13 Books on My TBR List for 2019

For 2019 I’ve set myself the (hopefully) doable goal of reading 35 books in 2019. Just a couple more than I ended up reading in 2018!

I feel like I’ve gotten very far behind on all of my series and fiction reading because I mostly read non-fiction this year. As such, there are some new releases I’m excited about…but then I realize I haven’t even read the book the previous book in the series. So instead of doing a list of new releases I’m excited about, I’ll just going to highlight some books that are on my TBR list for 2019, regardless of whether they’re a new release or not.

13 Books on My TBR List for 2019

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

This one IS actually a new release for 2019 and I’m so, so excited to get my hands on it. It sounds like a mix of everything I love in books and I think I am going to thoroughly enjoy it.

Talk Triggers by Jay Baer

Word of mouth is directly responsible for 19% of all purchases, and influences as much as 90%. Every human on earth relies on word of mouth to make buying decisions. Yet even today, fewer than 1% of companies have an actual strategy for generating these crucial customer conversations. Talk Triggers provides that strategy in a compelling, relevant, timely book that can be put into practice immediately, by any business.

The key to activating customer chatter is the realization that same is lame. Nobody says “let me tell you about this perfectly adequate experience I had last night.” The strategic, operational differentiator is what gives customers something to tell a story about. Companies (including the 30+ profiled in Talk Triggers) must dare to be different and exceed expectations in one or more palpable ways. That’s when word of mouth becomes involuntary: the customers of these businesses simply MUST tell someone else.

Consumers are wired to discuss what is different, and ignore what is average. Talk Triggers not only dares the reader to differentiate, it includes the precise formula for doing it.

I saw Jay Baer talk about Talk Triggers (say that five times fast) last year at Social Media Marketing World and just recently got around to ordering a copy of the book. As referral marketing is my very favorite type of marketing, I’m super excited to dive into this book because his talk was one of the best at the conference last year!

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

I finally got around to reading The Tipping Point in 2018 so I’m itching to read the other Gladwell book I have. Love him or hate him, Gladwell’s books are interesting and entertaining reads that, if nothing else, should prompt you to do your own research and deepen your understanding of the topic that is presented.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

This is a carry-over from last year’s list of new releases I was looking forward to 2018. I finally got a copy of this book after Christmas! Super excited to finally jump in and read the book that’s been super buzzed about over the last year!

The Stand by Stephen King

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen.

I’ve actually had a copy of this book for a few years now and have had every intention of starting it, but it’s absolutely massive so I’ve been putting it off. Hopefully 2019 is the year to change that!

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Chic Media, Rachel Hollis has created an online fan base of hundreds of thousands of fans by sharing tips for living a better life while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own. Now comes her highly anticipated first book featuring her signature combination of honesty, humor, and direct, no-nonsense advice.

Each chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face begins with a specific lie Hollis once believed that left her feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up. As a working mother, a former foster parent, and a woman who has dealt with insecurities about her body and relationships, she speaks with the insight and kindness of a BFF, helping women unpack the limiting mind-sets that destroy their self-confidence and keep them from moving forward.

From her temporary obsession with marrying Matt Damon to a daydream involving hypnotic iguanas to her son’s request that she buy a necklace to “be like the other moms,” Hollis holds nothing back. With unflinching faith and tenacity, Hollis spurs other women to live with passion and hustle and to awaken their slumbering goals.

This was a book that was EVERYWHERE in 2018. And love her or hate her, Rachel Hollis is really good at doling out the inspiration. I’m excited to see what the buzz is about and hopefully, finish the book feeling a tad more inspired about life!

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes – and the stuff of nightmare.

As I’m about to close out another draft of Shadow of the Magician and believe I’m finally just months away from starting to query agents, I’ve been looking at books to consider for possible comp titles for mine. This was a suggestion from a friend and I have to admit, this book just sounds good.

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.

Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.

Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Their story is again illustrated throughout by haunting vintage photographs, but with a striking addition for this all-new, multi-era American adventure—full color.

After reading the first three books in The Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children trilogy, I’m interested to read this new book and see how the story continues. There’s always a bit of nerves involved when you hear that a series that has supposedly wrapped up is getting new books. Will the new book do the original series justice? Will it be just as enjoyable? We will find out…

Origin by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

I was supposed to see Dan Brown when he came to San Diego on tour for this book, but after the event was canceled, it took me a bit to get around to buying a copy. Not because I was upset or anything, I just tend to put off buying books because I know I really, really have a lot. I actually thought about buying another bookshelf from IKEA to match the one I have, but then I remembered my original bookshelf was discontinued and the new version, though similar, is not an exact match. Being that the bookshelves will go next to each other, my OCD can’t handle that. So I continue to have piles of books on the floor. Annnddddd this has nothing at all to do with Origin.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

A friend told me about this series and when I looked it up, it sounded like something I would like. Also, absolutely love the title. And the cover is gorgeous. But I recently started thinking this book could also be a comp for my book so it’s moved up my TBR list.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

This book was recently made into a movie which I haven’t seen yet. I hate watching the movie first because I never enjoy the book after. But after seeing the trailer, this book also moved up my gargantuan list.

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history–and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society–the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal–private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.

Another entry on the possible comp title search. But being that Nikola Tesla is actually a character in this book, this one will probably be a sure bet. I’ve put off reading it because I didn’t want to do anything to include my own writing. So this one will not be read until I’m absolutely done done.

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: 

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Another carryover from last year’s list, I’ve had this book since it came out, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet! Can’t wait to dive back into the Red Rising world!

So tell me: what’s on your TBR list for 2019? Any new releases you’re looking forward to buying? Any books you’ve had forever that you’re determined to finally get around to ready? Leave me a comment below!

 

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

I’ve almost bought this book so many times because I thought the premise sounded good, but I always stopped when I saw it was a WWII book. I almost bought it again when I saw the trailer for the Netflix movie. But I didn’t pull the trigger until my book club decided to read it this fall.

To me this is a funny book because I’m honestly surprised I liked it as much as I did. It has elements I normally don’t really like in books, but somehow in this instance it worked for me.

I didn’t care for the main character though I liked the actions she took and her behavior. But I loved all of the Guernsey inhabitants and some of the other characters she writes to like Sidney.

To me, this book is a good bookclub read because it contains a multitude of things that could appeal to a group. The style and subject matter are unique. It’s easy to read. And the large cast of characters means that there are a lot of subplots going on that you can follow.

This letter (epistolary) format made it easy to keep turning the pages and the book is not too long. And for the most part, it is pretty lighthearted. Certainly the most lighthearted WWII book I think I’ve ever read.

But it did have its moments of levity. This book did a good job educating the reader about an overlooked piece of history. I had no idea that any of the British Isles were ever occupied during WWII. And I didn’t know much about Guernsey in general, but even with the letter style, I feel like I could really picture the island and its people. Now I want to go visit (of course). I should plan a Europe trip to visit the various book settings I’ve read about. Maybe someday…

The experience of this book is honestly like sitting down for a cup of tea with a couple of good friends to exchange news and stories. The time passes quickly, you leave happy and warm, but you can’t quite remember the main thrust of the conversation or everything you talked about. But you leave thoroughly satisfied just the same.

Jade Dragon Mountain

Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

On the mountainous border of China and Tibet in 1708, a detective must learn what a killer already knows: that empires rise and fall on the strength of the stories they tell.

Li Du was an imperial Chinese librarian. Now he is an exile. In 1780, three years of wandering have brought him to Dayan, the last Chinese town before the Tibetan border. He expects a quiet outpost barely conscious of its place within the empire, but Dayan is teeming with travelers, soldiers, and merchants. The crowds have been drawn by the promise of an unmatched spectacle; an eclipse of the sun, commanded by the Emperor himself. 

