When I made my 25 before 25 list back in August, one thing I knew I wanted to focus on was reading more. I set a goal to read 10 "new" books before I turn 25. It's only been five months, and I have definitely surpassed that goal (and read some old favorites along the way). Here is what I thought of some of them!
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
This book was charming and quirky, and I loved so many things about it. Caleb and Camille Fang are artists in every sense of the word. They bring their two children along to act in their over-the-top productions, with the real world as their stage. The kids view their life as dysfunctional and pull away from their eccentric parents as soon as they can. As adults they are forced to go back to their childhood home to be in one final performance, which carries many twists and surprises. I really loved this book and the characters, and I think just about anyone will appreciate its balance of hilarity and tragedy.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
This book was sweet and simple on the surface but could easily be picked apart. Franny uncovers her obsession with repetitive prayer while on a date in the first half of the book. In the second half of the book, her brother, Zooey, unveils the hypocrisy in Franny's prayer. Overall I did enjoyed the two main characters and found it easy to relate to the underlying themes.
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
I had very mixed feelings when I heard J.K. Rowling was releasing a new novel. Knowing that this one would be a different genre and directed at a different audience than Harry Potter made me nervous and unsure of whether or not I even wanted to read it. But of course, being that the Harry Potter series is my all-time favorite, I pre-ordered the book and dug my nose into the moment it arrived at my house. I know it had lots of unfavorable reviews, but I think if you give up all knowledge of its author, it's a really good story. No, it doesn't hold a candle to Harry Potter, but few books do. And although it's hard not to compare this story to Harry Potter, it's not really fair to compare them either. The town the story takes place in, Pagford, is rushing to find a replacement for a councilman who unexpectedly dies. What the book uncovers about the citizens in the book kept me reading, and the character development was, in my opinion, outstanding. There are lots of people to keep track of, but if you make a chart like I nerdily did, it stays very interesting.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
This book had me laughing out loud on a plane full of strangers. I may be biased since Tina Fey is an idol of mine, but this book is a total winner. She talks about the events leading up to her success, which deal with everything from body image, to boys, to being taken seriously as a woman comedian. Tina Fey is absolutely hilarious, and everyone in the world needs to read this like, yesterday. When I was in the hospital over the weekend, Kerstan grabbed it from my shelf and read it while sitting with me. He loved it, I loved it, and I can promise you will, too.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I loved this story because it was so unlike anything I have ever read. Liesel, a young girl living in Nazi Germany, goes to live with foster parents outside of the city. She becomes very close with her foster father (Hans), a young boy named Rudy, and Max, who is hiding from the Nazis in her basement. She finds refuge in books, which are very hard to come by. Hans comes to her every night to practice her reading and writing. A summary of the book indicates that it is similar to any other WWII story, but it's not. The book is narrated by Death, making the perspective completely different from other stories with a similar setting. Death is obviously quite busy during WWII, and his flaws and reflections make him seem humanlike. I was completely engulfed in this novel, and I will definitely be reading it again in the future.
Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
This was one of those books that was recommended to me by amazon, so I just ordered it on a whim. It follows the ironically named main character, Lucky, as he overcomes a particularly bad bout of bullying. His mother, who is also escaping her own problems at home, takes Lucky to visit family across the country. While Lucky seems almost sociopathic at times, it is hard to not sympathize with him as he becomes a young adult. Every night he dreams about being in the jungles of Laos where his grandfather has been MIA for decades. Through these dreams his grandfather is able to give advice and teach Lucky lessons about overcoming the battles he is facing in the real world.
If I Stay/Where She Went by Gayle Forman
I don't know where to start with this one....I ordered this book on accident but decided to read it instead of sending it back. I read it in one day and rush ordered the sequel. And then I read the sequel in one day and found myself flipping the book every which way in hopes of finding more story. Mia, a young girl finishing up high school, is involved in a tragic car accident, leaving her in critical condition. She experiences a world in between life and death, where she watches what's left of her family try to cope with the accident. In the end she has to experience her boyfriend coming to her bedside and ultimately decide whether or not she wants to fight for her life or just let go. It had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I might have cried a lot. I won't give away the sequel, but it was equally as good, pulled just as many tears out of me, and I would love to read a third book (hint, hint Gayle!).
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
This isn't the type of book I would normally be drawn to, but it came highly recommended by my aunt, so I went for it. It was really captivating, and I found myself very involved in the mystery. A reporter at a newspaper in Chicago is sent back to her small hometown to cover the murder of two preteen girls. While there she stays with her estranged mother, step-father, and step-sister. As she begins gathering information and conducting interviews, she uncovers details about her past, and the reader develops an insight into Camille's life since leaving the small town. The mystery of the murders begins to unravel as she realizes what happened to her years ago.
Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Overall I wasn't terribly impressed with this book, but I'm glad I read it. I always hear so many wonderful things about Palahniuk's writing, but I am not really a fan. Fight Club was enjoyable to me, but this book felt like he was really forcing it. The main character, Victor, does what he can to pay for his mom's nursing home care. And by "does what he can" I mean he pretends to choke at fancy restaurants so that the person who saves his life feels responsible enough for his existence to send him money. The plot didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, and although explicit language doesn't typically bother me, the vulgar descriptions of the action Victor gets from sex addicts was off-putting. Most people I know really admire his work, but this was probably my least favorite book of the year so far.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling
I completely relate to Mindy, to the point where I refer to her on a first name basis. I feel like she would be ok with that. Her book gave me a new respect for her and her position as a women comedian, and it kept me laughing the entire time. It documents everything from living in a tiny NYC apartment infested with rats to being a writer for The Office. She is hilariously honest about Hollywood, and I love her to pieces. Mindy seriously, can we please be best friends?
So time to share! What are your favorite books? I would gladly welcome any suggestions! I'll try to keep track of some of my other favorites as I read them so I can share some more!