Books for Every Reader this Holiday

As we move into December, the rush for holiday gifts is here and will only build over the new few weeks. I may be a bit biased (I definitely am…), but I always think that a good book can be the perfect gift. The trouble is finding the right book for each person. Not to worry though, I have a few recommendations!

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica KnollFor the mystery lover: The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll – this a quick, engaging read with an interesting look into the life of a woman living a lie.

The Boys in the BoatFor the sports fanatic or history buff: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – an excellent read, this book focuses on the crew team from the University of Washington that rowed in front of Hitler and won gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics against all odds.

Tiny Little Things by Beatriz WilliamsFor fans of historical fiction and/or romance: Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams – filled with great characters and surprising plot twists, this story set in the 1960’s is one of my favorites from this year!

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy NelsonFor YA adult readers: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – An imaginative and illustrative read, this story is filled with quirky and fun characters including a set of very competitive twins.
The NightingaleFor everyone: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – This is an excellent book centered around two woman in France during World War II and how they each deal with the Nazi occupation. It’s a very powerful book that I think everyone should read.

Happy holidays and may the season be filled with books!

A Few Favorite WWII Historical Fiction Novels

As we get older our reading choices develop and change. Over the last couple years, I’ve found myself drawn to historical fiction novels more than ever, especially those focusing on Europe during World War II. A terrible time in history, I find these stories both horrifying and fascinating. Three of my favorite books of this period also happen to take place in France during this time.

  1. The Nightingale by Kristin HannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – This is an excellent book sharing the powerful story of two sisters and how they each cope with the Nazi occupation in France. I was completely taken away by the bravery of these women and have recommended this book over and over again.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Another great book, this is a beautifully written story with flashes of scenes between characters and time All the Light We Cannot Seeperiods. Two characters, a young blind girl in France and a brilliant German boy who is recruited by the Nazis, offer readers very interesting perspectives. As the book goes on we see how their worlds collide during wartime.

  1. Sarah's KeySarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay – A haunting twist in the book has caused this story to stay with me years after reading it. In an attempt to save her brother from the Nazis during World War II, a little girl hides the boy in their special hiding place. Throughout the book we see her journey to get back to Paris and her brother.

These books are all so well written and I continue to look for other books by these talented authors!

Dream by Day meets Facebook

Dream by Day

After much consideration, and some nagging from friends, I’ve decided to create a Facebook account for Dream by Day book reviews. Originally, I wasn’t sure whether or not Facebook would be a relevant platform for my blog, but I’ve decided to give it a try! This way many of my friends (yes, the same friends who wouldn’t join a book club) can view my reviews easily, especially if they don’t have WordPress accounts.

Click here to check it out for yourself!  I would love to connect with you on Facebook as well as through the blog!

I also want to say thank you all for the support and interaction – this book blogging community is such a considerate and intelligent group of people and I have so enjoyed connecting with you all!

The Knockoff: A Novel by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

The Knockoff: A NovelA light story, The Knockoff: A Novel by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, is a quick read. I listened to this one as an audiobook while commuting to and from work. While it was cheesy at times, it was an entertaining alternative to the same five pop songs playing from the radio on repeat.

The Knockoff: A Novel centers around Imogen, the editor in chief of a fashion magazine based in New York City. When Imogen returns to her job after a six month medical leave she finds that her magazine has been transformed into a website. As Imogen tries to keep up with the advancing technology and an office overrun with millennial employees, she finds herself to be irrelevant.

I have some opposing opinions on this book. One the one hand, parts of the story were funny and I related to the feeling of falling behind in a tech driven world. On the other hand, many aspects of the book are very unrealistic. Would Imogen’s magazine really convert to an entirely web based venture in only 6 months with an almost entirely new staff? Probably not. And then there is Eve; Imogen’s former assistant who has returned to the company after graduating with an MBA from Harvard Business School and who now runs the business. Eve is the character that you love to hate. A raging sociopath, the character is completely out of touch with reality. I think Eve’s unprofessionalism and bullying tactics are very unrealistic as well.

While I found Imogen to be endearing, at times I was completely fed up with her lack of self-preservation and that no matter how much she was pushed and bullied by Eve, she wouldn’t stand up for herself. While reading, I was raging in my head about all of the things that she should be saying instead!

The Knockoff: A Novel isn’t my favorite story, but it gives an interesting and funny view of society as we depend more and more on technology.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenI’m having a hard time deciding how to put my opinions of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel into words. I definitely liked the book; I’m just not sure how much.

On one hand, it’s a very interesting story, which centers on a massive case of the flu that has wiped out a majority of the world population and has left those remaining living in shambles.

Station Eleven jumps between decades, from before and after the collapse, and focuses on many characters whose lives are interconnected. We have Arthur Leander, a famous actor who dies on stage while performing a play on the evening when the sickness hits Toronto. Then there’s Kristen, one of the child actors performing with Arthur in the play, who survived the sickness and goes on to join the Traveling Symphony. We also have Jeevan, a training paramedic who realizes the epidemic is coming in time to store enough food to save himself.

