The five most surprising reads of 2019

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm.

As I look back at the books I have read this year, there were so many that completely took me off guard. Many of them I read because of book club or because of reviews I read on other blogs. I have read over 60 books so far this year and I would say at least half of them were surprisingly good. To narrow it down to five is difficult, but in the interest of this post I have decided to focus on the ones that have left an everlasting impression:

The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
Seriously, if it wasn’t for book club I would never have read this book and I would have been missing out on an amazing read. I was actually surprised by how much of an impact this book has had. I think it is the fact that the author puts the reader literally in the passenger seat of the car, so you get to watch as a young black kid is shot by a cop right in front of you. It puts a whole new perspective on this national issue that has been a source of contention in the US. I have since recommended the book to my best friend, who then recommended it to her book club.

Home Fire” by Kamila Shamsie
Another book club read and one I never heard of before it was recommended. So I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into this. This book will send you on a roller coaster of emotions and deliver a sucker punch to the gut on the very last page that will leave you gasping and crying your eyes out. I was already enjoying the book, though it was a sad story, and then just as I’m winding down, thinking I had a few paragraphs left to disconnect myself from the story, WHAM. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. Though it made sense, it totally unraveled me.

The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd
Hetty and Sarah have become one of my favorite friendships. Sarah is a white girl, who upon turning 11, is given a housemaid, Hetty, a 10-year-old slave. Throughout the book, their relationship evolves so that they learn from each other and use it to rebel against their cages — slavery and society. Kidd has created a beautiful and moving story that you don’t want to end.

Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi
I chose to read this book for Black History Month in February. The theme was “Black Migrations” and I didn’t realize how fitting this book was until I started. It follows parallel storylines of half sisters who are separated – one is married to the Governor in Africa and one is sold into slavery during British colonialism during the 1700s. The book reads more like a history book as it follows each generation of both family trees, each stopping around a pivotal moment in African American history. It also highlights the deep-rooted impact colonialism has had on African Americans, both in Africa and those in the Americas. I definitely was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood
Before this, I had only ever read Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, which I loved. Despite the fame this book has received, I wanted to read some of her other books, especially because she has been writing for 50 years. “The Handmaid’s Tale” couldn’t be her only great work. Well, I can assure you it isn’t. I was more than pleasantly surprised when reading “The Blind Assassin.” This book had so many interesting pieces. There isn’t just one story. It’s more like three, and while at first you have no idea what one has to do with the other, all is revealed in due time. And with each unveiling, you are shocked. Atwood’s range as a writer is beyond anything I have ever seen.


What were your top five surprising read of 2019? Have you read any of the books on this list?

What does the future hold? My top 5 dystopian novels

It is hard to imagine what the world will be like in the years to come, and if it will be so much different than the world we live in now. Thankfully we have authors who can describe in startling detail what the future could possibly hold, even if that future is absolutely horrifying.

For this week’s Top 5 Tuesday, a weekly meme by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, we are asked to list our top dystopian novels. It wasn’t that hard for me to come up with a list because the idea that our world could be anything like the world these authors have created has lasted with me.

(All book covers are linked to Goodreads).

I am sure that the Handmaid’s Tale will end up on many lists, but I also think it is because it hits close to home. Atwood wrote this in the 80s for a different political climate and yet we are drawing so many parallels from it that are still relevant today. It’s kind of scary. While I read this a few years ago, I still think about it.  It doesn’t help that there is now a show that is putting it in a visual context for us. You can read my thoughts in my review.

I happened across this book while browsing the library shelves a few years ago. The summary on the dust jacket intrigued me but I had no idea how this story would affect me. Basically, we live in a world where the skin of criminals is altered to the color of their crimes. When Hannah wakes up, she finds that she is red and that she is being charged with murder. Through the rest of the story, the reader follows Hannah on her journey of why she did what she did and her quest to find herself. I was blown away when I read this book and I recommend it to everyone I can.

