Sarahbird's 2013 Reads
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Hello, world! My name is Sarah and I'm here to track the books I read in 2013. I anticipate that I will hit the 75 mark, and I'm planning to post a one-sentence summary of my thoughts about each book.
About me: I'm a teen librarian in a public library, so I read lots of YA fiction so that I can review it for work and recommend it to my teens. Outside of YA, my taste runs to contemporary literary fiction, popular nonfiction on a variety of topics, and the occasional classic. My guilty pleasure reading is essays about food and cooking (see Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant) and dating self-help books.
1.) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - Loved it loved it loved it. Like a more serious version of a Philippa Gregory novel. Now I can't decide if I should get Bring up the Bodies now, or if I should wait a few weeks for this one to sink in.
2.) The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson - Such a fascinating and compulsively readable book - my favorite kind of nonfiction. I immediately passed copies on to my two sisters and they both loved it. I'm waiting on pins and needles for Lost at Sea to come in at the library.
3.) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - Such a fun story, and I loved the creepy-cool photographs. Definitely a step up from a lot of YA fiction that I read. This one has also been super popular with the teens at my library.
4.) Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan - It took me a few chapters to get into this one because of all the British-isms (I'm still not sure what the difference is between MI5 and MI6), but I ended up really enjoying the story - possibly because, as a woman in my 20's, I did relate quite a bit to the main character.
5.) A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway - I really enjoyed these little slice-of-life sketches of Paris in the 1920s. This book also made me want to eat oysters.
6.) The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington - Fairly typical YA lit, teen paranormal romance/murder mystery.
Overall this has been a pretty great start to the year!
Welcome! I read The Men Who Stare at Goats a bit ago and really enjoyed it. The Pyschopath Test has been on my list, but haven't gotten to it yet. Glad you liked it!
>3 drneutron: I'll have to add that one to my reading list!
7.) If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley - Full of lots of interesting facts (the origin of the phrase 'sleep tight'! the invention of the toilet! I'm really fun at parties). I did feel like the writing was a little disjointed at times, but I enjoyed it.
8.) How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - Tina Fey + Chelsea Handler + feminist theory. Completely hilarious and so true - I fell in love with this book the moment Moran said that women are spending money on Brazilian waxes that they should be spending on cheese and berets.
9.) Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - Really well-written YA fantasy. Plus dragons!
10.) The Doll: the lost short stories by Daphne du Maurier - Rebecca is my favorite book, so I was really excited to read this short story collection. A little bit uneven, but the stories really showed du Maurier's ability to capture people's inner feelings and create a spooky atmosphere. I especially enjoyed 'A Difference in Temperament' and 'The Limpet'.
11.) Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu - Interesting collection of humorous stories that had a definite sci-fi/speculative slant. The first story, 'Standard Loneliness Package', was my favorite.
12.) American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar - Great story. My coworker chose this one for one of our library book clubs, and I'm so glad she did because I probably never would have read it otherwise.
13.) Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz - This was a very quirky, strange but enjoyable YA read. I knew I wanted to read it as soon as I read that the author had been calling it her "magic gay fish" book.
14.) The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - I liked this one. It was an entertaining mystery about a woman who had hidden her past from her children with a twist at the end that I did not see coming (I am the WORST at predicting surprise endings).
15.) The New Kids: big dreams and brave journeys at a high school for immigrant teens by Brook Hauser - Really fascinating nonfiction chronicling the lives of high school students who are also recent immigrants and their teachers. Highly recommended.
16.) All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin - Slightly nasty YA fiction about a girl with an eating disorder and her younger sister, a pathological liar whose love for her sister is tangled up with a fierce craving for her older sister's popularity.
17.) Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge - Retellings of classic fairytales in poems and short prose pieces. An interesting collection, with some pieces that were more successful than others. There was a definite kinky/sexual vibe that ran through the stories, which was a bit strange to me considering that the book is aimed towards teens.
18.) Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson - This book was so great. It took me forever to read it, because I kept taking breaks because I didn't want it to end. With most essay collections, there are some hits and misses, but this book was all hits from beginning to end. Loved it.
19.) Hysteria by Megan Miranda - Interesting YA suspense about a girl who kills her boyfriend and then must unravel her own repressed memories to figure out why.
20.) Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - Well-crafted novel about a young woman living in 1930's Manhattan. The story was interesting but the tone seemed somewhat cold to me. I would have liked to know more about the narrator's feelings about the events that were taking place, but nevertheless I enjoyed the book.
21.) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - Amazing, of course. I've been meaning to read this book forever and now I wish I'd read it sooner.
