I’m pretty sure this is a book round-up that I started in the summer, intending to publish it as a list of “Fun Beach Reads”…but I didn’t get around to finishing the post till now. So cozy winter reads it is! I love curling up on the couch with a mug of tea and good book – bonus if I can get one of the cats to sit next to me. I’ve actually been watching a ton of TV instead of reading lately, but I recently downloaded Unbroken and can’t put it down. What a story – I hear it’s a huge hit in theaters too.
Anyway, here are a few of the books I read earlier this year. Any of these would be a great companion for a weekend afternoon or quiet evening!
Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal (non-fiction) by Conor Grennan
From Goodreads: In search of adventure, twenty-nine-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.
My thoughts: Oh man, I loved this book. Conor is so genuine about his motivations for volunteering in Nepal and his conflicted feelings about whether he’s actually contributing anything to the orphanage. His tone is humble and humorous and he puts all the focus on the kids and the people in the country dedicated to re-uniting these families.
The Fault in Our Stars (fiction) by John Green
From Goodreads: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
My thoughts: I really wanted to love this book – it’s a new perspective on terminal childhood cancer (Hazel personalizes it without any glamor). But quite frankly, I didn’t like Hazel and Augustus – their thoughts are highly intellectual, lofty and all in METAPHORS, which is probably not unrealistic given that they’ve been isolated by their diseases and they’re contemplating and facing death at a terribly young age. So I understand why they were written that way, but they ended up reminding me of classmates in college who tried to sound intelligent and superior all the time.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (non-fiction) by Barbara Demick
From Goodreads: A National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle finalist, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy is a remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens. “Nothing to Envy” follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years — a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
My thoughts: This book was eye-opening. I’ve always felt anger at the North Korean government’s incredible oppression of its people, but I’ve never considered what the lives and thoughts of the citizens are like. Escaping is only half the struggle; when they arrive in South Korea, they realize how deeply they’ve been betrayed by their government and need to adapt to a completely new land.
Ruins (Partials Sequence #3) (scifi/ fantasy) by Dan Wells
From Goodreads: There is no avoiding it—the war to decide the fate of both humans and Partials is at hand. Both sides hold in their possession a weapon that could destroy the other, and Kira Walker has precious little time to prevent that from happening. She has one chance to save both species and the world with them, but it will only come at great personal cost.
My thoughts: I loved the first two books of the Partial series (dystopian sci-fi) so I was really nervous to read the final book in the series, because how often does the last book ruin everything? But I thought this book really wrapped up the series nicely and introduced some interesting plot twists – this is probably one of my favorite sci-fi series yet.
Burial Rites (historical fiction) by Hannah Kent
From Goodreads: Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
My thoughts: My boss recommended this book to me, knowing I was going to Iceland this year. I feel the need to warn others that this book is inspired by a true story – without knowing that, the ending is really unexpected (as in, I put down the book and shouted, “WHAT?”). But otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book – the author’s words are a paintbrush that bring 1800s Iceland and Agnes’s story to life. And if you need another reason to read this book, it’s being made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and she’s perfect for the part.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt (fiction) by Beth Hoffman
From Goodreads: Laugh-out-loud funny, at times heartbreaking, and written in a pitch-perfect voice, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a spirited Southern tale that explores the intricate frailties and strengths of female relationships while illuminating the journey of a young girl who loses her mother but finds many others.
My thoughts: This was a light, touching story about how a young girl, left emotionally scarred by her childhood with her mentally-ill mother, moves to the South with her great aunt and experiences healing through new relationships. It’s not a very deep narrative, but it’s funny and feel-good reading – which is sometimes all I want.
Where We Belong (chick lit) by Emily Giffin
From Goodreads: Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.
My thoughts: If you’re looking for chick lit, this one’s okay. I find most of Emily Giffin’s books to be light on character development, and this one was no exception. But the story is entertaining and the relationship between Marian and Kirby is interesting to watch.
Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality (memoir) by Jacob Tomsky
From Goodreads: In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.
My thoughts: I loved Waiter Rant and similar “career-focused” memoirs, so I had a feeling that I would love this book (I did). Jacob paints a colorful and vivid picture of what it’s like to work in the hotel industry, and he provides great (tongue-in-cheek) tips on how to score upgrades and perks from the hotel staff. I came away with a renewed appreciation for those who work in service industries!
What’s one book you’re recommending to friends/ family lately?
Have you read any of the books above? Your thoughts?