Maybe Read This, Read This, Uncategorized

Meg Says Read This: My 2016 List

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)

This story of a young girl without much worldly experience, who decides to ditch school and write about bands in a magazine. Made me a little uncomfortable at times, but probably because it’s so real. Moments were laugh out loud funny. It’s well written and unique, and there’s a reason so many celebs were buzzing about it on their Instas this year.

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
meg says read this, Uncategorized

Meg Says Read This: Between Shades of Gray

51fa0mhsovl-_sx331_bo1204203200_I have had a fascination with realistic historical fiction books since I was a little girl reading the Dear America series. Anything involving the 1940’s, and World War 2  particularly peaks my interest. A few years ago I read Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, and I knew that it would be a rare thing for me to find similar novels that left an impression on me the way these did. Since I try to keep up with the buzz in the YA world, I was aware of Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray, but I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally prepared for the read. Well, about  a month ago after reading a variety of different subject matter (such as The Hopefuls, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend) I stumbled upon BSoG at the library and figured why not give it a try? Oh my goodness, what a treat. Between Shades of Gray tells a really beautiful story of one girl’s struggle to hold on to hope, in the face of such horrifically dark and trying times. Lina is young, intelligent, inquisitive, and her sharp tongue speaks of her brutal observations (though sometimes she is able to restrain herself). The fact that that she shares her story through the eyes of an artist, provides a beautiful angle to the icy events. There are several references to flashbacks of simpler times, girls days shopping with her mom, the joy of splashes in a lake in the moonlight, laughing til your stomach hurts, ice cream on a hot summer day, the comfort of a hot cooked meal around a dinner table with family. They’re all reminders of sweet moments we might take for granted in our everyday lives. These people didn’t expect for their worlds to be torn apart overnight, separated from family, some to never be seen again, and uncertain fates. While the subject matter is incredibly heavy there’s a way that Lina’s perspective gives your heart wings while you’re reading. Her strength and persistence lets readers emotions rise above the despair while reading. This novel is superb and I can’t recommend it enough. This is one of those stories that my heart felt like it was shattering while I was reading it, and I definitely shed some tears, but there was also the light of hope picking me back up again.

I will shamefully admit that prior to reading Between Shades of Gray, I had really limited knowledge about Stalin’s deportation of Lithuania and the Baltics during the Russian invasion. This novel pushed me to start researching after I finished, and I was surprised to find that there is still so little communicated from these people that were sent away to work camps and prisons for years, and if they did return to their homes only to find that they were occupied by soldiers who had assumed their identities?! And the fact that they were threatened if they were to speak out against what happened to them? It’s another reminder how important it is to learn from our past, and not let the same atrocities be committed again.

(Image from Amazon.)

meg says read this

Meg Says Read This: Extraordinary Means

23149128Robyn Schneider has done it again. She finds this beautiful way of telling a story that involves grief, love, friendship and the roller coaster of life and adolescence all rolled into one. I was blown away a few years ago when I read The Beginning of Everything (so of course when I spotted it on a shelf in a visit to Powell’s last year I broke my own rule of  not buying anymore books to add it to my collection.) I was absolutely thrilled when I saw she’d come out with a new novel, Extraordinary Means – I may have even been the first person to check it out from the library.

So more about what Extraordinary Means is actually about. Seventeen year old Lane has been sent to special school, kind of like a boarding school, kind of like a summer camp – except here there is one link that bonds all the students together, and it’s not s’mores and kumbaya. All the kids at Latham have TB, albeit different strains so different levels of the way this diagnosis takes its toll on their bodies. On their good days the students might seem like normal teenagers, but whether it’s a fitful night of coughing that results in bloody pillowcases, or just the lack of energy and dark circles around their eyes – these kids are no longer able to lead something similar to their pre-TB lives. Away from their family and friends, sports and activities with no cure in sight their futures are uncertain.

Although what they considered “normal” lives are disrupted, and they can’t even continue a regular study path of school work – Lane and his new found friends have found a way to make the most of their time, and add some fun to their days. Who would have thought he’d find a familiar face at Latham? But why does this person seem to be so cold towards him? Even with a rocky start Lane will soon have new relationships develop, friendships evolve, and a spark of romance. The scary thing is no one ever knows how much time they have left – but Lane and his friends are cramming a lot of life in their days. Extraordinary Means is a heartwarming story that’s a reminder of the frailty of life, and the power of friendships in any circumstance in life. Schneider has shown us once again what a gift she has to leave such an impressionable story on the hearts of her readers.

(Image from Goodreads.)

