1. Dancing on a Powder Keg: The Intimate Voice of a Young Mother and Author, Her Letters Composed in The Lengthening Shadow of Hitler’s Third Reich, Her Poems from the Theresienstadt Ghetto by Ilse Weber (translated by Michal Schwartz)– You can read my review of this wrenching, but important, book in The Jewish Voice.
2. Chasing the Dream: Life in the American Hockey League by Ted Starkey– You can read my review in The Providence Journal here.
3. For Time and All Eternities by Mette Ivie Harrison– I started off the year in a fictional lull and I hoped the third installment of this mystery series featuring a Mormon Bishop’s wife would pull me out of it, but the book sorely disappointed. It felt too rushed, too depressed, Linda lacked her verve. And I HATED that they did things they knew were wrong, so terrible as a procedural as well. Hopefully the next one will be better…
4. Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports by Cyd Zeigler– I taught excerpts of this book for the first time in my Sports in American Society course this year. It is a quick read and has some good stats and narratives. I would have liked a bit more of the former, but the best book out there (pun intended) on the subject right now!
1. The Kill Switch by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood– Very much in the military thriller vein, the book entertains. I liked the introduction of Kane, the dog, and the brief exposition of his thoughts. I do think the book could have been about 40% shorter though and a bit less killing of primary, secondary, and tertiary characters. Entertaining first read of new year.
2. Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen– I don’t love the Royal Spyness series, but I wanted something really light and this worked. I was even proud I figured out the major twist. It was fun to mix the American Hollywood history in, but if I read more I’ll be looking for more life decisions/changes.
4. Modern Families: Stories of Extraordinary Journeys to Kinship: A Book Review– Check out my review in Brain, Child here.
5. Finding my Shine by Nastia Liukin– Let it be known that I was/am a serious Nastia fan (like, I cried when she won the all-around gold). I was quite excited to read this, but was a bit disappointed. It’s definitely directed at a younger audience (ok, no biggie), but it was clear it was self-published and it should have been edited more heavily. I would have liked more on the Olympic experience, and less on food (food was discussed far more than I expected). Many of the points she made resonate with my research and findings in PLAYING TO WIN; for example point about anyone being able to open a gym (though here meant in positive way), focus on future life skills, and buffet approach. I loved her mom’s advice that you should never quit something on a bad day, but wait for a good day.
6. All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani– I normally love all of Trigiani’s books, like gulp down the culture, the history, the nuances. This one was waayyy too long. While it was interesting it also read a bit like biography and I think this constrained the storytelling since the people and events are rooted in fact. I didn’t find the book ends of the story compelling at all or a strong emotional hook. But I definitely will read Trigiani’s next book anyway!
7. Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes by Emily Urquhart– You can read my review here. Note that I even quoted from it in my last lecture in Sports in American Society!
8. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith– Unlike the other Cormoran Strike novels I had a harder time getting into this one (cannibalism can be a turn-off!). But in the end, just like all of J.K.’s other books, I was hooked and stayed up late one night to finish it. I do think it could have been shorter with some editing, but I like the character studies and the sense that sleuthing is often quite boring. I’m excited for the fourth installment.
9. The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz– Readers of all ages can learn something from this YA historical novel. My only complaint is that I actually would have liked it to go a bit further or have a more forward-looking epilogue as I’d like to know what happens! Could be a good resource to help teach children about Judaism, and appreciating those that are different from us in a variety of ways (race, class, gender, etc.).
10. Changing the Playbook: How Power, Profit, and Politics Transformed College Sports by Howard Chudacoff– You may have noticed that my reading list isn’t as long as other years thus far. That’s because most of the time I am busily preparing for the course I am teaching this semester, Sports in American Society. This involves lots of reading, most of which I have done before but need to re-read to be up-to-date. I assigned a few chapters from this new book and read the whole thing while I was it. If you are at all interested in NCAA sports this is a must read!
11. The God’s Eye View by Barry Eisler– My least favorite Eisler yet. 🙁 Needs to go back to Rain books or more traditional publishing very better editing. Predictable, too long, not compelling enough– although I did enjoy the presence of deaf characters.
12. Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood– Another nice little Phryne Fisher mystery about a historical subculture(s) in Australia in the 1920s. Quick and easy read, a bit too convoluted to be properly solved on your own.
13. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead– Definitely my favorite book of 2016 thus far. So captures the angst of relationships in middle school and budding romance, fused with modern technology. Tackles complicated issues while giving the kids agency and complexity, which I love. Highly recommend for adult and young readers! And, and, and.
14. On the Clock: The Story of the NFL Draft by Barry Wilner and Ken Rappaport- Very topical right now with the upcoming draft. It has some good facts, but could have been presented in a slightly more engaging, narrative way.
15. Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear– Maisie Dobbs returns to form here in this taut entry to the series. Sometimes it’s surprising for how much of history Maisie has been with us. Looking forward to the next round, though have a feeling with WWII on the horizon it won’t be “pretty.”
16. Is There Life After Football?: Surviving the NFL by James Holstein, Richard S. Jones, and George Koonce– I assigned portions of this new book to my students and I highly recommend it for football lovers and social scientists (it has lots of great insights, especially when it comes to “retirement”). I really like this book because it is balanced, acknowledges some bad things associated with football as well as good, and it tries to bring out other stories that aren’t as sexy (like players who are doing well financially). Based on great deal of research, facilitated by one of the authors who is an insider, Is There Life After Football? makes good and helpful use of social science theory to situate findings and make sense of them, to say what is or isn’t unique about the NFL.
17. Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly– I’ve been clear about my Veronica Mars love, and this book (what will clearly be a series) is very reminiscent of the TV series, movie, and book series. But it’s also different– a male “Veronica,” no Logan, etc. But a town with lots and lots of secrets, a class divide, an enduring mysterious crime, and kids who are too smart by half. It’s a quick, witty read with teenage angst and romance thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss it.
18. Boys Don’t Knit (In Public) by T.S. Easton– It took me some time to get into this book (I was about a third of the way through before I fully engaged), but once I did I genuinely wanted to know what would happen to this sensitive, smart, friendly boy. Going to tune in for the sequel. I think this would be an important read for young people to expose them to another culture, a subculture, and difference through the inner life of a young man.
20. The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levy– No, this book isn’t about beauty pageants– and I never thought it would be. But it did take me forever to get through, which shows I didn’t really enjoy it. The history is interesting, but the pace of the book is awful (maybe translation issue) and many of the characters are SOO unlikeable. At the end I just thought, “What was the point?”
21. You Will Know Me: A Novel by Megan Abbott– I thought I might review this for a YA round-up, but this is not at all a YA book (though some teen readers may enjoy it). Like Abbott’s previous books it is a very dark take on adolescent girls today. The gymnastics twist was interesting, and added an eerie element (her previous book on cheerleading means ballet or figure skating must be next?!). Unsettling overall, but might be good pre- or post-Olympic reading for some.
22. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates– I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and a program I am working with over the summer assigned this to incoming students. From a structural point of view I wasn’t convinced by the extended letter model, but the book has its moments. One aspect that resonated with me was Coates’ college experience, which he refers to as his Mecca, which is similar to how I feel about college (though I would do it over and over and over again, and almost certainly earn a degree every time). Some things– like the leaving college– could have been explained better; in making them seem glossed over detracts from other messages in the book.
23. Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran by Roxana Saberi– Next week I am heading to the Miss North Dakota Pageant, so I wanted to read this memoir by Miss North Dakota 1997. She only mentions her pageant title three times throughout the book.
24. The Courage to Compete by Abbey Curran– If you haven’t seen the HBO doc Miss You Can Do It yet, you really should. Warning though, you will need tissues! Curran’s book has the feel of a YA book (though it’s not, and I suppose the comments about not finding romance yet are a bit higher level). It will appeal most to those involved in pageantry and those involved in the special needs community. I really enjoyed all the detail about the Miss USA experience, and the attention to detail in describing how she began her own pageant. Some personal comments could have been excluded, but add to the overall spirit of the memoir.
25. Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein– You can read my review in The Providence Journal here!
26. Promises I Made My Mother by Sam Haskell– I mainly read this for the Miss America parts, of which there were a few major sections, so it was helpful. It was interesting to read more of Haskell’s back story– even if it seems simultaneously inflated and unclear at times (like his relationships with his brothers, for example). Found it fascinating that Curran’s discusses more of the specifics on nonprofits than here, but a time and a place for everything!
27. Heartbroken by Lisa Unger– I didn’t find anything about this read surprising or satisfying. At times it was suspenseful, but I did see the plot twists coming (although expected more of a role for the retired sheriff). Really strong character development, but I don’t think in the end that really went anywhere.
28. Paradise City by Archer Mayor– I am coming close to catching up with all of Joe Guenther’s exploits. Nothing major happened character-wise here. But I enjoyed the book nonetheless. The main story was less appealing to me (a lot of moving parts, some of which were more extraneous), but a quick read and I liked the Northampton inclusion.
29. This Side of Providence by Rachel M. Harper– A haunting, lyrical, multi-faceted look at poverty, addiction, immigration, education, and more. Hit home for me in many ways, especially with the Providence location and my volunteer CASA work. It’s also written by a Wheeler grad (where my son is at school), but I would love this book anyway. I am still thinking about it.
30. Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen– I still like this series, and liked the change of location and the set-up for the next phase of the series…
31. Dryland by Sara Jaffe– I’d read a really good review of this book and it’s sat in my queue for some time. I got sucked in very quickly by the somewhat unique stream of consciousness writing style, which I enjoyed. There is both a grounded and ethereal quality to this coming of age/out story that I quite appreciated. It left me with a lot of questions and I found the end too abrupt, but I still wonder what is happening in these characters lives now, so that’s a definite good thing. Note that the 90s setting may interest, or could be an impediment, to some YA readers.
33. The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson and A.L. Sonnichsen– You can read my review in The Providence Journal here!
35. Curvology by David Bainbridge– I read the version published in the UK, but I am sure the US version is similar. Catching up with recent writings on beauty and appearance (this came out in 2015). I like the premise very much and I like his discussion of social media and its impacts on women, but I wish the book was better annotated so the reader knows which studies show what. Also, at times his arguments get contradictory (women’s preferred portions stable across societies, but image changes over time, so women are lost), but still there is much of interest and to think about here. Although not sure ever get full answer on why women only mammals with curves!
36. The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich– This novel was so exquisitely painful to me at times that I had to take a break from me. A lovely, authentic, haunting story of a young Native American girl in the mid-19th century. A must-read for middle age readers, and much, much beyond.
37. Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman– This is pretty dark, even for Lippman. I liked it in the middle, then decided when the full conceit of the novel was revealed at the end that it was somewhat self-indulgent and I had been duped by the author and narrator (can’t decide if both of them, or only one of them). It’s definitely entertaining, so you might enjoy it more than I did, so worth a read.
38. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg– You can check out my review in The Providence Journal here. Note that this book has such a valuable wide scope it can speak to almost anyone interested in US (cultural and social) history.
39. Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford– I know people loved this book and it was well reviewed, but I just couldn’t like the protagonist. She is the exact same age as I am, and I just could not at all understand her obsessions. The conclusion of the book, that it is actually a meritocracy and not an aristocracy, is basically my experience. And who would want to be part of the aristocracy as described anyway? Again, just found the characters unlikeable so couldn’t enjoy it.
40. Ugly: My Memoir by Robert Hoge– The tone is a bit odd here, and might have worked well as an article, but I read this for the comments and reflections on facial appearance. Hoge’s memoir for kids is out this fall (think real life Wonder), and that will probably be a more interesting take on the facial deformity and leg deformity he was born with (seems like it was thalidomide?).
41. Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo– Well, now I need to wait another two years or so for another Kate Burkholder. I read this in the first week it came out, in less than 24 hours. So, yeah, I enjoyed it. Still want the main relationship to move forward though…
42. Stewardess by Elissa Stein– Some fun facts in here (I am interested as stewardesses started to be selected based on looks at one point), but wish there was more content. Essentially this is a coffee table book, but a smaller size. But I want more!
43. Dark Road Home by Anna Carlisle– The first in a new series. The bed news is that it just came out this week and I read it in less than 12 hours, and now I likely have to wait a bit for the next installment! Interesting characters, setting, motivation. I’m excited to see where it will go. If you had any interest in the TV series “The Family,” note you will really enjoy this. Compelling stuff.
44. Raising the Bar by Gabrielle Douglas and Grace, Gold & Glory by Gabrielle Douglas and Michelle Burford– These are basically the same book, as I write about here. Unless you are doing “research” I would pass on these…
46. It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After by Andi Dorfman– I swear, I may have lost brain cells reading this book. It’s pretty self-indulgent. And awkward. And tacky. But I got two good quotes from it, one of which is: “It wasn’t as if I was a person with talent to be admired, or performing a service to making the world a better place. Instead, I was just a random girl who had made out with multiple men on national television. That was it. While I struggled with the attention, Number Twenty-Six relished it.” A few thoughts here: 1) True dat, Andi, Congrats to you or fairly untalented ghost writer for that self awareness. 2) Was very odd how she never referred to the men by their first/actual names. Worried about legalities? A small amount of backstage info on how The Bachelor/ette actually gets made, but nothing like UNReal.
47. Girl about Town by Adam Shankman and Laura L. Sullivan– I wanted to like this because I think Adam Shankman is so talented. But I just couldn’t From the poorly drawn (and unlikeable) characters to the ridiculous story to the flat-footed writing to the terrible mystery, this is a complete bust.
49. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg– It is an actual shanda that I had never before read this amazing history (based on girls’ diaries) of girls and their bodies. I love the organization of this book, its focus on everyday life, and it’s insights that resonate today. Would love to know Brumberg’s take on the role of social media now– both as a cultural mirror AND as a diary– in young girls’ lives today.
50. Fat Studies: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West by Peter N. Stearns– Such a well-researched, fascinating take on dieting history. I liked the new Preface, but scanned some of the writings about France.
51. Hair: Untangling a Social History by Penny Howell Jolly– Love the author’s name by the way… In any case, parts of this book very good. I honestly skipped a lot about men’s hair mainly because I focus on women, and the Jolly entries were clear and concise. Many of the essays, and the book overall, end abruptly, and I wish the images were integrated better with the writing, but definitely worthwhile in library on appearance/beauty.
52. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy– Wow, I LOVED this book. I had to stay up late to finish it after I began it that day. It’s been a long time since I have done that. About loving yourself, body, complicated role of pageants in small towns. But it’s also the story of friendship, romance, and more. Highly recommend.
53. Cheerleader: Ready? Okay! and Prom Night: The Best Night of Your Life by Elissa Stein- Listing these two together because they are pretty short. Cheerleader has more actual information while Prom Night is almost all pictures. Not much new in Cheerleader, bit liked more on Herkie. Best part of Prom Night is the chronology.
54. Plucked: A History of Hair Removal by Rebecca Herzig– Really enjoyed this book for its breadth and emphasis on why hair removal matters as a social science subject of study. Will definitely be citing and learned a lot of fun/interesting facts.
56. Killer Look by Linda Fairstein– I keep saying I’m not sure how much longer I can stick with this series, but this one was an improvement and I liked the cliffhanger ending. Sets up lots of new possibilities.
57. The Black Widow by Dan Silva– Gulped it down in less than 24 hours. A big move toward new action and possibilities– and eerie with real world ramifications. If only we had real life Allons, which I hope we actually do.
58. Full Bloom: Cultivating Success edited by Amy Goodman (et al)– This is a collection of essays by former America’s Junior Miss/Distinguished Young Woman contestants and winners. Has some good AJM history here and shows how successful many contestants have been, especially from the 70s and 90s.
60. Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling by Amanda Czerniawski- This would appeal to many undergrad readers who are interested in learning more about beauty, modeling, body studies, and ethnography. The writing is very accessible, but thoughtful. Though it’s hard(er) for me to single out one chapter, it is a quick read.
61. Meet Miss Subways: New York’s Beauty Queens 1941-1976 by Amy Zimmer– I loved this book so much: the history, the images, giving voice to women’s interesting and everyday lives. It’s so worth the time to read this book!
62. The Miss Universe Beauty Book by Susan Duff– This is more a historical artifact than anything else, but despite this section being brief it is the most thorough history I have seen yet of Miss Universe. If you read some parts of it now you would simply laugh!
63. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor– I read this primarily because I led a discussion about it for Brown’s First Readings Seminar. But I am genuinely glad I read it, even if the book was a bit long and a bit overly positive in its message of hard work overcomes all. The only personal downside was that– yet again– I questioned whether I should have gone to law school!
64. Black 14: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Wyoming Football by Ryan Thorburn– I think the Black 14 is an overlooked sports protest and it deserves to be the focus of a well-done documentary, but this book does it no favors. This should have been a heavily edited magazine feature story and not a poorly edited “book” that lacks a cohesive narrative structure.
65. On the Origins of Sports: The Early History and Original Rules of Everybody’s Favorite Games by Gary Belsky and Neil Fine– This new book has lots of fun facts and trivia. The short chapter on Fantasy Sports is especially worthwhile as not much has been written on Fantasy.
66. Breakthrough: The Making of America’s First Woman President– A timely book, though I would have liked to have seen a bit more in the way of historical arc and narrative. I appreciate all the interviews she did with trailblazers and consultants though. Big problem is that within the next few months it will feel dated…
67. The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee– This series is clearly aspiring to be the next Hunger Games trilogy. It’s different from it, but also similar with less bloodshed and more Gossip Girl-esque qualities. Parts of it are intriguing, especially the inequality and technology highlighted. The drama is all in the relationships and not in how or why there is now a tower with 1000 floors that has taken over Manhattan and seems to have not impacted the rest of the country. I would give book two a try to see if it explores these themes further.
68. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics– Such a great example of a sports story connecting to history, other sports, and larger social narratives. It is long, but by the last 100 pages you are on the edge of your seat (no spoilers!). Worth it for sure. I just wish other men had been similarly highlighted as Rantz…
69. Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland– I recently saw A Ballerina’s Tale and had so many questions, mainly about Misty’s back story, which I knew was complex. The ghost writer on this was quite good; for a memoir I found it quite page-turning. It’s interesting that there is little overlap in the two pieces, and I vastly preferred the book (which, even for me, isn’t always the case!). At times Copeland seems a touch unlikeable, but I can appreciate she is in a difficult position. It’s an interesting balance of her having something innate, but also training so hard, but still she wouldn’t be as successful if she hadn’t been born with those hyperextended knees!
70. Manitou Canyon by William Kent Kreuger– Great new entry in the Cork series. Great issues (and timely!), character development, etc. I am hoping Henry Meloux lasts through next two books at least (he must be there through the next one for some upcoming big events)…
71. We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley– Has gotten great reviews but I could not get past how utterly unlikeable the main character is. I mean, pretty terrible. I completely saw the twist(s) coming. I suppose some people might like a peak into how “the other half” lives, but honestly there are better examples.
72. Three Can Keep a Secret by Archer Mayor– Series just keeps getting better! Especially like personal developments and overlay of political intrigue.
73. Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game by Erica Westly– This is much more of an insider history than I would have liked, but there are historical parts, especially about women in the Olympics, that I will definitely use in my Sports course.
74. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald– At first I really liked this book– captures some of the reasons why I love reading so much– but by the end I thought it had fallen apart. Characters became unlikeable, too long. Might have been a language thing, but also doing too many things at once and not realistic.
75. The Dread Line by Bruce DeSilva– So good. Gobbled it down so quickly. So many different, interesting threads. Movement forward in all directions. Can’t wait for next Liam Mulligan novel!
76. The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics 1830-1930 by Anne Firor Scott– Great details in this classic of women’s history. But the best part is likely the afterword to the 1970 edition in which Scott details how she worked on book from 1959 on, while balancing marriage and kids and other projects. Perhaps most honest description I have read in print about a female academic’s research.
77. The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry– I usually love Dave Barry, middle grade fiction, and Washington, DC, but this book felt kind of silly to me because the plot is just too far-fetched. Might get some boys reading though?
78. The Playdate by Tamara Mose– Stay tuned for a book review of this.
79. The Branson Beauty: A Mystery by Claire Booth– A strong first entry in a new series. There is clearly much to explore in Sheriff Hank Worth’s background. Loved the procedural nature here, and the strong characters, and I found the mystery quite compelling, along with the somewhat neat though complicated resolution. Definitely adding to my series list!
80. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan– I resisted reading this book because I thought I would be turned off by/envious of the extreme wealth on display, but like the reviews all said, this is a good book. There are a lot of characters to keep straight, but the main ones are compelling and I really wanted to know what was going to happen to them. I also like that it didn’t all end with a nice bow…
81. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley– I read this for a Book Club meeting (a rarity for me, partially precisely because I read so much making my tastes both catholic and super picky). I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise, but I did enjoy it, and I liked some of what Hawley wrote about both motherhood and how people construct narratives of their lives. The conclusion is both satisfying and frustrating– certainly not what you would necessarily expect.
82. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf– I read this yearrrsssss ago, but just reread carefully. I don’t agree with everything (some things need more evidence), but the argument holds up well, and it’s not hard to say it’s even worse for women today (hair removal, anyone?!)…
82. Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model by Ashley Mears– It should never have taken me this long to read this important book! Will really appeal to udergrads, but I know there must be more juicy behind-the-scenes events still to be shared…
83. Face Value: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano– I had really high hopes, and at times it’s good, but overall a bit more surface than I expected (and maybe too much personal).
84. Born Again Bodies: Flesh and Spirit in American Christianity by R. Marie Griffith– This is such a fascinating topic, about links between diet culture and religion, especially Christianity. Looks at the history and more recent time as well… Can be dense at times, but important topic.
85. We Have Your Daughter: The Unsolved Murder of JonBenet Ramsey Twenty Years Later by Paula Woodward– This is a long, but ultimately unsatisfying take on the case… The author clearly has a story she wants to tell (even though she interviewed me for one of the chapters!). A lot on the Ramsey case this year.
86. Lift: Fitness Culture, from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors by Daniel Kunitz– Not what I expected, more focus on Greek times than modern, a lot of philosophy when would have preferred analysis of bodybuilding and Jazzercise.
87. Becoming a Candidate: Political Ambition and the Decision to Run for Office by Jennifer L. Lawless– I bought this to learn more about what leads women to run for office, but turns out I need to read another book for that. But maybe I got some tips for other future activities?
88. It’s Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives it Shattered by Don Yaeger with Mike Pressler– Read this because next semester I am again teaching about the Duke lacrosse case, but this book needed both editing (too many details lost without a narrative other than chronology) and less of a slant. Watch Fantastic Lies instead.
89. North of Boston by Elizabeth Elo– This book was strangely hypnotic. But I think it had one two many plot twists and could have done with some heavier editing. But I’m intrigued by the main characters and wonder if they will be back? Really liked all the scent focus, less so all the killing (of various animals).
90. Crowning Glory by A. R. Riverol– Not even sure what to say about this work of fiction (based on the 1970 Miss America pageant, but in point of fact no relation to reality at all)… It probably shouldn’t have been written it is so far fetched. Riverol’s pageant history is ok, but this makes me question that a bit. Way too long as well.
91. Into the Lion’s Den by Linda Fairstein– I was pretty excited for this kids mystery series by Fairstein, author of the Alex Cooper thrillers. But this first entry is a bit long and clunky. The premise is intriguing and ditto the characters, but it’s all a bit too fanciful as it relates to reality for kids…
92. The Face of Emotion: How Botox Affects Our Moods and Relationships by Eric Finzi– The book starts out stronger than it ends, mainly because I wish the author relied more on medical studies and less on anecdotes from his practice and his theory (unproven, though logical, that Botox can help alleviate depression by literally making it more difficult to frown. Two facts I learned from this book: 1) Botox as it occurs in nature is the most powerful poison naturally made; a single gram of purified toxin could kill a million people (8). 2) “The corrugators, the muscles that help pull the eyebrows together, have become much more developed in humans than apes.” (45).
93. Sweetbitter by Stephani Danler– Wow. This novel engaged all my senses. I wish I had read it sooner– believe the hype. It is such a specific moment in time and in age.
94. The Last One by Alexandra Olivia– I thought I would like this book, especially because it’s about reality TV, but while I did want to find out what happened so I read quickly, I ultimately found the book unsatisfying. I don’t need everything to be tied in a bow, far from it, but the end was abrupt and much was unexplained to the point that I wondered what the purpose of the novel was.
95. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond– This book is the real deal– well-researched, compelling writing, important issue. I love the last lines in the Prologue: “Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord.” (5) It is a little depressing (though by all means this should NOT deter you from reading and facing the subject), and at times the chronology feels off, but it is an important book. I will continue to think about stable poverty vs. grinding poverty.
96. Doppelganger by Marc Seifer– For the first time ever I had to decline to review a book– this after publishing over 60 reviews. I can’t find one nice thing to say about this book. It never resolves, it is riddled with errors, it needed heavy editing, and at times it is downright offensive.
97. Superficial: More Adventures from the Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen– I liked this iteration more than the first, The Andy Cohen Diaries. It is long, and the start and end dates don’t make logical sense, but there is something compulsively readable about it. I actually learned even more how networked these worlds are, and while at times you think “ugh!” or “glamorous!” it’s ultimately all about relationships. I don’t know where the man gets his energy from to party so much though… Several pageant references, especially kid pageants in relation to his dog.
98. The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan– I certainly found it a page turner, but I was ultimately unsatisfied with the resolution, and the scale of some of the secrets versus others. A few subplot seemed tangential as well.
99. Livia Lone by Barry Eisler– A more than worthy successor to the Rain series– loved this new character and the Then-Now technique. Very much looking forward to the follow-up and seeing what becomes of some old friends.
100. Proof Positive by Archer Mayor– I found this edition to the Joe Gunther series highly readable. I dislike the vast conspiracy model though, and would like to see more of a standard procedural in the next edition. Worried I am almost “caught up” with entry #25!
101. Presence by Amy Cuddy– A big focus of the book is her Ted talk, which I admittedly have not seen all of, so the book basically presumes you have watched that. The book is a bit of a letdown and I honestly don’t think I fully understand what “presence” is. For an HBS professor I expected something tighter with a clearer argument.
102. Looking Good: College Women and Body Image, 1875-1930 by Margaret Lowe– I read this for both pageants and sports research and I quite enjoyed this slim, historical volume that is well written and researched. Recommend for anyone interested in women’s history, fitness, and beauty culture. Great discussion of “student bodies.”
103. Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing by Jennifer Weiner– I was surprised by how compelling I found this memoir– which is roughly chronological, but also a book of essays you can dip into and out of (though I read it in one gulp). I feel like I should know Weiner (Reader extraordinaire! Michigan! Divorced parents! Princeton! Bachelor! MISS AMERICA!) and this book made me want to know her even more…
104. Pretty Smart: Lessons From Our Miss Americas by Penny Pearlman– A lot of (interview) work went into this book, but I’m more interested in the story the book doesn’t tell. What about the majority of former Miss Americas who didn’t agree to an interview? The book is very positive, but I’m sure the story is more complicated. I would also liked to have seen more analysis and less just quotes and blocks of words.
105. The Movement of the Stars by Amy Brill– This book took me FOREVER to get into. Like halfway through it was still a slog. Then it picked up a bit, but the end was very unsatisfying. Could have been so fascinating too- a female astronomer on Nantucket in the 1800s!
106. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty– This was my least favorite Moriarty book. It was waayyyy too long. The kind of slogged through the first half, which went on too long. The end made it worth it, but I read more out of annoyance to know the ending. A few parts at the end made me tear though. I don’t regret reading it, but I would recommend other Moriarty books more.
1. The Price of Malice by Archer Mayor– I fear that this year I will catch up to “real time” in the Joe Guenther series, which has been getting better and better.
2. The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin– I loved the language used in this novel (I had to look up many of the words, which I actually love), but I found the ending pretty unsatisfying both for the content and speed of the resolution.
3. We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas– I wanted to like this book after reading such great reviews, but I just couldn’t. Not only is it very depressing, it is waaayyyy too long. It could have been two books, at least– or needed more editing. The writing is good and I liked the beginning but the last third seriously dragged. And I didn’t view it as a sweeping pronouncement on America in the 20th century either.
4. The Diverse Schools Dilemma by Michael Petrilli– This book focuses on middle- and upper-middle parents decided where best to educate their children. A major issue (especially considering some don’t give it enough thought). I edited a review of this book here.
5. The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard– I wanted to try this to see if it would be better than the Pretty Little Liars series. Answer: no. Same formula, endless convolution, inappropriate sexual relationships, demanding affluent community. YA is better than this.
6. Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai– What a gorgeous, unexpected delight. At first I wasn’t sure about the verse, but I quickly came to appreciate it like the new language Ha must learn. I fought back tears while reading in public and hope to share this book with my own kids someday to help them be better people (it reminded me of when I read In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson as a kid).
7. The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis– At first I thought this was just a cute book, but then it turned so terribly serious. This was my first ever Audible listen (thanks, Serial!) and I almost had to pull the car over when my eyes flooded with tears. The Epilogue really cemented how telling the story this way can make history and names matter to kids. I have done audio books better, and I didn’t like how “produced” this was, like with the music. I read to imagine things myself…
8. The Magicians by Lev Grossman– I feel conflicted about this book. When I started it (it’s a bit long) I loved it– not only because the protagonist’s name is so similar to my younger son (Quenton). And because of sentences like this: “It’s like he’s opening the covers of a book, but a book that did what books always promised to do and never actually quite did: get you out, of where you were and into somewhere better.” But then the book turns into a more sordid, more interactive with the real world Harry Potter. With the stakes not quite as sensical to boot. I am guessing I will try the second of the trilogy at some point, but will wait a bit to decide.
9. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead– I should have seen the twist coming, but instead I was totally caught up in Shipstead’s prose, vocabulary, keenly observed insights (same as in her previously stellar Seating Arrangements). I loved the ballet, the relationships, the inevitability. Definitely a good one.
10. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea– This was almost too treacly, even for me. I liked it, but would recommend Wonder (in same vein) over it.
11. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead– I was never a fan of A Wrinkle in Time so it’s not a surprise I didn’t like this book at all- if I had known it was sci-fi I wouldn’t have picked it as I am just not a fan.
13. Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff– I enjoyed this smart coming of age novel; in fact I wondered if the sage insights might be lost on the young. Loved the take on America as well and hope for a sequel…
14. My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything by Nancy Tringali Piho– I really wanted to love this book, especially because I think it is one of the best titles I have ever read. While it starts off strong, in my opinion the writer’s tone is smug at times (while I breastfed and agree with many of the reasons she discusses, the discussion felt too heavy-handed, among others). This may also be because the book is primarily about what worked for Piho’s family (though research, often fascinating like about a built-in sensitivity to food for toddlers to protect self from eating unsafe things). Piho is involved in PR in the food industry, but as she writes, “This book is not written to be a guide to children’s nutrition, a medical discussion on the health benefits of a proper diet, another discussion on the perils of childhood obesity, or a parenting primer with advice on handling the inevitable conflicts that arise as young children are being trained to sit at a table and eat a meal.”So the book is more about how to develop the sense of taste in your young child (6 and under) and their palate, with advice from chefs who Piho interviewed (many of whom did not have culinary adventures as kids). One fact I did learn from this book that will stay with me– even though it’s not precisely practical for raising my own adventurous eaters– is that Gerber makes different jarred food for different countries. The same company!
15. Deadout by Jon McGoran– The second in the Doyle Carrick series covers familiar territory of environmental mayhem, verging on terrorism, and a Philly cop who gets into trouble often. I thought the setting was interesting, and bees are certainly in the news. Hopefully in the next installment the character development will continue on a more likeable course… I’ll give it one more in the series when it comes out.
16. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam– You can read my review at New York Journal of Books here!
17. The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Harrison– I can see this could be the start of a promising series (I have found they generally always get better over time, as characters and relationships deepen). I like that it’s about a part of the US I know little about– Mormonism. I pace and tightness of the writing need work, but if this ended up being like a Julia Spencer-Fleming series, I will keep reading.
18. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart– I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand I found the writing strong and the story engaging. On the other hand, I sort of saw the twist coming and I found it unsatisfying. I can see why YA readers would eat it up though…
19. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming– I had heard about his book and needed a good audible book for a drive and loved the idea of hearing this in Cumming’s native Scottish accent. It is certainly a fascinating story (though I am not surprised Cumming has such a fascinating life as pathos and intrigue seep out of his pores) and worth the consideration.
21. Red Herring by Archer Mayor– This was my favorite one yet. I saw a few of the twists coming, but they were still deeply satisfying. I really liked that nothing dramatic happened, just a very good, smart investigation. Some of the science got a bit much at times, but it just shows the thorough research– one of the reasons I like this series so much.
22. Grandmaster by David Klass– I totally devoured this book. I don’t play chess, but I studied kids who do and I thought the mix of generations here worked really well. The themes explored– being great at something but letting it consume you, finding your niche, romance, parental relationships, and even class issues– were nuanced and universal. I definitely recommend this one!
23. The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene– I thought I would like the topic (my husband likes to insist our boys will go to boarding school like him someday, but I have a hard time imagining letting them go so early!), but in general this book was squicky. At first really squicky, then a bit less so, then just depressing. I saw many of the twists coming, though there are so many it’s hard to predict them all in order. It wasn’t a surprising book in the end.
24. Tag Man by Archer Mayor– Another great addition to the series– just keeps getting better. A multi-layered, multi-state plot here that continues to develop all the cast.
25. I Want it Now! A Memoir of Life on the Set of Willy Wonka and the Child Factory by Julie Dawn Cole– This was very repetitive, with little narrative thread (but chronology) but if you are interested in child stars (or Willy Wonka!) you will find some interesting things.
26. Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper by Elizabeth Kiem– I again enjoyed Kiem’s offering, even more so than last year’s Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (although I must confess I didn’t make the connection to the same characters until later). I wonder if this will be trilogy? If so, I almost think this should have been the first entry and then get the historical back story… I like the Russian culture, but would like more ballet as well.
27. The Magician King by Lev Grossman– I liked this SO much more than the first in the trilogy– although it got super squicky at the end again. I’ll definitely be reading the last installment though!
28-38. Top 10 Humor Books about Parenting- Check out my brief reviews here!
39. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant– Oh, how wonderful this book is! I cried happy tears from it at least three times. One of the rare occasions where I probably preferred the audio version because Linda Lavin reads it with such pathos. And her accent, Oy! Maybe my favorite Diamant yet. The focus on pre-motherhood was interesting for me, as it reminds us of how formative those years are. Also, people this age (born around turn of last century) lived through so much change of every type; love Addie’s view though that things are absolutely better than they used to be.
40. Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood– A darker entry in the Phryne Fisher series (in which I learn how to pronounce her name as well). Still like it, though beginning to tire of the multiple romantic entanglements.
41. Hush Hush by Laura Lippman– I have long loved the Tess Monaghan series and this new addition didn’t disappoint. Lippman’s writing has become tauter, more suspenseful. I couldn’t wait to return to this book, it kept me enthralled. I didn’t like the resolution of one of the story lines as it kept out of left field a bit but otherwise a great read. And, of course, I’d love to know what Lippman and Tess (!) think of what has happened in Baltimore as of late…
42. The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth– I had read really great reviews of this book deemed “women’s lit” for obvious reasons. Parts were interesting but I saw every single plot twist coming a mile away. I did like it was unexpectedly (for me) set in the state I will be moving to next week– Rhode Island– but I couldn’t really recommend this one even though I am fascinated by childbirth.
43. Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva– Now this series was started with the express purpose of learning about my new hometown area of Providence. For a first in a mystery series this was quite well done. I can see how characters will develop and deepen over time and the premise of an investigative reporter is a good one. I only worry if Rhode Island is really as corrupt as DeSilva makes out?!
44. The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman– I remained engrossed in the series, but again felt let down at the very end. I know it’s a “YA” series, but the ending was just all too happy with a character coming back. Basically everyone got what they wanted and I’m not sure I liked that, but it certainly is an imaginative almost anti-Harry Potter series.
46. The Broken Hearts’ Society of Suite 17C by LeighAnn Kopans– This had the potential to be a really interesting YA addition, especially dealing with first year of college. I liked the diversity of the characters and the “dirtiness” (swearing, highly sexual content) didn’t bother me. I did think it could have been significantly edited and streamlined though, cut by at least 30% and that would have made for an impactful read.
48. Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell- I’ve stuck with this series because I NOW LIVE IN RHODE ISLAND (35 minutes north of Newport). I’m glad I did because it’s gotten better. It may be moving brain but I didn’t see one of the twists coming. Also, the integration of historical fact and fiction is getting better.
50. The Heist Society by Ally Carter– I read a great review of this and am so glad I got to it because I really liked it (MUCH better than the first, and only, Gallagher Girls book I read). Will stick around for the trilogy and try Carter’s new series as well. Think teenage Thomas Crown affair…
51. Cliff Walk by Bruce DeSilva– Loving this series set in my new state (and even an appearance from my new hometown!). Mulligan is a complex character; in getting to know him better I am getting to know his style, like being deadpan when things are actually quite serious. The ending came together quickly, but knowing there are more books to come I am ok with that.
52. The English Spy by Dan Silva– I love a Gabriell Allon thriller, no doubt. As usual this has many twists and turns, reads quickly but could have been shorter. I enjoyed learning about the “troubles” in Northern Ireland but I am also happy for Allon’s next chapter as the Director and new father again. Full disclosure: when he paints something at the end of the book, I actually cried.
53. A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear– I have generally enjoyed the Maisie Dobbs series, but hated this latest entry. There is no reason for Maisie’s life to be so full of tragedy and there was little to no resolution in this book (and we will have to wait years for the next). I did enjoy learning more about Gibraltar and the Spanish war. I just felt for Maisie and felt angry at Winspear (also the “mystery” wasn’t very interesting or well-resolved)!
55. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham– Given I am a serious Veronica Mars it’s no surprised I adored this book (gulped it down!). More on it soon… Ok, here’s the more!
56-66. Top 10 books to give at baby showers– See my brief reviews here!
57. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter– I didn’t like this one as much as the first in the trilogy– hopefully all the dangling threads come together in the wrap-up one. The main mystery just wasn’t very compelling to me.
58. After the Storm by Linda Castillo– I still enjoy this series, but I felt this was a weaker entry. I saw the ending coming a mile away– but it started off quite strong, good mix of events and characters.
59. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham– The second Veronica Mars book did not disappoint (though I did find one minor continuity error). Can’t wait for #3!
60. Devil’s Bridge by Linda Fairstein– I’m glad I gave this a go (after being disappointed in the other recent Alex Cooper entries). This was much improved– I think the change of perspective worked well. I also appreciated the gumshoe detective work here. Look forward to seeing Battaglia fall-out in next installment.
61. The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Lianne Moriarty– I found this book (no pun intended) hypnotic. Like all of Moriarty’s books there is an undercurrent of tension. I kept waiting for something bad to happen! I did think it was overlong in parts and definitely could have been cut by 50-100 pages but it was a winning summer read, especially thinking about how others think…
62. Providence Rag by Bruce DeSilva– I’m beginning to think this is some really great regional literature, but it is great nonetheless. One of the things I love most is the timing– not everything happens in a compressed way, it’s more like “real life.” I also love the inherent tension, even when nothing is happening. Only very good mystery writers can do this so well. Can’t wait for #4! Warning, details of the main mystery are pretty disturbing…
63. You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other) by Vanessa Williams and and Helen Williams (with Irene Zutell)– This book has been on my pageant shelf for a year or so, but hearing that Vanessa Williams was returning to Miss America meant I *had* to read it. The most interesting stuff was at the beginning, all about the lead-up to Miss America, her year, and the photo scandal. It was interesting to read how all that intertwined with her love life too. Of course with a ghost writer (no judgment!) the story isn’t quite as organic as it could have been, but what distinguishes this from other celebrity memoirs was the mother’s perspective as well, which was interesting. If they had added one of Vanessa’s daughters that could have been a home run as well. In any case, here are some of my thoughts on the latest Williams Miss America situation.
64. Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai– I loved her first book, and I enjoyed this as well, though not quite as much. The themes are heavy, and I wish a bit more of the actual history of Vietnam had been included, but I can see why it is a great book for the 10-13 crowd. Showing children why multiculturalism and understanding is important and transformative.
65. The Monopolists by Mary Pilon– Pilon writes about sports for the NYT, and you can tell. She transforms a single game into a more sweeping tale about the American legal system, capitalism, history, and invention. I loved the little connections she made throughout, though couldn’t believe no mention of Miss America re: Atlantic City (though AC really small part of Monopoly history).
66-76- Top 10 Books for Raising a Reader– Some books I read for this that were omitted, some read before, so it’s all a wash in the end. Two favorite new books I read for this include Born Reading by Jason Boog and Enchanted Hunters by Maria Tatar (I liked this much more than her previous Off with Their Heads!).
77. What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love by Carole Radziwill- This was a wrenching read. Even though I knew how it would end (and even beyond) I could NOT stop reading at the end. The chronology is sometimes off, but that ends to the fact the grief and remembering is not always linear.
78. Pageants, Parlors, and Pretty Women: Race and Beauty in the Twentieth-Century South by Blain Roberts– My list is a bit shorter than usual because I am spending a lot of time re-reading books for my pageants seminar this semester. This is one book that in its entirety is new to me– and I love it! Chapters 3 and 4 are especially worthwhile. I don’t find the writing dry at all– in fact it is quite clear. I do think that the publisher should have made text a bit larger so students don’t get overwhelmed with each page. Other than that, this is a true thoughtful accomplishment. (Only other quibble is that it really only runs though the 1960s, which is no biggie, but title and framing could be a bit clearer.) I will be using this book for years to come.
79. Getting Real by Gretchen Carlson– Another pageant book, though of a very different vein– the former autobiography. I chose this moment to read it because I am teaching William Goldman’s Hype and Glory, which is about the year Gretchen Carlson won Miss America. He writes some pretty unflattering things about her and I was curious if she discusses them– sure enough she tackles them head-on. I learned a lot about her, especially things that inform multiple strands of my work (family very well-off, religious, Tiger Mom, student of Dorothy DeLay, serious study of Miss America, etc.). Carlson is very driven and accomplished and I will be interested to see what she does later in life for sure. The writing is very straightforward and could have done with some more flourishes or a different structure, but I am sure this works especially well with target audience.
80. Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter– I rarely say I hated a book, but I can say this for the third in the Heist Society Trilogy. Beyond unrealistic, not even a creative or satisfying twist, and no resolution (the use of a mysterious and ancient name) left me seriously wanting. At this point I say ditch the whole trilogy, sadly. Too many other good books, and YA ones at that, to spend time here.
82. A Scourge of Vipers by Bruce DeSilva– Even if it wasn’t set in RI I would be loving this series. This entry really advanced the professional and personal connections of Liam. Just bummed I caught up and have to wait for a new entry. The writing is getting snappier, connections deeper, threads stand on own and interwoven.
83. The Fixer by Joseph Finder– I think this could have been a bit more fast-paced (and I still have lingering questions about how/why people started following him the first place when they did) but overall I enjoyed it– especially having lived in the Boston area for 10 years.
85. Charleston by Margaret Bradham Thornton– I knew this book would not end well, though I found the specific way it didn’t end well a surprise but ultimately unfulfilling. The 1990 setting was interesting, but I’m not sure why that choice was made. The world described is unknowable to me, so that was intriguing, and the writing quite nice, but for some reason I really didn’t enjoy this.
86-96. Top 10 Books on Discipline– You can read my Brain, Child round-up here!
97. Away in a Manger by Rhys Bowen– I had previously been getting a little tired of the Molly Murphy Sullivan books, but this (holiday) one restored my interest. I actually appreciated that nothing horrible happened TO Molly or her kids (and the injury to Daniel was not related to the main mystery). I can see the set-ups for the next few books with the gangs, but I enjoy learning about historical New York and reading about how social mores have (and have not) changed.
98. Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageantry, Student Bodies, and College Life by Karen Tice– Like the Blain Roberts book, I had read parts of this book before, but took the opportunity to read the whole thing recently (even though I didn’t assign all of it to my students). Chapter 7, “Flesh and Spirit: Bibles, Beauty, and Bikinis” is the only somewhat systematic take on pageantry and religion in the US that I have ever seen. Definitely worth it, if only for that! Those who are interested in pageants beyond the “big ones” of Miss America and Miss USA, will find much of interest here, with a focus on all types of campus and community events.
99. His Right Hand by Mette Ivie Harrison– Such an interesting subculture, and a good mystery/character study to boot! If just the second installment is this good can’t wait for what is to come!
101. All Fall Down by Ally Carter– I decided to give the new Embassy Row series a try, but I just couldn’t get into it and I found the protagonist to be not terribly likeable (though friends seem interesting).
106. The Lake House by Kate Morton– On the one hand I really wanted to see how this ended. On the other it took WAY WAY WAY too long to get there and while I was surprised by the end it was partly because it just seemed too pat. I was shocked by the turn of one part of the larger mystery, which was good. The writing was enjoyable, but the characters not as much, so a mixed bag.
108. To the End of June: The Intimate Life of Foster Care by Cris Beam- I think the writing and editing could have been a bit tighter, but this important story needs to be told. Informative and frustrating…
109-112. Look for three reviews in academic journals in 2016! [Here’s the first, review of Intensive Mothering: The Cultural Contradictions of Modern Motherhood.” May 2016. Contemporary Sociology. 45(3); 299-301. Here’s the second review, Driving after Class: Anxious Times in an American Suburb.” July 2016. Contemporary Sociology. 45(4): 455-7.]
In addition to all her reading “for fun,” Hilary is the Book Review Editor at Brain, Child Magazine. If you have a non-fiction parenting book you think would be a good fit for the magazine/site, please email her at bookreviews[at]brainchildmag.com.
1. The Hunting Wind by Steve Hamilton– Of the new series I tried in 2013, this is the best of them. Although I am noticing at the end that all these novels become quite complicated and sometimes convoluted. I will give McKnight a go one or two more times before making a final decision. Bonus to this one was seeing my actual hometown of Farmington Hill, MI make an appearance!
2. Divergent by Veronica Roth– The closest thing of the “Hunger Games” aspirants. It didn’t suck me in as much, but it is far more interesting. I am going to read the second one, and likely complete the trilogy– none of which I have done with any of the other wannabes. I like that it is set in Chicago, in a recognizable way, but in an indeterminate future. I understand the need for romance in a teen series like this, but it almost seemed added in and not as central as you would think to the storyline.
3. This Bright River by Patrick Somerville– This book took me FOREVER to get through (not just because I gave birth while reading it). It’s long, it meanders, it feels odd at times. I bought it after reading reviews and who endorsed it (it is a wannabe Gone Girl) but I just can’t recommend it.
4. Chat by Archer Mayor– One of the best additions to the Gunther series yet. Like that the two mysteries weren’t related, but were solvable. Liked the personal connections. Fast-paced, definitely enjoyed.
5. Long Lost by Linda Castillo– I really like the Kate Burkholder series about a former Amish police chief, but this short story (Kindle only) was a weak entry. I can see why it didn’t make it as a full book-length story. I didn’t like the resolution, found it implausible, and I got the relationship stuff from the rest of the series. Feel free to skip if you do this series!
6. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini– I thought nursing would give me lots of time to read, but Q is a power nurser and it’s just much harder with a toddler about (and Olympics to watch). Plus, I started this book, kept hoping it would get better (it never did, it actually got worse), which meant I wasn’t excited to read. This book reads much like an apology for Mrs. Lincoln’s dressmaker, though much of the history is interesting, the writing and pacing falls short.
7. Son by Lois Lowry– After being disappointed in the second installment, I must say this one was a welcome surprise. I do feel like there were many lose ends (how did Claire reach the village after the cliff, why had medicine and technology not reached beyond one place, etc.) but I felt satisfied overall.
8. Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood– I originally downloaded this after reading a review and seeing the Kindle price ($.99!); while in general I feel like I have learned not to download at cheap prices because the quality is bad, this first installment in the Phryne Fisher mysteries is an exception. I liked the setting (Australia) and the characters and can see that it will be interesting to see them evolve over time. The next several books are also very affordable ($2.99), so I look forward to reading more!
9. Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri– I read a starred review of this book in PW so added it to my queue. I was looking for a page turner to read, so turned to what appears the first in a new series. But I won’t be checking in for the next installments. First of all, I feel like the author couldn’t decide what the book would be– the tone at the beginning surprised me by almost reading like a mystery cozy and then turning darker (almost too dark for me). The uneven tone just didn’t sit well. Also, I just didn’t “get” the narrator, Maeve. Finally the sense of time in the novel confused me at times (pun intended). It did read quickly though.
10. Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally– I enjoyed this YA book (though I found parts a bit racy [no pun intended] for teens, though I know it is accurate– just the mom in me now!) and read it quickly. The sociologist in me appreciated the social class issues that I thought were handled adeptly and the curious person in me found the horse racing stuff interesting, even if the jump to jockey may have been a touch unrealistic. Probably will check out more by this author.
11. Black Fridays by Michael Sears– I really enjoyed this first-in-a-series about financial thrillers featuring a disgraced former Wall Street guru with an autistic son. Interesting plot (even if I didn’gt understand all of the financial nuances), great pacing, wonderful and memorable characters. I was unsure about the timing in parts, and how quickly some people became connected, but I can overlook that. Will definitely read the next installment.
12. Isabelle: American Girl Today 2014 by Laurence Yep– Like last year I read the Girl of the Year book as it is about an activity I study (in this case, dance). I liked this one less, and it has multiple parts/issues without a super strong plot, but I liked the DC setting and the contemporary history talked about.
13. City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen– I enjoyed this change of setting in the Molly Sullivan series. It wasn’t a thrilling or compelling read, but pleasant enough and the sprinkles of historical artistic figures was fun.
14. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer- This is the first in the “Southern Reach” trilogy, which has been well reviewed, but I will NOT be reading the next two. This sci-fi novel made me feel uncomfortable and included so many incomprehensible things. I didn’t feel like I learned anything about science, morality, or society and I certainly wasn’t entertained (though if the point was to make you feel creepy, I definitely got that at times)! Trying to hard to be a grown-up Hunger Games, methinks.
15. North of Nowhere by Steve Hamilton– I have been wavering on this series and with this addition I’ve decided to call it quits. Too many deaths, too much trouble for one guy in his 50s to suspend my disbelief any more… William Kent Krueger’s work is similar, but I much prefer his series, so I’m eagerly awaiting next installment of that instead.
16. A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante– Without question the best book I have read this year. A true psychological thriller with different characters and personalities vividly rendered. Worth a read, especially if you know anything about Palo Alto!
17. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood– A fun little light ditty in the Phyrne Fisher series. Still liking the Australian setting and the development of series regulars. Will give it a few more installments before making a final decision on full series.
18. Graveyard of Memories by Barry Eisler– I’m a fan of the John Rain series- and have been interested in Eisler’s choice to start self-publishing. However, I feel this book makes the case for having a good editor. I like getting some back story on Rain and how he got his start as an assasin, but I honestly didn’t need a whole book about it. I kept waiting for more thriller action, especially since I knew how things would turn out (he lives! shocker!), I felt little suspense which is part of the reason I like this series so much. Should have been a segment of a book and not the whole thing.
19. The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High by Laurie Boyle Compton– If you follow reality TV you’ll be interested in this take on the genre. Plot points were a bit stretched at times, though the characterizations were good. A quick read that is well written and can make young people think.
20. The Catch by Archer Mayor– Another fine entry in the Joe Gunther series, that takes him to Boston and Maine. I figured out the murderer early on (Mayor isn’t known for this telegraphing or maybe I just know his style well now). Read quickly and I’m interested to see how an unfinished thread from here develops in the next book or two.
21. Experimenting with Babies: 50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform on Your Kid by Shaun Gallagher– Check out the review I wrote about this fun, interesting, and informative book at Brain, Mother!
22. The Dinosaur Feather by S.J. Gazan– This book started out very slow for me, but by the end I was rapt. I think I may have difficulty reading translated works, or I find the translated tone a bit distant, but the story and characters pulled me in (even if I often thought at times there was too much back story). The science was interesting as well, but the lasting human message was a bit depressing (everyone had bad things happen to them and they are sad is basically it). When the author’s next work is translated though I will be queued up for it!
23. What’s Your Baby’s Poo Telling You? by Anish Sheth and Josh Richman– I have an infant and a toddler (with gastro issues, specifically a pancreatic enzyme deficiency), so I was really eager to read this short guide for parents. I don’t think I really learned anything new though, even if it was a quick and quirky/funny read. I admire the word play, but would have preferred more science (explanation of anatomy, research studies, etc.). I also think they should have included more poo questions parents often have– like mucus issues, other red flags, etc.
24. Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine– I adored this little gem of a book. Such characters! Such style! Such beauty! Such sadness! Definitely recommend this quick-reading novel set in NYC in the late 50s and 60s.
25. Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell– This was frothy, summer cozy/mystery. I liked the setting, and the bit of history and class issues, but found the mystery a bit convoluted and the cast of characters not compelling. Won’t tune in for next installment as I can kind of predict how it will read, but I don’t regret reading this.
26. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell– This book reminds me of why I read. What a novel can do for you. How everything else– all your problems, concerns, worries– fade away and a world is created for you in your head. I needed this right now. Read this fantastic novel about two teen somewhat-misfits and how they find each other in the mid-80s in Omaha. I swear, you won’t regret it.
27. Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood– I am enjoying these quick historical mysteries even more, with their interesting characters, setting, and historical moment. Set in Australia it allows people from different parts of the world to come together in the 1930s. Looking forward to next installment.
28. The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan– I found this first in a series mystery to be a bit long with a lot of characters and story lines to manage. I think it would have worked better if each chapter didn’t switch back and forth so much. I appreciated all the Boston settings and references, but I’m not sure those who don’t know the city would appreciate that as much as I did. Interesting resolution, but shorter would have made it more suspenseful.
29. China Dolls by Lisa See– I’ve always enjoyed See’s books about Chinese-American women and friendship and this was no exception. It wasn’t my favorite, but I learned a lot about Asian relationships and history in the US around WWII. The Epilogue was also very interesting…
30. Cold Shot to the Heart by Wallace Stroby– I was excited to try a new mystery series, about a complicated criminal. I was hoping for something of the John Rain variety, but I definitely did not like anything about Crissa Stone. It felt very clinical and I just couldn’t get into it sadly. There was tension, but no likability…
31. The Fever by Megan Abbott– I found this book (currently buzzed about) to be haunting and disturbing and filled with the tension of adolescence (and even unsettled adulthood). I previously read the author’s Dare Me and I found The Fever to be less squicky and more realistic. It’s a slow-burning page turner and I wasn’t disappointed in it as a summer read. Also, made me happy for a bit I don’t currently have a daughter…
32. The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry– I used to read most of Berry’s novels, but stopped because I thought they were becoming too out there and even polemic at times. But I thought The Lincoln Myth sounded okay and I wanted a mindless thriller. It started out better, but by the end I remembered why I can’t read his stuff. The characters can be two-dimensional, the history suspect, and the politics verging into strange territory. So, likely my last Berry book.
33. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith– This was good, but not nearly as good as the first Cormoran Strike. I felt it went on a bit long and I found a few holes (especially re: author Dorcus). I’ll tune in for the next installment anyway! Gory at times, but interesting because Strike is so inside-outside different communities.
34. The Unexpected Waltz by Kim Wright– This novel continued to surprise me. I actually loved that no real romance was at the center of it, but rather a woman trying to find her identity in an unexpected place with unexpected people after a lot of life happened. I think it would appeal more to an older crowd but in the end I enjoyed it even if I wasn’t totally satisfied by the conclusion.
35. The Heist by Daniel Silva– Anyone who reads Silva’s books is excited when there is a new installment in the Gabriel Allon series. Not as gripping as last year’s The English Girl, this is still a good read (and in a way I was thankful I could put it down at times). This was an in-between book as we wait for the arrival of the twins and Gabriel taking up as the new head of The Office. I’m also guessing Shamron dies in the next one, which will be tough (and a grown-up version of Dumbledore’s death for me at least).
36. Terminal City by Linda Fairstein– I liked this one more than the more recent installments of the Alex Cooper series. Still no real denouement to the Mike-Coop romance, but at least there is progress. I really enjoyed the history of Grand Central here and all the fun facts and interesting subcultures of NYC presented with care. Again, an in-between story as we wait for more on the Tanner case’s resolution in the next book.
37. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes– This book has gotten a lot of positive reviews and press attention, for good reason. One of the more compelling books I have read this year for sure, I enjoyed the quirky characters and situations. Though I will say there is an inherent sadness to the book and its view of the human condition. People can be kind, but it’s often complicated– as One Plus One conveys so well.
38. The Dead Will Tell by Linda Castillo– I enjoyed this, and found it to be a quick read, but I have to wonder how many violent crimes really befall the Amish? I hope for the next Burkholder book it’s not just about murder and rape of Amish families. Warning, a lot of gruesome death in this one!
39. Landline by Rainbow Rowell– This is no Eleanor & Park, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. It’s not YA, it’s adult, and there is a touch of magical realism (which I never quite like). It wasn’t gripping, but I wanted to know what happened to the characters. The one thing I really took away from this book about a marriage in trouble is that it hit me that for the first time when I read a book about middle-aged people and marriage it is now ABOUT ME TOO. When they do flashbacks to when they were “young” (in college in 1998), I realized I was a freshman in college then. Pretty crazy.
40. Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance by Wendy Sue Swanson– I like the tone of this book by pediatrician mom Swanson, but I wish it was more than a compilation of her more popular blog posts. Important topics are covered that often aren’t in parenting books that address more specific issues, but I wish she actually talked more about the science and research behind many of her assertions and statements (perhaps this would have happened if there was a tad more of a narrative thread and it wasn’t so broken up). Then again the short chapters are about right for the attention span of busy parents!
41. Sign with Your Baby: How to communicate with infants before they can speak by Joseph Garcia– I only did a few signs with my older son and communication became so much easier once that happened, so I plan to do more signs and earlier with my second. This was helpful in saying which signs to start with and how and not to do more than 20. He talks about research related to this too, which I found helpful. This was a short read and there is also a DVD (though I haven’t watched it yet!)
42. Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood– Again, an interesting and short Phyrne Fisher mystery describing historical events I don’t know much about, so felt educational too.
43. The Husband’s Secret by Lianne Moriarty– I had been warned in reviews that once you start this one it is hard to stop, and that is true. This is the kind of book I slowed down to read because I didn’t want the interesting, tangled web to completely unravel. As a mom it made me sad, as a wife angry, etc. I guess then it shouldn’t surprise me that she is labeled “chick lit,” but I honestly didn’t think of this novel that way at all. I also appreciated the Australian setting and can’t wait to read more!
44. Drift by Jon McGoran– Rarely have I read a main character in a mystery/thriller series with SUCH a strong and unique voice in the first book. I definitely recommend this and have already bought the sequel, just out.
45. Windigo Island by William Kent Krueger– Another strong entry in the Cork O’Connor series, and I like how this books illuminates an interesting social issue. I also like that Krueger is addressing issues with characters and making them even more complex. Look forward to the next one, hopefully only a year from now!
46. The Young World by Chris Weitz– I read a highly laudatory review of this older YA novel. It’s no Hunger Games, but there is something here. At times the plot was cliche and the characters predictable. Other times I was really surprised and interested in the plot twists. In particular the alternating chapters between two main characters, with extremely different voices, is effective– and would make the novel appeal to both male and female readers. It lacks the sheer page-turner-ness of Hunger Games, and it’s an even more grown up version given all the sex and drugs, but it’s in that vein. Lots of class and gender and race warfare and in the sure-to-come sequel the science should get interesting. Those who love NYC will especially enjoy it; one downside is that the pop culture is so current it might not last and translate for long. (Fun side note: I was surprised to see so much place overlap with Fairstein’s latest, Terminal City)
47. Child Workers and Industrial Health in Britain, 1780-1850 by Peter Kirby– This is an academic text written by a social historian exploring the occupational health of children in labor towns in the UK. Interesting, counter-intuitive arguments, even if data sparse on this topic. Here it is in review essay!
48. Child Labor in America: A History by Chaim M. Rosenberg– Packed with lots of historical facts, it is missing a bit of a historical narrative. Here it is in review essay connected to above and below books.
49. The Price of Silence: A Mom’s Perspective on Mental Illness by Liza Long– You can read my review on Brain, Child’s blog here!
50. I’m Ready! How to Prepare Your Child for Reading Success by Janice Greenberg and Elaine Weitzman– Click through to my Editor’s column for Brain, Child about why I think all parents with young kids should check out this short and informative book!
51. How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah Klein– A thoughtful book on how to interact with your toddler inspired by Dr. Klein’s experiences running a toddler program at Barnard. Would have liked a bit more science here, but a helpful and reflective book. Here’s the review.
53. Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, From Infant to Toddler—Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child by Jane Nelson, Cheryl Erwin, and Roslyn Ann Duffy- More a philosophy with useful bits sprinkled in, not so much based on research. But the series is popular for those who agree with its notion. Here’s the review.
54. Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior by Jo Frost– The most useful toddler parenting book I have read and the one that has resonated most for me. Here’s the review.
55. Day After Night by Anita Diamant– Haunting, beautiful I gulped it down in a few hours. Shows how complicated questions of religion, nationhood, femininity are– and yet the every day life prevails even in the darkest moments. I cried so many times reading this, definitely recommend.
56. Murder at Marble House by Alyssa Maxwell– The second in this cozy series set in Newport was ok. I wasn’t going to continue with the series but once I found out my family is moving to Rhode Island in 2015 I thought it would be fun. Sadly, we won’t be living in any Newport “cottages!” If anyone knows any good books (fiction or non-fiction) set in Rhode Island please send recommendations my way!
57. Like No Other by Una LaMarche– Such a wonderful story showing how teens can be sensitive and thoughtful and open to all sorts of change. If you liked Eleanor & Park you will like this book. I was riveted– loved it!
59. Lucky Us by Amy Bloom– Such characters, showing is complicated, sad, full of love and connections. I liked the historical setting too, covering race, class, gender, and sexuality. A quick read (though I listened to it on a few long drives).
60. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater– So I’m not into magical realism. I either want all magic or all realism. But I like the way this author writes even if I don’t always “get it” and find some of the plotting very slow. About 60% of the way into this YA novel I was BLOWN AWAY by a plot twist I did not see coming. Because of them I’m in for Book 2 of the trilogy (which means more than likely I will do the third…).
61. Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino– I had read a good review of this and given topic (kids, reality TV, arts) I thought I would love it. It has some quirky characters, history, and a different setting than usual (also a bit of a commentary on society), but the tone seemed off to me.
62. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist– I edited a review for this book, and was so intrigued I read it as well. This type of nonfiction isn’t always my cup of tea, but I found the format interesting. It’s a way I could imagine turning a blog into a book.
63. Gray Mountain by John Grisham– I haven’t read a Grisham in awhile (he was one of the first “adult” authors I read in middle school). This is no Firm, or Pelican Brief. I was fairly riveted by the plot (though it’s a touch long), and I liked learning about Appalachia and coal, but I found the end a little unsatisfying (even if it was realistic).
64. The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year by Andy Cohen- I write a bit about the book here, but should add that it is definitely long. And it’s sometimes hard to keep the people straight (maybe a Glossary or “Cast of Characters” at the back would have helped?). At times you may wonder if you can like Andy so much after. But in the end, it’s like a Robin Leach look at how an “ordinary” celebrity lives.
65. The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood– I love learning more about Australia (I have been into Australia this year with Real Housewives of Melbourne, too!) and this latest entry in the Phyrne Fisher series wasn’t great in terms of the mystery, but was a quick little read nonetheless. Liked reading about jazz from a non-US perspective, too.
67. Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty– A great book to nearly end the year with, as it is one of my favorites. Moriarty is a sociologist at heart with a reporter’s eye and a thriller’s pen. In this one I figured out the one of the major twists halfway through, but I still compulsively read whenever I could. Highly recommend this sharpy comedy of manners.
68. Feeding Your Child by T. Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow– I’m anxious to make sure my second son eats well, especially since he appears to not have the malabsoprtion issue his older brother has. I did find some useful tips and facts here, though some (especially with allergies) appear to be slightly out of date already (this book was published in 2004). The shorter versions of Touchpoints are useful though in general.
69-79. Here’s my Top 10 books on children’s sleep for Brain, Child. While I had read some before this year, I also read others that didn’t make the cut (if you want to know some of them email me– I don’t want to put any down publicly).
80-89. Here’s my Top 10 books on parenting children with disabilities. See above comment about list!
90-91. Being Miss America: Behind the Rhinestone Curtain by Kate Shindle and Push Dick’s Button: A Conversation on Skating from a Good Part of the Last Century — and a Little Tomfoolery by Dick Button- My joint review of both is up here!
Wondering why I’m keeping track of my reading in 2013? Click here for the answer.
1. Death and the Maiden by Frank Tallis (Kindle for iPad)- I’ve enjoyed Frank Tallis‘ Max Liebermann series- about a Jewish psychiatrist in pre-WWI Vienna- since 2007. Tallis’ use of language is quite impressive and he has the rare distinction of being an author who uses words that make me use my dictionary app, which I love (a few books ago he used the word “minatory,” which I loved so much I now try to sneak it into educated conversation, so I was delighted it makes an appearance again in the latest book). It helps if you love classical music if you read this series, but lovers of historical mysteries in general won’t be disappointed. I found the main mystery in this installment to be a bit complicated (but that may be because I finished reading it on a 6 am cross country flight), but liked the movement forward of other series plotlines.
2. Bossypants by Tina Fey (Kindle for iPad)- I know people LOVE this book and I can’t lie and say that I did. Finally read it after many people referenced it to me after reading my nanny piece (Fey’s apt comments on nannies are on pages 237 and in a footnote on 268 where she chooses the title “Coordinator of Toddlery” instead of “nanny” or “babysitter,” though I don’t think I can get away with that one…). So I think it was a bit hyped in my mind, but I also think that I would have liked it better if the whole book resembled the second half. I loved all the details on how 30 Rock came to be and what it was like to play Palin. I felt the first part of the book lacked those details (like I wondered why she went to UVA, how her first interview with Lorne Michaels came to be, etc.). I never laughed out loud once, but I did enjoy her comparison between a female writer doing child beauty pageants vs. team sports– that part was definitely up my alley (page 165). All in all, now I can say I read it. Next!
