Best and Worst of 2018: Part 1

There is nothing better than reading a book that you can really sink your teeth into, that makes you think or laugh or swoon. And on the flip side of that, there’s nothing worse than a book that you want to like but is just so disappointing, or a book that you struggle through from page one but make yourself finish anyway. I had both of these reading experiences many times over in 2018, so I decided to compile a list of my favorites and… least favorites.

It’s a little bit of a longer post, so this will be a two part series. Let’s start with the bad news, shall we?

Please note: these are not all books published in 2018. I read them in 2018.

My Least Favorite Books of 2018

#5. The Witch Elm– Tana French

It pains me to put this book on the list. Really, it does. I think Tana French is an amazingly talented writer. She’s an “automatic buy” author, which is among the highest compliments I can give. But her most recent novel, a departure from her Dublin Murder Squad Series, just didn’t work for me. I could maybe have lived with the fact that the murder mystery wasn’t front and center on this one, but I just did not care for the protagonist. Toby lacked the depth I’ve come to expect from French’s narrators. I suffered through the nearly 500 pages of this one, but it was really disappointing.

#4. The Tatooist of Auschwitz– Heather Morris

This was our October book club pick. It’s marketed as a novel but it doesn’t feel like a novel when you’re reading it. The prose is really sparse, and for such a charged topic, seriously lacks emotion. We debated this point at book club; some of my friends thought that the relative emotionlessness of the book was intentional to show how Lale needed to compartmentalize in order to survive. I can see this as argument, but in my opinion, it didn’t work. Maybe Morris didn’t want to embellish anything and detract from Lale’s story as he told it to her. Either way, it’s not often I emerge from a book on the Holocaust completely unmoved.

#3. Manhattan Beach-Jennifer Eagan

Our book club pick from February, on my suggestion. I’m ambivalent about Jennifer Eagan’s work as a whole. I read A Visit from the Goon Squad in graduate school and loved it. But I read another of her novels later and I didn’t like it. In fact, I can’t even remember the title.  The premise of Manhattan Beach was promising; I thought we were in for a mysterious, 1940’s noir kind of read, so I suggested it. No dice. Mostly, we read a lot about underwater diving in order to fix submarines, which wasn’t all that interesting. I found the plot very hard to follow, and I wasn’t invested in the characters. We did, however, have a spirited discussion at book club about all the things that annoyed us about this book, so that was fun.

#2. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend- Katarina Bivald

My best friend tried to warn me off this one, but I thought maybe it was just that we have different tastes in books. So, during our February book club meeting, after discussing Manhattan Beach to death, and drinking a fair amount of wine, we couldn’t come up with a good idea for our next book. I had The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend on my “eventually read,” shelf and it seemed like a harmless enough pick. And it was harmless…it was just also kind of lifeless. I didn’t find the characters or story very compelling, even for a light read. It could be that something was lost in the translation. But we universally decided that this was our least favorite book club pick of 2018.

#1. Neon in Daylight– Hermione Hoby

There was no contest for my least favorite book spot. I don’t even remember where I saw this book, but I thought it would be edgy and cool, but it was just not. I only finished this because my friend Betsy was already reading it with me. I almost always finish a book once I’ve started, but I should have put this one down early. The prose was completely overdone and too flowery for a novel. A short story, maybe, could have worked with this writing style. But for me, it was way too much. The characters were simply not likeable. There was no discernable plot. To me, this book felt like something that came out of an MFA program, and would only appeal to a very small subset of readers. I was not one of those readers.

What do you think about this list? Do you disagree with me about any of these? What is on your least favorite list from 2018?

Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Reading!
Angela

WWW Wednesday!

A little more than a week into the New Year, and I am already behind on my reading goal! Is anyone else having this problem?

I suppose that’s what happens when you make several ambitious goals at once. This month, I’m also doing a Whole30, trying to get to yoga 4 times a week, and journal every day. It’s been a lot of running around, and I haven’t spent nearly as much time reading as I would usually like.

