Books of 2016

Time to get back into blogging! I’ve been ‘on my own’ for almost a year now and my first wedding anniversary is not that far away! (Time really does fly!) I’m working and developing my career in ways I never thought I could at this point in my life. I started my own book club and trying to branch out a bit more to the people around me (and living in the middle of nowhere makes that a bit of a challenge.)

But on to the title of this post, the best and worst books I read in 2016 (and few ‘what the crap!?!’ moments). I read 84 books last year and there were a lot to choose from, but there were some that I just couldn’t leave out. Now these are MY OPINIONS of these books and no one else’s. Not everyone’s tastes are all the same.

BEST OF 2016

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

         I LOVED THIS BOOK. The most perfect and innocent romance I have ever read. And they don’t even know who each other are for most of the book!

        Summary: A circus that magically appears one night and only opens in the evening. No one knows when or where is appears and disappears. If features so many wonderful tents of tremendous acts. But the circus really isn’t just a special night circus, it is the stage for a magic battle that will only end in death. Yet what happens if the two participants fall in love? An absolute must read (and it’s not just a sappy romance story).

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

       WOAH. Just WOAH. This book totally blew my mind. It had my on the edge of my seat the whole time!

       Summary: In the future (2044 to be exact), everyone will be absorbed in a virtual reality game called the Oasis. People can go to school, go to work, visit different created planets all from the comfort of their own home. The creator of the Oasis has died and he left a huge Easter egg in his game. Whoever finds the egg inherits all of the creator’s wealth. Wade has dedicated his life to finding the Egg and studying the pop culture of the 80’s that the creator was obsessed with. When he stumbles upon the first key to the first of 3 gates, the whole world begins searching. The only way for Wade to protect the Oasis is to team up with friends to find the Egg and keep it from people who want to destroy the Oasis everyone has come to love.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

       My. Heart. I am such an Alice in Wonderland fan. I love the colorful world, how unique Alice is, and the overall madness of it all.

       Summary: Before Alice. . . the Red Queen was not always so terrible. Heartless is her story. The story of a Catherine, who wants to be the most famous baker in Hearts but forced by her parents to attempt to be the next Queen of Hearts. When Cath meets Jest, the strange and mysterious court jester, everything changes.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

     Last year I read The Goldfinch and is was very, very long. I got stuck on page 525 for months. But 3 pages later, the story picked up again and I really like it. While I was searching for a job, I decided to give another one of her books a try, and I was hooked. The beginning was a bit slow, but the whole story was just nail biting.

     Summary: Someone dies, you know that from the beginning. But the events that lead up to the act are bizarre. Richard arrives at college in New England without a major. One group of students really catches his attention and it leads him to take on Classics as a major. The class is very unconventional, one professor, tea time, and lounging around. I would love to have a major like that! Richard’s classmates are very wealthy and they are very close. But when a death appears in the paper on the night of some suspicious activities, one of the group’s members panics and life is not the same after that.

Dragons of Spring Dawning by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

      The third book of the Dragonlance core novels. I laughed, I cried, and I was definitely not the same afterwards. I literally could not function mentally for a while.

     Summary: Our favorite characters are on a mission to defeat the Queen of Darkness. Pasts are revealed, friendships are challenged, and new characters are introduced. The dragonlances have been forged and the dragons have arrived. Elves and humans must band together to fight back the dark that threatens to change their world.

WHAT THE CRAP OF 2016

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

      Oh dear. Stephanie, a cheap lingerie buyer becomes unemployed and tries her hand at bounty hunting. I mean, what the world? It seemed that at every turn she had some crazy situation she had to get herself out of. Stephanie’s first task is to bring in Morelli, who also happens to be the guy who hooked up with her and wrote about it on a bathroom stall. She ‘borrows’ his car and constantly follows him around, trying to bring him in. I don’t want to give too much away, it might ruin the laugh moments.

