The Books I Read This Year: 2017 Edition

Happy New Year!

Over the last couple of years, I have done a post to capture the books I managed to read over the course of that year. With the help of Goodreads, I have challenged myself the last two years to read at least 12 books during the course of a year. Reading has always been one of my passions, but as I got busy with work and children, I made less and less time to enjoy a good book. Challenging myself to meet a goal of a book a month has been a fun way to motivate myself.   I managed to make it through 16 books in all even if a couple of them were a comic books or young adult novels.

My tastes are a little bit all over the map. If you asked me my favorite book genre, I’d have to say science fiction and fantasy. But if you look at what I’ve read over the last year, biographies and non-fiction have snuck their way into my reading list.

With the help of my iPad and the Overdrive app making it super easy to borrow digital books from the library, here is the list of the books I read in 2017. I list them from the first one I read back in January to the one I just finished in December. I have two books I am currently reading, but I won’t take credit for them until I finish them, which will most likely be January 2018.

Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher

I wrote a blog post about this book back when I read it. You can go to it here.  I found that I was really affected by the loss of Carrie Fisher this time last year, so I made it my  mission to read all of her autobiographical books.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J. D. Vance

Like many folks in the world, I struggled to understand what was happening in my country as we went through one of the nastiest elections I have lived through. This book made the rounds on the various NPR stations I listen to. Well written, I enjoyed Mr. Vance’s extremely honest recounting of his difficult early life and how he turned himself around through an enlistment in the Marines and eventually putting himself through Yale Law School.

Shockaholic, by Carrie Fisher

This was the last of my Carrie Fisher reads in my 2017 books.  This one focused a bit more on her relationship with her father, and pretty much broke my heart. Were it not for her humor, I’d have cried through the whole book. This is another one I borrowed the audio book from the library and listened to on my drives to/from work. It breaks my heart that we no longer have Carrie Fisher with us.

Shattered Empire, Comic by Marvel and Disney

By now you know I am a Star Wars: original trilogy fanatic. I bought the hardbound collection of the Shattered Empire comics that came out over the last couple of years, and it sat unread next to my bed since The Force Awakens came out. I decided to finally read it.  This one gives some of the back story of Poe Dameron’s parents, who were part of the rebellion on Endor after the fall of the Death Star II.  It was a fine addition to the SW canon. I neither loved nor hated it.

Talking as Fast as I can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between, by Lauren Graham

This is the year I finally became a Gilmore Girls fan. Yes, I know, it took me long enough. With the revival out on Netflix, my daughter and I decided to pour through all of the episodes before checking out the new ones. It was glorious mother/daughter time, and even though we were definitely not fans of the episodes with Rory and Lorelai fighting (went on way too long), we fell in love with their banter. Lauren Graham’s timing was always hilarious, and when I saw she had an autobiography out, my daughter and I had to listen to the audiobook version. If you liked Lauren, and Gilmore Girls, I’d definitely recommend this.

Armada, by Ernest Cline

A coworker of mine recommended I read “Ready Player One” a few years back, and I instantly fell in love with the 80s nostalgia. Really looking forward to the Steven Spielberg adaptation next year. I bought Armada when it came out but just kept not getting around to reading it. That changed in March. If you liked Mr. Cline’s writing style in his first book, you will enjoy it here. While it definitely was easy to guess what would happen next, I have to say I enjoyed Armada. Sometimes I like happy endings where the heroes save the day and everything works out. Definitely takes its queues from “The Last Starfighter” but that’s a good thing.

A Caribbean Mystery,  by Agatha Christie

When I was in high school, I used to devour Agatha Christie books. They were my staple, and I’d buy them by the stacks from the used book store near my house. With the new version of “Murder on the Orient Express” coming out, I thought I’d revisit some of her books, and make my way through them again. This one is a Miss Marple mystery and I think I honestly enjoyed her crime solving method more than Poirot. When I was younger, it was quite the opposite.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1), by Agatha Christie

I decided to start at the beginning for the Poirot mysteries, with his first appearance. Didn’t guess the ending, and really enjoyed the mystery. I think I’ll be adding more Christie books to my reading list.