 

meg says read this

Read This: Jenny Han’s Summer Trilogy

7cf3ec172ac1813da77baf827e27bc40

Once upon a time, several years ago in one of my routine hangouts at the public library in Tallahassee I stumbled across Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty. Lucky for me, I was late to the party and didn’t have to play the waiting game to read the novels to follow. This Instagram  post Real Simple put up a few weeks ago, really highlights why I felt so connected to Han’s stories, as a reader. She really really gets it. I’ve mentioned it here before but anytime there’s a character in YA novels who has this relentless ability to hold out hope, and just plain hold on – I see myself in them. That’s been me, the character in my own life since preschool. Also, I’m a summer girl through and through. Summer me is my favorite version of myself, and all year round I try and bring the magic that graces summer days into other seasons. Belly was also in that same predicament. There were several similarities I found while reading this trilogy, and so many things that just opened up a well of emotion. The way Han describes dealing with terminal illness in a loved one, and then the process of grief, and that path that just seems impossible to navigate – she just nails all of it. Love and friendship and the confusion of life. The way things don’t necessarily get easier as we grow older, just our scope of experience has evolved.

Basically this is less of a review and more of a reminder of some seriously amazing books that I’ve gushed over in the past. When I saw that quote I was instantly overwhelmed remembering my appreciation for Jenny Han’s way with words. Seeing as we’re only halfway through July you still have plenty of time to throw these books in a beach bag, and read them were they deserve to be devoured – in the sand somewhere, or in the still of a summer night. Either way, wherever you are, just read them.

meg says read this

Meg Says Read This: The Last Boy and Girl In the World

designed_by_expanded_gallery2“Be still my heart” should basically be my mantra after reading Siobhan Vivian’s latest, The Last Boy and Girl in the World. Pure genius, I’m telling you – well, more like sweetly yelling at you with an excited urgency. See, if you’ve been reading my blog for long you know I have an intense love affair with young adult fiction but since I read Mosquitoland back in December, there hadn’t been a YA title that truly captured my attention. Then a few weeks ago Siobhan Vivian tweeted a link to the first six chapters of TLBAGITW, and I was absolutely captivated. I honestly had trouble sleeping that night because I couldn’t wait to read the rest – that’s how hooked I was. There is a particular quality of magic in this book. Something that makes it sparkle and shine and stand out among the rest. Truly, Keeley and Morgan, Jesse and Levi – all of these characters really found a little home in my heart. I had the library put the book on hold for me and when I saw it was in transit, I ducked out from work for a minute on Friday to pick it up before they closed. By Saturday afternoon, I was finished. Even though I tried to space out my reading binge a little because I didn’t want the story to be over yet. Also, I had to take a few breaks near the end because I was in tears.

Now, I’ve given myself a bit of time to really absorb it all, and sort out my thoughts.  I don’t think this has really aided in watering down my obsession, though. I still want to tell everyone I know to go ahead and read this book. My friends who are in the camp of “I just can’t relate to high schoolers” – get over yourselves for a second, right? Because it’d be a shame to miss such an enchanting story.

The premise of an unknown weather related disaster reminded me slightly of The Age of Miracles. I’m not complaining because I loved that book too! But other than that The Last Boy and Girl in the World really set itself into a world of it’s own. Vivian really hit it out of the park with this one. I know these are all vague descriptions, but I’ll tell you this: If you were one of those girls who grew up with an overwhelming crush on one particular guy – you will love to read what unfolds between Keeley Hewitt and Jesse Ford. Some of the scenes and the lines, are enough to make you swoon – but not overboard cheesy where you’re thinking “gag me” as you dive into all of the romantic details. I think many of us can relate to the idea that sometimes, regardless of what catastrophic disaster is happening around us, it’s nice to be selfish for a second and be distracted by our own grand stroke of luck in the scheme of things. That’s kind of what happens here when Aberdeen seems to be suffering from frigid temperatures and never ending rain that causes the town to flood and leads to even bigger problems.

Vivian also found a way to touch on friendship in one of the most beautiful ways I’ve seen written about to date. For anyone who has had a friend from a very  young age, and seen your friendship change as you get older – you know that this isn’t always easy. We’re not the same at eighteen as we were at eight (and for that matter twenty-eight). Some bonds don’t survive the tumultuous ride of life, and that pain is one that can cut the deepest. Love in a friendship though, can sometimes make it transcend anything. I think that happens here. We’re reminded how sometimes, even though you can’t replicate what you had in the past, you can learn a way for the friendship to be a part of your present and future, just in a different capacity.
In a few hundred pages Siobhan Vivian successfully covered topics from friendship, relationship, all different kinds of love, family drama, growing up, and transitional periods in life with so much reality and heart, I find it impossible not to keep this book in one of those esteemed spots for avid readers. The kind of spot on your favorite books list, that it will always be one of the first you recommend when people ask for suggestions. There’s adventure and angst and such vivid storytelling that when I recall the chapters, I feel like I can still see the scenes in my head.All of this to say, if you haven’t gotten your hands on a copy of this yet – what are you waiting for?!
(Image borrowed from official site.)