What I’m reading, December 2014 (part two)

I finished 2014 with 121 total books read. Since this week is looking to be a busy week, I’ll pick up reading again after the new year.

If you’re curious, here are all 121 books I read this year.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu: I had high hopes for this one, but in the end it just turned out to be okay. Maybe it was the first person present and multiple points of view, all told in present tense when the book would have worked much better in past tense. Maybe it was how the main character was kind of a boring villain. Whatever the case, I got through the book feeling like not much had actually happened. That said, I didn’t dislike the book, but it could have been done so much better.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 daggers

If I Stay by Gayle Forman: For most of the story, I was all set to give it three stars and move on with my life. The story switches between the present (in yet another first person present tense) and the past–basically Mia’s life flashing before her eyes. I couldn’t really get into all these stories from the past. But then the ending redeemed the book and pulled it up to four stars.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 cellos

The English Breakfast Murder by Laura Childs: I grabbed this because of the title, and honestly, it’s just okay. The prose was okay at best and there was so much infodumping when explaining tea terms. Some of the characters were truly annoying, and some plot points just did not make sense, nor did they come together in the end. I love the idea of a tea shop mystery, but if the others (there are fifteen or so in the series) are like this, I probably won’t pick them up.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 teapots

The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz: This is the book I wish someone had handed me in high school. To be fair, this book didn’t exist when I was in high school ten years ago, but I was good at math and liked math because I was good at it, not because of some inherent beauty behind the subject. Reading something like this probably would have sparked that mathematical love earlier. That said, this is a good read, something I would hand to an advanced high school kid who wants to see the power of math. While there are a few confusing parts, most of the book is well-explained even for someone who quit math after high school.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 maths

The Novelist by Angela Hunt: First, a disclosure–I’m an ex-Christian. This is Christian fiction, and boy is it obvious. Even putting that aside, this book isn’t great. The main character is a famous novelist who’s dealing with a troubled son. She’s teaching a class at a local college, and someone challenges her to write something more personal. So she does. She writes an allegorical novella for her son, who’s struggling with (spoiler alert) what’s revealed to be bipolar. But the narrator’s attitude toward mental illness made me yell out loud on multiple occasions. (Good thing I live alone.) Quite frankly, she’s a terrible parent, even if the kid is 21. The novella’s chapters are told almost alternately with the main story, and honestly, I wasn’t into the obvious allegorial tale at all. I wish the story had been about the jerk kid in the back of her class. He was much more interesting. So unless you’re really into preachy Christian fiction, don’t pick this up.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 allegories

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher: This is book 2 of The Dresden Files series. The general consensus among people I know is that the series picks up around book three or four. Considering the first book wasn’t bad, I gave the second one a try. This wasn’t too bad either. I didn’t love it, but it grabbed my attention, and a lot happened (as opposed to talking about things that happened). Though I have to admit, side character Murphy just might be my favorite. I’m not running out to grab book 3 immediately, but I’ll keep going with this series at some point.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 werewolves

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli: I picked this book up in one of those little libraries and didn’t have any particular expectations for it. That turned out to be a good thing. This book features a female war photographer during the Vietnam war and her two main love interests over the course of the book. Yes, it’s a romance, but there are plenty of war scenes where romance isn’t happening at all. While this book did do a good job at not glamourizing the war, I couldn’t really get into the story. Maybe it was the long bits of prose that while well-written, were definitely skimmable. Maybe it was the confusing beginning and the sudden shift to the past. I dunno, but that’s why this book gets a 3 from me.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 war photos

St. Mallory’s Forever! by Saffina Desforges, Miriam Joy, Charley Robson: I follow one of the authors on Twitter. This story is told from the perspectives of multiple characters, all in the form of blog posts. Since the prose is all blog posts by boarding school students, the writing is not at all formal, and there’s a lack of formal polish that is easily explained away by this. Still, even though the story is confusing on occasion (mostly in the beginning), it’s engaging, funny, and it kept making me wonder what was happening next.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 lacrosse sticks

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I started this book on Christmas Day and slogged through the first half of the book. The first part was boring, the other parts in the first half, not much better, and I wasn’t seeing much hope. Halfway through I was debating whether to give the book one or two stars, and when you get to that point, there’s not much point in slogging through the rest. So I put it down and felt so much better for it.
Goodreads rating: No rating, did not finish

Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: I’ve performed most of my past work as part of a distributed team, so I’m well experienced in remote work and its perks and downfalls. Because of this, not much was new in Remote. Still, it’s a good read for anyone interested in remote working, or as a guide to give your boss to make the case for remote working, and that’s why this book gets a solid 4.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 teleconferences

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson: This is the Basecamp founders’ other book about succeeding in business. It espouses a lot of ideas I’ve embraced for years. No, you don’t have to be a workaholic, no you don’t have to get funding, you just need to put your words into action. And that’s the biggest message of all, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee wanting to get out of the rat race.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 no-BS ideas

Carrie by Stephen King: Somehow I’ve never read anything by Stephen King. I know, I know, take away my reader card. So I picked up Carrie and zoomed through the book yesterday. It’s I’m not the biggest fan of the narrative style, the main story alternating with future reports of the event. But it does the job, and Stephen King’s writing makes up for almost all of this story’s flaws. Considering this is his first of many novels, that’s a good thing.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 PLUG IT UP chants

What’s next? 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, then working my way through the library books waiting for me over the next few days. And after that, who knows? I probably won’t repeat 120 books in 2015, but if I have more time on my hands, you never know. Here’s to another year of reading!

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