1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – This is the third installment in the Hunger Games trilogy. I have not talked to one person who wasn’t disappointed by it – but that’s not to say they didn’t race through all three books to see what happened. The trilogy is utterly readable, and yet I think it’s one where maybe the author only intended to write one book. Or she was rushed to write the second and third volumes. They are just not up to par with what she could have written. I would say only read the first book, but I think we all know that’s laughable. So just consider this your fair warning.
2. The Hipsters by Tim McAtee – I should probably write a long review of this. [You can see my Amazon review now, if you can figure out my full name.] First of all, because my cousin wrote the book. He’s trying to get funded to publish print copies, but through that link you can buy it for $3 on your Kindle (which is what I did). Secondly, because my opinion of the book is so conflicted and ultimately based on the fact that I am a middle-class, suburban, stay-at-home mom in Tennessee.
4. The Sister Circle by Nancy Moser and Vonette Bright – This book was a Kindle gift from my mom. I don’t read as many light Christian books as I used to, but I almost always enjoy them if they’re not too predictable. Moser and Bright’s characters were fun to get to know, and I am glad there are sequels to this one!
5. The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman – Leman is my favorite parenting author. He is funny but truthful, and not afraid to laugh at himself and share his parenting mistakes. This book talks about birth order and how it relates to personality and parenting. Very interesting and worth the read.
7. One Bite at a Time by Tsh Oxenreider (Simple Mom) – Simple Mom’s ebook has 52 brief chapters, each containing one step you can take to simplify your life. I’m slowly adopting some of them in the hopes to be more intentional and less frazzled. It’s not easy, but Tsh makes sense, and I love how the book is laid out.
8. The 10 Best Decisions Every Parent Can Make by Bill and Pam Farrell – I’m forever searching for that book that will tell me how to parent toddlers and preschoolers. This isn’t it. But it is a super-intentional outline of ways to parent your kids up through their teenage years.
9. Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks – I’ve now read all of Brooks’ books except for Nine Parts of Desire … and I have loved every one. This one is a memoir of Brooks’ growing-up years, told through pen-pal letters and friendships with kids all over the world. As an adult, Brooks found the letters and took it upon herself to find all of her lost pen-pals. As with all of her books, this one is well-researched and documented, vivid, and makes me long to see, smell, and taste each part of the world she describes.
10. What She Doesn’t Know by Tina Wainscott – If I were one iota snottier about what I read, I would pretend I didn’t read this. It’s your basic romantic murder mystery, with Wainscott’s signature paranormal element thrown in. It was free for Kindle, I was flat on my back, and I liked reading it. (It’s still free as of 2/18/12.)
11. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See – I’ve wanted to read this sequel to Shanghai Girls since I finished the first book in August, and I finally got around to it when I realized I could “borrow” it from my library for free for my Kindle. Shanghai Girls gave the hard truth about Chinese life during the Japanese occupation, and Dreams of Joy portrays both Shanghai and the small countryside village during some of the large Communist campaigns. I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish See’s tale, crying at how this was reality for so many in China. Lisa See is an accomplished historian and storytellers and I highly recommend her works.
12. Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian – Bohjalian has not failed me yet: I’ve found Midwives, Secrets of Eden, and now Before You Know Kindness all fascinating reads. BYKK is about an animal-rights activist who, while on vacation with his whole extended family in New Hampshire, is shot in the shoulder by his 12-year-old daughter. The novel outlines the family history, the accident, and what unfolds afterward in delicate language, unveiling thoughts from each family member. While I felt it lacked some of the punch of Midwives, I still think Bohjalian captures the voice of everyone from a 10-year-old girl in Vermont to a privileged, active grandmother dealing with the demise of her family relationships.
13. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp – I finally read Voskamp’s treatise on thankfulness. While I felt like some parts of it were a bit too heady for my tastes, I definitely appreciated her sentiments. Some parts were very moving. One I will hang on to and read again, I think!
14. Whispers of the Bayou by Mindy Starns Clark – I love love LOVE Clark’s series Smart Chick Mysteries. Clark takes basic Christian novels and turns it into something much better. In this mystery, Miranda lives life detached and consumed with work. A mysterious and persistent demand from an old acquaintance lures her back to her childhood home and plants her in the midst of an age-old scandal.
