The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

I have a pretty mixed review of this book. After reading The Kiss Quotient, which I really liked, I was excited to get my hands on this. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it was nearly as good. One of the things I liked about Kiss Quotient was reading about Stella’s autism and how it made her connect with people. This story, too, features a main character who has autism. But whereas Stella also knew that about herself and could see how it made her interact with people, Khai (and his family) didn’t seem to think it important to explain any of his behaviors to Esme.  She has come from a poor upbringing in Vietnam over to America to possibly marry Khai. She is eager to make him love her. As you can imagine, there are misunderstandings galore, to the point where I felt like Esme was beyond dumb.
There is tons of graphic sex, just like in Kiss Quotient.

So overall, I didn’t love this. BUT THEN I read the afterward and the author’s story of her own mother moving here from Vietnam and how she researched this story and it made me like it a lot more and perhaps see it in a different light.

The End and Other Beginnings by Veronica Roth

I really liked Divergent and was pretty interested in this collection of futuristic short stories. As with pretty much all short story collections–mixed bag. I really liked the first 2/3, but ended up skipping the last stories because I just didn’t care for the whole premise/setting/story.

My favorite story was the very first one, which read mostly like a good YA story about friends and mistakes. The future element was that a technology/medical procedure has been invented so that before you die you can hook up to a friend/loved one and share favorite memories, truly feel you are reliving them together, but you also get to talk to each other. I mean, who wouldn’t love that? I thought this was a great story.

A little more “less rosy future” was the Hearkener story, in which the world is constantly being exposed to biological warfare in an attempt (by fanatics) to eliminate the population. Certain members of society are Hearkeners and futuristic technology has allowed them to hear people’s life and death songs (something that’s been discovered.)

 

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

What a delightful treat! This is the second Christmas novel I’ve read in the past couple weeks and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it was actually nice to be looking ahead. I honestly don’t remember if I’ve read any (a few? zero? who knows?) Shopaholic books, but it was no matter. This was just a very fast, light and satisfying book with these elements: British village, shopping, group texts, parents in a hip new setting, friend who is titled, etc etc.  Becky comes off as a bit of a flaky twit, but she really is a good person at heart. Also, if you are like me, you are going to need to put aside your disbelief that anyone would think that each year they need to go buy all new Christmas decorations, ornaments, etc. I found it weird that Becky’s family seemed to have no Christmas traditions of their own?? But just go with it and it’s fun and lovely and just right with some peppermint hot cocoa.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia

I referred to this book the whole time as “The Westing Game for Grownups”. Because it’s got that Westing Game premise of an eccentric billionaire dying and leaving behind a complicated puzzle/game/mystery/with lots of clues that various people compete to solve in search of untold fortune. I love that plot. This is definitely more grown up than the Westing Game as there is quite a dark backstory. I really wasn’t sure how this puzzle would play out (which is just the way I like) and loved watching it unfold.

The Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Having just read #3 in this The Wedding Party series (according to Goodreads) I felt pretty familiar with the characters and it’s almost time to read holiday books, so I jumped right into this one. It’s an enjoyable story in that it has some vague royal stuff (“the duchess” Sandringham, the Queen, but everyone else is unnamed) and some charming British Christmas stuff. It is, very much though, pretty similar to the others. Maddie’s (main character of #3) mother is the main character here, but the story is so much like the others–she is very profesionally successful and sexually confident. So it’s the same as the others, just with mistletoe and Marks & Spencer. A quick light holiday read.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Well this guy sure seems to have a thing he sticks with, and that’s ok by me. I’m sure in a few months I won’t remember which books was which (this or Recursion) since they both deal with multiple timelines or alternate universes (a multiverse.) And just like Recursion, this story is chugging along and then it just gets weirder and weirder.

I really enjoyed this-part fast paced thrilled, part science fiction. For the sake of my future self I’ll describe this one as: Chicago man is abducted, injected, wakes up in a scientific lab where everyone is excited to see him since he’s been “gone” for 14 months.  He uses his scientific methods and problem solving to figure out what has happened and then try to get his life back. Oh, and there’s a cube and some Shroedinger’s cat theory.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

This was FANTASTIC. I’m super impressed that she is British and wrote so amazingly about this very specific time and place in American history. She must be a great researcher and surely took a trip to Kentucky to be able to describe the beauty of the rugged mountains so well.
As a librarian this had some extra special appeal–she is writing about the Kentucky Packhorse Librarians who visited the most rural parts of Appalachia as part of the WPA, bringing books to those may have never had them before (and along with it education, wonder, community, and connection.)

I loved the whole story even though I found parts of it difficult to read–specifically thinking about the poverty, unethical coal mine owners, treatment of women and black women in particular, and general ignorance. But the spirit of the characters is incredible and the story is great and the details are marvelous. A terrific overall story–I predict it will make my top 10 this year.