Monthly Archives: December 2012

Lara’s Top Picks of 2012

It’s that time of year, which means The New York Times has released its 100 Notable Books of 2012 list. So I figured it’s time for me to post my top picks of 2012.

I said this last year, and I’ll say it again; I tend to be a bit behind in reading big bestsellers. I usually keep track of all the books I want to read, and just kind of…get around to reading them when I can. That being said, this is a list of the best books I read this year, not the best books that came out this year. For instance, last year my number one pick for the year was Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.

So, enjoy my list of the best 10 books I read this year, and keep reading on for the complete list of books I read in 2012.

10. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The sexy book that took the world by storm, Fifty Shades is most certainly not well-written, nor is it particularly original. (It did begin as Twilight fan fiction after all.) But all that dirty loving between a young girl and a rich, older man made women unashamed to bask in the glory of sex. That’s quite an accomplishment for a silly old book. Get it now.

9. Bossypants by Tina Fey. We all know Tina Fey for her role on 30 Rock, her performances on SNL, and her comedic writing of Mean Girls. But until she released her bestselling memoir Bossypants, the world never knew quite so much about her, and as it turns out, she’s just as funny in real life as she is on TV. Get it now.

8. Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m. by Sam Wasson. This nonfiction look into the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s not only explicitly explains the behind-the-scenes drama of the old-time classic, but it also details the troubles and talents of Audrey Hepburn, and how this one huge role in cinematic history changed women forever. Get it now.

7. A Mother’s Song by Michael Finaghty. A journey around the world, a journey to find yourself, and a journey to find peace, love and happiness, A Mother’s Song tells the beautiful story of an Australian adopted girl on the quest to locate her birth mother and follow her dreams. This is a story about relationships and deep bonds that last. Get it now for just $1.99.

6. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. This is a bestselling tale of one girl and the two boys she meets and falls in love with — in different ways — in college. Despite the title, however, this is not a love story. It’s a coming-of-age novel about college and the post-grad years, mixed in with sometimes annoying, but mostly powerful and important nods to literary classics. Get it now.

5. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, but people not directly affected by it may not realize how much Alzheimer’s can impact an entire family. Still Alice portrays a fictional, but very realistic story about a woman diagnosed at the ripe age of 50 — a devastating diagnosis for her grown children, her husband, and her career. Get it now.

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s an American classic, with good reason. Jay Gatsby is a man who’s financially wealthy but romantically poor. He throws lavish parties at his Long Island estate in the 1920’s, but when he briefly wins back his former love, Daisy, relationships unravel and things get out of hand — a sign that it almost always comes down to love or money. Get it now.

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Another huge bestseller that soared this year, this is a haunting tale about a couple who’s marriage has gone sour, and ends in murder. Nick’s wife, Amy, has disappeared, leaving a small Southern town to basically convict Nick of murder. A stunning twist midway through the book suddenly makes the story deeply disturbing, as if it weren’t already. Get it now.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Any love story involves two people playing games, but you’ve seen nothing until you’ve read bestseller The Night Circus. Two magicians, Celia and Marco, are raised to fight each other in an ongoing magic war, but love casts another spell on these two, and they must figure out a way to play for survival. Get it now.

1. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. The newspaper industry is a dying one, but the people who work for this international newspaper are very much alive — alive with stories of love, sadness, and crushed dreams. The Imperfectionists intertwines the stories of 10 different employees — and a reader — at an European-based newspaper. In each chapter, we read about another employee but the overarching story is about the paper — a powerful statement on the current state of journalism and society. Get it now.

And alas, here’s the complete list of books I read in 2012.