22.) The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - I flew through this book in a day because I loved the writing style and I was so intrigued by the story. The ending threw me for a loop, but I've been pondering it and come to an understanding that I'm happy with. The style of the book reminded me a bit of The Stone Diaries.
23.) Data, a love story by Amy Webb - These kind of books are my weakness. I found her writing style entertaining and I was amused by this book, even though the "data analysis" she uses is completely non-scientific, and her conclusions are already completely obvious to most people (basically that when creating an online dating profile, you should use flattering photos of yourself and sound upbeat).
24.) Beta by Rachel Cohn - YA sci-fi/dystopia story about clones. I enjoyed the beginning of this book, but the end was a mess of insta-love and unnecessary plot twists, plus an anti-choice slant that I really wasn't feeling.
25.) Falling for Me by Anna David - I read this book mostly because I'm obsessed with Sex & the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. This book was a lighthearted account of a modern woman attempting to live by Brown's 1960s rules for a year. Fun but forgetable.
26.) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - SUCH a cute book. YA story about two teenage misfits falling in love in 1986 Omaha. There are mix tapes involved. MIX TAPES, people!
Hi sarahbird, hope you don't mind my popping in to say hello and "thanks!" for putting Teeth on my wish list. It sounds unusual and just my kind of story. :)
>15 UnrulySun: Great to hear! I read a lot of YA fiction and a lot of it is very similar, so I love finding stories that are really unique.
29.) Ask the Passengers by A.S. King - Heartfelt YA fiction about a girl coming out in a small town who learns to be true to herself amid gossip and small-mindedness.
30.) Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell - I didn't like this one as much as I wanted to. The stories all had this amazing setup that seemed to go nowhere. Disappointing.
31.) The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett - Paranormal YA mystery. Main character is a teen girl who is a Nightmare (breaks into people's houses and enters their dreams to feed on their subconscious). Interesting premise, disappointing story.
32.) Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss - Informative expose on the techniques used by the processed food industry to hook consumers. Did you know companies can actually engineer junk food that makes you hungrier as you eat it? Eye opening.
33.) Fuse by Julianna Baggott - Somehow I think I like the idea of this series more than I like the actual books. The concept is really interesting and the books are well-written, but I kind of had to drag myself through this one.
34.) What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang - Interesting concept, terrible execution. I need to read some good YA lit, my last few have not been great.
35.) Heat by Bill Buford - I enjoyed the look at Italian food, cooking, and butchery, but my main takeaway from this book is that I really do not like Mario Batali. Asking a waitress if she'll take her top of for dessert? Ick.
36.) The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison - This book was heartbreaking in several different ways, but had quite a bit of humor too. Another book club pick - I really enjoyed it.
37.) Tenth of December by George Saunders - Absolutely amazing short story collection. My two favorites were 'Escape from Spiderhead' and 'The Semplica Girl Diaries".
38.) Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide - I picked this one up because I just started watching Downton Abbey. Fictional story about a large estate in England from 1775 to the present. Each chapter skips ahead 20 years or so and gives a brief vignette about a member of the family or one of their servants. The chapters tied together nicely, which gave it a feeling of continuity and realism. Enjoyable.
39.) Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close - Oh man, I read this whole book in an afternoon. I enjoyed it a lot, but that may be because I am in my mid-twenties and saw a lot of parallels between my life and the lives of the main characters.
40.) Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers - LOVED this one. Excellent excellent excellent YA historical fiction/fantasy. The premise involves a convent of assassin nuns in 15th century Brittany, which sounds kind of silly but the book is amazing.
43.) Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor - Great book, I'm really loving this series and I'm looking forward to book 3. Non-cheesy YA paranormal romance.
44.) Team Human by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan - Really fun YA humorous vampire story. Basically what Twilight would be if it was written from the perspective of Bella's rational best friend - someone who would say to her, "Are you on crack?? He's 200 years old and creepy."
Hi Sarah! Your review of Team Human made me laugh. :D I have Days of Blood and Starlight on my kindle to read soon. I enjoyed the first one, especially the first half of the first one. Is book 2 split in half like that as well?
>23 UnrulySun: I think that there were 2 or possibly 3 different sections of Days of Blood and Starlight, but it wasn't a dramatic shift like the first book.
45.) If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Well-written YA, super sad story.
46.) Gulp by Mary Roach - So much fun, just like all of Roach's books. The only problem is that reading when I was reading it, I was learning all of these fun facts about the digestive system that no one else wanted to hear about. :(
47.) The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories ed. by Joseph Gordon-Levitt - I almost feel guilty for putting this on my list because it's so short. A collection of tiny stories, each just a few words long, accompanied by quirky illustrations. Very cute.
