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Topic: ***What is your book of the month/year 2011?***

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Subject: ***What is your book of the month/year 2011?***
Date Posted: 1/1/2011 1:49 PM ET
Member Since: 9/26/2005
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2011 Thread!

Come on in and let us know your favorite book each month and what your best read of the year is....there are no requirements on what year/what genre/whatever...we just like to chat about what was the best thing to read.   Many great suggestions here, so come join us!

 

Readers:



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2011 Best:   The Blue Notebook by James Levine MD....this book has stayed with me the most of anything that I have read this year which makes it my winner. 

 

 

January:  The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall...funny, sad, interesting story of Native American boy who was 'run over by the mailman'...sweet and odd all at the same time.  GOOD ONE!

February: Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez...story of women slaves brought by their masters to a summer resort over multiple years.  Heartbreaking yet beautiful

March: She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel...funny sweet account of her life (but not as good as Zippy)....month full of fluff

April:GREAT READING MONTH so it's a tie between two books that are going down on my 'best ever' list!  Fated by SGBrowne...funny funny take on the world from the perspective of Fate who's in a tiff w/Destiny.     The Blue Notebook by James Levine MD...difficult but beautify tale of a child sex slave from her perspective as she writes in the blue notebook, based on doctor's work w/children in third world countries.  So good, should be required reading.

May: slow reading month....no winner

June: Ape House by Sara Gruen....not as compelling as her Water for Elephants book but still a good tale about research animals 'set free' to a life of reality television hell.  

July: Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson...story of a woman escaping cycle of physical abuse...southern, gritty, quirky, beautiful....

August:  Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow...story of a biracial girl who is the only survivor of a family tragedy and tries to figure out her place in the world, as well as the 'figuring out' of those around her.  Made me cry in the middle of a training as I was reading it (and being off task).

September: The Book Thief by Mark Zusak...Nazi Germany story of those living in the midst of German insanity...told from death's point of view (didn't like that), about a girl stealing books and making the best of the tragedy around her

October: The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells...more emotional than I expected but good

November: Dreams of Joy by Lisa See...sequel to Shanghai Girls that continues the family saga.  While not as spellbindingly great as the first book, this was a good one.  I don't recommend reading it if you have NOT read Shanghai Girls however as there is alot of reference back to events in the first book.

December: fizzled out at the end of the year...no winner this month!



Last Edited on: 12/30/11 1:43 AM ET - Total times edited: 14
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ME!!!!!!!!

I'm #1!!!!!!  ...........


January:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December:



Last Edited on: 1/1/11 2:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
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2011 Book of the Month

January - The Jungle - Upton Sinclair. An excellent commentary on the time period. The information was better than the writing IMHO.

February - Middle Passage by Charles Johnson. Excellent writing and an interesting story.

March -   Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness – Sprecht and Purdy - intriguing memoir about life in Alaska in the 1920s.

April - no really great books this month - Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson was the best one I read - excellent series.

May - Germinal by Emile Zola.

June - Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. Deeply, Desperately - Heather Webber

July - The Terror - Dan Simmons

August - The Widow's War - Sally Gunning

September - Enemy of God - Bernard Cornwell.

October - A Long Walk To Water by Park and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio – Terry Ryan

 November - Esperanza Rising - Pam Munoz Ryan

December - Kavalier and Clay - Chabon

 

 

 

 



Last Edited on: 12/30/11 1:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 13
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/1/2011 2:38 PM ET
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Hi all!

January:  The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan - a case for scientifically based rationalism.

February:  Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne - very clear and simply presented, but stuff I never learned in school!

March:  My First 100 Marathons by Jeff Horowitz - Fairly interesting, but not that well written.  Not much competition in March.

April:  Different Seasons by Stephen King - Excellent Collection.  I particularly liked the story Apt Pupil.

May:  The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk - Long and complex story, but fast-paced and with great characters.

June:  Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson - The first SF novel to really capture my interest in a long time.

July:  Fool by Christopher Moore - Hilarious retelling of King Lear...perfect for a Shakespeare buff like me.

August:  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - SF set in the future, but a blatant '80s nostalgia book for hardcore nerds.  Lots of fun to read.

September:  God, No! by Penn Jillette - Fascinating and personal book by the magician and outspoken atheist

October:  Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. - A classic among runners, but surprisingly also works as a pice of fiction.

November:

December:  Ed King by David Guterson - A retelling of Oedipus Rex...great writing, plot, and characters.  Probably best fiction of the year for me.



Last Edited on: 12/24/11 8:47 PM ET - Total times edited: 10
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Book of the Year:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

January:

The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

One of the things I really liked about this excellent WWII novel was the way Mailer focused on one of the characters in the war and then went back in time to show the reader how he had gotten to that point in his life.

February:

Away by Amy Bloom

This book is another that I didn't expect to pick as my favorite as I was reading.  Many of the situations seem unrealistic, and there is page after page after page of despair.  Still, it hooked me in an almost haunting way.

March:

Goodbye Columbus:  and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth

I found I enjoyed the short stories more than the main novella.  My favorite of the stories was Eli the Fanatic which I have seen described as distinctly Jewish, yet assuredly American.

April:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This book about a girl growing up in Nazi Germany is classified as Young Adult, but I think it works for us Old Adults too.  To me it felt like the author was heavily influenced by Vonnegut.

May:

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

It's a classic gothic novel filled with that supernatural good vs. evil stuff that I like.

June:

Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

I know I missed the point, but what I liked most about this book was the weirdness of the characters.  Most of the time I was reading, I couldn't help but think "What is wrong with these people?"

July:

Money by Martin Amis

It's the only book I finished this month, so it wins by default.  It was an interesting book, though, and the denouement took me by surprise.  It's raunchy, so if that bothers you, I would stay away.

August:

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I have to admit that there were parts of the book that didn't hold my interest, but Ahab was a fascinating character.  I also enjoyed the unexpected humor. 

September:

The F***ing Epic Twitter Quest of @MayorEmanuel  by Dan Sinker

If you can't stomach R-rated language, definitely stay away from this book.  Otherwise, if you have any interest in Rahm Emanuel's run for Mayor of Chicago, come and enjoy the very funny ride.  The only bad thing about this book is that it made me regret that I didn't open a Twitter account and follow along live.

October:

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

It's hard to say what this book is really about (it's best to read the book description, I think), but it's funny.  I love Zadie Smith's sense of humor. 

