Monday, January 28, 2013

What I'm Reading 2013

Another year down, another shelf added to my personal library. I read some really amazing books last year. Books that made me laugh. Books that made me weep. Books that had me so frustrated I could barely focus on the pages. I also delved into audiobooks for the first time, with mixed results. I sort of fell off the literary wagon for a while but I'm rediscovering how much I love reading and that is a wonderful thing.

The Year in Books 2012
The Year in Books 2011
The Year in Books 2010
The Year in Books 2009 

Currently Reading 
Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-Fi)

Five Summers - Una LaMarche (YA) Grade: A- Three years after they "graduated" out of their New England summer camp, four friends return for the annual camp reunion weekend to relive past glories and renew friendships, but the weekend takes an unexpected turn when secrets come out.  

The book navigates between the reunion weekend and experiences from each of the five summers the girls spent at camp together, deftly showing how the present is so often defined by the past. And while there is a romantic element, this isn't a love story. It is about friendships and the tests that time and distance place on them.

As a pre-teen, I spent a week each summer at a sleep-away camp and I vividly recall the microcosm of life that took place during that short span of time. Friendships raced from introduction to BFF at the speed of light. Boys and girls met, "went out" and broke up in 24 hour periods. The isolation and time constraints lent an air of immediacy and import to every minute interaction. So perhaps it is partially because of my own experience that I was so effectively transported back to that time of my life while reading this book, but each of the four main characters was so real and identifiable that it was definitely more than just nostalgia that made me enjoy this book so much. 

The first half of the book was a little slow as we learned about each of the characters, but the second half more than made up for it as we raced towards the emotional end of the weekend and the big "capture the flag" showdown between the boys and the girls. All in all, a fun read.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store - Robin Sloan (Fiction)

Flutter - Gina Linko (YA, Paranormal)

The Ask and The Answer - Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-Fi)

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-fi)

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke (Science Fiction) Grade: A-

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple (Fiction) Grade: A
Golden - Jessi Kirby (YA) Grade: B-  On the edge of graduating high school and winning the college scholarship that will make all her dreams come true, 17 year old Taylor takes a leap and does something unexpected on the trail of a decade-old mystery. But she discovers more than just the answers to the mystery in her quest.

The story centers on Taylor's discovery of the private journal of a girl, Julianna, who went missing and was presumed dead 10 years ago. I enjoyed the interplay of Taylor's story and the journal of the ill-fated Julianna. Despite their differences, the parallels between their lives were striking and poignant, each with a seemingly *golden* path ahead of them that they began to question as events in their lives unfold.

Despite this, I'm sorry to say that I couldn't get emotionally invested in this book. Too much of the plot hinges on quirky, unbelievable elements that didn't ring true to me. And I say this as someone who regularly reads fantasy and science fiction. The author has to make me believe and I just didn't here. I couldn't even understand how Taylor and Kat could be best friends. Class valedictorian and town screw-up? Has this ever in the history of teenage girls happened? Since this relationship is pivotal to the story, that's a pretty big flaw for me.

Ultimately, I would put this in the beach read category: it's fast paced with a light emotional payoff, but flat, stereotypical characters and predictable turns make it unremarkable and easy to put down when you want to run out for a swim.

World War Z - Max Brooks (Sci-Fi) Grade: A-

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes (Fiction) Grade: A

You Are Not Here - Samantha Schutz (YA) Grade: A-

A Princess of Mars -  Edgar Rice Burroughs (Sci-fi) Grade: B+

Delirium - Lauren Oliver (YA) Grade: 

The Obvious Game - Rita Arens (YA) Grade: A
The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson (YA) After her only sister unexpectedly dies at 19, Lennie struggles to figure out who she is without her. I loved this book. I loved the words. I loved Lennie's family. I love her relationship with Joe. My favorite book of 2013. Grade: A+
Return to Me - Justina Chen (Fiction) Just before Rebecca is scheduled to begin her freshman year at Columbia, an upheaval in her family throws her world into a tailspin. A thoroughly enjoyable story about a young girl's struggle to find herself when her parents, friends, and boyfriend are pulling her in different directions. Grade: A-

I am the Messenger - Marcus Zusak ( Genre: Fiction) This book was so beautifully written and such a poignant story. But it didn't have quite the punch that The Book Thief did, so I'm dropping it down that one star. Still, it was a wonderful read and I wholeheartedly recommend this book and pretty much anything Markus Zusak writes. Grade: A

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis (Genre: Fiction) I am generally skeptical of Oprah book club books. This was chosen by my book club, though, so I gave it a chance. Sadly, it felt like typical Oprah fare. This book told Hattie's tale, through the lives of her 12 children. However, the twelve stories felt disconnected. Grade: B-

Feed - M.T. Anderson (Genre: Science Fiction, YA) During spring break on the Moon, Titus and his friends are touched by a hacker and their internal "feeds" are cut off from the steady stream of information they've had their entire lives. A thought-provoking read about the increasingly pervasive nature of technology in our lives. Grade: B+

Sea of Tranquility - Katja Millay