Books for the New Year

The other day I shared my resolutions for 2018. Thankfully I have some help achieve those goals. Cue the books! 

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The Art of Confession by Paul Wilkes
I thought it was pretty fitting that I ended 2017 and started 2018 with this book, as it helped me reflect on the previous year and how I could change for the better for the upcoming year. A large part of my resolutions every year involves becoming a better person, and I think this book is great tool to achieve that.  It's a mere 133 pages, but every page packs a punch, full of insights to mull over.  

The basic premise of this book is how confession betters your life, and the author, in my opinion, does a great job pulling from religious and historical sources to explain the idea of confession and how it can be practically mplemented in your life, whether you're a religious person or not.  The word, "confession", may have a different connotation for different readers, but Wilkes argues if you think of confession as more of transparency, vulnerability, and honesty you'll be able to utilize the art of confession to live a better life, cultivate better relationships, and really, overall, have a better of quality of life... just the things I'd like to have!

A takeaway I received from the book was the idea of "happy guilt", which hinges on the idea that while we need to take responsibility for our actions, we have to forgive ourselves and allow ourself to move forward. A great quote from Paul Tillich speaks to this as being "struck by grace":

"We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by the stroke of grace... [I]t does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a shaft of life breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, "You are accepted You are accepted." ... Do not try to do anything now... [D]o not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. If that happens to us, we experience graces... But sometimes it happens that we receive the power to say "yes" to ourselves, that peace enters into us and makes us whole, that self-hatred and self-contempt disappear, and that our self is reunited with itself. I wish you that grace. that you might be reunited with yourself."

I'd recommend this book to anyone wanting to do some soul-searching or seeking freedom from stress or anxiety in their life. 


House Jungle by Annie Dornan-Smith
My sister-in-law and brother gifted me this book for Christmas, and I'm so excited to reference it for my resolution to be a good plant mom. It's chock-full of information about plants as well as specific information about how to take care of plants. There's even a chapter called "house plants that can take abuse".  If you've already mastered the taking care of plants part, there's a chapter on how to use plants to decorate your home.  As an added bonus, the book is filled with pretty illustrations of the different plants you might have in your home. I absolutely love this book.

I'd recommend this to anyone who, like me, loves plants but has a black thumb. 


Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I tried to read this book for over a year. Every time I tried to read it, it felt so forced and bland. A lot of my friends loved it and it had great reviews, so when it came up on my library queue I thought I'd give it one last chance. Finally I was able to get through it and loved it. You could say I experienced "Big Magic" with this book; it came to me right when I needed it and spoke to me how I needed it most. 

The basics of this book is that things happen for a reason, especially with regards to creativity, you just have to be open to let and see magical things happen. I'm not really explaining it well. (That's why you should totally read the book.) But this book was completely a completely inspiring way to start 2018. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who could use some inspiration in their lives. 


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Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton. 
When Workman Publishers asked me what books I wanted Atlas Obscura immediately caught my eye. As someone who loves to travel, this book intrigued me. It's basically an encyclopedia of obscure things around the world; it even includes some random attractions in Alabama, which was perfect for my "explore" resolution! I loved that this book is huge and full of pictures and fun facts. When I told Lance about the book, he was so excited because he'd already been eyeing it on his own, having read glowing reviews of it online. And, not only that, Atlas Obscura was a featured book at Church Street Coffee & Books, our local coffee shop/bookstore; and they have highly curated, impeccable taste. So remember that, I'm not the only person who thinks this book is awesome. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves to travel off the beaten path. 

* This blog post was written in partnership with Workman Publishing, who generously provided me with the books The Art of Confession and Atlas Obscura, which I chose from their catalogs. These are my honest, unbiased reviews. 


Check out all the books I've read over the years here.


