Favorite Books of 2015 (So Far)

Favorite Books of 2015 so farQuick looks at my what are so far my favorite books of 2015, since it’s close enough to halfway through the year. 🙂 Links go to my previous posts if I’ve written one, Amazon if I haven’t.

Nonfiction

As You WishAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

I don’t generally read celebrity bios, but made an exception for this one, and am so glad I did. It’s funny and witty and oh so entertaining. Perhaps because it’s more the story of a movie, than the story of just a celebrity. Read it and then read The Princess Bride. And then watch the movie. Actually, skip reading it and go for the audible versionAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes – it’s fantastic!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Not sure if it really will be life-changing, but so far I think it just might be. Love the tone of this one, and how it is so gentle and kind. I also love her change in focus from what you’re discarding, to what you’re keeping.

Better Than BeforeBetter Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

I love her style and approach, and I love the focus of this book: how can I change my habits to change my life? It combines nicely with Kondo’s book too.

Cold TangerinesCold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life by Shauna Niequist

She’s one of my favorite authors, and I finally read her first book. Not as good as her more recent titles (you can see how she’s grown as an author), but still an excellent memoir of sorts.

The Road from CoorainThe Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

A re-read for my book club, and it was just as good the second time around. It also made for a fabulous discussion at book club – one of the best ones we’ve had in awhile. Highly recommended if your book club reads memoirs!


Fiction

The Truth According to UsThe Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

Loved this book. Don’t be put off by the length – it’s captivating and reads much quicker than you’d think almost 500 pages could possibly. You’ll feel like you’re there with them in Depression-era West Virginia, and you’ll appreciate air conditioning so very much.

The Thirteen ProblemsThe Thirteen Problems by Agatha Christie

Short stories featuring Miss Marple. I’m slowly working my way through all of Agatha Christie’s books and I can’t decide if I’m annoyed at myself for waiting so long to read them, or delighted that I have so many still to look forward to reading.

The Murder of Roger AckroydThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

More Christie, but this one features Detective Hercule Poirot. Perhaps her most famous of mysteries, and I loved figuring it out before it was revealed. She is so good at writing compelling stories without lots of extra padding.


Favorite Kids Books:

The War that Saved My LifeThe War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A look at the children evacuated from London during WWII, but it takes a different perspective than you might expect. Hard to read at times because of tough content, it’s well worth the emotional effort, and I appreciated that the author skipped any easy resolutions that would have felt unrealistic.

National Geographic Kids Animal StoriesNational Geographic Kids Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal KingdomNational Geographic Kids Animal Stories: Heartwarming True Tales from the Animal Kingdom by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple; illustrated by Jui Ishida by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Adam Stemple, and Jason Stemple; illustrated by Jui Ishida

Gorgeously illustrated and engagingly written, this would make a great readaloud for any animal-loving children. Or it makes for a great book for any older kids or adults too, as I read it through the first time on my own, as I was deciding whether or not to read it to my kids. Fascinating looks at some animals in history.

Book of a Thousand DaysBook of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

A retelling of a not-very-familiar fairy tale. Well-written and engrossing, with a very satisfying ending. I loved the characters in this one, and how Hale manages to make the story her own, while still basing it so much on the original tale.

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Written in verse, this is another one that has tough content, although the format softens it a bit. Absolutely compelling.

Listen SlowlyListen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

Another gorgeously-written book by Lai, although this one is in prose, not verse. I kept wanting this to be more obviously connected with the previous book but it’s not. No matter – it’s still a wonderful story.

Winnie the PoohWinnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

A classic for a reason. Loved reading it aloud to my children, and they loved hearing the stories.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

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The Truth According to Us

The Truth According to UsThe Truth According to Us: A NovelThe Truth According to Us: A Novel by Annie Barrows by Annie Barrows

I was somewhat nervous starting Barrows’ new book. I loved her book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society so much, it was all I could do not to get my hopes up so high that nothing could meet them.

No worries – this ended up being a fantastic and satisfying read. By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked on the story, and I wanted to know what was going on behind the scenes, and what had happened in the past. The characters are compelling – it’s impossible to pick a favorite – there were so many fantastic ones: Jottie, Willa, Layla, the twins…

The setting is crucial to the story, and you’ll feel the crushing heat of summer throughout the book. I was so engrossed in the time period and location that I kept expecting to find myself sweltering in West Virginia longing for a break from the summer temperatures.

There are a few letters included, but the majority of the book is not written in an epistolary format (so don’t despair if you don’t like that structure; it’s minimal). It was enough to be just another bonus for me, since that’s one of my favorite styles.

I don’t re-read much, but this is one that I think I will. There’s so much going on, and so many layers, that I’m looking forward to a second reading to more fully appreciate how she structured it and wove all the elements together.

While I read an electronic copy, this is one where I wonder if the physical book would be easier to read – the narrative switches between first person and third person, and includes those occasional letters. Initially I had to adjust to the alternating points-of-view, and there was no real formatting variation to help with that in the electronic version. Not a reason to avoid the book, just a heads-up that it may take some getting used to.

Highly recommended. I think it would make a great book club choices as well – there would be lots to discuss. It’s a long book, but it’s easy to read and felt much shorter than it really was.

[Read more…]

Magic in the Mix

Magic in the MixMagic in the MixMagic in the Mix by Annie Barrows by Annie Barrows

Last year I read Annie Barrow’s book The Magic Half and was charmed by the fun tale that mixed time-travel and fantasy elements into a fun story. It was disappointing to discover that it was a stand-alone title, as I would have happily read more about Molly and Miri.

Turns out I wasn’t alone, and Molly and Miri are back in a second book, and despite how much I liked the first book, I think I liked this one even more. The historical elements are more prominent this time, and I loved how Barrows’ wove together historical events into the twins’ adventures.

While it’s not absolutely essential to have read The Magic Half before reading this one, reading them out of order will spoil events from book #1 so if that’s a concern for you, read accordingly. 🙂

Happily, the book ends with there still being lots of potential for future stories featuring the girls, and I hope there are additional ones eventually published. It’s a fun premise and Barrows is a good story-teller.

Magic in the Mix releases on the 16th, so while it’s not available today, it will be next week. [Read more…]