October's Book Reviews

Here it is! The first monthly book review post!! Excited?! I sure am. I read a lot this month – more than normal. I’m listing them in the order I finished them in, and at the end is my book of the month!

Before we get started, though, I wanted to give this brief introduction to how I rate books.

Ratings

Click on the picture to make it bigger (i.e., readable!)

I use the Goodreads rating scale of 1-5 stars. I know sometimes it’s hard to stick to only 5 options…lots of times we want half stars!! But, half stars make things messy. My ratings tend to be on the somewhat conservative side, so keep that in mind. Also keep in mind that a 3 star rating doesn’t mean a book is bad. Generally, I choose books that I expect to enjoy (don’t we all?). If I do enjoy them, then they’ve met my expectations…so I give them a 3. Anything lower than 3 didn’t live up to my expectations, and anything above 3 exceeded them. I’m generally not looking for certain writing styles or plot lines or technical aspects. If something stands out (for good or bad), I’ll comment on it, but in general technical aspects won’t be the sole influencer on my rating.

Any questions on my ratings? If so, just ask, and I’ll try to clarify!

And now, on to the books!!!

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4 starsI really think you should get a medal when you finish one of these books. Voyager is book 3 in the Outlander series, and it’s 870 pages. A medal would be such a nice touch, don’t you think? I mean…it’s a commitment. A wonderful, exciting commitment, but a commitment nonetheless. I read between 60-70 pages an hour, so you do the math.

This one just barely squeaks into October, but that’s when I finished it, so it counts. I’d read Outlander in 2013, which seems like a really long time ago. I don’t remember why I didn’t continue the series…probably because they’re so long. Anyway, when I started watching the show, I decided I wanted to pick the series back up because I missed the characters. I devoured Book 2, and immediately started Book 3.

If you haven’t read it, I’m not going to tell you much about the story because I hate spoilers. But, the book follows Claire and Jamie. There. They have adventures, they have sex, and the whole thing is about as believable as a Harry Potter story. BUT. That’s quite ok. I’ll take the “did that really just happen?” moments because I love the characters (all of them), I love the settings, and I think Diana Gabaldon does an excellent job of making me forget I’m reading a 900 page book.

The Outlander world is quickly rising to the top of my “I wish it were real” list. I mean, yes, of course I want to marry Jamie Fraser. Who doesn’t? But besides all that, I’d really like to experience Scotland and Paris and Jamaica and everywhere else in the 18th century. Or, at least…Diana Gabaldon’s 18th century.

Unfortunately, I’m bordering on obsessed, so I’ve decided to limit my Outlandering. I won’t be reading the next book until at least January. (groan)

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4 starsThis book got tons of press. It was a Birchbox book club selection, and I’ve seen it on at least 3 separate “what to read this summer” lists. Despite that, readers have been pretty critical. It’s only got a 3.2 on Goodreads, and a 3 on Amazon. I was a little hesitant to start it because of this….Goodreads ratings are usually pretty accurate.

I can see why so many people hated this book, I really can. The characters are pretty unlikeable. Some of them are even awful. The plot isn’t terribly original or riveting, and the writing is standard. The story wraps itself up a little too neatly, and in some ways, you’re left wanting more.

I actually really enjoyed The Vacationers. It’s the kind of book that I think you have to read into…if you’re reading it just for fun or fluff or escape, it doesn’t quite cut it. (Because of this, I think the cover is a little misleading…it looks like a beach read, and I’d be hard pressed to consider it one.) It’d be great for a book club, because there’s a lot to discuss.

Underlying the whole story is a central theme about love and what it means to be loved. It’s a quiet commentary on one of the most basic human conditions…how important love (in all its forms) is to our lives. About how we screw up, and about how we recover. About how loving someone doesn’t make them perfect, and yet, how it makes them perfect for us. Or doesn’t. It’s basically all about love and life and how, in the grand scheme of things, what would our lives be without it?

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)

3 starsThis was our October book club pick. It took me a while to start this…I’d wanted to read it for a while, but just couldn’t get myself in the mood to pick it up.  It wasn’t the book’s fault, just me.

First, can I mention that I think this is one of the best covers ever? I just love it. Anyway. In case you didn’t know, Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling. I didn’t know that until one of the book club girls told me. I’ve heard The Casual Vacancy wasn’t great, so was a little skeptical. Plus, it’s hard to top Harry Potter, let’s be honest.

I enjoyed this because it was a relatively quick, engaging read. I read a lot of mysteries, so the ending didn’t surprise me. After a while you get pretty good at figuring out who the killer is. The puzzle is why you read, and this one was decent. What kept me from rating it higher, though, was the writing. I just didn’t feel like this was that great. I know how well Rowling can write, and this falls short. I didn’t care about any of the characters. Things didn’t always add up. There were slight inconsistencies, things I’m not used to seeing in her writing (though they may be there and I’ve just missed them). And honestly, I felt like she kept repeating the same phrases over and over again. But, it kept my interest, and it wasn’t horrible. Would I recommend it? Sure. Are there better mysteries? Yep.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

4 starsWhat an adorable book! I read this is one night…it’s so cute, so quick, and just an all-around fun story. Yes, Hadley gets a little annoying with all her whining about her dad getting remarried. But, she’s 17, so in reality I think that’s probably about right. The basic premise is Hadley is flying to London for her dad’s wedding. She meets Oliver in the airport, and thus begins a 24-hour journey of true love at first sight. It’s adorable and fluffy and makes you smile. Plus, it’s nice to see a love story (especially one written for teens) that doesn’t feature messed-up characters. In hindsight I probably should have given this a 5. I actually think this would make a cute movie too, so hopefully Hollywood will pick it up!

