Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Recently Read - Show Us Your Books Vol. 5 (Feb. '16)

Welcome to my monthly Recently Read feature post, where I share my thoughts on the books I read the previous month.  I'm linking up today with Steph @ Life According to Steph and Jana @ Jana Says for their monthly Show Us Your Books link up. 

February was a great month of reading for me. Six books and all were 3.5 stars or better.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover
Read January 31-February 2
Reminiscent of the 2011 movie, One Day, November 9 tells the story of Ben and Fallon and the events that connect them on the same day over the course of several years - November 9.

I thought the story was unique; it drew me in quickly and held my interest throughout.  I was very, very curious as to how it would all turn out.  The plot is not cut and dry nor does it flow in an easy path with no obstacles.  There are some very interesting twists and turns along the way, one that I saw coming and one I did not, that kept me engaged and coming back for more.  

Overall, I thought November 9 was a very enjoyable read, one of the most enjoyable of this winter.  Although the premise was a little far fetched (agreeing to only see each one day a year from the time you are 18 until you are 23), I still enjoyed it and was very entertained by it.
My rating: ★★★★/★★★★★ (4.5)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Read February 3-9
What in the world can I say about this book that hasn't already been said before?  I mean, seriously...  It's almost 20 years old (can you believe that?) and has been rated and/or reviewed on Goodreads a whopping 3,706,860 times!  Reviewing a book of this scope and magnitude just seems a mute point.  

Here's my quick take:  I liked it, I actually liked it better than I thought I would.  I wasn't blown away by it, but I did enjoy it.  It wasn't a nonstop, listen to it every chance I got kind of of audiobook, but I did listen to it at least 1.5 hours on most days.  It was descriptive, engaging, creative, imaginative, and entertaining.  I will probably continue with the second book at some point, but I am in no hurry.
My rating: ★★★★/★★★★★ (4.5)

The Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Read February 9-18
I rarely read in-depth reviews of a book before I read it.  Instead, I prefer to read short, opinion blurbs from fellow bloggers and from people on Goodreads.  Hallelujah, I read one in particular that started with this disclaimer:  Be patient during the first half.  It gets very good during the second.  Had it not been for that tidbit of information, I probably would have abandoned this book somewhere in the first half.  It's not that it was poorly written, for it's very well written, but rather because it was long and I felt the first half was quite tedious.  I felt as if I was taking a journey to nowhere.  But, just as the person prophesied, about halfway through, things got interesting.

This is not a happy read.  Although I wasn't brought to tears as many have been, I was still saddened by the book.  It was very emotional and heart wrenching at times.  I like historical fiction about WWII and I'm glad I read this one because it focuses on the Seige of Leningrad, which is something I've never read about before other than in my high school history book many years ago.  If you enjoy historical fiction about WWII, I would definitely recommend this book - just keep in mind that the first half requires some patience. 
My rating: ★★★/★★★★ (3.5)

The Day of the Wave by Becky Wicks
Read February 17-21
I was a bit apprehensive about this book.  It’s relatively unknown, having only received 141 ratings on Goodreads (prior to the addition of mine).  But, those 141 ratings yielded an average rating of 4.28 so I figured it was worth a shot.  I admit that I doubt I would’ve ever stumbled upon this book had I not needed to read a book set in Asia as a part of Erin’s Book Challenge 4.0.  My experience with this book is one of the reasons why I love participating in reading challenges.  When you are pushed to read outside of your normal comfort zone, you can stumble upon some really great, unknown gems.

Despite some very obvious, silly typos/word processing autocorrects (website for wetsuit, for example) that were overlooked when editing, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The premise of the storyline was very intriguing and original.  (Two teenagers who were caught in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami miraculous survived, but believed the other to be dead.  A decade later, they discover the truth.)  Despite my overwhelming feeling of wanting to slap the main characters (Ben and Isla) at times, I felt they were believable.  They did goofy, prideful things that people in real life do.  Above all, I was very impressed with the descriptions of the locations and events.  I’ve never been to Thailand before so I have no prior experiences to drawn upon, but thanks to the author’s well written descriptions, I could easily picture the city of Bangkok and the resort town beaches in my mind.  Her descriptions made the locations and the people come alive.

This is a book that I am happy I took a chance on.
My rating: ★★★

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Read February 21-23
Without a doubt, this is one of the most addictive, entertaining, and thought provoking works of fiction that I've ever read.  The premise of the book is simple - can one arbitrary decision completely change the trajectory of your life?

The book centers around Hannah, who, at the age of 29, has relocated back to her native Los Angeles after living in half a dozen cities and holding numerous jobs since graduating from college.  Hannah really has no idea what she wants out of life or where her life is heading.  While out with friends one night, Hannah has a seemingly simply decision to make - go home with her best friend or go home with her former boyfriend, Ethan.  At this point in the story, the timeline splinters,  creating two different, yet parallel realities.  Both realities are told in alternating fashion for the remainder of the book, detailing the consequences that are the direct and indirect result of her choice.  The book leads the reader to question the notion of fate, destiny, and the notion of soul mates.  

I found this book very fluid and incredibly easy to listen to.  The characters were unique, yet believable.  The story premise is, to me, the most compelling feature.  I have never read any book with this "alternating reality" premise before.  I found myself completely hooked, eagerly anticipating the next time I could listen (even if only for a few minutes) so I could find out what was going to happen in each of Hannah's alternate lives.

When I wasn't listening to this audiobook, I often found myself contemplating what might have happened in my own life had I made different choices along the way.  Very, very thought provoking.
My rating: ★★★★★ 

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
Read February 24-29
I've anxiously awaited the release of this book since I finished YOU back in August of last year.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I've anxiously awaited this release since I learned that Santino Fontana would reprise his narrative role as Joe in the sequel's audiobook version.