THE BOOK REPORT 8

June was a relatively light month of reading for me. (I only read two books.) I was traveling for work, and Lance and I took a long vacation to the Smokey Mountains. It was a great month of relaxing.  Strangely enough, when you're hiking miles upon miles in the mountains, you're a little too tired to finish a book.  Instead of reading, I spent my days outside exploring.  It was an acceptable trade-off. :D 

What I didn't read in June, I made up for in the first couple weeks of July, which is also represented in this post.  Hope you enjoy reading my book reports.  Let me know what you thought of these books if you've read them, too!

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Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Again, I had no idea what this book was about when I started reading, but the cover caught my attention. For some reason I thought it might be about robots or something futuristic.  (I couldn't have been further from the truth.) Ruby is unlike any book I usually read or pick for myself, so I'm glad I got a chance to read it.  Ruby is about a small town in Eastern Texas that is bound by its secrets and traditions, which are threatened by Ruby, who returns to the town after years of living in New York.  For me it was incredibly disturbing, with some of the characters experiencing an intense amount of sexual violence, but the author, who herself was a victim of human trafficking, added incredible insight into the despair of such trauma.  Her symbolism and creative language paints the story in such a compelling way.  This is the kind of book that makes you think.  I'm glad I read this book.

I'd recommend this to anyone who seeks to challenge the darkness in this world. 


Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
I really didn't like this sequel to the Rosie Project.  I thought Simsion did an amazing job with the first book, but this one just fell flat to me. In a way it almost ruined the first book for me.  This book was very random and had a very shallow plot not to mention there's a lot of deception and miscommunication which I didn't like.  The plot was slow and built up then at the very end of the book the conflict was resolved (in a kind of unresolved way) with its conclusion. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to ruin their enjoyment of the first book. 


Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
I absolutely loved this book.  It took me a very long time to read it, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.  After reading Wild, I felt the urge to continue reading hiking-centric books.  The most logical next book was Into the Wild.  I watched the movie and expected the book to be much like it, but Jon Krakauer adds an interesting dimension to Chris McCandless' life that was left unseen in the movie.  The underlying story of Into the Wild is about McCandless who gives up most of his worldly possessions to live a nomadic life exploring the country, and ultimately hiking through the Alaska tundra where he meets his death.  In the book, Krakauer compares and contrasts McCandless with hikers who've tragically died and reflects on how his own life paralleled McCandless'. 

I really enjoyed Krakauer's personal insight and interviews with those who knew McCandless on his journey.  This was a very interesting read.

I'd recommend this to anyone with a thirst for thrilling adventure and the desire to live life by their own rules no matter how unconventional. 


Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
I first saw this book in the Blogging for Books reading list.  The title sounded interesting enough so I checked it out from my local library.  I thought this was going to be just a book about tips and tricks to deal with rejection, but it was so much more than that.

Jiang writes in his book about his journey through 100 days of rejection where he purposely sought out rejection every day for 100 days.  What I didn't expect from the book was the lessons he learned and the research he gathered and includes in the book to explain what he learned.  At the end of chapters he always includes bulletted takeaways. 

This was such a great book that explored why we feel defeated when we are rejected and the possibilities that lay ahead when we learn to deal with rejection. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who's ever allowed rejection stop them from following their dreams.


The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
I loved Jenny's book To All the Boys I've Loved Before, so I decided to read her series that starts with The Summer I Turned Pretty.  This book and series was sooo good. I started the book thinking I'd just read a couple chapters before I went to bed, but I literally couldn't put it down.  I ended up reading this book in one sitting. This story describes most every teenage girl's fantasy... the boy you grew up having a crush on could possibly now be in love with you now that you're finally not a kid anymore.  Swoon.

Han just touches on everything you've got to love about teenage romance.  Unspoken love. Love triangles. Happy endings.  You've got to read this series.  I loved this first book!

I'd recommend this book to anyone who wishes they had a summer home where they could fall in love with their childhood sweetheart.


P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
After reading her first book in the series, To All the Boys I've Love Before, I was so anxious to read the sequel which was conveniently released soon after I finished the first. I loved this just as much as I loved the first.  It was a nice continuation of the first story while seamlessly adding more drama and teenage insecurity... exes and love triangle/squares.  Need I say more?

