The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: First, it’s not Harry Potter. Despite that, this is still a good read with complex characters and storylines. The first half moves slowly since this book features a large cast of characters and a lot of story to tell across multiple points of view. But once the story really gets going, it gets juicy. And of course, JKR’s brilliant writing and plotting are still there.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 election candidates
An Imaginary Tale: The Story of sqrt(-1) by Paul J. Nahin: A lot of folks barely understand complex numbers, seeing them for about a week in high school math, if that. Sadly, this is not the book for them. I wanted it to be, but the reading is so dense that I felt like I was reading a textbook at times–and I have a math degree! That said, it is a good (though dense) read if you’re mathematically inclined.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 mathematical fancies
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This is a published NaNo novel about a late 1800s circus. I went in expecting a lot about the competition mentioned on the back cover, but honestly, the competition plotline wasn’t all that prominent. I’d keep reading, half forgetting about the competition and half wondering when it would show up throughout the middle. Despite this, it’s a good read with an interesting premise, competition aside.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 red items
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I have a thing with stories about people living in wartime, World War 2 in particular. This one is beautiful, telling the story of a girl’s childhood in Nazi Germany after losing her family. It’s a very quick read despite its 500+ pages; I finished it in a day. And I’m not sure what else to say about this book besides being beautifully written with a compelling main character (and narrator).
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stolen books
The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee: I chose this for the title and back cover. Despite the book being about a woman fighting to make it in Victorian England, I couldn’t get into it. Betsey is crass and spunky and lots of other things I like in my female main characters. The problem is that the rest of the cast were your typical Victorian fare. Most of them also sound the same, which got really confusing with the lack of dialogue tags during long conversations.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 typewriters
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Someone on Twitter recommended this to me, and I couldn’t resist because come on, mathematical dragons. The beginning was a little confusing with the introduction of a lot of terms and people at once, but the plot gets good quickly. There’s also lots of talk on art and philosophy and love and other topics, and none of it felt dumbed down for a YA audience. And the cast is quite lovable with their deep characterization.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 dragons
Messenger by Lois Lowry: Did you know The Giver is part of a quartet? I didn’t either. I read the second book a few years ago but never knew about books 3 and 4. This is the third book in that quartet, and it connects the characters in the first and second books. My only complaint is the narration falls apart a little toward the end. Still, I enjoyed this book and have already requested the fourth book.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle: The last unicorn goes out in search of other unicorns. Beagle’s prose is beautiful, and the story is no different. It practically reads like a fairy tale, and how could it not because unicorns. If you want a quick read, here’s one–I started it one night on the train and then finished the rest in an afternoon. P.S. UNICORNS.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 unicorns
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman: If the name sounds familiar, that may be because Tupelo is a past NaNo staffer. This is a story about Rory’s childhood–her world growing up in a trailer park in Nevada, her family, and her experiences. The book is more like a collection of memories told in a nonlinear fashion. This was confusing at first, but I got used to it. I laughed, I gaped in horror, and at the end I felt like I was leaving a good friend behind. I just want to know: what happened to Rory?
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 Girl Scout badges
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–But Some Don’t by Nate Silver: The point of this book is to make you think probabilistically and critically about data. You know the ones: “60% of people blahblah”, “Scientists Say [some result here]”, the ones that so many people (including me at times) accept without digging into how that result arrived. And Silver explains all this clearly to even those who have no background in the field.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 predictions
Bossypants by Tina Fey: I read a copy of the physical book (as opposed to the audiobook, which Tina herself narrated). It was still very funny–Tina Fey’s wit and observation are just as present in the book as in her TV works. I flew through this book. My only complaint is that the writing did seem less punchy in places, almost as if someone else was writing those parts (which could be true).
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 impersonations
Up next: Son by Lois Lowry. This is book four of The Giver’s series, and I’m really looking forward to it.