Saturday, February 02, 2013

Five Star Books of 2012

I feel as if I spent the entire four star post apologizing for why those books didn’t get five stars. And now I feel like I am going to spend this whole post justifying why I gave these ones five stars. So here is my blanket justification – these books are the ones that I wanted to read to the exclusion of all else. I didn’t want to put them down for anything. I did, obviously, but sadly. In some cases they aren’t as well written as some of the four stars, but they just dug their little claws into me and wouldn’t let go. So there…


Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews – It’s the kind of light fluffy fun I have come to expect from Andrews. This time a young woman faces the remarriage of her ex-husband as well as the dissolution of the business that keeps her small town going. Great summer read.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – You don’t need me to tell you about this one – everyone was reading it this summer. A twisty tale of the most unlikable marriage combatants you can imagine.

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon – A woman whose marriage is getting stale agrees to be a study subject for a very involved survey, and begins to build a connection with her interviewer. It seems like the sort of thing I would hate – I have no patience for “cheating” books – but it pulled me in.

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshlyn Jackson – Three generations of southern women seem to be making the same bad decisions. And a corpse is found in their backyard. Jackson writes Southern women like nobody’s business. Funny, touching and insightful all at the same time.

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman – A Washington lobbyist by day, high class madam by night realizes her life is in danger when her old associates start showing up dead and she is pretty sure the father of her young son is involved. A couple of steps up from a guilty pleasure.

The Spellman Files and Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz – A family of wacky private investigators in San Francisco have adventures. Hilarity ensues.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty – A Midwestern matron with a surprising past and a painful present is chosen to chaperone a teenage out-of-control Louise Brooks to New York City. There are so many of my favorite historical bits in here as well as some great characters.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – A teenage girl witnesses her mother kill a man. Years later, when her mother is near death, she tries to unravel a mystery that reaches back to London during the Blitz.  I COULD NO STOP READING!

The 500 by Matthew Quirk – A young feller gets a job with a very shady firm.  The similarities between this and Grisham’s THE FIRMI are so minuscule I can barely remember them. And like that book I was compelled to read it super-fast to see how it turned out. Boy, if I remembered how little I remember about this I might have given it 4 stars, but too late!

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple – Snarky, funny and ultimately moving – this story of a very odd Seattle housewife who has people issues (to say the least) was a slow start that had me rooting for weirdness the whole way through.

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonatha Tropper – I absolutely loved HOW TO TALK TO A WIDOWER and THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU and while this one wasn’t as accessible, it was equally as rich and funny.

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral – Man, there were very few words in this book. But I got a TON of kids to read it and each one that did was able to deconstruct it with me in conversation. I loved how it brought up different theories from different readers and yet had an easily definable story. (Piano playing girl with strict single father falls in love with new neighbor boy and then disappears. Or not. Or something.) It was awesome.

Unterzakhn by Leela Corman – This one hurt. Jewish twins sisters in the lower east grow up to very different ends. It starts in 1910 and goes up to the 30s. Lots of detail and great story make for a real heartbreaker. This is not even mitigated by the fact that the title is Yiddish for underpants.

Goliath by Tom Gauld – Brief and funny, this is a retelling of the Biblical story of David and Goliath from Goliath’s perspective. Sweet and light, with a nice little punch at the end. Spoiler, Goliath dies.

Free Range Chickens by Simon Rich – Just silliness, Damn silliness. My favorite is the one about if adults were required to behave the way we expect small children to behave. (“Mr. Smith you HAVE to share your Mercedes with Mr. Jones. Good adults SHARE!”)

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston – I didn’t quite master all the rules about blackness, but Thurston did give me a working knowledge that might allow me to fake it for awhile. Very funny indeed.

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles – Still a little tender from this one… A family in, I think, Maine, runs an ice cream place. But the story is in the characters. Four kids, named for literary characters who have very different personalities and challenges.

New York Drawings by Adrian Tomine – Okay, I just looked at the pictures, but they were awesome!

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti – Is it ever. It is a fine line between wanting our girls to be safe and putting dangerous expectations on them. This book deconstructs that beautifully. I wish I had read it at 18…

We Are In a Book by Mo Willems – We are, indeed. And it is Mo Willems so it is cute, sharp and funny.

Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore           - WRITE FASTER KRISTEN CASHORE! I adored GRACELING, fell even more in love with FIRE and now the worlds kind of come together with this one. The fallout after the death of King Leck is epic as his daughter Queen Bitterblue tries to sort out the lies from the truth. I am not a fan of “other world” fantasy AT ALL, but this is the exception. The world is detailed and fascinating and the characters, while not always likeable, are sympathetic and real.

The Selection by Kiera Cass – CINDERELLA meets HUNGER GAMES meets THE BATCHELOR. This was a slick piece of awesome about a girl who is plucked from near poverty and obscurity in a future dystopian North America to compete in a televised pageant of sorts to find a wife for the prince who will one day be king. The only problem is that she is completely in love with a boy back home.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – If you haven’t heard of this you probably don’t read books. A young girl with debilitating cancer is forced to go to a support group where she meets a boy who is the FREAKING LOVE OF HER LIFE. I laughed, I cried, I want to read it over and over, but since I am a grown up with responsibilities I really can’t. But if I were still 15 I would have read it 12 times already. Gosh, I had a lot of time to read when I was 15.

The Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin – Disclosure, the author is a good friend. And I am in the acknoledgements (for a horrible reason…) but I would have loved it anyway. A quirky girl and her best friend, a boy who is dealing with a lot, take seriously their part in community. So much is going on here and it is beautifully written.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler – Pictures and snappy writing make this first-love account absolutely wonderful. It blows my mind that this is written by Lemony Snicket because it is not arch at all. A box of artifacts and a letter tell the story. The boy is a little one dimensional, but the girl who is writing the letter is amazing.  And it kind of turns teen stereotypes on their head. Loved it.

Legend by Marie Lu – A fast paced slice of dystopian fiction where the seams don’t show and the characters seem like they could actually exist. I couldn’t stop reading.

The List by Siobahn Vivian – Each year a list comes out that has the names of both the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade. The chapters in this story are told from the perspective of these 8 girls. The story is great, the concept is clever and most amazingly of all, each of the girls has her own distinct voice. I loved it.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I am going to have to reread this, now that I know what was going on. This is a WWII story of two friends who are shot down in a spy plane. One is captured by the Nazis and forced to write a confession in order to stay alive. Good grief, I loved it.

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