Thursday, July 18, 2013

What I Read 2013: Part One

Well, I'm behind. I haven't really been keeping up with my book lists, and you can tell that I've been generally lazy by what I've read. Smut, Smut and...a few other non-smut books. But, mainly smut. Here's what I read from January to June!

The Undoing of a Libertine; Raine Miller: This one fits well into my standard "romance" file. It's period, it doesn't have any kind of non-consensual nonsense, and it's cute. A solid choice.

An Introduction to Pleasure; Jess Michaels: See the description I gave for The Undoing of a Libertine.

Saving Fish From Drowning; Amy Tan: Amy Tan is one of my new favorite novelists. She writes well, has nicely flowing storylines and great characters.  I read Saving Fish From Drowning while I was traveling to Thailand for Spring Festival and was racing to finish it before I had to get off the plane so I wouldn't have to wait to see what happened until after we found our hotel. Here is my full review for this novel.

Oxygen; Carol Cassella: I picked this one up in a hostel in Phuket and went through it almost entirely on the beach. This story follows Dr. Marie Heaton, an anesthesiologist whose young patient dies on the table. She's named in a malpractice suit, and we follow her as she examines her procedures, her conscience, and her heart to come to terms with what's happened. There's a small "twist" at the end, but honestly, I saw it coming. A solid beach novel.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab and a Jew in the Heart of the Middle East; Sandy Tolan: If there's one thing I've learned in my travels, it is that there is no simple explanation for anything. I was raised Jewish and presented with a certain "factual" account of all the goings on of the Middle East and Israel. I have some good Muslim friends with the same experience, except their "facts" were opposite mine. This book is a really great bridge between those two stories and, I hope, a good start to what could be a meaningful and productive dialogue.

For Desire Alone; Jess Michaels: Again with "see my review for The Undoing of a Libertine.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking; Susan Cain: I really enjoyed this book. Some of the things in it made a lot of sense and were pretty self-affirming for a book worm like me. You can see my full review here. 

Secrets of a Summer's Night; Lisa Kleypas: We all know I love Lisa Kleypas. She's a great romance novelist, and her stories are generally consistent. This novel starts The Wallflower series about 4 young ladies in London who are looking for husbands during the season. Over the course of the novel {and series} each of these women finds her true love. In this story, we follow Annette, a woman who must find a husband to help support her family. Blah, blah, blah, yes, but just the thing to read when you want some mush and don't want to think very much.

His Perfect Passion; Raine Miller: Typical man-wants-mysterious woman plot line. Cute, romantic, fast, but not a whole lot of development going on there.

It Happened One Autumn; Lisa Kleypas: This is the second book in The Wallflower series and follows Lillian, an American who came to England to find a titled husband but is having a hard time fitting into London society.

Devil in Winter; Lisa Kleypas: The third book in The Wallflower series. This one follows Evangeline, the quietest of the group, who has been held hostage by her evil relatives.

It Happened One Spring; Lisa Kleypas: The final installment in the Wallflower series follows Daisy, Lillian's sister. Daisy's father has told her that she *must* find a husband soon, and has arranged a suitable match for her. As expected, this is not received well!

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto; Julia Child: After reading My Life in France {side note: can you believe that was one of my very first book reviews on this blog?} I've always wanted to know more about Julia Child and her life. She was one of the reasons I so desperately wanted to move abroad {ahem, I expected to move to France. Or Italy.}. This work is a compilation of the letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, close friends and confidants over decades. It can get tedious, but it also shows the power of written correspondence and gives us a glimpse of two extraordinary women. A full review is here.

The Joy Luck Club; Amy Tan: Oh, I love Amy Tan. Her writing reminds me very much of Lisa See in how she combines American stories with Chinese ones in an intricate tale for her readers. You can read my full review here.

