I guess you could say I’ve taken a bit of a break from young adult novels in the past few weeks, (well, in terms of usual ratio,) but I saw the movie trailer for Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything, and thought to myself “why the heck haven’t I read this yet?” Too impatient to wait on the library’s hold list, I picked up a copy at Sam’s Club, and dove right in. Maybe I’m off my game, but I was thrown by the plot twist. And I LOVE that. I genuinely love when I’m surprised by the words on a page, and am so overwhelmed absorbing the information I didn’t expect to see, I have to pause. Everything Everything tells the story of teenager Madeline who has lived her whole life in the same house, breathing filtered air, with only in-person contact with her mom and her nurse (who takes her stats and vitals all day,) and a time or two a visit from a teacher – because she is allergic to everything. Can you imagine? Though, maybe it’s like some things in life – when you haven’t experienced them yet, you don’t know to miss them. You can’t miss the smell of the ocean, if the salty air has never wafted below your nose, and you can’t miss the taste of a steaming hot slice of pizza burning the roof of your mouth, if those ingredients have never touched your tongue. You probably won’t daydream all day about holding hands with a boy, if you haven’t interacted with one in real life. Maddy lives life vicariously through the pages of the books she devours, and is entertained by movie nights, and made-up board games with her mom. Life as Maddy knows it, changes when cute, mysterious, Olly and his family move in next door. How convenient their bedroom windows face one another. What starts with hand gestures, and condensation notes on window panes, leads to e-mails and the ole trusty instant messenger, and then opens to a whole other world of experiences beyond what Maddy could have imagined on her dreamiest days. Armed with a credit card, and a mischievous streak of braveness not to let her life pass her by, Maddy makes some huge decisions – taking her life and all of it’s possibilities into her own hands. Everything, Everything is a story of love and friendship, trust and betrayal, adventure and risk, and listening to your gut. I know I’m late to the game, but this was a fantastic read, and I found it refreshing. If you haven’t yet, check out this great novel. (I have to admit, I’m excited to see what they’ve done with the movie adaptation!)
2017 has been off to an interesting start. I mentioned before I started reading A Game of Thrones which is great, but I just really needed to read a book that would make me laugh. Books can expand our horizons, provide an escape, a distraction, and some books can entertain us. In comes Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody as my first read of 2017. I laughed out loud reading this, continuously, hard, and sometimes until tears sprung in my eyes. Oh, Anna did I need those laughs. But also her book made me think a lot about our preconceived ideas of celebrity, and Hollywood. I can’t imagine being in a film at Sundance, and your peers having no idea, or worse just not caring a bit about it! Kendrick shares stories from her childhood, (I loved the one about how she got her first Broadway gig), her dating life, apartment living, how she still gets star struck, and everything in between. I was surprised to learn that Happy Christmas was filmed in eleven days, on an $80,000 budget, with no script! And I guess, like Kendrick, I thought once you were famous people probably followed you around and basically made you keep yourself (and your house) together – surprise! They don’t. Kendrick writes with such ease, and honesty that it feels like it’s a friend telling you about her life. I felt like you could feel her anxiety about certain situations, or the frustration with nothing productive happening on press tours (even if they’re necessary.) If you’re a shorty, petite girl I think you could really relate to this too. She touched on a lot of points, of experiences I’ve had all my life. (At 5 feet tall, with tiny feet, and still being able to wear clothes from first grade when I was in fifth grade – I felt like I’d just use my noise level and energy to make up for my lack of size. Anna Kendrick sounds like she totally got this!) She talks about insecurities, but also about the things she knows she should just say “screw you” about if someone has a problem. She sounds like she really takes pride in her work, and invests in the relationships she develops with her coworkers but she’s super open about the time she’s not on a job she’s at home chilling in sweatpants, watching Netflix, eating take out. She sounds like the rest of us doesn’t she? (Adulting, hmm…) Kendrick mentions multiple times that she hopes while reading her book, the reader feels less alone – well girl, I think you more than accomplished that task. I would definitely recommend this book. It lifted my spirits a little, and it reminded me that although our paths might look different, we’re all kind of floating around in the same boats.
