books and reading

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Want to Reread

I don’t often participate in Top Ten Tuesday, but I am today because it’s a choose-your-own-theme week and because I’ve been thinking a lot about rereading.  I’ve been doing a fair amount of rereading this year, which is why my reviews of new books has been so spotty.  For the past few years, I’ve had a strict no rereading policy, but I’ve let up on that for 2013.  As a result, I’m participating in this week’s Top 10 Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

1. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

I’ve long claimed that Frankie Landau-Banks is one of my favorite YA novels of all time, but I haven’t ever actually reread it.  Most of my most beloved novels have been read countless times, but this one hasn’t, for whatever reason.  I have a copy, and I talk about this book often enough, so what’s holding me back?  Am I afraid I won’t love it enough the second time through?  I suppose it’s a distinct possibility, but if the book is half as clever, smart, and thought-provoking as I remember it being, it’s unlikely.

2. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Time was, I used to reread this series nearly every July.  It’s been a couple of years since I reread these books, and it’s probably about time to do so.  I find the books are a certain kind of comfort food, and I usually end up so enmeshed in the world of Harry Potter that going back to regular books is sort of difficult.  I’ll probably save a reread of these for the summer, when I can sit on our deck and sip lemonade (spiked, probably) and while away whole hours.

3. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar

Eagar is one of my favorite YA authors, and unfortunately she’s still predominantly unknown here in the United States.  You can find a copy of this book for your Kindle on Amazon, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a physical copy of the book that doesn’t require international shipping.  One of the most moving books I’ve read in recent memory, Raw Blue sticks with you long after you’ve finished it.  Eagar is an author to check out, if you have the means of obtaining her books.  I should reread this one, because I love it so.

4. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover’s Dictionary is one of those books that will present differently to you depending on where you are in a given relationship or life stage.  Moving, clever, and often achingly real, I tore through this book the first time I read it.  I’d like to go back and read it again and really take my time with it.  There’s a lot I’m sure I missed, and being in the healthiest romantic relationship of my life would give me a fresh perspective, I think.

5. Good Oil by Laura Buzo (published in the US as Love and Other Perishable Items)

I read Laura Buzo’s excellent debut when it was still an Australia-only publication, so I’m including it on this list with its original title (which I prefer, for so many reasons).  One of the smartest, most  unique coming-of-age tales, Buzo’s book is a must-read for any fan of contemporary YA.  Heartachey, honest, and funny, this is a book worth a second read.

6. Tighter by Adele Griffin

I remember reading Adele Griffin’s Tighter in something like one or two sittings.  I remember literally not being able to climb off the treadmill because I needed to see what was going to happen next.  The book is incredibly engrossing, tense, and fraught with the perfect kind of twisty, mind-bending suspense that is guaranteed to hook you.  Pairs well with The Turning of the Screw, which is the novel it’s adapted from.

7. Lucy Peale by Colby Rodowski

Lucy Peale is a holdover from my own childhood, and it’s a book that I should own a copy of but don’t, for some reason.  Blame several moves and an occasional book purge.  The book is definitely one I should purchase a copy of, but the fact that it’s out of print has delayed this, for whatever reason.  A book aimed at the middle-grade set, this one focuses on a young girl from a scary-religious family who finds herself pregnant and cast out.  It’s atmospheric, beautiful, and very real.

8. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

By far Niffenegger’s less-popular full-length novel, it’s also the more interesting, thorny one.  It features at least two sets of twins, a ghost, and a very quirky apartment complex in London.  I haven’t re-read it, but I should, because the novel’s twists and turns almost necessitate it.  Dark and completely absorbing, this would be a great fall/Halloween read.

9. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

The first time I read this book, it took me more than a year to complete it.  It’s not that Shriver’s book isn’t interesting or engrossing, because it is.  Blame it on life stuff and a short attention span.  By the time I finished it, I was cursing myself for waiting so long.  It’s like Sliding Doors in book form without the cute romantic comedy tropes.

