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Books, Books, Books

Last year, my goal was to read one book per month. As you know, I accomplished that goal and could not be more proud of myself for sticking with it. It really helped me relax and well, preserve my sanity, whenever things got crazy with work, training, friends life in general.

Back in August, I gave a quick recap of some of the top reads I devoured through the summer months. Now, I don’t think it’s quite fair to show those books the love without spreading it around to all of the great titles I read this year. Not to brag, but I picked some seriously awesome reads. In fact, I don’t regret a single one. So let’s take a look back and I’ll give you the quick 4-1-1 on each, mmk?

If I don’t post a quick synopsis here, you can find it in the last post mentioned above. For more of my book recommendations, check out my Pinterest page.

January 2012: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I started reading this in 2011, but didn’t finish the beast until the new year, so I counted it as the first month. What a great novel. Set in World War II, it tells the story of Louis Zamperini and his struggles as a runner, a lieutenant in the Air Force and someone hoping to survive a horrific crash. It’s all about resilience and strength, and despite it’s length, Hillenbrand kept me enraptured with every page.

February 2012: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. At first, I wasn’t sure this plot line was going to work for me: a circus that only comes out at night, and two magicians who are fighting against each other to the death end up falling in love. First, the whole magicians thing isn’t usually for me. Second, it all sounded a little cliché. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. Morgenstern does a great job of weaving characters together and made me root for both of the magicians, no matter how the ending turned out. And the fact that it all happened at night? Well, that just made it cool. You know how things always seem to take on a new life at night – scary or intriguing, most of the time? That’s what happened with this book.

March 2012: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

April 2012: Healthy Tipping Point by Caitlin Boyle. I got to read this before the release date for work and I’m so glad I did. I’m a regular reader of Caitlin’s blog and love how her voice transferred over effortlessly to her second book. The success stories sprinkled in with Boyle’s down-to-earth narrative and advice made it a page-turner, and makes you seriously think about making changes in your life for the better.

healthy tipping point

May 2012: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

June 2012: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

July 2012: Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin

August 2012: Gone Girl by Gillian Fly. An amazing page-turner that is extremely well-written. It took me a while to get into this book because I felt that the main character, Nick, was weak and not taking any responsibility for his failing marriage. But part two hit me like a ton of bricks and I was instantly sucked in. This novel is all about how things aren’t always as they appear, and no matter what source you go to, there’s always another side of the story. You’ll want to read this just for the mind warp.

September 2012: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. Clearly I went on a Giffin kick this year. I love this movie, but never got around to reading the book first. So I had Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson stuck in my head the whole time, but those aren’t necessarily bad things, right?

books

Anyway, this beach read follows the story of Darcy and Rachel, two best friends living in NYC – Darcy is the overpowering, beautiful blonde who always gets what she wants handed to her, and Rachel is the quiet do-gooder who always has Darcy’s back, despite Darcy frequently taking things from her. Before you know it, Rachel is in bed with Darcy’s fiance. Obviously drama ensues, but the best part of this book is the fact that I was rooting for Rachel the entire time. Based on her actions, you should want to hate her, but I was cheering for this girl’s happy ending.

October 2012: Something Blue by Emily Giffin. The sequel to Something Borrowed is almost as good as the first one. Instead of the story being told from Rachel’s perspective, we shift vantage points and hear about what happened from Darcy. And then we watch the story unfold when she finds out about Rachel and fiance Dex shacking up and she flees to London. It was definitely smart of Giffin to write the sequel from this point of view – I managed to develop some empathy for the little blonde girl who’s finally starting to realize life isn’t handed to you on a silver platter.

November 2012: Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. Libby finished reading this in two days and immediately passed it off to me, saying the movie was coming out around Thanksgiving (FYI – if you’ve seen the movie, the book is way better. But the movie was good). The main character, Pat, believes that life plays out like a movie and that every situation has a silver lining. Heart-warming, right? Things get interesting when you find out he’s just been released from a mental institution after having a nervous breakdown because he caught his wife cheating on him. Ouch.

Then you meet Tiffany, another girl who needs help because her husband died unexpectedly. We watch their stories intertwine with one another, while they fight with each other and their families, all while just trying to figure out their own silver linings…together. Aww. It might sound cheesy, but just read it. I promise it’s good.

December 2012: Divergent by Veronica Roth. HOLY CRAP, this book is amazing. Seriously, I’m as obsessed with this series as I was with The Hunger Games. So if you liked that series and haven’t read this one yet, I strongly encourage you to go pick it up immediately at your nearest bookstore or download it to your Kindle.

divergent

I’m a huge fan of dystopians packed with action, drama and romance, and this book delivers in all three areas. Roth is only 24 and has managed to create a brilliant world filled with conflict that cuts straight to everyone’s soul. I can’t give many details because it will give away the story, but just trust me on this one. Pick it up, and thank me later when you’ve finished it in two days. That’s what happened to me.

And that was 2012! In 2013, I’m upping the ante and trying to read two books per month. So far, I’m right on track. In January, I read:

  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth – the sequel to Divergent. Duh. I cannot wait for the third book to come out this fall, or for the first movie release in 2014.
  • Baby Proof by Emily Giffin. I forced myself to break from the dystopians for a few weeks since I was starting to have some seriously messed up dreams, ha. And you can’t go wrong with a Giffin novel. That girl knows how to deliver a light-hearted read that still touches on important life choices.

I have a few others up my sleeve (back to dystopians with Gretchen Powell’s Terra – so excited!), but am anxious for recommendations. Tell me, what book have you recently read that is an absolute pick-it-up-right-now-or-you’ll-regret-it-forever kind of story?

