My community book club this year has been, shall we say, interesting?
We’ve become more of a social club than a book club, not that I’m complaining. I love all the women in the club and I love that we get together for things like Happy Hour, or Game Night, or at a local winery to celebrate a 40th birthday. But I like books. I like to read them and I like to talk about them and when we don’t do that, I miss it.
In fact, for the 40th birthday celebration, we surprised one of our members by magically showing up at the winery when she went there for lunch with a friend. In order to fool her, we had to set up a fake book club event, complete with a book selection. I knew the event was fake but figured I should still read the book. I mean, who doesn’t like talking about books over a good glass of wine?
Well, I think I was the only one that read it but I’m not sorry I did. It’s just one more that I’ll add to my book club reading list this year. The list below represents everything I read with or without my book club. In fact, I’m glad that I’m inspired to keep reading!
If you want in on the discussion throughout the year, join me on Goodreads as I post my thoughts once I finish a book.
This was our December book club selection (chosen by me!) as I mentioned in last year’s post. It was young adult fiction and an unlikely love storybut I wanted a light and easy read for the holidays.
“I chose this book for our year-end Holiday Book Club. We wanted something short, light, and easy-reading but still with substance. That’s what we got along with a quick trip back to the 80s. Sweet, sentimental, with enchanting characters. The only question for you is what do you think those 3 words were at the end of the book?”
This was our January book club selection. A nonfiction story about a woman named Henrietta Lacks whose cervical cancer cells gave rise to the most commonly used cell line in research today. Bonus points that mush of the story is local to the Baltimore area.
“I had great expectations of this book after reading and hearing its praises. The story was fascinating on a human, medical, and sociological level. However, if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of human biology, this book might be too technical and bore you. It sparked GREAT discussion at book club but the story didn’t captivate me the way I wanted.”
Well, for as much as I complain about young adult fiction, I certainly read plenty of it. I liked The Hunger Games but didn’t love it and was worried the Divergent series would be a similar knockoff. Instead, I found an edgy sci-fi thriller I couldn’t get enough of. I enjoyed all of these as audiobooks and highly recommend that format for the series.
My review: (Divergent)
“I loved this book way more than I expected. It felt like a hybrid of The Hunger Games and The Giver with only the best parts used. I had no moments of extreme predictability or eye rolling as I usually do with YA books. I loved Beatrice and found her to be inspiring in many ways. Ready to forge ahead to Insurgent.”
My review: (Insurgent)
“I felt like Divergent could have been a standalone story but after finishing the trilogy the story got so much bigger. In hindsight, this is very much a “middle” book. The story was big and scattered and the characters a little more exaggerated but still really enjoyable.”
My review: (Allegiant)
“Just finished this book yesterday and I feel a sense of loss. These characters had become so ingrained in me that I find myself missing them. The twists took this story in a totally new direction that was fascinating from a biological and sociological perspective. While the ending didn’t leave me warm and fuzzy, it ended exactly the way it should have. Definitely some quote-worthy passages in this book.”
This was our March book club selection and definitely not my favorite. The discussion was an interesting one and while it was a well-written book, I didn’t care for it.
“A story of culture and race and class and violence. It was definitely a story that kept me reading and made for some great moral and ethical discussions at book club. But the violence seemed gratuitous for what the story was ultimate about. I found it rather disturbing and I wouldn’t heartily recommend this book.”
If I were compiling a list of the best books of 2015, this one would be near the top. This was our April selection for book club. While I wasn’t able to attend and discuss, I fell in love with the audiobook version of this novel.
“I loved this book in so many ways. While the ending seemed a little “Lifetime movie”ish, the characters had so much depth and soul. It gives tough topics like divorce, infertility, infidelity, and alcoholism a whole new perspective. If reading the book has left you feeling flat, listen to the audiobook. It’s amazing.”
This was our September book club selection (I have no clue what happened over the summer!). Another young adult fiction book, this was a perfectly short, yet meaningful story and discussion for our late summer meetup.
