books & reading

Books Read in 2013

I read 37 books in 2013!  For a complete list of the titles and quick reviews of each (as well as links to longer reviews) just keep reading:

  1. ***** If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster – Finished January 2, 2013 – This book brought back so many memories of house buying in the most hysterical ways. I have been a fan of Lancaster’s memoir type books for awhile and really enjoyed reading a novel from her. It reads like her non-fiction books (funny and easy to relate to) except the antics get even crazier since her imagination is now the limit to how awful a house could be and all the things which could go wrong. Very funny stuff!
  2. **** Delirium by Lauren Oliver – Finished January 9, 2013 – This was such a fascinating book. I love the concept of a world where love is considered a disease and one which all the world’s problems can be rooted back to. It was so interesting to read Lena’s thoughts and feelings towards love or “deliria” from the beginning of the book to the end – to witness the same society in a number of different lights as Lena counts down the days to when she will be cured from love and finally be safe – or alternately, to when the chance for love will be taken from her forever. Looking forward to book two! – full review –
  3. **** Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (January Book Club) – Finished January 20, 2013 – I thought this book was really interesting and well written. Being able to get that “fly on a wall” look at life inside a prison for a year – and even a couple of different types of prisons – was kind of cool. Kerman serves as a great narrator for this book as she seems like someone who gets along with pretty much anyone. She befriends a lot of different people and also makes for a narrator that is easy to relate to. I also like that she takes the time to talk about all the times in her life that she could have asked for help or done something different – and the choices that she has made that brought her to her situation. It is the kind of book that you can learn a lot from without feeling like you are being preached at or lectured. Well written, interesting and easy to read – can’t ask for much more than that! – full review –
  4. **** Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz – Finished January 28, 2013 – I have been such a huge fan of Lutz and the Spellman series and her books never disappoint. This was no exception although there is that little bit towards the end that I’m a little disappointed about! I am anxiously crossing my fingers for good (or at least better) things to come where that *being vague so as not to spoil* situation is concerned in the next novel. For those uneducated in all things Spellman, this is 5th in a series about a wacky, dysfunctional family of private investigators and what it’s like to grow up in a family with no concept of privacy or boundaries. Except a few mysteries and intrigues, a couple love stories, some seriously funny footnotes and family dinner scenes that will make your own family seem quite normal by comparison. Terrifically funny but also clever and insightful. These books truly have it all. – full review –
  5. **** Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (reading with the kids) – Finished January 30, 2013 – I read this out loud to my 6 year old and 3 year old. My son, 6, enjoyed hearing about all the antics of best friends Betsy and Tacy. Though the frequent descriptions of their favorite fashions often bored him, Betsy’s amazing imagination and the adventures they found themselves in were adorable and held his interest. This was my first time reading the series and I’ll be continuing with his but probably on my own.
  6. ***** Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling – Finished February 6, 2013 – I know that Mindy Kaling’s sense of humor is not for everyone but I’m a big fan. I really enjoyed this book – don’t expect anything more than what you might find in a book by Ellen Degeneres or Tina Fey. This is a fun, light hearted quirky read but with the potential I suppose to hurt some feelings. Particularly Rainn Wilson’s feelings. Kaling is occasionally opinionated and not prone to holding anything back.
  7. *** The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (February Book Club) – Finished February 12, 2013 – This was definitely an interesting book with a lot of fun details. I really loved the Every Man Jack bit with all the different Jacks and the premise of the book in general was very good, the illustrations beautiful. I found the ending of the book a little rushed in some ways, but over all I really enjoyed it.
  8. *** Insurgent by Veronica Roth – Finished February 22, 2013 – While I thoroughly enjoyed devouring this book, I have to admit that I found the ending a bit disappointingly abrupt. I’m not sure if we have a Book Three to look forward to or not, but I would love for the story to be continued. I find the whole concept of the society in Divergent fascinating and after the ending of Insurgent, I am even more fascinated. I did find the love story to be a bit ridiculous at points, perhaps I am just getting a bit old for teen love stories. Still, unlike a lot of teen books, the Divergent series has so much more going for it than a love story and I did really enjoy the book overall.
