#94-Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

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When 13 year old Bee aces her report card and gets accepted into a prestigious prep school, she cashes in her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. This quickly becomes a problem for Bee’s mother Bernadette who is so afraid of people that she has an assistant in India managing  the most basic aspects of her life. Then Bernadette disappears. Bee compiles a report of emails, letters,  and official documents to track her mom down to the ends of the earth.

I thought this was a great book. It was hard put down. Bernadette is a wonderful character. She was so funny, eccentric and it was easy to sympathize with her. I loved the mother daughter dynamics of Bee and Bernadette. My only complaint is the ending. I felt like it really didn’t give me closure. I like my books to end nice and tidy.

#93- Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

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If you have been following for any length of time, you will know that I have fallen hard for Rainbow Rowell this year. I absolutely devour her books. This is the third book from her I have  read this year, and I loved it as much as I loved Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, despite it not being a young adult novel.

Rowell is a genius at writing swoon worthy guys. Guys who are sensitive and sweet, but still tough and “dude-ish”. She writes girls who are funny, strong, and likable. Her love stories are real. These things could happen to real people. I could actually fall in love with a guy like that (oh, wait…I did!).

I was hesitant with Attachments, because it wasn’t young adult, and it was her first novel. I didn’t want to read something that would tarnish this image I have of Rainbow. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I loved that the heroine, Beth, was a curvy, career woman. I loved how witty and sarcastic she was. I loved that Lincoln, as I already said, was swoon worthy. I loved that it was written in a series of e-mails between two best girl friends. I loved that it was set in the Y2K era (For you youngsters out there, that was when 1999 became 2000, and my mom hoarded canned goods because the Apocalypse was coming). I thought the pop culture references was a perfect touch. Who remembers AOL messenger, and Hotmail?

I just recommended this book to my sister who has four week hold baby at home. She needed a feel good book to read while breastfeeding. Even if you aren’t a hormonal mess, I would recommend it.

#92- The House Girl

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Recently, I have read several historical fiction novels with a very similar format; where is the past and present intertwine forming two distinct yet connected stories. After reading so many like this, I felt like the tactic was being overused, played out. It became boring to me. That is, until I read The House Girl.

The House Girl tells the story of Josephine Bell, a runaway slave and Lina, an attorney in modern times. Their lives intertwine as Lina tries to solve the mystery of paintings depicting scenes of a southern plantation. The author lets us watch Josephine gather the courage to make her way north. We learn to admire her courage and strength. We get to know Lina, a first year attorney in a corporate firm, struggling to find her place in the world.

Ok, look. Just read this book. It’s beautiful and I would dare to say the best historical fiction novel I’ve read this year. But the Royals just lost the World Series, and I am much more upset than I thought I would be. I mean, I don’t even like sports, but I am  a born and raised Kansas Citian,and it’s been 29 years,and my husband was so excited…

#91- Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

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Another book, I am finally getting around to reading after being told to read it ages ago. Girls in White Dresses is about three friends who try to navigate their twenties, climb the corporate ladders, and avoid heartbreak, all while attending countless engagement parties, wedding showers, weddings and baby showers.

I am that annoying girl who loves to host parties, attend parties, be the center of parties, but I can still relate to feeling of thinking everyone who possibly know is married, just to get another invite in the mail. It can definitely get exhausting.  The real story in this book, is about the struggle of hanging on to your friends even though life is pulling everyone in different directions. Being 26 myself, it’s a struggle I face daily.The book skips around a lot. years pass in a couple of pages, but even that aspect makes the story more believable. Because that’s how it feels in real. You blink and your best friend is married, you blink and another friend is moving half way across the country, you blink and suddenly you are mother of two.

I loved this book,and I encourage all my fellow 20-somethings to read it. Not because the writing is so spectacular but because it reminds you that it’s okay. It’s okay to grow up, to pursue your interests, do your own thing, be in relationships even if your friends are single. Not only is it okay, but it’s possible to maintain friendships through it all. It’s going to be okay.

#90- The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker

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I am so, so glad that I read this book. It was recommended to me months ago by a co-worker and by my aunt. Upon finishing it, I immediately called them both to rave.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is a beautiful story of a young woman, Julia who travels to her father’s homeland of Burma. Her father has been mysteriously missing for four years, and after finding a love letter to a woman she has never heard of, Julia knows the answers she needs lies in a small, improvised village. There, Julia truly gets to know her father,Tin Win, as an old man from the village tells her about Tin Win and his love affair with a crippled woman named Mi Mi.

The story had me mesmerized me from the very beginning. The author goes back and forth between Tin Win and Mi Mi’s story and Julie’s reaction to hearing it for the first time decades later. Even though I knew the outcome, because of  Julia’s narrative, that didn’t make me not root for Tin Win and Mi Mi. Throughout the book, there is a hopefulness that kept me reading. There is the idea that true love can really conquer all, that true love is all that matters, that love can move mountains. And as cliche as that may seem, I loved every minute of it.

#89- Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

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I rated this book two stars on GoodReads.com. Which for me, is practically unheard of, I love everything. There is rarely a book that I truly dislike, but unfortunately, Anatomy of a Misfit, didn’t do anything for me.

I was so excited to read this book. It was on a list of books to read if you like John Green, which we all know I adore John Green. I love young adult novels, I love coming of age stories and I thought this book had so much potential. Popular girl discovers what others think of her isn’t so important and falls for the nerdy, deep, hottie. It didn’t work.

