Love and Olive Oil

Beyond the Kitchen: Bookworm Edition

It’s been about 10 months since my last book post. In that time I’ve probably read 25 books. Some good, some great, some downright awful. I actually felt like there were a lot more good ones in that 10 month period, but going back through my reading list, only a handful got five stars.

Maybe I’m a harsher critic than I realize.

Honestly, I’m easily entertained. I have an active imagination and it doesn’t take much to surround me in a story, which is probably why I enjoy reading so much. If a book keeps me engaged, it’s going to get at least 3 stars. If I can truly say I enjoyed the book, it’ll get 4 stars, which is probably my most common rating. I reserve my precious 5 star ratings for the books that have me reading as fast as my little eyes will allow, dying to find out what happens next. Books that make me consciously turn off the TV to read instead. Books that have you still lost in their world long after you’ve read the last page.

On the other end of the spectrum, a book has to be honestly and truly bad for me to give it 2 stars. A 1 star book would be one I couldn’t even finish. And so far, there haven’t been any of those.

Anyway, as un-scientific as my rating system may be, today I want to share my latest 5-star books. I figure every time I have about six new 5-star books to share, I’ll do another book post. Sound like a plan?

Now, get reading!

(FYI there are affiliate links in this post. Click if you want, or don’t. Just know that by doing so, you’re supporting my ravenous reading habit.)

Six Books Worth Devouring (My favorites for 2015)

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Outlander – I am IN LOVE with this series. Like, obsessed. I’m more than halfway tempted to upgrade our already-pricy cable package to get Starz, just so I can watch the TV series based on the books. The first episode was free on OnDemand, and I got excited thinking I could watch them all, but, alas, the rest are only for Starz subscribers. But anyway, we’re talking about books here, not TV. And the books I can honestly say are as engaging as a good TV show, if not more, despite their intimidating length. I’m in the middle of the 4th book currently, and am pleased as punch that there are still 4 more to go. I will admit, however, that some of the descriptions, especially of the hunky Scot named Jamie, can get a bit repetitive. Yes, yes I know his hair is the color of copper, and his wide shoulders and blue cat eyes are dreamy… uh, anyone want to go to Scotland with me? :)

First Impressions – Charlie Lovett is 2 for 2. If you recall, his first book, The Bookman’s Tale, was on my last list, and this one is as good as the last. A book for book lovers, and a must read for anyone who loves and appreciates Jane Austen. Is it bad that this made me want to go out and buy some antique books? Not that I have the space, but I feel like my life would be so much more meaningful with a few dusty old books on my shelves. Now, Charlie, when can we expect #3? :)

Persuasion – Charlie Lovett inspired me to read more Jane Austen, who I admittedly hadn’t read since college when I was forced to do so. And honestly, after the first few chapters I was ready to give up entirely, the sentence structure alone took some time to get used to (dear Jane, could it hurt you to use a period every once in a while?) Rather than my normal fast-paced skimming, I really had to take my time with this one to understand what was being said. But it got better. Way better. And that letter… well, that just about did me in. I could read that letter a dozen times and still feel the heart-fluttering anticipation of true love. And there’s no better feeling than that.

The Lost Sisterhood – I loved this book, which was recommended to me by my friend Leigh. It was good up until the half-way point, well on it’s way to 4 stars, but it suddenly became amazing somewhere in Turkey and I simply couldn’t put it down. Full of mystery, history, adventure, and romance… and some serious girl power. Strong, independent women who can also fall in love? That’s my kind of heroine.

Delicious – This novel (yes! Fiction!) from former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl is a foodie’s delight. Obviously she knows how to write about food, but she manages to write a quite delightful story as well. It’s not anything deep or insightful or the next great literary masterpiece by any means (I say that in a good way, sometimes those kind of books are simply too dense to be enjoyable), but this book was downright charming. A fun read, for sure, especially for anyone who loves food or New York City.

Night Film – This is perhaps the most unusual book of the bunch. The way it is written, piecemeal with snippets from newspapers and online articles and police reports, make you feel like you are part of the investigation, at the same time leaving you wondering what the heck is going on. While the characters aren’t necessarily likeable or relatable, there’s no denying that they are very interesting. This is not your typical mystery novel for sure and will keep you guessing until the very end.

Now, since last time I asked you guys gave me such awesome recommendations: tell me, what are your most recent 5-star reads?

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  1. Lindsay,  Your aunties have a box of antique books from our family . . So you don’t have to go out and buy them. Would you like them? Many are a collection of Mark Twain. Can’t remember what the others are. . . But all probably from the early 1900’s.
    Your Auntie B (Bettie Sue)

  2. I adore Charlie Lovett!  Definitely 2 for 2.  I highly recommend that you add Anne Fortier’s earlier novel to your list – Juliet. 

  3. I loved watching “The Outlander” on cable. Thanks for feedback on the book. I just purchased the Kindle version for only $1.99. Right now, I’m reading the series by Philippa Gregory about the English Cousin’s Wars – I highly recommend it to you!

  4. I loved Delicious. It was just so enjoyable. I just saw a post about books turning to movies in 2015 and there were a few I want to add to my list.  

  5. I love food and I love NY so Delucious is my book! I want it now, can’t wait to read it soon…if only I could find it in italian!!

  6. I love your book lists- Outlander and Persuasion are two fantastic reads. One of my other favorite authors is Kate  Morton. The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper are two of my favorites. It’s so much fun to read other people’s recommendations, too! Looking forward to your next Bookworm post!