  9. **** The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen – Finished March 4, 2013 – Wow, this book was really good! The author’s writing style is witty and quick, lending a nice snarky attitude to her main character, Sage. This is a little bit mystery, a little bit fantasy and overall a nice middle reader series that is sure to appeal to both genders. I had my suspicions about a few major plot points for awhile, but the author does a good job keeping you guessing until the end and then weaving the whole plot together really nicely. Eagerly looking forward to book two in this trilogy.
  10. *** The Essential Puppy by Betsy Sikora Siino – Finished March 5, 2013 – This was a good primer on all things puppy. Thorough but concise which I appreciated being busy with a new puppy and young children. It helped ease all those new dog questions in an easy to read manner.
  11. ***** Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman – Finished April 10, 2013 – This book really resonated with me. There were aspects of French parenting that I thought made a lot of sense, some were surprising but great ideas and of course there were some that are just not for me – but I loved reading about how differently other cultures raise their kids and the potential pros and cons to different methods. I think there is a lot of positive things to be said for French parenting and I’ve already implemented some of these ideas in my own life or plan to soon. I loved the recipe for yogurt bread included in the book – my son and I made it for his birthday last week and it was delicious. – full review –
  12. ***** The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (April Book Club Pick) – Finished April 16, 2013 – LOVED this one. It was one of those awesome books filled with snark and sassy humor but with a plot that is heart wrenching and keeps you reading later into the night than your internal alarm clock would advise. Green does a good job of balancing the light with the heavy, so it was never more than I could bear but often came close. – full review –
  13. **** Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster – Finished April 30, 2013 – I love pretty much everything Jen Lancaster writes and this was no exception. Funny, poignant and full of the wit and the fantastically crazy stories you’d expect from her.
  14. ***** Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (May Book Club Pick) – Finished May 9, 2013 – Epistolary novels are always a bit of a gamble, in my opinion. Breaking away from a traditional narrative can make it hard to get immersed in the story, but Where’d You Go, Bernadette did a great job providing a story you’ll find yourself lost in way into the late hours of the night. I found myself relating to Bernadette a lot, which was a little bit scary for awhile there, but it also kept me rooting for her and her family. This is a great look at mental illnesses both perceived, ignored and real – and a story that shows the complexities of families, marriage, neighborhoods & the world. For a “book of letters, emails and memos” this book packs a pretty big punch. – Full Review –
  15. **** The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen – Finished May 18, 2013 – I think in some ways I enjoyed The Runaway King even more than the first in this series. Sage aka Jaron’s wit and humor is as well written as ever and his character is going through a bit of personal growth while trying to save his kingdom from certain peril. This book packs adventure, coming of age, a touch of romance & a lot of humor between it’s pages. I highly recommend this series!
  16. *** Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver – Finished May 29, 2013 – I put off reading this book for awhile, worried that it would be too depressing, given the way that book one ended, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. I think Oliver makes a few interesting decisions in her story telling that provide a less predictable plot and more realistic lives for her main characters. I’m interested to see what develops in the third book.
  17. **** The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (June Book Club) – Finished June 12, 2013 – This is going to be one of those books that stays with me for a long time. The overall concept of this story is both fantastical and disturbingly plausible – the way any good dystopian kind of story should be. I think the author did a great job of fleshing out her story, providing a main character that was both realistic and likeable with plenty of side stories that had less to do with the world potentially ending and more to do with coming of age. This was a book that really sucked me in while I was reading it – I really liked it. – Full Review –
  18. **** The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – Finished July 5, 2013 – It was really fun to read a little of the back story on Nicholas Benedict from the Mysterious Benedict books – he was a pretty amazing kid! The story itself stands on it’s own so if you haven’t read the other books in this series, you can feel free to read this one first. I found the book to be well written and funny with plenty of mysteries to solve.