November:

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I thought this book was fascinating, but it may only be interesting to those who are interested in the story of Apple too.  I've seen some criticism that the author didn't keep enough critical distance between himself and Jobs, but as Joe Nocera of the New York Times said "[h]e didn't just interview Jobs; he watched him die."  On a lighter note, I thought the word "prickly' was a bit overused.

December:

You Remind Me of Me by Dan Chaon

I was interested in the way Chaon pulled together separate events and linked them.  The book was depressing in some places, but the story kept my interest.



Last Edited on: 12/31/11 5:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 12
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January: I'm going to pick Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison by TJ Parsell.  While this book wasn't always an enjoyable read due to the content, it was well written and very engaging!

February: I only finished 2 books this month and both were quite good.  The first was A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and the second was The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman.  I don't usually like short stories, but The Red Garden really hooked me from the very beginning.  Each section is a short story, but they go in chronological order and carry over families (if not characters) from one story to the next.

March: Not a lot of books read this month, but I really enjoyed Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine.  It's a young adult book told from the perspective of a girl who is autistic.

April:  I finally got around to reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  I can't put my finger on what I liked about it, but this was a great book!

May: Not a stellar month.... I'll have to go with Portia deRossi's memoir, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain.  Nothing in this book was groundbreaking, but I enjoyed her voice in this book.  Even when dealing with tough subject matter, she kept the book feeling light.

June: I have a tie this month.  The first is Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution.  I have read all of Donnelly's books and loved them.  This one was no exception!  There was some hokiness, but overall I didn't want to put this book down.  My other choice is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.  I just finished Dave Cullen's Columbine.  I'm not a huge fan of nonfiction, but this was a great book.  There were a few dry parts, but overall I found myself engaged in this book (even reading while tears were rolling down my face at times).  Not an easy topic, but a well written book!

July: I read several books this month, but just about every one of them sucked!  My one shining gem was Tina Fey's Bossypants.  I'm not to actually laugh out loud while reading, and even I chuckled during this one (which was awkward being I read it at the pool with many people around).

August: While it wasn't one of my favorite books, it was the standout of this month (not saying a lot about this month)... The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

September: This month I'll go with Suzanne Collin's Gregor the Overlander.  While it didn't hook me as much as her Hunger Games series, I did enjoy it and will probably read the rest in the series at some point.

October: Well, I only read 2 books this month (damn you work & grad school class) so it wasn't a tough choice!  My pick of the month is Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson.  It was an excellent premise for a story, and even though I worked out the "twist" early on, I was still dying to read it all the way through.  If I remember correctly, I read it in one weekend because I couldn't put it down.

November: Life has completely gotten in the way of my reading this past month!!  I am horrified to realize that I only read 2 books.  I'll just mention them both as both were decent.  The first was Alexandra, Gone by Anna McPartlin.  There was nothing phenomenal about this book, but it was engaging and I ended up enjoying it (even if the "mystery" wasn't really important to the story).  I also read Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  I was inspired to read this after seeing the commercials for the movie.  While I wasn't blown away, I did enjoy the book.  The pictures were amazing!  It reminded me of some of Kate DiCamillo's work, but I can't quite put my finger on what made me think that.  I would like to see the movie as it could be stunning if done correctly!

December: This month's pick is A Dog's Purpose by Bruce Cameron.  It wasn't a great book, but I'm a sucker for animal stories (knowing full well that I will weep uncontrollably at several points while reading).

 

Book of the Year: I think it's a tie between Never Let me Go and Columbine.



Last Edited on: 12/31/11 6:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 10
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January:  Still Missing by Chevy Stevens  A great book that had me on the edge of my seat. 

February:  One Day- David Nicholls 

March:  Stay by Deb Caletti and Don't Breath a Word by Jennifer McMahon

April:  The Tea Rose- Jennifer Donnelly

May:  Delirium- Lauren Oliver (Not the best book ever but the best of the month for May)

June:  Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand

July:  I am Number Four- Pittacus Lore (Not the best book ever, but the best for the month of July)

August:  No great-you-must-read-this-book standout, the best of the bunch was Shut Out- Kody Keplinger

September:  Jellicoe Road- Mellina Marchetta

October:  The Power of Six- Pittacus Lore (Love this series)

November:  Rules of Civility- Amor Towles 

December:  A Girl Like You- Gemma Burgess

 

Book of the Year:  One Day by David Nicholls



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You can find me on page 2.  I entered twice I was so eager to join.....blush



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2011 Best:

January:   The Art of Racing in the Rain;   Room - strange but compelling.

February:  The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, 2nd would be The Red Tent, - I plan to read something more current soon.....

March:      The True Story of Hansel and Gretel - hands down, a great book; also People of the Book

April:         Honolulu by Alan Brennert, 2nd would be Mistress in the Art of Death

May:         Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned form Judy Blume , 2nd would be The Thirteenth Tale

June:        Austinland  by Shannon Hale - really fun book; and The Serpent's Tale (Mistress of the Art of Death, Bk 2)

July:         The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox ,was good; A Dark Dividing was good; and I really couldn't stop reading Hunger Games

August:    I flew through Hunger Games 2 & 3,  other best were Same Kind of Different as Me and Summers Child by Diane Chamberlain

September:  Dead even tie between The Shape of Mercy and A Dog's Purpose

October:    Sarah's Key  and then Grave Goods

November:  Tie between The Girls by Lori Lansens and Sworn to Silence by Castillo

December:  The Glass Castle  great book, and I didn't finish many this month.

Book of the Year:  I just can't pick one!



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20 11 Best:

January: THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI by C.W. Gortner.  I recently rediscovered my love for historical fiction.  The story is about a misunderstood queen who sacrifices her happiness to insure her families place in history.  Historically, Catherine de Medici has been portrayed as a ruthless villainess.  But, in this novel, the author shows us her human side, her disappointments and her tragedies.  A remarkable story! 

February:  HALF BROKE HORSES by Jeannette Walls.  This "true-life novel" is filled with stories about the author's free-spirited maternal grandmother growing up in the "old wild west."  I found it entertaining with a "O Brother Where Are Though" (one of my favorite films) feel to it.  I think Walls is a wonderful story teller and this book is filled with many life lessons.

