ALL OF THE BOOKS!

2018 is DONE LIKE DINNER! Well, not quite. I still have four books to read before I meet my 40-book Goodreads goal. But I feel confident. Nothing a few good YA books can’t get me through!

It’s been a few months since I’ve updated with what I’ve been reading. There are some gems in this batch, and also some not-so-great reads. What have you been reading?

an audience of chairs
those who wish me dead Michael Koryta

An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark

Quick summary

From the author of the internationally acclaimed Latitudes of Melt comes the story of Moranna MacKenzie, a woman who lives alone in a Cape Breton farmhouse, fighting the symptoms of mental illness and still grieving the loss of her two daughters, who were taken from her over thirty years previously.

Three-line review

It’s very hard to sympathize with Moranna, despite knowing her mental health issues, which I suppose is the whole point. Clark does a beautiful job of portraying her as very human. I picked up this book because it’s now being made into a movie — can’t wait to see how they interpret it for the big screen!

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

Quick summary

When fourteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

Three-line review

My friend Rease recommended this book to me, as I was looking for a few good quick reads to bump my reading numbers. This is a super quick and emotional read. If you’re into crime/action thrillers, this one will have you hooked from the beginning. It’s well written, too.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

second life by S.J. Watson
norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami

Second Life by S.J. Watson

Quick summary

She loves her husband. She’s obsessed by a stranger.

She’s a devoted mother. She’s prepared to lose everything.

She knows what she’s doing. She’s out of control.

She’s innocent. She’s guilty as sin.

She’s living two lives. She might lose both . . .

Three-line review

Here’s my Goodreads rant: What the bloody shit was that!!!! Who ends a thriller that way?! Oh my god. THAT WAS AWFUL. I picked up this book because my favourite bookstore in the world was closing and I wanted to buy SOMETHING to support them a little. Good lord. Also I wish I could count how many times “everything collapses” or “the world collapses” because it’s sure as hell in the hundreds. GET A GRIP JULIA. YOU MAKE POOR LIFE CHOICES.

☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Quick summary

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

Three-line review

My first ever read from Haruki Murakami. I loved the simple, straightforward language. Amazing character development. The storyline was slow at times but those little life vignettes really pulled everything together for me. I’m looking forward to reading more from him. (4.5 stars.)

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

love in the time of cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
the lightkeeper's daughter

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Quick summary

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs–yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.

Three-line review

Mostly I did not want this book to end but also I did want this book to end. I definitely preferred Love in the Time of Cholera to Márquez’s other books. He has a knack for creating characters that stick with you for a long, long time.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters Jean E. Pendziwol

Quick summary

Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family—a past that suddenly becomes all too present when her late father’s journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck.

With the help of Morgan, a delinquent teenager performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries, a journey through time that brings the two women closer together. Entry by entry, these unlikely friends are drawn deep into a world far removed from their own—to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse seventy years before.

As the words on these musty pages come alive, Elizabeth and Morgan begin to realize that their fates are connected to the isolated island in ways they never dreamed. While the discovery of Morgan’s connection sheds light onto her own family mysteries, the faded pages of the journals hold more questions than answers for Elizabeth, and threaten the very core of who she is.

Three-line review

I received this book in a book club box. It started off super cliche: young foster kid gets in trouble, has a troubled past, says “fuck” a lot, etc., etc. I never did learn to like her, but I did love Elizabeth. About halfway through the book I started getting hooked, and read it fairly quick. It was an engaging plot and oddly enough, it’s like the writing improved halfway through? It kind of felt like a whole different story at the end. (3.5 stars.)

☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

lagom by lola akerstrom
lady chatterley's lover by D.H. Lawrence

Lagom:The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola A. Åkerström

Quick summary

As the Swedish proverb goes, ‘Lagom är bäst’ (The right amount is best). Lagom sums up the Swedish psyche and is the reason why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living.

