I'm going to violate the group's purpose here (Sorry! Feel free to delete this if you wish, Angel & Mel!).
I need some book recs, but my criteria is so specific, I really only wanted y'all's opinions on this. All my favorite books of the last 10 years come from recommendations from y'all, particularly from anniepoo98, angela_o, janajoh, cookie2697, muffinkath7, lauren, emluv, tiemeinbows, alliebean02, mockingbird39... well, crap. I think I just linked to everyone in this group. But seriously, I could use your input.
Because of how much time I'm spending in hospitals lately, I really want to stick to books that are available as e-books, because I have this huge fear of losing a library book at one of these giant hospitals or while out-of-state seeing the specialist.
I've ended up being given so many Regency-era books that I'd like to avoid anything to do with Jane Austen. I still haven't finished reading all of those, and I'm just tired of the era and similar plots.
Marisa de los Santos' books, Belong to Me and Love Walked In are excellent examples of what I'm looking for. I've also loved the Elizabeth Peters books y'all introduced me to. Same goes for Laurie R. King's series about Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes.
I need books that are fairly light, easy reading. I get interrupted a lot, so it can't be anything too complicated. And life is gloomy enough at the moment, so nothing depressing.
Should any of y'all have a moment to share some recommendations with me, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thank you!
I'm going to violate the group's purpose here (Sorry! Feel free to delete this if you wish, Angel & Mel!).
Here's what I've finished so far in 2013:
1 The War of the Worlds y H.G. Wells (via Librivox.org)
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I did considering that of course I knew going in how the aliens were defeated. What impressed me, though, was firstly how Wells handled the things he couldn't explain scientifically (even though it was largely just saying "we still can't account for how...") and also how much science there was involved in explaining things (how the best they could do to identify a certain element was to say it had three lines on the blue scale, and things like that). What was really interesting was reading this alongsid Bleak House y Chales Dickens, and realizing that the two are set only some fifty years apart from each other. That and realizing just how new so many of these concepts were when Wells was writing this. I was impressed by how he makes it so clear that the story is not really about the character, because the character is never given a name, but this doesn't really bother the reader at all.
2 As They Slip Away by Beth Revis
This is a little free online novella that Beth Revis wrote as a promo for he Across the Universe eries, which just had its last book's premiere. I've only read the first novel, which I mostly enjoyed, and as this one takes place within it, with one of the smaller characters, I thought I'd give it a read-through. By chance, I read it directly after reading through this post by Maggie Stiefvater about literary rape—rape in fictional books, not where it is handled as a point of conversation, like in Speak, but where it is used as a background hype to crank up the tension and force emotion. This novella did exactly everything that Stiefvater was upset about, and to my taste, did one much worse—had the character who was raped choose to disappear and not feel anymore, in this case by literally taking medication to dampen everything about herself that made he her. It was the exact thing that sickened me about the movi Suckerpunch, fictional women whose entire storyline is about being physically and psychologically violated, and then (in the case of the movie, and medicinally in the book) choosing to lobotomize themselves into not caring. As if that is the only power they have left. This left a sour taste in my mouth and makes me reconsider reading the rest of the series.
3 Beyonders: A World Without Heroesby Brandon Mull
This is the first book Mull tried to sell—in other words, the book that he was given the "no, but send us something else" message for from his first publisher which resulted in Fablehaven. Jason Walker, fifteen is accidentally sent (by means of falling into a hippo's mouth) into a different world, and immediately seals his own fate towards going on a quest to destroy the tyrant overlord. Unfortunately, the first half truly reads like something that has been redrafted so many times that it has lost almost all of its spark. While cool ideas abounded, it was terribly difficult to connect to either of the main characters, and largely felt like a series of events and meetings. It was hard to root for Jason, because he was really only doing this quest because he had it on good authority that he'd be killed if he didn't keep going—it was hard to feel like he cared about his mission. The ending was beginning to have some of the magic that Fablehaven did (and that series I will recommend again and again, from beginning to end) and hopefully the second novel will carry that on.
4 Mockingjayby Suzanne Collins
This also took a very long time to read. Vince and I have actually been reading it together—me reading it aloud to him, a chapter at a time. And it was hard to pick up most of the time. We finally finished it this morning, and I'm still sorting out my feelings from it. They are not really satisfied, but it would be hard to feel fully satisfied with any ending from a world gone so terribly wrong as Panem. I can see why so many people are disappointed. I want to say that Collins could have been a tiny bit more merciful, at least on the subject of Prim, but now I'm not so sure. I'm not sure that she could have ended it any other way. I do think for a main character perhaps Katniss spends a bit too much time taking morphling and wallowing, but I also think she's probably the most shell-shocked fictional main character I've ever read about, and there would have been another injustice done if Collins had made it seem like the terrible things Katniss was exposed to and was forced to do didn't have some kind of horribly damaging effect on her psychosis. I can't even say that I was disappointed that she didn't have more involvement with the rebuilding of the government, because at that point I do feel like letting her live out her life in peace should be enough. The only thing I could have asked for is some emphasis on human kindness. The good acts of small people, things like that. That was severely lacking throughout the series, except perhaps for in the first book. Those were the scenes that always had me in tears at the end of Harry Potter, you know? In the end, I think it will be that oversight that stops this from being a true classic. A word on style, though: Collins' pacing is impeccable.