The East, the West and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters: Richard Bernstein: This was a little dry, especially if academic discussion of sex and the history of sex is not your thing. Obviously, it is mine, and I found it quite interesting and easy-to-read, but many of the reviewers on Goodreads couldn't get through it . Bernstein discusses colonialism, sexual cultures, and how the two have mixed to create this sort of exotic stereotype of foreign women, and the expectations that they will fulfill western male fantasies. And honestly? The stories ring true.

Ricochet; Xanthe Walter: Smut. Smut. Smut. Xanthe is a fanfiction writer who recently self-published her own novel. This one is m/m and is mostly for folks who liked 50 Shades of Gray.

Stranger in My Arms; Lisa Kleypas: Imagine: your {mean} husband vanishes while in the Navy, you're forced to live with your husband's family in a decrepit old cottage and suddenly, your husband comes back! Except now, he's romantic, considerate, caring, and great in bed. Hmm. Something doesn't seem right, but can you complain? A good story from Lisa Kleypas, as always.

Ruins; Orson Scott Card: This is a continuation of Card's novel Pathfinder {here is my review of Pathfinder}. I really like this series and am excited for the third installment {although, the internet does not seem to have any information on when that might be released. Darn you, internet!}.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate; Jacqueline Kelly: When I was home in April I visited a family I used to nanny for and the mother loaned the book to her sister while I was there. I immediately downloaded it onto my Kindle, and I'm glad I did. This novel depicts small-town Texas life pretty well {it's set in the early 1900's, but really, things haven't changed that much} and is full of rich descriptions of one girl's journey to make scientific history. That might be overstating it a bit, but we do follow Calpurnia as she and her grandfather try to earn naming rights for finding a new species. At the same time, Calpurnia is navigating the confusing world of becoming a young woman in a society that has quite specific expectations for women. A fun a little read, and worth your time.

The Hangman's Daughter; Oliver Potzsche: I've been seeing this one pop up everywhere and I finally bought it from Amazon on a whim. It is a story of intrigue, mystery, and small-town politics, in an era where being on the wrong side of the politics gets you burned with hot oil or worse. Some of the details are pretty gruesome {nails being pulled out, fingers being broken, entrails being scattered, that sort of thing}, but the story is excellent, as are the varying plot lines. I'm excited to read the second one in the series.

Improper Relations; Julianna Ross: This is a cute little smutty romance. Basic plot: Hannah is a poor relation who is shown love and tenderness by her deceased husband's cousin. He gives her lessons in pleasure, she falls in love, he falls in love....Not a whole lot of literature in this one, but a fun novel for the beach {or, even better, a boring airplane!}.

A Short History of Nearly Everything; Bill Bryson: I love Bill Bryson. I cannot say that enough. He is a fantastic non-fiction writer who, while not as openly hilarious as AJ Jacobs or David Sedaris, has a fun dry sense of humor. In this work, Bryson details the scientific history of life, the universe and everything {but, not the number 42}. We start with the Big Bang Theory and move through chemistry, atoms, physics, math, plate tectonics, evolution, astronomy, etc. He details not only how things work, but how science works. That is, just like anything else, science is full of misconceptions, dead-end trails, and politics. If you're a science nerd like I am, you should read this book immediately.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children; Ransom Riggs: When I first saw this book, I'll admit, I found it creepy. I thought it would be scary, I thought I wouldn't like it, and so I ignored it. But, it just kept popping up everywhere. So, I downloaded it. I'm glad I did. The story starts with the death of the main character's, Jacob's, grandfather. It is ruled as a robbery by police, but he knows something happened and goes on an adventure to find out. The result is a discovery of a different place, time, and group of people that all of us can only imagine. These people all have different abilities and are being hunted and we follow their story as they fight for their very survival. I cannot wait for the second book in this series to come out!

