Saturday, March 22, 2014

Five Favorites -- Book Club Edition

For this week's rendition of "Five Favorites," I thought I'd switch it up a bit: instead of listing five products (or whatever else) I'm digging at the moment, I am going to tell you about five books that I've loved in the past few months, three of which I've read with the most amazing book club in the history of book clubs. (Seriously, the women in this group are absolutely wonderful, and I am so thankful for the time that we get to spend together each month.)

As I compiled this list, I got to thinking how much I appreciate amazing books and how quickly I read them when they engage me. I also got to thinking how I haven't read an absolute page-turner in a few weeks. The last book we read for book club was This Is Where I Leave You, which was entertaining but not necessarily one of the best books I've ever read (and was clearly written to be a movie more than it was to be a book). I tried reading Wild, thinking it would help me be a strong, independent woman again (since Eat, Pray, Love was so pivotal in my "recovery" from a previous failed relationship), but it seemed a bit repetitive, and I only got about halfway through. Now, I'm reading Beautiful Ruins, and while I think the story is getting interesting (finally), I am having a really, really hard time engaging with it -- and I'm halfway through.

Perhaps reading the aforementioned not-so-stellar books helps me appreciate the amazing ones even more.

And, without further ado, here they are!

1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

This is quite possibly the best book that I have read in a really long time. There were somewhat mixed reviews at book club (i.e. pretty much everyone liked it, but not everyone loved it as much as I did), but I stand my ground: it. was. amazing.

Essentially, 20-something Louisa lives at home with her parents who are struggling financially, and she is hired by a super wealthy family to be the caretaker of their quadriplegic son, Will, who was once extremely adventurous, active, and quite the popular bachelor. The book focuses on the two characters and the relationship that builds between the two as Lou tries to convince Will that happiness can still be found, that life is still worth living.

Ugh. So good.

2. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

This is probably my second favorite of the books I've read recently, only next to Me Before You. This story is set in the 1980s, a midst the outbreak of HIV/AIDS. When 14-year-old June's favorite Uncle Finn dies from the disease, she is left all alone -- until she secretly befriends her uncle's long-time partner, Toby, a man who makes June feel as understood and uniquely amazing as Finn did.

The book centers on the friendship between June and Toby and the escalating tension between June and her family. It is an absolutely beautiful book that I literally read in two days.

3. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This is another book that I read in about two days. This story focuses on busy single mom, Kate, and her bright prep-school daughter, Amelia. After getting a call that she needed to pick up Amelia from school due to plagiarism and subsequent suspension, Kate heads to the school to find Amelia dead, apparently from jumping off the roof. Shortly thereafter, Kate receives a message that says that Amelia did not jump.

The book centers on Kate's search for the truth and is interspersed with emails, text messages, and conversations that Amelia had with her peers. There is crazy-suspense throughout this completely unpredictable book.

As a teacher of high school students, I thought the portrayal was very accurate and realistic, albeit extremely frightening. This was an excellent book.

4. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I totally jumped on the Gillian Flynn bandwagon. I first read Gone Girl, which I liked and couldn't put down, and then about a year later I read both Sharp Objects and Dark Places in quick succession. And, I'd have to say that Dark Places was my favorite.

In this gripping thriller, the protagonist, Libby Day, was the only survivor of The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas, when her mother and sisters were killed, and as a small child, Libby testified that it was her brother who committed the brutal murders. As an adult, Libby was approached by the "Kill Club," a group set on proving her brother's innocence.

The story focuses on Libby's quest for the truth from that dark night, and the plot twists and turns at every angle, leaving readers also searching for what really happened.

I loved it.

5. The Language of Flowers

I really enjoyed this book. But, I have to admit: I had super high expectations for this book, especially since my mom loved it so much. While the story didn't necessarily reach those high expectations, I still enjoyed reading it.

This book is about a young woman, Victoria, who was recently emancipated from the foster care system with nowhere to go and with no skill set -- other than knowing the meaning behind (the language of) flowers. The story alternates between Victoria's present-day as well as her past, specifically focusing on her history with the foster mother who sparked her interest in flowers and who first showed her love. The plot thickens when Victoria encounters someone from her past and is forced to make difficult decisions as to how to handle her painful secrets.

It was a really interesting book (especially in regard to the different meanings of flowers and the relationships between the characters), and I read it in about three days.

What are the best books you've read lately? Any great recommendations? I need a new book for as soon as I finish Beautiful Ruins. :)

Find previous "Five Favorites" here:

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  1. I loved Me Before You. It was my first 5 star book of the year. The Language of Flowers took a long time to suck me in. I've been loving Susanna Kearsley's Slains series. Romance plus Scotland is makes a good book :) Also if you like Urban Fantasy/Vampires I love Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampire series. I met her in Omaha at a book signing and she is sweet.

    1. I loved it so much, too! I haven't even heard of the Slains series, but it sounds intriguing! I'm not really all about fantasy books (although I do love True Blood, so maybe I could be...), but I'll definitely check out the Chicagoland series! Thank you for the recommendations!

  2. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (I think I spelled it correctly!) is a fantastic book. It's about a woman living in working class India and the social dynamics between the two classes (upper and lower), based on the books you've enjoyed, I think you'd like this one because it has a female protagonist and it's a book that really draws you in :)

    1. Wow, that looks awesome and yes, exactly like something I'd love! I may have to mention that at book club in a couple of weeks. Thank you so much for the recommendation!