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

      This book is a little unusual. It is anything from email exchanges, book club, and bra fittings. I was completely shocked. You think it is just something super silly about being a housewife (Leave it to Beaver or at least Keeping Up Appearances type), but NOOOOO. Nothing could be further from that.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

      When Amy goes missing, all evidence points to her husband Nick. But some things are not as they appear. This book has the biggest twist I’ve ever experienced. It left me speechless and brainwashed. And it’s unique to read a book that has no likable characters.

The One Hundred Year Old Man that Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

       This title is so long. . . When Allan turns 100, he decides he wants to leave the nursing home and climbs out his window. The book goes back and forth between Allan’s diverse history and his current adventures of being chased by criminals with new friends and an elephant. Every twist and turn had me giggling in my seat.

WORST OF 2016

Happy People Ready and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand

       This book had so much potential!!! I had tears pouring down may face! But it was so disappointing. The title comes from the name of Diane’s book store cafe that she hasn’t stepped in since her husband and child died. She wastes her life away and finally has the resolve to travel to Ireland. She meets a man and they immediately dislike each other. And suddenly, they like each other and fall in love. But Diane has another life she needs to get back to in Paris. Does she stay with Edward or does she return to life in Paris? The title is so deceiving, she only spends a few days in the cafe in the whole book. And a relationship that does from hate to love in 2.5 seconds. This book is originally in French, so there may have been something lost in translation. And there is a sequel coming out. I might read it, just to see the end of the story.

The After Party by Anton DiSclafani

       Two best friends. Both named Joan. One is the wealthy starlet and the other is her keeper. Wealthy, beautiful Joan has always had the spotlight compared to Joan Cecily (Cece). Joan has secrets that even Cece doesn’t know, proving that wealth and popularity aren’t everything. To me, I was so annoyed with Cece, she was totally obsessed with Joan to the point that it hurts her marriage relationship. If I had a friend that obsessive, it would be a little weird.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

       A bunch of spoiled brats planning their whole lives around ‘the nest,’ their father’s fund that they only inherit when the youngest sibling turns 40. But most of that fund gets depleted when Leo gets involved in a scandal. All the siblings push to have Leo repay that amount back into the nest. Meh. Brats. Forty-Fifty year old brats that put the cart before the horse.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

      I really really wanted to love this book. The series has been very popular. I guess because the new book came out this year. To me, this was about 200 pages too long. And poor Jamie had just affliction after affliction placed on him and I’m thinking ‘how in the world is this guy even alive??’

I know this was really long, but I read a lot of amazing books this year that I wanted to share.

Books for November

Sadly, I was only able to read 5 books in the month of November. I was going to do a favortie books in November post, but hey, might as well do all five. (Note: these books are in no particular order.)

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Everything I Never Told You

This book just broke my heart. I loved it because it looks at family and all the pressures that happen just inside the home. It’s not bad pressures, but pressures that can really put a strain on an individual. I could definitely relate to this book. It’s not all sad, the family learns to finally heal despite the odds.

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Career of Evil

This was probably my most anticipated book of the year. I had it marked on my calendar for months. My wonderful fiance (still not quite used to using that term lol) gave me The Silkworm for Christmas last year, it’s the second book in the series. And me, being the OCD bookworm that I am, refused to read the second book without reading the first, much to Brent’s dismay. So he bought me The Cuckoo’s Calling and after that I was hooked.

The whole series has to be one of my favorite crime series. Most murder mystery novels I read can be really predictable. I can usually figure out who did it not too long before it is revealed. But in all these novels I am left completely dumbfounded! I had no clue who the guilty party was until the author revealed it.

This installment focuses more on Robin, Cormoran’s assistant and partner. We learn more about her story and why she desires to pursue a career in private investigating. I can’t say too much without giving everything away.

Side note: Robert Galbraith is actually JK Rowling!!! I totally freaked out with I found out. She actually does an interview as Robert Galbraith and you can listen to it here.

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The Secret Wisdom of Earth

I won this book in a drawing for the adult summer reading program this summer. I had never heard of this book and I finally gave it a go. And I loved it! I had just finishing reading To Kill a Mockingbird in preparation for Go Set a Watchman, and this book is so similar! A family seeks healing after the youngest son is tragically killed and finds it in a small town with their Grandfather. Instead of racism, it deals with homosexuality. But adds murder and suspense to it. This is definitely a book I will read again. And it took this guy 15 years to write it!

