2015 Review Wrap-Up

Thank you for your kind words regarding my dad since my last post. I’ve fielded a few questions about my blog recently, and I promise I’ve not forgotten that it exists. Truth be told, I was a slow reader the past few months, but I still managed to read 33 books this year, which is actually more than what I read last year. I just can’t say that too many of them have been notable. So, instead of slogging through a majority of mediocre reviews, I’ll give you the highlights.

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

I can wax poetic about Mindy Kaling. I have admired her all the way back to her blogging days. Of course, many knew her as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. And now, most people know her as the awesome showrunner and star of The Mindy Project. I loved her first book, and her second book did not disappoint. Her life has changed a bit now that she is famous and her book is mostly about that, but it’s also about what goes into her confidence and how she still has to negotiate and compromise in her life, despite her professional success. My sister-in-law accompanied me to a talk she gave that included a signed copy of her book. It was such a fun night, and definitely gave insight to more of her beyond the book. I can’t say enough good things, except that I loved her first book slightly more. 4/5

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

This is always on the “Notable Paperbacks” table. McCann tends to do the same thing in his novels, which is weave together different characters’ stories and tie them to a specific event. This story is tied to the day that Philippe Petit walked across a high wire between the World Trade Center buildings in 1974. He is included among the fictional characters, along with an ascetic Irish priest and his brother, two mothers of fallen Vietnam soldiers, and a prostitute. I enjoyed reading this book and seeing the developments between characters. I also liked that everyone’s story was complete. It gave me a sense of satisfaction to find out where everyone. ended up. 4/5

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See

Lisa See has always been a go-to author for me. One of my book clubs was reading this, and I decided to join in. It’s a great undertaking to write your family history, especially when you still have family alive to read it. I think she had to walk on eggshells a bit and include some of her family members here and there. Although this book was about her family, I found it really to be about the history of Los Angeles. Her family was one of the first to settle here, so it was interesting to read about many of the areas I used to frequent when I worked near downtown. As a Los Angeles native, I really enjoyed that aspect. 3/5

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I managed to get my hand on one more Liane Moriarty book. She seemed to be the author of 2015 for me, since I read three other titles by her this year. Alice wakes up on the floor of the gym, but somehow, her memory has put her back ten years. The last ten years have gone and she has no idea what her life is anymore. She only remembers being blissfully happy, newly married and pregnant with her first child. Now, she’s a mother to three, and her marriage is in a bad place. As she tries to put together the last ten years, she wonders what her life has become and how to move forward. Again, I love how Moriarty can take a fluff book and put some serious subject matter in there to elevate the story. I enjoyed this book and it was a bright spot in my fall. 4/5

So, those were my favorites for the later half of the year. What were your favorite books of the summer and fall?

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Contemporary Reads

After emerging from the depths of WWII, I thought I needed to get into some summer reads to get away from sad stories and also to take a mental break from winter.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I love this lady, along with the majority of my peers. And I was looking forward to this book, as well. But from, literally, page one, you can tell that Poehler was not that into writing this. She lets us know how hard it is to write a book, and I would have to agree with that sentiment, but I got this sense that she felt she had to write a book because her contemporaries had done so. That being said, Poehler does not shy away from the tough moments. She tells us exactly how hard some situations have been in her life, and the joy she gets out of doing what she does. I get the sense that she is a fierce and loyal friend, and that her friends love her, because they even wrote parts of her book. I also relate to her feeling so strongly about things. One particular instance felt so true to how desperately I have felt the need to be forgiven or to be heard. And so, even though I didn’t love it, I still think it was great to learn a little bit more about the fantastic person that is Amy Poehler. 3/5

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

I read this book so quickly. It only took me one day to get through. It was really easy to read, but not necessarily that enjoyable. The Post family goes on vacation to Mallorca with Franny, the mother, at the helm. She is a food and travel columnist and is married to Jim, who has recently been phased out of his job as editor at a major publication due to some poor decisions. Franny and Jim have invited along their daughter, Sylvia, almost off to college and their son, Bobby, who lives in Miami. Bobby has brought along his older, gym-obsessed girlfriend. And Franny’s best friend, Charles is also there with his partner, Lawrence. Lawrence might be the only character I liked, as he is on the outside looking in and seems to be as close the voice of reason as we will get. With everyone in close quarters, we see the Post family fall apart as they deal with problems old and new. I had a hard time relating to any of the characters and felt like the whole book needed the to be tagged #firstworldproblem. 2/5

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This was a book that I highly anticipated reading because I had heard so many good things about it. In an Italian seaside town with very little to its credit, Pasquale sits dreaming of how to make his hotel a prominent tourist spot, just like the Cinque Terre and other towns near his. His father has just passed away and his mother is ill, so he has left university in Florence to aid his family. On one of his daydreaming days, a boat appears with a young woman. She is blonde, American, and quite ill. Dee has been sent by the publicist of the epically failing movie Cleopatra to rest and recover. Dee and Pasquale develop a friendship, and Pasquale, always wanting to do what is right, goes to seek out the man who has sent Dee to his hotel. What ensues is a little crazy, corroborated by a story that is happening in present day. This story is purely fictional, but the mention and involvement of people who are real, however fictional, muddles the story, and it gets too complicated. I wished that certain fictional stories were developed a bit more, and certain other stories were not as elaborate. It was okay, but not as great as I thought it would be. 3.5/5

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

I loved The Rosie Project, so naturally, I had to continue with Don Tillman’s story. Don and Rosie have relocated to New York for Rosie to work on her MD-Ph.D at Columbia and for Don to teach. In less than a year of marriage, Don has experienced a lot of change to shock his system simply by adding Rosie to his life. But now, things are about to get even crazier when he finds out that Rosie is pregnant. Don immediately throws himself into research to understand and help Rosie through pregnancy. His desire to do everything right is hindered by his fundamental difficulty to understand the emotional side of becoming a parent. Added to all that, Don has taken on many little projects and problems and has woven himself into a difficult position with a lot of little lies, deceptions, and omissions. With all the balls in the air, Don starts to lose the most important person in his life. I enjoyed the audiobook version of The Rosie Project, and decided I would listen to this one also. All the things that I loved about the first book got a little muddled in the second story. It’s over-complicated and so the ending feels a bit rushed. I enjoyed it, but wish the story was scaled back a bit to really highlight how great Don Tillman is. 3.5/5

Not every book is going to resonate with me to the point where I would give it 4 or 5 stars, but it bums me out a little that I’ve read 4 books in a row without having a huge hit. Do you ever go through a bit of a lump in the books you’ve read? Coming up next will be a slew of YA reviews that I’m excited to share with you!