Happy New Year friends! Hope everyone had some great days this holiday season. I know I haven’t posted as nearly as often as I should lately. Although we’re five days into this new year, I thought it’d be fun to share my reading list from 2016. I’ll let you know, which ones were my favorites (and I’ll even add in some of the books I started but didn’t finish *insert eye covering emoji here.*) Some of these books have stuck with me in such a way that I think about them several times a week. When you find books like that, it’s hard to find a follow up. What were your favorites you read last year? What are you most looking forward to reading this year? Right after Christmas I started reading A Game of Thrones, but this one is going to take me a while. These are in the order I read them, not by my affection for them. The titles listed in bold were my favorites, and if I already featured it on Meg Says, I linked to the original post. See below for a variety of non-fiction, adult fiction, and young adult books I found this year!
*Note: I apologize for any weird formatting issues, I’ve been trying to sort out the kinks.*
How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (Adult Fiction)
Save the Date by Jen Doll (Adult Non-Fiction)For my girlfriends that are always attending weddings – bridesmaids, guests, etc. you will probably find yourself relating to some of these stories. Some of them are funny, and some you’d feel the embarrassment, or you’d get the tensions that can fly in these situations. Nothing too crazy or surprising, but a reminder that a lot of us might feel like we’re in 27 Dresses (as my brother’s friends used to point out about my life, haha.) We probably all have enough of our stories to compile a book like this.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Adult Fiction)
Soon to be a mini series on HBO with a stellar cast, you should read this before it airs. I was HOOKED, immediately. I love multi-view point stories, and this is a little bit mystery, somewhat amusing, a touch sad, but all around intriguing. It’s one of my favorite “fun” books to recommend.
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (Adult Non-Fiction)
Mindy Kaling never disappoints. I love how real she is, and getting a peak into her life and relationships. She is definitely comfortable and completely embraces all that she is – brilliance and flaws, and all. I feel like I’m having a couch convo in my PJs with a friend while I read her stories.
30 Shades of Grayton by Kyle Petit (Adult Non-Fiction)
I picked this up at one of my favorite little independent bookstores over in Seaside, Florida. It’s a quick read, and was mildly entertaining about a woman in a small coastal town dating after a divorce.
Room by Emma Donoghue (Adult Fiction)
A story abut a young woman who was taken, and brought to live in a room. She doesn’t know life outside of those walls anymore, until one day she has a son. Her son changes everything, as she tries to create a world for him within this space. This was another book I just couldn’t put down. I still haven’t seen the Oscar nominated film, but I was convinced it was finally time to set aside any fears I had that this was going to psychologically torment me and finally read it. I’m so glad I did. This is a beautiful story that I’d say is more about love and life, and the ties that bind then about the awful abduction and treatment during that time. It’s written in a format I wasn’t expecting, and I think it’s completely original.
Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas (Adult Fiction)
This little British book kept calling to me from the shelf at the library. It felt like I was immersed in a reality television show. A story about a group of random strangers brought together by responding to an ad. I still feel unsettled by the ending, but it was definitely interesting and not like the other books on my list.
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Adult Fiction)
I know it’s unfair to compare this novel to Gone Girl, but I think that was expected as it’s written in a similar vein. This one’s hard to provide details without ruining anything but our main character has blurred memories of a variety of events she’s witnessed. Her alcohol issues have caused her to lose her job. Instead of admitting this to her housemate, she continues on her way with her daily train commute. When a woman she’s seen from the train (and has watched her relationship) turns up missing – she gets involved. It had a bit of a slow pace for me, but still managed to create suspense and I’ll admit it took me more than three quarters of the book to “figure it out.”
The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian (YA Fiction)
Undoubtedly, hands down one of my favorite books of the year. Not just the year – all time. I freakin’ love this book, and you should read it. The first several chapters were released online prior to the pub date to increase anticipation and oh my goodness – I was glued to my computer screen. I’m not even going to tell you more, but get this book in your life.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Adult Non-Fiction)
My favorite non-fiction book of the year. Aziz is brilliant. He’s hilarious, and he’s so insightful. I only wish I had been a collaborator in this creation. A look on modern dating, and how it’s evolved over time, and what it looks like in different parts of the world. Simply fascinating.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (Adult Fiction)
I have to admit I was majorly disappointed in this book. I finally got around to reading it when I saw the film trailer released, (which I never ended up seeing the movie). The trailer made me cry, and all of my friends thought the book would destroy me. A story of a young woman who is out of a job, and ends up taking on the job of caring for a man who’s been injured and permanently paralyzed and lives in his parent’s home. There were somewhat tender moments, but everything seemed so shallow. The characters were apparently experiencing intense emotions, but they were so poorly conveyed that I was unable to connect.
