My goal for the year was to read 52 books. Currently, I’m falling a bit short of that goal—by four reads. While 22 books isn’t exactly embarrassing, I need to step up my game. That said, there hasn’t been a whole lot of time for reading lately, what with starting my own company, attending entrepreneur boot camp all summer, and hitting all four corners of the state of Tennessee in just a week; although this is my month of “not traveling”—I only consider it that once I board a plane or cross a country/state line—I’ve spent the last eight days in Memphis (to visit these gals), Spring Hill (for meetings and training), Chattanooga (for a magazine feature) and Knoxville (to meet with my former journalism school adviser and help my sister move out after five years of living in God’s Country). So yeah, travel or not, it’s been a busy time.
But! I’m heading to the beach later in July for an eight-day family reunion and plan on making up ground there on my very long reading list, which now exceeds 100 novels. So far, here’s what I read in the second quarter of this year, many of which were your recommendations for me at the end of 2011.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Like so many others, I have always been fascinated by Hemingway. (Random aside: Have you seen the new HBO special Hemingway & Gelhorn starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman? If you haven’t, I highly suggest you watch it via OnDemand.) He’s one of my very favorite 20th-century authors, and I found this piece of historical fiction written from the viewpoint of his first of four wives, Hadley, not only bitterly honest—the man, while brilliant, clearly was a troubled soul—but also rather fascinating, the way the mind (and reasoning) of a genius like Hem works. I also loved hearing about the other famous names, like Ezra Pound, with whom he and Hadley palled around Europe.
Rating: 4.5 of 5
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
My sister-in-law Lisa and I share a Kindle account—we’re kindred reading spirits—and she and her husband downloaded this one and highly recommended it. She’s also of the mindset that “dystopian YA can do no wrong,” so I always listen to her opinion. Plus, so many of you had told me to put this on my list last year, and we’re all kindred reading spirits, too, right? At first, I found Graceling painfully slow and hard to follow—it’s a cross between Game of Thrones with its bazillion characters with difficult names and number of kingdoms, and The Hunger Games with its central heroine being a fighter trained to kill, and bits of Narnia sprinkled throughout—and didn’t think I’d make it through. But I have one of those OCD personalities that doesn’t allow me to leave anything unfinished—the reason I read all of the Twilight books despite loathing them, and continue to see all the films in the theater—and by the second half, I was hooked. I have high hopes for the other two in the trilogy, Fire and Bitterblue, which I will be reading later this summer.
Rating: 4 of 5
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Another recommendation that you guys pretty much forced upon me. Don’t ever say I don’t listen to your opinions, mmkay? While I found the premise fascinating—and who hasn’t been enthralled by the morbid curiosity and mentality behind World War II and the Holocaust?—I just didn’t love this book. I’m not sure why. It was beautifully written. It was heartbreaking. It was creative—told from the view of a Nazi German as opposed to your typical Jewish narrator—with vivid color imagery and a persona given to death. But something about it just didn’t jive with me. It also seemed really long (though I can never be quite sure as I read everything on my Kindle).
Rating: 3 of 5
Royal Flush, Royal Blood and Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness books 3, 4 and 5)
I resisted this series for so long. My mom, with whom I’ve always shared a library, kept prompting me, but while I do love historical fiction, traditionally I’m not one for mysteries, and the Royal Spyness series is billed as a “historical fiction mystery series.” But I finally gave in while at the beach, and now have read all five of the books that chronicle Lady Georgiana—cousin to Queen Victoria, 34th in line to the throne—and her royal engagements and the messes she gets caught up in. It’s sort of Downton Abbey meets Shopaholic, and I love it. The author is finished with book 6 (not yet published) and working on 7 already, and I absolutely cannot wait to read what misadventures Georgie gets into next.
Rating: 4 of 5
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
This might have been one of the most anticipated sequels of 2012 in terms of Internet excitement. Many think its predecessor, Divergent, was even better than The Hunger Games. (Jury’s still out for me until I read the series in its entirety.) Insurgent begins right where Divergent left off with the factions in disarray, and even though I only read the first book in February, I’d forgotten some of the central characters and their stories (too many YA reads of late, I suppose). So I’d suggest re-reading Divergent before delving into Insurgent. I didn’t think it was as nail-biting as Divergent, then again it’s the second of three so I realize that sometimes the author just has to lay the groundwork. It was slower, not as much action and the middle part sort of dragged along. That said, it did have a pretty exciting and startling ending, so in the end, I was satisfied. I can’t wait for the conclusion of the trilogy come May 2013.
Rating: 4 of 5
Dead Reckoning and Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse books 11 and 12)
Oof. This is another one of those series I just can’t quit, no matter how embarrassingly awful it’s become. I’ve been reading about Sookie’s otherworldly follies since my mom and sister-in-law simultaneously introduced me to the saga back in 2008 (this was pre-True Blood, mind you). The first few were cute and creative, and Sookie was likeable and caught up in a vampire love triangle (often more of a circle or pentagon). But the last two have just gotten downright ridiculous. The (lucky?) 13th and final installment will be published in May 2013, and I can’t say I’ll be sad to part with Sookie. Sometimes, all good things need to end before their expiration date.
Rating: 2 of 5
Looking for Alaska by John Green
You guys weren’t lying: Looking for Alaska was phenomenal. Though I’ve only read two books of Green’s, after The Fault in our Stars and now Alaska, he tops the list of my favorite present-day authors. His writing style is so snappy and fluid, and I don’t know where he comes up with some of his dialogue. It’s Gilmore Girls-esque, but even smarter. Based on the name, I thought Alaska was going to be an on-the-road Into the Wild-style novel. It’s not. Instead, it follows introvert Miles “Pudge” Halter as he goes off to boarding school in rural Alabama—and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good boarding school read?—and, subsequently, falls in love with the dynamic Alaska Young. I won’t say more for fear of giving it away. I still think I liked Fault even better, sad though it may have been, and I’m looking forward to reading An Abundance of Katherines soon.
Rating: 4.5 of 5
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos
I’m currently reading this one, and as Love Walked In is one of my favorite reads of the last decade, I have high hopes for Falling Together, as well.
Now tell me, since I’ve followed so many of your recommendations in the past: What should I read in quarter three? What are you loving this year, new or old?
In my Kindle queue already are A Discovery of Witches, The Maze Runner, Ender’s Game, Fire, Bitterblue, Under the Never Sky, Unbroken, Gone Girl and more Jonathan Tropper.