#50booksin2014: The First Five

I spent the better part of my high school & college years reading novels for tests or essays, but rarely for pleasure. I missed out on so many good books and decided that my post-grad life would be full of reading books of my choosing. While on the Race last year I did a bit of that, but not enough. This year I’ve decided to read 50 books before ringing in the 2015 year with a bang. I’ll post my personal reviews after every five I’ve completed.



Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


I read this while lying sickly on the couch from a stomach virus in January and finished it in less than 10 hours. Incredible. I guess everyone knows what happened now, but I’ll refrain from spoiling too much. After they figure out what they’re going to do and start doing it, the tension and anticipation were intoxicating. The incident on the steps of the capitol had me in full-on tears. I couldn’t handle it. And the ending left me feeling…empty and broken inside. There was no bow, really, which is alright. If I’d wanted a pretty ending I’d have read a campy romance novel. Katniss’s mom made me the MOST sad – throwing her life into her work because there was nothing else. That eternal divide between them because of everything that happened was heartbreaking. During the first two books I was upset that Katniss eventually ended up with Peeta. After finishing Mockingjay, I’m not upset.



The Sense of an Ending by Juian Barnes

I picked this up at B&N because it seemed interesting, though I’d never heard of Julian Barnes. It was a darker novel about life – endings and beginnings and how we “remember” through the lens of whatever emotion was rendered by the experience, which in and of itself is an interesting concept. I wasn’t thrilled with it and I’m not sure I’d recommend it to many people, but I enjoyed it for the most part.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet by Jamie Ford


This was recommended to me while on the Race last year. What a beautiful, but heart-wrenching story! I don’t know of many novels written around the terrors associated with the World Wars from within our country unless they deal with a woman whose love goes off to war and doesn’t return or returns with serious issues. The latter is obviously something that made an impact on the whole of our society, but I love that Ford addresses issues faced by immigrants within the US during those trying times as well. These cultures were irreversibly altered by the prejudices and “protection” they faced within the confines of this free society we hold so dear.



Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


I’m not sure if you noticed, but the cover quote on #3 is from the author of this novel. Upon seeing that, I obviously had to finally get around to reading this and what a read it was! I found this particular copy at Goodwill,w which has become my #1 stop for cheap books. If I can’t find it there, I go to a local used book store and then on to B&N if that fails. Water for Elephants is different. It defied all expectations I had and supports the “don’t judge a book by its cover” mentality, which I often fall privy to when choosing a new read. I haven’t seen the movie, but the book holds true to the “oh  my gosh, that movie was so sad!” comments I keep hearing. It was both sad and incredibly intriguing all at once. When it ended, I wanted an elephant.


Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden



My coworker was reading this lovely little read for a class. We discussed parts of it and I borrowed it when she finished. Harden walks you through the story of a young man who escaped from a North Korean political prison camp. Some of the events recorded are positively unthinkable. It’s shocking to me that we were in such an uproar over the Holocaust (and still are) and genocides in Rwanda and elsewhere, but when a country is blatantly starving its citizens and imprisoning them with extensive brainwashing that results in maniacal disloyalty to family members and self, we do nothing. I know there are things about the way many seemingly moral countries go about doing things that defy morals and ethics, so perhaps I’m preaching to the choir, but that doesn’t make any of it acceptable. Needless to say, this was eye opening and thought provoking read.