Extraordinary Means by Robyn Shneider (YA Fiction)
Schneider just crafts such beautiful stories. I thought, “oh! I’m going to make it through this one without crying.” Joke was on me, as this story inevitably ripped my heart out. It follows a group of people who are brought together by an usual connection (their TB diagnosis), where they’re all living in a boarding school/treatment center of sorts. It’s one of those stories that extra makes you appreciate the beautiful intricacies of relationships.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichiw (Adult Non-Fiction)
Short, but powerful. Read it if you haven’t!
Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn (YA Fiction)
Morgan Matson’s alias. I was excited to finally dive into the Finn world, and while it was somewhat amusing I didn’t feel compelled to read the follow-up novels. Though the light read that has some of the appeal of an MTV reality show like Laguna Beach could be something fun to try.
The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close (Adult Fiction)
This novel was fantastic. Following the relationship of a young couple who met in New York, and later move to DC as the husband pursues a career in politics. This is a work of fiction, but it felt so realistic. I felt like I was reading a blog, or my friend was emailing me about her life. It definitely made me want to read another Jennifer Close book.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (Adult Fiction)
READ THIS. My only qualm with this one was the designer brand name dropping. Once I got beyond that, I was mesmerized by the story. I knew it was building up to something, but I was taken by surprise when I found out what. (Like gasp a loud, close my eyes surprise.) Then when you find out the similarities of Jessical Knoll’s own experiences, it’s even more heart-wrenching. This is a powerful story that I have chills just referring to right now.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)
With this historical fiction novel, Ruta Sepetys raced to the top of my list of favorite authors. It’s a unique take on parts of history, and some of it I was ashamed to realize I was unaware of. It’s painful to read at times, but also beautiful. It’s another book that reminds about the strength love gives us, and the grit and determination fueled by that love can pull us through even the seemingly most impossible situations.
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA Fiction)
Huntley Fitzpatrick is so great at weaving stories about friendship, love, family and the importance of trust and communication in our relationships. There’s always a twist in her stories, that you’re not expecting and I think that just adds to the appeal. I felt like my heart was literally aching for the characters in this story. Tim Mason grows immensely in this book, and it felt like watching a friend experience some really hell situations and come out the other side.
What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler (YA Fiction)
This story had me fired up. Especially because I was reading it around the “grab her by the p****” comments from earlier this fall. It’s just one of those that drove me crazy because unfortunately you can’t shake your shoulders and say it’s just a story. It’s real, it’s inspired by true events, and victims of sexual assault have been shown over and over that even with video proof of them being violated, people will still try and silence and discount their stories. I think this is an important book to read. I think it shines light on a different perspective. And it takes you outside of the exact event that happened to third party characters which I think lends an interesting view point. This text also lent one of my favorite quotes of the year:
“You’re doing the right thing,” she says.
“Doesn’t feel like it.” I wipe my eyes. I am so tired of crying. She nods, reading back over her list and flipping to a new page in her steno pad. “Sometimes, that’s how you know,” she says without looking up. “That’s how you know.”
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter (YA Fiction)
The librarian seemed a little disturbed when I was checking out this title, but assumptions aside this is an important piece of work. Sure all families have their own sorts of dysfunction, but some have more than others. This one delves into that divide when parents have their own personal issues they project on their children, and take away the chance for their kids to bond with them in normal ways. Of course, that causes all kinds of psychological damage. I can’t imagine feeling the degree of betrayal Cassie experiences, but man what a journey she traverses to get through it. This is one of the grittiest stories I’ve ever read. Sure, there are some positive spots but there’s no glossing over the anger and heartache. I think the straight forward approach to all sorts of topics in this story is brave and important.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (YA Fiction)
The second book I read by Ruta Sepetys, and it was just as good as the first. Another look into world history, surrounding Stalin and Hitler but referencing some events I still had no idea about. Somehow Sepetys is able to expand your world view, and your heart at the same time. The friendships that blossom through the pages are just so endearing and painstakingly beautiful. It aches to think about the atrocities they witness together, but you’re glad they’re at least together. She has one more title I haven’t read, and this book dissolved any doubt (I didn’t really have) to read anything she’s ever written.
Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading This by Bobby Bones (Adult Non-Fiction)
A memoir from my favorite radio host. I laughed, I cried, I was amazed being reminded of the stories we all carry with us that make us who we are, and sometimes we have no idea what others around us are carrying. This is a great, inspiring story. And it’s all about stories.
The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn (Adult Fiction)
A little psychological terror short story. Definitely had no clue what to expect reading this one, and found it to be just the right amount of creepy.
What Light by Jay Asher (YA Fiction)
This was a perfect read in December with Christmas lights up in my room. A family who goes to their Christmas tree farm every December? Perfect. If you’ve read Thirteen Reasons Why – this one doesn’t have the same life changing punch, but it’s a sweet story. It’s also a good reminder to get to know people on your own, and don’t take their “reputation” at face value because who knows what you could be missing out on.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Adult Fiction)
In the last week of the year, this was the final book I read. It was actually the second time I’d tried to read it. This time I finished. It was an okay story. I really enjoy weird futuristic, post-apocalyptic stories (The Road, The Age of Miracles), and this one was interesting enough I guess, but it seemed to fall a little flat. There were multiple points of view, and I liked the way it came together in the last seventy-five pages or so, but there were so many more things I wished she’d done with it. Maybe it didn’t help that in December I also watched Netflix’s The OA and was obsessed with all the theories it made me think about. I just wish some of the stories had been further expanded on.
Unfortunately, I started but didn’t finish (and am still working on them):
- Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh (Adult Fiction)
- The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (Adult Non-Fiction)
- The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (YA Fiction)
- Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
A Few Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading in 2017:
The Serpent King by Jeff Zettner
- Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
- Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
- Still Life With Tornado by A.S. King
- The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
- All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
- Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
- Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler
- Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
- The Girls by Emma Cline
- Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
- When We Collided by Emery Lord
Confession time: I am a scaredy cat. Okay, let me rephrase that…sometimes I am foolishly brave, but that’s a whole different ball game; usually situations that involve going out on a limb or whatever. The kind of scaredy cat I’m talking about today is that I hate suspense. I like to see the big picture. I know the whole magic of life is watching all the events unfold, but I literally despise transitions – the in-between. I hate not-knowing, the sickening feeling of uncertainty. I just want to know that everything works out, but better yet I’d like to know right now how exactly it works out. So, I’m pretty sure my aversion to suspense is why I avoid certain topics. (I used to be a serious Law & Order junkie until I realized that irrational amount of paranoia was wreaking havoc in my brain. Convinced that the creeks in the kitchen in the middle of the night, or the scratches from branches on windows were definitely “bad guys” coming to kidnap or kill me were pretty typical scenarios).
One of the last books I read in 2015, also happened to be one of the best books I read in 2015. Scratch that. Probably one of the best books I read in years. It’d been a little while since I’d read a young adult fiction novel that really tugged at my heart strings. (Right now, I’m remembering the way Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun just completely blew me away.) Well, after I’d seen some of my favorite YA authors praise David Arnold’s Misquitoland I knew I had to see what all fuss was about. Well, it didn’t take me long of peeking into Mim’s journey to realize, “oh my!” This was one of those characters you meet, (like Hazel Grace Lancaster) where I saw pieces of myself in her. I felt like I could be a companion on this Greyhound because I recognized her encounters. Then I came across this line, fairly early on:
I realized, Arnold gets it. I hate to even bring his gender to attention here, but having experienced being a teenage girl – it’s amazingly how acutely accurate the thoughts splashed across each page resonate. I don’t even want to ruin anything in trying to describe what this book is about (I avoided synopsis for this very reason.) Each element of Mim’s journey was such a delicious surprise. Heart-wrenching in anguish at times, shocking, surprising, heart-melting, inspiring – it’s all encapsulated in this young girl’s trip. It’s one of those where she goes out seeking one thing in the beginning (her mother,) but in the end finds so much more. As always, the revelations about friendships and unconventional relationships in this life are monumental. But they come about in the most surprising of ways. I found myself setting the book on my chest, as I just laid in my bed trying to catch my breath from the tears choking me. I know, I’m an atypical emotional reader; the tone I catch from a page may be a different experience for others, but Mosquitoland is a story that touched me to my core. If you’re looking for a read that is fresh with a witty, endearing narrator, I think you’ve met your match. The praise for this novel is well deserved. I’ve yet to find any friends who’ve read it yet, so I’d love to hear what others think!
(Cover art image from David Arnold books; Quote image from my personal instagram account.)