Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Memorable Books of 2012

2012's book total was 75.  I was shooting for 100 but I think I did pretty good.  Here are the books I absolutely loved reading this year:

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier.  Brilliant, totally original.  This is a debut novel from this author and I'm looking forward to reading what he writes next.  It is suspenseful without being creepy or scary and witty as well.  There are so many great books for kids & young adults out there, anyone who says that kids don't like to read or there isn't anything for kids to read has got rocks in their head.  The only downside is that I have to fight M. for them as he's often trying to read a book at the same time and doesn't necessarily want to read it *with* me.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.  Written in a very dense prose that creates it's own world immediately, the first chapter was a bit slow going, but after that I couldn't put it down.  On the premise that everyone is connected, the author takes people as diverse as possible and connects them to a single day in New York City and a single event (Phillipe Petit's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers).  By the third chapter I was anxious to meet the next person and see how they were connected to the characters that came before and after.  And yet each chapter/character could stand alone as a single short story as well. And I am in *love* with the cover art that makes the NY skyline into an entire world.  It's only after studying it for several minutes that you see the little tightrope walker at the top, near the author's name.  Truly a perfect cover.

To Reach the Clouds by Phillipe Petit.  Because of Colum McCann's book, I was prompted to seek out Petit's account of his walk between the Twin Towers, from first conception to everything that came after.  There are no words to describe the beauty of this book, both in Petit's language (poetry is a more accurate term) and in the documentation, photographic and otherwise.  Terrifying, exhilarating, splendid.  A love letter to the Towers that now live only in our hearts and memories.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  Reminiscent of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" in that it takes a watershed event in recent history (World War II) and tells a new story when we thought we'd heard them all.  This book interweaves the lives of three women, Emma Fitch, a young fragile doctor's wife, Iris James. the postmistress of Franklin Massachusetts, and Frankie Bard, an American radio reporter covering the war in London and eventually across Europe.  Each fights the war in her own way and yet in the end they cannot fight it without leaning on each other.  Really a superb read.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.  I loved this book.  The title character is a spunky 12-year old girl in 1899 Texas who develops an interest (and eventually love of) science and because of it, a relationship with her previously-thought-scary grandfather.  She begins to see the world and her place in it in a new way and thus begins to redefine her life and dream for the future.  While the book ends as 1900 dawns, in my head Callie is a happy successful adult scientist/naturalist/intrepid explorer.  Because this is "juvenile fiction" many people will miss it.  Please don't be one of them!

The Kick Keswick series by Marne Davis Kellogg (Brilliant, Priceless, Perfect and Friends in High Places).  Kick is a mature woman who knows how to enjoy the best things in life, be they designer clothes, expensive wines, gourmet food, and jewels.  Especially the jewels.  In her spare time, Kick is the notorious Shamrock Burglar; she goes after only the finest jewels and leaves her signature shamrock bouquet in its place.  She wants nothing more than to embrace retirement at her lovely farmhouse in France (which has a multitude of hidden vaults) but finds herself working for the good guys recovering stolen goods from her clumsier colleagues.  Pure fun!

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella.  Kinsella has another wacky heroine in Poppy Wyatt, a girl who has lost her engagement ring and her phone all in the same hour.  When she finds a phone in a trash bin, it's finders keepers and hilarity ensues as the owner of the phone, businessman Sam Roxton, wants it back.  Actually the phone is supposed to be used by his personal assistant who has walked out on the job without notice.  Poppy strikes a deal with Sam to keep the phone and naturally cannot resist reading his texts, emails, and offering advice and personal assistance.  I can always count on Kinsella to keep me laughing and entertained and wondering how all these crazy loose ends are going to get tied up into a happy ending.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  This is the latest addition to my unofficial list of Books Everyone Should Read (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows was the first selection).  Victoria Jones has spent her entire life in the foster care system.  Now at 18, she has aged out and has nowhere to go.   She has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of flowers and their meanings and the only way she can connect to others is through this language of flowers.  After living in a local park and planting a small garden of her own, she meets a local florist who kindheartedly offers her some work.  She soon realizes that she has a talent for giving customers exactly the flower they need (which is not necessarily the one they want or think they want).  As word of her talents spread, she begins to feel more confident, begins to work, build friendships, find a home of her own.  A vendor at the local flower market is clearly drawn to her and she to him.  But a secret from her past could ruin everything.  Can they be happy?  I loved loved loved this book!

Broken Harbor by Tana French.  I do not read thrillers or mysteries or horror because I am a fraidy cat.  A very big fraidy cat.  I do not need a book to interrupt my sleep, thankyouverymuch, and definitely not a scary one.  Tana French is my one and only exception to this rule.  Yes, her books often scare the beejeebers out of me but they are so well-crafted, the language is so poetic, the characters so finely drawn that I actually enjoy having the bejeebers scared out of me.  As with her other books, Broken Harbor focuses on a member of Dublin's Murder Squad, this time Detective Mick (Scorcher) Kennedy.  He's working a case involving the murder of two young children and their father.  The mother is in critical condition.  Is it a botched murder-suicide as it looks at first?  Or is the real murderer trying to make it look that way?  As Mick and his rookie partner, Richie, get more into the investigation there are too many things that don't add up.  What was really going on in the Spain's house?  Mick's childhood ties to Broken Harbor begin to play with his mind, not to mention that of his sister, Dina, whose hold on reality is tenuous at best.  French's books are not just psychological studies of the perpetrators but the detectives as well.  It's been said that great criminal minds and great police minds are very few threads removed from each other.  Every detective has a case that hits too close to home.  Can they hold it together long enough to not only solve the case but themselves as well?

Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger.   In this book Junger discusses the myriad of health issues facing modern society and how the benefits of a dietary cleanse can benefit and begin to heal the body.  Normally I read these books with a healthy dose of skepticism but I recently went gluten-free for a few weeks as an experiment.  I was amazed at how many nagging little problems (joint pain, cravings, lack of energy) went away - and came back as soon as I went back on the gluten.  A lot of what is in this book resonated with me on a deeper level and I finished it wanting to try the program.  It's designed to be 21 days in duration and consists of liquid smoothies or juice for 2 meals and a healthy meal for the third, perferably at lunch.  No wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine and a bunch of other things as well (look up elimination diet for specifics).  Given my experience with the gluten, I wonder if any of these other things may be causing issues?  21 days isn't all that long to try it and find out!  My husband wants to try it too and we planned to start after the holidays but the flu has put paid to that.  As soon as we're both feeling healthy again, we'll give it a go.  I'll post on the blog how we did and what we thought afterwards.

It's no secret that I am a Royal Watcher.  While I wouldn't say I'm a Monarchist because I don't live in a country with a Monarchy, I am a fan.  (Is fan the right word?)  Anyway, in this year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee I thought it would be neat to read as many biographies of The Queen and other members of the Royal Family as possible.  And a few books on the jewelry to provide some eye candy.  Final count: 13.  I particularly enjoyed The Real Elizabeth by Andrew Marr,  Tiaras, A History of Splendor by Geoffrey Munn was... well, splendid!