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December:

 



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Jan - Fear Came to Town The Santa Claus, Georgia, Murders - Doug Crandall

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec



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I'm in again.

Jan: Lover Mine by J.R. Ward.  This is Bk 8 in the Black Dagger Brotherhood paranormal series.  I have really enjoyed this series.  The Widow's War by Sally Gunning. A Historical Fiction set in the 1760's in Cape Cod. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. Bk 3 of this trilogy and was as good as the first two, what an amazing story.

Feb:  The Moon Below by Barbara Bickmore.  This one will go on my best book I've read list.  Historical fiction and romance and takes place in Australia 1800's.  Check out reviews on Amazon. Cold Sights Extra Sensory Agents by Leslie Parrish. This is NTM author and is Bk 1 in a paranormal series.  Nice change of pace and I will be reading Bk 2. Rising Tides by Nora Roberts. This is bk 2 in her Chesapeake Bay 4 bk series. An older romance series (1998  - don't know how I missed it). Looking forward to the the rest of the series.

Mar: Moonrise by Anne Stuart. A romance mystery/thriller that keeps you turning the pages. Most of her books are on the dark side and her hero in this one is no different.

Apr: The Prize by Julie Garwood. A medieval romance. On top romance list. I loved it. Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. Romantic suspence contempory. Another one on the top romance list. Honolulu by Alan Brennert. Historical fiction - takes place 1914, about a Korean young woman who becomes a picture bride in Hawaii. If you liked Molokai by this author, you will love this one also.

May: Running Blind an audio book by Lee Child. This is Bk 4 in this series and my first read by this author but not my last. A  good mystery thriller. Another mystery thriller this month was A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffery Archer, another new author for me.

June: The Shop On Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. This is Bk 1 of this series.  It is about three woman who join a knitting class and the woman who just opened the yarn shop.  A warm and comfortable read. I almost always enjoy her books. The Amber Room by Steve Berry. What a page turner, loved it.  Another NTM author. Cry No More by Linda Howard.  I have read alot of her books and very few dissappoint.  This is no exception.  A story about her baby who is stolen from her in Mexico and who devotes the next 10 years of her life trying to find her son. 

July: Distant Star by Barbara Bickmore. Takes place  in China in 1920's thru 1940's. A historical fiction with it all. Have not read one of this author's books that I did not love. Blood Orchid by Stuart Woods. An audiobook that kept me on the treadmill because I did not want to turn off the book. A mystery thriller set in Florida. Chasing the Night by Iris Johansen's Bk 10 in the Eve Duncan series. This continues to be a good series for me (which  is unusal, as I normally burn out) The characters are still fresh and intriguing somehow.

Aug: Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge.  Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles Bk 1) by Kevin Hearne. Paranormal. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. A story of two friends spanning 30 years.

Sept: The Last Child by John Hart. A 13 year boy never giving up on finding his missing twin sister. Deal Breaker (Bk 1 in Myron Bolitar)by Harlan Coben. Have already ordered bk 2. Good mystery and great one liners.

Oct: The Search by Nora Roberts. Mystery/thriller/romance about a woman who trains dogs for search and rescue. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah. Takes place in Pacific Northwest. I am becoming a big fan of this author.

Nov: I read so many good books this month, wow, wish all months were like that. Top three picks are Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris. A mystery that takes place in Saudi Arabia in current time.  Have already ordered bk 2. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom about a white servant girl living on a plantation. The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. A Town Like Alice  by Nevil Shute. I would highly recommend all of these.

Dec: Lavender Morning by Jude Deveraux. A contemporary romance. Back On Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. Her books are for me comfort reads.

My Book Of The Year: A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.



Last Edited on: 12/30/11 8:59 AM ET - Total times edited: 16
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Now, Chris, you know I'm in!!!  I am so glad you do this thread!   Will list print and audio again this year. 

 

Jan:  In print:  Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy. 

         In audio:  Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian.

Feb: In print: Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood.

        In audio:  Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance  by Atul Gawande.

Mar:  In print:  The Blue Cotton Gown a Midwife's Memoir by Patricia Harmon.

         In audio:  Nothing.

Apr:   In print:  Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo.

                         Honorable mention:  Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein.

           In Audio:  Nothing.

May:    In print: Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark

            In Audio:  The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

June:    In print:   One Vacant Chair by Joe Coomer

              In audio:   The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant

July:    In print:     Little Love Story  by Roland Merullo

            In audio:      TIE:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

                                           Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Aug:    In Print:    Paradise Salvage by John Fusco  (!!!!  My second reading of this terrific, ethnic, coming-of-age novel set in my hometown!!!!)

                             Very Honorable Mention:  Lost Identity by Pearson Moore  ( This is about the characters of the TV show Lost, and is written by the husband of  one of our PBS members.  Breathtaking artwork!)

            In audio:    Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

Sept:   Nothing remarkable in print...read lot's of how-to's etc.

            In Audio:    The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs  (Eye-opening and funny!)

Oct:     In Print:   Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena by Julia Reed

             In Audio:  She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel

             Honorable mention in audio:  84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Nov:     In Print:    The Hollywood Book of Death  by James Robert Parish

                                Where Are They Buried  How Did They Die  by Tod Benoit                               

             In Audio:   The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Dec:  In Print:     An Irish Country Christmas by Alice Taylor

           In Audio    Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

My books of the year:

Print:  A tie.  Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy, and Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo.

Audio:   She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel.   But these two were really close and tied for second:    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks    by Rebecca Skloot and  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith.



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January:   Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes on the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh

February:   Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick and Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

March:  The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America by Les Standiford and Sgt. Joe Matthews

April:  Bent Road by Lori Roy and Bossypants by Tina Fey

May:  Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff by James B. Stewart

June:   None Read  sad

July:  Silver Sparrow by Tarayi Jones

August:  Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda and  Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

September:  The Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah

October: The Buddha int he Attic by Julie Otsuka and When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

November:  None

December:



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I would love to do this again...count me in!

January - No Time For Goodbye -by Linwood Barclay.  First book I read by this author and liked it.   Very quick read.  I could see the ending coming (part of it anyway) but still a good read.

February - Handle With Care - by Jodi Picoult.  WOW is how I would describe this book.  Fast-paced and thought provoking (what would you do in this situation).  It also had a story within the story which I found interesting. I have already lent this book to 3 other people this month and all have really enjoyed it. 

