Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Top Five

Like the other girls, I also have that enormous pile of books on my nightstand. And the truth is, I’m usually so tired when I get into bed at night these days, I rarely ever do more with that pile than use it as a place to put my glasses and my iPod down. But, in 2009, I discovered the Kindle. (And I fell in love!) So I foresee a lessening of this pile in the near future. Just another reason why I love my Kindle – very compact!

Despite that massive pile, as I’m looking back now, I’m realizing I did actually read a wide variety of books (many of them on the Kindle, some from the library, very few from that pile on my night table.) But here are the ones that were most memorable to me (aside from the Novel Girls’ books, of course!):

1.) If I Stay by Gayle Forman: I read it all in one sitting. It’s just lovely and sad and compelling all at the same time. The characters have stuck with me long after.

2.) When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: I put off reading this for a while, since it’s technically classified as a “middle grade” book. But I heard so many great things, that I finally broke down and checked it out. It’s a really interesting coming of age story with time travel and an ending that blew me away (I’m very particular about endings – so this doesn’t happen too much.) I could see why kids would enjoy this book, but it’s definitely for adults, too. I made my mom read it when I was finished!

3.) The Widow’s Season by Laura Brodie: This book is about a widow who finds her “dead” husband on her doorstep one night. Is he real? A ghost? A figment of her imagination? (He died in a boating accident, and his body was never discovered.) You don’t find out the truth until the very end, and I could not put this book down!

4.) Shelter Me by Juliette Fay: This book is also about a widow, but very different than The Widow’s Season, as it focuses more on a young mother’s journey back to life after being widowed. The characters and the world of the book were so real and absorbing, and I really thought it was one of the best love stories I’ve read in a long time.

5.) Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin: Just so you don't think I spent all year reading about widows and death, I'll end my list with this one! It wasn’t published in 2009, but I just finally read it near the end of the year. I knew it was a women’s fiction standard, and a bestseller so I felt like it was something I should have already read. This book is about a woman who falls in love with her best friend’s fiancĂ©e, but I loved the way Emily Giffin really made you root for the woman in spite of this (or maybe even because of it).

So there you have it! What are your top five reads from 2009?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm Vowing To Do Better This Year

If it weren't for my fellow Novel Girl's debut novels, I would not have read many books at all in 2009. It was not my year for pleasure reading. Just wasn't. I'm happy Jillian, Lesley, Maureen and Tracy are in my life for many reasons and reading their books brought me much joy. They are all delightful. All so different. All so memorable.

Like Maureen, my nightstand just keeps getting taller and taller. It's toppled over a few times so I had no choice but to turn my one stack into three. Here's a list of a few more of the few books I did find time to squeeze in last year. And I loved every one of them!

Pat Conroy's South of Broad.

Adriana Trigiani's Very Valentine.

Katie Crouch's Girl's in Trucks

Susan Gregg Gilmore's Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen.

and most recently . . .

Rebecca Wells' The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder

Now that I'm 13 days into 2010 I'm hoping my resolution to be more organized will kick into gear and that I'll soon be able to take a load off my nightstand. What's weighting down yours?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My 2009 Favorites

If there's one thing that remains a constant in my life, it's an enormous TBR pile on my nightstand. I'm not kidding, there's eight books currently sitting in a stack, patiently awaiting their turn. And Christmas didn't help any, as I got six new books to add to the pile. 2009 was truly the year of the self-regenerating TBR pile.

Let me start off with saying that I loved, loved, loved each and every Novel Girl book this year. I think it's really neat how we all share this common bond, yet each of our books and, thus, our writing styles are so different. But I truly enjoyed them all, so Thank You!

As for non-Novel Girl books that I loved in 2009, there have also been a few. Here's just a sampling:

1. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I know I've mentioned this one before, but I was astounded by this book. It's about a woman who moves into her grandmother's home to help clear it out for sale, and finds an ancient key in an old Bible with a piece of paper stuck to it, bearing the words Deliverance Dane. This book combines tons of historical information about the Salem Witch trials, told in such an interesting way, along with a fun narrative.

2. Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch. This book is about Jillian, a discontented wife and mother, who one day wakes up seven years in her past and gets to make all of her important life choices over again--getting married, leaving her job, moving out of the city. It's sort of Peggy Sue Gets Married meets Family Man, if that makes any sense. I loved that it combined a commercial, high-concept with truly beautiful writing. (And I think Allison is just one of the nicest people ever!)

3. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella. I've been a fan of Sophie Kinsella since the first Shopaholic book--which I just found out there will be another one releasing later this year (Squee!). This book is about a woman who wakes up one day to find that she not only has amnesia, but that her life is...better. She's married to a man with movie-star looks, has the perfect body, lives in a mansion and has a closetful of designer clothes. A fun beach read, I breezed right through it and laughed a bunch of times along the way.

4. Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink. This was my favorite YA book in 2009. I don't want to give too much away, but it's a haunting, creepy Gothic historical about twin sisters and an ancient prophecy that is awakened on the night their father passes away. I cannot wait for the second book.

5. The Pat Conroy Cookbook by Pat Conroy. This isn't a new book, but I've been a huge Pat Conroy fan for nearly ten years. I've had this book for awhile, but never cracked it open. When I did, I fell in love. The book intertwines Pat's life stories with some of his favorite recipes, many French-inspired. As a writer, I loved the sections where Pat talked about how he broke in to publishing. Here's a quick one: apparently, when Pat received his first-ever offer on a book, he countered that he could have the book printed for much less than the sum mentioned by the publisher. As in, he thought that amount was what he had to pay the publisher to put his book out.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Favorite 2009 Reads

I read so many great books in 2009, I don't really know where to start. Choosing my favorite reads for the year is tough, but I have to start with each of the books my fellow Novel Girls wrote. I truly loved every one of these stories, and they exemplify (in my opinion) some of the best reads out there.

However, in addition to these terrific books, I also read quite a few other wonderful books in 2009. Here is a list of those favorites and why:
  • Remembrance by Jude Deveraux: This is not a new book, as it was published in 2004, but it quickly became one of my all-time favorites. The story centers around a romance writer (!) who is unable to find true, everlasting love in her life, but then, when she begins a new novel, becomes fixated on her fictional hero. As the story progresses, we learn that her hero isn't fictional at all, but rather, a memory of an everlasting love from one of the heroine's prior lives. I loved every word of this story.

  • Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult: Again, not a 2009 release, but a story that has stayed with me for months after reading it. This story takes place mostly in the world of the Amish, and when a newborn infant is found dead on an Amish farm, questions are raised. Who does the baby belong to? The suspense is riveting and well-paced, but I really enjoyed diving into a world I was mostly unfamiliar with.

  • WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program by Pete Earley: This is also not a 2009 release and it's not a fiction book, but I've been considering writing a novel where one of my characters is in WITSEC, so I read this for research purposes. It's an engrossing read, and there's a lot of information to be gleamed from it. I can truly say that while a lot of this info was on the gruesome side, it was also compelling. I learned a lot about the program and the criminals that made the program a necessity.

  • La Vida Vampire by Nancy Haddock: This is a wonderful debut novel about a vampire who was trapped for over 200 years and then found during the renovation of a Victorian mansion. This is not your typical vampire story! It's light, humorous, and while there are some spine-tingling moments, it's a ton of fun to read.

  • The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax: This is the last book I read in 2009, and it's easily one of my top favorites. I loved it so much, I immediately ordered the rest of this author's back list. For anyone who wonders what it's like to be a published author, this is a must read, as it covers everything from the worst of circumstances to the best of the best in the world of publishing. Plus, the strong bonds of friendship between the four main characters (all writers) felt very real to me.

In addition the above, JD Robb's In Death series is always a favorite of mine, and 2009 brought two new titles to the series. I've had a great year of reading, and can't wait to see what books fill me with happiness in 2010. What about you? Do you have any favorites from 2009? Share, please! I'm always happy to buy more books...