48.) The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman - Huh. This book was very interesting, the story meandered all over and didn't make much sense in places, but I just meandered with it and I ended up enjoying it. Took me forever to get through though - I never felt compelled to keep reading like I do with most books.
49.) Snapper by Brian Kimberling - Hmmm. I had high hopes for this one, but it was just OK for me. It was fine, I can't point at anything wrong with it, but it just didn't make much of an impact on me.
Also, as a librarian and former library and information science student, one quote from this book really bothered me. A character explains why he decided to leave a library science master's program by saying: "One of the professors called the phone book a database with limited search functionality the other day. With a straight face. That's when I decided to take a break." But...but...that's exactly what a phone book is!
50.) Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg - Interesting take on the typical "boy comes out of the closet" YA story. This one was "boy comes out of the closet, then decides to go back in, then realizes that was a really bad idea".
51.) Requiem by Lauren Oliver - I actually started this book back in April, but managed to misplace it for 2 1/2 months when I was about halfway through. Above-average YA dystopian fiction, but I think that break in the middle made me enjoy this story less than I would have otherwise. I'll probably continue the series anyway.
52.) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - This book got great review, so it must have just been me, but I can't remember the last time I was so bored by a book. The writing was nice, but nothing happens.
53.) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - Oh man, this book really ripped my heart out and stomped on it. I can't remember the last time a book actually made me cry.
54.) The Archived - Original, well-written YA fiction. And it has badass librarians, which I always appreciate.
55.) The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - I enjoyed several of the different threads of this story, but they never really came together in a way that worked for me. I read this for the book discussion that I help moderate, and our conversation made me appreciate it more than I did when I initially finished it.
56.) Z by Therese Anne Fowler - Engaging & entertaining novelization of the life of Zelda Fitzgerald. I enjoyed this quite a bit.
57.) The Radleys by Matt Haig - Hmm. This one was OK, but I read it two weeks ago and I barely remember it, so I guess that says it all.
58.) Cooked by Michael Pollan - Amazing book, I love everything by Pollan. This one was pretty dense compared to his earlier books, so it took me a while to get through, but I enjoyed it.
59.) The Morels by Christopher Hacker - I wasn't expecting much from this one, because the reviews haven't been great, but I was pleasantly surprised. A very interesting and unique story, once you get past the more shocking aspects.
60.) The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan - Listened to this one as an audiobook. I liked it a lot, the characters and situations felt very real to me.
61.) Graceling by Kristin Cashore - Great YA fiction with a strong female protagonist. Really enjoyed this one, definitely going to look for the next 2 in the series.
Ohh, I liked The Radleys!
I picked up The Archived on ebook recently. Good to hear you liked it. :)
63.) The Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger - Odd and eerie little fairy tale.
64.) Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick - I really enjoyed this one. Dark and disturbing but ultimately hopeful, and so well-written.
I've also been slogging my way through The Accursed. I'm about 400 pages in, and I think I'm going to give up.
65.) The House Girl by Tara Conklin - Listened to this one as an audiobook. To be honest, I wasn't crazy about it. The story of Josephine, a house slave in the 1800s, was interesting, but I had problems with the other half of the book, in which a contemporary woman named Lena researches Josephine's life as part of a reparations lawsuit. There were a number of unlikely coincidences that irritated me.
66.) Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick - This was another book club selection. I really loved it at first, but the ending didn't work for me.
67.) Transatlantic by Colum McCann - Lovely and lyrical. I really enjoyed seeing how all of the threads of the different stories came together.
68.) Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kate Rosenfield - Eh. YA suspense about a girl who is murdered in a small town. The flashbacks from the point of view of the dead girl were interesting, but the protagonist's story didn't hold my attention.
69.) Getting Things Done by David Allen - I am on a constant quest to be more organized, so I really enjoyed this one. It was a pretty dry and fairly repetitive, but if you're interested in getting all of the projects in your life organized this is a good place to start.
70.) The World of the End by Ofir Touche Gafla - Pretty sure this is the first book I've ever read by an Israeli author. A strange but enjoyable mishmash of science fiction, philosophy, and satire. Great worldbuilding. Almost like a mix of Ursula K. Le Guin and of Jasper Fforde.
71.) Panic by Sharon Draper - Yikes. An "issues" YA book involving abduction, sexual abuse, eating disorders, abusive relationships, and sexting. It's like the author just threw together a bunch of Lifetime movies and added cheesy "teen" dialogue like - "We gotta hit up the food court! I'm cravin a slice." This book was published in 2013 - does the author really think that's how teens talk??
