December 20

My Favorite Reads of 2015

December 20, 2015

I thought I had hit a bad streak of non-blogging back in October, but I have just surpassed that with 3 weeks of nonblogging this month. It’s not that I wasn’t inspired – I simply just had too many other things to do! Winter break is now here, and I’m hoping to not only catch up, but get some posts done ahead of time for January! Wish me luck! Anyway, today I’m here to share my top reads of 2015 with you. These books were not necessarily published in 2015 – they were just the ones I read this year that I liked the most.

Adult Fiction

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I was so moved by this book, and I was equally disappointed with its sequel After You.

The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur – Suanne was a new author for me this year, and I fell in love with the beauty and rawness of her writing. I also enjoyed the companion to this novel Give Me Your Answer True, and I will soon be starting her book that will be released in January Here to Stay.

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer – I was lucky enough to win this gem in a giveaway, and I am so glad! I was not that familiar with Palmer before this, and I am now a huge fan. I love her characters, setting, and story development.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – This is one of my favorite, heartwarming, easy-to-read books possibly of all time. I am still trying to get to the sequel!

Adult Nonfiction

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed – Oh my goodness….there are not enough words to describe my love for this one! After borrowing it from the library, I had to go ahead and buy myself a copy. I think that EVERYONE should pick this one up!

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh – If you need a good laugh, then this is the book for you. I laughed out loud often while reading this one, and I love Brosh’s honesty and openness throughout!

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton – I am a huge HONY fan, and I check it out daily on Facebook. This book is the best of the best stories, and it will have you feeling all sorts of emotions along the way!

Young Adult

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – I think this is my favorite fiction read of 2015. I loved the characters and storyline, but I was really singing its praises because of the awareness it raises of mental health issues.

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg – I so enjoyed this very diverse read. Such great characters and settings. I was a bit surprised how much I adored this one.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman – This one is my dystopian shout out for the year. I loved the concept that Shusterman developed, and the writing was well done. I am still trying to get my hands on the audio of the next book in the series.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – This was another audio read for me, and it left me shattered. You will need a box of Kleenex for this one without a doubt, but it is so, so good. I will be completing a review of this one soon!

Middle Grade/Children’s

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K Rowling – I know that I am so late to the game on the Harry Potter mania, but I now get it, and I am so on board with the rest of you. I am going to be reading book #4 over my break.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – I was a little late picking this one up as well. I love the empathy and disability awareness that is highlighted in this one. Such a great book for kids to read!

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko – Historical fiction with a character with autism before autism was autism. This book was so good in so many ways, and I loved that it was set on Alcatraz!

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper – Another historical fiction read that I was moved by. If you are looking for a book on civil rights, then this would be an excellent choice.

As you can see, my reading is all over the place, and that’s what I like! There are so many amazing books in this world, and I don’t want to limit myself in any way. There are many runner-ups to this list if you want to talk more!

What were your favorite reads of 2015?

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September 15

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Authors

September 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: FREEBIE — your choice! I decided to provide all of you with a list of authors that I love, but that not many of you know about. I’m hoping to inspire you to check a few of these people out, because I think they are worthy of your attention!

Young Adult Authors:

Underrated YA Authors Collage

James Klise – I first discovered Klise at the Anderson’s YA Literature Conference last fall. He was so kind, and he motivated me to embrace the revision process of my first novel. I purchased his novel The Art of Secrets, and I loved it. James is a great guy and a great author, and as a bonus he is from the Chicago area.

Trent Reedy – I also met Trent at the Anderson’s YA Literature Conference. He was a keynote speaker who shared his moving life story. Trent served in Afghanistan, and I think he offers a unique perspective and voice in the realm of YA literature. I’ve read Words in the Dust, and I plan to read more of his writing soon. He is a truly great guy that we should all know about!

Adult Authors:

 Renee Rosen – I absolutely adore Renee, and I cannot praise her work enough. She is definitely my favorite historical fiction author, and I cannot wait for the release of White Collar Girl. If you haven’t already, you must check out Dollface and What the LUnderrated Adult Authors Collage 1ady Wants. Renee has an amazing ability to combine her extensive research into a readable story that you are sure to enjoy!

