Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Books Books Books (Spring)

March and April Reads!!
If you don't want to read this entire post, that's fair.  

But here's ultimate TL;DR:
Definitely Read: Hillbilly Elegy, Year of Yes, The Great Alone
Maybe Read: Now That You Mention It
Hard Pass: Lord John series, The Giver series.

Linking up with Steph and Jana since this post was ready for posting tomorrow and today happens to be SUYB day, which is convenient!

Rating scale*:

1/5 - Hated it, DNF (didn't finish).
2/5 - Tolerated it on principle to finish, didn't like it.
3/5 - Eh, didn't love it, didn't hate it. Had some good parts/kept me interested/finished it on principle.
3.5/5 - I liked parts of it.
4/5 - I liked the whole thing.
4.5/5 - I liked it a lot, but not sure I'd read it again.
5/5 - I LURVED it and I'd read it again.

*Subject to change based on my mood, the phase of the moon, or other unpredictable variables.

Skimmers, stick with the bold text (TL;DR* parts).
PS. Possible spoilers included in reviews.

Iron Gold (Red Rising Saga #4) by Pierce Brown  3.75/5 (Audible audiobook)  

I didn't realize that this series was continuing until a classmate told me.  I was sad and glad about this.  Darrow's adventures are always tedious and consuming and heavy.  As always, Sevro is my favorite character and he always provided the comedic relief the story needed.

TL;DR: If you're already committed to this series, read this. 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance    4.5/5 (library audiobook)

This book taught me about Dew Mouth which is essentially putting sugary drinks in bottles for babies/children and their teeth rotting out.  The book also spoke to the reasons poor people stay poor and how difficult it can be to overcome the obstacle of poverty...... KINDA.

I cried with Mawmaw died. It was like I was a part of this family and wanted people to genuinely get do better, be better, get better. I was extremely interested in the social research part of this book, but it left something to be desired. Nonetheless, I appreciated the narrative about "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps" (if you will). Vance was able to overcome the poverty and abuse of his childhood and end up with the "American Dream"... Except, what if that isn't what you are looking for?

Even if you don't come from a poor family, the likelihood of attending an ivy league university is low. I was disappointed that he didn't talk more about how his military career affected his life WHILE he was in the military. He went into such detail about the abuse he encountered, it didn't make sense to me that he would gloss over how difficult BEING in the military is (other than being apart from your family and AFTER bootcamp).

He never explained WHY he decided to attend an Ivy League school or what influenced him to join the military (that I can recall). There were gaps in things that he discussed, so certain things felt glossed over. This book seemed mostly focused on white people, even though these same issues aren't just applicable to white people.

TL;DR: Minus the "Hillbilly Elegy" part of the title and more people would read this book.  It's worth a read, IMO.

The Giver (The Giver #1) by Lois Lowry    3/5 (library audiobook)

I read The Giver in middle school, during a particularly shitty time in my life (while my parents were at their nastiest pre-separation) and I hated this book.  When I discovered that this was actually a series, I was like, ok fine, I'll try again.

This book was HORRIBLE.  Not like written horribly, but the content of this book is HEAVY and horrible and why would we read this in middle school?!  I didn't really understand the book at 13.  As an adult, I get it.  The only part that I remembered of this book was that he starts to see color and it was a big deal.  Again, that was my favorite part.

TL;DR: If you read this as a kid, you should reread this and see if you come away with something new.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes   4.99/5 (Audible audiobook)

-0.01 for being overly repetitive sometimes.  I appreciate Shonda's conversational tone (kinda like my own, maybe?) but in a book, it doesn't necessarily translate well.  Nonetheless, I LURVED this book.  It made me cry, which made it difficult to drive down I-26 during morning rush hour...

There were times that I thought the whole Say Yes thing was gimmicky, but I can see how it worked for her.  This isn't a self-help book, it's a memoir, that's important to note.

TL;DR: She really hates public speaking (as witnessed in the clips) but this book speaks to sooo many personal struggles of every person and this book is so relatable.