So I may not meet my goal of five books this month, but here’s what has been going on in my reading life lately…

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words.It’s a simple and fun way to see what everyone is reading. After looking at some others this morning, I’ve already added a couple books to my list! Here’s how it works…

The Three W’s are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m going to include both the actual books I’m reading, which count toward my goal, and audiobooks, which are rereads, and don’t count, but bring me lots of joy!

Currently Reading: Becoming by Michelle Obama

This is something of a peer-pressure read. In other words, I’m reading it because everyone else is reading it, and I feel like I should. I’ve always liked Michelle Obama without knowing much about her. (I’m shamefully uninformed and apathetic about politics, particularly given that I live in DC). However, she always comes across intelligent and poised so I was interested to learn more about her life. I’m a little more than halfway through at this point. It’s very well written: the sentences are beautifully composed and I think the book is organized effectively. It’s one of those not-slow-but-not-fast reads. I’m glad I’m reading it, but I don’t think this is one I’ll reread or feel the need to own. See above apathy about politics.

Current Reading (Audiobook): The Secret Place by Tana French

In December, my book club read In the Woods, French’s first novel. I lent my copy to a friend, and so I decided to listen to it on Audible. I’ve basically been binge-listening to all of her books ever since. Let me say, they are all outstanding.The narrators are stunning. If you’re a Tana French fan, or a mystery fan needing a new book, please. Go listen to them. Anyway, I’m a few chapters into The Secret Place, which wasn’t my favorite of hers the first time through. I’m interested to see how the dual-POV feels in an audiobook. I only have one more audiobook for Tana French, so I don’t know what I’m going to listen to when I’m done!

Recently Finished: One Day in December by Josie Silver

This is technically not my most recently finished book, but it’s the most recently finished book that I really enjoyed. I got it for my Book of the Month pick, feeling like I needed something light and fluffy to get me out of the holiday grump. This book delivered! I loved the characters, and the way the novel followed a core group as their lives shifted and changed. It had a great balance of levity, romance, and depth. It was one of those books that gave me more than I was expecting from it. And the romance was so sweet! All I wanted to do when I finished was kiss my husband. Totally got me out of the grump.

Recently Finished (Audiobook): Better Than Beforeby Gretchen Rubin

I’m totally a Gretchen Rubin fangirl, and I don’t care how dorky that sounds. I’ve read The Happiness Project, the book she’s most known for, at least twice. I listen to her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin,regularly, and I even got to meet her once at a book signing in DC. Better than Before is my favorite of her bestsellers, because advice and strategies in there are just so good. Gretchen does such a fantastic job of taking the abstract and making it concrete. I can’t say I’m nearly as good at keeping my good habits as she is, but she makes me feel so hopeful that I can do better and build a happier life.

Me with Gretchen during her Four Tendencies Tour

Up Next: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I’m so excited to sink my teeth into this one! My good friend Betsy, who has impeccable taste in books, recommended The Hating Game to me. She’s also great at picking out top-notch chic lit, which I’ve been promised that this is. It also seems to be a sort of modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I’m always intrigued by modernizations of Jane Austen. Still a 100-odd pages left of Becoming left, and then I will be jumping right in!

Thoughts on these choices? Which ones have you read? Have you done the WWW meme? I would love to know what you’re reading!

Happy Reading,
Angela

WWW Wednesday!

IMG_6331

Hello fellow book lovers,

Well, my summer goal of blogging regularly certainly got away from me. I would give some excuses for myself, but since I haven’t written a word of…well, anything…since July, I couldn’t really tell you where the rest of my summer went.

But solidly into October, and the weather in DC has not turned, but I’m in full teacher mode. It’s the time of the year where I’m finally hitting my groove, which means I’m not face-planting into bed every night so I actually have the energy to read a little before passing out.

Seems a logical time to return to this book blog thing.