The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

Over the last couple of years, I read The Girl on a Train, and Gone Girl before that, so I figured I should check out the “it” mystery book that was making the rounds in Entertainment Weekly.  I found that I actually enjoyed The Woman in Cabin 10 much more than the other books to which it is compared. That is entirely because of the main character.  Where I didn’t really care for the two main female protagonists in the other two “Girl” books, I actually liked Lo Blacklock, the lead protagonist in this book.  The mystery unfolds differently than I expected and I found I really liked how things wrapped up. Definitely ends on a much less somber note than other books of its similar category.

The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

My son had to read this over the summer between 8th grade and entering High School, so he asked me to read it with him so we could discuss it. We had our own little book club going. Told as a parable, in rather simple anecdotes, I found I really loved it.  I loved the message. You can journey through life, and it you are open to your path, it will present itself to you. I found it to be spiritual and personal, and it definitely touched me.

 Loving Frank, Nancy Horan

I admit that I bought this book simply because I found the cover beautiful. I’ve had it for years, and just never got around to reading it. Frank Lloyd Wright is one of my favorite architects. You will find touches of his style incorporated in my own home, but I knew next to nothing about his personal life. This book, which recounts his relationship with a married woman, who leaves her family and children to be with him, surprised me. Told in a diary style and taking liberties with what might have happened, it focuses more on Mamah, the woman and their life together, than on Frank. I found I really didn’t like her very much.

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2), Diana Gabaldon

I read the first Outlander book before watching the series on the Stars network and really liked it. When I learned that there were multiple books, and that the author invents new and sad ways to keep her two main characters apart, well, I was less than pleased. I read this one before watching season two of Outlander on Stars, and found that half way through I was hate reading it. I just wanted to get through it but really didn’t enjoy it at all.  It was long. It dragged, and I was tired of the Claire and Jamie in a constant state of depression.

The Force Awakens, Rey’s Story by Elizabeth Schaefer

This was a younger set adaptation of the events of The Force Awakens told from Rey’s point of view. Much as I do not like the new trilogy, I really love Rey. I read this one hoping to find new tidbits about her. There were none to be had, but it was a quick read.

The World According to Star Wars, by Cass Sunstein

I like to read stories about the behind the scenes stuff of Star Wars as well as the impact Star Wars has had on the world. I read this one to get a sense of the latter part. Honestly, the book was boring, and really didn’t give me any insights I haven’t already made over the last 40 years.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, by Michael Ausiello

This one, I read but was dreading. Not because I didn’t want to read it. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Ausiello since he wrote for TV Guide and did one of their entertainment podcasts. Since then, I’ve followed all of his entertainment reporting. It is in large part because of his enthusiasm, that I finally watched Gilmore Girls. But I dreaded reading this because I knew it was going to be sad. Having followed him,  I knew the story of his having lost his husband to cancer. The book was all I expected, but strangely, his honesty and humor painted a picture of the love he and his husband shared in a way that made me happy to have gotten to know them as I was sad to for his loss. Definitely not something I could read with my children with colorful language and adult content, but very touching.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: The Brighest Star in the North: The Adventures of Carina Smyth, by Meredith Rusu

This is another book I bought because I thought the cover was really beautiful. I bought it before seeing the latest Pirates movie, but waited to read it until after. Definitely glad that I did because this one starts with the back story of Carina Smyth, and continues through the action of the movie.  The writing style was fine, and I’d recommend it for young women who enjoyed the movie.

 

Advertisements

RSM Review: Wishful Drinking

carrie-fisher-as-prinsess-leia-wishful-drinking-cover-2-shotA month before Carrie Fisher died, I wrote a blog review of her latest autobiographical work, The Princess Diarist. I’d decided after reading it that I’d go back and read them all and try to give them proper reviews. Then came December, and the heartbreaking news that Ms. Fisher had passed away. I’m still not entirely willing to accept it. Now all I want to do is to hear her voice again.