I have an Honorable Mention this month which is Hannah's Dream by - Diane Hammond.  I really, really liked this book.  Someone in a different thread recommended this book and I am so glad they did.  About an elephant (Hannah) and the zoo she is kept at and her keeper.  Very touching and also a fairly quick read. 

March For this month it is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.  Wow, I really didn't think I would like this one but it does grab you in.  Told from the point of view of a 9 year old boy being raised in Nazi Germany.  It is not a very long book but one that stays with you long after you read it. 

April - My favorite book this month was American Fuji by Sara Backer.  I stumbled across this book just browsing through PBS one day and it is quite a hidden gem IMO.  An American professor lives in Japan and her paths cross with another American struggling to find answers as to why and how his son died in Japan last year.  Each chapter left me wanting more and I had a hard time putting this one down. 

May My month was so busy that I didn't read too much in May.  And, the few that I read I did not have any that were worthy of me mentioning here :(

June The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb.  I put off reading this because the book was so big.  Wow - very powerful and is a book that I won't forget anytime soon.   Some folks say that he could have written it shorter - true but I really think everything in there had a purpose.  I couldn't wait to finish the book...not because I wanted to get it over with but because I just couldn't put the darn thing down and had to find out the ending.  I love how he tied the main characters history into this whole book.  It also gave some insight into characters suffering from post traumatic stress.  This is the 3rd Wally Lamb book I read and while I loved the other 2 books I would say this was his best one yet.  Highly recommend it.

July  Idyll Banter by Chris Bohjalian.  I had no idea that this author at one point wrote a weekly newspaper column in Vermont.  This book was comprised of former columns.  I find his books to be quite interesting and was pleased with this one too.  He paints such an ideal life in Vermont...I would love to move there some day.

August Testimony by Anita Shreve. I have read many of this author's books and some I like and some I don't   This one pleasantly surprised me by how good it was.  Each chapter is told from a different person but it is not difficult to follow and very little is repeated.  If you have a teen or young adult child this will give you some situations to think about.  A few hours in some young boys lives change their life forever and there are other people who also go through difficulties because of their decisions. 

September - I really didn't read anything that was worthy of mention here.  Most were just ok and some were just plain stinkers!  However, I started a book today (Oct 1) which is pretty promising -- so here's to a good October!

October - The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I finally broke down and read it after so many people raved about it.  I found it to be very enjoyable and a quick, easy read.  I usually don't see the movie after I read a book but I am very curious and may rent it when it comes out at Netflicks.

November - Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  Here is another book that I put off reading and wish I had picked it up earlier.  Very powerful and interesting and sad and not put-down-able! 

December - A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl.  I just finished this book last night and I know that in the 10 days left of December there is no way that I will find another book to top this one!  What a heartbreaking book - one that had tears rolling down my face.  It is about the Wall Street Journalist, Danny Pearl, who was kidnapped when he and his wife were in Pakistan.  The strength of his wife, Mariane was simply amazing. 



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January:  America by Heart:  Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag by Sarah Palin -- I listened to the audio version.  I didn't enjoy this as much as her memoir, but I found it interesting and uplifting. 

February:  I had a fantastic month!  I'm going to list both audio and regular book this month.  Audio:  The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  The story was as great as everyone says it is, and the audio version was A-1.  They cast the narrators perfectly!  And my paperback pick is Midwives by Chris Bohjalian.  I had this one on my TBR for a long time, but after reading The Double Bind by the same author, my expectations were low.  However, it was fantastic!  I loved the way the story was told and the subject matter intrigued me.  Both of these picks are highly recommended!

March:  Shadowrise by Tad Williams.  This is the third in the Shadowmarch series.  It was supposed to be a trilogy and I guess it's now going to be four books.  Anyways, I really liked it, but I waited too long between the last book and this one and I paid for it.  Important things would be mentioned and it came back to me, but I wished it was still fresh in my mind.  I recommended this series to my husband. 

April:  A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  My sister, my husband, and my sister-in-law all recommended this to me, and I finally decided to read it before they started the HBO series.  It was fantastic!  I loved loved loved it.  Highly recommended and I'm already halfway through the second in the series. 

May:  A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin.  I haven't been reading anything else but this series.  It's so engrossing. 

June:  I'm still engrossed with the George R.R. Martin series (on book 3).  So I will list my audio pick, which is a tie this month:  The Girls:  A Novel by Lori Lansens and Wise Man's Fear (book 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicles) by Patrick Rothfuss.  I heard great things about The Girls, but didn't think the subject matter very intriguing.  However, it was a great, well-written story.  I really liked it. The narrators were well cast and enjoyable to listen to.  Wise Man's Fear was very long (had the unabridged version and it was 36 discs or something) and seemed to drag in some places, but all in all I enjoyed it and am eager for the next in the series. 

July:  I devoured A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin, which both earned high marks in my book, with book 4 a tad better than book 3.  I'll finally finish the most recent one and then I'll be able to move on to something else!  But these are so good.  As for audio, I had a bunch of losers for July, so the closest thing to list here would be 16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber.  It is the first in the Cedar Cove series, and I had the unabridged version.  There were so many characters, I'm sure setting up for the series, and the plot was easy to figure out.  It was an OK listen, but not sure if I want to spend time listening to any of the rest of the series.  It was the first Macomber book I've read, and is pretty much what I expected it to be.

August:  A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin.  As you can see, I've read the entire series back to back, and now have to actually wait (maybe years!) for the next in the series.  It's one of the best series I've ever read and I highly recommend it.  As for audio, I pick Sail by James Patterson & Howard Roughan.  I don't usually seek out books like this, but I really found this to be a pleasant surprise.  Good story, good narrators.  I liked it so much I ordered a couple more by Patterson.

September:  Beach Road by James Patterson and Peter de Jong.  I listened to the audio and was immediately satisfied because the actor Billy Baldwin is one of the narrators and does a superb job.  The actual plot was well thought-out and totally blew me away.  LOVED it.

October:  I finally got into the Millenium trilogy, and found The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson to be awesome.  I really struggled with the first book (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) but acknowledge that the storyline in it is essential to the storyline in the second installment.  I am currently reading the third, and don't find it as good as Fire but still much better than Tattoo.  As for audio, I picked The Ark by Boyd Morrison.  It had a lot of action and a little tiny bit of romance.  I found it at the library and it reminded me of an Indiana Jones type story.

