Book Catch-up, Pt. II

In our last episode of "Niki read a metric ton of books during her blog hiatus," we recapped the books read between August and December of 2016. Without further ado, let's jump into 2017 and what I've read thus far! Again, books are rated between 1-5 stars and include a mini review by yours truly.

The Pillars of the Earth - 5/5 | Ken Follett can certainly write. This epic follows a family through its involvement in the construction of an English cathedral. The book is long, but Follett develops characters and leaves you loving or hating them as much as you possibly can. If you have any respect for yourself or this book, though, please don't watch the Starz miniseries, as it was a butchering of this beautiful story and Follett's detailed characters.

Eleven Hours - 3/5 | At first I was frustrated that this story, set in a hospital delivery ward, ends with no hint at what the characters will do next with their lives. I then gave more contemplation to the book's title and setting and realized that's what one would expect from less than half a day in a hospital; people come in, have babies, then leave. One doesn't know what happens with their nurse after they leave the delivery ward with their new bundle of joy. It's true-to-life, but I still wanted to know more.

Quidditch through the Ages - 5/5 | I'm not a sport person, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about fictionalized ball on a broomstick and how the game developed over time. Viktor Krum would approve.

Brooklyn - 5/5 | Confession: I cheated and watched the movie first, and I can't tell you which version I preferred. The main character Eilis is not as innocent in the book as the lovely Saoirse Ronan portrays her in the movie, but both translations of Eilis superbly depict the struggle to find one's place in the world.

The Light Between Oceans - 4/5 | I want to reiterate that I usually don't cry while reading a book or watching a movie or tv show, but apparently that's a thing that I sometimes now do. M.L. Stedman did a fine job of creating a sense of place in her description of Janus Rock and of developing an emotionally-charged plotline. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower4/5 | The story is told through a series of letters - something I did not anticipate but quite liked. It was honest and much funnier than one would expect, given the context of the story. 

Twelve Years a Slave - 4/5 | Solomon Northup's story is a devastating and sadly true one, in which he is cheated out of his freedom and sold into slavery. Nonetheless, Northup's hope and perseverance are what drives the tale and keeps him and the reader going. 

Thirteen Reasons Why - 4/5 | Another confession: I watched the Netflix series before reading the book, and I think I enjoyed the series more. The book takes place over one evening, whereas the show's timeline is longer and allows the viewer to learn more about each character. Regardless of which version one prefers, the anti-bullying sentiment comes through strong and should encourage people to be kind to all of those they come across. Bonus: I just realized that I followed up a book beginning with the word "twelve" with one beginning with "thirteen."

All the Birds in the Sky2/5 | This book was added to my "to read" list because I found it on NPR's best of 2016 list, but it was incredibly underwhelming. The first half of the book was good and set up the potential for an interesting plot, while the latter half dropped many of those plot elements and sometimes moved too quickly without fleshing out things. It was also written, I think, for more of a YA audience, given how cheesy some of the dialogue was. 

Commonwealth - 5/5 | Ann Patchett sucked me right in to this story of a blended family, told over decades of time. Even though the book skipped back and forth through time, each chapter wove effortlessly into the next. The concept of the plot was simple, but it floored me with how well it was told. Commonwealth quickly became one of my favorite books. 

Spill Simmer Falter Wither - 3/5 | A guy and his dog (named ONEEYE), hang out and are one another's only friends. Pretty chill, right? Yes, until the end when surprises come out of left field. The twist was welcome, though, and made the book all the more enjoyable. 

This Must be the Place4/5 | Author Maggie O'Farrell writes this story similarly to that of Patchett's Commonwealth, and I really liked it. However, O'Farrell focuses more on individual, sometimes wild, characters, so that the reader more so understands their motivations. 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - 2/5 | My friends and I started a book club, and this was the second book we read (the first being Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale). Before reading this, I knew absolutely nothing about motorcycles and next-to-nothing about philosophy; after reading this, I understand motorcycles fairly well. 

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms - 4/5 | As the seventh season of Game of Thrones ended and I found myself going through withdrawals, I turned to this series of stories about Aegon Targaryen and Ser Duncan the Tall. I love any information I can find about House Targaryen and am deeply obsessed with the world that George R.R. Martin has created, so this was a treat to read. 

Jurassic Park - 2/5 | (A book club selection in which I was the deciding vote) Get chased by a t-rex. Rinse. Repeat. 

Norse Mythology - 4/5 | Game of Thrones withdrawals led to watching the show Vikings, which led to  reading Norse Mythology. I have a Classics background and knew a lot about Greek and Roman deities, and Neil Gaiman's work taught me a great deal about Odin, Thor, and the gang. 

Our Endless Numbered Days - 3/5 | What first started as a survivalist father taking his daughter into the forest to live quickly turned dark and heartbreaking. I'm still torn up over this one.

Murder on the Orient Express - 3/5 | October's book club read was out of my comfort zone, genre-wise. I enjoy murder mysteries on television but don't usually drift toward books of that nature. Agatha Christie changed my mind, though, even though the ending took the wind out of my sails; I'll give her another chance. 

That's a wrap! Please let me know if you've read any of these books - and what you thought about them. I've just finished China Dolls by Lisa See, so be on a lookout for a review of that book shortly. 

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