You Had Me At Hello

3 starsGrumble. I had high hopes for this, based solely on the cover alone. Serves me right. Oh, it wasn’t horrible. In fact, it almost got a 4-star rating.

The basic premise is Rachel and Ben were college buddies, but haven’t seen each other in 10 years. It’s pretty clear from the get-go that Rachel has a thing for Ben, and then you find out “something” happened between them. The book switches back and forth between the past and present. I spent the entire first half of this book desperately trying to find out what happened between them. Then I did, and I spent the second half of the book trying to decide if I wanted them to get together or not.

There’s no way to tell this without spoilers. I apologize. You may want to stop reading if that’s going to bother you.

The thing about this book…it’s real. Relate-able. Rachel is the kind of person we all know, and we’ve all been. She does some really stupid things, and you can’t help cringing because you’ve either been there or have seen it happen. Towards the end, we finally see a little bit of growth in Rachel. She loses Ben, but she’s honest with him. Chapter 68 is about her realizing that she needs to take control of her life and start making decisions instead of letting life happen to her. She’s screwed up, but she’s going to get on track. I read the last few paragraphs thinking, “this is a good ending.”

THERE’S ANOTHER CHAPTER.

It’s not the end of the book. Oh no. Because in the last chapter, guess what happens…here’s Ben. He’s back, and he’s back for her. Cue happily ever after music. UGH.

So here’s the thing. I’ve been thinking about this, and here’s what I’ve come to. We read fiction for one of two reasons. We either want to escape, or we want to relate. We want a life/world/story that gives us what we don’t have, or we want a life/world/story that makes us feel like we belong.

This book attempts both, and that results in an incredibly unsatisfactory ending. It feels contrived and cheap and like some publisher said “you’ve got to have a happy ending or this book won’t sell.” I was tempted to give it an even lower rating, honestly. My advice? Don’t read past chapter 68 and you’ll be just fine.

The Geography of You and Me

2 starsI was really disappointed in this one. After reading The Statistical Probability, I had high hopes…maybe a little too high. I just couldn’t care about this story. It started off cute enough…the main characters get stuck in an elevator together. But they were just so annoying! I didn’t really care what happened to them, or what they were doing. In fact, the only interesting character in this story was Bartleby the box turtle, and he didn’t even have much mention. The only saving grace is this was a fairly quick read.

Ready Player One

5 stars I picked this one up because a) it had been on my list for a while, b) I wanted something more intellectual than what I’d been reading, and c) it had a 4.3 on Goodreads with over 100k reviews, which is practically unheard of. And Omg was it a fun read.

So, ok, if you’re not into science fiction or alternate realities, you aren’t going to like this book. Basically, it’s set in the future and everyone logs into this virtual world called Oasis. Essentially everything that happens in the book takes place inside a video game. It’s a little weird at first, but soon enough you get used to it. And then you start wishing Oasis was real.

The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking it reminded me of Harry Potter. I can’t tell you why, other than it’s a quest story. Maybe because the world is so vividly rendered. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just nuts.

I initially gave this a 4 because I thought the nerd factor would turn people off and that this was sort of a niche book. In a way I still think that… But then again, I don’t typically read science fiction and I’m certainly not a video game fan, and I loved it. Shrug. So 5 stars it is.

The Fashion Hound Murders

2 starsIn a way, reading a really good book is kind of a pain, because whatever you read next automatically gets held to those same expectations. For that reason, when I read something great, I try to pick something for my next read that’s a little….well, fluffy. That way I can sorta come down off the great book and move forward. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

This one was ok. Nothing special, certainly. It’s about a mystery shopper who gets involved in a puppy mill take-down. Cozy mystery + puppies….it should have been gold. Unfortunately, the dialogue was so juvenile and the main character such a wet blanket that I spent most of the book annoyed. Stop whining about men. Stop whining about how everyone thinks you’re a bad cook. Stop whining about money. You think he’s a bad guy, why are you going on a date with him again and again and again. Why are you letting your daughter play with his dog. Better yet, why haven’t you taught your daughter to be wary of strangers. And so forth and so on. Honestly, half of what kept me reading was that I was worried about the supposed bad guy’s cute little lab puppy.

Whew, that was a lot of reading! And now……..

Book of the MonthArgh this was tough!! I read so many great books that it was hard to choose. I loved Voyager, and I love that world, so that was a contender. The Vacationers was fun and touching. Ready Player One was engaging and different, and I gave it 5 stars. But ultimately, the prize goes to:

 The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

And because I had so much fun with the poll function, let’s do that again too.

What books should I read this month? I love book recs, so throw ’em at me!

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