In 2012, I aspired to read a book a week. I fell short at 41, which was still a noble effort. Well, this year, with my latest business well underway, I already know 2013’s reading efforts won’t match its predecessor. And that’s OK. In fact, I used to read for hours before bed before I’d even feel the slightest bit drowsy; these days, I make it five pages once my head hits the pillow before my eyelids unwillingly close.
I did, however, discover that Tennessee has an excellent regional libraries e-book network, so I hope to save some money on Kindle reads this year and check them all out, old-school instead. Here are the handful of books I’ve finished so far….
1. Reached by Ally Condie
This was one of those dystopian trilogies I started several years ago and just had to finish despite not loving it from the start. It’s definitely no Divergent. And while I’m glad I stuck with it just to figure out if the world ends at the close of the series, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone when there is so much great young adult lit out there these days. Do yourselves a favor and just skip this entirely in favor of Divergent or Delirium.
My rating: 2.5 out of 5
2. Masked Ball at Broxley by Rhys Bowen
I’m sure by now you’ve figured out I have a thing for Lady Georgiana, Rhys’ royal heroine from the Spyness series. Given my mom and I share an account, this prequel to the first book popped up in my queue a few months ago, and I was pleased to get to read how certain characters first entered Georgie’s life. You should only read this short story if you’ve already tackled a few prior Spyness novels.
My rating: 4 out of 5
3. Rules of Civility by Amor Townes
I’d been having one of those dry spells where nothing I read was just mind-blowing. And then I picked up Rules of Civility, which immediately upon finishing made it onto my list of 10 favorite books of all time.
I have to confess I was initially turned off by the title of this post-Prohibition Era novel, but enough bloggers whose opinions I value recommended it, so I gave it a go. The beginning was slightly slow as it starts a couple decades in the future from the year the majority of the book takes place (1938). But a few chapters in and you’ll be hooked, this I guarantee.
The protagonist, Katey Kontent, is smart, driven and extremely likable, and I’ve always found something about 1930s New York quite romantic in a literary sense, despite the hardships its people experienced during that time. This was one of those reads without a discernible plot—rather, it follows a volatile year in the life of a working class immigrant’s daughter as she finds herself running with the upper crust of Manhattan society—and yet, that doesn’t even matter. It’s a love story in a sense, but I think coming-of-age tale is more accurate, or even more simply: one of the best books you’ll ever read.
The prose is lyrical—it’s the only book I’ve read on my Kindle that had me highlighting paragraphs at a time in the same way I’d underline Hemingway as a teen—and what’s even more impressive is that it’s the only book that the author has penned. In fact, his only other published work was a short story in The Paris Review in 1989.
My rating: 5 out of 5
4. The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey
And after my reading slump, I was suddenly on a roll with two phenomenal back-to-back works of fiction, both based in NYC (which, I have to admit, made me the tiniest bit nostalgic for my own time living there). The Cranes Dance follows a pair of talented sisters who make the leap from dancing in a company in their hometown in Michigan to going pro in New York when they’re still of high school age. I mean, what girl hasn’t been intrigued by the destructive world of ballet at one point or another? The book was written by a former ballerina, so I’d like to think it’s a pretty authentic portrait of what the industry is actually like; it’s a little bit Center Stage and a little bit The Black Swan, equal parts dark and twisted, without being actually scary (unless you count the damage ballerinas knowingly do to their bodies).
My rating: 5 out of 5
5. Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
When I was at the library getting my library card, the heavily-made-up librarian—with electric blue eye shadow and hair that deserved its own zip code—told me I could check out two books that day while they reviewed my application and called my references (“what?” is right). She then gave me a 10-minute tutorial on how to check out books and a lecture on not incurring late fees. Because, at 30, clearly I looked like I’d never stepped foot in a library before. Still, I got giddy over the thought of actually checking out a book, old-school like, for the first time in ages, so I meandered down the fiction aisle and picked up the first book by an author whose name I recognized.
Emma and Nicola wrote the wildly-popular The Nanny Diaries, and while I loved it back in the day, I’d never heard of Dedication and checked it out based on their crowd appeal alone. At first, I found it a bit boring and dragging. It seemed almost too cliche. Girl in her 30s returns home over Christmas to show her ex-boyfriend, who turned into a world-famous musician, what he gave up.
But the format, which switched every chapter from a high school year back to the present, wound up being a great way to tell a story, and even though I never dated a musician or anyone famous for that matter (though SVV may be famous on this blog, ha), I found the teen angst and the scenarios simultaneously sweet and relatable.
My rating: 4 out of 5
6. Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre deRoche
I’ve followed Torre for several years now, since she just returned from her trip sailing around the world, so I feel as if I “know” her. Thus, I was stoked when her e-book got picked up by three publishing companies in three different countries for a print run. Hyperion sent me an advanced copy as I plan to feature her in a women’s magazines, and as I started to read the book, I was afraid I wasn’t going to like it (which, hello, how awkward when you have to give someone with whom you are virtually friends a bad review on her debut book). The reason being that Torre and her boyfriend Ivan use a whole lot of “baby” this and “baby” that when talking, and I found it very distracting throughout the book (and I must say I am absolutely averse to baby talk or PDAs of any kind…maybe this doesn’t bother the average reader).
But luckily, a chapter or two into Torre’s endearing tale of moving from Australia to San Francisco only to fall madly in love with an Argentinean and agree to sail around the world with him won me over. Even though this is a memoir, it reads like an adventure novel, and I had to remind myself at times that all of this truly happened to the two main characters. As adventurous as I think I am, this self-proclaimed “fearful adventurer” has me beat in spades. I’m not sure I could take off on a little sailboat across the Pacific with just SVV for emotional, technical and medical support. What I loved the most about this book was how Ivan and Torre would immerse themselves in a culture, as they did in the Marquesas, and truly live like locals, sharing glimpses of islander life with readers. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to mimic their trip now—though, diver or not, at the end of the day I’m still extremely terrified of the ocean.
This book is a must for anyone who has had grand dreams but been too afraid to act on them; Torre is living proof that fear doesn’t have to be a dead end to the path to a great adventure, but merely a minor roadblock. (The book doesn’t come out until May but you can pre-order it now via Amazon.)
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
I’ve been avoiding Requiem (the final installment of Delirium) for too long as I don’t want that trilogy to end, even though it popped up on my Kindle the day it came out, so that’s up next on my list. I also feel I need to get a start on the Cassandra Clare books finally, as the movies are already in the works.