First of all, it was crude. And not in the charming, “this is the way real teenagers talk” way of John Green or Rainbow Rowell. The language, the dirty jokes, the inappropriate comments, seemed forced, and cheap. It didn’t help move the story along or help endear any of the characters to me. The main character, Anika, was a brat who made bad choices. She was mean and hateful. She had a sob story that didn’t seem that bad to me and didn’t explain why she acted the way she did. She stole, she drugged her boss, she lied, she was mean to her dad and step-dad. She was torn between two boys, neither one seemed like a viable option. The popular older boy with a a player reputation, or the nerdy guy who is borderline stalkerish. Then all of a sudden tragedy strikes and Anika gives a speech in front of the school that would have been allowed in real life and The End? With no time for the readers to process what happened or for Anika to redeem herself. Maybe if the sudden tragedy that changes everything happened in the middle, Anika would have had time to show us that she is a changed girl ect, ect… It would have made all the difference in my opinion of this book.

PS- I hate saying bad things about others’ art. Supposedly, this was based on actual events the author experienced, and if that is true, then I understand why the book had to be written. I also want to say the shining light of this book is Anika’s mom. The only character I enjoyed.

#88- Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

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Remember a couple posts ago when I said I read the best characters of the year were in The Paris Wife. I was wrong. I said that before I met Pasquale Tursi and Dee Moray.

Dee Moray is a beautiful young Hollywood actress who escapes to a small Italian fishing village, while shooting Cleopatra because she thinks she is dying from stomach cancer. Meeting her, changes Pasquale. Running his family’s almost forgotten hotel in an almost forgotten village is no longer enough from him. Meeting Dee spurs him into action and sets in a motion decades worth of events. The story follows Dee back to the states when she discovers she isn’t dying but is only pregnant(and wait until you see who the baby daddy is!), and finalizes with Pasquale ending up in Hollywood 60 years later looking for the one who got away.

I absolutely loved this book. I thought it was perfect. It ended exactly the way great stories should end; gave me  closure but also left some to the imagination. It was set in the most charming location, Italy in the 1960’s, and the parts set in modern times gave the story a nice contrast. And you already how I know I feel about the characters in this story. But it is not only Dee and Pasquale I fell in love with,there’s The Hollywood bigwig, Michael Deane, his idealistic assistant Julia, the fallen rock star Pat. There was no character or scene that I could consider “fluff”.  Walter, made sure that every part of this story counted.

 

#87 Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

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Fom GoodReads:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

This is a book that many of you have probably read. It’s been on my nightstand for literally years. Why I never got around to it, I don’t know because it was a really good book. I love stories that tie past to present, and the author did a great job. I cared about both set of characters and what would happen to them. I wanted Sarah to survive losing her family in Holocaust,and I wanted Julia to survive her failing marriage in the 2000’s.

I enjoyed that it was set in France. It’s easy to forgot (at least to me) that France was occupied by Germany. Thousands of Jews were ripped from their homes and thrown into concentration camps. When I think about persecuted Jews, I think of Germany and Poland, not Paris. It also reminded how the evils of Hitler, is still recent Hitler. There are people in this world, who still remember because they lived through it. They are still grieving loved ones they lost, the innocence that was stolen.

#86- The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

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I am embarrassed to say I never read anything by Ernest Hemingway. After reading, The Paris Wife, that is going to change.

The Paris Wife tells the story of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley as they live in Paris during the 1920’s surrounded by literary, artistic greats: Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, Scott Fitzgerald. The story follows Hadley, as she breaks free from her oppressive childhood home and swept in a whirl wind romance with Ernest. She married him and follows him to glittering Paris, so Ernest can live his dream. I sympathized with Hadley a lot. She finds her father after he kills himself, she becomes the caregiver for sick and possibly mentally ill mother, and is destined to live her life as a old maid. She has never met anyone like Ernest or has been loved like that before, so of course she falls hard. In Paris, she’s out of place. She doesn’t wear the right clothes, she isn’t artistic, or confidant. but she is naive enough to think love is enough and she is content to play the supportive wife.

I found Ernest to be selfish, and self centered and I kept waiting for Hadley to break free, to see her own worth. But I also found Ernest charming, and I could see how a woman would think he was exciting. Finally, Hadley does wake up and starts to make decisions for herself and her child. She finally finds happiness, but it was a long, painful road.

The writing was beautiful. I loved that it was written in first person. The author did a great job at letting us into Hadley’s mind, we could feel what she was feeling: her hopeful anticipation, her disappointment. Even though it made me really mad at points (ask my hubs. He got a earful about fidelity), I still thought it was a great book. Maybe the most intriguing cast of characters I have read all year.

#84- Paper Towns by John Green and #85- A little Something Different by Sandy Hall

 

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After reading two books that I didn’t like (which rarely, rarely happens. I like almost everything), and failing miserably at reading American Gods, I decided to face the facts. While I love every genre, there is nothing better than a good YA novel. Who cares that I am not the target audience. I love coming of age stories, I love angsty teenagers, I love first love. And I needed all of those things to get me out of my book rut.

Paper Towns is everything that a John Green novel should be. Will I ever read something by this man that I won’t adore. Probably not. Paper Towns is not the tragic beauty of A Fault in our Stars, or the heart wrench of Looking for Alaska, but never fear…It still hits you right in the feels.

A Little Something Different, I read in like 6 hours. It was just what I needed. It’s love story told by everyone but the couple themselves. They’re friends see them falling in love. their English teacher, the waitress, the bus driver, all see how perfect Lea and Gabe are for each other. If they could only get over their aloofness and shyness, something might just happen.I bought this book on a desperate whim, and I am so very glad I did.