This is it, people! The last installment of mini-reviews so I’m starting 2013 with a fresh slate. These will be super-short because I’m going to cram the last seven books into this post.Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult Why I Read It: Two words: Rhapsody Jill My Rating: 4 stars
A mystery, a coming-of-age story, a puzzle—Jellicoe Road is all of these things wrapped up in one book. When I started, I was completely lost and didn’t think I’d ever make sense of what was going on (Townies? Cadets? Territories? What was with that car crash at the start of the book?). But Jill told me no one understands Jellicoe Road when they start out, so I continued on and was rewarded with a richly layered novel that fits all the pieces together in a way that felt both satisfying and inevitable. If you’re looking for a sophisticated but exciting YA novel that would appeal to your more mature reader, this would be a great choice. It has romance, intrigue, mystery and more, all wrapped up in a lovely cover and beautifully writing.The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes
Genre: Fiction, Literary Why I Read It: This is another book I’d been hearing raves about forever so I had to try it.
My Rating: 3.5 stars
This may have been a case where I was expecting a different book than I got. I see why people enjoyed it (the writing is lovely and spare), but I got to the end and was like “What??? Did I read that right? Did he really think I was going to understand that equation?” Also, I didn’t get some of the motivations of the characters (specifically Veronica). In essence, this is a book about memory. Our narrator, Tony, tells us his life story, focusing on some events that happened to him in his 20s but come back to haunt him in his 60s. I was really enjoying the book (the suspense of what had really happened was getting to me) but when I got to the end, I was flummoxed. I immediately had to go on Google to make sure that I had read the book correctly (I had). I don’t know … it just didn’t work for me. I hate when I get to the end of the book and think I know what happened but am not really sure. (What the heck was that “horizontal gesture”?) Still, don’t let me turn you off of this book as many people just loved it. (Also, it won the 2011 Man Booker Prize.) Perhaps it was just too subtle for me.The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult Why I Read It: The premise was great! My Rating: 3 stars
The premise of the book is what hooked me—two teens living in 1996 discover a weird thing called Facebook, see their futures, and trying to change things up—but it just didn’t work for me. I thought the writing was nothing special, the plot was predictable, the characters weren’t fully developed and it just felt really “young.” Plus all the 1990s references felt out of place. (I doubt kids would describe their world that way.) I wanted to like this book (I really really did), but I ended up feeling just ho-hum about it. It definitely felt like a YA book that I was too old for. I’m assuming that Asher wrote the Josh chapters and Mackler wrote the Emma chapters, and I kind of like this idea but neither character ended up working for me better than the other.Lost At Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries written and read by Jon Ronson
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays Why I Read It: When Alyce described the book, it seemed like something I’d really like My Rating: 4 stars
Jon Ronson is a British journalist who has made a career of finding weird and crazy stories/people and writing about them in a heartfelt but snarky way. I found him very enjoyable, and I liked his somewhat subtle and sly sense of humor. The stories are just amazingly odd and intriguing (Robbie Williams and his obsession with UFOs, the hidden Christian message of Insane Clown Posse, the archives of Stanley Kubrick, the quest of the Jesus Christians to donate their kidneys, real-life superheroes). I never knew what Ronson would be writing about next, and it was fun to see what oddities he unearthed for each story. I particularly enjoyed how he inserted himself into the stories (whether he is flagging down a taxi to avoid a gun fight in Seattle or interviewing a robot). He brings a healthy sense of curiosity, skepticism and personality to his writing, which I enjoyed a great deal. If you like hearing about people who live on the fringes of “normal,” this would be a great read or listen. I definitely plan on reading more of Ronson’s stuff.One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary Why I Read It: I love Tropper and wanted to read his latest book My Rating: 4 stars
Nobody writes comedic tragedies quite like Jonathan Tropper. He gives his characters these horribly depressing situations to live through (in this book, aging rock star Silver has messed up his life and his relationship with his family and then gets the news that he could die at any second), but the books are so funny that I think of them as humorous books rather than sad ones. As Silver struggles to come to terms with his ex-wife’s remarriage, his teenage daughter’s pregnancy and the realities of his life and limited future, Tropper treads on ground that will simultaneously break your heart but make you snort out loud with laughter. I don’t quite know Tropper pulls off this balancing act but he does and I just love it.People Who Eat Darkness written by Richard Lloyd Perry and narrated by Simon Vance Genre: Non-Fiction, True Crime Why I Read It: Jackie raved about it and got me interested and I’ve been wanting to listen to a book by Simon Vance, who is Sandy’s voice crush My Rating: 4.5 stars
First off, I have to say that true crime books are not my thing. However, Jackie (who also isn’t a true crime person) made the book sound so good that I felt like I had to give it a go. The thing that really pushed me over the edge, though, was that Simon Vance narrated the book and I’ve heard about how great he is as a narrator. (And he is fabulous … I see the attraction.) As I listened about the account of the disappearance of 21-year-old Brit Lucie Blackman from the streets of Tokyo, I got caught up in the story just as Richard Lloyd Parry did. (Parry is the Asia Editor and Tokyo Bureau Chief for the London Times.) Aside from being a true crime book, it is also a glimpse into the culture and legal system of Japan, which was absolutely fascinating. The book also delves into how people grieve and react to violent crimes in different ways, and why families are often torn apart rather than brought together by such events. Parry does a brilliant job of weaving together a rather complex story in a way that was always interesting and informative. Even if true crime isn’t your thing, I still think you’d find much of interest in this well-written and riveting book. Consider it a crash course on Japanese culture, history and legal system if that makes you feel better.Moranthology by Caitlin Moran Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays, Humor Why I Read It: After reading Moran’s excellent How To Be A Woman, I snapped this collection of her columns from The Times My Rating: 4 stars
Let’s let my new BFF Caitlin Moran describe what this book is about for you:
In HOW TO BE A WOMAN, I was limited to a single topic: women. Their hair, their shoes and their crushes on Aslan from The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (which I KNOW to be universal). However! In my new book MORANTHOLOGY – as the title suggests – I am set free to tackle THE REST OF THE WORLD: Ghostbusters, Twitter, caffeine, panic attacks, Michael Jackson’s memorial service, being a middle-class marijuana addict, Doctor Who, binge-drinking, Downton Abbey, pandas, my own tragically early death, and my repeated failure to get anyone to adopt the nickname I have chosen for myself: ‘Puffin’. I go to a sex-club with Lady Gaga, cry on Paul McCartney’s guitar, get drunk with Kylie, appear on Richard & Judy as a gnome, climb into the TARDIS, sniff Sherlock Holmes’s pillows at 221b Baker Street, write Amy Winehouse’s obituary, turn up late to Downing Street for Gordon Brown, and am rudely snubbed at a garden party by David Cameron –although that’s probably because I called him ‘A C3PO made of ham’. Fair enough. And, in my spare time – between hangovers – I rant about the welfare state, library closures and poverty; like a shit Dickens or Orwell, but with tits.
I think that is enough to let you decide if this book is for you. It was for me. My only complaint is that she must be limited in how much she can write in her columns because I wanted MORE MORE MORE!
And that’s it … I’ve reviewed all 100 books I read in 2012! Yay for me!! Whew!