This is Where I Leave You; Jonathan Tropper

Judd returns to his mother’s home to sit shiva for seven days along with his flamboyant mother, two brothers and a sister and their assorted families and significant others.  Typical and over the top mayhem ensues.  Fun, often laugh out loud story.  Being made into a movie I just read… with good casting: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Adam Driver (Hannah’s creepy yet lovable boyfriend on Girls) – should be good.

PJH rating: ****

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The Fault in Our Stars; John Green

Two teenagers, one in late stage cancer and another in remission, meet at a support group and become boyfriend/girlfriend.  They end up traveling to Amsterdam together to visit the author of a book that brought them together.  A good book about teenagers, friendship and death.  Lost some steam in the end… becoming a bit too sappy.  A quick, fulfilling read though – I read it straight through on Wednesday 6:00 PM in the bathtub until 11:30 at night.

PJH Rating: ****

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The Good Lord Bird; James McBride

Historical fiction account of abolitionist James Brown who led the attack on Harper’s Ferry that spurred the start of the Civil War.  Told from the view point of “Onion”, a 14 year old boy slave who ends up dressing up as a girl during his years with Brown.  The novel was the 2013 winner of the National Book Award for fiction and on many top 10 lists for the year.  While I found it a bit lengthy and hard to get through at times, it is very original, well written and a good read.

PJH Rating: ****

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; Karen Joy Fowler

A Psychologist and his wife raise their newborn daughter and a newborn chimpanzee at the same time as a psychological experiment.  The novel is told from the viewpoint of the daughter looking back at her childhood and how her “twin sister” affected her and her relationship with her parents and her brother.  Interesting tale.  Very original.

PJH Rating: ****

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown; Holly Black

Our 17 year old protagonist wakes up in the house from the previous night’s house party to find all the other teenagers dead and several hungry vampires trying to get her.  The world has developed “Coldtowns” in each big city where all the vampires are exiled to live out their un-lives.  The girl finds herself in one of these and the typical vampire teenage hi jinx ensue.  Not sure how this one got in my queue but it was sort of fun to read – pretty gory for AYA fiction.

PJH rating: ***

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My Top 5 Books of 2013

I read 44 books this year, 3 more than last year and just one shy of my goal of 45.  I read many good ones and it has taken some thought to narrow it down to the five that I thought were best.

Drumroll:

My 2013 top 5 books in alphabetical order:

-Arcadia; Lauren Groff  -I loved the story, the hippies, the history and wish I could join in. I think this would make a great movie.

-Cutting for Stone; Abraham Verghese -The section where the twins are born shows the power of a great novel.  It literally takes your breath away.

-The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society; Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows -The winner of the worst title ever.  A great unique book that I couldn’t put down.

-The Language of Flowers; Vanessa Diffenbaugh -another great story, great characters and a book that you don’t want to end once it is over.

-Olive Kitteridge; Elizabeth Strout -a strangely hypnotic novel.  Olive Kitteridge is by far my favorite character of the year.

 

As I said I read a lot of good ones this year and the below are ones that fall on my highly recommend list:

Honorable Mentions:

-Benediction; Kent Haruf

-Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; Ben Fountain

-The Cuckoo’s Calling; Robert Galbreith

-Flight Behavior; Barbara Kingsolver

-Gold; Chris Cleave

-Let the Great World Spin; Colum McCann

 

My Book Diary

My 2012 top 5

My 2011 top 5

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Playing Dead; Julia Heaberlin

As her mother is on her death bed and not able to communicate, a woman learns that her father is not her real father. She investigates and learns nothing in her family is what she believed it was as her mother was involved in the mob in Chicago a long time ago.  Just ok… a bit long winded with an unsatisfying ending.

PJH Rating: ***1/2

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Who Will Run the Frog Hospital; Lorrie Moore

A woman looks back at her summer when she was 17 and working at an old amusement park with one of her old friends.   I didn’t get into this short novel as much as the one I read earlier from Moore.  I enjoy her style and quirky characters though.

PJH Rating: ***1/2

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The Cuckoo’s Calling; Robert Galbraith

Cormoran Strike is a down and out, ex-military private Investigator in London who is hired to investigate the death of a famous super model.  With the help of his temp secretary they investigate the usual suspects to see if the death was a suicide or murder.  Terrific writing and interesting characters make this a great read. I hope this turns into a series.  This is the novel that was published under a pen name of J.K. Rowling – author of the Harry Potter books.

PJH Rating: ****1/2

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A Gate at the Stairs; Lorrie Moore

Story of Tassie, a twenty year old who just started her first year of college.  She finds a job babysitting for a family who just adopted a baby who has been in foster care for the past several years.  The novel is told in first person by Tassie and goes back and forth between her personal life, her babysitting and her family back home on the farm.  The novel is very interesting and I was hooked right away.  The characters are great and the writing is wonderful.  The story is interesting – taking on racism, sexism, and patriotism.  The section that gives the back story of the adopted couple is truly frightening. Horrific. The author has a unique style that might turn some people off as not much happens a lot of the time, a lot of rambling thoughts… but again this is my type of novel.  I’m excited to read her other books.

PJH Rating: ****1/2

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