2015: Very Good Reads

Of 179 books read in 2015, here are my VGRs:

World of Trouble, by Ben H. Winters: The conclusion to the Last Policeman trilogy was just as good as the first two books. Winters’s writing is taut, well-paced, and the plot was gripping.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick: This book really blew me away. I didn’t know a whole lot about North Korea, and this history of several people’s lives there (defectors who told their stories to Demick while living in South Korea after their defections) was eye-opening. The famine of the 1990s was heart-breaking to read about from a personal point of view, and the book really helped me remember how lucky I am to live where I live and have had the life I’ve had.

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, by Francisco X. Stork: I really enjoyed this novel about a young man, Pancho, who is determined to murder the man he thinks killed his older sister. His family is all dead, and so he is sent to an orphanage because he’s not yet 18 years old. He is immediately befriended by DQ, who has a brain tumor and is dying. I loved the writing and the characters, and I found myself really rooting for Pancho to make good decisions.

First Frost, by Sarah Addison Allen: Allen revisits the Waverlys from her first novel, Garden Spells, in this novel, and it was an absolute delight to meet up with them again 10 years later. There was one small thing in the plot that I thought was completely unnecessary to add a conflict, but other than that I loved it and tore through it in an afternoon. Allen’s books are always wins for me.

The Just City, by Jo Walton: A fascinating philosophical novel with a sci-fi premise: the goddess Athena creates an experimental city based on Plato’s ideals, populated with 10,000+ children (all around 10 years old, bought out of slavery), “masters” to teach them (various adults from different times in history, all of whom prayed to Athena at one time or another to let them live in a version of Plato’s Republic), and “workers” – robots Athena has brought from the future to help build the city. Walton is an excellent writer, and I can’t wait for the next books in this series. The story is told from three different viewpoints: Apollo, who has chosen to live as a mortal boy in the city; Simmea, a brilliant girl from Egypt circa A.D. 500-1000; and Maia, once Ethel, a Victorian lady who loved learning and had no prospects due to her gender. The book ends with a grand debate between Socrates and Athena, and the pacing, plot, and characters throughout are all excellent.

Paper Things, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson: This was a lovely, heartbreaking book told through the eyes of an 11-year old girl, Ari, who has chosen to leave her guardian’s home to live with her older brother. They move from friend’s house to shelter to friend’s house, homeless and in an ever-worsening situation. Excellent writing and telling the story from Ari’s point of view gave it a poignancy and innocence that was really moving.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins: Excellent, riveting psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator (actually, three of them). I don’t really want to say more about the story in case I give something away, but I highly recommend it.

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo: I was pleasantly surprised by this YA fantasy. The writing, characters, and story were all excellent and engaging, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy. I’m feeling exceptionally lazy today, so rather than write about this book myself, I’m going to steal the synopsis that is on Goodreads: “Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.”

Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising, by Leigh Bardugo: I’m not able to separately review these last two books in the Grisha trilogy because I read them one after the other in quick succession and the stories all blurred together. Bardugo did an excellent job with this trilogy; I thought the pacing, the reveals, and the characters were consistently good across all three books. The ending was satisfying, as well. If you’re a fantasy fan, I think you’ll really enjoy this trilogy.

Shadows Over Paradise, by Isabel Wolff: Wolff’s protagonists always have interesting jobs, and Jenni in Shadows is no exception: she’s a ghostwriter, often compiling people’s memoirs into books for them. When she was a child, she was watching over her younger brother Teddy on a beach vacation and he died in a tragic accident, and this has (understandably) shaped her whole life. No one knows about the incident in her current life and she is estranged from her mother, who blames her for Teddy’s death. She’s about to break up with her live-in boyfriend because he wants children and she doesn’t. Jenni is hired to write the memoirs of an elderly woman who lives in the seaside town where Jenni’s brother died. In getting to know Klara and learning of her brutal childhood held prisoner in Japanese detention camps in Indonesia, Jenni starts to come to terms with her own tragedy. Although I sometimes have trouble feeling really connected to Wolff’s characters, her stories are always very interesting.

