Good Reads // January 2015

ReadingBench

Hello friends and fellow bookworms!  It’s time for my first 2015 monthly book reviews post!  I miraculously made it through six – yes SIX – books this month!  I had a mix of fiction and non fiction…and even tried my hand at a book of short stories by various authors!  My favorite read of the month was by Cecelia Ahern – a “new to me” author that I connected with instantly.  Enjoy!

Rating System

★★★★★ = Amazing!
★★★★ =  A great read
★★★ = It’s good
★★ = Just ok
★ = Not for me

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JanBook1

Title: My True Love Gave to Me (Twelve Holiday Stories)
Author: See Full Review
Series: N/A
Published: October 1, 2014
Pages: 320
Category: Fiction, Short Stories, Young Adult, Romance, Holiday
Overall Rating: ★★★½

The first lines: “Dec. 31, 2014, almost midnight.  It was cold out on the patio, under the deck.  Frigid. Dark.  Dark because Mags was outside at midnight, and dark because she was in the shadows.  This was the last place anyone would look for her – anyone, and especially Noel.  She’d miss all the excitement.  Thank God.  Mags should have thought of this years ago.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME: TWELVE HOLIDAY STORIES by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons to stay indoors and fall in love.”

My thoughts:  I loved getting a different glimpse of these authors’ talents.  Some of today’s most popular Young Adult authors wrote and put together twelve stories all about life, love, happiness, Christmas, Hanukkah, Santa Suits, New Years countdowns, Pagan trees, young girls kidnapped by Santa Claus, and people whose parents who, for some reason, decided to name their kids after Christmas. With this being my first short story collection, I’m going to rate them individually. Here is my breakdown:

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell: 5/5 (I already love this author!)
The Lady and The Fox by Kelly Link: 1/5
Angels In The Snow by Matt de la Peña: 3/5
Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han: 3/5
It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins: 4/5 ( I definitely liked the writing style and plot…so I will be picking up more from this author!)
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan: 2/5
Krampuslauf by Holly Black: 2/5
What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman: 5/5 (I can’t wait to read a full novel by this author!)
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire: 1/5
Welcome To Christmas, CA by Kiersten White: 4/5 (This was a fun read, and the writing was easy to follow – another new author to try!)
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter: 3/5
The Girl Who Woke The Dreamer by Laini Taylor: 4/5  (This plot was unique…but I liked the flow and style of the writing, so I’ll definitely be trying another read!)

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JanBook2
Title: Outliers
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Series: N/A
Published: January 1, 2008
Pages: 309
Category: Non Fiction, Sociology
Overall Rating: ★★★½

The first lines: “Roseto Valfortore lies one hundred miles southeast of Rome in the Apennine foothills of the Italian province of Foggia.  In the style of medieval villages, the town is organized around a large central square.  Facing the square is the Palazzo Marchesale, the palace of the Saggese family, once the great landowner of those parts.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?  His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.”

My thoughts:  This book was the selected for my work’s quarterly book club. Overall, it was good. Gladwell presents an interesting premise with well illustrated examples that will make you think about successful people in a different way.

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JanBook3

Title: Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
Author: Elizabeth Bard
Series: N/A
Published: 2010
Pages: 341
Category: Non Fiction, Autobiography, Food
Overall Rating: ★★★

The first lines: “I slept with my French husband halfway through our first date.  I saw halfway because we had finished lunch but not yet ordered coffee.  It turned out to be a decisive moment, more important for my future happiness than where I went to college or years with a good shrink.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman – and never went home again.  Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? LUNCH IN PARIS is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Packing her bags for a new life in the world’s most romantic city, Elizabeth is plunged into a world of bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size 2 femmes fatales. She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen), soothe pangs of homesickness (with the rise of a chocolate soufflé) and develops a crush on her local butcher (who bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon). Elizabeth finds that the deeper she immerses herself in the world of French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. French culture, she discovers, is not unlike a well-ripened cheese-there may be a crusty exterior, until you cut through to the melting, piquant heart.  Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.

 My thoughts:  When I first started reading this book, I really wasn’t sure I wanted to continue.  I felt disconnected from the author and found her character difficult to relate to.  I kept with it though and was rewarded with lovely descriptions of landscapes and markets in France, and some interesting ideas about cultural differences between the US and France.  The author does goes through a personal transformation over the course of the book, which makes her a bit more likable – but overall I was a little bored with the writing.