So I’ve continued what I started, and went back and purchased Wishful Drinking on iBooks on my iPad. I knew that Ms. Fisher had published several books, some autobiographical and some fiction, but I had just never gotten around to reading them. I also knew that this one had a live stand up show associated with it (HBO decided to rebroadcast it after her passing). It wasn’t until I read the book that I learned the show came first, and the book second.

Having just listened to Carrie read The Princess Diarist, I couldn’t help but hear her voice in my head as I read Wishful Drinking. I could hear her when she quietly told a story, or as she yelled an exclamation. I swear it felt like she was in the room reading it to me.

Like her most recent book, the stories told don’t necessarily come out linearly. They tend to jump around. From her interviews, I get the sense that this is what it would be like to actually talk with Ms. Fisher. Her brain moves so quickly, that her thoughts come out all over the place. I found it both fascinating and comforting.

Her first chapter focused on the death of her friend, Greg, who very famously died at her house and her subsequent depression, followed quickly by a chapter on her own family and the big scandal break up when her father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor complete with family photos and a really awesome Hollywood 101 Family tree. I’ve read that she uses the family tree bit in the stand up show. A great deal of this book is dedicated to stories about her mother, Debbie Reynolds, some really very strange and some sweet.

She gets around to Princess Leia about half way through the book. Her first story, which I actually saw the clip from the tale end of her live show first and completely didn’t understand, involves a speech and drama class she took in London to which she credits the enunciation Leia has at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope (especially in the classic Hologram dialog – Proper Copper Coffee Pot – read the book and you’ll get it). This is the chapter where she shares the story of George Lucas telling her she can’t wear a bra under her white dress on the death star because there’s no underwear in space.

The last several chapters are dedicated to her relationship with Paul Simon, and her depression and addiction. Every story is near heartbreaking, yet she tells them with such humor that you hope that she’s actually laughing behind the words.  Every interview with and article about Ms. Fisher over the years has focused on her honesty with her struggles. She is definitely honest. Sometimes honest to the point where I wonder where she got the strength to share so much. Perhaps sharing it made it a less heavy burden.

Having read Wishful Drinking, I want to see the live show. Now that we’ve lost her, I miss Ms. Fisher and want to watch, read and listen to all I can of her voice. As with Princess Diarist, this isn’t fit to share with my children. With the honesty comes adult language and stories that I’d just as soon they not hear yet. I wouldn’t have been ready to hear things like this from Princess Leia when I was a child.

Next up, I’ve requested Shockaholic from the library to read next. I already miss her voice and I want to hear it again.

My review: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

princess-diaristI am near the end of The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher, as I type this review. I didn’t actually read the book, but rather have borrowed the audio book from the library so I can listen to Carrie Fisher (and her daughter) narrate it to me. This has made all the difference. Carrie is not Princess Leia, and she’s wrestled with this her whole life. But I think she means it when she says that being Leia has been something important to her, and something she hasn’t ever really regretted.

There are some spoilers in the next paragraph but nothing that hasn’t already been mentioned on every website and review.

*

*
*
*

*

I found the chapters about her affair with Harrison Ford when she was 19 and he was in his early 30s while they were filming the original Star Wars in 1979 to be really heartbreaking. Her daughter reads pages from the diary she kept at the time, and which she found recently sending her on a trip down memory lane. The diary entries are brilliant. They capture the raw emotions of a young, inexperienced, 19 year old woman in love with an older man. Harrison doesn’t necessary come across as much of a romantic knight in shining armor, but Carrie’s not really trying to make him come across as anything other than what he was. Her honesty is really impressive. She makes no judgment, just presents what happened. She regrets the adultery, but I think she doesn’t really regret the relationship. I suspect she is still just a little bit in love with him and always will be.

Heck, when I was 19 myself (and younger) I had my own crush on Harrison Ford (or rather Han Solo) so I can completely understand her plight.

