My final tally for 2012: 24. Not too shabby! An average of two books per month; I’m gonna pat myself on the back I think. I like relooking over the list and reminiscing about the things I learned and fictious moments I enjoyed. They seem like old friends somehow.
. . .
1. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn (5 stars)
I love this author! I read her first book last year - The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. In her second book she works with everyday cooks to transform then into fearless kitchen warriors. I took away alot of tips myself and I wonder if this traditional “cookbook” should come join me in my kitchen. Hmmm?
2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (5 stars)
I received this book for Christmas from Momma Kay and it was brilliant on her part! I had been wanting to read it for some time. And it did not disappoint. All of the reviews were correct - it is a thorough science book with a compelling human element, the exact combination which I think puts Skloot in the league of Laura Hillenbrand as a fantastic non-fiction author.
3. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (4 stars)
This was a book club selection for March but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It had a few more, shall we say, “worldy” moments but overall it was fairly clean. Set during the Plague in 1666 England, it would be easy for the author to become bogged down and the book to become too heavy. But the pace kept moving right along and the story line at times was unpredictable (or at the very least utterly realistic). I really enjoyed the writing style, which reminded me of Old English, and because of this it was very easy to be transported into the story itself.
4. The Hunger Games
5. Catching Fire
6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (5 stars)
I am glad I didn’t let all the media frenzy surrounding the film keep me from reading this series. It really is as good as everyone said it was (Elliott included). Yes, the subject matter is disturbing when you put it in a real-life setting, but since this is fiction I was able to separate the horrific nature of the story basis from the excellent narrative Collins created. Each book hits a point of no return, a point when I couldn’t put the book down and would gratefully devour the remaining chapters in under 12 hours.
7. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart (2 stars)
Good fluff to read after the Hunger Games trilogy. A sweet little tale of a WWII era summer in NYC working at (you guessed it) Tiffany & Co.
8. Loving The Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic (5 stars)
This little non-fiction book spoke to me at every turn. Conversations or situations the author would recount happen in my house every day and it was both encouraging and convicting at the same time. I think this is one book I need to own and re-read (and re-read again).
9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (5+ stars)
Yes, I read it again. After seeing the movie ump-teen times. What can I say? I LOVE this book! And you know what? I loved it even more this time around because of the movie. As I was reading I was picturing the movie actors (perfectly cast by the way) and it just added even more depth to the story, to the movie, to.. well... all of it.
10. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (4 stars)
I like WWII stories, it seems to be a favorite history period for me. However, the internment of Japanese-Americans during this time was not something I was overly familiar with nor the setting (Seattle). The story follows the story of a friendship between a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl during this volatile time in American history. The story is succinct and well-written, and I liked that the chapters were shorter than most. It was a nice read at the end of the day.
11. The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child by Linda Dobson (4 stars)
After deciding to homeschool Ava the upcoming year, I was inspired to read this book. I have to say, it did indeed alleviate many of my last remaining worries with tidbits scattered throughout entitled “What I Wish Someone Would’ve Told Me My First Year.” And I also found myself leaning more toward an unstructured experience while reading about the varied schools of thought and practical application of various methodology. Both of these experiences were a quite eye-opening and I am very glad I took the time to read this book.
12. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott (3.5 stars)
I am a Titanic buff. Long before falling in love with Leo and Kate, I used to read all about the disaster and the discovery of the wreckage (did you remember that it was only found in the 1990’s?) Although I enjoyed this novel, because I am such a Titanic-fan the downside for me was the novelization / love story itself. I think the facts are dramatic enough and don’t need the fluff to fill it out.
13. The Internment of Japanese Americans During WWII by John C. Davenport (3 stars)
After reading Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet I realized how much I did not know about the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII. One day when at the library with the girls I saw this book on an end display in the Juvenile Non-Fiction section. A quick, concise read, this book was just what I was looking for to fill in the blanks. After reading it I was truly astonished at some of the facts behind the internments - especially the very short amount of time between Pearl Harbor and the evacuations - and am glad to have filled this knowledge gap.