This was an enjoyable and easy read, but with the way Han leaves this second book, I suspect she'll have a third to wrap up the story.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who's ever been a teenage girl caught between the bad boy you know you shouldn't love and the good guy you know you should. 


Check out all the books I've read over the years here.


THE BOOK REPORT 7

May was a bulky reading month.  By May I accumulated too many books from the library and was fighting due dates and holds to finish my books.  But all in all I read a lot of great books.  This month probably had the most random genre of books.  I read romantic, young adult, thrilling, serious, drama, and hilarious types of books.  I loved reading many of these books.  I couldn't put most of them down.

The Books of April

The Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes
I think I've read about five or six of JoJo's books by now.  Ship of Brides is definitely one of my favorites of her.  I had no idea what a ship of brides was until I read the book and did a little research.  Evidently, Britain shipped Australian wives to England to be with their British husbands. This book chronicles the lives of four women on one of these ships.  I loved how much history is infused in this story.  JoJo's own grandmother was one of these brides, and she includes excerpts from historical documents, newspapers and books about what was going on during that time period.

Like all her books, The Ship of Brides is filled with the kind of romance a girl like me gushes over.  I loved this book.  I'd love to see it as a movie.

I'd recommend this to anyone who loves the history of World War II and gets weak in the knees for romance or secretly loves that show Army Wives (which I've actually never seen, but I'm sure that kind of person would love this book!)


In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhach
Of course the cover is what drew me to this book.  I'd seen it Barnes & Nobles and promptly added it to my hold list at the library.  When I started reading I was surprised by some of the content until I realized it was actually adult fiction. (The cover was betraying in it's pretty watercolors and teenish looking people.)  It was a little slow starting but I really, really LOVED this book.  It follows four major characters over the course of a decade as they live parallel lives and somehow intersect each other.  I really enjoyed this book.  I liked how the story didn't fit into a perfect plot where two people fall in love and live happily together.  There was a lot of crying for me as I read this book, as Goldhach conveys the different dark sides of life we all endure and either overcome or drown in.

I'd recommend this to anyone. I really did love it that much. 


Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
I was pretty entertained by this book. Leila is on an epic road trip to Alaska, and along the way she meets and helps people.  It was a pretty simple storyline.  The book is divided into parts focused on different characters.  While the supporting character's stories are somewhat developed, Leila's actual story was pretty flat and lacked depth.  Her story seemed a little rushed and not actually worked out.  If I hadn't read her part, I would have been much happier with the book.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's ever considered an epic, solo road trip.


To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
My inner awkward-teen loved this book. Lara Jean, the middle sister of the Song Girls, is navigating life for the first time without the help of her responsible older sister, Margot, who's gone away to college.  After her love letters get mysterious mail to her former loves, Lara Jean finds herself in a pickle big time.  She's not used to figuring things out on her own, and this books follows how she clumsily (and endearingly) tries to fix her predicament.

What I really loved about this book was that Lara Jean is Asian.  But she's not a stereotype and she's "white-washed".  She's a typical American teenager with Asian heritage.  She's not a caricature of what people think Asians should be like.  I just kind of fell in love with her sweet, awkward character.  And strangely enough, like many books I've been reading, her mother has died, and that I can completely relate to.

I'd recommend this to any young Asian American girl so that she can see that she can be both Asian and American and not have to differentiate between her two backgrounds.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Wow. This was nothing I expected it to be.  This book was thrilling.  It dug deep into the struggles of being Asian in America, as well as dealing with the expectations of parents.  Everything I Never Told You was an interesting contrast to To All the Boys I've Loved Before which I read right before.  It showcases the struggles and desires minorities might experience in America.  This book was a great commentary on social expectations and the ways in which different personalities respond to the weight of their expectations.  Some people buckle under the pressure and lash out while others give in and push aside their own identity to conform.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's Asian or has a friend who's Asian or anyone who's family has a strict set of unwritten rules.


