All over the place…

December 31, 2012 § 21 Comments


The post-year wrap-up is all over blogworld and a great topic ‘specially for those of us (prob’ly just me) who hem and haw ad hilarium on what to write.  

And so I turn to books, more specifically, my top reads from 2012 as topic. Note: This list could vary, (as any bookreader will understand), depending on the day it’s assembled.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
So now we have a new classic literature romantic couple:  it’s Celia and Marco. Sure, sure, sure, there’s also Isobel and Tsuchichi (or something close to that) and Poppet and Lainie and a cast of dozens and Bailey, the “real” boy and the twins and illusion, illusion, illusion.  I’m not gonna say “magic” per se: this book is not just abracadabra. It’s about creating and maintaining illusion, and two “battling” illusionists (oh, darn and now you’re thinking of those movies from a few years ago including THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE but this book bears little resemblance to those stories.
Further, do not mistake my enthusiasm for this book as a dictum to run out and get it; it’s not gonna be a hit with everyone.  It just happened to be the right book at the right time for me. And the storytelling is fluent – no bumps, no flaws, not missteps, no over or under telling.  It’s about a competition between two illusionists set in a competition from a very early age and the circus that becomes their platform as well as a number of characters who run in and out, populating the pages in some unforgettable scenarios.  Placed in the late 1800s western Europe and east coast USA, the book hits  so many right notes, you gotta love it. Well, you don’t “gotta” love it, but it’s worth a look, a try, a page…

2. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
Long, long long storyabout an American with Irish roots who returns to build a huge honking hotel in a quiet village of his parents birth and the uproar it causes among young and old. This is a perfect  book to read on the road; it goes and goes and goes and you keep reading it because Binchy can do that with her characters. Lotsa fluff, lotsa humanity and charming overall tho’  this one has a few hard edges. Still we cheer for the little family who owns the pub by the bridge. And some of us read anything by the Binchy, whose work we will miss going forward.

3. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The book got better and better as I went along. This is the first one in the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series. Yup, a Holmes afficionado can love this “take” on Holmes’s life after Doyle stops writing.  If you love a British-y book, and Holmes and some mystery with a strong female character mixed in (and no, she’s nothing like Irani Adler), then ya gotta try this one.

4. The Little Stranger by Sarah Water. I kinda have a love/hate relationship with this book. It’s not scary, but it is.  And uncomfortable sometimes. And curious. And because it’s a book, it’s fiction, you think yeah, well, maybe everything will work out.  Ha.

5. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.  Just sit down and read it. The writing is great, balanced. Not too this nor too that. The story borders on myth but not like fantasy or anything. The story never lets up. Something on every page will make the reader sigh. Yeah, this doesn’t tell you anything. Just read it.

 6. Crossing to Safety– Wallace Stegner. Don’t know what took me so long to get to this book. I love it. I might not read it again, but I might. Everything about it was right, from the setting, the culture, the people and the story (ok, ’til the end, but honestly, what did I think was going to happen?), from the language and familiarity with some of the settings,  to its themes, it was a great book. It will always be a great book. I still muddle over the title and the story and the many meanings in the former relating to the latter.

 7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I danced around this one for ages. Then an author I met at a reading mentioned See as one of her favorite writers. And Lisa D also spoke highly of the See books. Then Snarl gave it to me for my birthday. I always take his gifts so seriously, honor them knowing he thought about choosing them and then searched it out. So the book was a surprise, a pleasant one (tho’the story is full of things that are tough to take not being familiar with Chinese culture at the time it covers, nor even now, come to think of it.) Anyway, if you love reading stories for character and a glimmer of cultural insight, this one is a must.

8. The Flight of  Gemma Hardy – Jane Eyre meets Cinderella. But I read it and it wasn’t half bad. And I”m putting it on this list so you’ll know that I try to read currently current stuff, too!

9. Bond Girl – forgot author’s name but she’ll be back. She wrote a good book and I liked it. Bright, chirpy and set in NYC finance world, it’s hip and entertaining.

10. The Book Thief – Yeah, I was late to the party on reading this one, but after all, even when I thought I didn’t like it cuz I just didn’t like the narrator, it was  a fabulous book, for its ending as well as every one of its pages prior to the ending.

11. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani – I LOVED it. Long, descriptive, plenty of good characters, turn-of-the-century time period, set in Italy and NYC. The plotsweave in and out, rather idealistically, to dish up a really good story which was right up my alley tho’ likely not for everyone.

12. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.  I don’t remember when I became a Nora follower/admirer/respector. Maybe it was after “when Harry met….” or maybe it was after I read her “Crazy Salad Days” or maybe it was after I saw a film clip of her praising Meryl Streep. I dunno. I miss her, that’s all. And this book was her goodbye. I didn’t realize ’til I was finishing it. It is a great little book, with humor and insight and stuff about writing and writers and NYC…I’m so glad to have it on my shelf rather than a library lend. Highly recommended.

I read 34 books this year – doesn’t it make you wonder about the other 22 not listed here? The complete list ranges from lite lit to writers-to-learn from and stuff in between.

Here’s to books and here’s to a fine if not fabulous New Year!

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§ 21 Responses to All over the place…

  • Oh this was fun for me to read! I have not read many of these books so I better hop over to good reads and add them to my list. I just added a different Binchy book to my TBR list, though. I haven’t read any books by her, so am looking forward to checking her out! You did a great job describing the Night Circus. And I know what you mean about not broadly recommending it to people as I know it fell flat for some, but it sure sparkled for me (and for Nora, too, I think!).