“A quick and easy read but with more depth and less predictability than a typical young adult novel. I loved the main characters and while some found the ending to be sad, I felt it was fitting.”
This was the book for our “fake” book club but I’m so glad I read it anyway. If you liked The Husband’s Secret, you’ll LOVE Big Little Lies. Another one of my favorites for the year and I couldn’t get enough of the Australian accents as I listened to this as an audiobook.
“I love it when I read a book with no real knowledge of the story. Everything is a surprise from the characters to the story to the ending. Most people will tell you it was a shocking twist but I figured most of it out about halfway through. I listened to the audiobook and loved hearing the Australian accent. The narrator was fantastic and made Madeline one of my all-time favorite characters. I’ve often heard people say it’s not as good as The Husband’s Secret but I liked it even better. Fantastic read.”
This book was loaned to me and while I liked another Lisa Gardner book I read, this one just didn’t do it for me. Perhaps it was the narrators on the audiobook but I suspect it just wasn’t very good.
“I read Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner and thought it was a good suspenseful story. This one, I though was a mess. The characters were confusing (or confused, not sure which) and the storyline seemed like a bad Lifetime movie. It was entertaining but not one I’d recommend.”
Again, I was itching to read without any book club selections and I do best when someone tells me what to read. This came at the recommendation of two of my book club friends.
“Thoroughly enjoyable (and relatively quick) read. I loved hearing the same story from several perspectives although I still can’t reconcile that way the wife acted when her husband found out details revealed in the book. Overall, a very intriguing and enjoyable story.”
There generally seem to be two schools of thought on this book. Either it’s the best book ever or it’s too difficult to get through. I fell somewhere in the middle.
“This was an admittedly difficult read. Maybe it’s because it was a listen (audiobook) instead of a read. They chose an American narrator who didn’t do very well with German or French words and listening to it made it difficult to keep some of the German characters straight. I found myself distracted as I listened to the book but rewound to make sure I didn’t miss anything. In the end, it was the enormity of the story and of World War II that really impacted, not the details. It was reminiscent in some ways of The Book Thief but not nearly as impactful.”
Yay! Book club was back on for November with this relatively short assignment. So short, I practically read it in two days! It definitely inspired me in the kitchen though.
“It’s funny that the description mentions Like Water for Chocolate and Chocolat. These were both stories I compared it to when discussing at a recent book club. I enjoyed the character study but honestly felt like the story was just too short (something I don’t normally complain about). We got just enough to get interested in the characters but not enough to feel satisfied. On a side note, if the talk of food makes you want to try the recipes, they’re real!”
I picked this one from Audible simply because I had a credit to use. The story was rately highly as was the narrator (the same narrator from Big Little Lies) so I went with it. I wasn’t prepared to be completely blown away by one of the best books of 2015.
“This is the first book I’ve read by Kate Morton and I’m completely blown away by the enormity of this novel. The level of detail, the complex weaving of storytelling, and the characterization of each person make this book a masterpiece and one of the best books of 2015.”
My last official book of the year was yet ANOTHER young adult fiction. It’s nice because they’re short and pretty palatable. And this story was a good one to end on.
“I’m always hesitant with young adult fiction as I’m afraid the language will seem likes it’s trying too hard to be hip. In this novel (which has nothing to do with the state of Alaska, unbeknownst to me), it has just the right balance of teen angst and philosophical questioning. Not enough to make you roll your eyes – just enough to make you pause and think as well. A nice, short read (or listen).”
And that wraps up my official list from 2015. I have to admit that I’m pretty proud of the fact that out of six officially sanctioned book club books, I still managed to read a total of 14 books. I’ll never be the type to read 100 books in a year but I’m okay with that. I like to take my time and enjoy what I’m reading or listening to.
Now, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What were the best books you read this year? Were any of mine on your list? What did I miss that should go on my MUST READ list for 2016?
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