Thursday, December 23, 2010

My READS for 2010

When I was a college student, studying journalism, we started nearly every class period with one thing--reading the newspaper. We read for exceptional journalism, we read for tight leads, we read for errors, but mostly we just read (sounds like red) to read (sounds like reed). haha

My professors all agreed, you can't be a writer without being a reader.

When I delved into any creative writing courses, the main theme was the same: You must read to write. So here is a blog post devoted to being a reader, not a writer.

What have you read this year? What was great for you in 2010 and what was not so great? I'd love a comment with your top picks and bottom of the barrel stuff too.

Here was my 2010 shelf:
1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (fantasy)
In this novel "graced" characters are people with special abilities who perform the work for kings in the 7 kingdoms. Katsa, the main character, has been graced with the ability to kill.
I loved the voice in this novel and the impeccable description. I disliked parts of the ending that seemed forced (just to set it up for a sequel).
My grade? B+ (I recommend it.)

2. Fire by Kristin Cashore (fantasy)
This is not a sequel to Graceling, however it is touted as a "companion" book. I found the two had a minuscule amount of material that linked them--and the parts that did link them felt forced. However, I really enjoyed Fire. In this book our heroine is a "monster"--in a very unusual sense of the word. She is gorgeous and can read and control minds. I loved this character better than Katsa from Graceling. She was more feminine and with fault. I also liked the ending.
My grade? A (I recommend it.)

3. Long for this world by Sonya Chung (fiction)
I can barely remember what this was about because I read it at the beginning of the year. What I do remember most is that I went the entire book without really knowing which character was which. The difficult Korean names were so confusing to me, I really couldn't follow it.
My grade? C- (only because it had some beautiful wording. I don't recommend it.)

4. and 5. Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (YA fantasy fiction)
I loved the post-Apocalyptic premise of the story and how the series jumps off with a bang with the "reaping" ceremony. I also really enjoyed the first person perspective in these which allowed the reader to be left wondering about what was happening with the other tributes in the arena. There was only one part near the end of book one that really bugged me and that was the quick addition of the monsters that seemed too far out of the realm for the rest of the book.
Katniss was really bugging me by the time I got part way through Catching Fire, and when they announced the Quarter Quelle, I was like, "oh give me a break!" So much so, that I decided not to read Mockingjay (and judging from the negative reviews, many readers disliked the third book).
My grade? A on Hunger Games. B- on Catching Fire. (I recommend them both).

6. Letter to My Daughter by George Bishop (fiction but made to sound memoir-ish)
This quick read had a very realistic mother-daughter relationship (especially for coming from a male writer). However while the book moves fast I would have enjoyed seeing how the "letter" changes the future for the mother-daughter relationship.
My grade? C (Don't recommend it.)

7. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (fiction)
I absolutely loved this book about two sisters bound by a loving father who have a horribly cold mother. When the father dies they delve into their mother's life story and begin to understand why she is the way she is.
This book features a story within a story. I believe most readers will be much more invested in the back story than the one that is based in present day. I know I was. I absolutely loved Vera's character. My only dislike was a part near the end that was fairly cheesy.
This book got bad reviews from my book club because it can be quite a heart-wrencher and has a slow start. I agree with those critiques, however I loved the story and also loved the ending.
My grade? A (I highly recommend it.)

8. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (vampire--Does this have its own genre yet?)
Barmaid Sookie Stackhouse falls in love with vampire Bill and helps find a murderer with her psychic abilities. Okay, I hate to compare it to Twilight, but can I really not? Whereas in Twilight you love Edward despite what he is, you really don't with Bill. I mean his name is Bill, for heaven's sake. How hot vampire-y is that? Also I just couldn't get past the picture of the older woman author in my mind whenever I was reading a sexy scene--which by the way were a bit too graphic for my tastes.
My grade? C (Don't recommend.)
Come Sunday by Isla Morley (fiction)

A book about a couple living in Hawaii who face tragedy in the beginning. The novel is their journey through the grief. I love sad books as long as there is a type of redemption or lesson learned. This had neither. Just plain and simply depressing. However Morley does have beautiful writing and I enjoyed that.
My grade? C (Don't recommend).

10. Alicia: My Story by Alicia Appelman-Juhrman (memoir)
My favorite read of the year! It's Alicia's story as a survivor of Nazi-dominated Poland. She was such an amazing girl with incredible integrity and courage. My only critique would be at times while reading this it almost had a Forrest Gump feel. I kept thinking, really? Could all these things really happen to one person? It's truly unbelievable and I believe much more engaging than Anne Frank.
My grade? A+ (You must read this!)

11. The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright (fiction)
In this book siblings find old letters from their father to their mother and discover some unknown things about family. This book was especially interesting to me because I wrote a book with a similar premise. It was a fast easy read and had good morals. I also enjoyed a twist in the end. I feel the characters could have been a bit more developed.
My grade? B (I recommend.)

12. Luck of the Draw by Rachael Renee Anderson (Mormon chic-lit)
A college guy takes a bet to date three unsuspecting roommates simultaneously. This was a light-hearted, fun read. I was often annoyed at Dani, the rich but money-hating roommate, because of her hypocritical nature. I think my wanting to slap her on one page and then hug her on the next shows that Anderson's characters were very well developed. I identified with each of them and in the end was really hoping for a certain outcome.
My grade? A (Highly recommend for an LDS audience)

13. Bringing Up Girls by Dr. James Dobson (non-fiction)
This how-to manual on raising girls was wonderful. It highlights the perils of girls these days and the things we can do to help them. It specifically encourages strong father-daughter relationships. I really enjoyed this book.
My grade? A (Recommend, if you have daughters!)

14. Becoming Kate by Dixie Owens (fiction)
In this book Liz Lindsay becomes the first successful recipient of a brain transplant when she dies in her late 20s. Unbeknown to everyone else she still has her own memories but is now trapped in a young girl's ailing body. The idea was strange, but somehow Owens made it believable. I moved through the novel quickly and enjoyed it as a light read.
My grade? B (I Recommend.)

15. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

It's hard to argue a best seller, but this book wasn't for me. The writing was lovely and the idea wonderful. However nearly every page was full of sex, drugs or violence (and some references were very, very dark). About a hundred pages in I wanted to keep reading so much, but I knew it just wasn't good for me. I returned the book and read the spoilers online. Most reviewers admitted it got even darker and more sexual as it went. I'm glad I put it down.
My grade? D (I wish it would have been more clean because the idea was fascinating.)

Let's hear your 2010 best and worst!


Grant and Shalie Morgan said...

I could not stand Wednesday Letters!! I have to give that one a "D"! My favorite book this yr that I read was Pillars of the Earth. Very well written, Love me some Old English time period!!

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

Okay, I have been thinking about this post all weekend. I take reading very seriously and didn't want to "jump" into anything with my comment.

Then I looked back over the past year and I realized I didn't read as much as I normally do. I am VERY fast, but didn't utilize very much time to read new books this last year.
I did succumb to pressure and read Hunger Games, all three. and I gotta say that was time well spent! (A whole sick sunday!)
I read Fated and enjoyed it immensely, but then again, I love me some Vampires!
And I am working on GUG. Normally, these four or five books would be fodder for a Sunday afternoon, but with kids and so on, my priorities have changed.
I think your post might be jumpstarting me into reading more this next year. Thanks, Maggie!

Michael Knudsen said...

Nice variety in your list. Like you, I won't finish a book if it starts down the wrong path. Sometimes you can't judge a book by its cover or its blurbs, you just have to try it out!