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel: Another dystopian novel, but this one isn’t rooted in aliens or strange powers or some other science fiction trope. This one comes about from a deadly flu pandemic that wipes out almost everyone on the planet. The story jumps around in time, to different characters who are all connected, some in ways we don’t discover until the end (though I guessed one of the big reveals). This book was quietly beautiful, and I really liked Mandel’s writing. I loved that one of the storylines centered around a group of survivors who had formed the “Symphony”, a traveling group of actors and musicians who performed concerts and Shakespeare plays in the new world created by the pandemic. I think this book will appeal to people who don’t normally read dystopian novels, much like The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

Taking Flight, by Michaela and Elaine DePrince: I first became familiar with DePrince’s story while watching the fabulous documentary First Position, about the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition. When I saw that she was releasing a memoir, detailing her childhood in war-torn Sierra Leone and then her subsequent adoption by an American family, I knew I had to read it. DePrince’s ambition, talent, and intelligence shine through, and it’s heart-warming to see the success she has had after such a brutal beginning to her life. Although the tone of this book is definitely for younger readers (young teen?), I think anyone would enjoy her story.

Timestorm, by Julie Cross: I had listened to the first two books in Cross’s trilogy, Tempest and Vortex, which is why you haven’t seen them reviewed here. Cross did an incredible job building her time travel theory and the world in these novels. I liked Tempest better than Vortex, but Timestorm really blew me away. I’m very impressed with Cross’s writing and I loved how she wrapped up Jackson’s story. This was a very exciting conclusion with great character development.

Dead Heat, by Patricia Briggs: This is the fourth novel in the Alpha & Omega series, and like with Kelley Armstrong’s werewolves, I never get tired of Briggs’s, either Mercy’s storyline or Charles’s and Anna’s. In this, Charles’s and Anna’s fourth novel, they are visiting an old Navajo friend of Charles who is dying when they get involved with a fae who has stolen a child and replaced her with a fetch, a bundle of sticks spelled to look and act like the human child. The story is well-paced and engaging. If you enjoy this genre, I think you will enjoy this series

Golden Son, by Pierce Brown: Excellent continuation of what Brown started in Red Rising. This middle book in the trilogy is filled with action, violence, and death. The ending was intense and heartbreaking and makes me wonder how our hero Darrow will ever survive and carry on the fight.

We Are Called to Rise, by Laura McBride: An excellent, well-written novel that focuses on four people in Las Vegas (well, one of them is a soldier from LV currently in Walter Reed Hospital in DC) and the way their lives unexpectedly intertwine after a horrible and tragic event. The characters are beautifully drawn, the story is compelling and nicely paced, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline: Troubled foster teen Molly tries to steal a book from the library, and performs her assigned community service hours for 91-year-old Vivian, helping her clean out her attic. Despite clichéd characters and plot lines (they become friends, Molly flourishes and ditches her Goth persona), this was still a very interesting book, mainly because of Vivian’s history as an orphan train child who traveled from New York to Minnesota and went through several terrible home situations. I found myself resenting it every time the story went back to the present, though there are some nice wrap-ups at the end of the book.

Harrison Squared, by Daryl Gregory: A weird but riveting novel about Harrison Harrison (H2), a teenager who moves to a small Massachusetts town with his mother, a research scientist obsessed with large ocean creatures. As pretty much every review mentions, this book is definitely a tribute to the H. P. Lovecraft school of horror fiction. H2’s mother is kidnapped soon after their arrival in town, and the town and school are filled with strange people and things. I didn’t realize this was a prequel to another Gregory book already written, We Are All Completely Fine, which means the vague ending makes a little more sense. I will definitely be checking that book out.

Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller: 8-year-old Peggy is taken deep into the woods by her survivalist father, James, who tells her the rest of the world has been destroyed and they are the only two humans left. They live in the wilderness in a ramshackle hut for nine years before Peggy finds the strength to leave and discovers the world still exists after all. Beautiful writing and an emotional, moving story.

The Precious One, by Marisa de los Santos: I really love de los Santos’s writing, and I think this is her strongest offering since her first novel, Love Walked In (read it!). Her poetry background shines through in her lyrical writing, and the voices of the two females at the center of the story – 35-year-old Taisie and her 16-year-old half-sister Willow – are unique, well-rounded, and compelling.

Inside the O’Briens, by Lisa Genova: This book absolutely gutted me. I was exhausted when I started reading it around 10:30 at night, and yet I stayed up until 2am finishing it because I could not put it down. The O’Briens are a working-class Irish Catholic family living in Boston. Joe, the patriarch, is a cop, and he and his wife Rose have four grown children, all of whom still live in their house, though 3 of the 4 have their own apartments within the house. Joe has Huntington’s Disease, a particularly cruel and 100% fatal illness, and one that your children have a 50% chance of inheriting as well. Excellent writing, excellent characters, emotional, compelling.