You see, I say that because I was very content with the ending of YOU and I was a bit unsure of how I felt about a sequel.  I didn't know if a sequel was necessary.  But, as I said before, once I learned that Santino (he and I are on a first name basis) would provide the voice of Joe again, I was all in.

Just like YOU, Hidden Bodies is not for everyone. It contains very explicit and sometimes crass language. It is not a book for the easily offended.

Here's what I loved about the book (without giving any of the plot away). I love the antihero, Joe. Sure, he's a sociopath, but he's clever and intelligent and sometimes laugh out loud funny with his deadpan remarks. Despite all his darkness, his foul mouth, and his knack for making people disappear, I could not help but root for him. I just wanted him to find love and be happy.

Although I enjoyed Hidden Bodies, the journey with Joe was rather wild and crazy and sometimes felt less focused than in YOU. There is a never ending myriad of people coming and going throughout the novel which sometimes confused me (I'd think, "Who is this Dex guy again?) In the beginning, the story shot out of the gate like a Kentucky Derby contender, then it slowed somewhat in the middle, only to regain it's fast pace in the home stretch. End the end, I'm glad Caroline Kepnes wrote this sequel.

If you enjoyed its predecessor, YOU, then I would highly recommend this book. If you are in interesting in Hidden Bodies, I strongly suggest reading YOU first. The background knowledge is truly essential.
My rating: ★★★★

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think of them?  As always, thanks for stopping by!


  1. The Harry Potter books get better as they go along, by book three and four you won't believe someone lived with that story in their head.

    Maybe In Another Life sounds fascinating, I've added it to my list of books to read.

  2. November 9 and Maybe in Another Life both sound really good. I felt the same way about The Winter Garden. The first half was so hard to get through, but the second half was super good.

  3. i am currently reading in another life, so i'm glad you enjoyed it! i loved HP when i first read it (a few years after everyone else) but i was still in high school, and i don't know if i would be head over heels in love with it now if i read it for the first time. november 9 is on my list, i have had good and bad experiences with colleen hoover, so i need to wait a while i think lol

  4. The Harry Potter series will always be my favourite books and the series (like many) gets better each book, in my opinion :) I read Winter Garden this month too and had similar thoughts to you...I really enjoyed it, and the ending made me cry. It was interesting hearing about Russia in WWII because it seems like a lot of other WWII books I've read (at least lately) have been about France or England.

  5. I loved Hidden Bodies. I like how Joe had less control and still had to be Joe. Plus I loved spending time with that psycho again!

    The end of Winter Garden gutted me.

  6. I'm glad that you ended up liking Harry Potter more than what you thought that you would! They really are such timeless books! Everybody keeps on talking about Maybe In Another Life and how cute it is, that I know that I need to pick it up quick! The Wave and November 9 both sound like great books too!

  7. I have not read You yet but it's on my list and I'm adding Hidden Bodies because I'm confident that I'll enjoy You. I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan and they get even better. The first couple of books are very good but more children's books, but the books progressively become more intense. I've seen some great reviews of Maybe in Another Life and have already added it my list. I enjoyed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, so Winter Garden is now on the list and thanks for the head's up that it starts slow but is ultimately worth it.

  8. I read Maybe In Another Life this month too! I liked it and i agree, I have never read a book with a plot quite like this so I enjoyed that aspect a lot. I had a lot of trouble reminding myself that Hannah was 29. She seemed much more like a 21-25 year old to me, so that threw me off a little bit.

  9. I have a major book crush on Joe so I enjoyed Hidden Bodies. Not as much as YOU but still a lot.

    I said this to someone else--I appreciate what I get when I read Taylor Jenkins Reid. It's predictable and light and she's a great writer and having those kinds of books around is great.

    If Kristin Hannah ever writes a non-historical fiction book I will be all over it. She seems to be a great writer than many like but I know I don't enjoy what she writes so I generally pass on her books.

  10. I just started rereading the first Harry Potter book with my son. I loved November 9 (love Colleen Hoover!) and Winter Garden (also love Kristin Hannah!). Hidden Bodies is on my to read list and I just added The Day of the Wave. Sounds like a good book!

  11. I've wavered about Maybe in Another Life - should I? shouldn't I? You've convinced me I should.

    I didn't LOVE You as much as others did. I want to read Hidden Bodies, but I kinda feel like waiting a little ... just an inclination.

    You are rocking the reading!

  12. I haven't read any of those books. But I've seen Sliding Doors, a Gwyneth Paltrow movie with that parallel universe stuff.

  13. I'm waiting for my turn at Hidden Bodies (I've been on the waitlist at the library for what feels like forever!), and I'm really eager to see what happens next with Joe.

    I'm reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah right now, and it's also set during WWII. I'm over halfway through, and I absolutely love it so far. I'm not sure if I'll read her other books, though. I like her writing style and I think she's a great storyteller, but historical fiction isn't my usual thing and I'm not sure I could read another historical fiction book set during the same time period by the same author and not feel like it was too similar. (If that makes sense. I'm tired, so I may be rambling. Haha.)

    I've never read any of the Harry Potter books or seen any of the movies. Sometimes I think I want to just to see what all the hype is about, but I have a feeling I won't love them since I'm not that into fantasy stuff.

    A friend at work is reading November 9 right now, and I had no idea what it was about until she told me. I thought it was a thriller for some reason. My initial response was, "So it's kind of like that movie One Day?" so it's funny that you said the same thing in your review. I think the only reason that book was ever even on my radar is because November 9th is my wedding anniversary. Haha.


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