#36 - Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King
A historical true crime book about a horrid discovery in occupied Paris. Very interesting juxtaposition between the horror of Dr. Petiot's crimes and the Nazi Holocaust crimes happening at the same time.
#37 - Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
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A really great entry in the new canon of Jane. A woman approaching 40 decides to date according to the great Jane's rules (in her mind). Very well-written, with an extremely likeable protagonist.
#30 - Midnight in Peking by Paul French
A non-fiction story set in Peking during the last days before Japan invaded and World War II started. A young British woman is murdered. French follows the police investigation (conducted by a team made up of a Chinese detective and British DI). While what happened to the young woman is pretty much solved, there were a few twists and turns, particularly involving a cover-up that I didn't see coming. An addictive story, but very, very sad.
#31 - Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan
Corrigan is the book reviewer for NPR's "Fresh Air." She's got a great voice in her writing, but this is a very odd book. Not really a memoir (although she does tell stories about her life with books and in general), not really literary review or criticism...Not sure how to classify it. But I'm glad I read it.
#32 - Life Sentences by Laura Lippman
A writer returns to her hometown to uncover secrets dating back to her childhood. It was very well written, as all by Lippman are, and I read it quickly, but I am having a hard time remembering much of the plot. Bad sign or quintessential dock read?
#33 - Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
I've always enjoyed Flynn's writing in EW, so when I saw the great review of her latest (below), I decided to catch up on her back list while I waited for it at the library. I listened to this one on CD. It may be part of the reason I mostly loathed it (but I did finish it). The reader was annoying, annoying, annoying. That being said, the novel was also annoying (and gross...and creepy). The protagonist was extremely unlikeable (apparently Flynn specializes in horrible people, if the one I talk about below is any indication), and, yet, I did want to finish it. While Camille, the nominal "heroine," is awful, everyone around her is worse (with the possible exception of one detective and her boss). This was very atmospheric of a certain type of town in the mid-west/South (do these places really exist). Very descriptive (almost TOO descriptive - one of those books where everything is a simile or metaphor with something else - ugh). And, yet, I listened to the whole thing. So something must have caught my attention. I guess I just wanted to know who the murderer was. That being said, if you're planning to read Flynn, just go right ahead with Gone Girl. This one is very clearly a first book. She has grown a lot as a writer.
#34 - Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
Giffin's latest. I really do enjoy her writing. She is probably my favorite American chic lit author. This one was merely okay. Very well written, great characters, but nothing special. The plotline was a bit cliche. That being said, I did appreciate the brief guest appearance of characters from Baby Proof, my all-time fave by Giffin. I can't remember if the main character here, Marian, was in that one. I think it might be time for a re-read! I'm betting I'd find that book really annoying now, actually, but it was exactly what I needed when I read it. It would be interesting to go back and see.
#35 - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Far, far superior to Sharp Objects. The annoying similes and metaphors are mostly gone. The two main characters are extremely unlikeable (as I'm sure you've read in the reviews), but this time I think they're supposed to be, which was unclear in Sharp Objects. It wasn't as fabulous as I was led to believe by the reviews and a friend, but although I thought I had figured out the twist, I had not, and there was one final shocker at the end that did really get me. : ) Flynn lays out everything so neatly. So many tiny details that you don't even really notice at the time, but add up to so much in the end. I do recommend this one, highly. Just don't expect it to change your life (I mean, do any of the books that top bestseller lists do this anyway? The books that have changed my life are ones that hardly anyone has ever heard of mostly (well except Anne of Green Gables of course).
Berry's latest Cotton Malone adventure, and an accompanying short story that tells us a bit about one of Cotton's enemies in the novel. This one was a bit different, being that it was set in the U.S. I enjoyed it more than I have the last couple.
#25 - The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan
A novel about four roommates from Harvard who meet up at their 20th Reunion. The Red Book refers to the alumnae journal that alum contribute updates to every five years. Neat idea. It was well written and the characters were likeable. I am, however, scared that people attending their twenty year college reunion are closer to my age than not. Ack!