Rebecca Makkai – I was first introduced to Makkai when she was part of an event for Renee Rosen. I thought she was an intelligent and thoughtful person, and I bought a copy of her novel The Hundred Year House, which has a very interesting plot structure. I’m looking forward to reading her newest collection of short stories Music for Wartime.

Gabrielle Zevin – I loved The Storied Life of AJ Fikry! She has published both adult and young adult novels, and I can’t believe I haven’t heard of her before now. I hope to check more of her work out soon.

Suanne Laqueur – I was introduced to Laqueur’s work when I won The Man I Love in a contest. I have said this before on this blog, and I’ll say it again – Laqueur is an exquisite writer. Her writing is beautiful and memorable and simply amazing. I was happy to read a prerelease copy of Give Me Your Answer True, and I will read anything that she publishes in the future!

Jamie Ford – I first read Ford when my book club had Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet as its selection. I learned so much about the Japanese internment in the United States, and I was eager to read more of Ford’s work. I picked up Songs of Willow Frost shortly after its release. I think Ford iUnderrated Adult Authors Collage 2s an excellent historical fiction author, and I hope more people take the time to check out his work.

Katherine Center – I really enjoyed Happiness for Beginners, and I look forward to reading so much for from Center. I love her message, and I added so many quotes to my quote notebook. Check her out if you haven’t already!

Chad Harbach – I thought The Art of Fielding was such a great novel that would appeal to a wide range of readers. You so don’t have to be a baseball fan to get into this one. I’m wondering if Harback is a one-hit wonder so to speak, because he doesn’t even have his own website. I’m hoping he will publish more, but until then, you can check out his big hit!

Graeme Simsion – Simsion is a recent discovery for me when we read The Rosie Project for my book club this summer. It was one of my favorite summer reads, and I hope to pick up The Rosie Effect soon!

What underrated authors are missing from my list? Who should I be reading that I haven’t yet?

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July 28

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

July 28, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds (love reading, are writers, work at a bookstore, etc.). I absolutely love books that feature characters who love to read (or novels that have a bookish twist of some sort). This was a fun list to put together!

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series – I love that Hermione was always doing lots of extra reading with a strong love for knowledge.

 Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars – One of the big events of the book is when the couple travels to meet the author of a novel that they both identified with, a desire I can truly understand!

Cath (and Levi) from Fangirl – I’m currently in the middle of this audiobook, and I’m loving it. Cath is a huge fan of the Simon Snow series of novels, and Levi grows to be a fan of Cath’s fan fiction spinoffs of Simon Snow. I adore when a book can bring a couple closer together!

Jam Gallahue in Belzhar – Jam becomes friends with a close knit group during her Special Topics in English class as they read the works of Sylvia Plath.

A.J. Fikry from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Actually there are so many characters that end up as bookworms in this lovely novel. I also adore the setting in a bookstore in a small seaside town.

Anna Wyatt from Girl Before a Mirror – OK, so Anna is not a huge book nerd necessarily but the novel takes place at a Romance Writer’s Convention…..how could I not include this gem on a bookish list!

Don Tillman from The Rosie Project – One of my favorite parts of this amazing summer read was all of the pop culture references (both books and movies). I thought it was so sweet the way Don used books to help him learn how to navigate various social situations.

Cheryl Strayed in Wild – This might be cheating a bit since this one is a nonfiction book, but I loved how books figured so prominently in Strayed’s journey. It’s a part of the novel I will not forget!

Catherine Warner in Bookends – I read this book eons ago, but I loved how Catherine gave up her job to pursue her dream of opening a book store!

Cornelia Brown in Love Walked In – OK, true confessions time. I read this one awhile ago as well, and I believe that Cornelia makes all sorts of bookish references throughout the novel, but I’m not totally sure. Regardless, this is a charming little novel that would make a good summer read.

Who are your favorite book nerds?

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July 21

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books That Feature Characters on the Autism Spectrum

July 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish in which they select a topic every week, and the rest of us get to make Top Ten lists based on that topic. This week’s topic: Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters (example: features minority/religious minority, socioeconomic diversity, disabled MC,  neurotypical character, LGBTQ etc etc.). I’ve decided to go with a focus on books that feature characters on the autism spectrum. Here are my recommendations (some of these I haven’t had a chance to read yet, but they are definitely on my TBR and recommended by others):

Young Readers:

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko – I adored this middle grade novel. Not only does it take place on the infamous Alcatraz Island, but the main character’s sister had autism at a time before autism was a diagnosable disorder.