November:  I had read this before, but never finished the series, so I re-read it.  Freedom's Landing by Anne McCaffrey.  It's the first of four.  I was on the second book when I heard that the author passed away.  I'm currently on the third.  I like the concept of creating a civilization on a new world. 

December:  Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, without a doubt, was the best this month.  I had resisted reading it due to the sadness of the subject matter, but I listened to it on audio and it was a great story.  I'm glad I finally ended up reading it.

BOOK OF THE YEAR:  Print: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin  Audio:  The Help by Kathryn Stockett



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Oh, I want to try this....saving my spot!

JanuaryA Death In China by Carl Hiaasen and Bill Montalbano, didn't know Carl Hiaasen wrote anything but funny mysteries.  I also enjoyed Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear.

February: Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas, grabbed me from the beginning and didn't let go.  We have some family history from that area.  Also, loved The Daughter of Time by Josephine Trey.

March: A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, one of the best books I've read in a long while.  Another couple were nonfiction: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan made me feel like I was there in the grit and heat and The Town on Beaver Creek by Michelle Slatalla was a good history of her family in a town in Kentucky that no longer exists.

April: A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska--The Story of Hannah Breece by Jane Jacobs, from the notes of the teacher herself.  Quite a cool lady. Also, a couple of science fiction authors:  One Jump Ahead by Mark L. Van Name and At Empire's Edge by William C. Dietz.  Overall, though, the Hannah Breece book wins.

May: Fox on the Rhine by Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson, great alternative history of WWII.  Also, I liked Colony Fleet by Susan R. Matthews.

June: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre and its sequels. 

 July: The Dog From Hell by Chris Bunch.  Funny with twists...weird because I started another series of his and dumped it because I couldn't get into it.  DS sent me The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for my nook and I have to admit I really enjoyed that one, too. 

August:  I read a very interesting mystery The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch in which the mystery works backwards in time.  Was a fun read and one that I'm sending to my father.  I seem to be on a science fiction kick this year...must be trying to work down my science fiction shelf.  I read a lot of William Dietz this month and liked most of them but the standout seems to be Where the Ships Die.

September:  I got into a series by Karen Traviss...the first one is City of Pearl.  The only thing I have a problem with is her anti religion aspect, but at times she seems to respect religion even if she doesn't believe in it.  The settings and characters are really believable.

October:  Read more of the Karen Traviss series.  I also started a mystery series by Lorena McCourtney with Invisible.  It has religion in it, but it isn't preachy and it is a very funny mystery and about getting older.

November: Started series of Thomas Perry in the middle or something with Runner.  I'm going to be intrigued enough to go back at the beginning. It is about a woman who helps people disappear and start new lives.  I also enjoyed The Myriad by R. M. Meluch and will continue this series.

 



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Thanks all for joining me!  It's going to be a GREAT year!   List updated to here.

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Favorite Book of the Month/2011

 

January:  Flyboys, by James Bradley:  An unbiased account of the airwar in Japan based on facts gathered from both the Japanese, United States, and actual survivors.  "Unforgettable one of the most instructive and moving book on war and its aftermath that we are likely to see"  "Flyboys is a triumph of careful listening of far-flung reportage, and most of all, of thoroughgoing empathy"                  

 

February:  The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen:  Wow I wouldn't normally read a book like this but I'm glad I did.  Every emotion present in this book that deals with family.  Sometimes it was funny, sad, loving, and unbearable in the truths that are peeled away.  Take a chance and read this book.  

 

March:   The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.   This is an amazing book.  It has everything you could want in a book.   Intrigue, mystery, murder, family, love, and every other emotion that we have.  I couldn't put it down, but it was by no means a fast read.  If you want a different experience, this is the book for you.                          

 



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BOOK OF THE YEAR:  Sold by Patricia McCormick.  AMAZING!

January: City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling.  The book follows several generations of surgeons (back then, they were trained more as barbers), physicians, and apothecaries.  The book is divided into several sections that make it easy to read and understand. A little gory, but that's the way things were back then.  I am happy that I finally read this, since I have some of her other books on the TBR pile.

February:  Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning.  Tried to read these a few years ago, and could not do it.  Pure, unadulterated fluff.  But fun.  For a more serious choice, my close second was Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper, about a blind kitty who came to live with her.  Sweet and adorable--and the cat does NOT die at the end.

March:  Sold by Patricia McCormick.  I think this book was marketed as a young adult book, and I would not think that it would be appropriate for anyone younger, since it details the disgusting perversities that are committed against girls who are sold into prostitution in Nepal, India, and places in that part of the world.  (Don't have the book in front of me and I read it awhile ago, so I cannot remember the exact country.)  You will be deeply touched by the main character--her courage, innocence, and intelligence.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It's a keeper.

April:  More fluff on the favorite list this month!  I read the last Fever book...and I just wasn't feeling it, although I had waited a while to read it.  I would have to say my favorite is Lover Unleashed by J.R.  Ward.  What can I say?  I love the black Dagger Brotherhood.  (Honorable mention:  Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.  Moving, but I liked What Is the What SO much better.

May:  Most of the books I read this month were OK, but jumped the shark at one point.  (Completely unlikely turns of event that were frustrating to read).  So, I guess it would have to be My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke.  It was fun to take the stroll down memory lane with him and to read about his real life.  He acknowledges his bad decisions, but does not seem to fully take responsibility for them, but he really has led an interesting life.

June:  Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.  This was not a good reading month for me, but this book was interesting.  Very gritty thriller in Amish country.  Not for the faint of heart, but a page turner.  

July:   A Stolen Life by Jaycee Duggard.  A true example of the ability of the human spirit to endure.

August:  Mudbound by Hillary Jordan.  The book takes place right after WW2 in Mississippi.  It is about the intersection of a white family and a family of African American tenant farmers on a farm called Mudbound.  It is a portrait of racism, depseration, and family.  

September:  The Invention of Hugo Cabret by David Selsnick (Children's Book).  (I only read two books this month!)  Imaginative book combining pictures and text.  About the early history of film--something most kids don't know much about.  

October:  I Choose to Live by Sabine Dardenne.  This book is about a girl, like Jaycee Duggard, who was abducted as a child and held in a basement.  Her abductor was a serial killer.  Sabine had a completely different atttitude than Jaycee and was much more resilient.  (Their personalitles are completely different.)  I only read three books this month, and this was the best of the three.

