I had the best first quarter of reading this year! In fact, it's the best reading quarter I've ever had. So far, I've read a whopping 50 books this year.
I doubt I'll be able to maintain this level of reading all year long, so I'm going to go ahead and revel in these numbers for a bit longer. Woohoo!
My conclusions from this quarter of reading are as follows:
- I need to read some more smart non-fiction - there isn't much on this list
- Audio books have definitely boosted my reading numbers lately - I spend too much time carpooling my kids around
- The only tv I watched in the past three months was the latest season of Victoria on PBS (so good!) and the Joan Didion documentary on Netflix (so good!), which has definitely been good for my reading in the evening.
- I only started one of the classics on my list and I haven't finished any. Must do better in the second quarter.
- Most favorite book this quarter: I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
- Least favorite book, or maybe even most hated book, this quarter: The Power by Naomi Alderman
I separated the 50 books into three categories, Middle Grade Books, YA Books, and Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction and I've given a very brief review of each of them here. If you want to talk more about any of them, just leave me a comment - I'll always talk books with you!
Also, I've been sharing a lot more quick book reviews over on Instagram lately if you're interested in following along (@somethewiser and #somethewiserbooks).
Middle Grade Books
These are the 2nd and 3rd books in the Princess Academy trilogy. I read these aloud with my girls and they were a HUGE hit. Extremely well written right down to the very last chapter of the very last book. I love that they feature such a strong female character. I can't say enough good things about these books!
This was a zippy family read aloud - I think we read it in just three or four days. It was laugh out loud funny and gave us a lot to talk about. Definitely recommend this one.
This was a book club pick for February. It was fine. My girls enjoyed reading it (and they kept going and read the sequel). It felt a lot like The Mysterious Benedict Society to me though and that series is just way better than this one. Still, a solid middle grade pick for the kids.
We read this aloud as a family before the movie came out. It was probably the fourth or fifth time I've read it, but it's great every time. The movie, however, was just okay.
I had never read this, even though my mom remembered reading it aloud to my brothers when we were younger. I guess I just skipped it. But we listened to this on overdrive on a road trip last month and it was FANTASTIC. So so so funny. It was the perfect book for road tripping.
This is a really sweet and beautiful retelling of a classic, if lesser known, fairy tale. We read it aloud as a family and loved it. Full review here.
A really sweet, meaningful middle grade read. I wrote a little more about it here.
This was my second Caroline Starr Rose read and I can tell already that she is destined to be on my favorite author list. This book is FANTASTIC! I wrote a little more about it here.
This book isn't actually out yet, but I received an advance copy from the author. I've got a full review coming soon, but the long and short of it is this book is SO GOOD! We read this aloud as a family and it was one of those books that the kids kept begging me to read more of every night, bringing it to the breakfast table for just one more chapter, and returning to it in conversation over and over again. This is some of the best middle grade fiction for sure - can't wait to tell you all about it!
We just finished reading this aloud together last week and it was quite fun. It was a fast paced read, with a lot of good accents to do as a read aloud. Best of all, it had some big moral dilemmas in it that were good fodder for dinner table conversations.
This has been one of my favorite books since the third grade when my teacher, Mrs. Keane, gave me a copy of it for Christmas. It was so fun reading this aloud with my kids.
This was a favorite from my childhood and it's always fun to revisit. We listened to this on audio on a short road trip and it's as good as I remember it being when I read it 25 years ago. This is a must read family classic.
I know I read The Giver when I was younger, but I didn't really remember it and I know I never read the rest in the series. Esme recently finished reading this quartet and prompted me to pick it up. I listened to all four books on audio and WOW! How did I wait so long? These are so compelling and so thought provoking. They were really good on audio too. I will say this though, I think that you enjoy them all best if you read/listen to all four. I've heard people express disappointment about Gathering Blue and say they never finished the series. For me, all the books came together during the fourth book. I loved this series!
WWII fiction, well of course I will. I enjoyed this fast paced mystery a lot. Full Review here.
I enjoyed this . . . and then I didn't. The last ⅓ of the book just ruined it all for me. Fun premise though.
For the longest time I thought I didn't like Fantasy. I'm so glad I finally abandoned that thought. This trilogy was so wonderful and thought provoking. I talked my brother into reading it so I'd have someone to talk to about it. It really was profound!
If you liked His Dark Materials trilogy, you'll like this. I did! (but you don't have to read the first series to start this one - they're only loosely related)
Esme brought this home from the library and turned us all into major Jennifer A Nielsen groupies. We're reading our way through her whole catalog now. So good!
This is the first in a series Esme has been obsessing over. I listened to the first one on audio, which is read with the mostly lovely of British accents. It's a British Ghost Story and it was fun . . . though I think it was more fun for Esme than for me. She's read all 5 available in the series now.