Mr. Churchill's Secretary; Susan Elia MacNeal: This series is essentially the adult answer to Nancy Drew {or, in my case, Cherry Ames}. Our main character, Maggie Hope, is an American/British dual-citizen who is in England at the start of WWII to handle some family business. Then, the war breaks out and we follow her as she is placed as a secretary in Winston Churchill's office. But, being a simple secretary is not enough for this feminist! She continues to investigate murders, find her long lost {and presumed dead} father, and generally kick up a fuss. This is not a terribly deep or thought-provoking novel, but it is certainly quick and fun!

Princess Elizabeth's Spy; Susan Elia MacNeal: The second novel in the Maggie Hope series. After her spy training, she is sent to tutor the Princess Elizabeth and generally keep an eye on things. She has to deal with a chauvinist boss {ugh, I hate those}, snotty courtiers and small princesses. This is a cute read, just like its predecessor.

The 19th Wife; David Ebershoff: I've always had an interest in other religions. When I was younger I wanted to be Amish. And a nun. Seriously. It follows that I really love fiction about religion. Recently I've been drawn towards Jewish-themed fiction {for obvious reasons}, but I saw this one and was intrigued. This novel has a dual-plot line. It offers speculation of the many wives of Brigham Young and follows the murder trial of the main character's mother. She is one of many wives to a husband in a fundamentalist off-shoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and she is accused of killing her husband. Her son, the narrator, was kicked out of the church for {basically} getting too old and being a threat. The second plot-line follows a woman who grows up during the early days of the LDS church and ends up married to {and divorced from!} Brigham Young. An interesting, fast-paced novel.

Eyes Wide Open; Raine Miller: I jumped back on the smut bandwagon for this one! It is a continuation of her Blackstone Affair series. This time, Ethan and Brynn are trying to plan a wedding while a person from Brynn's past is planning something creepy. There's a lot of controlling male dominance in this one. It's not abusive, but at times I would get cranky at the novel for it. As always, though, Raine Miller writes a pretty good love scene, though her verbiage could use a bit of work. I swear if I read "essence" or "core" in smut one more time.....

The Secret Keeper; Kate Morton: Another fabulous novel from Kate Morton. You can read my full review of this one here.

Room; Emma Donaghue: I liked this one. You can read my review here.

Whew! That was a lot of reading {and a lot of work writing, too!}. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Any recommendations for me?

Don't forget, you can always see what I am reading by following me on Goodreads and Pinterest.


  1. I just added quite a few of yours onto my to-read list! I've been on a mystery kick lately. I love Lisa See but the one Amy Tan novel I read was just so so.

  2. Flip Flip, My favorite Bill Bryson remains "A Walk in the Woods" but I've enjoyed his others. I'm also reading the Maggie Hope series. My current book-in-progress is the latest Meg Lanslow mystery. She's a blacksmith who solves crimes. We miss you in Seabrook. Love, Atlantis

  3. Wow, that is quite a list!
    Ruins; Orson Scott Card - I thought pathfinder was a bit slow. It would be interesting to see if the plot picks up in the sequel. I do love the Ender's series.
    The Hangman's Daughter; Oliver Potzsche - I also want to read this one. I'm glad you liked it!
    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children; Ransom Riggs - I was a bit sad that it wasn't as creepy as the cover promised. But, it was a fun read!
    The 19th Wife; David Ebershoff - I'm from Utah and not a Mormon. I'm always fascinated by books about it.
    Happy Friday!
    Mei @ Diary of a Fair Weather Diver

  4. I love Lisa See, too. I just finished 'Dreams of Joy' a few weeks ago.

    My favorite Bill Bryson remains 'Made in America,' but then again, I'm an obsessive word nerd, so that explains that.

    I liked 'Miss Peregrine' - except that it's one of those cliffhanger novels that's just begging for its sequel.

  5. The 19th Wife sounds super intriguing! Thanks for linking up! I need to read through your blog and catch up on all of your recent adventures.

  6. I haven't read any of these, although there's several that have been on my to-read list. Although the one that intrigues me the most is The Lemon Tree. And speaking of Jewish-themed books, have you read The Dovekeepers of the Rashi's Daughters trilogy? Those are probably some of my favorites.