November:  Phantom by Susan Kay.  It is basically the backstory of the Phantom of the Opera and man, is it good.  Dark, moody, and has you feeling conflicted about whether to love/hate the Phantom.  It took me a while to decide to read it, but it is terrific!  If I could read it instead of go to work, I would!

December:  Escape by Carolyn Jessop.  Fascinating account of life within the FLDS church.  Runner up:  Seduction of a Highland Lass by Megan Hart.  Pure fluff, but so much fun.

This was so much fun last year!



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My Top 10 Reads of 2011

1. The Habitation of the Blessed, by Catherynne M. Valente
2. The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer
3. Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith
4. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
5. The Changeling Sea, by Patricia A. McKillip
6. Meat: A Benign Extravagance, by Simon Fairlie
7. Embassytown, by China Mieville
8. The Bone Palace, by Amanda Downum
9. Mockingbird, by Sean Stewart
10. Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente
11. Fledgling, by Octavia Butler
12. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
13. Commitment Hour, by James Alan Gardner
14. The Fox Woman, by Kij Johnson
15. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

Yes, I know I cannot count. ;)

Some explanations and links to my reviews (where I wrote them) are in my blog post.

 

Books of the Month

January: Unnatural Death, by Dorothy Sayers. Just soooooooo much fun, even though I figured out the who and the how way earlier than Wimsey did.

Honorable mention to Among Others, by Jo Walton, which was wonderful but somehow did not make me love it. All things told, this was a pretty disappointing reading month.

February: The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle. Rightfully a classic, with exquisite writing and concerned with some themes near and dear to my heart. The sort of thing that reminds me why I read fantasy.

Honorable mention to The Fox Woman, by Kij Johnson, which was just about as good as The Last Unicorn (which is incredible praise) but which kind of wrecked me emotionally, causing a Georgette Heyer binge. :)

March: The Bone Palace, by Amanda Downum. Actually squee-worthy, which nothing else I've read so far this year has been. Kingdom fantasy/mystery with characters I ached for and a world with enough space for all sorts of people -- any race, gender (including trans), sexuality, age, social class, etc. I have a new automatic-buy author!

Honorable mention to Fledgling, by Octavia E. Butler, which suffered from not being quite as good as Wild Seed but is still amazing; also to The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer, which was just utterly delightful.

April: The Habitation of the Blessed, by Catherynne M. Valente. Best book I've read all year -- brilliantly structured and heartbreakingly beautiful. Valente's work makes me despair, because I know I could never write anything even a quarter as good, but makes me hopeful at the same time because damn, if the human race can produce stuff like this. . .

Honorable mention to The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer, which made me want to write despite the existential despair Valente threw me into. :)

May: Meat: A Benign Extravagance, by Simon Fairlie. The sort of book I can proselytize for -- rigorous, informative, impassioned, and about a topic that not enough people think about.

Honorable mention to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente, which was sweetly delightful.

June: Embassytown, by China Mieville. Utterly brilliant, more difficult than it probably needs to be but absolutely worth the effort. And most surprisingly of all, to me at least, was that I ended up caring quite deeply for the characters and the world.

Honorable mention to Commitment Hour, by James Alan Gardner, which was just so warm and lovely that I wanted to live there.

July: Troubled Waters, by Sharon Shinn. The best thing Shinn's written in a long time; it's still only what she does, which is character-driven romantic fantasy, rather than an attempt at anything deeper; but she does that so well that I sped through this and came out of it smiling and wanting to read it again.

No honorable mention, since I read very little this month and wasn't terribly excited by any of it.

August: Tie between The Changeling Sea, by Patricia A. McKillip and Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith. Both are exquisitely written; McKillip's holds the emotional edge, doing what she does best (fairy tale retellings) with one of her best protagonists, while Griffith's holds the intellectual edge, exploring change in all its myriad forms.

Honorable mention to The Tempering of Men, by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, which suffers from being a middle book but beautifully explores its major characters.

September: Mockingbird, by Sean Stewart. Wry and warm and lyrical, with what I have come to see as Stewart's trademark characterization and voice. This also hit so incredibly close to home that I lost any attempt at objectivity.

Honorable mention to Servant of the Underworld, by Aliette de Bodard, which is a very well-constructed first novel in a completely under-utilized milieu.

October: Cold Fire, by Kate Elliott. So much FUN. Love the characters, love the world, love the romance. NEED the third book, like, yesterday. This is not the sort of book that I can discourse on at length. . . but it is exactly the sort of book that I get cravings for and will likely reread over and over again.

Honorable mention to Cold Magic, the first book in the series, which I felt the same way about except that I really hated the romantic lead through the first four hundred pages or so.

November: The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Thoughtful, beautifully written science fiction that helped expand the boundaries of the genre; I didn't necessarily agree with everything Le Guin was saying, but I loved the way she said it and my process of engagement with it. Rightfully a classic.

Honorable mention to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which was exactly as fun as I'd been led to believe, at least if you've consumed enough fantasy to get the jokes. :)

December: Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente. A somewhat problematic book, when I got enough emotional distance to analyze it, but the problems come from being too ambitious, a trait I always admire. And so much about it works, and it does that thing that Valente always does which is break my heart into a million little pieces, and it gave me such a nice surprise in its treatment of D/s and poly relationships, so this is easily the best book I read in December.

Honorable mentions to Jaran, by Kate Elliott, which hit all the same narrative kinks that her fantasy series did for me in October but seemed overall slightly better constructed; Fire Logic, by Laurie J. Marks, which had absolutely wonderful world-building and characters and only failed a little by making some traumas too easy to recover from; and The King's Peace, by Jo Walton, which was such a different take on the Matter of Britain and which I would have loved even more if it didn't end in a to-be-continued when I packed away book #2!



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January--For the first time ever, no pick!  I read a little less than usual (7 read and 3 listened to).  Nothing stood out. After posting this last night, I was just thinking how terrible that, for, I think, the first time in several years, I didn't read an outstanding book.  OMG!  I completely forgot Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand.  This was a great book!