15. Always the Baker, Never the Bride by Sandra Brickman – Why yes, my current reading is dictated by what is free for Kindle. This is a light romance about a woman who bakes wedding cakes. She gets a job at a wedding hotel and while baking cake also bakes up some love. (Yes, cheesy, I know.) The book is actually a pretty fun read.
16-26. 16 Lighthouse Road, 204 Rosewood Lane, 311 Pelican Court, and right through the series by Debbie Maccomber – My mom gifted me the whole Debbie Maccomber Cedar Cove series for my Kindle, and in the weeks surrounding our friend’s suicide it was what my brain needed. I’m not much of a romance reader, but these are not *too* trashy or graphic.
27. Dark Water by Laura McNeal – Sometimes I get the idea that maybe I’ll be able to find the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games before anyone else. Well, this wasn’t it. Dark Water is touted as a Romeo and Juliet type romance between a modern-day California teenager whose father has recently walked out and one of her uncle’s Mexican migrant workers. While McNeal’s writing is very readable, I felt like some depth was missing. I just didn’t get the relationship between Amiel and Pearl. This is a rare case where I actually think it would make a better movie than book.
28. 3 Willows by Ann Brashares – 3 Willows is the kind of book that finds its way into my car’s CD player when I’m on a long trip with the kids. I go to the young adult section of the library and get an audiobook. This book is subtitled “the sisterhood grows,” and is by the same author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books. These girls are younger (just having finished 8th grade) and number just three. And at the beginning of the book, they’re slightly estranged. Each sets out on her own summer adventure and finds out just how much she needs her friends. Cute, simple.
29. This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson – I also got this audiobook for the same trip … and learned that it would NOT work for when the kids were awake. Johnson’s language is tame, but she doesn’t filter out choice words in her interviews, thus making it inappropriate for kids in the car. Mary recommended this book and I liked it a lot, being the book nerd that I am. The chapter on Second Life almost lost me, but I kept on and especially enjoyed a chapter on archivists. It’s certainly not a light read, and one I’m glad I listened to rather than read it. If you’re at all interested in library science or the world behind the circulation desk, this one is for you!
30. What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst – My sister is a big Lysa TerKeurst fan, and I picked this up while at her apartment to thumb through. I ended up reading the first few chapters and couldn’t put it down. Ashley let me bring it home and read the rest. Lysa is so passionate and driven to radical obedience. Her writing it easy-to-read, humorous, and to the point: God desires our best. We should give it to Him. LOVED this one.
31. and 32. Goodness Gracious Green and The Glory of Green by Judy Christie – If you are one who looks for free Christian Kindle books, you’ve probably seen this series floating around. They often come up as free books (Abingdon Press is really great about offering free reads!). I had read the first in the series a few years ago, and snatched up the other four as they’ve become available. I love Green, I love Lois, I love these books. They are definitely worth the read!
33. Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult – I continue to read about one Picoult book a year. That’s about all I can handle! I find that her books are best read over a weekend in the biggest chunks possible. This one disgusted me, gave me nightmares, made me shaky … and yet I still couldn’t stop reading it. It’s about a defense attorney whose 5-year-old son is molested. I think the jacket called Picoult’s works “morally ambiguous crime mysteries,” and I couldn’t think of a better term.
36. The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel – I can’t remember where I read about this book, but at the time I thought it would be fascinating. Perhaps it was because of my half-written novel about a supper club. The Recipe Club is mostly episotlary - there are e-mails between the two main characters, Lilly and Valerie, as adults and then letters they wrote throughout their adolescence. Maybe the plots hit a little too close to home for me – one of the friends is concerned with being part of the in crowd and really only pays attention to her relationship with Valerie when she has lapses in her other friendships. While I found the book to be hard to put down, it mostly stirred up anger in me and I didn’t find it very satisfying to read.
37. By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer – I’ve followed Tricia for a while on Twitter, and I saw her process as she published this book. I loved getting to read it! She’s a talented writer who is able to make believably Christian characters! This book is about characters on the Titanic, so of course there is sadness, class struggle, and fancy dinners … and a lot of hearts changed.
38. Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous – One of my husband’s students read this in English class and gave it to him when he or she was cleaning out their locker. Mr. V read it and then insisted I did, too. It’s a short book, translated from Italian, about an immigrant-full apartment complex in modern-day Rome and a murder that takes place there. Every other chapter is a testimony from one of the residents of the apartment, showing his or her cultural bias and interpretation of the everyday life in the complex. The chapters in-between are the accused murderer’s diary of sorts, giving glimpses of his relationship with each character and the truth. It’s an easy read, and although the ending is sort of clipped and easy, the complexities of the relationships and immigrant biases makes it a worthy read. The book won the prestigious Italian Flaiano Prize.
40. Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado – I’ve decided Lucado’s genius is that he is simply so Jesus-focused. Especially after reading Speaking of Jesus, I was stunned by how close Lucado stays to the Gospel, not straying to theologies and denominational structures. I think Cure for the Common Life is definitely worth a read. It really encouraged me in finding my “sweet spot” and reassuring me that God can use me through writing.
41. My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme – Probably my favorite book that I’ve read this year. What can you expect from a foodie who loves to read? I adored reading about Julia Child’s life as a wife in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and America and her journey to learn to cook. This honest tale gives the full story of her work of writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking (volumes 1 and 2) and her start as a TV chef. And the sweet love story between Paul and Julia gives you faith in true love!
42. Charlotte Figg Takes Over Paradise by Joyce Magnin - I picked this up because it’s often free for Kindle and I had read the first book in the series. It’s not really much of a series, though, although the stories take place around the same area. Anyway, this is great Christian fiction about a widow who moves to a trailer park and takes reign of its citizens. Very interesting, fun, and yet it has depth.
43. Griselda Takes Flight by Joyce Magnin – As soon as I finished Charlotte Figg, I wanted to read the next book in the series. Unfortunately, I found this one pretty disappointing compared to the first two in the series. And I can’t get past the awfulness of the name Griselda. Hehe.
44. Beneath the Night Tree by Nicole Baart – I read the first two books in Baart’s trilogy last year (After the Leaves Fall and Summer Snow - and read them in the right order, unlike me!). I find Baart’s writing so breathtaking that I think she could write a menu and it would make me cry. This third book in the trilogy takes place 5 years after the second; 23-year-old Julia is coming to terms with romance, how her uncommon family functions, and what to do when the father of her child wants back in his life. Baart’s works are SO worth the read.
45. Rally ‘Round Green by Judy Christie – This was the first of the Green books that I had a hard time getting into; but when I picked it up again after a few weeks, I zoomed through to the end. Once again, Lois is dealt problem after problems and learns how deep her faith in God and the town of Green can be.
46. Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar – A retelling of the story of Rahab, this was a truly beautiful read with lots of truths about God as Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit! I thought Afshar did a beautiful job in explaining what might have happened to Rahab after the siege and fall of Jericho. I was awed by the truths about Jesus that existed in the regulations of the Israelites, hundreds of years before Christ.
47. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – This is the first book in the Mortal Instruments series. They came highly recommended from a few friends. It’s no Harry Potter or Hunger Games, but the premise of demon-hunters living in a future America was interesting. I think I’ll probably read some of the sequels eventually.
48. Blame It on the Mistletoe by Joyce Magnin – Despite my above review of Griselda Takes Flight, I still picked up this sequel in the Bright’s Pond series (the last? Or just the last one she’s written?). A mystery has invaded Bright’s Pond, and suddenly the elderly are acting like children. Meanwhile, Griselda tries to figure out her romances, plan a parade, and produce the Christmas pageant at church. Who can resist some Christmas fun?
49-51. In Between, On the Loose, and The Big Picture by Jenny B. Jones – These three books are the Katie Parker Production series from Jones. I adored the series. Katie, even as a foster child who grew up with a druggie mother, is easy to relate to. As she’s introduced to church culture and what a loving – albeit slightly crazy – family is all about, her growth and failures are irresistible. I think I read each book in about a day, as fast as I could. I wish there were 12 books! 20!
52. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker – I think 7 deserves a post of its own, but for now … I can’t believe it took me so long to dive into to this one. I was honestly afraid to read it, but Jen’s conversational, diary-entry chapters were impossible to put down. Her lessons are mixed with humor and real life. I adored this book and think everyone should read it. Everyone.
53. Premiere by Melody Carlson
54-55. Heiress and Baroness by Susan May Warren – These are the first two in the Daughters of Fortune series by Warren. I know Mary said she liked them, but I had no idea HOW INCREDIBLY GOOD they would be! I’ve read books by Warren before that were pretty good, but these I absolutely could not put down and stayed up way too late reading. (Like, until 11. I’m pregnant.) They are slightly risque and show what I believe to be real change of attitudes toward God as opposed to some of the very cheesy conversions/romances that go on in a lot of Christian fiction. The books are perfect. Read them.
56. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal – Based on many firsthand accounts of Churchill’s office during the beginnings of World War II in England, this historical fiction brings to life the nuances of living through such a time. Maggie is British by birth but raised in America, and she’s getting used to life in London when she takes a job as a typist for Mr. Churchill. Secrets unfold, bombs are dropped, and Maggie finds herself in the middle of some crazy mysteries and strange acquaintances, all while working overtime at Number 10 Downing Street.
57-58. The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson – Finally got around to reading these sequels to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’m not sure the plot is quite as riveting as the first novel, but I was sure itching to get my hands on the third as soon as I finished the second! I could do with a little more action and a little less history … but all in all, very good reads.
59. Dreaming in Technicolor by Laura Jensen Walker – I’ve wanted to read this sequel to Dreaming in Black and White for quite a while, so I grabbed it up for $1.99 on my Kindle. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as good as the first in the series. The only thing I’ve ever read by Walker that I’ve been disappointed in. [When I am writing this, Dreaming in Black and White is $1.99 for Kindle. It's a great Christian romance. Read it!]
60-61. The Passage and The Twelve by Justin Cronin – My husband and I have been anxiously awaiting the release of The Twelve since we finished The Passage in late 2010. It’s slated to be a trilogy, so there will be one more book coming. I reread The Passage (all 900 pages!) so I would be ready to read The Twelve. First, I don’t think that was really necessary, because there’s a decent recap in the beginning of The Twelve. (Of course, if you haven’t read it, you definitely should. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what happens when a science experiment goes wrong and the post-apocalyptic society that follows.) I really enjoyed the part of The Twelve that went back to the beginning of the story and gives some background. The writing, like that of The Passage, is excellent; but I just didn’t find the book nearly as riveting as its predecessor. Sometimes that happens with second books in trilogies … so we’ll see how the third one pans out!
62-66. Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent, Bourne, and Tributary by Lisa T. Bergren – This is the whole River of Time series from Bergren. I LOVED THESE BOOKS. Mary had highly recommended them to me. I got about 50 pages into Waterfall and thought she must be insane … but I kept reading. And oh, I am now obsessed. I read the entire young-adult series in about 4 days. It’s about two sisters who find a time portal and travel back in time to medieval Italy. It seems cheesy … but the writing is so good, you find yourself wanting to live there with Evangelia and Gabriella too.
67. City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments Series) by Cassandra Clare – While I liked City of Bones, City of Ashes lost me. A little too much teen angst and crazy for my tastes.
68. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – It’s hard to compare a classic to what I normally read. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to get into Huxley’s work, but it draws you in pretty immediately. The future world is so scary and strange and yet Huxley captures exactly what we think we want as far as science, technology, and sexuality goes. Just a genius work. So glad I finally read it.
69. Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano - Fabiano novelizes her own Italian-American family’s history in this novel. The novel centers around Giovanna, born in Italy but who moves to New York after tragedy strikes her young life. I really, really enjoyed the first half of the novel, which simply tells her story. When it got into the “real story” that dealt with the Italian Mafia (the Black Hand), I found it less interesting. The character development is excellent, though, and the author’s ability to retell family history without being overly sentimental or judgmental is very good.
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