    So many books, so little time! I am starting off the new year by reading a classic (Little Women). Then I am going to read The Bonfire of the Vanities because my boyfriend keeps raving about it and swears I will love it and I have honestly never dated a guy who a) read and b) recommends books to me, so I am anxious to see if he is spot on with his recommendation (but won’t judge if he won’t). And then I requested 2 books by John Green who is actually a YA author who is so talented (seriously, read The Fault in Our Stars).

    Alright, I am rambling. Oh how I wish I could be talking about these books in person with you and Nor over a cup of your fresh brewed coffee. 🙂 Happy New Year to you and “Michael”!

    • oh says:

      ok, yes, that does it. Just come back to STL for a few days. We’ll do coffee and books (and wine) and move around from my house to Nor’s to B&N to Left Bank Books to Shaw’s Coffee House on The Hill and Bissinger’s in the Central WEst End. Wouldn’t that be great, to have a book meet-up? Would LOVE to hear about your reading and pump up my reading range (which has fallen off a bit in terms of reading matter – a lot of biz stuff – and then, to contrast, women’s lit!) Will try to be a better blogger going forward. And Happy New Year to you! (will give Michael your best wishes from your comment above!) 🙂

  • Bella Rum says:

    I do love a list. Thanks, and YES to a fine if not fabulous New Year!

  • shoreacres says:

    I love ad hilarium! Of course I’m familiar with ad nauseum, which is unbelievably useful, but now I have something for more pleasant times!

    The Night Circus? Two battling illusionists? Oh, my. Why am I suddenly thinking of Washington, DC and the good Mssrs. Biden and Boehner? Oh, my. When it comes to creating and maintaining illusion… Oh, well. Never mind. 😉 I daresay the book would be far more entertaining than that “other” circus!

    I enjoyed all the entries in the list. Here’s to another year of fabulous reading and writing!

  • Typehype says:

    I have just put “The Little Stranger” on my wish list. I went over to Amazon and read the first few pages. Thanks for the recommendation! I’m also a Nora Ephron fan. I first became acquainted with her writing in her book, “Heartburn.” She was a unique talent and brought me a lot of joy over the years. I will miss her, too.

    • oh says:

      I would gladly send you my copy but it’s on my Nook…if you have one, I could if it’s a “lend”…actually, though, because of the nature of the story, it might be more “gripping” to read the actual book (rather than e-reader) and get that connection that comes from reading print and turning a page (can’t beat it).

      • Typehype says:

        Thanks for offering to share your ebook with me. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Nook, but do read books on my iPhone (I have a Kindle app and also iBooks). I know, sounds weird, reading on the phone, but it’s just so convenient on the commute (one-handed reading while squashed in on the train).

  • Corri says:

    A happy new year to you and lots more reading in 2013. I’m falling behind (badly) but although I’m not blogging much about the books I read, I do manage some. You’ve got an interesting list there, of which I have only read two! Happy reading.

  • Carrie says:

    Love getting good lists like this!

    • oh says:

      Nice to have “variety”that lists offer but honestly one or two of the books on this one will make you say “really? she liked it?” But you may find a mutual winner!

  • Interesting list, I loved the Book Thief and thoroughly enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, not read any of the others, perhaps I should put them on my list?

    • oh says:

      hmmmm…what from that list would I recommend for you…BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE if you like Sherlock stuff, BOYS LIFE for a flavor of growing up southern in US and FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY which you will decide in first 20 pages if you’ll continue…maybe THE LITTLE STRANGER if you’re up for something with a wee ghost in it…

  • litlove says:

    I just love the Best Of lists! I’m a huge fan of Crossing to Safety and am determined to read more Stegner in 2013. And The Little Stranger featured on my list, too. Sarah Waters is such a clever and accomplished writer. I have also read and loved Nora Ephron, if not that exact same book – her loss was such a shame. Here’s to a wonderful reading year for you in 2013, Oh! May it be full of enlightening and comforting treasures.

    • oh says:

      That’s right! I remember you mentioning Stegner…may be what drove me to that book…read it on my Nook but wish it were on my shelf, you know, for marking favorite passages, etc. I have a very small book of his on writing…it’s excellent…will have to dig out the title for you….

  • Good list — it inspires me to check these titles out! I must make more time to read! (And write and draw and paint…) I have enjoyed the Beekeeper’s Apprentice greatly and anything by Nora rocks, including this one! Best of lists always inspire and motivate me. Thanks for sharing yours!

  • Great list!! Definitely agree with The Night Circus and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Both are wonderful reads! I had mixed feelings about The Book Thief, but you summed it up in your thoughts! The ending was worth it!! I need to add a lot of the other books to my list of books to read. I’ve been eyeing a couple for a while now!

    Wishing you the best of everything in 2013! 🙂

  • Aussie Emjay says:

    It’s always so interesting to see what books people are reading. Now that more Kindles/e-readers are riding the trains I miss seeing book covers.

    • oh says:

      agreed! what a difference, eh? and it’s rather difficult to twist one’s neck and peer at the text they looking at and presume to know the book…

  • Oooo I just bought Night Circus, so now I’m really excited to start reading it 🙂

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