What I Read: Part V

This last quarter saw my reading endurance dwindling at a rapid rate as the house took precedence. That and I just couldn’t get into several of the novels I started—for those who asked about The Casual Vacancy, after my mom and SVV both quit mid-book, I quickly erased it from my own list—which is not a problem I often have. In the end, I only managed to muddle my way through 41 books, which was an improvement on my 33 from last year, but not quite the 52 that was my goal. (Next year! There’s always next year.)

BooksStill, Kindle books make excellent Christmas gifts—you know you can send them as gifts wirelessly with a quick click of a button, right?—so I figured I’d give you a round-up early of what I read in this last quarter (and my favorite books of the year) in case you’re still looking for something to buy that special literary-lovin’ someone in your life.

Kindle Gift

33. One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper

After making good headway on my reading list over vacation, Tropper’s newest read put a screeching halt in my pace. I liked it in the end, but by George, it sure took a lot of will power to keep trucking away each night. I usually can put a Tropper away in a week of just reading before bed, but this one took me a solid month, it was so dry (and a bit boring at times). The story in a nutshell: A washed-up musician, Silver, changes priorities as he reconnects with his daughter and also finds out he has a life-altering medical condition. Definitely not my favorite of his.

Rating: 3 out of 5

34. Swim by Jennifer Weiner

I searched the Kindle store for the newest Weiner book, and Swim popped up. So I downloaded it and read it and was surprised that I finished it so quickly—only to find out it was just an e-short story (annoying! but it’s free right now if you want to read it). I was just getting into the character, too: Ruth is a former TV writer of a hit series who takes on resume-writing and consulting spoiled high school kids as a means to get by. Apparently, the character and story continues in The Next Best Thing (which didn’t get rave reviews but I’m tempted nonetheless … has anyone read it?).

Rating: 3 out of 5

35. Bond Girl by Erin Duffy

In this Devil Wears Prada-meets-Wall Street novel—written by, you guessed it, a former chick on the Street—Bond Girl follows Alex Garrett from graduation to intern to bond sales girl at one of New York’s most esteemed brokerage firms. The writing was smart, and I found the whole world wildly entertaining as I’ve never worked in finance (nor will I ever). I haven’t read a ton of chick lit in recent years, but once I saw this book made my pop culture Bible Entertainment Weekly’s hot list, I downloaded it immediately.

Rating: 4 out of 5

36. The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

I love me some Rhys Bowen and devour every new Spyness novel with the hunger of someone who hasn’t eaten in months. Her writing is just so witty and clever, and you can’t help but fall in love with Lady Georgie, 35th in line to the throne. In this holiday-themed read, Georgie goes to Tiddleton-under-Lovey to be a hostess for a well-to-do (she thinks) family as they entertain a handful of wealthy society types over the holidays. Trouble follows Georgie, always, and after a few “accidental” deaths in town, she decides to get to the bottom of it (as usual). My mom has read the entire Molly Murphy series by Bowen, and I intend to start the first over the holidays, as well.

Rating: 5 out of 5

37. Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

This young adult novel—and not as dystopian like my norm, but more of a cute-and-quick contemporary romance—was written by my friend Lauren. I love that it took place in London, satiating my own wanderlust, and that it followed a group of seniors on a school trip abroad for a week (especially seeing as I went to Italy with my AP English group on the last semester of my own high school career and it was like a trip back in time). If you have a high school daughter, this would be a great purchase for her, but if you also dig chick lit like me and like to indulge your inner teenybopper, I guarantee you will find Morrill’s writing quick, clean and entertaining.

Rating: 4 out of 5

38. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

I am famously not a Giffin fan, mainly because I’ve found her previous novels tired and quite boring. But I loved this book. Marian Caldwell is a high-powered TV exec who gave up a baby for adoption 18 years prior, only to have her daughter show up on her penthouse doorstep and rock her world. And while the story line may sound familiar, Giffin writes from the heart, and there was a satisfying emotional quality to the whole novel.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

39. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I had heard mixed reviews about this novel by John Green (one friend thought it was his best, another said it was his worst). I couldn’t have loved The Fault in Our Stars more, and Looking for Alaska was equally delightful. Will Grayson (x2) started out slow, and I didn’t think I would care for it much, but Green’s writing style is so pithy, I couldn’t help but fall in love with his characters. It’s kind of a tough book to describe without ruining it—the main character is bi-polar and maybe gay (he’s not sure) and has a tough time in high school. If I say more, it will ruin the shocker that comes mid-read. So I’m just going to say, give it a chance if you’re a Green fan and you will likely be pleased.