I only read this book last year and I loved it. Given the progress we have made in technology, it isn’t really hard to imagine a world where people are immersed in an alternate reality game day in and day out to escape the hardships of the real world. The book focuses on a race to uncover an Easter egg hidden within the game, which makes the story that more enjoyable. It is definitely an adventure as we follow Wade Watson leading the pack in this quest. You can read my thoughts on the book and the movie here.

A dystopian list would not be complete without the Hunger Games. It is hard to imagine a North America so altered as the one that is described in this book. It is truly a story of survival as each year, one person from each district in the nation of Panem must compete in the Hunger Games, the fight to the death aired on live TV. When I first read this, I thought Katniss an inspiration, not only for her will to survive but her strength and resilience.

Can you imagine a world where books are the enemy and the firemen are tasked with burning those books along with the houses where they were hidden? I know, either could I. Prepared to get uncomfortable because that is the world you are dropped into when you read this book. All you can do is ask WHY?! as you follow Montag, a fireman as he goes about his job. But then as things start to happen, Montag begins to question things and the world as he knows it falls apart.


What are your top 5 dystopian novels? Have you read any on this list? What did you think? 

 

 

My favorite debut novels..so far

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm. Normally I will pick between this meme or Top 10 Tuesday but I like both topics this week so here we are.

I had to write about this topic because I feel like I have read some really great debut novels in the last year or two. Some I stumbled upon at the library or a book while others were recommended at book clubs or I read a review by one of you. What is really surprising is that the following books are all by female authors.

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Night Circus was not a book I would have normally read but after reading so many reviews on it, I decided to check it out. Of course I fell in love with it. It was just so magical. You better believe I am excited that Morgenstern’s next book is coming out soon.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I read this book for African American History Month in February and I was completely blown away by this book. I still think about it. It follows two parallel story lines, one in Africa and one in the US. Gyasi does such a great job on describing African American history dating back to the 1700s to present day. Everyone should have to read this book. You can read my full review here.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I know that Ng’s book Little Fires Everywhere just came out but Everything I Never Told You was her debut novel. I picked it up at the library book sale this past winter because the title intrigued me. What I didn’t know was just how much this book would have to say, especially about families and loving too much. You can read my review here.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

I read the review for this book on the Associate Press while at work one day so when I stumbled upon it months later at the library I checked it out. I had a vague idea of what it was about but never would have thought how much it would impact me. Mbue touches on so many topics in this story such as undocumented immigration, the differences between rich and poor, family, capitalism and when she does, it is striking, heartbreaking and bittersweet all at the same time. What I liked most is how she used two of her main characters, husband and wife, to provide the immigration experience as well as a different view of what the “American Dream” means and how it can shape one’s future. You can check out my full review here.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I read this book when the movie had come out and absolutely loved it. It was a unique story about African American women who worked as “the help” in white families and the things they experienced. At times this book was outrageously funny but overall it was moving.

Top books I predict will be 5 stars

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme by Shanah at Bionic Book Worm.

There are so many books that have come out that I haven’t gotten to and even more books that are coming out that I want to get to. Some are going to be more disappointing than originally thought, while others are going to be a pleasant surprise or are going to be so good they are going to blow me away. These are the top 5 books on my TBR that I think are going to be 5 stars.

bridge of clay.jpgThe Book Thief was so good so I have no doubts that Bridge of Clay will be anything less.

home fireI have heard book club members raving about this book. The last time they raved about a book was A Man Called Ove and they were on point.

the testamentsThis must be the most anticipated book on my list. I LOVED The Handmaid’s Tale and the fact that we are finally going to get answers to what happened at the end is too much for me to handle. In the meantime I am reading other books by Atwood.

the starless seaAnother highly anticipated release. For a debut novel, the Night Circus definitely exceeded my expectations and put Morgenstern on the map for being one of those beloved writers I will follow. I can’t wait for this one to hit the shelves.

with the fire on highWhen I first heard about this book, I knew it was going to be good. I just have that gut extinct. So far the reviews have been holding steady at simply amazing so I have no doubts that this will be a 5 star read.


What books do you anticipate being 5 stars? Have you read any on this list? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

Favorite fictional friendships

Top 5 Tuesday is hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm.