Gathering Blue (The Giver #2) by Lois Lowry   2.5/5 (library audiobook)

So I powered through The Giver so I could move on in the series and read more about Jonah and the 2nd book is in NO WAY related to the 1st book.  FUCK YOU Lowry.  I did read reviews for books 3 and 4 of the series and apparently it ties back in, but it's tedious and plot holes galore and I doubt I'll be finishing this.  Ugh.

TL;DR: If you're interested in finding out what happened to Jonah from The Giver, you have to be willing to read 3 more books to find out.  You've been warned.

Lord John and the Hellfire Club (Lord John Grey 0.5) by Diana Gabaldon  2/5 (audiobook)

I wanted to love the Lord John series, but I don't.  This is just a novella, so it was short and it seems to only be written to fill in some backstory for the first actual novel about Lord John Grey (LJG).  I found myself being annoyed with the story line and the characters in general.  But it was short, so I powered through.  Blech.

TL;DR: Unnecessary novella to the LJG series.

Lord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey #1) by Diana Gabaldon  3/5 (audiobook)

I found this novel more interesting than Hellfire Club and there was actually a story.  But it was tedious at times and there really are so many characters, a Gabaldon trait for sure.  I did eventually get interested in what was going to happen, but it took a while.

TL;DR: If you're reading this for LJG's take on Jamie, this isn't for you.

Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins   4.5/5 (Audible audiobook)

I was hooked on this book around 20% in.  I wanted to see how Nora's life panned out.  I appreciated the Maine and Boston setting.  Nora's mom was a super emotionally-constipated twat-waffle.  I laughed so hard I cried at the dinner scene.  And Boomer, throughout the book, helped me suffer through tedious or less interesting parts of the book.  I kinda guessed they would end up together, but I also assumed something would happen between Nora and Luke.

I got super annoyed at references to the Big Bad Event after a few mentions.  I kinda guessed what it was before it was finally revealed.  I really enjoyed the high school backstory to clarify things. 

TL;DR: A good contemporary fiction with a dash of romance and a lot of drama.  Good beach read.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah   5/5 (library/Audible audiobook)

Lawd, this book.  It broke my heart and stitched it back together.  I re-listened to the last 2 hours because I kept getting interrupted while I was listening and I felt like I had done the book a disservice.  Even re-listening the story made me cry.  This book is about a family with an abusive father and moving to a homestead in Alaska and having to survive in the wilderness, essentially.

Lenny's self-blame for everything that happened tended to get annoying, but it worked.  After such a tumultuous journey, the ending soothed my stitched together heart.

TL;DR: Trigger alert for domestic violence, but lawwwwwddd this journey was worth taking.

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle   1.5/5 (own, hardcopy)

I hated this book, but I finished it on principle, thus 1.5 rating.  I really thought I wanted to read this series, but really I was deluded.  BUUUTTTTT, I'm hoping that this book just had "2nd in a series" disease and the rest will be better?  I doubt it, since I didn't really love A Wrinkle in Time, but I bought this whole book set (for $10 from Amazon and now it's $45) and want to read it because it's "a classic"...  This book was essentially Meg's 3 tests that no one could tell her what they were or when they would happen, just that they were coming and she had to Name things or people would get Xed?  There was no less than an entire chapter dedicated to Meg saying, "No, I can't do this!" and various characters telling her that she could.  All in all, this book was obnoxious and I can't tell if I'm over the age limit on this book or if I'm just an asshole.  This review actually said everything I want to say about this book.

TL;DR: Meg was annoying in book 1, but she didn't hold a candle to how annoying she is in book 2.

DNF Books:

  • The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses   1/5 (library ebook)
    • I started this book and didn't love it and the over-description of places got on my nerves so I said Bye, Felicia.  It probably isn't a bad book, but it was also giving me the munchies.
  • Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth    1/5 (library ebook) 
    • The names were weird, I had too much going on, and the reviews weren't stellar.  I was maybe 20 pages in when I decided the mental anguish wasn't worth it and called it quits.
  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon  1/5 (audiobook)
    • I just wasn't interested.  The mystery plot was too complicated for me and really, I was only reading to get more about Jamie and that wasn't coming quickly and I didn't really need that.  No thanks.