Rating: 4 out of 5

40. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I don’t care if you’ve watched the movie 100 times as I have and think you couldn’t benefit further from reading the book. News flash: You can. This is one of my all-time favorite reads, and as the last time I picked it up was 2006 in Spain, I felt the need to delve into S. Morgenstern’s world once more. I think the movie is brilliant, but the book goes even more in depth, particularly with the Zoo of Death (the Pit of Despair), which is not really in the movie at all. And do yourself a favor and read the foreword by Goldman, as you will be impressed by the 30+ years it took for this book to come to fruition and all the research involved in telling the tales of the thieves and princess and con artists and giants and counts that Morgenstern created when he was still alive. And if you don’t take my advice here, all I have to say to you is this: Inconceivable!

Rating: 5 out of 5

41. Crossed by Allie Condie

I read Matched a few years ago when it first came out, and while I didn’t love it—not at all—I still feel the need to complete any series I’ve started (see Twilight, which I absolutely loathed from book one). I’m only halfway through the second book of the trilogy and have a very “meh” attitude toward this read as I did the first—it follows the Aberrations in the Society as they’re shipped to the Outer Boroughs to become bait for the Enemy—but I was feeling a dystopian deficit in my life after the first half of this year and needed something to satiate that craving. Still, something tells me I’ll read Reached, the conclusion of the series, next. Because I’m a glutton for punishment like that (though it has the best reviews of the three on Amazon, which always plays a big part in what I opt to read next).

Rating (so far): 3 out of 5

Next up already in my Kindle queue are The Art of Fielding, The Post-Birthday World, Fire and Bitterblue (books 2 and 3 of the Graceling series), A Visit from the Goon Squad. While unpacking boxes, I also found a number of print books, such as The Outlander series, that I own but have yet to read, so am putting them on my 2013 to-do list.


But my top 11 books of 2012—some of which were written years ago, but only recently made my radar—would have to be the following (hyperlinked to my previous review of each)

  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  3. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  4. Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper
  5. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  6. Pandemonium by Lauren Olivier
  7. Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen
  8. The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
  9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  11. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

What were your favorite books you read this year?

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Comments ( 58 )

  1. I’m almost 400 pages into Outlander…and I’m still not hooked yet. It has taken me weeeeeeks. I assumed I would love it since Scotland + historical fiction = HAPPYALI. Only, I’m kind of…bored.
    alimartell recently posted..Why I’m Not Going to Tell You that I’m Still a WinnerMy Profile

    • Oof. Really? I feel I might have the same reaction since we have pretty similar reading tastes. (Also, wasn’t it you who recently posted on Facebook that you hated The Lord of the Rings series? Because I felt the same way about the book + the movies and know I will be forced to see The Hobbit regardless.)

      Your experience with Outlander was mine with A Discovery of Witches. I got hundreds of pages in and never finished it, as I was so bored and never got hooked.

  2. You’re my idol! I read 1.5 books in 2012.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..The My Beautiful Adventures EarringsMy Profile

  3. I kind of enjoyed “The Casual Vacancy”, but I don’t have a problem quitting on a book – life is too short to read books I’m not enjoying. I stopped on “Gone Girl” and it’s sitting on my shelf unfinished and unloved!

    “Cutting for Stone” was my favorite of the year, it was a paperback loaner that rode in my SUV forever; finally picked it up one day and then couldn’t finish it fast enough…

    • Thank you for the reminder! My cousin was reading “Cutting for Stone” at the beach, and I meant to add it to the top of my list.

      Out of curiosity, what didn’t you like about “Gone Girl?” You’re the first I’ve known who hasn’t finished it! I adored that book—it was just so different than anything else I’ve ever read—and “Sharp Objects” by Flynn was equally twisted and disturbing.

      • It’s been a while, so I can’t answer except to say that I remember a sense of foreboding…perhaps the “twisted and disturbing” that you mention! I used to enjoy books like that, but don’t so much anymore.