3. Pizzicato: The Abduction of the Magic Violin by Rusalka Rey (Kindle for iPad)- I got this as a promotion through Amazon and thought it might be worth a read. It’s in the vein of Harry Potter (though obviously it is not Harry!) and I would say it skews for a much younger audience. It’s about an orphan who is exposed to some magic and new, interesting people. The story is set in Germany, and it is a translation, which impacts the language. Better choices from your 8-11-year-old readers are out there for sure– but I did enjoy learning a small amount about violin-making.
4. Looking for Alaska by John Green (Kindle for iPad)- I’m gearing up to read his latest (The Fault in Our Stars), which people rave about, but which I know will make me cry. In any case, I really enjoyed this book (which did not make me cry). It’s YA and deals with serious teenage/life issues, but with heart and seriousness and a good eye for reality. Has some elements of cliched boarding school life and stereotypes about class, but there is also much truth here.
5. Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week by Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler (paperback)- My son just turned one so I finally finished this book. I found it very helpful when he was younger (it’s all relative!), and I read ahead the first few months when I was still pregnant. Because every child is so different I found the later weeks not as helpful (like my son started walking at 10 months but he’s still not speaking words beyond babbling and jargon). My favorite baby/toddler book so far is The Portable Pediatrician, but since that goes up to age 5 it’s going to be awhile before I finish that one!
6. Your Child at Play: One to Two Years by Marilyn Segal (hardcover)- Continuing to try to learn more about my one-year-old I bought this book after several people on a mommy email list recommended it. I’m not sure I agree with the rec. I would have appreciated more discussion of what is going on developmentally (and why). The book suggests lots of play games, but I felt that many of them were just common sense. I also did not feel that the pictures added much and I would have appreciated more discussion of important issues, like what happens when you add a sibling or have a pregnant mom during this time (which is quite common; sibling are discussed on 175-7, but it was obviously a small part of this almost 300 page book). I’m hoping Welcome to Your Child’s Brain is more my style.
7. Tucker Peak by Archer Mayor (Kindle for iPad)- I started reading Mayor’s Joe Gunther detective series last year when I was nursing. I read a review and decided that because the books had all been released as Kindle books that I should give them a try. Set in Vermont I’ve enjoyed learning more about this nearby state. One of the books even inspired my family’s fall trip to Montreal. This is the 12th entry in the mystery series, which is heavy on research and police procedural details. As usual Joe gets injured a few times, and the cases are complicated (by death, again, of course too), but this entry moves the characters slowly along. You’ll see more from this series throughout the year as I like working my way through series.
8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Kindle for iPad)- Lived up to its hype, but didn’t exceed it– although given that I read it in a single day I’d say I enjoyed it! What I liked most about this book is that I *know* my teen self would have loved this book, but my adult/mother self appreciated it in a different way. Think this one will stick around library bookshelves for good long while. It’s very smart, well-written,and familiar but foreign enough to interest readers. There are similarities to Looking for Alaska, which is okay with me, but important to note. I did see the “twist” coming, but that didn’t change anything for me and my younger self might not have. I did wonder about the second Venn diagram a bit (if you read it you’ll know what I mean– similarly, I was relieved the book didn’t end mid-sentence), but all in all very thought provoking for readers of any age. Now I’m looking forward to reading Will Grayson Will Grayson by Green, which a literary lady friend recommended!
9. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (Kindle for iPad)- This is a lovely novel that blends literature and mathematics with fascinating characters (including the eponymous professor who is a brilliant mathematician who only remembers things from 25 years ago and the last 80 minutes). It’s a short book that has been translated beautifully; there is a powerful economy of language and images that is almost formulaic in the mathematical sense. One of best and favorite teachers of all time (Sue Strong, my middle school math and social studies teacher) recommended it to me– and when Mrs. Strong, who taught me facts and study/organizational habits that I truly still use every single day, says to do something, I listen!
10. Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine (Hardcover)- I’ve been a bit slow to update this page because I’ve been very busy with work (including a review of this book for my favorite parenting magazine– so stay tuned and don’t look for my thoughts on it here- AND HERE IT IS IN THE SUMMER 2013 ISSUE OF BRAIN, CHILD!), computer issues (Windows 8 is horrendous, especially on a Sony Vaio– get a Lenovo!), and my usual daily/weekly/monthly newspaper/magazine subscription reading (I read The Boston Globe and The New York Times every day, People, Publisher’s Weekly, Sports Illustrated, and The Economist every week, and a variety of (bi)monthly ones like Boston Magazine, PAW, Brain, Child, In Style, Marie Claire, Smithsonian, Harvard Magazine, Parenting, Parents, Working Mother, Family Circle, The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, and ESPN The Magazine). I also got completely addicted to this Australian show called Dance Academy, which you can download on iTunes. So far there have been two seasons of 26 episodes each (about 22-24 minutes). Let’s just say I got less sleep and shed some tears over this drama about talented teens and their romantic/friendship travails. The dancing is pretty great, but be warned that it sucks up your reading and sleeping time! Can’t wait for Season 3– and Teen Nick (oy) will soon be airing Seasons 1 and 2 in the US.
11. Trigger Point by Matthew Glass (Kindle for iPad)- I also got stuck reading this novel recently. It’s very long and detailed and didn’t quite have the suspense I was looking for. Set in he near-future it shows how the US can descend into WWIII with China based on a variety of global and cultural misunderstandings. It’s also possible that the political, economic, and military implications strike a bit too close to home, which is why I didn’t enjoy it more. The drama is real rather than sensational, which makes it more thought-provoking, but less of a page turner. Wouldn’t recommend this to many people, but it’s the type of fiction my economist husband might enjoy (even though he doesn’t like fiction). For me, not so much…
12. The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers (Kindle for iPad)- I actually took a class from Randy at Grub Street about two years ago (Incidentally, a class where I was first introduced to the writing of Nina Badzin, who I now email with about writerly topics– so because she helped make that fun connection and because hr books are good I will *always* read what Ms. Meyers writes!), and shortly thereafter I read her first novel, The Murderer’s Daughters. Her latest has a slightly different tone; it is still honest and raw, but less dark. As a local it was fun to read about places I know (also why I DVRed the new reality show Boston’s Finest!), but it’s certainly not crucial. As women and moms we can all sympathize or empathize with the three women at the core of the book. The men are very much present, but this is a book about women’s innermost fears, friendships, and follies. But it is also a book about love and you will quickly become entranced by the vivid characters and want to know what happens to them and their relationships. The perfect read after my last disappointing thriller (see above)!
13. Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino (Paperback)- I’m gearing up for the release of my first book, Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, in September, which explains why I read this recent book by Sambuchino (who has also written a book about finding a literary agent along with original humor books). It contains helpful tips for (aspiring) authors, especially those like me who focus on nonfiction. I especially appreciated the very up-to-date tips on how to manage social media and seek speaking and writing opportunities.
14. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Hardcover)- I rarely endorse a book so heartily. But: Please, please go read this story. It is amazing for many reasons but I especially love that it has an ageless quality, in two ways: 1) I can imagine my son and my grandchildren reading it someday, and 2) It appeals to a range of readers. As an adult I appreciated the Doogie Howser reference (my first crush, fyi!) and the Natalie Merchant lyrics; as an elementary school-age kid I’d like the middle school and high school stories; as a middle school kid I’d like the bit of romance; and as a high school student I would appreciate the transformations of the characters. The story is written clearly and each character has such a distinct voice. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it will make you laugh and make you cry. Truly one of the most compelling novels I have read in a long while that makes me think and feel– and stays with me.
15. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne (Kindle for iPad)- I gulped down this novel in about a day, like a sugary treat that seems good and then makes you feel sick after. I mean, the point of Jonny Valentine’s story (Bieber-esque– made me feel even more that I want to see the documentary about his rise to fame, Never Say Never, which I hear is actually quite good) is to make you feel a bit icky and it succeeds. I found the discussion of the music industry informative (though I don’t know how accurate it is) and I appreciated the honest portrayal of a young boy going though puberty, but the discussions of fame and family are rightfully disturbing. A lost childhood indeed, told sensitively, so very thought-provoking. The ending seemed a bit rushed to me, but overall for anyone interested in fame and music it’s very much worth a read.
16. How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby by Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik (Paperback)- While I don’t quite buy all the “research,” and I didn’t always like the tone of this book, I guess I’ll let you know in a few months if this (maybe) actually works… [Update: Not quite. Very excited to have another healthy baby boy, but didn’t work to get the girl.]
18. Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless (Kindle for iPad)- What a fabulous title, right?! A friend recommended this memoir and it almost read like a thriller to me– I really wanted to see what happened to Wendy and her sister, Robin. If you like Mommie, Dearest or the Jeannette Walls memoirs, you’ll find much to like here; one (positive) difference is that I think Lawless uses humor more effectively in her writing and presents tragic events with a wry eye. Definitely one of the best memoirs I’ve read in some time (Note: I did not love Cheryl Strayed’s Wild— I prefer this story).
19. The Family Way by Rhys Bowen (Kindle for iPad)- The 12th book in the Molly Murphy series (about an Irish immigrant in early 19th century NYC) is a quick, fun read. I keep going back to this series even though it’s not as historically rooted as the Maisie Dobbs books or as clever at the Mary Russell ones (both personal favorites for smart, historical mysteries featuring unusually independent women). The problem with the Bowen books is that 1) it’s pretty easy to figure out the murdered/criminal and 2) everything always ends so tidily (though not nearly as bad as her other series, Her Royal Spyness, which I actually stopped reading). I do love Molly’s friends Gus and Sid, and other colorful characters, which is what keeps bringing me back. This particular book ends quite quickly, with a major life event, which I assume will figure prominently in the next book. But I confess I wanted more on that front here and less of the mystery. But, a super quick and pleasurable read– I hear it’s a perfect read while getting a mani/pedi… 😉
20. Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy (Kindle for iPad)- This is a long, researched, but concisely and elegantly written book on a Boston legend who is finally in jail. I had no idea that Whitey was involved with so many different Boston crimes– all the info on busing and bombing the Kennedy house was new to me, for example. I learned a lot about the history of Boston while reading this and am glad I bought into the advertising hype and read it. I liked that the book didn’t speculate and only drew on established facts, but at the same time I know Whitey’s name has been connected to the Gardner heist and I wondered why Weeks reported Whitey told him he committed 40 murders (who might the other victims be?). So I would have liked some discussion of rumors and what may be true and what may not be. In any case, I’ll definitely follow the trial with interest in the coming months and look for an epilogue to the epilogue…
21. Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas (Kindle for iPad)- No joke, this was my first ever Romance Novel. I didn’t even realize it when I bought it. I bought the Kindle book because a Facebook friend posted that it was on sale (for $2.99) and it was written by a former Miss Massachusetts (1985). Now, as you likely know, I am interested in beauty pageants (especially Miss MA, which I wrote about, and this year I helped select four of the women competing for the title in June 2013) and I don’t know too many beauty queen authors, so I wanted to check it out. The novel wasn’t my usual cup of tea (this from one of the few women in her 30s who did not read 50 Shades yet…), both for the plot and unusual characters, who are mainly witches. I did like the setting, a part of the country I have never been to (the San Juan Islands), but the rest was a bit too fanciful and undeveloped for my reading tastes. If only the character details were as detailed as the sex scenes! I don’t know what many Miss America contestants would say about those. 😉 [FYI, this is a very interesting 1987 People Magazine article about the Wellesley grad!]
22. The Innocents by Francesca Segal (Kindle for iPad)- I’d read several positive reviews and the book didn’t disappoint. The romantic tension made me sweat through the first 50 pages (at least), tormented by the clear implosion that it seemed would come on the next page every time I turned one. The end is unexpected though. Not a thriller in the traditional sense, but a thriller of mores and customs. Even if you’re not Jewish and don’t live in London (which I’m sure would help in getting some of the references), there is much to admire in Segal’s use of character, language, and plot.
23. Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham (Kindle for iPad)- After enjoying Meacham’s previous effort (Roses), I purchased her latest, Tumbleweeds. It sat in my Kindle queue for some time, but I decided to give it a try while visiting a friend in Texas because that’s the state where the story is set. Overall I have to say I was disappointed. The book is very long and has an unbelievable amount of drama. I actually really enjoyed the first 70 pages, but by page 470, I barely even liked any of the main characters any more.
24. The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (Kindle for iPad)- After the Boston Marathon Bombings on Monday I wanted to read a book about Boston. I’d heard lots of good things about The Art Forger and I was not disappointed. Personally my favorite art museum is the Isabella Stewart Gardner, which is made only more fascinating by the robberies (which have been back in the press), so I found it especially interesting. But even if you’re not into the Gardner lore this is a great book. It’s very well written and plotted; the word choice is great and the characters are vivid, but still mysterious. I love the atmosphere of the story, not unlike a Degas painting or drawing. I also loved reading The Art Forger because while I actually know very little about art and painting, but I really learned something. I learned about different techniques and brushstrokes and a bit more of the history around Impressionism. So read The Art Forger for the story and the writing and also because you’ll learn something about history, Degas, and art. And, because I’m an academic, I really appreciated the detailed explanation of what was real and what wasn’t at the end of the book.
25. Diaper-Free Before 3 by Jill Lekovic (Paperback)- Like #16, I suppose I’ll let you know if it works at some point. That said, I loved this book because it put toilet training into historical perspective, talked about how technological and medical changes have impacted our social norms, and made constructive use of medical studies. In short, this book 100% spoke my language. The tone and writing were accessible and targeted at parents interested in research, so thumbs up for that! Now, on to the potty books for the babe… [Update: He went in the potty at 16 months, so it seems to be working!]
