2015 books reads: Mostly fiction

I had a plan that I’d keep regularly sharing the books I’ve been reading. I also have a plan to earn a decent income by working regularly. And also to exercise at least 3 times a week. And to write 500+ words a day. I have lots of plans.

I’m more successful at executing some of them than others.

So, let’s play quick catch up. Since the last time I blogged about it in June, I’ve read 28 books. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really only a little more than 1 book a week. And I often combine reading with other things: exercise + reading, reading + eating, reading + putting kids to bed, reading + walking around the house aimlessly, reading + making kids’ lunches, etc.

I was going to do a quick write up of all 28 books, but I got through about half of them and ran out of steam. So, here’s memoir and fiction and I swear I’ll get to YA fiction soon (unlike my plan to write about all the books I read in 2014).

Memoir:

I continued on my memoir, specifically YA memoir reading trend for a while. Then I veered off into fiction land (more on that later).

Teen AngstTeen Angst? Naaah… by Ned Vizzini

I’ve been hunting for good YA memoir and found a series of funny essays about a New York teen in this book by Ned Vizzini. I liked it so much I was going to send him fan mail and was sad to learn he died by suicide not that long ago.

this star wont go outThis Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl

This book is a collection of essays by the late Esther Earl and reflections from her parents. It’s moving, and completely non-commercially written. I wanted to keep reading it because I cared about Esther and wanted to know her story.

 Wild WithinWild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart is a fellow Eugene writer who I met at a memoir workshop. She’s fabulously generous with her advice and insight on writing memoir and I’d previously read her first memoir, Gringa. I like Melissa and her writing so much I bought the hardback book (the only version available) and read an actual, physical book. And I enjoyed it — and learned so much about raptor rescue and rehabilitation at our own Cascade Raptor Center. Now I need to pass this book onto someone else to enjoy.

laughing at my nightmareLaughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

I dipped back into humorous YA memoir with Shane’s book. He’s a great and funny guy and you should read his book and follow him on Twitter @shaner528.

foundFound: A Memoir by Jennifer Lauck

Jennifer Lauck taught several workshops at the Willamette Writer’s conference this year, most of which I attended. I’m sure I’ve read her first memoir, Blackbird, at some point, so I decided to keep on reading her work. Found made me think about adoption in a new light.

boys in the boatThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

This is non-fiction, not memoir, I know, but I’m apparently too lazy to make another category. I read this book because I participated in an book trivia competition. Billed at OBOB for adults (this is an article I wrote about it), it involved 8 books, lots of questions and some good wine. My team came in 2nd place after losing in the lightning round. This is one of the 8 books I read (yes, I read all of them, I couldn’t help myself), that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. And I’m glad I did. It was so well written I enjoyed reading about crew, a sport I otherwise couldn’t care less about. It may be obvious, but I’m not very sporty (hello, my exercise routine consists of either yoga or reading a book while on a treadmill/elliptical/torture device).

Fiction:

martini of destinyThe Martini of Destiny: A Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella by Anthony St. Clair

I bought this book from the author at a lunch-n-learn writer/author event for my bonus son. Then I bought the kindle version for myself so I could read it, too. It’s a delightful novella with compelling characters and action. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

the residue yearsThe Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson

I read this book for the Bookish Trivia Event mentioned above and honestly wouldn’t have read it otherwise. It was a heartbreaking read, one where I kept hoping the characters would make better choices for themselves. And yet, I knew what was going to happen from the start.

imperfect birdsImperfect Birds by Anne Lamott

I’d previously only read Anne Lamott’s non-fiction (and her Facebook posts), so I thought I’d give her fiction a try. I can only hope my teenage daughters are less manipulative and I’m not in denial as we traverse through those years. It had a lot of true to life characters and interactions, but I wanted to smack her parents a lot.

the brief wondrous lifeThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

This was another Bookish Trivia pick and, if I’m going to be honest, I had such a hard time getting into the book that if I wasn’t reading it for a COMPETITION, I wouldn’t have finished it. But, I forged ahead, buoyed by a review that said it got the wind in its sails by the 50% mark, and ended up enjoying it.

What was most interesting to me was the cultural depictions in the book — and how, in many ways, they were similar to what I experienced as a teen in Barbados.

all the light we cannot seeAll the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

Suzi Steffen (@SuziSteffen) told me to read this book, so I got on the library’s wait list and was #667 in line. Two months later, it was available, at the same time as about 3 other books I had on hold, but I managed to read them all in my allotted 21-days borrowing period.

My mum’s parents fought in WWII — one in the resistance movement, one in the army in some capacity. My Grandpa was captured at one point, escaped (by dressing as a woman) and then somehow met up with Nany. I don’t tend to read too much about WWII because it evokes some kind of ancestral memory passed down through my DNA (that sounds kooky, I know, but I swear I feel the echoes). This was an incredible book.

the ocean at the end of the laneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This was another Bookish Trivia book, but one I was glad to read as I love Neil Gaiman. It was enchanting. There were certain elements of the boy’s character and the narrator’s voice that moved me. It was weird and wonderful and ultimately hopeful.

oryx and crackeOryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Another Bookish pick, and another one I enjoyed. Even though it was quite disturbing. I wanted better for the main character and often confused by his choices, the motivations for some of which never seemed entirely clear to me. But I suppose if I thought I was the lone survivor of a terrible plague I’d make some questionable decisions as well.

the storied life of aj fikryThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A Bookish choice again and one I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t have picked for myself (as I don’t tend to read a lot of regular adult fiction as that’s not what I’m writing at the moment). As a book lover, it’s hard not to love books about bookstores that refers to other books. There’s lot of that. Some of the characters are funny and it was a generally enjoyable, easy read, although it didn’t rock my world.

landlineLandline: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell

I love Rainbow Rowell. My sister-in-law turned me onto her and, for some reason, I thought she’d only written Fangirl and Eleanor and Park (I must have forgotten how to Google). I decided to buy this book rather than her latest because I liked the idea of a magic phone and how you might use it to change the outcome of y our life. Several reviewers had difficulty with the ending of the book — feeling that the main character giving up her chance of a lifetime dream to save her marriage — was the wrong message to send to women. I think life, and relationships, are a bit more complicated than that (and, as a woman who chooses to work part-time from home so I can pick kids up from school every day, I’m in the midst of that balance between family and career). I loved it.

 

The rest of the books I’ve read this summer/early fall are YA fiction which I’ll have to write about in another post.  In general, I should write these more frequently. Or read less — and I know that’s not going to happen.

Note: The links for each book go to Amazon.com. They are affiliate links. That said, if you want to buy a physical book, please shop at your local bookstore.