Usually when we talk about relationships in books, we think of the romantic ships between characters. But what about the friendships? When I heard about this week’s post, I was so excited. There have been so many friendships that I wanted to be a part of growing up and some friendships I recently discovered. It is hard to narrow it down to five but here are the five that I immediately thought of:

Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
I absolutely loved the friendship of these four when I was a teenager. I have read the series more than once and have owned a copy of the books on and off for years. I just love how these girls who were all born in the same year, were able to bond over a pair of pants. I wanted those pants, damn it. They were magical.

Jo and Laurie from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Some may consider this a romantic relationship but Jo and Laurie were first and foremost friends. They did everything together. Laurie just understood Jo and didn’t make fun of her for her boyish ways. I was so happy that they didn’t end up together in the end and remained friends.

Sarah and Hetty from the Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I only just finished this book the other day but my heart still aches at the thought of what Sarah did for Hetty. Sarah revolts at the idea of getting Hetty as her handmaid when she turns 11. Since she can’t free her, Sarah befriends her. I love how these two grow up together and share each other’s heartaches and fears — Hetty as a slave and Sarah as a female. Even when they are separated, they are bound by a common thread, the thought of freedom.

Aza and Daisy from Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Turtles All the Way Down is so far my favorite John Green novel and I just loved the friendship between Aza and Daisy. Even though they have a period where they grow apart, they end up back together. I love how their friendship grows despite their setback.

Ove and Parvenah from A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman
I loved this story, even though it made me sob at the end. I especially loved Ove and Parvenah’s friendship. Ove is a crotchety old man but despite this Parvenah befriends him and slowly gets inside, unveiling the real reason why Ove is the way he is. It made the ending even more heart wretching.

What do you think of these friendships? What are your favorite fictional friendships? Let’s discuss!

Books set in the US

Top 5 Tuesday is hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm.

At first I wasn’t going to do this post simply because I feel like there are SOOO many books that are set in the United States but then upon going to my book shelf, I was surprised by how many books were set in a foreign country. While I was able to easily pick out five that were set in the US, I wanted to make sure they were in different locations. This is a good opportunity to give people a tour of the US they may not know.

Many people know of the big cities such as New York City or Miami or Chicago, etc. But what about everywhere else? There are so many other places that people may never even heard of. Some of them, I haven’t even heard of. So here are five books set in different places throughout the US.

WildWhat a better book to start with than Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which takes place outside. The trail goes through the Mojave Dessert in California and Oregon to Washington State.

Every BreathIf you want to read about North Carolina, you need to look no further than Nicholas Sparks. All of his books take place in North Carolina. However, Every Breath which is Sparks’ latest book takes place at Sunset Beach, North Carolina and I seriously want to go there after reading this.

One for the MoneyEvanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is based on a character from New Jersey, my home state. I only read One for the Money over the summer and I felt like was home again. I am so glad that my friend introduced me to this series. I can’t wait to read the second one.

the keptThe Kept takes place in the upstate New York in the early 1900s. Most people, when they think of New York, they think of NYC, but honestly that is only a small, small sliver of the state. Upstate NY is mostly rural and James Scott captures that in this book. Even though its set at the turn of the 20th century, a lot of the places he describes is familiar to me.

The Snow Child

The Snow Child is set in the wilderness of Alaska of 1920. This is a magical book that is full of mystery and fairy tales but Ivey’s writing is absolutely beautiful. Her writing of the wilderness envelopes you until you think you are there.

 

Top 5 Tuesday: Books that made me laugh

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm . This week’s post is all about the books that make us laugh and for me there a few.

furiously happy

Whenever I think of a funny book, this one immediately comes to mind. I had tears rolling down my face. Lawson puts a hysterical spin on a such a serious topic of mental health. But if you can’t laugh about it, what can you do? And if you are unsure about whether to read this, that crazy raccoon on the cover is not just artwork. HINT HINT.

One for the Money

I have only recently gotten into Janet Evanovich and I am so glad. Grandma Mazur had me laughing until it hurt. I had to put the book down for five minutes to try to get myself under control after one particular scene. Not to mention that since I come from Jersey, it was hysterical reading the mannerisms that fit us so well.

