I read 37 books in 2012; less than 2011, but still pretty good considering the drastic job/schedule change that occurred back in August. I'm recapping my November and December reads here; as usual, you can find other reading recaps here.
I just keep loving Joshilyn Jackson. I read A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty in a day; once I reached a certain point, I simply couldn't put it down. I know a lot of people are iffy about Southern writers -- Southern literature can quickly devolve into sweet tea and funny accents -- but I think Joshilyn Jackson does a great job of making her characters unique and true. Their quirk is more reminiscent of the South I know, and her stories of redemption, while sometimes outlandish, are unmistakably real. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is one of those books you read for fun -- it's just a quick read -- but wind up thinking about long after it's finished.
I'm trying to read more YA literature so I can honestly recommend books to the teens who come in looking for something good to read. I'm not going to pretend it's been easy -- there are a lot of vampire and fantasy books I simply can't get into -- but I thought Divergent (and later, Insurgent) was pretty good. I still don't quite understand the current fascination with dystopian societies, but since Jordan's in the middle of teaching a class on the Meyers-Briggs personality types, I was able to find some interesting connections into that world (one I'm admittedly much more interested in). I thought the connection between the faction divisions and personality types pretty telling, and if I were back in school, I'd probably write a paper about it. I also thought there were some obvious Christian undertones, and Veronica Roth's author's note at the back of the book confirmed they were probably intentional. I liked Divergent, and I liked Insurgent well enough too, but I think it's interesting I felt no urgency to finish the story. I'll read the third book when it comes out, but I don't think I'm as attached to the characters as I have been with other YA lit. (If you're interested, there's better discussion over at Jules' blog; her book club read the books back in October.)
Michael Morris was set to come to the store last month, so I borrowed this book from my boss in order to have it read before his visit. He wound up canceling his book signing, though, and if I had known that in advance, I might not have finished Man in the Blue Moon. It's a fine book -- I recommend it to a few people in the store who I know consider themselves "literary" -- written in the Southern Gothic style I typically love. I was coming off A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, though, and I think the change of pace -- Man in the Blue Moon moves at a much less maddening rate -- made Morris' book come across as dull. By the final page's turn, though, I was impressed, and I guess that's the great thing about working in a bookstore (or being in a book club). I'm forced to read books I might not otherwise have picked up, and they push me and challenge me in ways the books I finish overnight aren't always as apt to do. Does that make sense? This book doesn't fall in the "I finished it in one setting!" category, but I think it's worth reading, maybe along the lines of Swamplandia! and Salvage the Bones. I'd love to hear what you guys think if you've read it!
You might have to be a Kate Morton fan to enjoy this one, but I fall into that category, so I loved this book. This was our book club's pick for November, and although it was thick (which I think deterred some members), I thought it was a pretty quick and intriguing read. I loved how the plot jumped between time periods; Morton did an excellent job of going back and forth between the two story lines; I found both extremely compelling and interwoven in just the right places. I keep telling my friends to make it to the ending of this one; the pay-off is well worth any effort. If you're looking for a book to start the new year, I'd recommend this one (or Rules of Civility, reviewed below). It's the perfect read for a cozy, wintry day on the couch.
Meh. We always read a holiday book for our last book club of the year, but this was definitely not my favorite. I had high expectations -- John Green! -- but overall, I just wasn't impressed with this collection of short stories. Let It Snow is a YA book, and I finished quickly -- it would almost be impossible not to -- but I didn't think it was an accurate portrayal of these authors' works, nor were the characters compelling. The stories start strong; the first, by Lauren Myracle, who I've never read before, was by far my favorite, and it was everyone else's too. It was fun and festive, and we all fell in love with the protagonist and her high school love story. The others, though, just fell short. I'd recommend Let It Snow if you're just looking for a fun Christmas-themed story, but I think next year I'll recommend my book club read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I much prefer that Christmas story.
If you're looking for a book that's in between the fast-paced Southern style of A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty and the literary styling of Man in the Blue Moon, I'd highly recommend Janis Owens' My Brother Michael. I absolutely adored this book, written by an author from nearby Monticello, Florida. My love for this book might have something to do with the fact that Janis Owens perfectly describes North Florida/South Georgia. Our store owner told me I simply had to read this book, because I'd immediately find myself written with its pages. "You'll know you're a cracker*!" she told me, and although I balked, I now know exactly what she was talking about. This is the South I know (even more so than the Alabama/Georgia stories Joshilyn Jackson tells), and the story Janis weaves will pull your heart in all sorts of directions. This, my friends, is just a darn good book. Highly, highly recommend.
I feel like I'm light years behind on everybody else with this particular book, but over Christmas, I finally snagged the paperback (retail therapy at its finest, folks), and I'm glad I did. This is the book I took with me during our travels out of town, and it was perfect. Its reminiscent of Gatsby, but with a flawed female protagonist, and the twists and turns she faces ring true; they never feel manipulated or manufactured. It's like the characters told Towles what to do, and he obeyed. Again, Jules' book club has much better discussion over on her blog, but for what it's worth, I think this is a lovely work of fiction, and I think -- like The Secret Keeper -- it would be a fine first read of the new year.