Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 134: Lady C's Best Books of 2011

(My weight was way down this morning,  but that is not the topic of this post. Still — yay, me!)

A few years ago my besty gave me a giant blank book titled "Book-Woman" with a picture of a lady reading amid piles and shelves of books. The pages are formatted like graph paper. I could've used it as a journal, but I don't write in a journal much these days (though I was a devoted diary-keeper in my youth) — so I decided to try keeping a book journal. It has been a very interesting exercise! It's surprisingly satisfying to look back over a good year of reading. It's also humbling when I see that a book that seemed utterly new and unrecognizable to me is in fact one I've read before.

(Mimosa has been teasing me about my incipient senility a lot this past month, ever since I looked up from my mending basket on Thanksgiving morning, as we watched the Macy's parade, to say, "When is Scotty McCreery coming on?" She stared at me and said, "He sang five minutes ago." Welcome, senility! Make yourself at home. You'll find lots of room, I promise.)

Oh, and a note about my rating scale: I give books from one to four stars, and this is purely a measurement of how much I enjoyed the book, not an estimation of its worth. Will it stand the test of time and enter the canon of great literature? That is a question you will never hear me pose.

Onward! Here are the books I gave at least 3.5 stars to last year:
  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (I wrote, "I guessed the ending, and the rhythm got a little predictable, but I really enjoyed this one!")
  • The Burying Place by Brian Freeman
  • Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild by David S.
  • Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell
  • Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter by Barbara Robinette Moss (I wrote, "Very readable and well-written, but ultimately unsatisfying. Why was she so devoted to this horrible father? Why no pictures of her terrible face? What about the "missing" sister?" I don't remember this book very well, but those strike me as questions that should have been resolved!)
  • Julie and Romeo Get Lucky by Jeanne Ray (I wish she would write more! Her books are so fun — and I think I've now read them all.)
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Pekins (YA — marvelous)
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (I wrote, "LOVED it! Unlike her last one, I guessed almost none of the twists. A beautiful book.")
  • Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser (YA that I read to see how similar it was to my own novel. Answer: Not at all. I liked it a lot. I wrote, "Very cute and fun! I didn't quite buy the Julia Child stuff at the very end, though.")
  • Continuity by Jenny Brown (unpublished; she's in my writer's group. An agent is shopping around the book right now — fingers crossed! It is awesome.)
  • Bitter Is the New Black by Jennifer Lancaster (fantastic author I discovered this year! Snarky and funny and bitchy and a really good writer, I am happy to overlook her incomprehensible politics and enjoy her sassy prose)
  • Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg (I wrote, "I enjoyed this very much, though I found Irene puzzling." The story is told from three points of view; when it was Irene's POV I liked her very much, but when the other two, her ex-husband and daughter, wrote about her, I didn't like her at all. It was hard to get a handle on her.)
  • Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (I wrote, "I liked it a lot,  but I definitely felt her bias. Then again, maybe it isn't possible to create a truly sympathetic anti-gay character.")
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (I wrote, "At a certain point, you begin to wonder if it should really be this much work [to be happy], but I found her approach fascinating.")
  • I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark (yes, I know, I know, but I think this is one of her better ones)
  • Fragile by Lisa Unger
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (YA)
  • The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure (I wrote, "LOVED this. Funny, moving, engrossing, Perfect book for any fangirl.")
  • Lexie by Audrey Columbis (middle-grade)
  • Junionia by Kevin Henkes (middle-grade — and these are practically the same book, so it was funny to read them right after each other)
  • Sister by Rosamund Lupton
  • The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst
  • Almost Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (YA)
  • Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (YA — my daughter's favorite book last year)
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (I wrote, "Up until the very end, I loved it — but I realize that I have no idea why Ian really ran away, and I'd hoped the gay brainwashing would be more of a culprit")
  • Incredibly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (YA)
  • Anya's Ghost by Vera Borsgol (YA, graphic)
  • The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
  • Brain Camp by Susan Kim (YA, graphic)
  • The U.S. Constitution by Jonathan Hennessey (graphic)
  • Ghostopolis by Doug Ten Napel (graphic)
  • Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington
  • The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (I wrote, "Ah! The ending was unsatisfying! [I gave it three and nine-tenths stars.] But otherwise — wonderful book! Great brownies!")
  • Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger
  • Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster
  • Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (YA)
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (YA)
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (YA — perhaps you've heard of these?)
  • Choker by Elizabeth Woods (I wrote, "Very twisty and horrifying! Husband knocked on the door when I was immersed in the final chapters [and my bathtub], and I shrieked so loud they felt the impact next door.")
  • Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster
  • My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
  • The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson (YA — so good!!!)
  • Chime by Franny Billingsley (YA)
  • A Born Maniac by Ruth Doan MacDougall (she's my favorite writer, I kinda have to like everything she writes — but I complete totally LOVED this regardless!)
  • What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (forgot to note the author — and this book was very compelling, but ultimately I never connected to any of the characters, so it also kept me at a distance. Still, I'll definitely read the sequel)
  • The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louse Plummer (YA — I wrote, "A slice of pure charm and delight!")
  • Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson (I wrote, "Loved! But not every mystery is resolved at the end, which I don't remembers being typical of this author, so I'm very much hoping she knows this and will attend!")
  • Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
And the worst book I read last year — well, it's a tie:
  • The ADHD Effect on Marriage by someone whose name I didn't bother to record; the main message is, "So, your husband has ADHD? Suck it up!" Enraging.
  • Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares (I wrote: "Grief porn. Too pat. Wanted to shake each character repeatedly. Only the sweet, occasional moments keep my from giving it a zero.") What a wretched ending to a series I truly loved. And please, please let this be the ending!!!!
So there you have it. I hope you discover a wonderful new read or two on this list!

(I finished Ellen's book last night and am now deep into Patricia Cornwell and would love nothing more than to curl up with her all day. But I'm going to walk on my treadmill and write thank-you notes with my family first. Darn you, Protestant work ethic! You're ruining my life.)

Happy Monday! (It's still a holiday in Boston, which cracks me up. School starts tomorrow. Whatev.)

Lady C, bookworm


  1. Many of these I have never heard of! Funny how our reading selections are so different from each other! One of the things on Paperback Swap that's kind of fun is they calculate your similarity to other readers via a percentage. I'm thinking our percentage might not be that high!

    Just started "Miss Peregrine" last night so only a couple chapters in; no opinion as yet.

    Read Hunger Games trilogy in 2010; only loved the first book and liked the 2 sequels.

    I read "Sisterhood Everlasting" right after my mom died and I have no unbiased opinion on it since so many passages spoke to me at that time. But I HATED the premise (really, Ann? Poor Tibby.).

    I am like 586 in line to get "Bossypants" from Paperback Swap so it will be a while before I get it. I went to check the library website just now and our library has been closed for the last two weeks (money saving measure) so it turns out the website is offline until tomorrow too! Grrr. I will add myself to the list there but our library system encompasses ALL of Sonoma & Mendo counties so it usually takes a LONG time to get anything.

    I have a non-fiction booklist ready for my blog so off to that!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I can relate both to Kelly's comment about how few of our books overlap (read; none!) and to the ongoing problem of picking out books at the library that I've already read (I.e., many). It tells you two things...I'm shallow and go only for the covers and inner leaf summaries, never the author's name or title, and of course, maybe we have read the same would I know?

    Still have to get Ruth's latest books, so I'll catch up with you soon.

    Kell, where's your blog?

    -- Jane

  3. Hi Jane! Long time no see! The blog is here:

    I am not even as remotely witty as Lady C, but then, who is?!