Violins of Hope, by James A. Grymes: I have to review this book in two parts. The writing was very academic and distant, even clunky at times, which is a shame because I think the stories really could have blossomed into life in the hands of someone less scholarly and more creative. It seemed like the writer was so focused on getting every piece of information and research into the book that he forgot to provide the cohesion stories need for their best telling. For example, one paragraph would end with some horrible statistic about one musician’s entire family completely wiped out, and the next paragraph would begin with someone getting a job picking oranges. On the other hand, perhaps the distance was helpful when reading about so many horrible atrocities. This book is about musicians and violins of the holocaust in many different countries, and about Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli luthier who has devoted the last 20 years to finding and restoring violins from the holocaust. The stories were moving, and painful, and hopeful, and tragic, and inspiring. In the Auschwitz chapter, reading about my former chamber music coach Henry Meyer brought tears to my eyes. So, I think you should read this book even if the writing is a little dry, because these brave men and women need and deserve to have their stories listened to.

Zeroboxer, by Fonda Lee: I really loved this book, but if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you may not enjoy it. Zeroboxing is boxing that takes place in zero gravity, and it’s the sport of the future. Luka Carr, a young man from Earth, is a rising star, and he is assigned a personal marketing strategist from Mars. She helps make Carr into a celebrity and they fall in love along the way. Carr discovers a devastating secret about his past and has to decide how to deal with it. The fights are described so vividly that you can picture exactly what’s happening at each moment.

The Ice Twins, by S. K. Tremayne: This was a creepy psychological thriller about young twins. One of them dies in a tragic accident, and the family moves away to a remote Scottish island to try to start over. The surviving twin begins to insist they have her identity wrong and that she is actually the twin they thought died. This will keep you up at night!

Girl at War, by Sara Novic: An excellent war saga/coming-of-age novel about Ana Juric, a 10-year-old Croatian girl living in Zagreb in 1991 when civil war breaks out in Yugoslavia. Harrowing and moving and a beautiful voice.

You, Me & Other People, by Fionnuala Kearney: I found this book really moving, even though it’s a well-traveled story – a couple separates after 20 years together because of infidelity. Kearney does a great job of creating sympathy for the philandering husband, even while you’re disgusted with him. The characters are excellently written, and as past secrets are revealed, I got more and more drawn in.

Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley: This book kept me up late on a night when I was completely exhausted. It’s the (fictional, but based on extensive research) story of Sarah Dunbar, a smart and talented black girl who is in the first group of students to integrate a small-town Virginia white high school in 1959, and Linda Hairston, the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of integration. Things are hard enough for Sarah at Jefferson High School, where she and her fellow black students are spit on, physically and verbally assaulted, and put in remedial classes despite being honors students. To make matters more difficult, Sarah is struggling with her sexuality. I thought all the emotional minefields in this book were handled pretty well, even if I thought there were a few too many things thrown into this – one or the other of the integration and sexuality issues would have made a compelling book on its own.

Royal Wedding, by Meg Cabot: There’s not much to say about this book. I was so excited about it, it lived up to my expectations and I loved reading it, and if you haven’t read The Princess Diaries series you probably won’t be into it. I would give it a VGR, but the people who know about it should and probably will read it, and the people who don’t probably won’t enjoy it! It was so much fun to see the same old Mia, 26 years old and still impossibly naive about some things, planning her wedding to Michael. Which then leads me to thinking of other YA novels that I really, really want a grown-up sequel to. Top of the list: The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (read it, even if you don’t normally read YA) and the Dairy Queen trilogy by Catherine Murdock Gilbert. Those are two teen girls I would really love to read about as adults. Maybe Cabot will inspire other authors to do this!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce: A delightful novel about Harold Fry, recently retired, who receives a letter from an old friend saying she is in a hospice, dying of cancer. Without any forethought or planning, he sets out on foot to visit her – 600 miles away.

Letters to the Lost, by Iona Grey: This is a novel that jumps between present-day London and WWII. In the present day, Jess is running from an abusive boyfriend and finds refuge in an abandoned house, where she finds old love letters from an American airman in WWII. She gets drawn in to the mystery of the people behind the letters. The WWII love story is about Stella, trapped in a loveless marriage to a homosexual, and Dan, the American pilot she falls in love with.