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Red Queen

If you loved The Selection Series, you will love Red Queen. I actually liked this better. Less romance and more action in liberating people from a cast system. The next book will be realease in 48 days (Glass Sword). It’s already marked on my calendar.

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Carry On

I debated and debated about whether to buy this one or not. I read Fangirl and loved it. The story is very interesting. We receive no background what so every. It’s like reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows without any of the other books, but it works. You can get more background from Fangirl as Cath writes the story, but Carry On is not what Cath wrote. It continues the story of Simon Snow, his enemy Baz, and many other characters. It’s extremely similar to Harry Potter. If I had read more books than just 5, it would not have made it onto this list. I liked it, yes, but it wasn’t as good as the others mentioned before.

Coming Soon

Oh my. SO much has happened in the past few months, it’s been hard for me to keep up. Thanksgiving for my family is different this year, so I will have more time to get a game plan.
But so you aren’t feeling left out or disappointed by this post, I’m going to preview some things that will be coming.
1.

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I think this picture says it all.

2. My favorite books of November. (I’ve cranked out a lot of books this month)

3. Goodreads best books of 2015 final round. (Im trying to read all the ones I own for an honest vote)

4. My journal. (Journaling is such a big part of my life and I want to share it)

5. Midori Traveler’s Notebook. (Technically a FoxyDori; my lay out; uses; etc)

6. Girls Movie Night. (Featuring Paper Towns)

7. List of lists.

8. Herb Garden soap and updated skin care routine.

9. NexGen Manicure.

10. Everyday makeup look.

Just a few things to help get my blog going again. I was talking with some fellow alumni and we all agreed that we have less time now than we had in college (minus the homework) but none of us miss school. I have the time to read so many books (heaven!). But for anything else, not really. After work I have my regular activities, laundry, cleaning, cooking, or anything else that needs to be done.
I hope to get a lot of these ideas posted before the end of the year. As well as sharing some of my personal favorite blogs. So keep checking back for more updates!

Summer Reading

Summer is sadly coming to a close. I will miss the sandals, short sleeves, and the sunny warmth. But this summer hasn’t been too bad. I remember as a kid that the highlight of my summer (besides no school) was the summer reading programs at the library.

We lived in Myrtle Beach for a good long while and there was an AWESOME library there. My mom would take us at least once a week. The best summer reading program was here. The goal was to read 30 hours. For every 5 hours, your name was put in a box for a drawing. If you reached 30, you got a medal at a large party in the party at the end of summer. Those were the days.

I moved up to the teen reading program, and it wasn’t that great. Not as much to offer as the children’s one. And now I’m an adult. When I first signed up for the program at my local library, I stated my goal for 50 hours. My mom laughed and said I could do that in three weeks. Well she was about right. I read a total of 220 hours over the course of 2 months. My name was even picked for a drawing and I won 2 books! That was probably the highlight of my summer!

Local libraries have so much to offer, even beyond their bookcases. More on libraries later.

Planner Love

It’s weird to know that I have graduated from college and will not be returning to school. I was always so

excited to start school, my favorite thing being school supplies. My grandma always sent us money for

school things and Mom always wanted us to get what we wanted. I would look for the coolest school

supplies and be so excited to use them.

My most important item was my planner. As long as I had gotten ‘that’ planner, everything else was

going to be ok. I’ve used the Target hardcover planners for a several years, and I just love the layout. It’s

convenient, has plenty of space to write assignments, and looked super chic. My senior year, I caved and

got a Kate Spade planner. I loved the cover design (books! Lol) and how ‘adult’ it looked. But it did not

have a monthly spread in a convenient place. I like having an overview of the month in the middle of the

weekly calendar. The Kate Spade one just had a week to week layout.

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This year, though I am not in school, I bought a Lilly Pulitzer planner. I went with the smaller size so that

it conveniently fits in my bag. I don’t write assignments in it, but I do write appoints, events, important

dates, etc. on the days. I also use it as a ‘one line’ journal. I am a total journal writer, but some small

insignificant things that I don’t put in my journal goes on my planner. I but down when I finish a book,

what I ate for lunch, movie dates with Rose (follow her blog her), when I wear a really cool outfit, etc. It

gives me a tiny snap shot of my day that I can go back and see what I did on that specific day.

So far, I am really loving my Lilly planner. It has the layout that I prefer, as well as a bit of sophistication

for an older me. It keeps me organized and focused on my priorities.

Book Club! (For Real)

At the beginning of summer, I thought it would be cool to join a real book club. I never really thought of doing one before and I thought that book clubs just did not exist anymore. I Googled book clubs in my area, and low and behold, there was a book club! I was so so excited! I immediately went out and bought the first book and read it in only a few days. After discussion, everyone goes out to a restaurant to eat and continue talk on books (my kind of dinner).

This particular book club has been going on for (wait for it. . . ) 11-12 years. YEARS. And I think to myself, ‘Why have I not heard about this? I could have been doing this for my whole college career!!’ I’ve really been missing out. This club is independent from my local library, but they still use the meeting rooms. I arrived early, and was literally bouncing on the inside (‘I’m in a book club!!!’). The first book was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawking. It was published this year, so many people were interested in the book. We sat in a circle and went around, introducing ourselves and giving our opinion of the book. Since there were so many of us, we took up the whole hour going around. There were discussions that popped up as the opinions continued. It was a lively discussion all around. Before I knew it, the hour was up and it was time for dinner. Not many people came to dinner, but the conversation was all about books (I was in heaven!).

The next month, there was less people, but conversation was still good. The organizer of the book club brings discussion questions. When the discussion lulled, the organizer would ask a question that she got off the internet.

The books are chosen 6 months at a time. Recommendations are made every 6 months and we vote on what books we want to read. It’s quite simple. If the book is being made into a movie close to the time we read the book, we will all go to the movies.

So one question is probably ‘Why join a book club?’ I joined because I wanted to meet people who loved books as much as I do. The discussions about symbolisms in books that we’ve read has really fascinated me. I read for pleasure and enjoyment, sometimes for enhancing myself intellectually, but most of the time I do not see the connections or symbolisms. Why did the author have the mentally handicapped Frederick draw spirals all day in All the Light We Cannot See? Every word of an author means something, and without book club, I never would have realized that.

Another reason I joined book club is to branch out my reading genre. We read The Lady in Gold and it was not a book that I would have just picked up off the shelf. It’s a nonfiction book about stolen art from the Austrians in WWII. The cover wasn’t really appealing nor the summary. But I enjoyed the book and it encouraged me to read more nonfiction. I’m having discussions and reading books that I never thought I would do.

Book club has been a great thing for me. I only wish that it was more than once a month.

Goodreads

At the beginning of the summer, I really started exploring the website Goodreads. I had joined a few years ago, but didn’t really get into it (like Pinterest), but now that I’ve explored the site I cannot live without it.

Goodreads is a site for people who love books! And that is perfect for me. All the books I’ve ever read are on there and I can add it to my profile, rate it, write reviews, note if you own the book, etc. It’s a way that I can keep track of all that I’ve read. And my friends can see the books too and add the books if they want to read.

There are all kinds of lists on the site that you can rate books. There is a list for top Young Adult books, lists for Historical Fiction, any list you can think of. Most of the books that I have added to my ‘To-Read’ virtual shelf have been from lists. The site also makes recommendations based on what you’ve read, want you want to read, and what you are currently reading. You can also keep track of your page numbers in books you are currently reading.

My favorite thing about the site is the yearly challenge. You set your goal, and it keeps track of how many you read in the whole year. My goal was a modest 50, I wasn’t sure how busy I would be with this new chapter in my life, so I kept it low. I have read 45 of 50 books so far. And I’m positive I will meet my goal.

So go check out Goodreads and see if it enhances your reading experience.