43. Born Under Punches by Martyn Waites
Taking it’s title from a Talking Heads song, Born Under Punches moves back and forth through time from the 80s to the early 2000s examining what has happened to a small mining town in Britain and it’s inhabitants during and since the miner’s strike that occurred during the begin of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister. It’s a well written book that draws you into the characters lives while slowly piecing the together the connections between the characters and what is happening in the two different time periods. I give it a 7 out of 10.
103. The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level by Chris Hardwick
I am a big fan of the Nerdist podcast, which is hosted by Chris Hardwick, the author of this book. The book is a humorous self-help book aimed at nerds. When I say it is humorous I mean that it is written in an engaging and amusing style. It still contains a plethora of useful information particularly for anyone who really is in need of some self-help. The book is broken up into three sections focusing on Mind, Body, and Time. In each Hardwick shares stories from his own life along with advice on how to improve your life in each of these areas. This book is definitely for nerds only. Other people will have a hard time identifying with the examples he is using and much of the humor will be lost on them. There are a few practical things I will take away from the book, but mostly I just found it to be an enjoyable read. I give it 7 out of 10.
102. Christmas in Plains: Memories by Jimmy Carter
My book club was looking for a non-romance Christmas themed book to read for December, which is pretty hard to find. We wound up reading Christmas in Plains. It’s a quick little book. It only took me about an hour to read it. In it Jimmy Carter reminisces about his past Christmases, particularly those of his childhood in Plains, Georgia. The stories I found the most interesting though were the four Christmases he spent in the White House. There’s nothing outstanding about the book, but it’s not bad if you’re looking for a quick read with a Christmas theme. I give it a 5 out of 10.
98. Landing by Emma Donoghue
This was a good, quick read. There’s nothing amazingly fantastic about it, but it’s one of those books that I got really into and didn’t want to put down. Sometimes that’s all I’m really looking for in a book. The story revolves around Sile, an Irish flight attendant in her 40s and Jude, a Canadian woman 15 years her younger. They meet on a flight and begin a long distance romance. The book is really all about falling in love and figuring out how to work out the details when distance, friends, and differing lifestyles don’t make it easy. I give it a 6 out of 10.
97. Father of the Rain by Lily King
I read this book for one of my book clubs. It’s the story of a girl named Daley and her relationship with her alcoholic father. The book starts off when she is a child the summer her mother leaves her father. It then jumps in time to Daley’s adulthood when she is getting ready to start a professorship at Berkeley but is drawn back into her father’s orbit. There is one final jump in time that I won’t elaborate for fear of giving too much away. Also there are some flashbacks to fill in a little bit of what you miss during the time jumps. This is an ok book. I found it to be a little slow and had a really hard time with the characters making stupid decisions even though I could understand in some instances why they would do so. It did make for some good discussion for our book club though. I give it a 6 out of 10.
96. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I read this book for one of my book clubs. Let me preface this review by saying I am not a huge science fiction person. Most of the science fiction readers I know count this book among their favorites. I, however did not experience the same love for this book. I started out enjoying, but things went downhill from there.
I know obviously this book was written long before The Hunger Games series, but since I read that series first this book reminded me of it at first. The story revolves around a young boy named Ender who is drafted into some battle school to prepare him to defend the Earth against the buggers, aliens who had previously attacked our planet. Ender is deemed to be a special boy who will grow up to command the army that is sure to defeat the buggers. This is mostly the story of his time in battle school preparing for that role and being manipulated by his teachers into becoming the person he needs to be in order to assume it. While the set-up of the book was interesting it mostly wound up being little kids engaging in practice combat over and over again, which got really old for me very quickly. As I mentioned previously, this book reminded me somewhat of The Hunger Games, which I really liked but in that book I felt a connection with the characters I never felt in Ender’s Game. Also, the children in Ender’s Game were supposed to be much younger. When the book started Ender was only 6 years old and it ended when he was 13. Much of the action occurred at an age that just seemed ridiculous as if the author had never met a child before and didn’t seem to realize how unrealistic it was for him to have children that age doing and saying the things he was doing. If he had made the book start when Ender was 10 or 11 and end when he was 17 or 18 I probably could have bought into a lot more.
I won’t dissuade anyone from reading this book because I know too many people who love, but I personally didn’t care for it. I give it a 4 out of 10.
95. Heat Rises by Richard Castle
I kind of want to put the author’s name in quotes, but I won’t. This is the third book in the Nikki Heat series, which is a tie-in to the television show Castle. The lead character in the show, Richard Castle, is a mystery writer and ABC has commissioned some ghost writer to actually write the books the character is supposedly writing on the show. I enjoyed the first two in the series, but didn’t like this one as much. Since the books are ghost written it is entirely possible that this book has a different author than the first two. I couldn’t get into the plot of this one as easily as I did the first two books. It seemed very convoluted to me. If you really like Castle and have read the first two books, I would go ahead and read it otherwise I would skip it and find a better book to read. I give it a 4 out of 10.
93. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
This is going to be one of those books where my review is totally shadowed by how much I hated the ending of the book. I really dislike when I generally enjoy a book up until the end, and then the end ruins it for me. Sadly, Commencement is one of those books. The story centers around four women who met as hallmates during their freshman year at Smith. The book goes back and forth between their times at Smith and the fifth and sixth years after they’ve graduated. The book begins with them reuniting to for the wedding of one of them five years after they graduate and follows them from that point. I enjoyed the story and had fun with the characters, but as I mentioned really hate where the author went with it in the end. The ending just seemed so ridiculous to me I couldn’t buy it. I don’t want to give anything away, so I can’t say more than that. I have a hard time recommending the book because I disliked the ending so much, but if it seems interesting to you you might as well read it because you may not feel the same way that I do about how everything winds up. I give it a 5 out of 10.
92. Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff by Calvin Trillin
This book is a compilation of various essays, poems, etc. written by Trillin over the past 40 years. The entries are compiled based on broad subject areas. It is a quick, enjoyable read and recommended for anyone who enjoys Trillin’s work. Even if you’ve read the stuff before, most of it you probably haven’t seen in a really long time and you’ll enjoy the refresher. I give it a 7 out of 10.
91. Hometown Dad by Merrillee Whren
I feel a little weird reviewing this book, since my mother wrote it and it’s dedicated to me. I usually avoid doing that because I read the books when they are still in manuscript form and thus aren’t in their final versions so I don’t count them. However, my book club went back and read this book and then had an author discussion with my mother, so I’m adding it to my official tally for the year. It’s the final book in her Kellerville series, which is three books centered on characters living in that town. It can also be read as a stand-alone though. You needn’t have read the first two to enjoy this one. The story follows a widowed mother of two boys, Melanie Drake, and workaholic banker Nathan Keller. Nathan becomes involved in helping out Melanie with her sons as the coach of their little league baseball team, which of course since it’s a romance novel leads to so much more.