The Seven Sisters, by Lucinda Riley: I’m really excited that this is the first of 7 planned novels. A rich man with a mysterious background has adopted six daughters from all over the world. When he dies, he leaves them clues to their heritages. This book focuses on Maia, the eldest daughter, as she researches her background in Brazil. Part of the book focuses on her great-grandmother’s life and love story. I’m looking forward to the rest of the books.

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson: I’ve been meaning to read Sanderson for quite a while, and this book was a great intro. It was very fast-paced and exciting, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series. A select group of humans has developed special superpowers. They are called Epics, and they are pretty much universally evil and corrupt. David, whose father was killed by an Epic, wants revenge, and joins up with a small group of humans – the Reckoners – who are fighting back. The book has its flaws, mainly the lack of good female characters with any depth, but it was still a lot of fun.

Music for Wartime, by Rebecca Makkai: A collection of widely diverse short stories. Difficult to summarize, but fresh and beautifully written. The 10 longer stories were all excellent and fully formed; the 7 shorter ones, some just 2-page vignettes, could have been jettisoned and the book would only have been better.

The House We Grew Up In, by Lisa Jewell: I could not put this book down. It’s the story of a very messed-up family. At the heart of the family is Lorelei, a free-spirited hoarder. There are too many different story lines to begin to describe the novel, but Jewell handles them all seamlessly, traveling between the present, as the family deals with the aftermath of Lorelei’s death, and the past, showing insight into why everyone is the way they are.

The Mountain Story, by Lori Lansens: Absolutely phenomenal book. Grabbed me from the first page and I couldn’t put it down. Wolf Truly plans to kill himself on his 18th birthday by jumping off a mountain cliff. Instead, he meets up with 3 other hikers and they all get lost on the mountain together. The writing is beautiful and Wolf’s backstory is heartbreaking. Go read this book.

The Fold, by Peter Clines: Excellent sci-fi novel about a brilliant man with an eidetic memory who is hired by his friend in the government to investigate an expensive teleportation project. It gets weird, and then crazy, and it’s really well written and highly entertaining. After I finished it, I learned that the novel 14 is set in the same universe, so now that’s definitely on my to-read list.

Ideal, by Ayn Rand: I can see why Rand shelved this novella and turned it into a play instead. It’s really a series of vignettes without much meat to the story. It centers around enigmatic and stunning actress Kay Gonda, who is accused in the press of murdering her dinner companion. She travels to the homes of six different people who have written her fan mail telling her she is their “ideal” to ask them for help and shelter. Each of them until the last betrays the ideals they purport to espouse when reality intersects with what they think their ideals to be. Definitely an interesting thought experiment, as I’m thinking a lot about my own values and whether I live up to them every day. It’s easy to say you think or feel one way, but hard when a real-life situation actually test those feelings and thoughts. VGR not for the actual story itself, but because it provoked so much thought in me after reading it.

The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton: I wanted to quit this book twice: once, right in the beginning when Walton killed off my favorite character from The Just City, and once in the late middle when I was feeling stressed about my upcoming move and too tired for a novel of philosophy. However, this sequel (actually, second in a trilogy), was excellent and I’m really glad I stuck with it. The bulk of the narration is by Arete, Simmea and Pytheas’s (Apollo’s) daughter, with Apollo and an aged Maia contributing narration as well. It takes place 20 years after The Just City, and ends with a spectacular, unexpected deus ex machina. I can’t wait for the last book!

Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia: A moving, beautifully written novel about a teenage girl living with schizophrenia, unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and a fantastic slow-burn love story amongst all the other elements that made this novel a great read.

The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins: This book is very hard to describe. The beginning is rough, as you’re thrown into a very weird, different world (though still Earth) with no explanations. However, it is absolutely captivating and I loved it. VGR, but probably not for everyone.

Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear: I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to this series after several people have recommended it, but I loved this book and the heroine. Maisie is a private investigator in London in 1929 and has a wonderful, inspiring backstory. I can’t wait to read more in the series!

Superheroes Anonymous and Supervillains Anonymous, by Lexie Dunne: The start of a really fun new superhero series starring Gail Godwin, aka Hostage Girl because she’s been kidnapped by villains so many times. The writing is underdone and weak at times, but the story is so engaging and fun that I didn’t mind too much. VGR if you enjoy this kind of story.