I was a young girl when I first saw Star Wars, and it completely changed my life. I am where I am today (at NASA) and what I am today (A rocket Scientist) in large part to having experienced Star Wars. Princess Leia was a huge part of that. Here’s a woman who’s strong, brave, and not in need of saving. She’s not just a woman, she’s a princess and a leader. No one questions her authority. No one makes mention that she’s a girl. In fact, being a girl is just something she happens to be not something that defines her.

I just cannot say enough about my love of Leia as created by Carrie. That Carrie could create Leia as she did in spite of the turmoil in her young heart while filming Star Wars is very impressive.

Overall, having listened to this book, I feel like I have settled down to hear to some very personal thoughts and memories from someone I’ve admired for her on screen persona for almost my entire life. I caution parents out there, that it’s definitely not safe to listen to while children are within earshot. There is a lot of salty language and talk of rather adult themes of sex, adultery and drugs. I listened to it in the car after having dropped my children off at school.

I am glad I checked this one out. I’ve meant to read others of Carrie Fisher’s books. She has a very talented writing style and unique voice.
Thank you for sharing all of it Ms. Fisher. It was appreciated.

The Books I read in 2015

As I did in 2014, I challenged myself to read 12 books in 12 months during 2015. I am happy to say that I was successful. Without further adieu, here is the list of the 13 books I read over the course of 2015, as cataloged in my Goodreads account (one of my favorite social media resources).

They are a varied collection of books, reflective of my varied interests.  Some of them were books i picked and some were from the book club that my youngest sister tried to start amongst her friends.

  1. November 2015: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure, Cecil Castellucci
  2. November 2015: Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3), Robert Galbraith
  3. November 2015: Aftermath, Chuck Wendig
  4. September 2015: Bellweather Rhapsody, Kate Racily
  5. August 2015: New Dawn, John Jackson Miller
  6. June 2015: A Desperate Fortune, Susanna Kearsley
  7. June 2015: Yes Please, Amy Poehler
  8. April 2015: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes
  9. March 2015: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan
  10. February 2015: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
  11. February 2015: The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
  12. January 2015: The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty
  13. January 2015: Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple

When I have time,  will go back through this list and give you a quick summary of my thoughts on each one, and whether I bought them in hard cover, in ebook or read them via library ebook loan. I meant to do that with my 2014 reading list, and as you can see I have never gotten to that.  One of these days….

The Books I read in 2014

I used to love to read. < scratch that! I still love to read>

My love of reading started in high school and never really stopped. I’d always be reading a book, and when I’d finish one, I would immediately start the next in my queue. There was a used bookstore near my home, and I’d visit it monthly, to see what books I could add to my own library. First I started with mysteries like Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and then, inspired by Tolkien, moved onto fantasy and (given my eventual profession) science fiction.

After my children were born, my time available to read dwindled to almost nothing. I was able to finish the last couple of Harry Potter books as they came out, but aside from one or two books here or there, reading just ended up being the last thing on my list of things to accomplish, and as such, was no priority at all.

This year, inspired by Goodreads and the “challenges” the site was promoting, I decided to challenge myself to read 12 books in 12 months. Checking most of the books out of the library using the Overdrive app on my iPad mini, I not only met but exceeded that challenge and managed to read 16 books in 2014.

And here they are, starting chronologically from last January to December, the 16 books I read in 2014. Let’s hope that in 2015 I can manage to read at least that many. I will follow up in a future blog post with a few sentence summary of each one and my recommendation of whether or not I’d read them again (or suggest anyone else read them).

1. Frozen Heat (book #4 in the Nikki Heat series), by Richard Castle
2. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
3. Enders Game (the Ender Quintet #1), by Orson Scott Card
4. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
5. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
6. Wonder, by R. J. Palacio
7. Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
8. Murdering my Youth: A memoir, by Cady McClain
9. Disney in Shadow (Kingdom Keepers #3), by Ridley Pearson
10. The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
11. The Splendour Falls, by Susanna Kearsley
12. A Pedigree to Die For (Melanie Travis, #1), by Laurien Berenson
13. The Silkworm (Coromon Strike #2), by Robert Galbraith
14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
15. Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
16. Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry