I love to read. So much. I remember in second grade, challenging one of my friends to a reading competition – who could get through all 56 Nancy Drew Detective mysteries first. I have no idea who won. As I got older, I would secretly read by a nightlight in my room, long after I was supposed to be asleep. These days with an adult job, a house and 2 dogs, as well as pretending to have a social life, I don’t read as much as I used to, which is I why I gave myself a goal this year of reading 35 books. I didn’t quite get that many, but 22 isn’t too shabby. I won’t force you through a review of all of them, but I’ve picked a few that stood out.
I’m a sucker for reality TV. It’s my biggest guilty pleasure. The Amazing Race, Biggest Loser, Jersey Shore, Dancing With the Stars, The Real World…this is just a sample of some of my favorite reality TV shows. A few years ago I came across a delightful English reality show called The Only Way is Essex, which of course, I love. Lucy was on the show for 10 seasons before going on to build a small fitness empire in the UK. I bought this book thinking it was an autobiography, but it turned out to be more of a healthy living guide. There are some interesting bits about her life, but the focus is on a healthy eating plan and exercise. Not bad advice, but not what I was looking for, either. That being said, I’m currently working through one of her programs, so I guess it hooked me anyway.
I grew up with Clarissa Explains it All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. More recently I fell in love with ABC Family’s Melissa and Joey (with Joey Lawrence – 90’s nostalgia!). This book was a very interesting look into her life growing up as a child star. She’s not quite as squeaky clean as the characters she played, but I think that makes her more interesting. Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
I picked this book up while sleeping on my friend Aarron’s couch in Australia. By the time I checked into my hotel for work, I was hooked and stopped by a book store to pick up my own copy. It’s a behind the scenes look at Marc Jacobs, Kate Moss and Alexander McQueen in the 90’s and how they changed fashion. This isn’t something I would normally read, but it was really interesting, learning about their troubled lives and how it directly impacted the people they became and the fashions they designed. If you enjoy biographies, even if you’re not into fashion, this is a really good read.
Written by Sandra Bullock’s sister, Gesine tells the story of moving to New England and opening a bakery with her husband. There are reflections of her childhood with “Sandy” and how the death of their mother influenced them both. Sandra Bullock makes a couple of appearances, but the point of the story is really about the bakery. It’s cute and charming, and makes for a quick read.
I LOVED this book. Jennifer Saunders is an amazing person, and I love everything that she stands for. In this book, she talks about her childhood, meeting Dawn French, forming the French and Saunders comedy act, and of course that cultural phenomenon Absolutely Fabulous. She’s funny, smart, insightful and warm. I’m not sure if this book is available in American bookstores, but you can get it online from Amazon, or in ebook form. Do yourself a favor and read it.
Back when I was planning my trip to climb Kilimanjaro, Amy found a talk at REI by Kara about how she climbed Kilimanjaro not once, not twice, but three times, all while weighing ~300 pounds. It gave me hope that I would be able to summit myself, so I checked her book out from the library to read the full story. To be honest, I didn’t really like the book. I found her to be a bit grating and overly confident, but it did make me feel better about my own chances.
Laura is a Canadian married to a Frenchman, graduating from law school in London. They buy a house in her husbands hometown, fix it up and rent it out to vacationers. It’s a typical French country fixer upper story, but I found the author to be high strung and difficult to identify with. It was only $1.99 on my Kindle, but I don’t think I’ll be buying any of the sequels.
Jen is one of my favorite authors and I read every memoir she releases. She’s the person who always says what everyone else is thinking and is too scared to say, but with so much humor it never comes across as too mean. In her latest release, she takes a look at how she got to where she is in life, and what she can do to ensure she has no regrets. I really enjoyed it, especially her trip to Italy with her husband, Fletch. If you are new to her, I would start with her first book, Bitter is the New Black.
I promise I read other books besides biographies! I’ve had this book on my list for ages (borrowed from a friend and I really need to get it back to her!). I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and have read Pride and Prejudice a dozen times, but I’ve always felt I couldn’t call myself a true Austen fan until I’d read these more obscure books. I knew I’d have a lot of down time on my trip to Tanzania, so I packed this book and read it in a day while chilling by the pool in Zanzibar. Lady Susan was good, if a bit similar to Emma in which you don’t really like the main character. The Watsons and Sandition are both unfinished, but had lots of potential. I really enjoyed these glimpses of other works by one of the my favorite authors of all time.
This is one of those books people have been recommending to me for ages. The movie came out while I was in India and it was obviously a big deal there. It’s one of the first books I bought on my Kindle, but I just couldn’t seem to get into it. Friends told me to wait for the end, it makes it all worth it. With all that time in Zanzibar, I finally managed to finish. I’m not really sure how I feel about the end, even after having time to process. I won’t spoil it for you, but it definitely is a twist. I’m sorry to say I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it, either.
Another series of books about a woman buying and renovating a house in the French countryside, however I liked these much more. Karen is a fashion editor who left behind her glamorous life in London for rural Poitou-Charentes. She fixes up her home while trying to navigate townsfolk, fellow expats and finding love. I even picked up the second book, Tout Allure and will probably read the next two as well.
Another book from the kids on The Only Way is Essex. This time fiction. To be honest, it took me about 2 hours to read this book. There wasn’t a lot of substance and the plot is pretty predictable. It does end on a bit of a “cliff hanger” to get you excited for the next in the series, but I bet I could tell you what’s going to happen in that book. It’s an easy read and good for the beach, which is where I read it, but don’t expect anything mind blowing. That being said, I’ll probably read book 2 if it’s not very expensive on Kindle.
This book isn’t really a novel or memoir, but it is ridiculously motivating. I’m not a messy person by any means, but I always feel like I could use a bit more organization in my life. I’d heard a couple people mention that they loved this book and decided to check it out. Let me tell you – it really is life-changing magic. There’s no other way to describe it! I’ve gotten rid of at least a dozen bags of stuff and still have more to go. I even gave the book to my mom who, in my entire life, has never had enough space for her clothes. She got rid of 50 (who has 50???!) pairs of pants alone!! If I wasn’t already convinced by my own results, seeing how much my mom has gotten rid of would have had me out buying this book in 2 seconds.
I first heard about this book when my dad picked it up a few years ago. I didn’t really give it much thought, but I’ve had friend after friend read it and talk about how much they loved it. Finally, my book club decided to choose it for our next book so I was obligated to give it a read. It’s fascinating! Reading about Seattle in the early part of the century, seeing pictures of how it used to look was so neat. And learning the stories of these very real people and how they grew up was so good. The sub-title of the book tells you how it ends, the University of Washington men’s rowing team races to win gold in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but every page I’m just like, “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!” It really is a page turner and you are definitely left wanting more. Full disclosure – I may have cried at the end.
I read a few other books during the year for a total of 22! It’s not as much as I used to read when I rode the bus every day, but it’s better than last year. I hope you enjoyed these reviews of the books I read and I’d love to hear your thoughts on any you read!
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