  4. Just read The Fault in Our Stars. One of my favorite books ever. Did you read The Submission. Another good one.
    Kent @NVR recently posted..Off the Grid Ski AdventureMy Profile

    • MINE, TOO. I love that book so hard. Read Looking for Alaska next; it’s my other favorite of Green’s. I wasn’t wild about An Abundance of Katherines, but Will Grayson, Will Grayson was quirky.

  5. I got so excited when I saw the Diana Gabaldon books in your picture! She is one of my favorites. Her books were how I was able to convince a friend to come to Scotland with me and our motivation for going to Inverness! Although, (IMHO) as the series has gone on, her writing has changed and become more descriptive. I still enjoy her books (am currently re-reading the series via audiobook), but the first and fourth are my favorites. Happy reading in the new year!

  6. I love these posts! Emily Giffin is always hit and miss for me too… I’ll have to try her latest. Don’t start “Outlander” until you can commit – it’s by far the best series I’ve ever read. You’ll fall in love with Jamie Fraser !
    Sarah recently posted..Getting Personal for the Holidays.My Profile

  7. I love these posts! Emily Giffin is hit and miss for me too. I’ll have to try out her latest. Don’t start “Outlander” until you can commit. It’s by far the best series I’ve ever read. You’ll fall in love with Jamie Fraser!
    Sarah recently posted..Getting Personal for the Holidays.My Profile

    • OK, good to hear people love that series so much. The problem is I have the print copies and they’re so dang huge, I won’t be able to take them while traveling! Hopefully, I can make some headway with them while I’m home this next month =)

      What books of Giffin’s have you read that you actually liked? This was the first for me that I enjoyed. Her last one with the doctor in D.C. was just terrible.

      • Yeah, the Outlander books are massive! I try to get them on my Kindle unless I find them on sale somewhere.

        I really liked “Something Borrowed” and “Something Blue”… read them years ago! You kind of have to be okay with the basis of the books being a cheating boyfriend, which is weird. All of the other ones (Baby Proof, Love the One You’re With, Heart of the Matter) were really disappointing and very predictable for me.
        Sarah recently posted..Last Minute Gifts (That Don’t Suck)My Profile

      • The Outlander books really are massive! I’m on #5 right now and it is taking forever to get through.

        I actually really liked “Something Borrowed” and “Something Blue”. You kind of have to be okay with a cheating boyfriend being the basis of the plot, though. I didn’t love any of her other ones, though.
        Sarah recently posted..Being Good to Each OtherMy Profile

  8. my sister and i both abandoned casual vacancy, too. glad to hear we weren’t the only ones. so disappointing. moved on to jonathan tropper (book of joe, this is where i leave you) from there thanks to you; really enjoyed! have you read ‘shatter me?’ i’m only halfway through and not as excited about it as i was the delirium series, but still curious how it all ends up…

    • I don’t know anything about “Shatter Me!” It’s YA, too? If so, I’ll definitely have to read it!

      I’ve read all of Tropper’s except How to Talk to a Widower (in my Kindle queue), and the only one I wasn’t wild about was this last one, This is Where I Leave You. That said, it was SVV’s favorite of Tropper’s. So who knows. In the end, I did like it, but it took a whole lot of commitment the first 60% or so to actually get through it.

      • Oops, I meant “One Last Thing Before I Go” as the one I wasn’t wild about. I LOVED “This is Where I Leave You,” I just get his book titles all confused =)

  9. I have read The Next Best Thing and didn’t really enjoy it – via my goodreads review: Liked it at the start but towards the end it got choppy (random sex scene that seemed totally out of place – trying to build of of 50 shades fame success??) and I felt like the ending just wrapped everything up nice and neat way too quickly.

    I’ve only read on Tropper book so far, based on your recommendation, but I have a bunch more on my to read list. When my German boy was headed to the US, he asked for an American book/author recommendation and I pointed him in that direction. He has since read a couple of his books!

    • So I should probably skip it then? I really loved her first couple books back six or seven years ago, but the last few have been quite disappointing (like Fly Away Home). Did you read Then Came You (2011)? I still haven’t gotten to that one either.

      I’m glad he likes Tropper! I think he’s one of those authors who is universally liked because he has such a way with words and his writing style is so crisp and smart.