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January

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Bradley (audio) --  the first in a series of mysteries set in the 1950s in an English village, featuring Flavia de Luce, a precocious, fearless, funny 11-year-old prodigy who loves chemistry, especially poisons; the audio version is absolutely delightful

Honorable Mention: The Lacuna by Kingsolver

February

A Game of Thrones by Martin -- I am not a fantasy fan but I so enjoyed this first installment in Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series; compelling book filled with fascinating characters, intriguing plots, romance, adventure, battles; highly recommended

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Bradley (audio) -- the second in the Flavia de Luce series (see Jan); equally delightful and charming

A Place Beyond Courage by Chadwick -- a wonderful portrayal of John (FitzGilbert) Marshal, a courageous, ambitious, and skilled royal servant in the 12th c. who must make difficult, if not impossible, choices to protect his property and family during the war between Empress Matilda and her cousin Stephen who stole her crown; Chadwick excels at bringing this period to life

To Defy a King by Chadwick -- another superb rendition of medieval life by Chadwick; in this book, the focus is on Mahelt, William Marshal's beloved daughter, an independent, rebellious spirit whose determination to remain loyal to her Marshal family is often at odds with the interests of her husband, whom she loves, and his powerful family; excellent glimpses of the mercurial, demanding, and tyrannical King John

Honorable Mention: Operation Mincemeat by Macintyre; Let the Great World Spin by McCann

March

The Love Knot by Chadwick --  another wonderful medieval tale by Chadwick; this time the main characters are fictional not historical and it is more of a romance but the vivid portrayal of historical events, characters, and period details make this well worth reading

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Haddon -- a story told from the perspective of a 15-year-old with autism that gives the reader some insight into the world of autism; found it just as enjoyable this time as when I read it years ago

The Coroner's Lunch by Cotterill -- the first of the Dr. Siri Paiboun mystery series set in Laos; Siri is a terrifically irreverent 72-year-old state coroner; loved the exotic setting and quirky characters; less enthralled with some of the supernatural aspects; still very engaging

Honorable Mention: Some Danger Involved by Thompson; A Red Herring Without Mustard by Bradley (audio); The Lincoln Lawyer by Connelly

April

Shadows and Strongholds by Chadwick -- As usual, Chadwick transports the reader to medieval times with her vivid descriptions of historical characters, events, and daily life. This book focuses on Hawise de Dinan and Brunin FitzWarin. Brunin is a bit of a misfit who is fostered out to de Dinan's family and comes into his own under the nurturing tutelage of Hawise's father. There are battles, betrayals, politics, deaths, rivalries -- and, of course, love, romance, honor, and chivalry.

The Kitchen House by Grissom -- a disturbing but riveting book that provides a unique perspective on the relationship between white indentured servants and black slaves, while also highlighting the cruelties and horrors of slavery. It also shows how one's sense of family crosses color lines -- and what an impossible situation that is in the late 18th c. in Virginia. In general, I thought the book was excellent -- well worth reading, but be prepared for heartbreak and despair.

The Forgotten Garden by Morton -- Starting with the abandonment of a 4-year-old girl on a ship to Australia, a compelling story unfolds in three different time periods through three generations of women in which the truth of the girl's parentage is eventually revealed. A highly satisfying and engaging novel.

May

The Heaven Tree Trilogy by Pargeter -- Set in the 13th c. along the English/Welsh border, this book will grab you, toss you around, and leave you emotionally drained. It has it all -- a compelling story that includes romance, violence, political intrigue, love, betrayal, loyalty, honor, artistry in addition to lovely writing, vibrant historical detail, and multidimensional characters. I LOVED this book!

June

Lily Cigar by Murphy -- A delicious, good ol' fashioned saga about a Catholic, orphaned girl from New York who ends up in the San Francisco Bay area in the second half of the 1800s when California was the land of gold, silver, promises, opportunities, and dreams (sometimes fulfilled; sometimes broken). Some beautiful writing -- and quite a love story! (Unfortunately, it's out of print and hard to find -- try Interlibrary Loan.)

The Falcons of Montabard by Chadwick -- another engrossing medieval tale by Chadwick; this one is set in Outremer during the Crusades; a fine mix of fact and fiction, featuring Sabin, a historical hunk who starts out as a bad boy. Most entertaining and highly recommended!

Shields of Pride by Chadwick --  ...and yet another engaging medieval love story; set in 1173, mercenary soldier and illegitimate son of a well-known knight, Joscelin de Gael, is given custody of Linnet de Monsorrel; their relationship develops amidst treacherous family members and painful wounds from the past

Honorable Mention: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Larsson (audio version by my favorite narrator, Simon Vance); possibly better than the print version!

July

Treason by Whitford -- fascinating historical fiction and highly recommended for anyone interested in the Wars of the Roses; narrated by Richard III's fictional best friend since childhood so you get a front-row perspective of the tumultuous events between 1461 through 1485

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Franklin -- an absolute gem, set in the South and centered around a fractured friendship between a white and black boy; if you like compelling, well-written stories with well-developed characters and a good sense of place and time, read this book.

August

The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas (unabridged translation by Robin Buss) -- it's long (1200+ pages) but so worth it! This is the riveting and thrilling story of Edmond Dantes, imprisoned for a crime that he didn't commit and who escapes after many years to wreak revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment. This is simply a must-read!

Lady of the English by Chadwick -- yet another excellent installment of medieval historical fiction from this author; this one focuses on Matilda, daughter and heir of Henry I, and Adeliza, wife of Henry I. The close friendship between the two women becomes strained after Henry's death when the country enters a period of civil war and anarchy. As always with a Chadwick book, highly engaging and entertaining.

The Winter Sea by Kearsley -- This is a book that I would not otherwise have picked up given its "romancy" cover -- but as soon as I started reading, I found myself engaged in the two parallel stories: current day Scotland and 1708 Scotland. A terrific blend of historical fiction and romance -- I didn't even mind the "supernatural" aspects. Wonderful!

September

Aztec by Jennings -- a long (1000+ pp), fascinating, and compelling story of the Aztecs at the peak of their culture through the arrival of Cortez as told by a memorable and wonderfully irreverent narrator, Mixtli; if you like good story-telling that employs adventure, violence, sex, blood, love, wit, and folly, read this book.