And as it’s Wednesday, I am the WWW meme, hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Here’s how it works…

 The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

AliceNetwork

A good friend in my book club recommended this pick. We have an affinity for historical fiction in my club, and this one is a hit so far! The Alice Network is the story of two women, Charlie and Eve, who so far seem pretty badass. Charlie’s side of the story takes place right after World War II in France. She’s enlisted the help of Eve Gardiner to find her cousin Rose, who went missing during the War. Eve’s side of the story takes us back to World War I, when she worked as a spy in occupied France.

What I like in the first 135 pages I’ve read: rich, vibrant characters. Both Charlie and Eve are strong, compelling women, and I’m completely hooked on both of their story lines already. This would be a great book club read! I may need to revise my rule about only reading books no one has read…

Recently Finished: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear

SweetLittleLiesOK, technically this isn’t the last book I finished. But I didn’t loved that book, and Sweet Little Lies is the last book in recent memory that had me totally absorbed—to the point where I’m pretty sure I read the last 100 pages in one sitting. This was my August Book of the Month pick, which I somehow didn’t get around to reading until late September. (Again, I blame school). This crime fiction is very reminiscent of Tana French, who is one of my favorites. Sweet Little Lies follows Cat Kinsella, an emotionally effed up detective as she investigates a murder that has a connection to her past. I loved everything about this book. It did start a little slow, but picked up maybe 50 pages in or so.

What I liked about it: great character, well-paced, and a great blend of mystery and psychological conflict. And yes, a few great twists in there too. I didn’t see the last one coming at all! Please. Just go read this book.

Again, why couldn’t I have picked this one for book club?

Reading Next: The Tatooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

TatooistThis one is actually for my October book club meeting. Not one of my suggestions, so I can’t take credit if it turns out to be awesome. (That accolade will be bestowed upon my friend Hillary, fellow teacher and book club member extraordinaire). After a random assortment of picks, including a memoir, a romance, and a disappointing mystery, Hillary offered this World War II novel up to the group. We immediately accepted. The Tatooist of Auschwitz is about Lale Sokolov, a Jew who is put to work tattooing his fellow prisoners. There will be resistance to atrocities of the camp, and a love interest. I look forward to starting this one, and seeing what my book club thinks.

Thoughts on these choices? Which ones have you read? Have you done the WWW meme? Let me know so I can see what you’re reading!

Happy Reading,

Angela

The Girl Who Reads

Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.
Albus Dumbledore

Welcome, fellow readers, bibliophiles, bookworms, or any name for book lover that you may call yourself!

My name is Angela, and I am a Girl Who Reads. When I’m not teaching 4th grade, stumbling in a yoga pose, baking, or writing, you will most likely find me with my nose in a book. To be honest, you’ll find me reading before you find me doing most of those other things (minus teaching, because… bills).

About a month ago, my husband asked me a question that ultimately led to the creation of this blog. We were at dinner, and I was experiencing my usual bout of February blues. Something about the apparent endlessness of winter puts me in a mild funk between February and March. And Phil, preferring to fix things rather than just listen to me whine, asked me this question:

“What brings you the most joy?”

The answer seemed so obvious that I almost wasn’t sure why he was bothering to ask me.

“Reading.” I said, in a tone that very much conveyed: well duh, sweetheart.

“Good,” he said. “Do more of that then.”

And then returned to his pizza or whatever it is that we were eating. As if the solution to my feelings of listlessness and winter boredom could be so assuaged.

But here’s the thing….and don’t ever tell him I told you this….he was right.

After that conversation, I had the first meeting of a book club I’d started the month before. It was fantastic! I loved sitting around on a Sunday morning and discussing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine with a group of women.

However, I am not a bookworm that can be satiated by talking about books on a once-a-month basis. There are too many things to say about too many great books to be confined to one day a month.

That’s how Bibliofindings was born.

This will be a place where I will share my thoughts, generally in the form of reviews, about the books that I’m reading. It will also be a place, I hope, where I can read your thoughts on these books as well.

I look forward to sharing my first review with you soon!

Happy reading,
Angela