  7. Terrific reviews, Lindsay! — and very enticing.  I’m adding two or three of these titles to my queue. Some of the best books I’ve read over the past year are “All the Light We Cannot See,”  “The Invention of Wings,”  “The Boys in the Boat,”  “The Aviator’s Wife,”   “The Book Thief,”  “The Husband’s Secret,” and a wonderful novel by a relatively unknown author, but a woman who writes exquisitely, Marly Youmans. I’ve read several of her books and poems, but I especially recommend  to you and others, “A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage.”

  8. I don’t read much fiction any more, but I’ll read anything Jane Austen any time.  I think I’ve read her major novels at least twice – some of them more.  I’m sure that a 5-star book depends on your interests.  I am currently reading Tutu: the Authorised Biography, which is a definite 5-star.  Desmond Tutu is simply one of the most amazing human beings to ever live.  The other one I just finished, which I found interesting because I live in Texas and volunteer at a state park with lots of native American history was Empire of the Summer Moon.  Not easy reading, but very good.

  9. Thank you for the recommendations- your list last year was eerily identical to my list of favourites at the same time, so I look forward to these ones! My current favourites novels are Code Name Verity and its follow-up, Rose Under Fire. They are haunting, funny, poignant and increibly well written. Saying anything more would give too much away, so please go read them!

  10. I am thrilled you loved The Lost Sisterhood! We’ll have to get together and discuss it soon. I read and loved every book here, with the exception of Delicious!, to which I gave 3 stars. I much prefer Reichl’s non-fiction. Persuasion is my favorite of Jane Austen’s work and you already know how I feel about Outlander. Did you read Marisha Pessl’s first book Special Topics in Calamity Physics? I would love to know how she comes up with her stories and can’t wait to see what she gives us next. Though hopefully it won’t be as long of a wait as it was for Night Film.

  11. Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen book! I just love Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth. It’s so much fun to see him go from seemingly despising her, to realizing he never stopped loving her. Anne’s heartbreak over seeing him again is wonderful as well! 
    My favorite recent recommendations are:
    Devil in the White City – Eric Larson
    Graveminder – Marissa Marr ( I wish this would have a sequel!)
    The Flavia de Luce series – Alan Bradley

  12. Thank you for the lovely recommendations – I’m looking out for a new book to read after I’ve finished all my ones on history of art – I’m thinking of reading wolf hall soon too!

  13. It’s interesting that you’re 2-star rating means the book was bad. I go by GoodReads’ rating – there a 2 means it was just an okay book!

    Personally, I adored First Impressions. I’m wondering if it was because I have NEVER read any Austen. Another blogger read it and she couldn’t finish (she’s a big JA fan). Who knows, though I have a weakness for biographical fiction, so!

    I’m delighted that you enjoyed The Lost Sisterhood! It’s been on my To Read list for a while and I haven’t seen much buzz for it.

    My last few 5-star reads: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen. I first read this one last year and last week reread it. Still just as lovely! Think Little House on the Prairie with a modern spin: a woman discovers a family heirloom might have belonged to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
    Revival by Stephen King. I’m a little late to the game with this one – it came out in November. This was my first read of 2015 and I devoured all 400+ pages in a single sitting it was THAT engrossing. There’s a reason King is still at the top of bestsellers lists after all these years.
    In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen. Okay, so this was more of a 4/4.5 but still incredibly lovely and another one sitting read. This book follows a group of teens from across the country into adulthood and I completely believed that their lives could all cross paths. While the stories weren’t similar at all, I kept thinking back to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life while reading this one: it was a novel built upon layers and I loved it.
    Lost & Found by Brooke Davis. Yet another one sitting read. This novel was actually written as her PhD thesis on grief. So, yes, not a happy-go-lucky story full of rainbows and puppies, but one that hit me hard. I read an early copy just before Christmas and these characters are still at the forefront of my thoughts.
    Finally, a novel that doesn’t come out for a few more weeks: The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki. Biographical fiction? Pataki has it in spades. Her debut came out last year (The Traitor’s Wife) and follows Peggy Shippen, the wife of Benedict Arnold. This new novel takes place in the Hapsburg court and is incredible!

  14. These are some of my favorites:

    All the Light we cannot see
    The Art Forger
    The Rembrandt Affair
    Defending Jacob
    The Book Thief
    The Goldfinch
    Falling Together
    Paris Architect
    The Abomination

    So many great books to read!

  15. Ooo book! My second love after food. I have a number of 5 star books: 
    – A Thousand Splendid Suns
    – Loving Frank (one of the best books ever, in my opinion!)
    – The Goldfinch
    – Code Name Verity
    – Where’d You Go, Bernadette 
    – The Alchemist

    I could go on and on!

  16. I recently got into Outlander, too! I just finished book 3, although I have been listening to the audio books. If you like audiobooks, the narrator is amazing! I watched the first 6 episodes of the Starz show when we were visiting family (episode 7 is the wedding episode and I totally need to get Starz so I can watch it and the rest!). I am about to start book 4 and can’t wait! This isn’t a book, but the Serial podcast is really fascinating (clearly I enjoy listening to my stories ;-)

  17. I LOVE the cover on that edition of Persuasion! Great novel. 

    • I KNOW. I read a library copy but I’m tempted to buy my own despite my total lack of shelf space. I totally judge books by their covers… heh.

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