Still Foolin Em

Since I just finished this one, it had to make my list. I strongly advise listening to the audiobook to this one. While reading it is still funny, Crystal narrates the book and does some chapters as a standup show in front of a live  NYU audience.

Scrappy Little Nobody

I love Anna Kendrick and her dry sarcasm. I listened to the audiobook to this one and she narrates it. It was so fun hearing her as she is in Pitch Perfect that there were definitely some LOL moments as she talks about her life.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I read this book last year and it is such a fun read.  I was definitely laughing throughout this book, not only with some of the antics but because of some of the descriptions. Absolutely out of this world.


What books have made you laugh? Have you read any of the ones on this list? What did you think? Let’s discuss! 🙂

Top 5 Tuesday: Book I want to reread

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm . This week’s post is all about books that we would reread. The only problem with this post is that it’s limited to the top 5. Decisions, decisions.

I know some people who won’t reread a book for whatever reason but I am not that person. I love revisiting some of my favorite characters. Some would say the book no longer holds the surprise of reading it for the first time but I beg to differ. Every time I reread a book, I learn something new about the characters or realize something that I totally missed previously. For a long time, I reread “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott every year because I LOVED that book. I almost put it on this list because I haven’t read it in a while but I decided to put books I haven’t reread yet.

OK this post is getting way too long so without further ado, my five books I want to reread (All book covers are linked to Goodreads):

Americanah

This book made such a big impact on me and really opened my eyes to the immigrant experience. Having just read “Behold the Dreamers”, which has a similar storyline, I want revisit to “Americanah” and compare. I remember Adichie making some strong valid arguments about labels and the racist attitude in America. I still think about this book more than a year after reading it.

A Man Called Ove.jpg

I absolutely can’t wait to read this book again. Even though it set me off into a crying jag, this book has a special place in my heart. You could say that I have a soft spot for the elderly. I recently bought this book to have a permanent place on my shelf and can’t wait to crack it open again.

When She Woke

Some of you have probably heard me talking about this book in my previous posts and for good reason. This is a dystopian novel where a criminal is dyed a certain color based on their crime. This book brings to the forefront the argument of abortion in a new way. I read this book a while ago and I don’t know how I haven’t reread this book yet. It’s the first book I turn to when someone needs a suggestion.

Gone Girl

Now that I have finished all of Flynn’s books I want to go back to the beginning and reread the book that started my love for her. I read Gone Girl around the time the movie came out and while I didn’t end up going to see the movie, I loved the book. I can still remember my reaction when I came to that inevitable twist Flynn is know for. As I recall I screamed and did a flip off the bed, scaring the hell out of my fiance. I so can’t wait to experience the anticipation of getting to that point.

The Obituary Writer

You all know about my connection with this book. It was a total random pick at the library that I absolutely loved. While I do want to read other books by Ann Hood, I can’t wait to go back to this one. Given that it’s another one that I have purchased for my shelves, it’s dying to be cracked open.

Books I would save from a fire

This is the first time I am participating in Top 5 Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm . I saw this week’s post and knew that I had to participate.

This is the ultimate question. In the midst of a crisis, what books would you take and what would you sacrifice? To narrow it down to five seems so hard and yet, if I think only about my favorites, I think I can do this.

Pride and Prejudice is among one of my favorite classics and one that always return to so why not just take my Jane Austen collection. I may be cheating here but its one book so I say I’m not. Besides, I love my leather bound copy.

I’m cheating again but I love Jane Eyre and since this is my only copy of it, it comes with me.

Little Women

I used to read this book every year. This book has so many memories and it is the first book where upon finishing, I literally flipped back to the beginning to start all over.

Memoirs of a Geisha

I don’t know what it is about this book that captures my heart but it is another one I can read over and over. Thinking of parting with it causes distress. It comes.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Another book with a lot of memories. I read this for summer reading going into freshman year of high school. It was the first time I completely understood, not to judge a book by it’s cover. Was dumbstruck and awed by the content of this book and it has been a permanent staple on my shelf, even with loose pages and all. I need it!


What books would you save from a fire? Let’s discuss!