The last couple of years I hadn’t been reading very much. Here and there I’d start a new book, but it would take me forever to read it and I usually just watched movies instead. For 2011 I was determined to read more. I vowed to read 2 books a month, and I ended up reading 28. I enjoyed all of them, but here are the creme de la creme of books I read this past year.
Based on the historical legend that a woman disguised herself as a man and became one of the most influential popes of the Vatican’s history. Pope Joan is both a historical drama, suspense novel, and romance. As a young girl, Joan learned to read and write, an education forbidden to women in 800 AD. The author definitely did her research finding the few facts we know about Pope Joan. Of course, the Vatican denies her existence, but because of this, the story of Pope Joan is all the more intriguing.
This book was a complete surprise for how raw and open the author was in this memoir of growing up. The book begins with her in a cab watching her own mother pick through a dumpster. Now that’s a scene that will evoke emotion in a reader. The Glass Castle is really about a family, their ups and downs, the realities and the truest form of magic that exists in Walls’ phenomenal storytelling. A must read for any author considering writing a memoir.
This might have been my favorite book of 2011. I am both immensely impressed with the amount of research this author did on early circuses and her story in general. She was haled by critics for her ability to write an elderly character’s voice and her characters created for the traveling circus were priceless. Water for Elephants is a romance and a tale of finding oneself. It sets you in a world of mystery and hard work. It inspired a road trip to the Circus World Museum, a place where Gruen began some of her research! This was a book I could not put down!
I read this book in my book club and we had such a fun time discussing the themes of spirits, witches, and magic. The synopsis of this book, which was inspired by the author’s doctorate research, is a graduate student who discovers an ancestor’s physick book, or medicine book, or book of magic. As Connie uncovers more about her own family, she’ll learn more than she wants to about the powers within it, but she has to do so before her professor takes matters into his own hands.
I guess I like books with stories behind the stories. I love looking into how the author’s do their research, and for Stockett, she began this book after September 11th. She needed to hear a voice that was comforting again, and the voice she thought of was the maid that raised her when she was young. Thinking about what life must have been like for her is the premise for the story of The Help. Set early in the civil rights movement, The Help takes on a variety of voices, from the soft spoken and ethical Aibileen, to the no holds barred Minny, and the idealistic, coming of age Skeeter. Everyone I know who’s read this book has loved it. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
Um. Ok, The Hunger Games. They ruled. What more do you want me to say? The movie comes out in March and I’ll be there. I’m Team Gale. I do not condone the growing trend of naming your kids Bella or Katniss. But I Love These Books.
I had read Jody’s blog before, but not her books. I won this title in a contest and I couldn’t put it down! I would’ve never pegged myself as a christian historical romance reader, but I was swooning by page three over Eli Ernest, the rough rider doctor who sets foot towards the new west crossing the Oregon Trail. And Priscilla White is no weakling, prairie marm. She may have lots to learn, but she will prove herself to be a tough and strong-willed companion. I can’t wait to read to Jody’s first book, The Preacher’s Bride this year!
There you have it! My favorite reads from 2011. What books were your favorite? What’s next on your “to read” list?
By the way, the winner of my Life List Club blog post and receiver of an I-Tunes Gift Card and chance to guest post or interview here is Marcy Kennedy! Congratulations, Marcy, be contacting you soon!
Yesterday it was 21° F in Wisconsin. There’s snow on the ground and my car’s keyhole is constantly freezing. I’ve managed to perfect my juggling of purse, tote bag, coffee, keys, and de-icer spray bottle by holding the cap in my teeth on my way out each morning. Needless to say, it’s chilly here.
So when life throws frost your way, what’s a girl to do but enjoy a little old school romance?
It’s like Edward vs. Jacob all over again, but better! Honestly ladies, these are some great guys. So let’s talk about them!
If you haven’t yet read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, you’re missing out. The trilogy is a very fast read, you won’t want to put it down. The books in order are The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. The story is placed in the future where a post-Apocalyptic North America is made up of 12 districts surrounding one Capital. Every year, the Capital hosts the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death consisting of one boy and one girl from each district. Collins writes dystopian society as well as George Orwell in my opinion, or Aldous Huxley, who were two of my favorite authors growing up. But now, if we asked a group of young adults to all read 1984, or Brave New World, I’m guessing there would be some groaning. Ah, but The Hunger Games has two things on its side:
The first is one bad ass protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, a rebel in her own right, and destined to be a symbol for the nation. Bonus: Sara Grambusch is writing all about Katniss’ journey as heroine on her blog today! Check it out!
The second win, which I’ll be focusing on, is the boys!