The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
I waited forever for this book.  Something like 115 holds for 70 copies of this book floated around the library networks.  More than a month of waiting passed before I discovered a wonderful little section at my library.  My library loans out new, high-demand books for a limited length of time with no renewal.  Luckily The Girl On the Train was just sitting there waiting for me!

I had absolutely no idea what this book was about (besides it being about a girl on a train) when I checked it out.  I like to know as little as possible about the plots of books before reading them.  I was happily surprised to find this was much different that any kind of book I normally read.  Spoiler alert: the girl on the train is Rachel and she's crazy. haha. Okay. Okay. So that's not much of a spoiler, but there are some twists and turns throughout the book that kept me turning page after page.

I'm not sure if this is new thing or if I just totally am oblivious, but this book was written from the perspective of different characters.  (Is it a thing now?) So I loved reading how different characters assessed the same scenarios.  This book will keep you reading.  It's sooooo good.  I can't say more without giving away the story.  But I do love Rachel is a little crazy.  She's still not over her ex-husband who's moved on and has a new family, and she does some certifiably crazy things to stay in touch with him.  Crazy.  I can totally relate to her anguish over a failed relationship that leaves you wondering how things fell apart and why you have no say in its end.  But for the record, I'm not crazy, and thankfully I'm married to the best man for me.

I'd recommend this to anyone. It was that good!


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I don't know if I've ever read something this long. It's over 500 pages of goodness. (I thought 400 pages was a lot.)  But I couldn't put it down.  I read it in three big chunks of time.  This takes place during World War II and is narrated from the perspective of a French girl and a German boy.  Because the book is not written chronologically you're given little glimpses of things to come in the story.  I loved Doerr's style of writing and was really glad I picked this up.

This was another book I had no idea what the plot was about but had to wait forever for a copy to be available for me at the library. But it was totally worth it.

I'd recommend this to anyone who loves beautiful writing and a beautiful story.


Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
This was another one of those books that had so much hype I was afraid to read it.  But, it had a great cover, so I couldn't resist the read.  I immediately fell in love with the character of Bernadette.  She's quirky and odd and a little off her rocker.  How could I not love her?  She just does whatever she wants without worrying what other people think of her.  The book is about Bernadette, her daughter, Bee, and her husband, Elgie. They've planned a family trip to Antarctica but their plans slowly fall apart as Bernadette comes to terms with her erratic behavior.

This is a sweet story about Bernadette and Bee's deep bond, and how eventually it brings everything back together in harmony. I'd read this book over and over if I owned a copy.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's felt a little anxious about life and loves a little crazy in their life.

 

Read my other book reports and check out all the books I've read over the years here.


THE BOOK REPORT 6

This April set of books has an interesting backstory.  Growing up my mother always took us to the library, and as an adult, she even signed me up for the adult summer reading programs.  I'm not a stranger to libraries, but I was always too lazy to get a library card and check out books (and return them on time).    But there I was needing to read "I'll Give You the Sun" for a book club not wanting to actually buy the expensive hardcover. So I thought it was finally time to get that library card.  On a Monday Lance and I went to Vestavia Hills Library, known as "The Library in the Forest".  We got our library cards and a stack of books, and these three books were my first borrows.  (yay!!) We visited the library two more times that week because we were seriously like kids in a candy shop. I went to library, and now I'm addicted.  It was both magical and life-changing. Oh how I missed out all these years!

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THE BOOKS OF APRIL

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
This book is totally young adult fiction.  A famous teen star accidentally emails a girl in small town and they fall in love. It's so predictable and ate it all up.  Each character is protecting a sort of secret life and only finds solace in the other and the anonymity of their email exchanges.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's ever read Teen Beat or had a celebrity crush. 