26. The Sniper’s Wife by Archer Mayor (Kindle for iPad)- This 13th entry in the Joe Gunther Vermont detective series I wrote about in #7, finds the main characters (though thankfully no Gail) in a new setting [NYC] and with a new character focus [Willy instead of Joe]. I liked the new style and I’m even more eager to see where the story develops. I only wonder how long it can last given Joe’s advancing age. Given that there are 8 more books (and counting) to read, I guess I’ll find out!
27. Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose (Kindle for iPad)- As a reader of Jezebel and Slate’s Double X, I found this “behind-the-scenes” novel great fun. The book is well-written and snappy (not surprising given Grose’s background); it could have veered in the direction of too “in the moment” with a multitude of pop culture references, but it struck the perfect balance. Overall I think this falls into the recently created category of “New Adult Fiction,” meaning it will appeal most to those in their 20s starting out in careers, relationships, and life. Of course it’s not off limits to others (case in point: I’m early 30s), but those dealing with that complicated life stage will find it especially resonant. Finally, considering part of me aspires to be Grose, it’s fair to wish– while turning green with envy– that I could pen a novel in just five months, right?!
28. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (Kindle for iPad)- The Maisie Dobbs series (of which this is the tenth installment) is easily one of the my favorite historical mysteries. Maisie is a smart woman who challenges class boundaries in many ways in England between the two World Wars. Winspear’s writing is beautiful and she sets a calm and curious tone for each novel. This one focuses on the death of an Indian woman and moves Maisie closer toward India and away from the mainstays of her life (a change I worry about for Maisie’s sake)! I always learn something about cultures and history when I read a Maisie Dobbs and whenever a new one comes out, it quickly jumps to the top of my reading queue. You won’t be disappointed by this series in general, or this specific entry.
29. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Kindle for iPad)- John Green is definitely the premiere adolescent fiction writer right now (note #4 and #8 on my list from this year– and there will be more!), and I appreciate how his story are set in different places across the US, giving the reader a sense that these issues are region-less. It’s amazing to me how he “gets” the teen years; while his stories are of the moment, with modern technology, they are also timeless. Reading Will Grayson I was struck by how accurately he captured the feelings I remember from those high school years (oh, the angst) and how it simultaneously relieved me that I am over that time in my life. This particular story deals with sexuality (and kids both gay and straight) with a message of love and acceptance; note that music plays an especially important role in the story. The narrators alternate and I definitely preferred one Will Grayson’s voice to the other, but by the end I noticed that less. 4 stars and a solid recommendation from me for this very quick read.
30. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Kindle for iPad)- As usual, Strout writes beautifully. And she goes straight to the heart of humans and their relationships. This book wasn’t quite as depressing to me as Olive Kitteredge, but it was certainly not uplifting about the human condition. I do love how she portrays people so clearly in such short portraits or snatches of time. You just don’t always like what you see, even if it’s superbly crafted.
31. Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster (ARC)- Reading for a review, so more to come, but definitely a smart, worthwhile read for any woman or man in his/her child-bearing years who wants to be informed. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REVIEW ESSAY PUBLISHED BY BRAIN, CHILD!
32. The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Before Their Bottom Line by Jennifer Margulis (Hardcover)- Also for review, but this book is so awful and such a un0nuanced polemic (in my opinion), that the less said the better. Annie Murphy Paul’s scathing review sums it up. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REVIEW ESSAY PUBLISHED BY BRAIN, CHILD!
33. A Womb with a View: America’s Growing Public Interest in Pregnancy by Laura Tropp (Hardcover)- Sensing a theme here? While this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, as it is written using a lot of academic language, it is a smart, clever, updated take on the various technologies shaping modern pregnancy. It’s short, and I wish Tropp had taken the space to present some original data analysis (perhaps a content analysis of recent pregnancy guides or reality shows), but it’s worth a look for sure. CLICK HERE TO READ THE REVIEW ESSAY PUBLISHED BY BRAIN, CHILD!
34. Sutton by J.R. Moehringer (Kindle for iPad)- Moehringer has quite the literary range! He has conquered memoir (The Tender Bar, great book), co-writing biography (Andre Agassi’s Open, still in my pile, but I’ve heard great things), and now historical fiction. Sutton is beautifully written. The first few pages were a bit difficult as I settled into the narrative style, but then I found it simply hypnotic. I confess I had never before heard of Willie Sutton, and I went through a range of emotions about him reading this, and in the end I was pretty confused by this likeable/unlikeable character– which is part of the point. A book about a true escape artist that is sure to transport you. One of the more interesting and entertaining books I have read this year.
35. Momster by Heather Ryan (Paperback)- Here’s my full review on The Huffington Post Celebrity, “Unleashing Momsters: It’s a Small World of Pageant Reality.” Though it’s clearly a diatribe, there’s something about the story that is oddly addicting.
36. Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner (Kindle for iPad)- I enjoyed this thriller and stayed up late to find out what happened to the kidnapped family that is the subject of Gardner’s stand alone. I haven’t read anything by the NYT-bestselling author before, but I enjoyed it– it was smarter than similar authors like Linda Fairstein, for example. While this is a standalone Gardner apparently has a series about a female Boston detective that appears tangentially in this story, but it didn’t interfere with my reading. My sense was that this could be the start of a new series, but it has in its satisfying conclusion as well.
37. A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (Kindle for iPad)- This is the first in a series (of over 20 books) about a native Alaskan woman who is an investigator around Anchorage. It was a short, quick read, but I didn’t immediately connect with the main characters or the setting. You often need to read a few in a series to make a final decision, but given that I didn’t even feel enthralled by the mystery, the series is a pass for me. For this type of book I’ll stick to the Nevada Barr books.
38. The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr (Hardcover)- I blogged about this book, about a 16-year-old girl who quit competitive piano playing and the fallout with her family and friends, but I absolutely enjoyed it. The characters, the writing, the story were all very compelling– so much so I just had to finish the same day I started. Really great insights about teens, family relationships across generations, and competition among kids. Recommended for young readers, and old(er)!
39. The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein (Kindle for iPad)- Another slamdunk read! Great characters, good history (about an event in American history I had not previously been aware of, so bonus to learn something specific), two intertwined compelling stories. I actually wish it had gone on a bit longer– again, I read it in a single day.
41. Inferno by Dan Brown (Kindle for iPad)- If you’ve read any Dan Brown book before then you pretty much know what to expect. This performed a bit below my expectations (I like a thriller that keeps me wanting to read, which this one didn’t quite do and it is definitely on the long side). I did appreciate the twist though, and learning some art history, though certain explanations in the story are just a bit too tied up in a bow– and upon further reflection the political implications are very odd. But as summer beach reads go you won’t be horrendously disappointed.
42. The Short Seller by Elissa Brent Weissman (Hardcover)- A fun middle grade story about a 7th grader who becomes very good at online trading very quickly. It was a spritely read, and even if I found a few parts unbelievable I am sure young readers would enjoy it– and learn a lot while reading it. I enjoyed it enough that I now plan to check out the author’s book Nerd Camp as well.
43. Trickster’s Point by William Kent Krueger (Kindle for iPad)- Even though I neither live in the wilds of Minnesota, nor have any Native American blood (that I know of), I love the Corcoran O’Connor series. The latest entry doesn’t disappoint. I also love how Cork’s son, Stephen, directly addresses what many mystery readers think about their protagonists– that they are magnets for murder and violence. Can’t wait for the latest edition in a few months. If you like thrillers, you’ll also appreciate this detective series, as it has some elements of more traditional thrillers.
44. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich (Kindle for iPad)- I really enjoyed this historical novel set in the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. I was far more invested in Hannah’s story than her husband’s, and at times I found the timing of the two confusing (they weren’t parallel or lagged consistently), but it was a quick, nice read that allowed me to learn a few things about Malta and the plague.
45. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (Paperback)- I have watched the ABC Family series based on this book and I’m started to get a little bored/frustrated by all the twists and turns– so like any good reader I decided to just go to the books for some answers. The first entry in the series is pretty much the exact same as the TV series (a few siblings are missing in the show and the hair color of the Liars is different), but at least I’m confident that the books read quickly and I’ll get some answers sooner rather than later.
46. Flawless by Sara Shepard (Paperback)- The second in the PLL series, this one starts to diverge from the TV show in some important ways. I find the girls in the books to be FAR less likeable than in the show. Not sure how many of these I’ll keep reading– perhaps I am just over the whole franchise…
47. Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke (Kindle for iPad)- I read a review of a Burke novel in Publisher’s Weekly and was intrigued, so decided to start at the beginning of her mystery novels. For a variety of reasons it took me a LONG time to make my way through this legal thriller/procedural and given that I’d have to say I didn’t love it. I think if you lived near Portland you’d find a lot of the setting interesting, but when I’m interested in a novel about a female DA involved with sex crimes, for now I’ll stick with the Linda Fairstein series.
48. Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker (Kindle for iPad)- This book, directed at younger readers, about two foster girls was incredibly moving. It had shades of From the Mixed-Up Files for me, but with a sadder undercurrent. It’s set on Cape Cod, so nice for summer reading. Definitely a good yarn that will find you with tears prickling your eyes at the end. Good way to expose readers to difference as well.
49. The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair with Teresa Barker (ARC)- Good thing I didn’t read this on my iPad in front of my son… Formal book review to follow in a few months.
50. The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler (Kindle for iPad)- Writing more about this engaging, well-written, and informative book in the above review. But I found some tips I am already trying to implement in our family. At times I sometimes wondered why certain chapters went together, but it doesn’t really disrupt the flow or import of this book.
51. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Paperback)- While it doesn’t have the “big picture” message of some of his other books I read this year, I think I *enjoyed* this one the most. Loved the footnotes, math, characters, etc. A sign of a truly great book: I wondered what happened to the characters after the book ended, and in my mind a few days later. Also, my favorite lines from page 10: “Prodigies can very quickly learn what other people have already figured out; geniuses discover that which no one has ever previously discovered. Prodigies learn; geniuses do. The vast majority of child prodigies don’t become adult geniuses. Colin was almost certain that he was among that unfortunate majority.”
52. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiScalfani (Kindle for iPad)- A gorgeous, romantic, page-turner– a serious, but compelling, summer read. I plan to recommend this to many friends! Captures the teen years and desire in all their complexity, set in a unique place with historical significance. A must read for this year.
53. Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo (Kindle for iPad)- Another great addition to the Burkholder series (about a former Amish woman who is Police Chief of the town in which she grew up in Ohio), I read it very quickly and can’t wait for the next one. Although in that next one I’m ready for more action in Kate’s personal life. I totally did not see the reveal coming (well, part of it, but not the whole thing). I actually wanted the book to be longer, to get more details…
54. Nobody’s Secret by Michaela MacCool (Kindle for iPad)- A super fun, quick, and clever read– especially if you like Emily Dickinson’s poetry. In this YA detective novel Emily is a teenager determined to solve a murder in Amherst, while jotting down lines of poetry and doing household chores. Pleasant book with its literary and historical ties.
55. The English Girl by Daniel Silva (Kindle for iPad)- Every year I wait for one of Dan Silva’s new Gabriel Allon novels. Every year I’m not disappointed. The only problem with them is that I *always* devour them in one day and then I am so sad when it’s over (this year I tried to string it out over two, and even with horrible morning sickness that has kept me from my favorite pasttime- reading- I still couldn’t do it). The usual characters make their appearance, a new old face comes back (who I expect to see more of), and a new character who I also expect to see more of emerged. The main departure here is that there weren’t major Middle Eastern terrorist/Holocaust ties, but still about geopolitical scandal and violence. The next installment should be interesting with some developments in Gabriel’s personal and professional life– I just Shamron sticks around for several more books (I fear I will cry for him as I did for Dumbledore…).
56. Gatekeeper by Archer Mayor (Kindle for iPad)- My latest read in the Joe Guenther Vermont detective series. Good character development, though I realized at the end I basically didn’t care at all about the “mystery.” Much more proecedural than thriller, but a solid read.
57. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (Kindle for iPad)- Working my way through the “trilogy” (though it now has four books). I didn’t like this as much as The Giver, and it is more of a clear cliffhanger so you really need to read the next one. But Lowry’s writing and the worlds she creates never disappoint.
58. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith [aka J.K. Rowling] (Kindle for iPad)- Well this book did not disappoint. I loved getting to know Cormoran Strike and his sidekick Robin– a modern day Sherlock-Watson pairing. This book is fantastically written, well-plotted, and so very smart. Enough clues for you to figure things out, but tons of suspense and twists. I love that the critics got this oh-so-right even if publishing houses didn’t. While the book is clearly written with a skilled hand, readers of Potter won’t really recognize much. Should delight a new generation of Rowling fans, or simply those who love a good mystery (like yours truly!). I will say that the book is long, but I was gripped and spent nearly an afternoon plotting ways I could finish it as quickly as possible; in other words I was still very sad when it was over and can’t wait for the next installment.
59. The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron (Kindle for iPad)- In gearing up for a family vacation to Maine I decided to try the first in this well-reviewed mystery series about a young, Maine Park Ranger. I’m intrigued by the job and the setting, but not sure I like the main character of Mike Bowditch. I’m going to give the second, and maybe third, installments a chance before making a final judgment. It was a pretty quick read even if I didn’t find it terribly suspenseful.