The Far Pavilions by Kaye -- another long (1000+), compelling saga; this one is set in late 19th c. India, starting with the Sepoy Rebellion and ending during the 2nd Anglo-Afghan war; it highlights the clash of cultures and is filled with adventure and romance; fascinating historical fiction

October

Unbroken by Hillenbrand (audio) -- the story of Olympic athlete, Louis Zamperini, largely focused on his days as a POW in Japan during WWII; it's at times horrifying, heartbreaking, inspiring; a gripping tale of endurance and resilience

My Reading Life by Conroy -- an absolute gem of a book for anyone who cares about reading, writing, and language; a collection of short essays that sometimes moved me to tears and sometimes to hysterics; Conroy strings words and sentences together in remarkable and delicious ways

Lionheart by Penman -- in my book, Penman is the goddess of historical fiction; while this wasn't my favorite of her books, it is still superior to most of what's out there; as always, well-researched and filled with historical details; she makes complex and convoluted medieval politics understandable and brings Richard the Lionheart as well as a number of other major and minor historical figures to life

Honorable mention: Madame Tussaud by Moran

November

Celia Garth by Bristow --  a classic that inexplicably escaped me in my younger days but happy to have discovered it now; an engaging, enlightening, and excellent book about a spunky young woman ("Sassyface") living in Charleston, SC during the Revolutionary War

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Shriver --  a disturbing but compelling, powerful, and provocative book; written as a series of letters by a woman to her estranged husband about a year after their teen son went on a Columbine-type killing spree at his high school; excellent book for a book group

The Marsh King's Daughter by Chadwick -- King John's treasure disappeared in the early 13th c.; from this historical fact, Chadwick creates an engaging and entertaining story focused on Miriel Weaver, a young woman forced into a convent by her abusive step-father and Nicholas de Caen, a noble who has run afoul of King John; most enjoyable

Honorable mention: Troubled Bones by Westerson

December

41 Stories by O. Henry -- not being a fan of short stories, I approached these grudgingly for book club -- what a wonderful surprise! O. Henry is not only a master of irony, but his writing is fabulous. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad but generally engaging, these stories are worth reading.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Shaffer and Barrows (audio) -- read this book a couple years ago and loved it; heard that the audio version was quite good -- indeed it was! This novel is written as a series of letters starting in 1946 as Britain emerges from WWII; Juliet Ashton is an English writer who discovers a group of quirky, lovable characters who formed a literary society on the island of Guernsey during German occupation. This is a delightful, enchanting book -- one of my favorites both in print and audio.

Outlaw and Holy Warrior by Donald -- these are immensely readable, entertaining, and gripping books in which Robin Hood is portrayed as a brutal and ruthless leader; the author combines lots of action with real historical events and a good sense of the time period



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JANUARY:  Labor Day by Joyce Maynard  I only read 3 book in January and while this was my favorite of the 3, it was by no means a great book.  The main character, 13 year old Henry, and his mother Adele, take in an escaped criminal named Frank.  I didn't find a lot of the situations believable; however, as the relationship between Henry and Frank developed, the story did become interesting.  In the end, I thought the story line was wrapped up a little too neatly.

FEBRUARY:  Still Missing by Chevy Stevens  Out of the 3 books I read this month, this was my favorite.  The story is centered around Annie, who was abducted by a stranger.  She tells her story from the very first chapter, but the real mystery doesn't reveal itself until the book is almost finished.  I read it in one day.

MARCH:  A Dog Named Slugger by Leigh Brill  The author’s special bond with her service dog Slugger was heartwarming.   Even though Slugger helped her with her disability, Leigh’s Cerebral Palsy was not the focus of the book.   The book was more about the way Slugger helped her overcome her lack of confidence and begin to believe in herself. Read it for free on My Kindle.

APRIL:  Amanda's Voice by Eileen Bennett   This book is the true story of Amanda, a young girl who lost her mother, Wendy and her younger brother Scotty and sister Melanie when her stepfather murdered them all in their sleep.  He had been accused of sexually molesting Amanda and her friend and the trial was in progress when he murdered his family and then killed himself. The author, Eileen Bennett, was married to Wendy’s father and was stepmother to Wendy and was one of Amanda’s grandmothers.  She and Amanda decided to write a book together so that their family would not be forgotten.  It was a well written account of a horrific crime.  

MAY:   It saddens me to say that I did not read one single book during the month of May!  But I hold high hopes for June.

JUNE:  The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins  This book has been in my TBR pile forever and I finally got around to reading it.  Great detective story from the mid 1850s.  I took this book on vacation and picked it up every chance I got.  Highly recommend it.

JULY:  A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard   This book was not my favorite because of the story, but because of Jaycee's courage in facing what happened to her and her courage to write about it for all the world to read.    It was hard to read at times and impossible not to shed tears while reading, but I am glad I read it.

AUGUST:  The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone  "They were each, in some way, touched by lightning - connected and transformed by the heaven."  This decribes the premise of this book and its two likeable and quirkly main characters, Becca and Buckley.  I happened to be reading this book during a freak, violent thunderstorm, so I found it to be both funny and scary.

SEPTEMBER:  Sister by Rosamund Lupton    Beatrice (Bee) and her sister Tess are the two main characters in this book.  Bee moves to London when Tess goes missing and ends up investigating Tess’ death when she is found dead in an abandoned park building after what appears to be a suicide. The writing is seamless and the story just flows off the pages.  I was literally holding my breath as I read the last few chapters.  I thought I had it solved, but I didn’t. I really, really liked this book.   Favorite passages: (It was) as if memory is a fridge, with pieces of useful information in danger of rotting in the crisper drawer.

 OCTOBER:  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern  I read so many great books this month, but I have to give The Night Circus top billing.  I don't usually read this genre (fantasy), but the story line drew me in and had me hooked from the very first chapter.  The author skillfully wove her tale, jumping from year to year, event to event, but somehow tying it all together and never losing her way (or the reader) in the journey.  Highly recommend!

NOVEMBER: The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard  This was a busy month for me and I didn't read very many books.  But the story line in The Scent of Rain and Lightning intrigued me and the ending surprised me, so this is my pick for November.

DECEMBER: In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson  Because this book was written from the perspective of the American ambassador to Germany during the rise of Hitler, it an insider's view of the changes that led up to Hitler's reign of terror.  "Throughout that first year in Germany, Dodd had been struck again and again by the strange indifference to atrocity that had settled over the nation, the willingness of the populace and of the moderate elements in the government to accept each new oppressive decree, each new act of violence, without protest.  It was as if he had entered the dark forest of a fairy tale where all the rules of right and wrong were upended."



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