I’ve ever read before. “It’s the writing,” is what I kept being told, and now I know… it’s the writing. There were really only a few truly cringeworthy parts that had me questioning if I wanted to continue reading this, and I’m glad I powered through, because there is so much more involved than a little discomfort from the story. I’m really looking forward to trying his others books too; I hear Mary is excellent.

Seabiscuit | Laura Hillenbrand - Well, it’s not Unbroken, that’s for sure. Unbroken is one of my top five favorites of all time, and I’ve been anxious to read this book, especially with it being her only other in existence. Hillenbrand is a meticulous researcher and writer, there’s no denying that even a little. I also thought this was a worthy and excellent novel, one that I’m so glad is told. Yet, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped, but am glad I did finally read it.

What was the best book YOU read this month??