In Progress:

  • Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews   */5 (library audiobook)
    • Kristen recommendation that I had shunned because the cover made it look like smut.  It's not.  I don't think.  So far it's going well.
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit   */5 (library ebook) 
    • I wanted an ebook to pass the time.  I'm not yet decided on this, but I think Solnit might be an overly-critical man-hater... I'm willing to see if my opinion changes.
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan   */5 (own, hardcopy)
    • Steph donated this to my cause and I got 20 pages into it and then school happened.  I'm hoping that I can finish this up during my school break.

 On Deck:

YAY for books!
*TL;DR = too long, don't read


  1. Yesss I just read The Great Alone too and loved it! I felt so frustrated with some of the decisions at times, but you could understand why they were made because you could feel for the characters so much.

  2. Year of Yes has been on my list forever. I need to get on it. Ugh The Giver. I too read them in school and then again just a year or two ago. Bleh way too heavy as you said for kids and just not great as an adult.

  3. I'm getting superfrustrated at the wait list for The Great Alone and I'm now seriously contemplating buying it.

  4. I read The Giver as an adult, but after I had read a few dystopian series (Hunger Games, Divergent) and this gave me an understanding of how Dystopian YA books came to be more popular. I enjoyed the entire series, and yes, you do get to find out what happened to the main character on the last book, but it's not a clean ending, because it's told through the eyes of a different character. I think Gathering Blue was my favorite of that series. I look forward to reading The Giver with my son.

  5. I had mixed feelings about Iron Gold. I loved the Red Rising series but honestly it kept referring to events that I had forgotten so I felt lost through so much of the book. A part of me wishes that I had not read it. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I had read shortly after Morning Star. I really enjoyed Year of Yes too and found Shonda to be so relatable. Okay, I'm going to put myself on the hold list for The Great Alone.

  6. i am putting off iron gold for a few months or a year. i can't handle long waits in between books and i know there will be more, and those books really are so heavy and i just don't want to right now. i quite liked now that you mention it, but yeah the 'big bad event' got old super fast. i understand when authors don't share certain things until later, but i don't like the obvious 'THERE'S A SECRET' hints 75 times before we finally get to it.
    LOL @ burn for me. yeah, not smut. there's definitely some romance, it's not a kids book. but you've read outlander, so.... but yes those covers are ridiculous. i've come to accept that a lot of books i read have stupid covers.

  7. I REALLY want to read Shonda's book since I love her like crazy. And I really enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy, too!

  8. I completely loved The Great Alone.

    I don't think I'm going to read the newest in the Red Rising series.

  9. They made us read The Giver in college in an elementary ed literacy class. It was fine but not good for kids, IMO. However, I actually really liked Gossamer (in no way related but part of the "series"). I have Gathering Blue on my bookshelf at school but don't care enough to read it. I'll just love Lowry for Number the Stars and call it good.

    I really appreciated Hillbilly Elegy. Just something about it...like it needed to be written, because it speaks for such a large volume of the population.

    And, meh. I couldn't even finish Red Rising.

  10. I liked A Wrinkle in Time and I have A Wind in the Door waiting to be read but now I'm kind of scared of it. LOL.

  11. I loved A Wrinkle in Time and the others when I was a kid but I'm not interested in revisiting the others (besides Wrinkle) quite yet. I'll probably just read them with my kids in a few years.
    The Great Alone will absolutely be on my list of best books of the year - it was so incredible. I've only read the first in the Red Rising series so I have a bit to go until I can read Iron Gold and I'm just not feeling it at the moment.

  12. Hillbilly Elegy has been on my TBR for a while- but I may need to break from the poverty stories (although if you are interested, the Bootstrap book I list in my post was good).

    Had no idea The Giver was part of a series! I also did not get that book at all, read it around 6th grade. Watched the movie a few years ago and yeah...it seems like a lot for a kid.

  13. I was kind of annoyed with Gathering Blue as well, but I felt like the next book (whatever that was called) pulled it back together and I felt better. I never got around to reading Son though! Hmm... maybe I should get back to it. I have heard so many different things about Hillbilly Elegy, and I really want to read it. I think it will be eye opening for me... and I've seen a lot of people say it's only eye opening for rich people or east coasters... but I am neither.. so... I dunno. LOL. I want to read the Red Rising series and The Great Alone someday soon! :) XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things


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