Everything I Read in 2017: Part II
If you missed my Part I you can check it out here!
My rating system is similar to that of Goodreads and I’ve outlined a guide below:
★★★★★ Loved it!
★★★★ Really like it
★★★ It was Ok
★★ Didn’t like it
★ Hated it
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was a really enjoyable read. I saw the film when it came out so I was pretty sure that the book would be just as good, if not better than the movie. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed and thought that it was really well written, especially for a book that is labeled under the Young Adult genre. I’m actually impressed by young adults, who have read this book because the subject matter is mature and its much longer than most of the novels you’ll find on the shelf beside it. Zuzak’s writing style was unique and refreshing; it worked really well, when it could have easily gone very badly. I liked that the story was told from the perspective of a young girl and found Death to be a very effective narrator as well. ★★★★★
Day by Elie Wiesel is the last book in Wiesel’s trilogy. I think that I enjoyed it a little more than Dawn, but it still didn’t resonate with me the same way that Night did. I think that it’s because Night is nonfiction and the other two books were only inspired by true events. Still, the entire trilogy is worth reading, though Night is the book that is worth reading several times over. ★★★
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell is a classic that I’ve wanted to read for sometime now. This book did not disappoint and helped me understand Scarlett and her story so much better. I’ve enjoyed watching the film version, but I never fully understood it until after I read the book. There’s a lot more that happens in Scarlett’s life than what is depicted in the movie, though I do feel that the movie and actors, Vivien Leigh in particular, did an excellent job of portraying the characters. I’m not entirely sure that Scarlett is meant to be a likable character, she certainly has more that a few shortcomings, but I really liked her and could appreciate how scrappy she was. It would be interesting to compare how readers viewed her character when the book was published versus how readers perceive her in today’s world. Ashley on the other hand, was insufferable and I never could understand what it was that Scarlett or Melanie saw in him. This also ticked my box for reading a classic so that was a bonus for me! ★★★★
The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau was a lighter read that I enjoyed, but found the premise to be a little underdeveloped. I enjoyed reading about the various quests that many of the subjects endeavored to go on and learning how each of them accomplished their goals. Guillebeau himself accomplished his goal of visiting every country on the globe and he did it in a very short period of time. While I’m a fan of slow travel, his accomplishment is no less inspiring and there were some other interesting causes contained in the pages of this book. I wish that the author would have taken a little more time to describe his process and how his goal developed over time. The book was good, but it could have been even better. One thing I can say is that the book inspired me to think about my own long-term goals, even those that seem too farfetched or unrealistic, and how I might go about accomplishing them. ★★★
War Hero: The Unlikely Story of a Stray Dog, An American Soldier and the Battle of Their Lives by Stephan Talty was a short story that I read for free via my Amazon Prime membership. How can anyone not enjoy reading a feel good story about a scruffy dog and soldier surviving the odds in World War II? I really enjoyed the story and it reminded me of other animal heroes throughout history. If you want a longer read on a similar topic check out No Better Friend by Robert Weintraub, a book that tells the amazing story of Judy of Sussex and Frank Williams. ★★★★
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt was a book that rated very highly on the charts last year. The book was nothing like I expected, but I found it very well written and the characters were intriguing and well developed. The book is about a family and the controversial time when the AIDS epidemic first came to light. I worried that the book might be trying to push an agenda onto its readers, but what I found was an inspiring message of forgiveness and what it means to be a family. If I had known what the book was actually about, I might never have picked it up, but in hindsight I’m very glad that I did. ★★★★
Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckhoff was a really good read. It’s not your typical WWII story; the war has very little to do with what actually takes place, other than the fact that it involves military personnel and equipment. The book also features a strong female character, which is always a refreshing discovery when reading about this period of time. The book presents a lot of food for thought on encountering those from other backgrounds and cultures, as well as the impact western culture has had on indigenous people. There were quite a few times when I found myself laughing out loud at some of the scenes Zuckhoff described. I loved the way that so many people from various backgrounds came together to accomplish a common goal and that human compassion is often found in the most unlikely of places. I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil the book for you. ★★★★★