Rules by Cynthia Lord – Written from the perspective of a teenage girl whose brother is on the spectrum.

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloane – I have an autographed copy of this book from an author event, but my mom borrowed it from me before I had a chance to read it! I hope to get to it soon!

Young Adult Selections:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon – I didn’t love this novel as much as others, but I still recommend it if you are looking for a novel that can give you a picture of what it’s like to be in the body and brain of someone with autism.

Rain Reign by Ann Martin – I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile, which has a main character with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Adult Selections:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – This has been one of my favorite reads of the summer, and it gives you an accurate portrayal of life for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome (even though they never come out and say that Don has Asperger’s Syndrome).

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry – It’s been awhile since I’ve read this, but I loved and recommended it highly at the time that I did. A good snapshot of an adult on the spectrum.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult – I haven’t actually read this one, but I’ve heard good things (and I do tend to like Jodi Picoult novels).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson – I’m not sure it ever comes out and says it, but Lisbeth is portrayed as having characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome. Although the pacing in this series is not always great, I found them to be good reads.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks- I haven’t had a chance to read this one either, but a coworker has highly recommended it and lent the book to me. It was also a Target Book Club book at one time. It’s about a boy who’s imaginary friend helps him to navigate his world.

Which fiction novels do you recommend that feature a character with an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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July 16

Book Review – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

July 16, 2015

From Goodreads:
An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

This was my book club’s selection for July, and it was a perfect choice for summer! Here are my thoughts:

Yay:

  • The characters are absolutely delightful. Rosie, Don, and Gene are all so well-developed, and I can’t wait to read the sequel to reconnect with all of them. Simsion also develops great secondary characters with unique and fun traits that keep the story interesting.
  • Simsion did an excellent job in the development of the relationship between Don and Rosie. I loved how they learned more about themselves as they learned more about each other.
  • I enjoyed that the book is set largely in Australia. It’s not a setting I read much in novels, but I do wish that Simsion might have incorporated a few local sites to flesh out the setting a tad more.
  • I think Simsion gives an accurate portrayal of how someone with Asperger’s Syndrome might function as an adult in the dating world. I love how Simsion shows Don growing despite his difficulties, and how important his relationships ultimately were to him (which I think is true for many people with Asperger’s Syndrome).
  • The pacing of the novel is excellent. There are no lulls in the action, and you just want to keep reading once you get pulled into the story.
  • I love all the pop culture references, particularly to movies I haven’t seen in awhile. I am kind of a sucker for pop cultures references though :) .

Nay:

  • I really don’t have any complaints about this one!

If you are looking for a light and fun summer read, this is the perfect book for you. I absolutely loved it, and I will be reading The Rosie Effect soon!

What did you think of The Rosie Project?

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July 8

24 in 48 Readathon

July 8, 201524in48

I just found out about another 24 in 48 Readathon that is happening this weekend (thanks to Shannon at River City Reading for the heads up). The goal is to spend 24 hours reading out of the 48 hours of the Readathon – the schedule is up to you! I’ve wanted to participate in this one in the past, but the timing just hasn’t worked out yet. Even though the timing isn’t great this weekend either (I have a family wedding that’s a couple hours away), I am going to give it a whirl. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to hit 24 hours, but I’m going to give it a whirl! Here are the books that are potentials for the weekend (I’m quite the mood reader, so I’m not totally sure which ones I’ll end up reading):

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – This is my book club book for next Tuesday, and it needs to get done so this is pretty much a guarantee for the weekend.

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center – I’m so excited to read this one! I’ve heard great things, and it sounds like a book that’s right up my alley (a little self discovery, a little romance).

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella – This is the audio book I’m going to work on during my time in the car. I’ve heard some mixed reviews about Kinsella’s first YA novel, and I’m curious to check it out myself.