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World, by Rachel Swaby: Fantastic book about a lot of different women who have contributed to all fields of science over the last couple of centuries. Sway only included women who are dead, and thus their life work is complete and reportable. There were only a few pages on each women, but I learned a lot and was blown away by what some of these amazing women contributed.

The Boys of Winter, by Wayne Coffey: Great book about the 1980 mens’ U.S. Olympic hockey team, told in an engaging style that takes the reader through every period of the famous “Miracle on ice” game against the Russians, as well as a little bio on each member of the team, tied together seamlessly.

We Never Asked for Wings, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: I loved Diffenbaugh’s debut The Language of Flowers, and her sophomore offering does not disappoint. I really enjoyed this book about a family in crisis. Letty has a 15- and 6-year old, but she’s allowed her parents to raise her children. When they return to their childhood home in Mexico, she is forced to step up and be a parent to her children.

Love Anthony, by Lisa Genova: Another great book by Genova, this one about two women living in Nantucket. Olivia is a young mother whose 8-year-old autistic son has recently died. Beth is a SAHM who has just found out that her husband is having an affair. In dealing with the aftermath of the affair, Beth rekindles an old passion for writing and begins to write a novel about a young autistic boy.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day: I adore Felicia Day, and her voice comes through strongly in her memoir. She is disarmingly honest and vulnerable, and I really liked her writing. How can you not love someone who majored in math and violin and achieved a 4.0 in college? My kind of girl!

l Alice, by Lisa Genova: Okay, I am late to the party on this book. I guess there’s even a movie of it with Julianne Moore (must put that on my list now), but this book about a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 50 blew me away. It was beautifully written, moving, and had me in tears multiple times.

Still Time, by Jean Hegland: A new Hegland novel is always cause for celebration, and this one, about a Shakespearean scholar with Alzheimer’s, is another great book. I love Hegland’s writing, and I wish she had a few more books out.

After You, by Jojo Moyes: A sequel to Me Before You! I couldn’t wait for this book, and dove into it as soon as it was available in my Overdrive library. As expected, Lou is still struggling after Will’s death. She’s going through a lot in this book, as are her family and Will’s family, but it’s a hopeful book and things start looking up in her life in various ways.

Zero World, by Jason M. Hough: Really fun, exciting SF thriller. Peter Caswell is a super-spy/assassin who has an implant in his brain that keeps him from remembering any of his missions. He goes through a kind of wormhole to a world very similar to Earth in pursuit of a target, and things get really crazy when he joins forces with Melni, an operative of that world. The only disappointing part was that I thought the book had another 100+ pages when it suddenly ended – guess there was a novella or something else tacked on to the ebook. Can’t wait for Hough’s next book!

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo: Same problem as in Zero World; I thought I had another 80 pages in the book when it abruptly ended on a cliff hanger. If it’s possible, I think I enjoyed this book even more than the Grisha Trilogy, and I’m already jonesing for the next book in the series. It’s much darker and grittier. A group of outcasts and thieves join together to rescue a political prisoner with dangerous power.

Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell: Rainbow Rowell is the bomb. She is such a great writer, and her characters are wonderfully three-dimensional and engaging. That being said, however, if you pick this book up not having read Fangirl, you will wonder what the heck is going on and why this is such a blatant Harry Potter rip-off. Fangirl is about a girl who writes fan fiction about a Harry Potter-like series, Simon Snow. There are snippets of the character’s fan fiction within Fangirl, and now Rowell has come out with a whole book about Simon Snow – basically the 8th and final book in the fictional series! And it is awesome! It really does read well as a standalone without having read Fangirl, actually, but I don’t want people to just think it’s a rip-off. As I said, Rowell always has engaging and complex characters.

Noggin, by John Corey Whaley: This is an example of a great book where genre is irrelevant. The cover looks ridiculous, and the premise is preposterous – a teen with cancer volunteers to have his (healthy) head decapitated and frozen so that it can be put on a healthy body in the future, if possible. However, after the procedure is successfully performed 5 years after his “death,” the book is fantastic, exploring all the issues that could arise when your loved ones have to deal with you coming back from the dead, against all expectations, and dealing with life moving on around you when you feel like you just took a 15 minute nap.