  19. **** The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (July Book Club) – Finished July 21, 2013 – I’m kind of grateful that I didn’t previously know very much about Hemingway’s life, much less his wife Hadley’s, because there was never any moment in this book where I definitely knew what would happen next. Beautifully written, this book was a favorite of mine. I really sympathized with Hadley and found the book to be a fascinating look at marriage, literary history and life in the 1920’s. – Full Review
  20. ***** The Selection by Kiera Cass – Finished July 24, 2013 – This book just sucked me in and refused to let go from the first page. Though the writing is fairly simple (YA book), the story is fascinating and the characters are even better. I downloaded the following book, Elite and her novella, The Prince before even finishing this one. – Full Review
  21. **** The Prince a novella by Kiera Cass – Finished July 25, 2013 – It was really interesting to get a chance to get to know Prince Maxon a little better and see the Selection through his eyes. There were a few funny moments when you see his reaction to something that you remember America going through – and it’s a nice quick read – it took me an hour to finish the story.
  22. **** The Elite by Kiera Cass – Finished July 27, 2013 – Good lord, I could not put this book down. I am really enjoying this series and anxious for book three.
  23. *****Moranthology by Caitlin Moran – Finished August 20, 2013 – I think I enjoyed this book even better than her last. With a variety of topics, this book is hilarious and insightful, but mostly hilarious. Interviews with famous musicians, reviews of Downton Abbey and Sherlock and stories about her marriage and childhood and everything in between. If you like Caitlin Moran, you will LOVE this book. If you don’t know who Caitlin Moran is, but you like Tina Fey or Jen Lancaster or The Bloggess – you will LOVE this book. – Full Review
  24. **** Secret Lives of First Ladies by Cormac O’Brien – Finished September 8, 2013 – This a great way to learn a little bit more about the many first ladies of the US and about the country’s history as well. The book is informative and interesting and perhaps best of all it is easy to read.
  25. **** The Highlanders Hope by Cali MacKay – Finished September 21, 2013 – I downloaded this for free on my kindle and found I could not put the story down until the mystery was solved. While definitely a “romance novel” I found it had just the right amount of detail left to the imagination for my taste and had plenty of actual story to keep from just being pure fluff. From a literary aspect, this book was good in that it kept me wanting to read more but it definitely overused a few descriptive details – the raising of eyebrows was used into infinity.  I’m considering reading some of the other stories in her Highlanders series but not in any great rush.
  26. ***** A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (September Book Club Pick) – Finished September 25, 2013 – This was one of those books that makes you think and then makes you think harder and then makes you think that maybe you don’t know very much after all. It’s a sort of story within a story within a story that seems to be constantly changing the rules and making you question what you thought you understood. Basically, it’s brilliant. – Full Review 
  27. **** Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham (October Book Club Pick) – Finished October 8, 2013 – I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I love Lauren Graham and the plot sounded fun. It was even better than I was expecting, honestly. Graham’s main character, Franny, is kooky and flawed and easy to relate to and she does a good job fleshing out her characters to make them seem realistic. I loved all the 90’s era references and Graham did a great job with tying themes together in the book. She follows a somewhat stereotypical formula but pokes fun at the formula while doing so. Add to this a little love story that has you rooting for a happy ending and a fun glimpse into the world of acting. I really enjoyed it and towards the second half just absolutely could not put it down. – full review –
  28. *** My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – Finished October 13, 2013 – Although Van Dyke is probably one of the greatest actors of all time, he is not one of the greatest writers. He’s very good, but not great. The book flits around from topic to topic and often doesn’t get to the meat of any stories – largely because he chose from the beginning to not write any salacious “gossip”. I applaud him for that but unfortunately conflict is what makes a story interesting usually so although he did his best, a lot of the stories felt a little flat. Like “Once upon a time this amazing thing happened and then this less amazing thing happened, but I’m not going to tell you about it. The End.” Overall… I liked it enough to finish it, but I did not love it enough to heartily recommend it.
  29. *** Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger – Finished October 22, 2013 – I was on the fence about how many stars to give this one. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. It made me think (a little bit) but also nothing really happens. In a nutshell, this is a book about two siblings who are so smart that they can barely function in normal society – they are just incapacitated by their own cleverness. 2/3rds of the book is literally the world’s longest lecture. Then there is a phone call and both Too Smart For Their Own Good characters seem to come momentarily to their senses and then it ends. It’s a short story, so it’s not a big time commitment and there were definitely interesting moments and thoughts. But it isn’t one I’d jump up and down to recommend.