I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Oh I love this book! It was a little slow starting, but once I got into it I loved it.  Jude and Noah are two twins whose lives change dramatically when they share a tragic loss.  The book follows Noah's story as it leads up to the event and Jude's as it traces backwards to the it. I really enjoy how Jandy Nelson writes. Her descriptions are so vivid.  I loved her other book, The Sky Is Everywhere, which is very different from this book.

I'd recommend this to anyone to teeters between reading young adult and adult fiction.  The story will feed your craving for YA and the writing will appease your adult side.


One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
This book is like Little Miss Sunshine meets an epic-after-college-one-last-hurrah road trip story. Also, it has some interesting similarities to Silver Bay: a young pretty woman with a child(ren) meets a wealthy, successful man and he saves her after a bit of unspoken attraction.  This was one of my least favorite JoJo Moyes books, and ironically, this is the one that's being turned into a movie.

All in all I still love Moyes' books, just unfortunately the main character, Jess, was very annoying. Her character is independent to a fault, struggling with her inability to accept help, even to help her children.  While opposite her, Ed is very likable even with all his faults.

I'd recommend this to anyone who loves JoJo Moyes, because otherwise you might not really like this book.


Paper Towns by John Green
I love a good John Green book. I appreciate his character development and love how his stories unfold. Quentin is a senior in high school when his life gets turned upside-down after a brief reunion with his childhood friend. I love these coming of age stories with a nerdy protagonist. However it felt fairly similar to An Abundance of Katherines and especially Looking for Alaska. All three are about nerdy teenage boys, their nerdy/quirky best friends, their crushes on free-spirited girls and some sort of epic adventure/prank.  With all that said, I still loved reading Paper Towns. John Green is such a great writer; I love how he inserts nerdy facts into his stories.

This is no doubt a great book.

I'd recommend this to anyone who was a nerd in high school and had perfect attendance or who is aching for a great change in their life.



The Room by Jonas Karlsson See my review here!


The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
My inner teenager enjoyed this book. I picked this book so I could devour another Jennifer E. Smith book.  Her books hit that sweet spot of teenage romance.  This book, however, was a little different, the story, of course, was predictable like her other books, but it didn't tie up in a neat bow leading up to the ending.  You still know that they're going to end up together, but in this book, Smith puts in a lot more obstacles.

The Geography of You and Me is about taking chances and having faith in that guttural feeling you have about someone. In a way this book made me a little nostalgic about my relationship with Lance.  While I didn't get stuck in an elevator with him during an epic blackout, I did know right away something about him was pulling us together.  Through travels and relocations Lucy and Owen keep in touch over a series of postcards and emails, much like me and Lance.  These kind of stories make me fuzzy inside.

The Geography of You and Me reminded me of a modern, teenybopper version of An Affair to Remember starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's had that one epic night with someone where you learn everything about each other then feel like you're floating for days. 


Read my other book reports and check out all the books I've read over the years here.


THE BOOK REPORT 5

I always wanted to read more.  For the past three years I tried reading 52 books in a year.  The closest I ever got was that first year when I read 24 books. Every year since I read less and less books.  I started to give up on the hope of reading more.  Sometimes when I set a goal it feels so daunting that I become overwhelmed and eventually give up.  Over the years I learned that breaking down my goals and tasks helped me view goals as much more attainable. Instead of wanting to read 52 books this year, I decided to read everyday without any particular page count in mind.  This year I was inspired by Elise's Daily Goal Tracker, which boasts "progress not perfection." I let myself miss days guilt free when I couldn't read or I forgot.  I told myself I didn't have to be perfect, I just had to try and trying would be enough.  Amazingly because of this simple goal setting (and living with Lance, who loves to read) I've been tearing through books.  Wild marks my 18th book, surpassing my total of 17 books in 2014.  woot! This year reading's extra enjoyable.  I love how much I've been able to read.