Amid the frenzy, Li Du befriends an elderly Jesuit astronomer. Hours later, the man is murdered in the home of the local magistrate, and Li Du suspects it was no random killing. Everyone has secrets: the ambitious magistrate, the powerful consort, the bitter servant, the irreproachable secretary, the East India Company merchant, the nervous missionary, and the traveling storyteller who can’t keep his own story straight. 

Beyond the sloping roofs and festival banners, Li Du can see the pass over Jade Dragon Mountain that will take him out of China forever. But he cannot ignore the murder that the town is all too eager to forget. As Li Du investigates, he begins to suspect that the murderer intends to kill again. The eclipse is coming. Li Du must solve the murder before the sun disappears. If he does not, then someone, perhaps Li Du himself, will never again see its light.

This was my suggestion for book club this month, but I actually chose it because I almost bought the second book in the series, The White Mirror, in a book shop in Estes Park, Colorado. When I realized there was another book, I bought News of the World instead. I was pleased when my book club chose my suggestion of Jade Dragon Mountain because I was still thinking about this series and how interesting it sounded.

I loved this book from start to finish. A historical fiction mystery set in China? Yes please. This book delivered on all fronts and was really even better than I had imagined it would be. The world Elsa Hart created was absolutely beautiful, elegant, and exotic. The mystery didn’t feel forced, but natural and I neither suspected the culprit, nor saw the final twist coming.

I learned a great deal reading this book, which is always fun. I can’t think of any others books I’ve read that are set in China except for those by Amy Tan. It was fun to discover a new author and one with as intoxicating a style as Elsa Hart.

My edition of this novel had an interview with the author and well as information about some of her source materials for the book. She has really lived an interesting life and I enjoyed reading about that as well as the books that helped with her research…including some that made it into the pages of Jade Dragon Mountain!

I’m excited to keep reading about the adventures of Li Du in The White Mirror – now on my short list of books to purchase (though I’m at that point again where I should really not be buying more books….)

Also, I really, really, really love dumplings and tea. The descriptions of both in this book ignited some major cravings! Anyone have a favorite place for dumplings in San Diego?

News of the World

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

I don’t remember how I first heard of this book, but when I found myself needing to go to the bookstore on vacation to buy another book, I picked this one up because I remembered wanting to read it. Also can we talk about how great of a title News of the World is?!

I really enjoyed News of the World. I read it pretty much in one sitting on the plane ride home. It’s a lovely little historical fiction novel. In fact my only real complaint is that it was over too soon and I wish there was more to it!

The time and place of this novel is so well researched you definitely feel as if you’re there. I haven’t read any books set during the Reconstruction era, at least that I can remember. It was a nice change of pace to be reading about something that is rarely explored in historical fiction.

The two main characters of Captain Kidd and Johanna were just wonderful. I hope this book gets made into a movie at some point…I’d love to see these two come to life!

Funny side note about this book: When I was doing my research for my WPW on the colors of lightning, I kept finding references to a book called The Color of Lightning. Turns out the Paulette Jiles is also the author of that book!

This was my first book by this author and am interested in reading some of her others – does anyone have recommendations for me?

Dragon Teeth

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition.  But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions.  With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters.

It’s always interesting reading a book published posthumously. You always have to wonder how much of the book was “found” and how much was ghostwritten. Since Michael Crichton died, there have been three novels of his published posthumously: Pirate LatitudesMicro, and now Dragon Teeth. I’ve read both Pirate Latitudes and Micro as well as Jurassic ParkThe Lost World, Congo, Prey, The Andromeda Strain, Timeline, Rising Sun, and Next.

I had pretty low expectations for Dragon Teeth. I liked Pirate Latitudes, but not as much as Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Prey, and The Andromeda Strain, which are my favorite Crichton books. I did not like Micro much at all. So coming off of that, I was not expecting much. But this one proved me wrong.