      • Given that there is no shortage of good books out there – yes, skip it :)

        I’ve been holding off on reading any electronic books in favor of traditional books while I still had access to them at the library, but I am excited to now get to more Tropper as well as well as some Rhys Bowen (as suggested by you)!

  10. Put the “Outlander” books at the top of your list! I was amazed to see that one commenter didn’t like them as they are so completely wonderful. Time travel, an incredible romance, fascinating history – how can you go wrong? They do require somewhat of a commitment but you won’t mind as you will become so involved in the lives of these people. I will be very interested to hear what you think.
    Jan Ross recently posted..Quit Yer Crab Inn or Possibly the Best Beach House in the Entire WorldMy Profile

    • It definitely sounds like my kind of book, and I “borrowed” (er, I’ve had them three years, ha) from my MIL, who just loves them. I did not, however, like A Discovery of Witches or TLOTR, as Ali didn’t because they’re so darn slow, so I hope Outlander is quicker from the get-go!

  11. Just FYI, I read the Matched series too and the 3rd one is a lot better. I struggled with the 2nd one, and honestly forgot all about the series until my sister mentioned the newest one was out. I read Reached the week it came out and I thought she did a good job of wrapping up the series and tying stuff together. She didn’t try to connect every dot and make it a happily ever after like the lame ending to the Hunger Games, but it was satisfying enough to put their story down and feel like it was finished.
    Anyway…just to give you a little hope if you are doomed to finish the whole series :)
    Victoria recently posted..31My Profile

    • Whew, there is hope 😉

      What YA books have you read lately? I’m excited for the next Legend book in January and the next Divergent in March, but I need another trilogy in my Kindle until then!

      • You know, I haven’t read any YA recently. Beyond Matched and HG, I haven’t done a lot of dystopian YA stuff. I’ve been waiting on the new one from Stephanie Perkins, and I think Sarah Dessen has a new one for 2013, but there isn’t anything on my to-read list for YA. Although, I think I’m going to go for Will Grayson since you liked it. I’ve read the Kindle sample chapter a dozen times and never could commit to it, but I’ll give it a shot over Christmas break.
        Hope you have a Tender Tennessee Christmas. :)
        Victoria recently posted..31My Profile

  12. I’m going to have to check out the Outlander series. I’ve never heard of it.

    My favorite books of the year have been Gillian Flynn’s. I also recently read a few of Tana French’s books and enjoyed those a lot as well. Have you read any of hers?

    • It’s about time travel and was around long before this new wave of fantasy and dystopia. My big deterrent has been the size. Those things are monsters, and I’m not ready to commit to reading eight books of this length!

  13. I liked Swim a lot more than The Next Best Thing. I found Ruth less likeable in the full length book and was surprised and disappointed that interesting plotlines like her work with that high school student Caitlin were dropped completely and the guy she begins flirting with in Swim is already an unsupportive boyfriend making her miserable at the beginning of TNBT. The main character is the same but other than that the books aren’t very related. I’m not a big Jennifer Weiner fan though, I downloaded Swim because it was free and was surprised by how much I liked it.

    • Duly noted. Her books are so hit or miss with me. The first couple she came out with in the early 2000s I just loved, but the last few I’ve found pretty dull.

  14. I loved Visit from the Goon Squad! Excellent writing and story line. From my reading year, I really loved Olive Kitteridge, Sloppy Firsts (the start of the Jessica Darling series), and True Confections (can’t remember the authors off the top of my head!) Also, I am really, really glad to hear that you also do not care for Emily Griffin’s books. I’ve read a couple and was like, “Blehhh….” I’ve never read another one! And yet, some people really dig them. Ah, well, to each his/her own!

    • I think I might have to bump up Goon Squad after I’m done with Matched. So many people whose opinions I respected (present company included!) rave about that book. I started Olive a couple years ago for book club but never made it past the first 50 pages. Is it a slow starter?