#26 - High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed by Michael Kodas
These people continue to be nuts. And, yet, I continue to love reading about them. Mostly covers the year 2004 and 2006, the latter being when the most climbers died in one year since the "Into Thin Air" disaster in 1996 ("Into Thin Air" continues to be one of my favorite books of all time). This was very well written. If you enjoy reading about Everest, this is recommended.
#27 - The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson
I really enjoy Koomson's literary Brit chic lit. This was well written and the characters were well defined. I read it quickly, which is a good sign, too. : )
#28 - A Brief History of Cults by Peter Haining
Each chapter was about a different cult dating back to the 60's. Interesting read.
#20 - Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
A sequel to Austenland and another in the new canon that is selling books based on Jane Austen's name (love them in spite of that!). I liked this one better than the first one, I think, but I can't really remember the first one, so there's that...
#21 - Trekking the Globe with (Mostly) Gentle Footsteps by Irene Butler
A travel memoir by the wife of a couple who traveled to twelve countries after they retired. It wasn't the best written book in the world, but it was an inspiring read. I would love to travel to twelve countries TOMORROW. I read a lot of these memoirs. I think I could write something like this, especially knowing that I am a far better writer than this woman.
#22 - Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Hay
A recent Canadian novel. It takes place in two times - the story of something that happened in a school in the 1930's and the consequences that carry through to the present day. There were a couple of red herring story lines about another death in the same small town and how it seemed to turn the town against each other, although it didn't really get resolved which was annoying. Well written though. I'd read more by this author.
#23 - Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
A perfect beach/dock read. I listened to another novel by her a few months ago, which I thought was merely okay. I really liked this one though. It was the story of three girlfriends who rent a summer cabin together in Nag's Head (liked the different setting of the south, rather than the usual Hampstons for this type of story), all at turning points in their lives. It was really well-written too.
#24 - Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The first book in Oprah's 2.0 book club. I read an interview with her in last month's "O" too. It's a memoir about her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I really enjoyed it, although I did think she was a bit self-indulgent (I don't know how I would have behaved if I'd lost my mom at 23, but I'm pretty sure it would have been better than this). That being said, I appreciated her absolute honesty about where she screwed up in her life after her mother died. I am always intrigued by people who take on huge challenges in an attempt to change their lives. I know that I am not one of those people - I am very even-tempered and can't imagine going to the extremes that Strayed does. That being said, she is an excellent writer and I ended up admiring her.
#17 - The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy by Bill Carter - An excellent read, in the "Vanity Fair" style. I think I even read a chapter of this as an article in "Vanity Fair." Anyway, the title is self-explanatory. A quick and interesting read. I came out of it feeling a bit sorrier for Leno and a bit more that Conan is a bit of a douche. That being said, it was even-handed and not at all promoting one side or the other.
#18 - Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close - Listened to this on CD. It basically follows a group of college girlfriends as they make their way through their twenties and "grow up" into jobs, marriage and children. It had a bit of a through-line, but was mostly stand alone short stories about various challenges (i.e the friend who marries the guy you all hate; dating a weirdo; one of your friends becomes a bridezilla). Loved it. It hit the nail on the head about this period in your life perfectly.
#19 - The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan - This one has gotten a lot of press since it's release a couple of months ago. It was well written and well plotted. Fairly existential - asks a big question - "how far would you go to survive?" I didn't really feel like there was an answer, which is, of course, what makes it existential. ; ) I would recommend this mainly for how well written it is.
#11 - Starmaker: Life as a Hollywood Publicist with Farrah, The Rat Pack and 600 More Stars Who Fired Me by Jay Bernstein - A very enjoyable Hollywood memoir. I didn't read it straight through. Started about 1/3 in with Farrah and Suzanne Somers, then went back to the beginning to read about Frank and the Rat Pack. I was glad he didn't bore me with stories about his childhood. He started at the place we were reading the book for - Hollywood.
#12 - I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman - Another one I listened to in the car. It was about a woman who was kidnapped when she was sixteen. She was the only one who survived her ordeal with her captor, and, now, as his execution date approaches twenty years later, he has reached out to her. Too many characters had a POV (Thanks for nothing Jodi Picoult), but it was well written and I'll read more by her.
#13 - The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee - This one was recommended by Entertainment Weekly. It's about the British newspaper business right before the internet put a crimp in it all. It was okay. Not as good as it should have been, considering the high recommendation.
#14 - Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray - A YA modern-day set Hamlet told from Ophelia's POV. Okay. Not stellar.
#15 - The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn - a stand-alone by one of my favorite writers. About a Scottish writer in the 1850's who visits a school friend in spooky Transylvania. It had the feeling of the Lady Julia series, but I was happy to find that she's just as good a writer on other books.