I’ll admit that with the writing of my own novel, my brain has been permanently stuck in the later part of the nineteenth century. So take that as you will. But I really, really liked this one. It was a little rough around the edges, but the concept was fantastic and manages to deliver. Hunting for dinosaur bones in the Wild Wild West? Sign me up!

The story rattles along at a great clip, managing to blend the speed of a thriller with true history and scientific fact. My only criticism is that the narrative voice in this one is a little weird. The introduction purports that the narrator is someone from the future telling the story of William Johnson. Which, ok, that’s fine. It gives a little narrative distance to the story. But it also means that the narrator sometimes delivers a page of straight historical fact or does some really heavy-handed foreshadowing that feels at odds with the story. It wouldn’t be so bad if the narrative came full circle back to whomever this distant narrator is, but the narrator kind of fades out from the story. And the author’s note states that William Johnson is entirely fictitious. So the issue of the distant narrator is never satisfactorily explained.

Aside from these momentary oddities, this is a very solid novel. According to the afterward from his wife, it seems Crichton might have been working on this book as early as 1973. So possibly some of the stuff that’s rough around the edges is merely the work of a less experienced writer that didn’t get edited out because they wanted to leave the story intact as they found it? I have no idea, but I think it’s a plausible theory.

I will say though, in my opinion while Dragon Teeth does not squeeze out any of my top four Crichton novels, it’s earned itself the last spot in the top 5. It’s a fun ride from start to finish.

The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

the-help-book-cover

Back when I started Isle of Books, over 5 years ago (wow!), many, many people told me I needed to read The Help. To which I agreed, but then never got around to reading it until now.

I can see why it got so much attention. This was a great book! Really hard to put down. I ended up staying up super late one night to finish it. I really liked all three viewpoint characters, though I wish Minny had had more chapters. Skeeter and Abileen definitely got more “screen time”. But all three characters were interesting and had a unique voice. The multiple narratives kept the story moving along quickly. I also liked that this novel didn’t have a pat, happy ending. Life is messy, as the women discover while working on their project.

The atmosphere and sense of place are a strong point of this novel. I could see the town of Jackson, Mississippi and the people and feel the sticky heat of the south. I can’t wait to see the movie interpretation, hopefully they did justice to this wonderful book! I read the move tie-in edition of this book and I have to say, I think Emma Stone will be a great Skeeter!

On a side note, I can’t believe this was the author’s first book. That kind of makes me a little sad. This was such a wonderful book that hit all the right notes, it’s unbelievable that this was a first novel. Most first novels are passably good with room for improvement. I seen Kathryn Stockett hasn’t published another book since The Help. I wonder how it will compare, hopefully it won’t be a sophomore slump!

All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

18143977

I had seen All the Light We Cannot See make the rounds on the blogs and win the Pulitzer prize before my book club picked it.

I knew it was set during WW-II which made me uneasy. I just am not a fan of reading about this time period, even though the last time WW-II era book we read, The Book Thief, I loved. I wasn’t in a hurry to start it this book so it sat on my bedside table for awhile.

Once I did start the book though, I was hooked. The chapters are very short (a few pages at most) and the writing exquisite. I heard that Doerr author worked on this book for over ten years… I guess that’s enough time to really polish your sentences!

This book never seemed to slow or get boring, just wrapped me up in beautiful sentences that seemed to describe life in a way I never could. The intertwined stories of Marie-Laure and Werner were both very enjoyable. One a blind girl, daughter of a humble museum locksmith, entrusted with an in incredible secret. The other, an orphan in Germany, tapped by an elite Nazi school for his brilliance with radios.

Highly, highly recommend this book! Probably one of the best I’ve read this year and I feel like I’ve read a lot of great books in 2015. Bonus: All The Light We Cannot See will look stunning on your bookshelf. The cover is absolutely gorgeous!

Also, my next trip to France will not only have to include Mont Saint-Michel, which I’ve dreamed of visiting for years, but now Saint-Malo.