Lagom is a way of living that promotes harmony. It celebrates fairness, moderation and being satisfied with and taking proper care of what you’ve got, including your well-being, relationships, and possessions. It’s not about having too little or too much but about fully inviting contentment into our lives through making optimal decisions.

Full of insights and beautiful photographs, taken by Lola herself, this authentic book will help you make small, simple changes to your every day life – whether that’s your diet, lifestyle, money, work or your home – so you can have a more balanced way of living filled with contentment.

Three-line review

I kept Lagom by my bedside and read a chapter here and there before bed; it was a lovely insight into Swedish culture. I love how Åkerström really delves in deep — I get the impression that assimilating into Swedish society isn’t the easiest thing to do (I felt the same while in Germany), but I’m so impressed by her journey. The images and illustrations were a gorgeous touch.

☆☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Quick summary

The story concerns a young married woman, the former Constance Reid (Lady Chatterley), whose upper class husband, Sir Clifford Chatterley, described as a handsome, well-built man, has been paralysed from the waist down due to a Great War injury. In addition to Clifford’s physical limitations, his emotional neglect of Constance forces distance between the couple. Her sexual frustration leads her into an affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, the novel’s title character. The class difference between the couple highlights a major motif of the novel which is the unfair dominance of intellectuals over the working class. The novel is about Constance’s realization that she cannot live with the mind alone; she must also be alive physically. This realization stems from a heightened sexual experience Constance has only felt with Mellors, suggesting that love can only happen with the element of the body, not the mind…

Three-line review

No. Just no. I could not do this book.

☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

the husband's secret
hokkaido highway blues by Will Ferguson

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Quick summary

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Three-line review

I’ve been looking for some easy, fast-paced reads, and this was certainly it. The tone throughout the book was rather silly, but overall I enjoyed it. Infidelity and poor life choices seems to be a running theme in thrillers/action books these days. As it would. (3.5 stars.)

☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Ferguson

Quick summary

The book follows Will Ferguson as he hitchhikes 1,800 miles north through Japan following the Cherry Blossom Front (Sakura Zensen). The arrival of the blossom is a national event in Japan, eagerly tracked on television bulletins, and besides marking the end of winter and the start of the business cycle it facilitates a burst of heavy drinking disguised as a communal meditation on transience.

Three-line review

Laugh out loud funny, as per usual with Ferguson. Nobody does self-deprecation quite like him (except maybe Bill Bryson and a handful of other male travel writers, but there we go…). This is the book that kickstarted my desire to travel to Japan in 2018, if funds allow.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

february by lisa moore
before i go to sleep book

February by Lisa Moore

Quick summary

In 1982, the oil rig Ocean Ranger sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a Valentine’s Day storm. All eighty-four men aboard died. February is the story of Helen O’Mara, one of those left behind when her husband, Cal, drowns on the rig. It begins in the present-day, more than twenty-five years later, but spirals back again and again to the “February” that persists in Helen’s mind and heart.

Three-line review

I love Lisa Moore’s writing. Her prose is stunning. Sp many of the characters are so clearly defined in this book, I could almost reach out and touch them. Like Barry. But Helen (the main character)…I find her hard to wrap my head around, and I don’t feel like I ever really got to know her. Still, February is a great read.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

The Divine Ryans by Wayne Johnston

Quick summary

The Ryans of St. John’s, Newfoundland, are a large and deeply eccentric Irish-Catholic family in the dual business of newspaper-publishing and undertaking–“one-hundred years of digging up dirt of one kind or another,” as Uncle Reginald puts it. Enough Ryans also become priests and nuns to earn them the sobriquet “Divine.”

The youngest member of the family is nine-year-old Draper Doyle Ryan, whose passion for the Catholic Montreal Canadiens in their battles against the Protestant Toronto Maple Leafs is matched only by his perplexity over his recently deceased father’s regular reappearances, hockey puck in hand, in the house next door. How he comes to make sense of these visitations, his gently screwy relatives, and his own burgeoning sexuality forms the matter of this droll, wise, and effortlessly funny coming-of-age novel.

