Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

This was the year of celebrity fiction and I haven’t been let down.  I’ve been a Krysten Ritter fan for a while (V Mars!) and was really excited to hear that she had a book coming out.  It was made even more exciting by our Random House rep saying that it was actually really great.

I’m going to start by saying that I am not a huge fan of psychological thrillers.  I always want to know what happens so I have read a lot of them but the genre just doesn’t work for me. I don’t know why.  That said, I think that this one was really well done.  It was really down to Earth with realistic characters.  The mystery grew and changed in fun and interesting ways.  And I actually cared about what happened to these characters!

I look forward to what more Ritter has in store for us.

4-stars

Odd Birds by Ian Harding

This book was a surprising joy!  My friend Katie and I picked it up as a laugh (because we are guilty-pleasure lovers of Pretty Little Liars) and ended up having such a great time getting to know Ian Harding!  His writing is smart and goofy and he isn’t afraid to make fun of himself. (Katie and I both appreciated it when he described his natural state as “sweaty.”  Finally!  Someone understands us!)

Harding gives us a fun look into birding as well, a hobby that I do not relate to at all.  By taking the reader through some of his birding experiences, he educates you about both the physical act of watching birds as well as the psychological upsides.

This book isn’t incredibly deep but it is a lot of fun.  I’m so glad I got to know more about Ian Harding.  (Also, you have to read it so that you can hear about the year he spent as a jellyfish.)

4-stars

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

I was pleasantly surprised by this collection.  Tom Hanks can write!  The stories are diverse and interesting (even though they all contain a typewriter) and I had a joy reading the majority of them.  That said, there is one story that he returns to time and time again that I couldn’t stand.  I would be feeling very good about the book and then would be so incredibly disappointed.

One of the stories has stuck out to me more than the others since I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  Hanks has worked his way into my head, making this a story collection that I will never forget.

4-stars

Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblés

This was a mess of a book.  I was so intrigued by it when it was described to me at a rep night and I needed to read a book in translation for my reading challenge with my roommates so I thought this was going to be perfect.

There are too many plots in this book.  Yes, most of them end up tying together in the end but it took too long to get there.  I didn’t care about most of the plots because they didn’t feel important or necessary.  And then when they did start to tie together, I was completely lost.  What I could tell was supposed to make me say “Oh wow, I can’t believe it” left me scratching my head.  Too much was attempted and not enough was successful.

2-stars

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

In a world where terrible people fill our lives as well as the news, this book was a much needed reminder that there are good people out there.  Franken’s writing is an absolute delight and he is brutally honest throughout.  Following his time from being a comedian to being a US Senator, Franken always brings the conversation back to interpersonal relationships, showing how important it is to be nice to those around you.  His stories from within the Senate are both hopeful and heartbreaking and somehow managed to give me hope for the future. A must read, especially for people who need to feel like the world can possibly survive all of this mess.

5-stars

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore

This book had me laughing out loud so many times and then, turning the page, I would find myself sobbing. Reminiscent of Tom Robbins and Christopher Moore, Poore sees what is deeply funny in the dark absurdity of life. The characters are incredibly honest and true and remind you that, regardless of in the past, present, or future, what is means to be human and good is always the same.

I was a little surprised to see how much of the book took place in the future, sometimes finding myself wishing that more of it would be set in a more familiar world to the one we live in now, but those thoughts would quickly be pushed aside when Poore would show the way the each life connect, such as his use of floating fish robots that help to make everyone’s lives easier. Each incarnation of Milo has certain things that carry through each life, creating a fun puzzle that had me saying, “Oh man! I see what you did there!”

This book made me question myself as a person as I found myself rooting for Milo to die each time, something I’ve never experienced with a book before. It made me think about death in a whole new light. I have spent time since finishing the book thinking about the ideas Poore sets out, wondering what past lives I could have lived.

Reincarnation Blues is a great darkly funny and absurd book that introduced me to a new literary talent. I look forward to seeing what Michael Poore has in store for us in the future.

4-stars

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

I am a sucker for dysfunctional family stories and so I grabbed the galley of this the moment it arrived.

The majority of this book was really fun.  The characters were messes of people (which I love) and the interactions were awkward (perfect)!  But then there was a huge twist, which I saw coming from miles away.  In fact, I wish that the book had gone with the red herring plot line rather than the twist.  That would have been more surprising and made for a better story, in my opinion.  That said, Hornak did manage to surprise me with a plot point after the twist so at least all was not lost.

This is a great, light holiday read.  Perfect for someone who just needs to escape from hanging out with the family.

3-stars

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

This is an absolutely beautiful book that makes you laugh one moment and cry the next.  John Boyne tells the story of one man’s life as he grows up in Ireland and tries to move past his life there in order to fully be himself.

The main character of Cyril is so incredibly believable that I kept feeling like I could just run into him on the street on my way to work.  His story helped to explain many different eras of thought in multiple countries.  I learned a lot without feeling like I was being taught.

Boyne is a master of language and every word played a part in this book.  It is beautiful, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful.  An overall great book.

4-stars

Are You Anybody? by Jeffrey Tambor

I am a huge Arrested Development fan so I was super excited when I got a galley of Jeffrey Tambor’s memoir.  And I was not disappointed.

This is a great memoir and, as someone trying to make it in the performing arts, a great reminder to never give up.  In a world where people are making it at younger and younger ages, it was so nice to hear about Tambor’s experiences. He is matter-of-fact about everything and doesn’t sugar coat how much work needs to happen.  He is also filled with tons of fun stories from all the different parts of his life!  This book made me want to go back and fill in my gaps in his acting history.

4-stars

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm

I am a huge fan of Stephanie’s and this is her best book yet, in my opinion.

Her voice shines through in the humor and nerdy references that fill this book.  There are so many literary references that made me shout “YAAASSSS” throughout my empty apartment when I was reading.

The combination of a fun Scottish setting and an intrusive reality show leads to tons of laughs and silly situations.  The characters are all great and incredibly realistic.  I was really disappointed to leave them behind when the book ended. And, ughhhh, Jamie was so freaking adorable!  I wish he was real…

5-stars

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Holy crap this book was AMAZING!

I’m always excited to see a new book by Louise Erdrich and this one blew me away.  The prose is beautiful, the story is spooky and insanely topical, and I found myself wanting to do nothing but read this book.  Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale (but more frightening in my opinion), I found it so easy to relate to Cedar and the other characters in this book.

This book is a beautiful (yet terrifying) look at what happens when science and religion come to a head in times of crisis.  Because you follow Cedar from the beginning of the downfall, it is scary to see how possible it is that we could fall into this mess of a world that Erdrich has created.  It is also a great book about identity and culture and how the two interact.  Great great book.  A must read.

5-stars

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

This book was such a fun adventure.  Following Jane through 5 different possible timelines, the book goes from most realistic timeline to bizarre as the book goes on.  Jane is a fun character who is stuck in a strange house with people she barely knows yet she is always up for adventure.  Cashore does a great job of making each timeline its own story while pulling details throughout them, which kept me incredibly invested as a reader.  And she left me questioning what was actually real.

This book is incredibly fun and I flew through it, wanted to know how much weirder it could get.  Cashore created some awesome characters and it was great to see how they were different in each timeline while still being the character you had grown to love.  It’s a great puzzle of a book and I loved attempting to solve it.

4-stars