January, February, March: Books I’ve Loved and Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading this year (currently I’m in my 21st book, nearly halfway through the 45 book goal I set for 2014), and there are several books that have made an impression on me already, both good impressions and bad ones…so I figured I’d share with you all in case you are looking for new books to read, or books to avoid! (Just kidding). I never have time to type up posts for every book I read, so I decided to pick the best of my January, February, and March reads to gush about. Enjoy! Read These Now!

attachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell – “Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ” (from the official Goodreads page; that line sums up the book very well, I just had to share it). Attachments is a wonderful read about love in the digital age. Lincoln, a recently hired internet security officer, is paid to read flagged emails at an Omaha newsroom, which isn’t too interesting of a job, really. That is until he finds himself falling for Beth, a witty movie reviewer whose messages to her best friend and fellow journalist Jennifer always find themselves in the flagged email box. Now, before you write this book off as a creepy tale about an internet stalker, DON’T. I thought it was heading that way, too, but Lincoln is such a caring and trustworthy character that it was easy to see and understand his innocent feelings. Every other chapter is told through Beth and Jennifer’s emails, which is both a very enjoyable storytelling medium and a useful device in sympathizing with Lincoln.

Favorite Moment: The email transcripts between Beth and Jennifer are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Their voices ring vividly from the pages, so much so that I found my own internal thoughts mirroring their witty humor for days after I finished the novel!

Read This Book if: you could use a good laugh and wouldn’t mind picking up a book that is hard to put down.

meanttobeMeant to Be by Lauren Morrill – I usually tend to stay away from Young Adult romances that aren’t of the sci-fi/dystopian genre because I tend to find them flat and shallow, but when I saw the lively and gorgeous cover of Meant to Be, I didn’t hesitate to throw my prejudices aside and give it a shot (I mean, look at how colorful and inviting this cover art is! PLEASE judge this book by its cover). This story is a coming of age tale about Julia, a bookish and athletic goodie-good whose high school field trip to London seems completely ruined when she is paired up with Jason, the attention-hogging class clown who seems only interested in partying and pushing every one of Julia’s nerves. But after Julia begins receiving romantic texts from an unknown number, she accepts Jason’s offer to help her win over her mystery guy in exchange for agreeing to break some rules along the way. Despite Jason’s irritating behavior, Julia finds herself both puzzled and challenged by his carpe-diem outlook on life and begins wondering if her own expectations in life are really meant to be.

Favorite Moment: this is another book that had me laughing out loud several times, and it is also another book that uses a digital medium to deepen its plot line (this time it’s text messages instead of emails). One of my favorite things about Meant to Be was the way Morrill writes about London. The descriptions and locations feel so detailed and naturally weaved in that the city itself feels less like a setting and more like an important character in the novel. Also, this novel is full of surprises that leaving you guessing up until the end, and chances are, if you’re like me, you’ll instantly want to reread it afterwards (without spoilers, let me appropriately borrow a Shakespearean theme and say that not everything is as it seems…).

Read This Book if: you are looking for something cute and funny that’s light reading in some ways but has enough deeper meaning to not be forgettable.

lastbestkissThe Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik – This book was a welcomed breaker of my expectations. As already stated, I do not typically read Young Adult romances unless they come highly recommended (or if they have a captivating cover, like Meant to Be). LaZebnik’s other novel, Epic Fail sparked my interest when I heard it was an enjoyably modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice (my second favorite novel of all time), and maybe my expectations were too high because I was not too satisfied overall (to be honest, I was really into it but the last 1/3 was overly cheesy and clichéd). But still, I was determined to have modern Austen adaptations redeemed, and then I discovered The Last Best Kiss, a retelling of Persuasion (my third favorite novel). I read the book in less than a day and immediately wrote up a Goodreads review, a rarity for me, but I want to gush about this book a little more, because I felt that LaZebnik did a fantastic job of bringing Austen’s themes alive in a modern Young Adult way. The plot unfolds quickly within the first two chapters: Anna Eliot is a pretty and impressionable high school freshman. After starting a secret relationship with the nerdy-yet-enthusiastic Finn Westbrooke, Anna becomes concerned about her friends’  opinions. Not wanting to lose their acceptance, she calls things off with Finn in a humiliating way, breaking his heart and setting herself up for unhappiness in the process. When Finn’s family moves across the country soon after, Anna tries to come to terms with her decision, but she never gets over the meaningful relationship she shared with Finn. Fast forward three years and Finn returns, handsome, grown-up, amiable, and instantly popular. He easily makes friends with everyone (mainly girls)…except Anna, whom he clearly still feels bitter and unforgiving towards. And now we are left to uncover where these two characters are heading and if they let their past hold them back from having a future.

