Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books I Enjoyed

2000 rating

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is interesting, because it’s all about the books that don’t get enough love. Out of all the novels that I’ve kept track of reading on the ultimate literary social platform Goodreads, I’m supposed to choose my top ten with fewer than 2,000 ratings.

Unfortunately, it seems that my favorite books are also everyone else’s, so finding these diamonds in the rough was more difficult than I expected (hence why I’ve reduced my top ten to my top five!).

That said, there is a lot of diversity in this list, from junkie thriller to geeky romance. There’s historical fiction, a modern retelling of a classic novel, and even a two-sided love story. So pick the book less traveled and enjoy!

Bait by J. Kent Messum
590 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.4 stars
My rating: 3 stars

The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
1,467 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.68 stars
My rating: 3 stars

Gilded Age by Claire McMillan
730 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.08 stars
My rating: 3 stars

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss
823 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.3 stars
My rating: 4 stars

Talk Nerdy to Me by Vicki Lewis Thompson
1,454 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.78 stars
My rating: 4 stars

Book Review: The Engagements

Image via Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

I was intrigued by J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements after reading that it was awarded one of People Magazine’s top ten books of the year, so I was excited to win a copy from a Goodreads contest. After finishing the novel, I’ll say that even if I had to purchase it, it would be well worth the cost.

Whether you’re recently engaged, been married for decades, or have no desire to ever head to the altar, you will enjoy this book. The Engagements is a well-researched look into the engagement ring industry and all the economic, social, and political change it incited. It appeals to people from all walks of life as it narrates the stories of five individuals throughout history, from the 1940s to today.

It begins with Frances Gerety, the real-life ad woman who coined “A Diamond is Forever” in 1947 for De Beers while working for the agency N.W. Ayer. As an unmarried woman in her thirties, she was already branded as a spinster when in fact she simply enjoyed the single life. Even though her slogan became the best advertising has ever seen, it was fascinating to peer into her struggles as a woman in a man’s world.

The timeline jumps forward to a retired teacher during the 1970s named Evelyn, who is distraught by her adult son’s divorce and subsequent relationship with the other woman. Then in the 1980s, we meet James, a paramedic who is consumed by guilt over failing to financially provide for his family. In 2003, a Parisian woman named Delphine leaves her husband for a much younger American violinist, only to utterly trash his apartment after catching him cheating. Finally, in 2012, Kate is a cohabitating parent who must plan for her cousin’s gay wedding even though she abhors the institution of marriage.

I must warn that not all these characters are likeable; they each have their own personality flaws and instead represent a vast swath of perspectives. Readers who are more socially conservative will disapprove of Delphine’s adultery and the inclusion of a homosexual couple. Even though I can relate to Kate’s concern about blood diamonds, her character as a tightly wound Debbie Downer can be tiring, especially when spouting off her granola style of parenting.

That being said, I appreciated how Sullivan approaches marriage from many angles without sugarcoating any of them. I also enjoyed diving into each story within this story, because where else can you learn about engagement rings, ambulance driving, classical music, copywriting, and post-9/11 discrimination all at once?

Big thanks to Goodreads and Vintage Books for awarding me this copy. I highly recommend The Engagements and will be suggesting it to all my friends about to tie the knot!

This just in! I won my first book!

Image via Goodreads

Hi everyone!

I just had to share my excitement with you: I entered my very first contest on Goodreads recently, and out of over 1,300 participants, I was one of 25 winners! Woooo!!!

The giveaway held by Vintage and Anchor Books was for The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan. Although I’ve heard great things about her previous novel Commencement, I’m not yet familiar with Sullivan’s writing.

However, this novel had an excellent PR campaign, as I read stellar reviews in many publications, like People, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan.

You can read further details of the giveaway here, but below is the Goodreads summary of the book:

The bestselling author of Maine returns with an exhilarating novel about Frances Gerety, the real pioneering ad woman who coined the famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” and four unique marriages that will test how true—or not—those words might be.

Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years, but their son’s messy divorce has put them at rare odds; James, a beleaguered paramedic, has spent most of his marriage haunted by his wife’s family’s expectations; Delphine has thrown caution to the wind and left a peaceful French life for an exciting but rocky romance in America; and Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own. As the stories connect to each other and to Frances’s legacy in surprising ways, The Engagements explores the complicated ins and outs of relationships, then, now, and forever.

Although it was first published June 2013, Vintage released the paperback version on May 20. I’m excited to read something by an author who’s new to me, and I’m intrigued by this plot. As I’m approaching my quarter-century mark, it seems that engagements are popping up on my social media feeds left and right. Hopefully, this book will encompass the good, bad, and ugly of partnering up–and lives up to all the hype!

Anyone read this novel yet or one of Sullivan’s others? Let me know, since I’ll be waiting with anticipation for it to arrive in 4-6 weeks!

Abandonment: A Book Lover’s Worst Crime?

“I am embarrassed for all of us”…Love!

Yesterday I came across an interesting infographic on the Goodreads blog, titled “The Psychology of Abandonment.” It discussed which books are the most abandoned by readers, and the reasons why.

Here were the top five abandoned modern novels:

  1. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  4. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Watching these fifty shades of grey dry would be more exciting than reading that drivel!

And here were the top five abandoned classics:

  1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. Ulysses by James Joyce
  4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Even Atlas got tired after a while!

The most common reasons for ditching a book were if it was slow, boring, or poorly written/edited. More righteous readers also abandoned stories if they were “inappropriate” or “immoral.” Granted, these labels are all subjective, and it would take a closer look to determine how people defined them.

However, most Goodreads users are determined to see a story to its rightful end. Over 38% of them always finish books, no matter what. These people cited some sort of compulsive commitment and dogged determination to continue turning pages.

As for me, I can understand these top picks. Many people jump on a bandwagon regardless of whether it’s a good fit for them; I’m not a fan of violent thrillers, so I didn’t even bother with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Now this? This I would read!

The other choices were also understandable: A great number of readers were disappointed with Rowling’s first attempt to leave the Harry Potter series behind, and honestly Fifty Shades is so horribly written, I’m surprised by its massive popularity.

The classics I believe, however, were more debatable. Familiar with Melville’s work, I’ve already mentioned that I’d never go near the dull-fest that is Moby Dick. I also haven’t heard great things about Joyce and Rand. Even Catch-22, although I enjoyed it for the most part, wasn’t riveting enough to motivate me to finish it in less than a month.

BUT! The Lord of the Rings?!  I admit that the prose is extremely historical and thus dry at times, but oh my goodness is it such a fantastic story! I have a feeling that the more you enjoy bubblegum bandwagon picks like Fifty Shades, the less you’d like LOTR. And you know what? I’m okay with that. More merit-worthy literature for me!

I’m also one of those readers who rarely abandons a book. Even if they’re horrendous (I’m looking at you, Pop Kids), I’m motivated enough by my self-imposed reading quota to complete them.

Surprisingly, the only one that comes to mind is Pride and Prejudice, which surely would get me murdered by most book lovers. Perhaps one day I’ll return to it with a better state of mind, but for now, I gave it 50 pages to wow me, and it failed.

So what books have you ditched? What were your reasons for abandoning them? Any that you plan on giving a second chance in the future?