72.) Blue Plate Special by Kate Christensen - I thought this was going to be more of a foodie memoir, but it seemed to touch on food only tangentially. I really enjoyed reading about the author's odd hippie childhood, but she seemed to be a little bit selfish and immature as an adult. Still, an enjoyable account of a rather unusual life.
Also, really LibraryThing, no touchstones for either of these books? Ok then.
73.) Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris - Another audiobook. I enjoyed this story - maybe not groundbreaking literature, but it made my commute more pleasant.
74.) The Loop by Shandy Lawson - Quick fun action-adventure YA story. Well-written and fast paced, would be great for reluctant readers.
75.) Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant - Loved it. Historical fiction about the Borgias. Probably falls somewhere between Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel on the literary scale. The ending is set up for a sequel, which I would definitely read.
76.) Saved: how I quit worrying about money and became the richest guy in the world by Ben Hewitt - Interesting. Ideologically, the author and I have a lot of common ground, such as living a frugal lifestyle, separating yourself from the consumerist society we live in, etc. However, I was bothered by a few of his points. He is not saving any money for retirement, saying that he doesn't want to accumulate any more money than what will cover his family's immediate needs. This strikes me as tempting fate. He also implies that he and his family, which includes two young children, does not have health insurance. That is just irresponsible. He claims that eating healthy foods and exercising is their insurance policy. That may prevent some diseases, but certainly not all of them, and he doesn't seem to fully understand the ways in which a medical emergency could devastate his family.
77.) We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - Listened to this one on audiobook. The story was very original and I enjoyed it, but the plot started to drag for me towards the end.
78.) Turn Around Bright Eyes by Rob Sheffield - This was a fun book, although it did get a little repetitive (there's only so much you can say about karaoke). I missed about 95% of the references, since I know nothing about music, but I still enjoyed it.
79.) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Just a great imaginative kid's book. Loved the descriptions of the different graveyard inhabitants.
80.) You by Charles Benoit - YA fiction written in second person, which is unusual. Suspenseful and fairly enjoyable but perhaps not that memorable.
81.) I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman - Always enjoy Klosterman's essays.
82.) The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau - Eh, I kind of felt like this was a second-rate Hunger Games. The characters are flat, and the romance doesn't really develop at all - it's just there. Plus, there was one part of the book that I just couldn't get over. There is an explosion, and the main character's love interest ends up with a puncture wound that is described as being over an inch in diameter and at least three inches deep in his, uh, backside. When she tells him that she's going to need to remove his pants to treat the wound, he gives her a smile that is "wicked and more than a little sexy". I'm sorry, but with an injury described as "a mangled mess of blood and tissue", the last thing you're going to be doing is giving your crush sexy smiles. I mean, come on.
Hi Sarah, it looks like you are reading some good stuff. I added Moran's How to Be a Woman to my wishlist!
Wow, I missed your passing of the 75! Congrats! Looks like you're on track to break 100 this year. :)
83.) Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - I picked this one up because I really enjoyed Gone Girl. The writing was great, especially those first two lines ("I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it."), but the story was a little bit too unrelentingly dark, and the explanation of what really happened that night at the farmhouse seemed overly coincidental to me.
84.) The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Just great. An original take on the vampire genre, which is hard to do. If you're at all a YA reader, I'd recommend picking this one up.
85.) The Flamethrowers - Huh. Read this for book club. It reminded me a lot of The Teleportation Accident. Similar disjointed, meandering style, where sort of a lot happens and nothing happens all at once.
86.) A Game of Thrones - Listened to this one as an audiobook narrated by Roy Dotrice, which was excellent. The audiobook is over 30 hours long, and it made my commute much more enjoyable for a few weeks!
89.) The Crystal Shard - My boyfriend and I are trying a new thing where we read a book together, and this was his first selection. Definitely not what I would usually go for, but I didn't hate it.
90.) Crazy Rich Asians - More chick-litish that I was expecting, based the the book's Kirkus review. It was an entertaining story and I was drawn in by the strong characterizations, but the constant label-dropping and descriptions of outlandish excess had me rolling my eyes on occasion. Listened to the audiobook.
91.) Lookaway, Lookaway - This was funny and well-written, but the ending was pretty depressing.
94.) On the Noodle Road - Read this one a few pages at a time over the last few months. I really enjoyed the author's writing about food and was interested in her descriptions of some of the countries she traveled through, especially Central Asia and Iran. However, I thought that the portions of the book that focused on the author's marriage were unnecessary.
95.) The Help - Listened to this one as an audiobook. I never found time to read it when it was so huge a few years ago, so I decided better late than never. It was an interesting story, and the readers really brought it to life. The characters were beautifully drawn and the sense of place felt authentic.
