worth-a-look books, volume 1

I realized the other day that it's been a while since my last book review blog post, so I sat down to make a list of the good books I've read lately. Then, I got really sad. I could only come up with seven. And this was reaching past to the books I read almost a full year ago. For one reason or another, most of the books I've read recently have not been good, or rather, they've not been my style. In fact, I've not finished three of them. I almost didn't finish a fourth one, but decided it was short enough that I could power through & finish.

Not finishing books has been hard for me to do, I feel like I should give them a fair shot by pushing on to the end. Even in high school I read every single book I was given, with the exception of Frankenstein. For some reason I got behind & never finished. Then I re-read it & decided that I had finished it, but just conveniently forgot the end. 

My reasoning for not finishing books was changed when I finally finished a book that I got for Christmas years ago. I started it, then got bored, & put down for a good three years. Finally I sat down to finish it, & to my disappointment, It never got better. Ever. I spent three years with that book in the back of my mind telling myself, "Maybe it gets more interesting. Mayyybe." Nope. It never did. When I finished it, I was even more upset because I spent three years obsessing over finishing it because I felt bad about not finishing it. So, my new reasoning is that life is way too short to finish a boring book. There are so many great ones just waiting for me to find.

Then that brought me to figure out what exactly I look for in a good book. I've never had a ready answer to the "what do you like to read" question, so I started analyzing my favorites upon favorites to find patterns. This is what I came up with:

  1. I like books where the character goes on an adventure, whether it be a quest via horseback, attempting to stop an evil genius from taking over the world, time traveling, discovering a mysterious body in some rich person's library, etc. I love a good mission, or something with an end goal in mind. The same goes for my taste in movies. (This is probably why my husband married me. I go to all the superhero movies with him, & actually like most of them.)
  2. I love a good twist on a story I might think I know, kind of like the untold story from a different point of view. However, it has to be done right. "Right" is a relative term though; "right" in terms of what I like. (I tried reading Pride & Prejudice & Vampires. I quit reading it & immediately sold it back to Half Price.)
  3. Similarly, I love a modern take on a story from the Bible. Can we say Redeeming Love???
  4. I love books set in different a different time or a different culture. 
  5. I like long books, but only if they're good! This mainly comes into play if I'm buying the book. I don't like spending $25 books on a book if I'm going to finish it in a day. I like investing in my characters. I've been known to talk about them like they're real people.
  6. This might be a strange characteristic, but when it comes to the actual book, I love a well made book in terms of materials. Do I like the smell of books? New books, yes; old books, not so much. That might surprise some people. 

Don't be fooled though. I will read a book that does not fall under one of these categories, & I will love some of them. They might just not be my immediate choice sometimes. 

Ok, time for books I've read (in no particular order)! Apology for having only three of the seven books photographed. One was borrowed, one was checked out from the library, one is out on rental, & one is an eBook. (PS, aren't the teacups so adorable?! My sister spotted them in a window in downtown San Antonio, so naturally, we both bought a set.)

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse // This book caught my attention at the bookstore, so I promptly read a chapter before leaving that day. Curiosity got the better of me, so I checked it out from the library. (I have a library card!! I haven't had one since middle school.) The two main characters are girls, but live hundreds of years apart. One uncovers an ancient secret the other was trying to protect & struggles to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.

Lightning by Dean Koontz // Koontz is always a hit or miss with me. I've either loved his books, or ended up being very scarred by them. This was one of the better ones. While it still had a certain level of morbidity, I was fascinated by the strange twist at the end. I love it when you think you know what the twist is going to be but it's totally not! The story follows the life of a girl who had an unusual number of close calls with death but is always saved by a mysterious man at the last second.

Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows // My friend Rachel called me one day & demanded that I read this book, claiming I would absolutely adore it. Luckily, I got it for Christmas from my mother-in-law without asking for it, so I took that as a sign & read it. I. Loved. It. It's one of those books that just makes you smile despite the hardships that the characters have survived. Set at the end of WWII, the island of Guernsey has just been cleared of German soldiers. Author Juliet befriends a few of the people living on the island & travels there to write down their stories from the war & combine them into one big story. The entire book is comprised of letters between the characters, so be warned if you don't like that kind of thing. (Another head's up: Dawsey is a boy. For half the book, I thought he was a girl. Kind of made a difference!) It's just such a joyful book. There's even a recipe at the end of the book for Potato Peel Pie, & I tried to convince my husband's grandmother to make it for her cooking club. 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon // I was at the bookstore a few weeks ago & spent a good hour going through every single book on the "popular in fiction" table, & this was the only book that I walked away telling myself I was definitely going to read. When I pointed it out to Jake, he reminded me that Diana was one of the authors we got to see at the Building Worlds & Fantasy Writing panel at Comic Con in San Diego earlier this year. I had completely forgotten her name & was so proud of myself for picking out one of her books! So, I went to Half Price & looked for it. I was a little embarrassed to find it in the Romance section of the store, but read it anyways. Claire is a former combat nurse on vacation in Scotland with her husband enjoying the end of WWII when she suddenly finds herself in 1743 Scotland where she is mistaken for an English spy. I really really really enjoyed the bulk of the story, but feel I need to offer a few warnings with it. There's more than a few–shall we say–passionate scenes, & the one of the ending scenes was rather rough to get through. Despite these scenes, I plan on continuing in the series.

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs // This is the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, & I was thrilled to find out there was a second. The author tells a story based off of a series of mostly authentic black & white photographs that all have a certain level of creepiness to them. So, every few pages, you get a photo. Jacob is a normal American teenager who is the only one in his family who listens to & enjoys his grandpa's stories about his fantastical childhood in a certain orphanage during WWII. When his grandpa mysteriously dies, Jacob feels he needs to travel to the orphanage to decide for himself if his grandpa was crazy or not. He is not prepared for what he finds. I read most of the first book on a plane, & I remember having to shut it every few minutes, lean my head back, & remind myself it was only a book. I love a good suspense story.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield // This was another book given to me by my mother-in-law. I was honestly completely bored after the first chapter, but I kept reading. Halfway through, I was still a little bored, but kept reading. Then bam. The twist! Out of nowhere, some new information was revealed & suddenly the entire story changed. I was almost tempted to go back & re-read the entire thing. Vida Winter is a recluse of an author whom no one knows anything about. She has spent a lifetime spinning fabulous "truths" about her childhood & life to keep the truth hidden. Then, out of the blue, she invites amateur biographer Margaret to her home to take down her story. The real story. But how real can it be when the characters from her past are so peculiar?

Best Foot Forward by Tamie Dearen // Tamie is a dear friend of mine who took up writing a little over a year ago, & I have so enjoyed her stories. This is the fourth book in the Best Girls Series, but actually takes place in between book 2 & 3. (I forgot that detail, so was confused for a while. It doesn't affect the story if you read 3 before 4 or not, though.) A romantic comedy, the characters frustrated me so much, but all you can do is just giggle when the best of intentions go awry. I just wanted to crawl into the story, shake every single one of them, & tell them all to just talk to each other! Grace is a girl in love, although she is going to be the last person to admit it. Poor Brad doesn't know what hit him (was it the sidewalk, perhaps?!) when Grace breaks up with him. (If you don't have a Kindle, like me, you can download the Amazon Kindle app on your phone. Works like a charm.) Check out Tamie's website here & go read the rest of her books while you're at it! She currently has a serial story going on her blog called A Rose in Bloom. Every week she gives you the next section!