Friday, December 31, 2010

Julie's List : Top Books of 2010

I can't believe it's almost the end of 2010 and I've been working like a dog. Since it's that time of year again, it's yet again time for our Top 10 Lists. I'm on my 55th book for the year as I'm doing this list, so I guess it could be edited if the books I read between now and 12/31 deserve being on the list.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
: One of the most moving books I have read in a very long time. Such a wonderful portrayal of the relationships between the black and white communities in a small town. Review

The Tale of Halycon Crane by Wendy Webb
: A wonderful spooky tale. One of my favorite books of the year. Review

This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia: A great character driven debut novel. This author is someone I will be looking for in the future. Review

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
: For fans of Little Women, this is the book that sheds some fictional light on the author. Review

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
: A book about finding out who you are in the midst of unraveling a mystery. An outstanding historical fiction novel. Review

Caught by Harlan Coben: An outstanding psychological thriller, that keeps you guessing until the very end. Review

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
: I always look forward to Ms. Addison-Allen's books and this one was just wonderful. She never disappoints. Review

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
: I devoured this book the minute I got it. It made me laugh and cry. Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larssen
: Review

First Family by David Baldacci: I just loved this book for reasons why I love all Baldacci books: You just never know where the story will end up. Review

I have to say 2010 has been an excellent book year for me. Sure there were books that I read that were disappointing but that's normal. I really can't do a bottom of the pile list since there aren't any books that really sucked.

I already have some great reads ready for 2011 and 2010 isn't even over!

Here's wishing you a wonderful 2011.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bottom of the Bunch

The rest of the girls don't have anything to add to this post, but I have a couple of books I could have done without this year, and what kind of friend would I be if I didn't warn you?  

The Cart Before The Corpse by Carolyn McSparren:  Review

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny:  Review

I might be tempted to try another Louise Penny book, but then again maybe not.  And while I didn't care for Hunger Games (Review), in no way does it grace the bottom of the pile...


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jenn's List: Top Books of 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, the time has come for us girls to tell you our favorite books of the year.  As I look over my read list, I'm pleased to see I've been reading more this year ~not as much as when I had a lunch hour before I became a stay-at-home-mom, but steadily increasing as my daughter is older and more independent.

ASLEEP by Wendy Raven McNair:  This is the first book in a trilogy by a self-published author and it's an amazing series so far.  It's YA super hero story with a strong, female, African-American hero.  (Review) AWAKE, the second book in the trilogy, is also tops on my list. (Review) Again I cannot recommend this series enough.  You really must read it!

The Liar's Lullaby by Meg Gardiner:  This is the third book in her Jo Beckett series. In this installment, forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett is called on to do a psychological autopsy of a country singing diva to determine murder, suicide, or conspiracy.  (Review)  If you love thrillers, you must try her books.  (China Lake is the first book in her Evan Delaney series and The Dirty Secrets Club is the first book in the Jo Beckett series.)

This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia: A sixteen-year-old, un-mailed postcard launches a story of uncovering, recovery, and self-discovery in this debut novel.  I don't usually read contemporary fiction, but I loved this one! (Review)

Columbine by Dave Cullen:  This was my non-fiction read of the year.  It's an incredible case study of an horrific event that changed the face of education. (Review)

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen:  A little food and a little magic, there is really no one who compares to Sarah Addison Allen. (Review) All her books are hard-cover-must-haves for me and I anxiously await her March 2011 book, The Peach Keeper.  