Another trilogy from Jennifer A. Nielsen. Eila, Ada, and I listened to these on audio and we got a little obsessive about them. As I type this, the girls are in the backyard building a shrine to the goddess Diana. No joke.
Another really good one from Jennifer A. Nielsen. There's a lethal plague sweeping the land and Ani Mells has been sent to a quarantine colony. But there's a whole lot more than a plague happening on this island. I listened to this on audio and it was great.
So, I read this on Friday. I woke up and thought I'd read for a few minutes before the kids woke up. And then I couldn't stop. I read it all day long. I even took the kids to the park when I got to the big climax so that I could read it uninterrupted. So . . . I can say it's a real page turner. It's also pretty dark - and not just because it's set in Hitler's Germany either. But, really, a very good read. I'll be talking about this one for a while.
Best murder/detective series ever. This is book 12.
There were things I liked about this one, but honestly, it was a little too raunchy for my taste.
I adored this book. If you're looking for something to give you all the warm fuzzies, this is the book.
This is the opposite of warm fuzzies. It had Chast's telltale humor throughout, but really, it was a pretty intense account of her relationship with her parents and their deaths. I loved it, but it was dark and sad and very human.
Not just another cancer memoir. This was astounding and beautiful and heart wrenching. I made a special place in my heart for this work of art. I wrote a little more about it here.
Well, it sure wasn't like A Man Called Ove. I mostly wish I hadn't read this.
This started out pretty good. But as it went on, I just kept hoping it would end soon so I could read something else. Not memorable for me.
I like memoirs about people who fail and fail and struggle and struggle before they succeed. This was good on audio. I knew nothing about Nike's beginnings, so it was fun.
Sing, Unburied, Sing was my favorite book last year. This is just as well written, but a little grittier. I won't lie, the dog fighting was intense - but I think it's supposed to be. Still, hats off to Jesmyn Ward. She writes with POWER. She reminds me of Flannery O'Connor, one of my favorites.
This was a perfect grown up fairy tale. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote a little more about it here.
Trevor Noah's memoir about growing up in South Africa. Excellent on audio (language warning though). It had me laughing so hard while simultaneously channeling all sorts of righteous anger.
Long time Gilmore Girls fan here, so this was obviously a super fun listen on audio. It was actually so much better than I was expecting it to be.
What the?! I loved the premise of this book, but it went weird and dark places that I did not want to follow. I really hate to ever disparage a book because I know how much blood sweat and tears must go into them, even the bad ones. But, honestly, this was just so terrible for me. I guess her bottom line is that power is corrupting, and I wasn't really imagining a world with women in power to be all babies and kittens and flowers, but I'd like to think that after centuries of subjugation, violence and prejudice, that women would have learned a little something. Instead, the women with "the power" in this book just rape, torture, and control like the men in all the worst chapters of our history books. I wish that the book had a done a better job of showing what it would be like if men had to live in constant fear for their physical safety. In fact, I wish there had been a story in this book at all. Mostly, it read like a book of ideas and concepts with no nuance whatsoever. Not a fan, not at all.
If you like a good psychological thriller, this is really well done. Also, it's a quick read. I wrote a little more about it here.
I listened to this on audio and it was fun. But then should a book where the likable, quirky character is quirky because of really horrific trauma and abuse in her childhood be fun? In the end, I wish I'd skipped this one. I don't think serious issues like that should be turned into a chick lit type page turner. Just read The Rosie Project instead.
I loved The History of Love and The Great House. This is not as good. I liked it though. I wrote more about it here.
BEST BOOK I've read this year, for sure! I love this one. First, it's a brilliant idea to write a memoir through essays about brushes with death. Second, wonderful writing. Third, just wow! I keep talking everyone's ear off about this one. My favorite essay of all is the one about her miscarriage. I don't think I've ever read such beautiful writing on the very tender subject. LOVE LOVE LOVE this one.
I've got a whole post about this one coming soon, but in the meantime, go get yourself a copy! I've been reading to my kids daily since I brought them home from the hospital, but I still found a lot to take away from this book. If you've ever wondered how to help your kids love books or how to create a reading culture in your home, this is the book. Five Stars from me!
This is my book club's pick for next month. There were definitely a few good moments for me - I even did some highlighting - but mostly, meh.
Historical fiction about the first world war and the Spanish influenza outbreak in PA in 1919. I listened to this on audio. It was okay. I felt like I saw every plot twist a mile away and it all moved so slowly. Not nearly as good as Secrets of a Charmed Life.
Why Paul? Why? I made it 450 pages before I had to jump ship. Too many words.