10. The Children and the Wolves by Adam Rapp

Dark, dark, dark.  This is one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read, but there’s so much to think about and chew on that reading this slim novel just once doesn’t do it justice.  You have to revisit it and really spend time with the characters, no matter how disturbing they are.

What’s your top ten this week?  What would you reread, given the chance?

pop culture

2012 Year in Review: Listening

Music is a big part of my life, but I don’t write about it here very often.  Sure, I post the occasional song or video when I do my 5 things I’m into posts, but I don’t tend to go on and on about music unless there’s something I’m super obsessed with.  Partly, I believe music is very personal, and partly, I get so tired of people being judgmental little turds about what other people listen to.  If it makes you happy, go for it.  Listen to it.

My music tastes are wide-reaching and eclectic (a lot of people say this, but I actually believe it’s true when applied to me, and since it’s my blog, I get to do whatever I want).  Without further ado, here are the 10 albums that rocked my world this year.  IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

1. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory

20-year-0ld Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi called this album’s title a description of what the album aimed to do: attack the memories of what many people believed the band sounded like, and create something new.  The result is exactly what Baldi hoped to accomplish, as this album replaces the band’s sugary pop-punk hooks from their previous album(s) with an aggressive new sound that’s got heavier musical accompaniments.  Not everyone could handle the change in Cloud Nothings’s sounds: I had a friend throw in the towel after one measly listen to this album, which was his loss.  This is an album that grows on the consumer with repeat listens, and Baldi’s willingness to grow and adapt his music as he gets older can only mean good things for him in the future.

2. Grimes – Visions

Say what you will about Claire Boucher’s proclivity for strangeness, but you have to admit that the woman put out a hell of an album this year.  Visions is Boucher’s best album to date, and it’s also the most accessible and most fun to listen to.  Present in her music are all sorts of contrasts and complications to sort out (and I’m not just talking about trying to figure out what, exactly, she’s saying at any given time).  Grimes uses pop hooks and weirdly atmospheric beats to create a unique sound that is all hers.  It helps that her high, almost childlike voice is haunting and beautiful all at once.  Whatever.  All I know is that I listened to “Oblivion” and “Genesis” on repeat this year, and I’m not even sick of them yet.

3. Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls

This seems to be an album that has transcended age groups and has widespread appeal among the young and old.  It probably has to do with the fact that Alabama Shakes–led by twenty-something Brittany Howard–grounds their music in sounds that sound straight out of the 70s.  Howard’s throaty voice and confessional lyrics help add a roughness to the album.

This is the record that has most often been on repeat at family dinners this year.  For a debut, this is a solid album well worth a couple of listens.

4. Beach House – Bloom

Beach House has slowly come into a sound all their own.  The Baltimore-based duo’s dream-pop isn’t for everyone, but I once heard it described as “make out music for indie kids,” and that feels pretty apropos.  With their most recent album Bloom, Beach House has strengthened their sound and sharpened their craft.  This is a fantastic album, full of subtle shifts and music that attempts to describe the indescribable.

5. Purity Ring – Shrines

Purity Ring was one of my later finds in 2012, but since I discovered them in October, I haven’t been able to stop listening to them.  A Canadian duo who were virtually unknown before a song called “Ungirthed” leaked onto the internet, Purity Ring has taken the indie circuit by storm.  Megan James’s vocals are largely what propels this album to greatness, as her high, clear voice conveys lyrics that are often creepy and beautiful.  The album’s focus on the body might not sit well with some listeners, but the entire album feels like one extended piece, and the fact that it fits together so beautifully and so memorably makes this a standout album of 2012.  I can’t wait to see what Purity Ring has to offer in 2013.

6. Jessie Ware – Devotion

An unlikely marriage between smoldering pop music and electronic beats, Jessie Ware’s album is definitely one that requires more than one listen.  There’s a lot of influences at work in Ware’s music, including 80’s pop (you can hear some Whitney) and 90’s diva-inspiration, but the sound remains uniquely Ware’s own.  Ware’s hypnotic voice pairs well with her haunting lyrics, and the inclusion of a variety of sounds, including dubstep beats and other electronic sounds makes this an album well worth your time.  If nothing else, Ware’s voice is worth a listen.

7. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

I’m not sure what there is to say about Frank Ocean’s album that hasn’t already been said already.  This is definitely one of the best albums of the year, and pretty much everyone would agree with that statement.  Ocean’s strengths lie in the melodic power of his voice but also in his absolutely brilliant words: Ocean’s lyrics can’t be rivaled by any other songwriter working today.  Ocean’s storytelling abilities are what make Channel Orange go from a great album to a fantastic one with staying power.  Every single song on the album tells a story, and each of those stories is absolutely worth hearing again and again.  (I particularly recommend “Super Rich Kids” and “Bad Religion.”)

8. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City

There’s an autobiographical element to Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d City that feels almost uncomfortably intimate.  But that’s also what makes the album work as well as it does.  While each song on Lamar’s album can stand on its own, it also works within a larger concept.  There’s a lot of heavy stuff at work here: Lamar deals with the powerful pull of gang life and how often the only thing keeping him from joining is his faith and his family (Lamar populates the album with snippets of actual voicemails from family members).  While all this could feel like too much, Lamar manages to pull it off because his lyrics are brilliant, his hooks are catchy, and the album as a whole is a fantastic study in how great hip hop can be.

9. The Men – Open Your Heart

I went through my punk phase in high school, but I certainly didn’t have anything like The Men to help me funnel my anger through music.  With this album, my sixteen-year-old punk self was reborn. Perhaps most interestingly, this album is both aggressive and welcoming.   It’s the kind of album that wants to knock you around a little bit and then knock a few back with you while you laugh about it all.  It’s a great album, with each song building on the last.  I’ll put it this way: it’s one of the only albums I burned in its entirety on a CD to listen to in the car this year.  That’s a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one.

10. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Dirty Projectors is a fairly isolating band.  People tend to either really like them or hate them (I’ve dated more than one person with a strong opinion on the band), but I’m going to come out and say that I like them.  Despite the band’s propensity for switching things up often (including who is in the band, exactly), there’s no doubt that this most recent album’s switch-up has made for the most accessible, addictive album from the band yet. Swing Lo Magellan marries catchy beats with the most straightforward lyrics Projectors has ever come out with (and…they’re still kind of hard to digest).

What did you listen to this past year that you absolutely loved?

books and reading

Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2013

I don’t often participate in the Broke and the Bookish’s Top 10 Tuesday, but I am this week because it’s a topic I can’t resist: the top 10 books I’m most looking forward to in 2013.

Without further ado, here we go (in chronological order, kind of):

1. Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Schmidt
(January 15, 2013)

This book is probably my most anticipated read of 2013. I’m not sure what about it speaks to me so loudly, but something does.  This one looks to be dark and complex and layered, and I can’t wait.

2. Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
(January 15, 2013)

I feel as though I’ve been waiting for this one forever.  Appelhans’s dystopian debut looks to be genre-bending, exciting, and a little unconventional.  I can’t wait for this one.

3. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
(February 13, 2013)

Ruta Sepetys? 1950s New Orleans?  All I need to know. CANNOT WAIT.

4. Farewell, Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister
(February 21, 2013)

The ghost of Dorothy Parker hitches a ride on an unsuspecting young woman.  Hijinks ensue.  Considering that Dorothy Parker is pretty much my favorite writer ever, how could I not read this one?

5. Requiem by Lauren Oliver
(March 5, 2013)

Despite the fact that I think the series got off to a rocky start and I still maintain that the ending of the second book was totally manipulative, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being super excited for this one.

6. 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
(March 21, 2013)

I think Nova Ren Suma is one of the most interesting women writing for YA these days, and I can’t wait to see how she follows up what she’s already done.  This one looks dark and compelling.

7. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
(May 7, 2013)

Is there a single YA blogger who isn’t looking forward to this one?  I feel like we’ve been waiting for the last companion novel in the Anna series forever.  I cannot wait for this romantic story.  CANNOT WAIT.

8. Goldfish by Kody Keplinger

I think Keplinger’s writing gets stronger with every one of her offerings, and this one looks to be just as interesting as her last one (which was my favorite of her books).  Keplinger imbues her characters with authentic characteristics and doesn’t shy away from dark issues, so this will be an emotional read.

9. All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Can we all just agree that Courtney Summers is doing some of the most interesting, edgy, and consistently quality work out there right now?  Can we all just agree that I will literally read anything she ever publishes, whether it fits into my preferred genres or not?

10. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
(August 2013)

I love Matthew Quick, and this one looks to be dark, dark, dark.

books and reading

Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished

I don’t often participate in the Broke & Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, but this week I am because I’m dangerously low on books to review and because I think this is a really interesting topic.  Without further ado, let’s get to it.

Top 10 Series I Haven’t Finished:

1. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Without question, this is the best-written series on the list.  I don’t know what to say about not having finished the series, except for the fact that I’ve tried–and failed–several times to read the second book in the series.  Something about the beginning doesn’t grip me, and since my friend accidentally spoiled me on how the series ends, I don’t have a compelling reason to keep trying.

2. Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris

This is probably a case where the series has gone on too long and isn’t compelling to me any more.  That, combined with the over-hyped TV show True Blood, has soured me on the series.  I still really enjoy the first several books in Harris’s charming series, but I jumped ship somewhere around book 8.

3. Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal

This is embarrassing, since I have a (long-neglected) blog devoted to the series and everything, but I’ve never read the entire series.  I know how it ends, but I haven’t read all the books.  Guys, there’s something like 180 books in the series, and while I have almost all of them, I haven’t had time to read them all.  Maybe someday?

4. The Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I read the Alice books as a pre-teen, and what’s interesting to note is that Naylor has continued to write the series well into my adulthood. For a long while, I kept telling myself that I would one day read all the books in the series, but it feels like a lot of work, and, well, I’ve got so much else to read I don’t know if it’s a feasible goal. That being said, it’s an excellent series and great for tweens.

5. The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater

I read the first book in the series (Shiver), and while I didn’t love it, I liked it enough.  A combination of paranormal romance overload and several slightly annoying things related to the author kept me from ever really trying to finish the trilogy.  I did pick up the second one, but since I couldn’t remember much from the first, I didn’t find it compelling enough to continue.  I don’t feel like my life is missing anything by  not finishing this series, so I’m going to give it a permanent pass.

6. Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer

A series about a cataclysmic event that forever alters life on Earth is a book that’s right up my alley. I really liked the first book in the series, and I was super-stoked to read the follow-ups until I realized that Pfeffer was telling the same story over and over again from different points of view.  This didn’t make the books slow down: it made them straight-up grind to a halt.  Not interested.

7. Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter

I sort of hate-read the first in the series but also found it oddly compelling, despite the fact that Carter got so much of the mythology wrong (intentionally or not, it was irritating).  The second book in the series was a total trainwreck in my opinion, and that’s…pretty much the end of that.  Life’s too short, etc.

8. Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick

The first book was beyond problematic for a variety of reasons (google “Hush Hush and Rape culture”), but even looking away from that, the series is totally boring. I read the second book in the series and couldn’t have been less connected to its characters.  The third book was out of the question, and I actually laughed when I saw they were going ahead with a fourth one.  This is a series that I find insulting, boring, and not worthy of my time.  Pass.

9. The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

I read the first book at an ex-boyfriend’s near-constant urging. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I soldiered on because it was important to him.  It was overly long and in desperate need of editing.  Then he and I broke up and I didn’t have to worry about finishing the series.  This is not a pop culture phenomenon that I understand in the least.

10. Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Hands down the most boring books about a ghost falling in love with a human that you will ever read.  There are too many titles like this flooding the market for me to stick with a series that’s a chore to get through.