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen: This is in the middle of the Rizzoli & Isles series, that the new TNT show is based on. I loved this book and the TV show, so I think I'm going to have to go back and read this thriller series from the beginning! (Review)

Virals by Kathy Reichs: This is forensic anthropologist Reichs' new YA series. It's an updated Nancy Drew with a paranormal twist. If you like her books but find them a little heavy, this is like reading Reichs-lite! (Review)

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel: I was a little "vamped" out, but this book made me fall in love with vampires all over again. I can't wait for the next book in the series due out in June 2011! (Review)

In the Woods by Tana French: This was a great case study in how are experiences impact our per eption and shape our future. I adored the rich detail and will be reading more from French this year, I hope.  (Review)

The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross: I don't often enjoy a book where the protagonist starts off as unlikeable, but this was so well done, that I couldn't help but learn to love her as Ansley found her way in the world.  (Review)

I am excited about a new year of reading (yes, I'm nerdy, but we knew that,) and I hope that Roof Beam Reader's 2011 TBR Challenge will help me get to more books this year.

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year filled with good books.
Happy Reading!



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jenn's Review: In the Woods

In the Woods
Summary:  As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past. 
Review:  Apparently you either love or hate this book.  I loved it!  ...and I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it. Lots of reviews have said that this seemed a slow start, but I didn't find it so... I was immediately taken in by Tana French's rich plot and detailed setting.  Her writing style is palpable and her character's are true to life.  I didn't always like Detective Ryan, but his reflection was at least brutally honest, and I could appreciate that.   He's never dealt with his issues from his abduction and this case brought them all roaring to the surface.  I loved his partner and am glad that the next book is through her eyes, because I'd love to know more about her. 
I had the culprit pegged fairly early on, but couldn't quite figure out how it was pulled off, so ended up doubting myself, which is a sign of good writing in my book. [Spoiler warning] I was a little incredulous regarding the fact that the secondary crime scene wasn't thoroughly searched the first time around, but everything was so well written I let it slide.

Was I disappointed that the cold case was never solved?  Yes, but I knew we were experiencing the current case through Detective Ryan's eyes, and while it was central to him, it wasn't central to the case. Though the ending isn't neat and tidy, it's far more realistic than many thrillers and I loved that about it.  
I am excited to read more from Tana French.  She has certainly captured my attention with this beautiful debut novel.

Final Take:  4.5/5
Julie's Review: In The Woods

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Alice & Julie's List Swap Challenge 2011

In the spirit of doing a few challenges in 2011, I'm stealing this one from Jen at Devourer of Books.  I will be doing List Swap Challenge and Alice has agreed to be my partner. Essentially, you choose five books for yourself to read and five books for your challenge partner to read, then one book to read together.

Our pick to read together:
Room: A NovelRoom by Emma Donoghue

Alice's Books for Julie:

Julie's Books for Alice:

Julie's 5 Books:

Alice's 5 Books:

What do you think of our choices and our picks for each other? I'm intrigued by Alice's choices for me. She has quite the mix!

I think she'll like what I've picked for her, if she's in the mood for some crime thrillers...


Alice's Review: Bride Island

Bride IslandSummary:  Can a mother reclaim the daughter she lost?

Six years ago, Polly Birdswell—drinking and deeply unhappy—made a decision that changed her life forever. Believing she could spare her young daughter a legacy of self-destruction, she left her husband and child and moved north to a coastal town in Maine. There, close to Bride Island, the beloved family retreat she considers her true home, she set about getting sober and remaking her life.

Now Polly desperately wants seven-year-old Monroe back and is determined to prove—to herself especially—she’s a stable and loving mother. At the same time, a sudden decision to sell Bride Island unleashes a wave of family greed that endangers the island’s future. As Polly and her siblings try to claim ownership of what they love, they discover some things can never truly be owned, and Polly must again ask herself what she’s willing to relinquish. Beautifully written and emotionally complex, Bride Island is a poignant debut novel about love, motherhood, and the haunting and sometimes conflicting pulls of family and the places that shape us.