      • It is a bit of a slow starter–I picked it up a couple different times from the library, but never finished it in time for the due date. But the third time was a charm, and I got sucked in and couldn’t put it down. I have a feeling that for a lot of people (myself included), it’s one of those books you have to be in the “mood” for, you know? (And I don’t mean, like, a sexy mood, or some such. Heh. Just like the right…hmmm….literary mood, maybe?)
        Molly recently friday: nuns not on the run, but sitting.My Profile

  15. I loved The Princess Bride and The Night Circus so much! So happy you liked them too!

    heidikins recently posted..How to Make a Gingerbread CottageMy Profile

  16. 41 is a great new record!! :) I have no idea how many I read probably not my goal of 1 per month… I spent too much time reading about pregnancy online and everywhere I could. I also became addicted to Lost (I’m a few years late). I started from season 1 on netflix and I’m almost done with season 6. Maybe next year (if I’m not exhausted)!! Gone Girl is on my kindle wish list. Glad to see it as your #1.

  17. I love love LOVE The Princess Bride, but actually the foreword is completely fictional also. The whole story is Goldman’s creation, based on stories he would tell his daughters; there was no S Morgenstern. Pretty genius, huh?

    • NO! Are you kidding me? That just ruined the whole thing for me! So his wife and he didn’t divorce then? What’s real and what’s not? You have just shaken up my entire world as I know it, ha!

      • Aw, now I feel bad. I didn’t mean to ruin it for you! But yeah–it was all Goldman. He was never married to a psychiatrist, and never had a son, just two daughters. You can read a bit about it on Wikipedia, which I know isn’t always the best source, but I’ve also read it other places. There’s a cool quote there from Goldman about how he was struck with inspiration when he wrote it, and how he’d never had a writing experience like it.

  18. Thank you for this! I wanted to pick up some new books for traveling this year.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Food Friday: Brixton MarketMy Profile

  19. You amaze me! This is a serious question, how many hours do you sleep every night? It can’t be many based on what you cram into a day.

    I used to be such a reader, but I read many ten books tops this year? You know what, you just inspired me to start keeping a list. I would like to know how many I read in 2013.
    Alex recently posted..The Strip From Above: A Las Vegas Helicopter TourMy Profile

    • On an average night: 4 to 5. That’s more because I have had insomnia since childhood (I’m trying to get off Ambien and sleep with Melatonin + tea instead, but it’s not working, sigh). At least it gives me more hours in the day than most…

      • Ah, sorry to hear you struggle with that. For me sleep is really dependent on the season… when I’m somewhere sunny and getting enough physical activity, I default to about six hours and function phenomenally on that. When it’s winter or I’m struggling with a bout of depression, I often need up to nine. I definitely prefer the six!
        Alex recently posted..Holidays At Home Part IIMy Profile

  20. Yay! I always love your book posts because we seem to have very similar taste, so you’ve given me some good reads. I’ve already picked up several from this list, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy them. Thanks for saving me some legwork :)
    Emily in Chile recently posted..Saturday in Santiago: CoquinariaMy Profile

  21. I feel like a slacker. I’m up to 5 (which was up from none the year before) but it should be changing this next year with my new ipad. <3
    Erica recently posted..Weekend Review: Trip Butler MiFiMy Profile

    • Well, here’s the trade-off: I went from reading an insane amount of blogs and only a dozen or so books a year to a whole lot of books and only a dozen or so blogs (mainly, our group). So you know, there’s that.

  22. When I compiled my book list of the year, I was ashamed of myself. I read 16. I am ultra impressed by your list, and you have compelled me to do my own challenge. BOOKS! PS Great suggestions, will add those to my reading list.
    Candice recently posted..Books I read in 2012, and how I am a complete failureMy Profile

    • As I was just telling Erica above, the sacrifice is that I haven’t addressed my Google Reader in, oh, a half a year. I traded obsessive blog reading for obsessive bedtime Kindle reading. Wish there were enough hours in the day for both!

  23. This is great! 41 is still a huge accomplishment (especially with your schedule!). I’m giving myself a challenge of two books a month to 24 this year. I started a bit before the year started and am almost finished book two! Whoo Hoo. Thanks for inspiring me. I’m definitely putting Gone Girl on my list. I read Radio Shangri-la (I think you would love it) and am now finishing up Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (hilarious but SO long winded!).
    Natalie T. recently posted..New Years Resolutions December, 2012: Monthly UpdateMy Profile

  24. Great article ! I love to read One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper again and again. It is one of my favourite.


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