What I've been reading

Almost a year ago (although it was only a few posts ago because I'm so good at this blogging thing) I shared a stack of books I had to read.

I had managed to get out of the habit of reading and missed it, so I bought a few books that looked fun and pulled the ones off my shelf I hadn't read yet for inspiration.

The good news: I've read plenty.

The bad news: I haven't made that much progress on my stack of books.

See, I have a Kindle Fire and discovered the Overdrive app. It let's me check out books from my public library without ever leaving my house (or couch).

And I've taken advantage of it.

I think I speak for all of us when I say none of us have time for me to go through every single book I picked up in the past year. But I did want to highlight some of my favorites.

Take a look at my picks and let me know if you think I've left any must-read books out. I'm always looking for a good book to add to my never-ending list.

The Glassblower

Synopsis: In the village of Lauscha in Germany, things have been done the same way for centuries. The men blow the glass and the women decorate and pack it. But when Joost Steinmann passes away unexpectedly, his three daughters must learn to fend for themselves. While feisty Johanna takes a practical approach to looking for work, Ruth follows her heart, aiming to catch the eye of a handsome young villager. But it is dreamy, quiet Marie who has always been the most captivated by the magic of the craft of glassblowing. As the spirited sisters work together to forge a brighter future for themselves, they learn not only how to thrive in a man’s world, but how to remain true to themselves in the process.

What I thought: My immediate reaction to this book was "you go girls." I'm all for strong female characters -- a theme you'll see in a few of these books. And I was really drawn into the world of this village and into the art of glassblowing. This book is actually part of a trilogy, but so far I've only read this one.

The Paper Magician

Synopsis: Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.

Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic. An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.

What I thought: I got this book as part of the Kindle First program, which allows you to "buy" one new book at month for free. If you have a Kindle and haven't signed up -- you should.

As for the book, I really enjoyed the two main characters. Ceony and Thane were how I imagine magicians, quirky and a little bit off-beat. Plus it was fun to see their connection develop. The book kept me totally engaged to the end. And I ended up pre-ordering the second book in the series (because what young adult novels come as stand alones anymore). The second book was okay, but this first one is the real star.

The Night Circus

Synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des R√™ves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

What I thought: I ended up loving this book, though it took me a little bit to get into to. The world within the pages was truly magical and there was a sweetness to the story that was unexpected, but that really drew me in. Now if only this circus were real and I could visit it.

Me Before You

Synopsis: Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Me Before You is a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

What I thought: This book got me in the heart. This is probably the only one I'm sharing here that's likely to make you cry. But it was also so good, even with all the feelings. I liked Louisa and what she brought out in Will, and I liked that this book didn't shy away with the nitty gritty of a tough, real life situation.

Where'd You Go Bernadette

Synopsis: Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence.

What I thought: The humor in this book was right up my alley. I liked the uniqueness of the characters and the relationship between Bee and Bernadette. Plus, it's pretty fun to read a book set where you live.

The Boys in the Boat

Synopsis: It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

What I thought: Hands down my favorite book of the year. I'm actually to own in paperback. It was so well written. The story was so engaging. I'm a bit of a WWII fiction junkie, love the Olympics, and it was about the major university here in Seattle. So I guess I had every reason to love it. I do think that even if you're not a sports fan, this is a story that is really enjoyable.