My critique of this book is that I wasn’t able to connect with the characters as much as I would have liked. My favorite books are those in which I feel for the characters, but I don’t think that Mandel went far enough with her character development. They intrigued me, but not enough to make this book a favorite for me.

Overall, I liked this book and thought it was a unique choice that’s different from stories that I normally read.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright PlacesI give All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven a big thumbs up. I went on a road trip for work last week and listened to this YA fictional novel and found it to be both touching and heartfelt.

The story begins when two high school seniors, Violet and Finch, meet on the roof of the bell tower at their school, both contemplating what it would mean to jump off. Violet has recently lost her sister in a car crash and Finch has always struggled to find where he fits into the world and why any of it matters. On top of the bell tower they both feel lost.

Through this story they save each other and their journey is really sweet. Violet learns how to live again and Finch learns to be comfortable as his wild and charming self. Both characters had been through so much and I was really interested to see how they each handled their grief.

This book is really good and I recommend it! One fun fact about the audiobook; the male narrator sounded a lot like John Mulaney, the comedian, which was a nice added bonus.

The brilliance of Harry Potter on audio

 I have to hand it to Jim Dale, he does a fantastic job of narrating the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling on audiobook. While I prefer reading the books myself, I’m happy to listen to Dale narrate as I get ready for the work day or as I do chores around the house. The problem I find with many audiobooks is the narrator’s voice, which usually ends up distracting me from the actual story. I think that Dale does a great job of capturing each different characters’ accent and tone of voice really well. In this case I actually think he helps the book come alive because I get so sucked into the story that I honestly forget I’m listening to an audiobook
I’m currently listening the the fifth book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I had forgotten how funny the Weasley twins are and find myself cracking up at their pranks and experimental magical creations.

So if you haven’t tried listening to the Harry Potter series on audio – I highly recommend it. Not many people have time to sit down to read a seven book series, but listening to an audiobook is much more plausible. It honestly might be the only thing that makes cleaning the bathroom a not-so-bad task.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Don’t bother with 11/22/63 by Stephen King. I think King is a talented author and have enjoyed the books of his that I’ve read, but this story wasn’t worth the time. Definitely not worth the time it takes to read 880 pages.

11/22/63 by Stephen KingThis is the story of Jake Epping, a man living in Maine during the year 2011, who finds himself pulled into a plan to stop the Kennedy assassination from happening in 1963. How will he do this when he hadn’t even been born by that year? Through a time traveling portal of course. It’s an interesting idea, and the book is pretty well written, but its just WAY too long. The story backtracks over and over again and although I wanted to learn whether Jake accomplished his mission, I found my mind wandering on multiple occasions.

For those interested in the Kennedy assassination, and all of the conspiracy theories out there, this may be just the book for you! I wouldn’t recommend it to many others though when there are so many other great books out there and so little time to read them.

Should You Keep a Book Journal?

I’ve kept a book journal for the past few years and I really recommend it to all readers out there! During high school I was having a hard time keeping track of what I had already read, the plotlines blending into one large and complicated story in my head. Writing in a book journal not only helped me keep track of what I had read, it also allowed me to reflect on those stories and see how my reading choices changed over time.

Every book journal is different, and they should be because we’re all different, but here is what I find works for me. I jot down the book title, author and a quick bio of the storyline. I also give the book a rating from 1 to 5 based on how much I enjoyed it and whether I would want to read it again. Even though I’ve enjoyed many books, that doesn’t necessarily mean I  want to re-read them all, especially when there are so many other great choices out there! Although I rate these books myself, I don’t publicly post a rating on my book reviews because they are so subjective and I want each reader to decide on a rating for himself or herself.

Do any of you keep a book journal? I would love to hear what works for you!

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost CausesWhen a friend of mine asked for a mystery book recommendation before heading out on a road trip this weekend, one story instantly popped into mind. I told her that she needed to read (or in this case, listen to on audiotape) The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen right away. Despite reading this novel a couple years ago, I still find myself recommending it to many friends asking for recommendations because it is a story that has stuck with me.

For a haunting page-turner, choose The Keeper of Lost Causes. Jussi Adler-Olsen has written a seriously excellent page-gripping story here. This is the first book in the Department Q series centered around Carl Morck, a Copenhagen homicide detective whose life had been shattered when two of his fellow cops were shot on the job.

After finally coming back to his career, he gets to work on a series of old case files before becoming stuck on one in particular. A politician, who has all but disappeared into thin air and is thought to be dead, lingers on Carl’s mind. By following a hunch he finds something that has haunted me to this day. I don’t want to give anything away, but there is such a TWISTING finish here!

An incredibly thrilling mystery novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes is fantastic!