Review:  Bride Island sounds like one of the most perfect places on earth.  It takes 15 minutes to walk across it, over an hour to walk its circumference.  It is located in the Atlantic, off the coast of Maine.  It is family owned, they are the only inhabitants.  It doesn’t have electricity or running water.  It is truly the place to go to get away from it all.  Do I wish for my own Bride Island Absolutely.  I imagine it to be completely peaceful.  I imagine days on my own private beach, nights really by candlelight.  It would be my place to run free.  Polly Birdswell felt the same way.  Bride Island came into her family when her mom remarried.  Although she began going there as an adolescent, it was as much a part of her as if she had been born there.  With all the happiness Bride Island brought her, it brought its share of heartache too.  In reading this story it’s as if the island is as much of a character as Polly.  I liked Polly, I really did.  I liked her so much that I was so angry at her at times I had to put the book down because I wanted to ring her neck.  I love that in a book. 

There were times when I thought it was completely unrealistic.  One of the reasons I enjoy reading women’s literature is that for the most part they stick to reality.  Polly is an alcoholic.  I thought that although Ms. Enders writes a realistic account of alcoholism, I think at times Polly doesn’t deal with her disease very realistically.  Life doesn’t always have a perfect ending and I really think that Polly shouldn’t have had one either. 
Overall, this novel was a very good read.  Alexandra Enders managed to fit a lot of story in a short book.  As the protagonist, Polly does an excellent story of giving us everyone else’s thoughts and feelings.  She gives unbiased opinions on them and their situations.  She is fair in her judgments and does her best to get her family to see their truth as well.  One of things Polly has to deal with is the death of her younger brother.  I love that she says, “He will always be young, even when we are old.”  This novel is full of little gems like this. 
As I re-read my review, I realize that at times I write as if I didn’t like it very much.  The biggest disappointment for me was that, although I think Polly deserved a little happiness, it was almost too perfect an ending.  In addition there are some subjects this novel addresses that are difficult to read about.  The reality is that I liked this novel a lot.  Those two things aside, I felt it was well written, easy to read.  There were times I couldn’t put it down and others where I had to put it down because I wanted to shake some sense into the characters in the novel.  There is so much more to this novel than a story about an alcoholic woman and the island she loves.  It’s worth the read.  See for yourself.
Final Take: 4/5


Monday, December 13, 2010

Alice's List: What's in a Name 4 Challenge

When Julie told me about this challenge, it was something I knew I had to do as well.  It was really difficult  finding the perfect novels that fit the catergories. Thankfully I had quite a few in my TRB pile that fit the bill nicely.  After some searching, I came up withe the rest.  Here is my list:

1.  A book with a number in the title: Circle of Three by Patricia Gaffner
2.  A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Needles and Pearls by Gil Mcneil
3.  A book with a size in the title: A Little Bit Ruined by Patty Friedman
4.  A book with travel or movement in the title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
5.  A book with evil in the title: Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee
6.  A book with a life stage in the title: Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro

I am really looking forward to this, I hope you'll join us in completing the What's in a Name Challenge too.  Like Julie, I'll keep you posted on my progress.  Happy reading.


Julie's List: What's in a Name 4 Challenge

Beth from Beth Fish Reads is hosting her annual What's In a Name Challenge and I signed up. This is the first challenge that I chose to do this year even if it's not the first I posted about.

Here's How It Works:
Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:

A book with a number in the title: (e.g.) First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why
A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: (e.g.) Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception
A book with a size in the title: (e.g.) Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee
A book with travel or movement in the title: (e.g.) Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife
A book with evil in the title: (e.g.) Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely
A book with a life stage in the title: (e.g.) No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

Other Things to Know
Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
Books may overlap other challenges.
Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.

You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.

Of course, I immediately made my list! Here it is:

A book with jewelry or gem in the title: Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor
A book with a number in the title: Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
A book with size in the title: Long Lost by Harlan Coben - Reviewed on 6/13/11
A book with travel or movement in the title: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein -Reviewed 2/1/11
A book with Evil in the title: The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson
A book with a Life Stage in the title: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield - Reviewed on 2/16/2011

Intrigued? Then run you butt over here and sign up!!