60. Death Angel by Linda Fairstein (Kindle for iPad)- I’ve mentioned this series before here, and this is the 15th addition. Not much is new, but I enjoyed it, and I’m happy to see Coop and Mike’s relationship finally inch along. As usual, lots of fun NYC history and insight into trial issues (for those who especially like the Law & Order: SVU series).
61. A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton (Kindle for iPad)- About halfway through this first in series (a retired Detroit cop turned PI in the UP of MI) I wasn’t sure it was anything different. Boy, was I wrong. By the end I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, was totally shocked, and a bit creeped out. Looking forward to reading the second installment soon!
62. Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon (Hardcover)- Read for a review– stay tuned! NOW YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ AT BRAIN, MOTHER BLOG!
63. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (Kindle for iPad)- This book has a huge cult following, which I can understand if you are a teen reader but not so much if you’re an adult. There are many twists in the story, which all wrap up into a neat bow at the end. The book is long, but it is readable, with many heavy issues (molestation, suicide, abduction, etc.). Oh, also there is teen sex– a LOT of teen sex. Would have liked some sort of update like 6 months-1 year later as well.
64. Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger (Kindle for iPad)- After a long day I started this book, and basically couldn’t stop. Fans of the series (see #43 from earlier this year) won’t be disappointed with how many personal story lines move forward here. I was less interested in the main case and far more interested in how it impacted the main characters. Just like I did when Dumbledore died, and I will do when Shamron in the Silva books passes, I’ll mourn the loss of Henry Meloux from this series.
65. Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture by HILARY LEVEY FRIEDMAN– ME! (ALL FORMS)- I’m allowed to put my own book on this list?! I’ve surely read, and read, and read it… And you can catch me doing more readings at vrious places around the country! http://hilaryleveyfriedman.com/playing-to-win-book-tour-dates/
66. A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn (Kindle for iPad)- Took me awhile to get through this, but it was interesting. I’ve enjoyed previous historical mysteries/romances from Raybourn, though this one is different. Set in Africa it has a touch of mystery, British colonial history, and lots of glamour/drama. At times it was hard to keep all the characters straight, but I enjoyed learning about the setting, etc. even if it was a bit long.
67. The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway (Kindle for iPad)- At times I really enjoyed this book– interesting subculture, nuanced characters– but overall I felt unsatisfied by it as a whole, especially the ending. For another “flower” related work of recent, lovely fiction, I recommend Vanessa Diffenbaughs The Language of Flowers, which I read last year and LOVED (still think about it, in fact).
68. Paper Towns by John Green (Audible)- Completing Green’s YA oeuvre for the year, this was my least favorite entry. Definitely wasn’t because I listened to it on a long road trip and more because I didn’t really like some of the characters and I thought the message to teens was muddled at best (or perhaps I’m just getting older…).
69. The Surrogate Thief by Archer Mayor (Kindle for iPad)- I enjoyed this shorter, quicker paced entry in the Joe Gunther series. I also appreciated that nothing life-threatening happens to anyone, makes it more realistic– and the relationship stuff was real as well. You definitely get to know Joe better here, which is great!
70. The Prophet by Michael Koryta (Kindle for iPad)- This wannabe-suspense novel disappointed. It was so long with just a little action every 100 pages or so. Very unsatisfying end– won’t be giving this author another try.
71. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (Kindle for iPad)- This book definitely lived up to the hype. The writing is just so wonderful, the characterization amazing. While it is long, the end seemed to come on suddenly, and then almost abruptly. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was related to the age of the author (like that is how far she has gotten in her own life– so perhaps we have to wait for older age for Wolitzer to age)? Highly relateable from my vantage point in early-30s right now and definitely recommend.
72. The Cana Mystery by David Beckett (Paperback)- A college friend’s husband wrote this thriller– in the tradition of The DaVinci Code and Steve Berry’s novels– and it’s always fun to support fellow writers! Given the level of historical detail (wide-ranging over time and impressive), I’d liken it more to Berry than Brown. Will be fun to see if there is an Ava follow-up and what she does once she finishes her PhD at MIT.
73. Mary Coin by Marissa Silver (Kindle for iPad)- Beautifully written in three different viewpoints, across time and sex, this is a little gem of a historical novel. It takes an iconic image and reimagines it for readers today. I could see this appealing to a range of ages– even the college students who one of the protagonists teaches in his social history courses. Definitely recommend.
74. The Good House by Ann Leary (Kindle for iPad)- I gulped this book down– it’s that good. The narrator, Hildy, is unreliable but very likeable. So many different characters and personality types so sharply drawn and with such a smart voice. It probably helps that the book is set in a somewhat local place (though the town itself is fictitious). Also worth mentioning that I really liked the movement of time in the novel, as sometimes it is quite fast and sometimes a single day lasts for a chapter or two.
75. Trespasser by Paul Doiron (Kindle for iPad)- I saw I would give this series another chance, and I am glad I did. I’m still not sure I like the protagonist, and I did figure out the killer, but I have a feeling it will continue to get better. I already downloaded the third installment.
77. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (Kindle for iPad)- This is truly a bizarre family and a bizarre story. Made for an interesting, though not a compelling, read for me. I feel like the author could have done much more with the Hollywood fame complex, rise of reality TV, etc. Although that may be all too lowbrow for the intentions, but still made me think about the ways parents use their children for fame these days.
78. The Universe Versus Alex Woods (Audible)- A story so crazy you almost have to believe it’s true, this YA novel set in the UK mingles astronomy, assisted suicide, marijuana, reading (and especially Vonnegut), bullying, single parenthood, and much more. Took me awhile to get through it as I was on several driving trips, but each time I was thrust right back into the action. Ends on just the right note.
79. St. Alban’s Fire by Archer Mayor (Kindle for iPad)- One of the fastest paced- and faster reads- in the Gunther series for me. I liked this one a lot, for the mystery, and because one important relationship in the book is finally over!
80. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Hardcover)- An absolutely lyrical novel, haunting at times. Oh, to write like Lahiri! She cuts to the quick of a person, a scene, a detail. Somehow the smallest bit conveys the truth of character and humanity, the realities of living in a difficult world. I also learned more about Indian history from this book, albeit with an American twist of course. Definitely recommend.
81. Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Midcentury America (Paperback)- Stay tuned for my formal review in an academic journal– but given where this will appear, note that the book is most well-suited for academics, though could be of interest to parents interested in the history of play in the US.
82. Messenger by Lois Lowry (Kindle for iPad)- I still can’t say I completely understand why everyone is so into The Quartet- the first remains the best by far. But I will read The Son soon just to finish it all out… A very quick read.
83. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (Audible)- This book (and series) has been heavily hyped but I think it falls far, far short of Hunger Games quality. The terms and ideas can be fun, and fact she uses real settings of London and Oxford is interesting, but the plot of was just too predictable while trying too hard to be mysterious– ditto for the characters and their relationships (with one exception, I didn’t see he gay storyline coming). I’d pass as there are much better Teen/dystopian series for all ages to enjoy (though note I could barely read the first book in the Twilight series, so maybe this just isn’t my thing!).
84. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem (Hardcover)- I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. Though there is very little actual dancing, the suspense, and history (it is set in 1982-3 in Moscow and Brooklyn) made it a page turner. I can’t say I felt fully clear about the ending, but that is part of the point of the book. I wonder what teen readers will think, but I was certainly captivated!
85. Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt (Kindle for iPad)- Took me awhile to get through this book, a sweeping tale of amazing characters set in Charlotte, NC. I thought it was a bit long in the end, and some of the history could have been cut, but I loved the alternating viewpoints throughout. I also wish it had been a bit more straight-line chronological, but it definitely kept me on my toes. One of the more innovative books from a literary standpoint that I read this year, I think.
86. Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron (Kindle for iPad)- I read this third installment and while I remain impressed by the writing and the setting of this Maine Warden series, I just simply don’t like the protagonist. He makes such awful choices all the time (which he admits) and because of that I find the series not very enjoyable. But Doiron is a gifted writing, great word choice and setting (if plotting always a bit rushed at the end). I can see it working for some, just not for me.
87. Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Kindle for iPad)- I feel like I have been waiting *forever* for the latest installment of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series– so of course I read the book in one day so now I need to wait another few years for the next one! This is without doubt one of my favorite series, though I’m hard pressed to pinpoint why. Set in the Adirondacks it’s about an Episcopal priest and a Chief of Police who are constantly in danger in some way. I like how this book especially expanded my interest in other recurring characters. It’s very well written and the characterization keeps getting better and better. But if you start the series, start at the beginning for sure!
88. The Sleeping Dictionary by Sujata Massey (Kindle for iPad)- I love Masseys’ Rei Shimura mystery series (and am DELIGHTED to hear she is still working on it), though this standalone novel is completely different. It’s historical, set in India under British rule, and it is not a mystery. It’s well-researched (I think) and creative (even the name of the title) and I enjoyed it, though it is a bit on the long side. In some ways it’s the prescursor historically to Lahiri’s The Lowlands, which I of course loved.
89. Winter of the Wolf Moon by Steve Hamilton (Kindle for iPad)- I enjoyed this second installment of the Detroit cop turned UP PI series. I like where the characters are going, I think, though not sure how I feel about crime/mysteries and personal relationships being so interconnected. I plan to read a few more in the series before making a final decision– and given that the books are quick reads with a strong sense of place, they should be enjoyable entries on my reading list.
90. The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani (Kindle for iPad)- I read the third and final installment of the Valentine trilogy very quickly. Like everything Trigiani writes, the characters are extremely memorable. I don’t think you would enjoy this though if you hadn’t read the first two in the trilogy though. I didn’t love this trilogy as much as Big Stone Gap, and the sense of time was off at points in the book, but it was an enjoyable read (especially while sick!).
91. Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd (Kindle for iPad)- I suppose this might be the first in a “mystery cozy” series. It’s set in a small English village after the Battle of Waterloo and the characters both follow and don’t follow the mores of the times. It was a quick, fun read, and I likely will check out the second installment when it is released. Parts were quite predictable (the romances, the criminals) though I liked how the social issues of the day were woven throughout. I also appreciate when enough clues are there that I figure things out, without figuring it all out at once.
92. One Rough Man by Brad Taylor (Paperback)- I read this in the hopes of finding a John Rain/Gabriel Allon-type series, but was a bit disappointed. The pacing is uneven and the plot is a bit out there. I can see how this will become a series, but I won’t be along for the ride…
93. The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber (Kindle for iPad)- I read some great reviews of this book, and I am impressed a man wrote it (which was highlighted in many of the reviews). It was an interesting read– though at the beginning I felt such a sense of dread a la Boys Don’t Cry, not like Yentl— it was hard to enjoy. But once I got past that I enjoyed the interwoven history of the Midwest and a bit of women’s rights. Ultimately though this isn’t at all an uplifting tale, which is based on a true story.
94. Shedding Light on Murder by Patricia Driscoll (Kindle for iPad)- I downloaded this after reading a favorable review in PW and because the Kindle price was $3.99. I also was interested in the location (Cape Cod) and time of year (Christmas!). The book is definitely a decent first entry in a cozy series about a lamp store in Barnstable. It introduces a variety of complicated, engaging characters with different types of backgrounds. Of course the plotting is uneven at times, but I will check out the next entry in the series for a quick, light read when it comes out.
95. The Missing File by D.A. Mishani (Kindle for iPad)- Another one I downloaded after reading a strong review in PW. I disagree with the protagonist that no great crime novels are written in Hebrew (Batya Gur’s series is one of my faves, but I can’t bring myself to read the last one because I know the series wasn’t complete when the author passed away), but I’m not sure this is it. I don’t like a blatant “To be continued” format, and I found the book pretty creepy (though that can be good). I wasn’t impressed by Avraham Avrham’s skills though, which is the main reason I won’t stick with the series.
96. The Second Mouse by Archer Mayor (Kindle for iPad)- I really liked this quick-paced installment in the Gunther series. Maybe the mystery was a bit too wrapped in a bow, but I liked the twists and turns. And the personal developments for Joe, which I hope aren’t over yet!
97. The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries by Emily Brightwell (Kindle for iPad)- I tried this in the hopes of starting a new Victorian mystery series, but it was just flat for me. Much better options out there!
98. Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (Paperback)- When I found out I was having a second boy, I put out a call to my Facebook friends for books on raising brothers. Somewhat surprisingly, I didn’t get any great suggestions, but this book was suggested several times. I actually did think it offered very helpful advice (though I would have liked a bit more about sibling issues while pregnant or in infancy) and I especially liked the discussion of seeing a new baby as a new marriage partner/lover. My biggest thing is that in a non-fiction book like this I also want some DATA in addition to advice. I want to know what the research shows about sibling relationships. I want to know what social scientists and medical professionals, in addition to therapists, think. I have mixed feelings about condensing the authors into one, their kids into two, and many, many workshops into one, but I suppose that makes it easier for the lay reader. I did like that they present people’s feelings and stories in their own words. Overall, definitely good for parents like me… But makes me think I might have a future project here. 🙂
99. Montana by Gwen Florio (Kindle for iPad)- I really enjoyed this, and liked that I didn’t feel a sense of dread the whole time. The pacing and characters were good, and the setting was interesting. Definitely looking forward to the (hopefully) next installment. Note this was a quick read and combined US and foreign reporting/politics.
100. Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson (Kindle for iPad)- I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read by this author, who has a unique Southern voice, and this was no exception. Complicated characters, improbable (yet also somehow probable) situations that show how complicated we humans are in our relationships. Some of the characters and storylines will stick with you after you finish this book.