What series have you given up on? Any of these I should give another shot?


Top Ten Tuesday: Winter Reading

Today’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, is all about the books you’re looking forward to reading this winter.  I’m pretty excited to have a month off from grad school.  I want to get some serious reading done.

About half of these books are already out.  The rest will be released between now and the beginning of March (which is what I consider to be the start of spring, no matter what the weather does).  A few are adult fiction titles, but for the most part, these are YA novels.  Here we go!

1. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

The buzz for Mafi’s debut novel about a girl who can kill with a single touch has been insane.  I don’t know if it’s because she’s such a presence on Twitter or in the blogosphere, but something has made this book deal really stand out (at least to me).  Even though reviews have been mixed–people either love it or trip over Mafi’s prose–I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and read this.  It’s happening this winter for sure.

2. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

A book that has definitely been featured in one of my Waiting on Wednesday posts, Handler’s Why We Broke Up is something that’s been on my radar for a while now.  I love the concept of this novel, and I can’t wait to see what the former Lemony Snicket has in store for readers.

3. A Million Suns by Beth Revis

The sequel to Revis’s debut Across the Universe, this is some of the best YA science-fiction currently being offered.  Even though I thought the first one meandered a bit too much (when you have dual perspectives it’s easy to get a little stuck), I’m still intrigued enough to pick up this follow-up.  Everyone needs a little space adventure now and then.

4. Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Wither, DeStefano’s debut, was one of those books that grew in my esteem the longer I thought about it.  Beautifully written with wonderfully-developed characters, it was a dystopian that put others to shame.  It was a novel that was strong enough to stand on its own.  While part of me wishes that it had been a standalone, another part of me is really, really glad that there’s a sequel, and that it’s coming out soon, because I can hardly wait.

I am tired of the heroin-chic models on the covers, though.

5. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Jennifer Close’s send-up of wedding culture in America is a book that I feel obligated to read, for a variety of reasons.  Supposedly very funny and poignant, I’ve been on the library waiting list for this one for a while.  I’m going to get to it this winter, though.  I can feel it!

6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Another book I’m waiting for at the library.  Taylor’s Smoke and Bone has been garnering rave reviews–and it feels like it might be a quiet pop culture phenomenon.  You guys know how I feel about pop culture phenoms–at least, I hope you do–I have to be in on them.  The book is maybe a little heavy on magic/fantasy for my tastes, but from what I’ve heard, this is a book that cannot be missed.  And so I won’t miss it.

7. After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy

It was actually Jordyn’s review of this book at Ten Cent Notes that made me think I might like to read it.  The premise is something that I think I’d like: told from the perspective of two girls who get involved with the same boy, the novel deals with the fallout–you guessed it–after a kiss.  This in and of itself would be enough to recommend the book to me.  Then I read McVoy’s debut, Pure, and decided I liked her voice.  Now this book is high on my to-read list, and I can’t wait to get into it.

8. The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Another book that I’ve featured in Waiting on Wedesday, this is a book that I cannot wait to read.  You guys, it’s a book set in the 90s and deals with Facebook.  How could I not want to read this?  Reviews have been mixed, but as a true child of the nineties, I think I might really enjoy this one.

9. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Another dystopian.  This one features a heroine named Aria, a virtual world, and an expulsion from society.  All good things, in terms of a compelling story.  The reviews on this one have been pretty positive, and I’m more than a little excited to read it.  As much as I complain, it takes a lot for me to tire of a good dystopian.

10. Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I just finished Sullivan’s Maine and pretty much loved it.  It was a slow burn of a read, and the characters have stayed with me since I finished the book early last week.  Commencement was her first novel, and it features recent college grads looking to their futures.  While I’ve heard some mixed things about this one, the fact that I loved Maine so much tells me that I might really like this one, too.  Another book I’m waiting for at the library.

What books are you most looking forward to this winter? 

books and reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books to Read During Halloween

Today’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, centers on books that are best read during Halloween.  Previous posts have been testament to how much I love Halloween (and the month of October), and this week’s top 10 is too good to pass up.