Three-line review

Johnston is my favourite author, but this was such a departure from his other books! I really enjoyed The Divine Ryans, although the dream sequences and the hockey stuff was a bit much. Laugh out loud funny. I had no idea Johnston had such a sense of humour.

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

The Cottingley Secret
before i go to sleep book

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Quick summary

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

Three-line review

The Cottingley Secret was another book club box read — otherwise, I might not have picked it up. Fairies aren’t my jam. This was a good book overall, and well written (and based on a true story). Lots of beautiful details throughout. (3.5 stars.)

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Quick summary

A terrible accident has robbed Christine of her memories. She cannot remember the past – or even yesterday. Determined to discover who she is, she has begun keeping a journal before she goes to sleep. Before she can forget again.

But the truth may be more terrifying – and deadlier – than she bargained for…

Three-line review

Before I Go to Sleep is an easy, riveting read. Well-written, and it kept me guessing. It’s hard to believe Watson wrote that other bullshit (Second Life…see above).

☆☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

I’ll have my full year-end reading challenge wrap-up in a few weeks! I’m going to trim down my challenge next year so that I’m not taking on books with little substance just for the sake of finishing the challenge. Have you read any of these?

  • December 18 2017

    I love Marquez! I adore Marquez! All my instincts say I shouldn’t like magic realism, but his books (and Like Love For Chocolate), but they’re some of my favorites. As for Liane Moriarty, I find her stuff to be cliched in the way Jodi Piccoult’s books are. I read one for book club and was so insulted that I’d wasted time reading it. (That said, I binge-watched Big Little Lies on a long-haul flight and it was totally worth it.)
    JoAnna recently posted…An Open Book: What I Read in November

    • December 20 2017
      Candice

      I love his writing, but I always just feel so EXHAUSTED after reading his books, hahaha. Which then inevitably leads me to books like Liane Moriarty’s…

  • December 18 2017
    crw

    I love hearing what you’ve been reading. Glad to know I shouldn’t waste my time on Lady Chatterly’s Lover – it was one of those classics I felt I should read. I will strike that from my list.

    As for Marquez, when I picked up Love in the time of Cholera, I was hoping for an epic romance like Like Water for Chocolate but I really didn’t like it. I think the whole thing with that young girl (America I think it was) really put a bad taste in my mouth and I didn’t think he deserved anything after that except maybe a jail sentence and to be put on a sex offender registry.

    • December 20 2017
      Candice

      Yeah, if predatory sexual behaviour throws you off, steer clear of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, hahaha. I think I only read maybe 30 pages of that book before I flung it across the road. Too bad, because I’ve enjoyed his other work.

  • December 20 2017

    I loved the list! I have always wanted to read Murakami, but then postpone it because I think it might be to slow for me. If you liked Marquez, you might enjoy The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and her Soulless Grandmother. It is my favourite story from him and the book also have some other short tales!
    Dann Castillo recently posted…How I did not want to go to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, but I did anyways and loved it!

    • January 07 2018
      Candice

      Thanks, Dann! Will look that one up! If you want to start with some simple Murakami, I definitely recommend Norwegian Wood.

  • January 07 2018

    Just a heads up that your RSS seems to be releasing in batches. I won’t see anything for weeks, then suddenly six or seven posts show up at once.
    Gigi recently posted…How Do You Choose Where to Travel Next? (Where We Went in 2017 & How We Chose Each Place)

  • January 07 2018

    I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover when I was very much not old enough to be reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover and agree with you… will not be revisiting that anytime soon. I love Moriarty’s books, although some are admittedly much, much better than others – the Hypnotist’s Love Story is my favourite. I haven’t read Before I Go to Sleep but did see the movie randomly in Ireland years ago!

    • January 10 2018
      Candice

      I didn’t realize it was a movie! Or that she had other worthwhile reads out, haha. I’ll check out Hypnotist’s Love Story!

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