THE BOOKS OF MARCH

Silver Bay by JoJo Moyes
JoJo Moyes just doesn't ever fail me.  A little bit of me feels guilty reading her books, so romantic, slightly predictable.  But with every book, she sucks me in. I become enthralled by these love stories knowing full well the characters will fall in love, but questioning at every step, "But will they???!"  I devoured JoJo's other books. Me Before You I started one Saturday night and stayed up all night finishing it before I went to church that next morning. But for some reason I Silver Bay took me forever.  Like a few of her other books, different chapters have different narrators so you see the story unfold through different perspectives. I've read books in this style (Allegiant…ugh. I hated the chapters switching between Four & Tris.) and hated it, but JoJo did a great job changing her voice with each character.

The story takes place in Silver Bay, a little seaside town in Australia where an aunt, mother and daughter struggle to keep a hotel and whale-watching business afloat when a young, fancy man from England arrives.  Little do they know his arrival will change their lives forever, for better or worse none of them know.

I'd recommend this to anyone with a soul.  Just kidding. I'd recommend this to anyone whose past hurts cause them to put up walls and keep people at bay or to anyone floating along in life ready to stick it to the man.


The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson 
The Sky Is Everywhere is a heartfelt, quirky look into a grieving teenager who falls in love.  Lennie has just lost her sister Bailey suddenly to a brain aneurism (just like my mom) when the book starts and she meets a Joe, a new student at her high school.  Joe never met Bailey or knew Lennie in the context of Bailey. But she gets stuck in a love triangle where "one guy helps her remember, the other lets her forget" (from the cover of the book). She feels guilty for falling in love and being happy when she can't share it with her sister. Much like how I felt when I started dating Lance.  I was all out of sorts, just like Lennie.  I didn't know how to rationalize my happiness in the midst of my grief.  And even now I still can't believe Lance never got to meet my mom.  Jandy Nelson so eloquently describes grief and the competing emotions one feels when they lose a loved one, and really, a part of themselves.  I was enthralled by her writing style and have never read anything that so completely and poetically describes how I felt when I lost my mom.

I'd recommend this to anyone struggling with loss or knows someone who's experienced a death in their family.  This will warm your heart.


The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
Jensine recommended this book to me a while ago… maybe even when we both lived in California.  When I was thinking of items to put on my Christmas list, I put this book on it, and my sister and brother-in-law so generously bought it for me.  This book is exactly what you'd expect from the title… and everything you'd want if you were a teenage girl stuck on a flight from New York to London sitting next to a hot, college-aged Brit (think: a British Augustus Waters).  While the plot was fairly predictable, the romance of it spoke to that part of your soul that wants everything to work out and everyone to live happily ever after.

I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to remember what it was like to be young and fall in love at first sight or anyone who craves for a vacation romance.


Department of Speculation by Jill Offill 
Karen gave me this book to read, so I knew it would be good. It was also one of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2014, so I was excited to dive into it. I'd been reading a ton of young adult fiction up to then, so it was good to mix it up a bit.  But the rhythm and style of the book were difficult to read at first.  The writing seemed really dissonant compared to the books I'd been reading, but I pressed on.  After I adjusted I came to appreciate Offill's writing.  It's such a smart book.  I loved how the story described the messiness of life and love.  She's able to describe emotion so succinctly and powerfully.  I felt so connected with the narrator, my heart wrenching at every heartbreaking and awkward moment.  By the end of the book, I felt like I gained a few IQ points. Once I got into it, the Department of Speculation was an easy read.

I'd recommend this to anyone with a heart of stone or single or married…or anyone really craving a realistic love story.  It was good. It was real.


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan 
I must confess that I often buy books based on their covers. I first saw this book at McNally Jackson in New York some months, maybe years, ago.  Its handwritten title and bright yellow rectangles (which I recently realized were books. whoops.) had me at hello.  It happened to also be a signed copy, so I, a sucker for such things, had to buy it.  However, I never got around to reading it.  It sat in my stack of books, luring me with it's bright, happy cover, but yet, I didn't feel it was quite the right time to read it.  So it lived in that stack until I moved to Birmingham where I decided to stop buying so many books and read the ones I already own.  Penumbra joined the unread books on my nightstand, patiently waiting to be devoured.