#1 - Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest - Read this on the recommendation of Laineygossip.com. I didn't think it was the revelation that Lainey did, but it was certainly very entertaining and insightful. The best part is the fact that her "Gypsy Husband" in the memoir is widely acknowledged to be Colin Farrell. A fast read, as a lot of memoirs can be.
#2 - The Templar Salvation by Raymond Khoury - sequel to The Last Templar. I couldn't help envisioning the main characters as Scott Foley and Mira Sorvino. I listening to it on CD in the car. Entertaining. Also amusing as he is obviously friends with Steve Berry, because Cotton Malone was mentioned in passing.
#3 - Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos - Another in the never-ending new canon of stealing from the Great Jane. This one was about an American cast in a reality TV show that was basically The Bachelor set in a Regency setting. It was entertaining enough. Readable. The ending was kind of annoying.
#4 - The Four Stages of Cruelty by Keith Hollihan - Set in a prison, it's told from alternating points of view of a young female prison guard and a young inmate. There is something mysterious going on in the prison, something evil, all told in a comic book created by the inmate, Josh. I enjoyed this one a lot.
#5 - MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche - Another in the genre of someone blogging about something, which is then published. I enjoy this genre so much. This one is about a woman who moves to Chicago with her husband, away from all her BFF's in New York. She goes on a "friend date" with 52 women over the course of a year. This is really a meditation on friendship and what BFFdom really means (it can mean many different things at different points in your life).
#6 - The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler - I read Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why last year, and really enjoyed it. This one is set in 1996. Two teens discover their Facebook profiles from their early thirties when they log into AOL for the first time. I really appreciated the setting, as it reminded me so much of the time I was in university. It also drove home how much the world has changed in such a short amount of time. My personal favorite line was the shock of the female MC about what her future self was posting in status updates for all to see. "Why was I putting this all out there for anyone to read?" I wonder about the things people post on Facebook ALL THE TIME. Made me laugh.
#7 - Crossed by Ally Condie - sequel to Matched, which I read last year. I totally agree with Lisa that this book had no point. I thought that Cassia was semi-annoying in the first book, but put that down to the society in which she was arranged. Now I just realize she's annoying. Kai is also annoying. I will read the final book in the trilogy though, if only to see what happens in the seemingly pointless love triangle. I think the third side of the triangle is better off without Cassia, to be honest.
#8 - Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self edited by Joseph Galliano - various people famous in entertainment, sports, politics and the wider world write to their sixteen year old selves. The book was published in support of "Doctors Without Borders." Basically it was a play on "It Gets Better." Everyone told their sixteen year old self that it all works out and that they shouldn't worry so much about what everyone thinks of them. It was okay. A bit predictable.
#9 - Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien - Another dystopian novel, this time set in a world where those who live "outside the wall" have to give up the first three babies born in a month to the Enclave, which is "inside the wall." Gaia, a young midwife, has always thought that those babies were lucky to be chosen, going on to a "better" life. That all changes when her parents disappear into the wall one day. I really, really liked this book. I was looking forward to the sequel, but some of the reviews on GoodReads are making me wary. Maybe I'll just let this one sit as a perfectly satisfying read on its own. The author reveals that she intended it to be when she wrote it, so...Why must everything be a trilogy these days (oh, right, Kath! Money!)?
1. The Toughest Indian in the World - Sherman Alexie
2. The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson
3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
4. Alice I Have Been - Melanie Benjamin
5. Slow Heat - Jill Shalvis
6. Matched - Ally Condle
7. Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
8. Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
9. The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America - Joe Posnanski
10. The Fates Will Find Their Way - Hannah Pittard
11. Kindred - Octavia Butler
12. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
13. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
14. My Name is Memory - Ann Brashares
15. A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
16. Great House - Nicole Krauss
17. The Natural - Bernard Malamud
18. The Help - Kathryn Stockett
19. Moneyball - Michael Lewis
20. Crossed - Ally Condle
21. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
22. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
23. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
My favorite book that I read all year was #9, the Posnanski book about Buck O'Neill. Which is also probably the one that would appeal least to the people on this list, but it was absolutely a beautiful book that made me cry repeatedly.
My least favorite book I read all year was probably Alice I Have Been. I just found it a poorly written and extremely disturbing book. Definitely do not recommend at all.
Other high recommendations are A Visit From the Good Squad (fascinating and wonderful), My Name is Memory. Beautiful Darkness is the second book of three in a pretty fabulous YA series (I'm about to start reading the third). Matched and Crossed are wonderful. I can't wait for the 3rd in that series. And of course the books that I re-read this year: Moneyball, Extremely Loud, and the Hunger Games.
So that's my 2011 in books. I'm going to try to step it up again in 2012. And I'll try to post a little more regularly ;-)