Sunday, January 18, 2015

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - January 2015 Edition

I can't believe I'm posting on the weekend again.  This isn't something I often do, but in today's case, I wanted to make sure I was able to get something posted in time to participate in this link-up.

I'm not going to discuss what I read in December because, well, I didn't read anything.  (Side note: When Eric saw what I was writing about, he said, "You should write 'Today I'm going to discuss what I read in December,' and then just leave the rest of the post blank.  Wouldn't that be funny?  That would be funny.")  While that probably would be funny, I'm going to share my thoughts on the two books I've read so far this month instead.


The End of Everything by Megan Abbott - 246 pages

Completed on 01/05/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

I'll start by saying that, as with many things I read, this book is definitely not for everyone.  The subject matter is dark (a 13-year-old girl is abducted in broad daylight by a much older man, leaving her best friend to try to piece together what happened and why), and, though beautifully written, it's a disturbing work of fiction.  This is precisely why I loved this book so much (though it's also why it has so many mixed reviews on sites like Goodreads).

When I started reading The End of Everything, I was immediately hooked.  Much of the imagery is dreamy and disjointed (if you've ever seen The Virgin Suicides you'll know exactly what I mean) because the narrator, Lizzie, recounts the events from her point of view.  And, like many 13-year-old girls, she's a dreamer who completely romanticizes the situation and relishes in the newfound attention she receives as the best friend of the missing girl.

Although much was revealed, the ending was still a bit ambiguous and at least one assumption I made proved incorrect (well, according to one of the characters who may or may not have been telling the truth).  I know these kinds of things can sometimes make or break a book for people, but I'm one of those weirdos who actually appreciates a bit of ambiguity in a novel ... I like to draw my own conclusions.

I really wanted to start the year with a great book that would reignite my passion for reading, and The End of Everything definitely did that for me.  It was everything I'd hoped it would be, and, as an added bonus, it also gave me some much needed inspiration for a creative writing project I started a couple of years ago.  I set it aside because I wasn't really sure what (if anything) I wanted to do with it, but now I'm starting to get some ideas.


The Dinner by Herman Koch - 292 pages

Completed on 01/14/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

I usually try to go into books like this with as little knowledge about the plot as possible.  While The Dinner isn't a mystery, it's the kind of novel that starts slow and builds to some shocking revelations ... The kind of novel where, once you're deep into the story, everything you thought you knew about the characters is completely flipped.

I didn't really know what to expect going into this book, and I'm really glad I approached it this way.  The inside flap states that the two couples meeting for dinner each have a 15-year-old son and that "the two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act."  As someone who reads a lot of "shocking" and "disturbing" books, I didn't expect to have the reaction I did when the author describes that act.  It was much, much darker than I expected, and it definitely made the book much more interesting.

That being said, parts of the novel were kind of slow.  I appreciated the descriptions and the fact that the author took his time revealing information about the narrator and his family, but there were a few times in the beginning of the book when I thought, "Oh my God, is this book ever going to get more interesting?"  I think the payoff was worth the wait, though.

This is another novel with a somewhat ambiguous ending.  As with The End of Everything, some things were disclosed while readers were left to draw their own conclusions about others.  A friend of mine from work read this book last year and told me that she really didn't like the ending, but I did.  It won't leave you warm and fuzzy, but it will make you think and question the way you would handle things if you were involved in this type of situation.

I really enjoyed both of these novels, and I'm really proud of myself for staying on track with my reading goals this year.  (I know it's only mid-January, but I can still be excited since I was in such a reading rut last year.)  I've almost finished my third book of 2015 as well, so if I continue reading at this pace, I should have several to write about when this link-up rolls around again next month!

Life According to Steph


  1. I am trying to read 100 books this year which might be a little insane but I am up for the challenge. Thanks for the two book recommendations! I just read Nine Minutes by Beth Flynn. It is about a girl who was abducted by a motorcycle gang. It was amazing and Im excited to read the end of everything because I liked Nine Minutes so much!

  2. Both books sound like something I'd like. I'm okay with a bit of ambiguity in a book too, and I think people tend to hate that a lot.

    Thanks for linking up!

    I also think the idea for what I read in December with the blank post is hilarious!

  3. I really like this link-up a lot. I love reading, but last year I just wasn't that motivated to read much. This year I'm hoping to (finally!) hit my 50 book goal, and I think participating in something like this will definitely help. I also think it's nice because I can check out what other people are reading to see if anything looks good. I've already added a few books to my ever growing "To Read" list. At least I know I won't be running out of interesting books to read any time soon!

  4. I think 100 books sounds insane (for me, at least!), but also pretty awesome. I can't even imagine reading that many, though that's mostly because I've tried to read 50 books pretty much every year for the last 10 years and failed miserably every time. I'm really hoping this year is different!

    I'll have to check out "Nine Minutes." I've never heard of the book or the author, but I'm always open to recommendations! Thanks! :-)

  5. […] more like 50% complete.  I shared my thoughts on The End of Everything and The Dinner in this post, and also managed to finish part 2 of this goal by sharing my post in the Show Us Your Books! […]