I will keep you updated on how I'm doing periodically throughout the challenge.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Julie's 2011 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge

This will be my 3rd reading challenge for the new year and is perfect for me to make a serious dent in my pile! I have to thank Adam at Roof Beam Reader  for dreaming up this challenge that makes me  finally read 12 books from your "to be read" pile, within 12 months:  The 2011 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge.

The details:
Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or "To Be Read" list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2010 or later (any book published in the year 2009 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the "can't get through" pile.

Julie's Twelve Selected Reads (in Random Order*) :

  1. The Gate House by Nelson Demille Reviewed on 10/24/2011
  2. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier Reviewed on 9/6/2011
  3. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb Reviewed on 4/4/2011
  4. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly Reviewed on 9/2/2011
  5. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale Reviewed on 6/16/2011
  6. Dirty Secrets Club by Meg Gardiner  Reviewed on 11/11/2011
  7. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks - Reviewed on 1/6/2011
  8. Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch Reviewed on 4/7/2011
  9. The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory Reviewed on 11/19/2011
  10. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee Reviewed on 11/7/2011
  11. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield - Reviewed  2/16/2011
  12. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson - Reviewed 11/25/2011

Two Alternate Reads:

  1. The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory
  2. The Chocolate Lovers' Club by Carole Matthews

I'm excited because a lot of these books have been sitting around for a year or longer, not for lack of wanting to read them but lack of time!

I'll be updating this post with my reviews and also labeling any reviews that are related to this challenge as such.

Care to join me on the quest? Here's the link to sign up:
2011 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge.  But HURRY!  You need to have your list posted be 12/31, so start compiling... 

P.S. Jenn's doing it to. Here's her list in case you missed it.
Jenn's 2011 TBR Challenge List


Jenn's 2011 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge


I have never participated in a Reading Challenge before but our friend Adam over at Roof Beam Reader is hosting a challenge that is perfect for me!

The 2011 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge: to finally read 12 books from your "to be read" pile, within 12 months.  

I know, that doesn't sound like much of a challenge for someone who reads as much as I do, but truly, it is.  So much of what I read lately is new books and/or requested reviews that some of the things I really want to read get set aside.  (When we started the blog three years ago, part of the reason was to further feed our book addiction, and it's worked, perhaps a little too well!)

The details:
Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or "To Be Read" list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2010 or later (any book published in the year 2009 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the "can't get through" pile.

I'm actually really excited about this!  It will be a chance to make sure I get to read things that I've been burning to read and haven't had a chance to pick up yet.  My list isn't quite as lofty as Adam's (who's list includes authors like Dickens, Hemingway, Vonnegut, and Updike), but it is varied:

Twelve Selected Reads (in Alphabetical Order*) :

  1. Hard Rain by Barry Eisler
  2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - Review 6/28/11
  3. Crosscut by Meg Gardiner -Review 4/26/11
  4. Kill Chain by Meg Gardiner
  5. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
  6. Stalemate by Iris Johansen
  7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - Review 1/28/11
  8. The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal - Review 6/14/11
  9. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
  10. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan -Review 11/9/11
  11. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  12. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

Two Alternate Reads:
  1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

* I probably won't read them in alphabetical order.  

I rarely have a "can't get through" book, however, I'm anticipating I may have trouble with The Lovely Bones,  due to the subject matter. I actually considered removing it from the list, but I really do want to try it, knowing full well that I might need one of my alternates here.  My second alternate is listed too, as the rules dictate, just in case.

I will update this post with links to my reviews as I go.  I am really thrilled about all of this and can't wait to dive in!

Want to participate too?  Here's a link to Roof Beam Reader's 2011 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge.  But HURRY!  You need to have your list posted be 12/31, so start compiling... 


Saturday, December 11, 2010

And the winner is...

The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal BallCongratulations to Romerc for winning a copy of The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green.

Please email me (Jenn) your mailing address so we can send the book off to you as soon as possible. Thanks to all of you for participating.

Girls Just Reading uses to produce the winner.