  30. **** Short Story: From First Draft to Final Product by Michael Milton – Finished October 26, 2013 – I found this book to be very helpful. He has a lot of great tips and ideas and I love the concept of showing one of his stories through several stages of editing and giving examples of some great feedback that he got during the editing process. A useful, informative quick read. I made a lot of highlights to look back at later.
  31. *** Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth – Finished November 8, 2013 – I almost don’t even know what to say about this final book in the Divergent trilogy. It was fascinating, painful, daring, occasionally flawed, occasionally brilliant. A fitting end to her series all in all, though I imagine many readers take issue with a lot of Roth’s choices in this book, especially the ending, I do think it was the best ending for the story. My one real complaint is just that her decision to write from both Tris’s point of view and Four’s was not exceptionally executed. The two characters’ voices are not very distinct and it was easy to forget who was talking which made the first half of the book at least a little difficult to get lost in. All in all though, I did really enjoy it.
  32. *** Over My Dead Potty by Amy Sprenger – Finished November 10, 2013 – A nice short read with no shortage of laughs – great for anyone who is potty training, has potty trained or anticipates potty training a child. This is less a how to manual and more of a hilarious mini-memoir.
  33. **** Take Me, Cowboy by Jane Porter – Finished November 13, 2013 – I’ve come to trust Jane Porter to be one of those authors that will always deliver a good story and this book is no exception – it was a nice quick love story that definitely falls further into the line of “passionate romance novel” than most of the books that I read, but it was written so well that I didn’t mind one bit!
  34. ***** Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Nov/Dec Book Club Pick) – Finished December 9, 2013 – How do I even begin to describe this book? This book was intense and complicated and fantastic and occasionally awful, but not in a literary way so much as a “how many times are we going to torture, kill and humiliate this person?” kind of way. They say that a good author torments their characters? Well by that definition (and many others) Kate Atkinson is a VERY good author.Imagine if you could go back and relive your life over and over again – what things would you change and do differently? This is sort of the premise of the book and in the beginning the main character seems to just keep on dying every ten minutes in awful ways that made my mother heart hurt. But gradually she lives longer and longer and it oscillates between feeling like a story about all the ways you can die / be hurt / suffer and feeling like a story about all the ways we can survive / overcome / be better. It’s hopeful and despondent all at the same time. Make of that what you will! – Full Review –
  35. *** Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter – Finished December 10, 2013 – This was a love story that required the tiniest suspension of disbelief as looking at it face-on, it’s pretty unrealistic. However, it’s Jane Porter so the writing is stellar and the characters really suck you in and I’ll admit that I finished the book in basically 2 sittings, unable to put it down.
  36. **** Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick – Finished December 23, 2013 – I thought this was a nice end to a really great series. It had a lot of the usual hijinx that we’ve come to expect from the mother daughter book club and some clever story lines that did a good job of tying everything together by the end. I’ll miss checking in on the Mother Daughter Book Club but I also felt like they ended it on a good note.
  37. ***** Daddy-long-legs by Jean Webster – Finished December 27, 2013 – This book sucked me in from page one. The main character is so amiable, interesting and intelligent and the writing style so inviting. It felt like talking to a very good friend and made for a book that was read quickly and deeply enjoyed. It’s hard to believe it was written 100 years ago, it easily could have been written today. – Full Review –

The Land of Abandoned Books

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (March Book Club Pick) – Abandoned March 26, 2013 – When it became clear that I wouldn’t finish in time for book club, and I found myself mustering through another chapter, I thought “Why am I doing this?” And I put it down and picked up the book I wanted to be reading. The writing in this book is good, the story… interesting. But there is not one single relate-able character who I could root for and it made it very hard to lose myself in the story and get invested in the ending.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr (August Book Club) – Abandoned August 16, 2013 – I found this book really hard to get into – between the gruesome subject matter and the very long, elaborate sentences – I found I wasn’t enjoying the book or making fast enough progress to finish in time for our book club discussion.