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Author: Cecelia Ahern
Series: N/A
Published: January 1, 2008
Pages: 373
Category: Fiction, Chick Lit
Overall Rating:★★★★★

The first lines: “Close your eyes and stare into the dark.  My father’s advice when I couldn’t sleep as a little girl.  He wouldn’t want me to do that now but I’ve set my mind to the task regardless.  I’m staring in to that immeasurable blackness that stretches far beyond my closed eyelids.  Though I lie still on the ground, I feel perched at the highest point I could possibly be; clutching at a star in the night sky with my legs dangling above cold black nothingness.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “How is it possible to know someone you’ve never met?  With her marriage already in pieces, Joyce Conway nearly lost everything else. But she survived the terrible accident that left her hospitalized–and now, inexplicably, she can remember faces she has never seen, cobblestone Parisian streets she’s never visited. A sudden, overwhelming sense of deja vu has Joyce feeling as if her life is not her own.  Justin Hitchcock’s decision to donate blood was the first thing to come straight from his heart in a long time. He chased his ex-wife and daughter from Chicago to London–and now, restless and lonely, he lectures to bored college students in Dublin. But everything is about to change with the arrival of a basket of muffins with a thank-you note enclosed–the first in a series of anonymous presents that will launch Justin into the heart of a mystery . . . and alter two lives forever.”

 My thoughts:  I absolutely ADORED this book!!! There were parts (specifically between Joyce & her dad) that had me literally laughing out loud!!! I loved the prose, and dearly loved the characters as if they were friends of the family!

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Author: Mary Daheim
Series: Bed & Breakfast Mysteries #1
Published: January 1, 1991
Pages: 256
Category: Fiction, Mystery
Overall Rating: ★★

The first lines: “‘Judith Gover McMonigle thrust the phone away from her eat a good two feet, knocked her coffee mug off the kitchen counter, and booted her cat, Sweetums, into the open cupboard under the sink.  At the other end of the line, Oriana Bustamanti Brodi was covering every note of the scale, beseeching Judith to change her mind.'” 

Summary from Goodreads: “When the garishly grotesque clan of wealthy carpet-sweeper magnate Otto Broadie sweeps down upon Judith McMonigle’s Hillside Manor Inn, it looks like there’ll be a wild night of drinking, dining, and fortune-telling in the offing.  But when their soothsayer-for-hire Madame Gushenka drops dead after someone douses her tea leaves with bug killer, harried hostess Judith and her irrepressible cousin Renie are left to clean up the mess.  One of the Brodie bunch would dearly love to sweep the Madame’s murder under the rug, however, and that might mean eliminating the nosy Ms. McMonigle as well.  But with the help of her one-time beau, policeman Joe Flynn, Judith is determined to rattle the dust off some closeted family skeletons, in order to coax a killer out of hiding before coffee is served.”

 My thoughts:  As the rating suggests…this book was “just ok.”  I couldn’t get into the writing style…it didn’t really feel like a good ‘mystery’ to me, so much as rambling thoughts from the owner of the inn.

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Author: Beth Harbison
Series: NA
Published: July 17, 2012
Pages: 384
Category: Fiction, Chick Lit, Food
Overall Rating: ★★★★

The first lines: “‘When I was twelve, a fortune-teller at the Herbert Hoover Junior High School carnival said to me: ‘Gemma Craig, you listen to me.  Do not get married.  Ever.  If you do, you’ll end up cooking for a man who’d rather eat at McDonald’s; doing laundry for a man who sweats like a rabid pig, then criticizes you for not turning his T-shirts right side out; and cleaning the bathroom floor after a man whose aim is so bad, he can’t hit a hole the size of a watermelon – ‘  This man sounds disgusting.” 

Summary from Goodreads: “As far as Gemma is concerned, her days of dating are over. In fact, it’s her job to cater other peoples’ dates, and that’s just fine by her. At thirty-seven, she has her own business, working as a private chef, and her life feels full and secure. She’s got six steady clients that keep her hands full.  There’s Lex, the fussy but fabulous department store owner who loves Oysters Rockefeller and 1950s comfort food; Willa, who needs to lose weight under doctor’s orders but still believes butter makes everything better; a colorful family who may or may not be part of the Russian mob; an überwealthy Georgetown family; the picture-perfect Van Houghtens, whose matriarch is “allergic to everything”; and finally, a man she calls “Mr. Tuesday,” whom she has never met but who she is strangely drawn to.  For Gemma, cooking is predictable. Recipes are certain. Use good ingredients, follow the directions, and you are assured success. Life, on the other hand, is full of variables. So when Gemma’s takes an unexpected turn on a road she always thought was straight and narrow, she must face her past and move on in ways she never would have imagined. Because sometimes in life, all you need is a little hope, a lot of courage, and—oh yes—butter.”

 My thoughts:  I’ve been wanting to read this author for a while now, and I was not disappointed. A true “chick lit” story that was a fun, light read.

What are you currently reading? 
Jen
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4 thoughts on “Good Reads // January 2015

    • Hi! I haven’t picked up a fitness book in quite a while…looks like I’m due something fun here soon 🙂 I’m also a nerd…so I totally understand the draw to non-fiction. I get so caught up in how some people live their lives! Thanks for stopping by!

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