The Lake House, by Kate Morton: This was my favorite Morton novel to date; as usual, she produces a strong central story with intriguing back stories and good points of view throughout different time periods. In The Lake House, a young police detective is on enforced leave from her job when she becomes intrigued by a 70-year-old cold case about a missing child. The more she learns, the more questions arise, and Morton spins an excellent web of red herrings and puzzling leads.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson: My cousin Emily recommended this book to me, and it was excellent. Taut, intense geo-political fantasy that was full of delicious twists and turns. Pretty dark overall.

Cracked, Crushed, and Crossed, by Eliza Crewe: I have to write about this trilogy all at once, as I ripped through them one after the other and am now having trouble separating out the storylines. It’s rare for me to do this, but after borrowing Cracked from my library and discovering it didn’t own the next two books, I went out and bought them both on Amazon (it helped that they were just $3.99 each; I probably wouldn’t have done it if they were $10 books). Meda Melange is one of my favorite characters in a long time. She’s a half demon who thoroughly embraces her bad side while still managing to work for the good guys. And sometimes those good guys do some horrible things. She has terrific snark and biting comments, as well as being a kick-ass fighter.

Jeweled Fire, by Sharon Shinn: Shinn gets back on track with this series in a strong novel about Princess Corene, who has stowed away to Malinqua with her bodyguard, Foley. There is lots of political intrigue and maneuvering and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore: Moore doesn’t disappoint in this follow-up to A Dirty Job. Charlie Asher is stuck in a 14-inch-tall patchwork body made up of animal parts and deli meat (just go with it) while his Buddhist nun girlfriend Audrey tries to find a suitable body to move his soul into. Meanwhile, his daughter Sophie seems to have lost her powers as Death and the world might be coming to an end. Classic Moore humor and storytelling.

The Last Leaves Falling, by Sarah Benwell: This is a beautifully written novel about Sora, a Japanese teenager who has ALS. The disease is progressing rapidly, and Sora turns to ancient samurai wisdom as well as a chat room for teens to help him deal with his approaching death. His relationships with his two new internet friends as well as his single mother are moving and written with depth and sensitivity.

Winter, by Marissa Meyer: I feel like I’ve been waiting for this last book in the Lunar Quartet for ages! Finally, we get both Winter’s story and all the other storylines tied up. The action and excitement was nonstop, and Meyer did a good job of bringing everything together in a satisfying conclusion.

You, by Caroline Kepnes: A wonderfully creepy psychological thriller told from the point of view of an obsessed stalker. Guinevere Beck comes into the bookstore where Joe works one day, and from that point on he makes it his mission to discover everything about her and mold himself into her perfect boyfriend. He spies on her emails, texts, and apartment, and removes people from her life that are in the way of his happily ever after. Joe was extremely likable, in a twisted psycho way, whereas Beck was whiny and annoying. A really interesting, gripping read.

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story, by Hyeonseo Lee: Excellent memoir by a young woman who grew up in a more privileged family in North Korea, not that that means a whole lot. She didn’t plan her escape; she just decided to sneak over to China to visit her father’s relatives for a few days before her 18th birthday, when she became an adult and all offenses in her country became even more serious. Once in China, she was unable to go back without putting herself, her mother, and brother even more at risk. Her story is fascinating, as is the growth she went through during all her trials. Nothing to Envy is still my favorite book about North Korea, but this is a strong second.

The Day We Met, by Rowan Coleman: This was a very touching and well-written book about a woman dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It dealt primarily with the bond between mothers and daughters, but Coleman also handled the central character’s relationship with her husband deftly and compassionately.

The Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman: A heartbreaking, beautifully written novel about an Australian light keeper recovering from the mental and emotional wounds from WWI and the young woman he marries. The couple is unable to have children, and when a boat comes ashore on their lonely island carrying a dead man and an infant, they make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives in some very painful ways.

Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi: A fun, fast read about aliens who hire a Hollywood agent to introduce themselves to humanity.

The Great Forgetting, by James Renner: Difficult to categorize this novel – conspiracy theory, science fiction, a little bit of road tripping… However, it was a lot of fun. The government is using fluoride in the water to control the population’s minds and make them forget things, mostly terrorist attacks and atrocities.

Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis: Very weird book about Apollo and Hermes granting fifteen dogs human intelligence, and what happens to those dogs. Fascinating, though, and very original.

 

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