First Quarter Reads

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The first quarter of the year ended on March 31st. I had every intention of doing this post in the beginning of April and linking up with Janssen, but then life got in the way. Winter felt interminable to me this year, but now Spring seems to be flying by! Anywho, here are my first quarter reads. Maybe I’ll be able to finish my second quarter post in time to join the link-up. No promises, though. I feel like I got the year off to a good start with reading. My goal was one book per week, and I seem to be averaging that. I just need to do a better job of writing my reviews in a timely fashion. I don’t think I’ll be doing full reviews of every book, but I’ll definitely be highlighting my favorites. Here’s what I read from January to March:

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (full review here)
I really enjoyed this one, despite the supernatural stuff. Jodi Picoult at her best.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (full review here)
A quick read, though emotionally taxing. Great character development.

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
I wasn’t a big fan of this one. Although I do believe in heaven, something about this story didn’t sit right with me. It felt forced. This family did go through an incredible ordeal, though, and I’m glad their son is okay. The one thing that I learned from this book is to take your child to a children’s hospital if at all possible, not necessarily the closest and most convenient hospital.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Very well-written but emotionally draining. I could only take this book is small chunks because of the subject matter. I’m working on a full review.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell
This book talked about why certain people end up being so much smarter or more successful than the rest of us. Think Steve Jobs, The Beatles, or a musical prodigy. He argues that not all success is related to hard work, sometimes it just means being born at the right place, in the right time, with the right set of advantages.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
When I was younger, I read Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech, and I really enjoyed it. That novel features a character introduced in Walk Two Moons, so I always wanted to read this one as well; I just never got around to it. When I was looking for an audiobook to listen to in my car, I spotted this one at the library and checked it out. I think that my younger self would have enjoyed this book a lot, and my adult self did as well.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Some people liked this better than If I Stay. I did not. It was okay. I was glad for the closure from the first novel, however. I’ve heard that the audiobook is really neat, because you can actually hear snippets of Adam’s music rather than just reading the lyrics. My recommendation is to listen to the audiobook if you choose to read this.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Two re-reads. Hubby was reading the series for the first time, and I needed to refresh my memory so that I could discuss it with him. After he finished each book, we watched the movies together, too.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
This was the first novel that I read by Jojo Moyes and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I listened to the audiobook, and I liked how each character’s perspective (it changed by chapter) was read by a different narrator.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
I have a list of “bucket list” classics that I never got around to reading or never had to read for school. It was great to finally cross this one off my list. I alternated between the audiobook and a paper version. Although I enjoyed it, it felt very long. After I read it, I re-watched the film version from the 1990s. It’s one of my favorites. I tried to watch the film version from the 1930s, but Katharine Hepburn’s portrayal of Jo got on my nerves. Also, except for the actress playing Amy, they all seemed to be entirely too old to be playing teenage characters.

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
This is a middle-level children’s novel about students in a sixth grade classroom and their experience with their teacher that year. The novel changes point of view quite often, and it is interesting to see how the various characters experienced the events throughout the year, and how they are changed by them. I think this would be a great novel for 5th graders and up. I listened to the audiobook version and thought the narration was great.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch by Jennifer Reese
An interesting read. The author took the time to make from scratch everything from english muffins, to bacon, and even maraschino cherries. She then breaks down the price of store-bought vs. homemade to make a judgement as to whether it’s better to buy it or make it yourself. Although I appreciated some of the recipes and it was an interesting read, there is no way that I’d ever make my own bacon, or some of the other things in this book, no matter how much money it would save me.

What have you read so far this year that you’ve enjoyed?

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Review of If I Stay

I’m still playing catch-up. Here’s review #2:

if i stay

I wish I would have written this review before I saw the movie, but I’ll try my best to separate the two in my mind. In the story, the main character Mia is a senior in highschool and at a major crossroads in her life. She is a classical cellist waiting to see if she was accepted into Julliard for next year while also trying to figure out if she and her boyfriend of 2 years would be able to continue their relationship from opposite sides of the country.

The book opens on a surprise snow day. There is enough snow to cancel school, giving Mia, her younger brother Teddy, and her teacher dad the day off, but not quite enough to keep them all stuck inside for the day. After her mom calls out of work, the family begins to plan a spontaneous trip to visit friends and family out of town. The trip takes a tragic turn, however, when the family is involved in a car accident. Her parents are both killed, while she and Teddy barely cling to life, but Mia is somehow able to observe the aftermath.

Frustrated that no one seems to be able to see or hear her, Mia follows her body to the hospital and observes the staff working to save her, as well as her family and friends who are waiting to hear news about her and Teddy. She begins to realize that she has a choice: she can choose to live or to join her parents in death. As she struggles to decide, she reflects on memorable times during her life, especially during the past year, and the reader gets a better understanding of her character, as well as those of her family and friends through these memories.

Although this book short and easy (easy in vocabulary, not necessarily in subject matter), I did enjoy it, and it did make me ponder what I would choose if I were in Mia’s shoes. I will caution you that the end, although not a cliffhanger, is abrupt and does leave the reader wanting more. However, there is a sequel, which I’ve heard from some friends is more enjoyable than this first novel, so you can always read on if you enjoy it like I did.

As far as film adaptations go, I thought this one was spot on. Although it wasn’t exactly like the book (they never are), I think it hit all the major plot elements. I loved the way the family was cast and their chemistry on screen. It really made my heart break for Mia even more than it did when I read the book to see all that she had lost.

This novel brings me back to my junior high days when I went through a period of reading quite a few novels with the theme of death and dying. Think Lurlene McDaniel. Anyone remember her? I know my dad worried about me a lot, but I just got on a kick. Then I moved on to horror books and then romance novels. I was a big reader then, and I still am today, although with less time to do it.

What books did you enjoy in your youth? Were there any interesting genres that you tried?