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.


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.