14. We Band of Angels by Elizabeth M. Normal (3 stars)
This nonfiction account of “the untold story of American nurses trapped on Bataan by the Japanese” was an easy read. Not that the subject matter was light, but the author did a good job recounting such heavy material while not bogging down the book. You know me, I like nonfiction and World War II material, so this was right up my alley. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone.
15. Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York, and Points Beyond by Michael Lindsay-Hogg (2 stars)
I am sure I picked up this selection due to a positive review in Entertainment Weekly. And though I tend to like non-fiction, biographies and Hollywood lore this book simply wasn’t my favorite. The subject matter was remote, as I was not familiar with Lindsay-Hogg’s work nor anything surrounding his personal life (was he Orson Welles son??).
16. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (3.5 stars)
I had read Morton’s Forgotten Garden last year and liked it quite a bit, so when this was chosen for book group (and I stumbled across a copy of the book at a garage sale for $.50) I was excited to read it. Morton has an eye for prose, sometimes to the contrary as it may take her entirely too long to explain the scene with her detail. One of the other complaints I had was not knowing who I was supposed to care about or what was the point of the story. I think it took a good ⅓ of the way into the book until I was invested and actually wanting to find out what would happen. But like an uphill road, the downhill portion really took off. I was glued to the book the last ⅓ and the ending took me by surprise - a rare feat in press these days and one to be fully enjoyed.
17. Utah Curiosities by Brandon Griggs (3.5 stars)
A fun little book about all the quirks and offbeat spots that make Utah fun. It made me want to visit a few new places!
18. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (4 stars)
I can’t say I always liked the people in this book very much. The fact that they were real makes that statement actually mean something. Ernest and Hadley Hemingway (the first Mrs. Hemingway) are fictionalized in this account, though the free-for-all that is Paris morality during the 1920s are on full display. To my chagrin. By the end of the book I was sick over the infidelity so lightly brushed over by all, including our main characters, and the lack of regard for anything resembling domesticity that it affected my own personal life. My poor husband! I was so upset at Ernest’s treatment of Hadley near the finale that I was upset in general all the last day I was reading it. That’’s why I gave it the star rating that I did - any author who’s able to illicit that reactions from me, whether I like her characters or not, is a darn good author.
19. A Year in Provence
20. Toujours Provence
21. Encore Provence by Peter Mayle (3.5 stars)
These memoirs of Mayle’s life in the French countryside are a sweet read, giving you a flavor of the people and life as it was a few years ago. It reminded me of Julia Child’s My Life in France, which I have also read and very much enjoyed.
22. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (4 stars)
After watching Ken Burns’ documentary The Dust Bowl on PBS, I became even more interested to read this book, which I had picked up at a garage sale this summer. It was a very compelling compilation of facts and memories, many of which were also recounted in the PBS documentary. It was well-written and steady paced, without seeming burdensome, as some historical non-fictions can sometimes be.
23. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (4.5 stars)
The book that everyone is talking about - I read it. And it was as good as they say it is. I truly don’t know how Flynn kept track of all the twists and turns; her storyboard at home must have been huge. The first half I enjoyed, just reading along like I should (up goes the slow rollercoaster). Then - BAM. The story starts herking and jerking all over the place as the true rollercoaster ride is just beginning. I couldn’t put it down. I preferred reading it to any other entertainment option available to me. And the last sentence of the book... seriously. Oh boy! In full disclosure this book is in no way clean. It is a solid R rating, but I can appreciate the writing and the characters and the story itself. I can’t wait for the movie; it will be good (but rated R).
24. Bossypants by Tina Fey (2.5 stars)
I love Tina Fey and this book certainly has her voice and wit - but that was all. Although the subject matter is entirely memoir-based, the memories she mined were not ones I was overly interested in. And then they were played up. Altogether, I think the underlying problem was that I like my Tina Fey in doses and this was too bit a dose.