The Shape of the Eye by George Estreich. I actually re-read it in 2012 after originally reading it in 2011. This is the very best memoir about having a child with Down syndrome that I’ve ever read. It’s due to be released in paperback in April 2013!
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This is the first book in Collins’s bestselling trilogy that crossed over from YA and has garnered a readership from elementary school kids to older adults. It introduces one of the most memorable female heroes of all time, creating an admirable role model for adolescent girls and boys alike, telling the survival story of Katniss Everdeen in dystopian, post-apocalyptic America in the not-too-distant future.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. The adventures of Katniss continue in the second installment of The Hunger Games trilogy.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. The final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, some readers thought this was not as good as the first two books; I disagree. Action-packed and with a satisfying ending, I enjoyed this one as much as the first two.
Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson. In this beautifully told memoir, Stephanie Nielson recounts the plane crash she and her husband survived – barely – and her horrific and grueling recovery. Inspiring and uplifting.
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. This book introduced me to this wonderful author and left me wondering how it is that it took me so long to discover her since most of her books were published several years ago. Tipping the Velvet is the story of Nancy Astley, an oyster girl turned music hall star turned prostitute in nineteenth century England. Along the way, Nancy discovers that she loves women, gets her heart broken, and eventually finds happiness. A wonderful, funny, touching, and excellently written story.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. An old-fashioned thriller set in nineteenth century England, Sarah Waters shines again. Dark and mesmerizing, this story has it all: murder, baby-selling, swindling, escapes, lunatics, hangings, forbidden pleasures, and a sprawling, isolated, decaying mansion. I loved it!
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. A wonderful debut novel, this beautifully written story, set in Australia just after WWII, tells of Tom, a lighthouse keeper, and his wife Isabel. After losing their only child to a stillbirth, fate appears to give them a second chance at parenthood – but at what price? Utterly engrossing, this story still sticks out in my mind, months after reading it.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Published in 1965, this is the true story of the brutal murder of the Clutter family in rural Kansas in November 1959. Capote, who moved to the town within days of the murder and wrote the story as it unfolded, recounts not only the ghastly murders, but the hunt for the killers, their capture, trial, and execution. Although the subject matter is horrifying, the book reads like a novel and Capote’s gift with prose is mesmerizing. I couldn’t put this one down.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Another impressive debut novel, this story, based on a character from Russian folklore, tells the story of Jack and Mabel, who long for a child and find themselves surrogate parents to a strange and lovely girl. A story of love, loss, grief, and endurance, it’s part fairy tale and part novel. Another one that will stay with you.
I read a lot of really good books this past year!
Now for the WORST:
Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected by Kelle Hampton. Despite the hardcore fandom, I still don’t get the hype. A self-indulgent, self-congratulatory memoir, this book is more about how the author overcame the apparent tragedy of her daughter’s Down syndrome than it is about anything as deep or meaningful as “finding beauty in the unexpected.” Hampton seems more able to find beauty in herself than anyone else, and her memoir reads more like a high school Popular Girl than a woman who has gained wisdom and maturity from life experiences. My review of her book garnered more comments than any other post I’ve written, and the comments still trickle in from time to time, most of them admonishing me. I’ll say this for her: she’s accumulated quite a loyal following.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. This runaway bestseller that everyone has talked about is horrible. Badly written, awful, completely unrealistic story line, detestable, unbelievable characters, and a complete insult to every woman with an ounce of self-respect, this is the story of a virgin who falls in love with a man with more baggage than a luggage store who likes to tie her up and do fucked up things to her. I hated this book, and it still makes me mad – mad at the misogyny, and the fact that anyone could write such pure crap, get it published and make millions of dollars off of it. Garbage. There is much better smut out there, trust me.
Goldie by Saundra Julian and Molly Jones. Sorry, but this was bad. It’s the story of Goldie, a moonshiner’s daughter during Prohibition who is determined to keep her family together after tragedy strikes. It had the potential to be a good story, but it lacked character development, a seamless and plausible storyline, and is in desperate need of good editing.
A Thousand Pardons by Jonathan Dee. I received an advance copy of this, as it’s not due to be released for a couple more months. Didn’t enjoy it at all. Dee can write, but the story meanders without really going anywhere, the characters are unlikable, and I was left wondering what the point was.
And there you have it, in my humble opinion. Here’s to more good (and bad) books in 2013!