My winter break was a blessed six weeks long, and I took that time to really focus on myself and my personal growth. One of the ways that I did this was by reading every day, even if it was just a small passage. I ended up reading eight books in total. Here's what I have to say about them.
1. "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" — Heather Morris
Summary: "The Tattooist of Auschwitz" tells the story of Lale, a young Jewish man imprisoned in Birkenau during the Holocaust who becomes a tattooist for the camp and falls in love with Gita, a woman whose serial number he tattooed.
Review: I genuinely loved this book and flew through it. It was painful to read at times and will break your heart, but will remind you of the good in people and, not to be cheesy, but the power of love.
2. "Anxious People" — Fredrik Backman
Summary: A bank robbery gone awry turns into a hostage situation at an apartment open house across the street. The story follows each person before, during, and after the hostage situation, including the two detectives investigating the event. This is a truly hilarious story that draws attention to one simple truth: we are all, truly, idiots.
Overall rating: 12/10
Review: I read this entire book in one day; I could not put it down. I felt so completely attached to each character and couldn't wait to learn more about each person and the developing plot. It is easily one of my favorite fiction books of all time.
3. "The Orphan House" — Ann Bennett
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary: "The Orphan House" follows three characters. There is Sarah, who has just left her sneaky husband and decides to purchase the orphan house where her father was adopted from, hoping to learn more about his birth mother. There is also Connie, the daughter of the man who owned the orphan house who is trying to come to terms with the secrets of her father's life. Finally, there is Anna, who exists almost entirely just in her own diary, which she gave to Connie decades before. Throughout the book, these three women become growingly intertwined.
Overall rating: 10/10
Review: I loved this book. The character development was so impactful and inspiring. Following three different characters made the story that much more exciting as more information was slowly revealed to the reader before the other characters, making you feel as if you are a part of the story, too.
4. "Cobble Hill" — Cecily von Ziegesar
Summary: This story follows several eclectic families that all live in the quaint New York City neighborhood, Cobble Hill. Each family has its own set of drama and problems, whether it be secret jobs, scandalous crushes, wives that disappear on the regular, and more. However, it brings to light the idea that no matter how different we all may seem from one another, we really aren't that different after all.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Review: It wasn't my favorite book ever just because it wasn't super substantial. Ultimately I just felt like I was just reading about random people in a neighborhood who just so happen to be enough of a mess that while it's realistic, it's funny. It was still entertaining, just a little too fluffy for myself.
5. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" — Mark Haddon
Summary: This story is narrated by Christopher, who is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. Upon finding his neighbor's dog murdered, he begins to investigate who might have done it, an investigation that is very regularly hindered. Despite these setbacks, he begins to write a mystery novel for school that follows his investigation.
Overall Rating: 9/10
Review: The back cover of this book is a little misleading. It is made out to be a crime novel or murder mystery, but in fact, is much more based on Christopher as an individual and his story. I still really enjoyed it and found it to be rather eye-opening, but it was certainly not what I had initially anticipated.
6. "A Man Called Ove" — Fredrik Backman
Summary: Ove is a curmudgeon older man whose incredibly orderly life is interrupted by his neighbors. The story follows Ove's present routing while offering insight into his past. His relationships with his different neighbors are complicated but develop throughout the story, reminding us that everyone has a different backstory and that maybe all the grumps we know aren't so bad after all.
Overall Rating: 10/10
Review: Fredrik Backman is truly amazing. This book was incredibly heartwarming and a pleasure to read. I was thrilled to find out shortly after finishing it that they are making it a movie and I truly cannot wait as the whole time I was reading it I couldn't stop thinking about how great a movie it would make.
7. "Talking to Strangers" — Malcolm Gladwell
Summary: Gladwell explores why humans are so terrible at reading strangers. He uses real-world examples such as the Penn State Jerry Sandusky scandal, Sylvia Plath's suicide, Amanda Knox's trial, and more to help us better understand why we are simply awful at understanding the people we do not know.
Overall Rating: 600/10 (is that allowed?)
Review: Love does not even begin to describe how I feel about this book. I am not typically one for non-fiction, but I could not get enough of this book. I could not wait to learn more, a feeling I am admittedly not overly familiar with. Gladwell writes as if he's having a conversation with you, and I honestly wish he wrote every textbook I have ever had to read. I cannot recommend this read enough.
8. "A Slow Fire Burning" — Paula Hawkins
Summary: A young man is stabbed to death in a houseboat he was temporarily staying in. There are three women tied to him: his one-night stand from the night before he was found, his nosy neighbor who found him, and his aunt already mourning the recent passing of her sister and her son, who passed away about fifteen years before. The story follows each woman's life story, while not failing to add in an eccentric mix of other characters as well.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Review: I ended with a mystery book to mix things up a bit. It was ultimately a very interesting story, but it also felt like just another murder mystery where the murderer was revealed a bit too soon for my liking. With that being said, I was still entirely enthralled by the character and plot development, and would still recommend it to a friend!