O’s Little Book of Happiness by The Editors of O Magazine – I just came across this as a popular pick at the library. It’s a short compilation of some articles on happiness that have been printed in O magazine. I wanted to make sure that I had something other than fiction on my list, and these short, nonfiction articles seem like just the right thing for me.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo – I’ve heard lots of good things about this short book as well so I thought I’d check it out.

I will be checking in on this post and on Twitter @rwrmusings. Follow along to see how I fare on the above list!

Will you be participating in #24in48 this weekend? Let me know below so I can follow your progress as well!

UPDATE: 7-11 11:55 am

I am heading out the door for the family wedding. I only have 3 1/2 hours of reading in so I’m starting to doubt my ability to complete this challenge. I will give it my all though! I’ve finished The Rosie Project, and I started Happiness for Beginners (both of which are perfect reads for the Readathon). I’ll be listening to Finding Audrey on my way to my brother’s house. I’ll check in when I get home late tonight!

UPDATE: 7-12 12:35 pm

So…..I didn’t get to that update when I got home last night :). And……it’s taken me a little while to get going today (I know I don’t have the best dance moves, but man did I do something to my hip last night). I did manage to get a little more reading in yesterday and this morning. I am still working on Happiness for Beginners and Finding Audrey. I’m also interspersing moments with O’s Little Book of Happiness (I’m finding it’s the best way to take this book in). I am at 6 total hours of reading.

UPDATE: 7-12 4:10 pm

Another 2 hours of reading in. Checking in on social media and discovering new blogs that are participating has slowed me down a bit, but it’s been a great day of reading and relaxing!

UPDATE: 7-12 7:45 pm

Just finished Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz for a class that I’m taking this summer. I highly recommend it for all educators out there. My plan is to finish Happiness for Beginners, and hopefully start another book. I’m going to read until I’m ready to sleep (even if I make it just past the hours of the Readathon, I’m going to count it :) )! I’m currently at 9 hours, which won’t meet the 24 hour goal, but considering the craziness of my weekend, it’s not bad.

UPDATE: FINAL

I finished Happiness for Beginners, and I started The Good Girl (which has sucked me in from the start). I made it 11 hours….not close to 24, but I’ll take it! Hope to see all of you next time!

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January 13

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I Can’t Believe I Didn’t Read!

January 13, 2015

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and The Bookish is all about the books released in 2014 that I just didn’t get to…..and I would have bet money on the fact that I would have already read some of these by now. You can click on the book title to be taken to a description of the book at Goodreads.

 

The Invention of Wings was the book I was most excited to read in 2014. I have loved everything I have read by Sue Monk Kidd, people have raved about this book, and for some reason I just didn’t get to it! I never even placed it on hold at the library!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is definitely on this list as well. I think I have been deterred by the overall length as well as the fact that I’ve heard it is a little slow to start. I’ll most likely tackle this one over the summer when I have a bit more time.

 

Let’s Get Lost has been on my radar since the Anderson’s YA Literature Conference. I had the chance to meet Alsaid and get a signed copy of the book. He was delightful in person, and people at the conference were RAVING about this book!

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin has been on my radar since the YA Conference as well. Griffin was one of my favorite authors that I met, and I highly enjoyed her book Tighter.

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng has been on many “Best of 2014” lists. I love a good historical fiction read (this one takes place in Ohio during the 1970s), and this sounds right up my alley!

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawson is another historical fiction novel that I’m looking forward to, but this one is set in the 1930’s in New York. 

 

 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion has intrigued me. It has gotten solid reviews, including some by my personal friends.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin looks absolutely delightful! Who wouldn’t love a novel set in a bookstore! I so can’t wait to pick this one up soon, and I hope to get to it this winter!

 

 

The Rooms Are Filled by Jessica Null Vealitzek has a totally unique set of characters, and it takes place in 1980’s Chicago. Sign me up now! I always love a character-driven novel as well as a novel set in Chicago…. it’s a win-win!

I Shall Be Near You by Erin Lindsay McCabe also has a totally intriguing concept to me! I want to read about this woman who fought in war at a time when that just didn’t happen. You all know how I have a love of historical fiction!

 

What 2014 releases are you still hoping to read? Are any of my books on your list? Have you read any of the books on this list, and would you recommend them?

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