Without further ado:

1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: I loved this book so hard.  My review has yet to be posted on this here blog, but rest assured: this book is smart, scary, and totally worth your time.  Blake’s rendering ghosts and folklore is flawless, fascinating, and terrifying.  Just the right amount of violence and suspense to keep readers up late into the night.

2. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma: Although not technically horror, Nova Ren Suma’s creeping, seeping story of two sisters and the mysterious town they reside in is perfect reading for the month of October.  There’s something sinister about the story Suma’s crafted here, and readers won’t be able to shake the feeling that something’s very, very wrong.

3. Tighter by Adele Griffin: A modern retelling of The Turn of the Screw, Griffin’s creepy, twisty tale about a teenage au pair who is being haunted by ghosts (or is she?) takes place during the summer but would be perfect for a spooky night near Halloween.

4. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger: Although many people feel that Niffenegger’s follow-up to the wildly successful The Time-Traveler’s Wife lacks the same impact as her debut, I really enjoyed Her Fearful Symmetry and found it haunting in a very subtle, understated way.  The characters in the book stay with the reader long after the story is finished, and the haunting presence of the ghosts is powerful.

5. The Shining by Stephen King: Even though King’s famous novel takes place over a particularly cold, particularly snowy winter, there’s something about reading the book over the month of October that’s appealing.  The haunted hotel and the terrible things that have happened there make this one of King’s most terrifying novels (I think).  The fact that it’s the first King novel I ever read to completion doesn’t hurt, either.  Oh, nostalgia.

6. The Keep by Jennifer Egan: An ancient European castle and a modern-day prison intersect in this twisty, suspenseful novel by Egan.  Definitely more challenging and less accessible than other novels on this list, this novel will keep the suspense high.

7. Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn: Arguably one of my favorite books from when I was a kid and still one of the scariest stories I remember reading as a child, no one does a ghost story better than Downing Hahn.  If you haven’t read this one, you should.  It’s great.

8. My Dead Girlfriend by Eric Wight: A graphic novel aimed at middle-grade and young adult readers, Wight’s story about a boy and the dead girl he loves is funny, cute, and compelling.  It’s definitely on the lighter side of things to read around Halloween, but the darkly funny story will work for readers who want to get into the spirit without having the pants scared off of them.

9. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: How could I not include this one?  We already know that it’s one of the scariest books I’ve ever read.  Ever.

10. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks: This one speaks for itself.  If you like zombies, and you haven’t read this one yet, you’re…not really a zombie fan.  Get on it.

What’s on your list?  What books should I read before Halloween this year?

books and reading

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Never Reviewed

Today’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, centers on books you read and loved but never wrote a review for.  The reasoning behind a lack of review might be because you read it before you had a blog or because you didn’t know how to put your love for the book into words.  Whatever the reason, today’s list aims to share some of that love with the rest of the blogosphere.  Onward.

1. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel: I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this book on the blog before, but I know I’ve never written a proper review of it.  (Seriously though, I’ve been gripped with the most ridiculous deja vu lately that I find myself second-guessing every thing I post about.)  Kimmel’s memoir about her early childhood growing up in the tiny town of Moreland, Indiana is very funny, very sweet, and a book that has stayed with me for years after initially reading it.  It is the book that I once used to write a paper about memoirs for a history class in college (oddly enough, my professor didn’t see the humor in Kimmel’s writing the way I did), and it is a book that is absolutely one of my comfort books.  I return to it when I need to feel safe and happy and secure in my reading.


2. Before I Die by Jenny Downham: Another book that I’ve written about but never reviewed, Downham’s book was one that I read before I started blogging.  I re-read it last year and was just as moved by it as I was the first time.  Tessa is dying of cancer and conceives a list of things she wants to experience before she dies.  While this book could easily fall into trite, Lurlene-McDaniel-territory, Downham’s stripped-down prose and attention to detail and characterization make this a tear-jerker that you’ll stay up late into the night to finish.  It honestly is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.  Thinking about the last few pages brings tears to my eyes.


3. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker: This collection of Parker’s work (short stories, essays, and poems) is usually the first book I list when asked what my all-time favorite book is.  This book would be one of my desert-island books, because it contains a little bit of everything: the short stories are sharp and often a little haunting, the poetry is well-crafted, witty, and painfully true, and the essays and articles provide a glimpse into Parker’s keen eye for pop culture.  Readers remotely interested in Parker should check out this book and skip around in it to get a taste of her brilliance.


4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Okay, so I wrote about this one in last week’s Top Ten Tuesday.  It’s that good, you guys.  Narrated by Offred, this story is about a woman whose sole purpose is to bear the Commander’s child.  Her only value comes from the possibility of her fertility.  Atwood’s grim commentary on feminism, gender, and a possible future is one that shouldn’t be missed.  I wrote a research paper about this novel in college, and it remains to this day a piece of writing that I am very proud of.


5. Lucy Peale by Colby Rodowsky: This little gem is a remnant from my childhood.  Lucy Peale is the daughter of a fanatical minister who has lived a very sheltered night.  Pregnant after being raped by a boy she met while handing out church fliers, Lucy is at a loss as to what to do.  Cast out of her family, she heads to Ocean City to try to make a life for herself.  She meets the kind, patient Jake, and the two form an unlikely friendship.  Well-written and poignant, this is one of those underrated books that I hope to always have a copy of.

6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: In all honesty, I haven’t written reviews for any of the books in the Hunger Games trilogy, but Mockingjay stands out to me because I was regularly reviewing books when I read it.  It’s one of those instances where there was so much hype surrounding the book and so many people reacting to what happened in it that I felt overwhelmed.  I didn’t feel as though I could add anything to the discussion, and so I abstained.

7. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr: This sweet little novel about a girl named Jenna who reconnects with her childhood best friend Cameron Quick is quiet and heartbreaking.  Zarr is a master of characterization, and the way that she gets into the psyche of Jenna is truly remarkable.  I read this one in a day, in between taking exams to get my teaching license, and I was truly moved by it.  Of course, this was before I was blogging.


8. Just Friends by Norma Klein: One of those books I discovered by accident when I was young and left unattended in the teen section of my local library.  Isobel and Stuart have been best friends forever, but Isobel is secretly in love with him.  When he starts going out with another one of her friends, she decides to get even by going out with someone else.  It’s a pretty basic premise that could be rife with contrivances, but Klein’s deft writing keeps it from becoming stale, and her frank, realistic depictions of teenage sex (normal, healthy sex) made this book fascinating and a little scandalous.  It’s my favorite Klein book, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to check out one of the YA pioneers.


9. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver: Kind of like the book version of Sliding Doors, Shriver’s book follows Irina as she alternates between two realities: one in which she chooses to leave her longtime partner for the dashing, charming snooker player Ramsey Acton and one in which she doesn’t succumb to temptation.  Both stories are compelling and offer wonderful juxtapositions between loyalty and temptation, love and lust, and all that other good stuff.  In the interest of full disclosure, it took me a full year to finish this book.  I kept putting it down, not because it wasn’t interesting (it is!) or because I didn’t like it (I do!) but because it was dense and complicated and I kept getting distracted by it.  But I will say this: when I finally did finish it, I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters.  They still sit with me, years later.  READ IT.

10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: An interpretation of the story of Dinah (whose life is given about one line in the actual Bible), Diamant’s novel tells the story of Dinah’s female relatives who gave birth to her and raised her.  The richly-realized world in which these women live is fascinating and beautiful and worth your time.  I read the book years ago, before the thought of ever having a book blog ever entered my mind.  It’s a book that I think has some crossover appeal to YA, as well, as it features Dinah when she’s quite young.


What about you guys?  What books make the list of titles you’ve never reviewed?  Does anything keep you from reviewing a book (provided you have an outlet for such review)?