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Summer Reads

One of my goals for the year was to read a book every month, and I’m stoked to say I’ve kept up with that goal. Along with all of the magazines I read, I’ve been taking the time for myself to get lost in someone else’s world, someone’s else’s writing, and boy, it feels good. There really is nothing like curling up with a good book. Yes, I have my Kindle and I use it sometimes, but I also have a big ol’ bookshelf that I love to pull from (and add to!). I still love the smell of paper and the feel of a book as it starts to be gently used.

Not that I just went off on a tangent or anything…

So this summer, I’ve been lucky with every book I’ve decided to dive into. Each one was a winner! At least, it was in my opinion. Instead of reviewing each one in a separate post, I’ve decided to give you a brief glimpse into what I’m reading. I’m not going to give away too much of the plot, so I promise no spoilers here!

The Book Thief 

This Markus Zusak read is based in Germany during World War II, so I immediately knew I was going to love it. I’m a huge sucker for anything based in that time period (another great read if you haven’t picked it up – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand). The story follows the life of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who’s put into a new home with foster parents in the beginning of the novel because her mother can’t care for her anymore – we later find out this is because she’s Jewish.

The most interesting part of The Book Thief, and what kept me enraptured in the story, is that it’s completely narrated by Death. It was such a unique, captivating approach for the author to take, and I think he pulled it off flawlessly. Death encounters Liesel many times throughout the book and there are multiple incidents that weave the entire story together. We get to know Liesel, the youngster who – you guessed it – steals books and is obsessed with words. I fell in love with her sidekick, Rudy, and the eventual Jew Liesel’s family protects, Max. Liesel’s foster parents are equally engaging, as are the secondary characters sprinkled throughout the book. Zusak did such an incredible job portraying their emotions, making me feel exactly what they were feeling, that when traumatic events happened I was quite literally sobbing as I turned the page.

Where We Belong

Emily Giffin is the famous author behind Something Borrowed (which I still haven’t read), a novel that was turned into a film recently and starred Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin. But I digress. Where We Belong is a book I read early this summer because a preview copy was sent to me for work. I had never read anything by Giffin before, but thought, “What the heck? It’s summer and I could go for a light-hearted beach read.” It was a bonus that, as you can see above, I got to meet Giffin to chat about her new novel and snag her John Hancock.

The story is centered around Marian Caldwell, a television producer in New York City who seems to have everything she could’ve ever wanted in life: she’s working for a fairly successful TV show, dating the super-attractive boss of the company and well, living the dream in the city that never sleeps. Everything’s perfect, until 18-year-old Kirby Rose shows up. Turns out Kirby is the long-lost daughter Marian gave up for adoption long ago.

Yes, the story line sounds a bit cheesy, and I was hesitant going into it. It all sounded too predictable. And while it definitely wasn’t a mind-blowing read, Giffin did a great job of storytelling and kept me rooting for both characters. I never felt like Kirby or Marian was the bad guy, or even the boy who got Marian pregnant all those years ago. I felt like they were all extremely relatable characters, and in the end, I was just rooting for each of them to end up happy. This is definitely a beach read that will remind you of just how strong family ties can be, and how important the people you love really are.

Drop Dead Healthy

If any of you read Julie’s blog, you’ll notice that she’s also read a few of these books during her monthly book club. I follow her blog regularly, and whenever a book is chosen, I usually add it to my “To Read” board on Pinterest so I eventually circle around to it. I always mean to read it at the same time as everyone else, but somehow that hasn’t worked out yet. I came this close with this month’s read (you’ll find out what it is at the bottom of this post), but am only partially finished now and it’s the end of the month. There’s always next time!

Anyway, I say all that because this title by A.J. Jacobs was a PBFingers book club read. Boy oh boy, was it funny. As a blogger who likes to focus on healthy living, and an editor who works at FITNESS, I was excited to dive into a book that has the author spending two years trying to be the healthiest man in the world. We learn about his experiences with fitness and nutrition experts, a whole variety of workouts, different diets and anything else you can think of, all in the name of being healthy. 

Fortunately for me, I met Jacobs before reading this book (another perk of my job – Jacobs was a guest speaker at FITNESS’ Blogger Meet & Tweet!). So I was really able to integrate his voice and personality into the book on a whole other level. But honestly, even if I hadn’t met him, I still would’ve loved it. I fully believe that there’s an overwhelming amount of information readily available for people to take in about being healthy, but it’s difficult to sift through it all. I loved the journey that Jacobs took us on, and I thoroughly enjoyed the “character” of his wife. I can only imagine what life would be like if Dustin tried to do the same thing – I give her major props for putting up with it all!

In the end, this was a very educational read and extremely entertaining. See, Mom was right again – learning is fun!

Love the One You’re With

Last but not least, I recently finished another Giffin novel. What can I say – Where We Belong got me hooked! This one addresses the classic “what if?” question so many of us have dangling in the back of our heads, especially if we end up marrying someone who wasn’t our first love. That’s what the main character, Ellen, is dealing with about a year into her marriage with Andy. They’re basically the perfect couple, but a random run-in with Leo, “the one that got away,” sends her into a tailspin, and she questions the decisions she’s made as secrets start to reveal themselves.

Again, Giffin made her characters extremely relatable. I didn’t hate any of them, but I was definitely pulling for Ellen and Andy to work things out. There was a soft spot in my heart for Leo, and by the end, I was rooting for his happiness, too. So clearly Giffin is really good at making me root for the warm-fuzzy endings. She just does a great job of reminding me about important life lessons that tend to be thrown into life’s background when things get busy.

And those are the books I tackled this summer. Pretty varied as far as topics go, but each one had its own enjoyable story line. I’m about halfway through Gone Girl now, which is a definite page-turner and seems to be the big book this summer. Of course I saved it for last!

What books did you crack into this season? Any I should check out?