When I finally got around to reading it I loved it.  It has many of the elements I love about life.  Books, bookstores, intrigue, old people (Penumbra & his friends), nerdiness, and a recently unemployed individual searching for his place in life.  You gotta love that kind of mix! Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore follows a young man who works at a bookstore and discovers it holds a mysterious secret.

I'd recommend this to anyone nerdy, quirky and/or fascinated with older people.


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter 
This was another book that I had in my possession for years.  I'd bought it at Half-Priced books when there was still a lot of buzzed about it.  And that's probably what kept me from reading it for so long.  Maybe I was scared it wouldn't live up to its hype or that maybe I'd dislike it just because everyone loved it.  So with my other books, I started reading with a grain of salt.  Beautiful Ruins parallels two main stories taking place in the early sixties and the present time.  As you read you can imagine how the two stories might eventually blend, but Walter throws in some twists to keep you on your toes.  The writing is quite good, and I really enjoyed this book.  The story in the early sixties takes place in Italy, primarily in a town by Cinque Terre, which I visited.  So I was happy to have that familiarity while I reading.  I think the fact that the physical book was gently broken in added to my experience of Beautiful Ruins.

I'd recommend this to anyone who's visited or wants to visit Italy and loves the stories of people. 


Looking for Alaska by John Green 
This was another book that I'd put off reading. I'd read other Green books, Fault in Our Stars & An Abundance of Katherines, and loved them both.  But when it came to reading Looking for Alaska, I worried I'd be disappointed.  It turns out something in my life was actually just waiting for the right time to read it.  The book follows Miles Halter as he moves to Alabama to attend a boarding school.  Somehow it impeccably and very precisely describes aspects of my life here.  I loved reading through the book, understanding the great divide between the "poor" kids and the rich ones (who lived in Mountain Brook and rode around in limos) and the familiarity of the cities mentioned in the book.  I even related to Miles' description of his dorm room, which very well could have been one of my apartment.

But aside from the Birmingham references, this book is about the dynamics of a group of teens navigating through their adolescence.  As the book progresses we see how they pull together and push each other away in order to make sense of the world around them.  But while it has its very serious moments, Looking for Alaska is a humorous read.  I loved it!

(Looking for Alaska won the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association, and looking at some of its winners and honors I'm certain I'd love to read the books who win this award.)

I'd recommend this to anyone who had to go to a private high school and loved/hated it. 


Wild by Cheryl Strayed 
I don't know why I'm so intimidated by books, but once again this was sitting in my possession for months, maybe even years.  Anything over 200 pages or with small print feels a bit daunting to me. I'd bought this book when it first came out, long before the movie, not really sure what it was about.  I was drawn to the cover and a story about a woman who goes on a journey to find herself.  I feel like I've done that in my life before, so I tend to naturally gravitate towards these types of books of self-discovery.  The movie Wild was fantastic, so I knew I'd love the book (which, let's be honest, books are always better than the movie).

It's really interesting how I come upon certain books.  Without knowing it, Wild centered on Cheryl's mother's death and her desire to get back to the woman she used to be before her mom died.  I could obviously relate to that.  When my mom died, I felt a distinct fork in my life.  Either I could depend on God and face my grief or I could drown my sorrows in shallow pursuits and self-destructive habits.  I remember needing to consciously choose God and the healthy way of life.  So I can understand how easy it was for Cheryl to choose a life of meaningless and self-destruction.  Also I can definitely relate to her attraction to hiking along on the trail, getting lost in her own thoughts, sorting out her life.  I loved this book from the start of it.  I literally couldn't put it down. I'd have to go somewhere and ache to have to stop reading.  I was fascinated by Cheryl's description of the Pacific Coast Trail and her struggle to hike through it.  I felt so connected to this book.  I need to go hiking now.

I'd recommend this to anyone in a rut or in the woods. 


Read my other book reports and check out all the books I've read over the years here.