The Gates of Zion by Bodie Thoene was a re-read for me. I started the series years ago and have always planned to finish it at some point. That being said, it’s been awhile since I first read the book and I wanted to ensure that the characters and events were fresh in my mind before moving on to the next book in the series. If there’s one thing that I can say about the Thoenes it’s that they put a lot of research into their work and have introduced me to several points in history that I knew very little about. They introduced me to many key characters and events of WWII with their Zion Covenant series. I also really like that this series is told from several different perspectives including; an orthodox rabbi, an American reporter, archeologist, and a Holocaust survivor. The formation of Israel as a nation is one event that I’m embarrassed to admit I’m not very knowledgeable about and definitely a time that I ought to put more research into. If you’re interesting in this time in history, but don’t know much about it, this series could be a great and fun way to get your feet wet. ★★★★
The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work by Christine Carter was a short, fun, and inspiring read. It doesn’t have a ton of depth behind the concepts that Carter presents, but it offers a decent introduction, and is a good way to get motivated without being too hard on yourself. Carter is also really good about referencing her resources if there is a specific concept you would like to explore further. I’ve already added several of the books she cites to my reading list. My biggest take away from this book was to focus on action rather than perfection. As someone who often avoids things because I cannot do them perfectly or I’m limited on time, I found it refreshing to hear her ideas about letting go of expectations and working with the resources and time that you have. For instance, after reading this book I’ve come to accept that a thirty-minute walk with my dogs is better than not working out at all. ★★★★
A Daughter of Zion by Bodie Thoene was another re-read. The book was an easy read, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as other Thoene books that I’ve read in the past. Still, I like the story, setting, and characters enough that I’ll probably end up finishing the series at some point. ★★★
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie was a book that I grabbed from the local library after seeing Murder on the Orient Express in theaters. I can understand why Christie and Hercule Poirot have such a large fan base and the book reminded me of all the Sherlock Holmes stories that I enjoyed reading in high school. Poirot is a likeable character, with enough depth to make him an interesting character, and the stories are complex enough to hold my attention when I need a break from heavier reads. I can’t wait to join Poirot on more of his adventures in the future. ★★★★
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was highly recommended and something that I really thought I would enjoy, due to it taking place in the setting of World War II. While I understand why so many people thoroughly enjoyed this book, I can’t say that I did. Perhaps it’s because I’ve read Wolves at the Door, and I felt that much of The Nightingale was a bit too inspired by the true story of Virginia Hall. While I won’t go so far as to say Hannah ripped off Virginia Hall’s story, the similarities between the two are striking and the fictional account doesn’t live up to the true events. Overall, after having read so many true-life accounts of WWII, I’m beginning to find many of the fictional works to be more than a bit lacking. It’s as if the authors try too hard to draw on the reader’s emotions. The process feels completely inauthentic and besides, the true version of events is so shockingly terrible, that it doesn’t need anyone to try and enhance the facts. I think this is why I loved Night by Elie Wiesel so much; he simply wrote what happened in a raw and unflinching way. That is not to say that all WWII fiction is bad, you can see above that I clearly loved The Book Thief, but Hannah’s book just didn’t work for me. ★★★
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter was another World War II novel that I really enjoyed reading. The book is inspired by the true-life accounts of Hunter’s Polish relatives, and while it is labeled as fiction and a few characters’ names have been changed, the bulk of the book’s contents happened. Hunter is a very gifted writer, which made the book a pleasure to read and the family connection brought a level of authenticity to the characters and their perspectives. The book may surround many of the most trying times of World War II, but it is one of the few that won’t leave you utterly bereft when you come to the end. ★★★★★
If you have any book suggestions feel free to add them in the comments below!