I've wondered how On the Noodle Road is. Glad to see a review. I think I'd be most interested in the travel and food sections as well.
52: My review of On the Noodle Road was similar when I got it from LT's ER. I admit I skimmed through her personal life all throughout the book.
53 & 54: I totally agree. The parts about cooking and food were really interesting, and I really liked reading about the different countries she was traveling through. But the parts about where she and her husband were going to live/what they were going to do with their lives, and her reflections about how she was struggling to accept her identity as someone's wife were kind of tedious.
96.) Allegiant - WHY VERONICA ROTH WHYYYY??? In all seriousness though, I thought this was a flawed but mostly enjoyable ending to the trilogy. Really though, I was hoping for a happier ending.
57: Reading twins! I loooove Rainbow Rowell, I just picked up Attachments from the library. I'm super excited to read it. Flamethrowers did have great writing, but it didn't seem to go anywhere.
97.) The Yellow Birds - Read this one for book club. Difficult to read at times, because the subject matter and raw emotion were sometimes painful, but definitely an important book.
98.) Subtle Bodies - Really great character development. Some of the references went over my head and I wish the ending had answered more questions, but I enjoyed it.
58: I am excited to see what you think of Attachments. I haven't read it, but after Fangirl I'm ready to read everything by her.
I bought The Yellow Birds for the library I work at because we are on a military installation, but I sometimes think our active duty guys avoid books like this because it hits too close to home.
59: I could definitely see how that could be true. I don't have any connection to the military, but I still found the book a very emotional read.
99.) Instructions for a Heatwave - Maybe it's just me, but I found this book incredibly boring. I listened to the entire audiobook because it was fairly short, but I never managed to care about anything that was happening.
100.) Two Boys Kissing - Great, love love loved. Absolutely beautiful writing, and the story made me cry.
101.) Tipping the Velvet - Solid historical fiction. I have to say that this one didn't wow me as much as Fingersmith did, but I still liked it a lot.
102.) The Spectacular Now - I liked this one. It's written from a male perspective and has no supernatural elements, which can be hard to find in a YA book. The protagonist is kind of a charming screwup, and even though the conclusion of the story isn't the most satisfying, I can see a lot of teens enjoying it.
103.) Happier at Home - Eh, this was sort of thin. I enjoyed her earlier book, although I remember thinking at the time that it might have worked better as a magazine article. In this one it seemed like she was really stretching to find something to say. Plus, I found her writing style clunky, I thought she seemed somewhat neurotic and insufferable, and her husband seemed like a jerk.
104.) Attachments - A sweet, solid rom-com of a book. I liked this one a lot, but I think Rainbow Rowell has really found her niche with YA fiction.
105.) Truly, Madly, Deadly - YA thriller about a girl whose abusive boyfriend is murdered by a stalker. The writing isn't great and the plot is borderline ridiculous, but I could see teens being into it.
106.) Longbourn - I liked this one. It definitely doesn't have the wit of the original P & P, but the plot was interesting and I liked seeing a familiar story from a different viewpoint.
107.) The Interestings - I listened to this one as an audiobook, and I really enjoyed it. Jules, Dennis, Ash and Ethan all felt very real to me, and I enjoyed watching what happened to them during the 40-odd years this book covered. I have a feeling these characters will stick in my mind for a while.
108.) Hyperbole and a Half - I love Allie's blog, so I liked this book a lot. Most of the best pieces were things I'd already read on the blog, but I liked reading them again so I didn't mind.
109.) Etiquette and Espionage - So much fun. Steampunk YA about a girl at a Victorian finishing school for assassins.
110.) The Rosie Project - Super cute. This is basically a rom-com in book form, but it's funny and well-written, and I really enjoyed it.
111.) Will Grayson, Will Grayson - Hmm, from John Green and David Levithan I was expecting a little bit more from this one. Not bad, but not amazing for me.
112.) Sutton - Listened to this one as an audiobook. The reader was great, the story was fascinating but fairly bleak.
113.) Provence, 1970 - Lovely non-fiction about some of the food greats (Julia Child, James Beard, etc) gathering in France in 1970, and the repercussions of their interactions. I love Julia Child and M.F.K Fisher, so I found this one interesting.
116.) Lovely, Dark and Deep - Beautifully written but somewhat slow-moving YA story about a girl dealing with grief. I always appreciate really good writing in a YA book, I feel like some writers use the intended age group of their readers as an excuse to be sloppy or lazy.
117.) Ten Things I've Learnt About Love - The more I reflect on this book the more I like it. Really interesting story that also deals elegantly with themes of love, family, grief, and beauty.
Well it looks like that wraps up 2013! 2014 reads, here I come!
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