Favorite Moment: Well, first of all, I love how LaZebnik brought the themes and tensions of Persuasion into a modern teenage world without making it cheesy. This novel dealt with several real situations that teenagers (and even adults) face, and even though I loved the main love story between Finn and Anna, I also found myself very interested in the more serious sub-plots of the secondary characters as well.

Read This Book if: you enjoy Jane Austen adaptations and are looking for a quick read that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside :)

And if you are curious about my least favorite reads of the year so far, here you go:

gonegirlshatterme

Gone Girl was recommended to me by a family member, something that really gave it a boost in my early opinion. The novel is very suspenseful and it definitely messes with your mind, and honestly I enjoyed the first third of it. But there were two huge reasons why I ended up practically loathing this book. Firstly, the characters are horribly selfish and messed up people, and having to read from their twisted points of view made me feel very uncomfortable. Secondly, this is one of those novels that is unnecessarily crude and graphic. There was no purpose for most of the sexual expletives and it really was a deal breaker for me. I only finished reading it because of the recommendation, and even though Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are starring in the movie, I do not plan on seeing it.

Shatter Me…I listened to this on audiobook, and that probably made my opinion worse because it’s harder to skip through pages when you’re not reading the book yourself. What kind of pages would I have skipped through? The half-chapter of “I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane…” And also all of the repeated descriptions of the main character’s love interest. Honestly, this book had lots of potential, but when it ended I seriously asked myself, “Wait, that’s it? Just when it gets interesting it ends?!”

So there you have it! My favorite and least favorite reads from the past three months. Have you read any of them yet? If so, I’d love to know what you thought!

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9 thoughts on “January, February, March: Books I’ve Loved and Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished

  1. I’m so glad to see that you enjoyed “Attachments”! I loved it. In my comments on it (from January 2013), I focused on how it’s a romance set in a realistic environment. It’s generally legal in the US for employers to monitor emails from work accounts (which lots of people forget aren’t private!). This is what I had to say about the book: “It’s a sweet story with likeable characters, particularly Lincoln, a respectful, well-meaning guy, who is described as being, “built like a tank, dressed like he just won the science fair.” He’s adorable.” Rowell creates the best characters.

    “Last Best Kiss” sounds interesting. I love “Persuasion,” and it would be hard to match the original novel (of course), but I am glad to hear that there are good retellings out there. Does LaZebnik’s novel lose something by making Anne young? Part of what works so well about the original is that Anne is on the cusp of spinsterhood (for her time!).

    As for “Gone Girl,” I haven’t read it and have no plans to start it. It just doesn’t sound palatable to me.

    • Yes indeed, Attachments was such a lovely read :)

      Of course I picked up The Last Best Kiss knowing full well it could never compete with Persuasion, and maybe that was why I enjoyed it so much because it didn’t give it these high expectations. It does lose a bit of the regretfulness in having Anne be a high school senior instead of an “old maid,” but there is still a bit of tension in knowing that this is her last chance before everyone moves across the country to different universities. But while the age factor isn’t quite so relevant like it is in Persuasion, LaZebnik does add in some other subplots that are interesting and deal with current and serious issues.

  2. I added some of your recommendations to my library holds list, Maggie! :-) They sound really good! I read Gone Girl several months ago since it was a book club almost pick…the plot sounded intriguing to me. But I also struggled through it and felt kind of dirty and disturbed after reading it….definitely not my favorite, either.

  3. Just added Attachments and Last Best Kiss to my Goodreads TBR list. I love Persuasion and haven’t read very many retellings of that fun story. Thanks!

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