Collins has taken two extremes right out of the High School walls and placed them into Katniss’ life. The first is Gale, tall, dark and handsome. He is Katniss’ only good friend and they are hunting partners. So Gale is the equivalent of the athlete friend who pushes you to be your best in the game. And of course, he’s got amazing abs.
Then there’s Peeta. Blonde, blue eyed, and kind. Peeta once saved Katniss’ life long ago, but they’ve never spoken since. He and his family make a living as bakers and Peeta knows how to do all the decorative work. So if Peeta was in High School today, he’d be the quite but adorable boy in art class who pines for the alternative girl.
See? You’re already choosing sides aren’t you? Well, just stop it right now!
You have to read the books!!! The situations that Collins places her characters into will make you think twice about what kind of person they are. This goes for Katniss too. Through their actions and responses, the author lays out a very interesting look into war and survival. This may even be a great book to read with your young adult children to get them talking about the topics discussed in the book.
Plus, you know how when writers talk about plotting, and they ask you what’s the one thing your character would fear most, now make them do it! That’s every book in The Hunger Games trilogy. Collins will repeatedly push everyone into situations they DO NOT want to go into, but they must every time. The reason I think that works in her books is because the implications that will happen if the character doesn’t have to do with people’s lives and their relationships. I hated the book, Hatchet by Gary Paulson when I read it in middle school because the main character was constantly in battle with nature or the next catastrophe. It didn’t seem believable that so much could happen to one person. In using other people to weigh on the character’s decisions, Collins nailed this!
See for yourself in the new trailer:
Your turn! Who are you rooting for? What other literary characters are keeping you warm this winter? Can’t Get Enough Hunger Games? Good! Read Sara’s blog too!
After several pleading conversations from my friend, Annie, I went out and bought The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It sat on my bookshelf for awhile, not out of apathy, but let’s face it, there are always lots of books to read! If I’m being honest, it only made the “next in line” list because it was a smaller paperback and I was traveling, not adding a lot of weight is good when you’ll be carrying this backpack around an airport for a couple hours. And I have yet to purchase an e-reader; don’t hate me. I started reading The Hunger Games on the plane ride home. I was hooked by page four.
I’m not usually one to ignore the driver on a long ride home, but I did. Joe and I had just come back from a fabulous week long vacation in Toronto, and instead of regaling each other with stories about our favorite visits and dishes, I was reading. (I did put the book away when I saw him doing the droopy eye thing; I don’t want to die to get to the next chapter.)
The Hunger Games put me right back in excitement mode. The story of a post-apocalyptic North America where only 12 districts remain intact, all ruled by one Capital. To ensure no further outbursts or rebellion, the Capital created the Hunger Games. Twenty-four must go, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district. They will compete to be the last one standing, and the Capital will do whatever is necessary to see it’s a good show.
Suzanne Collins did an amazing job with the pacing of this book, the story gives you normal world in the beginning, quickly sets up the problems for the people, shows you how the lead character, Katniss Everdeen, is a little rebellious, even in the beginning. The games are quickly introduced and once she’s in the game, there’s no putting the book down. I commend Collins for her writing; she reminded me of the Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley books I used to love reading as a teen. And while many things occurred to terrorize the survival of Katniss, I never thought it was unbelievable in the world Collins created. Her plot points and actions are well mapped together.
Collins found her niche writing for children television shows, including Nickelodeon. Her biography is a bit outdated, but you can glimpse into how her mind thinks when she’s world building. Her first series, The Underland Chronicles, tells the story of an 11 year old boy and his sister who fall through a grate in their apartment and end up in the Underland below the streets of New York City. There, the boy is considered a warrior and his sister is worshiped by cockroaches. Together they must win the battle against the rats to save their lost father. See what I mean? She’s a hoot!
The Hunger Games is set to be released on film in March 2012, but you’ll definitely want to read this book. The next two in the series, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, have been purchased and sit by my bedside. I’m pacing myself, reading another book in between the series. Although, if any of you read the blog review Ellie Ann Soderstrom did, you may second guess continuing the series. While she too raved about the first book, she thought the next two were lacking in character growth for our leading lady, Katniss. Don’t read Ellie Ann’s post unless you’re ok with spoilers!!! I’m still planning to finish the series, and hoping I’m able to to see Katniss evolve as the battle takes on new levels.
“May the odds be ever in your favor!” –Effie Trinket, The Hunger Games
Have you read The Hunger Games? What do you think of Suzanne Collins world building? Are you prepared to have dreams that YOU are in the Hunger Games? It is the leading side effect of reading this book. Proceed with caution, and don’t sleep with your archery kit.
P.S. Don’t miss the just released trailer for The Hunger Games!