The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman

Room – Emma Donaghue

The Tiger’s Wife – Tea Obreht

Nights in Rodanthe – Nicholas Sparks

The Hunger But Mainly Death Games – John Bailey Owen

Sing You Home – Jodi Picoult
The Reader – Bernhard Schlink

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

The Long Hello – Cathie Borrie

Looking Into Your Voice – Cathie Borrie

The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho

A Mother’s Song – Michael Finaghty

The Eclipse of Mrs. Moon – Virginia Galfo

Memoirs of Normalcy – Joleene DesRosiers Moody

Reservation Road – John Burnham Schwartz

Bossypants – Tina Fey

Tribes of Time – Jaymes E. Terry

Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – Lisa See

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

Fifty Shades Darker – E.L. James

A Horrible Man – Leonie Wallace

The Last Song – Nicholas Sparks

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Perfect Skin – Nick Earls

Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom

Deuce Delaney – Michael Murray

Fifty Shades Freed – E.L. James

My Story My Song – Luciminaria Roberts

The Night Circus – Erin Morganstern

The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

The Boy in the Suitcase – Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Still Alice – Lisa Genova

Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.: Audrey Hepburn, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and the Dawn of the Modern Woman – Sam Wasson

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

How to Rule the World – Jade Heasley

The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach

Beyond Parallel – Matthew Turner


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Good Stuff Coming Soon…

Sorry I’ve been so MIA in the blogosphere as of late! As you know, the end of the year is a busy time. That being said, I’m working on my big year-end “Top Picks List” for 2012, which will go live tomorrow night at 8pm. Stay tuned for quick reviews of some of the best books I’ve read this year, along with my complete list of books read in 2012.

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Amazon Deleting Book Reviews from Other Authors

Just a few months ago, I told you about an author who was caught writing fake reviews on Amazon. His posts were taken down after it turned out that his reviews of other authors’ books were negative, while reviews of his own books were positive. As it turns out, he’s not the only one whose posts are being removed from Amazon.

According to L.A. Times, Amazon is now taking down any reviews writers post for other authors’ books. This was the explanation from Amazon sent to one writer via email:

We have removed your review from Karma Backlash. We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.

While some believe that removing the posts won’t harm the authors — after all, there are plenty of other people who continue to post reviews — many authors believe it’s unfair. After all, many of them don’t gain any kind of financial benefit to posting reviews for their friends or colleagues. Not to mention, many of these authors receive advance copies of their colleagues’ books to review. Since their reviews are posted before a book is even released to the public, their reviews can be particularly helpful to the average reader.

Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that authors wouldn’t be allowed to post reviews of other authors’ books. I understand that giving others public acknowledgment and publicity could lead to more success for them, but it still doesn’t seem fair not to be able to share an opinion, whether you write for a living or not.

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New David McCullough Book On the Way

Just because history happened in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a point to remember it, right? Well if you’re an aviation enthusiast and/or a history buff, you’re in luck.

According to The New York Times, acclaimed historian and bestselling author David McCullough is planning to write a new book about the “social and cultural implications of early aviation beginning with the Wright Brothers and ending with Lindbergh’s Paris landing, according to his longtime researcher, Michael Hill.” The book isn’t expected to be published for another three years or so.

In the past, McCullough has written biographies about former presidents Harry Truman and John Adams and was recently featured on 60 Minutes, where he discussed the research behind his work and some specific historical events.

Since I saw the 60 Minutes piece on him, I’ve been dying to read all of his books — even though I’m not the biggest history fan. But a whole book on aviation seems like a stretch to me. Thoughts?

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Old Truman Capote Story Found

An old, never-before-published Truman Capote story is now available for the first time. Capote died in 1984 at the age of 59, but three years after his death, Answered Prayers was published. It was made up of three excerpts that were originally published in Esquire in 1975 and 1976.

But according to The New York Times, Capote always talked of additional excerpts. Earlier this fall, one of those stories, “Yachts and Things,” was found among Capote’s papers in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library. It has since been published in Vanity Fair and online.

Without Capote alive to explain the story, editors and writers are left to analyze the newly discovered material, as John Williams explains.

In Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner writes that, “In [‘Yachts and Things’], the narrator is clearly Truman, and ‘Mrs. Williams’ is possibly The Washington Post’s publisher Katharine Graham.” Gerald Clarke, the author of “Capote: A Biography,” told the magazine that the story was “vintage Truman. ‘A new moon, skinny as a slice of lemon rind’ — you can’t beat that. The title, ‘Yachts and Things,’ is indeed the title of one of the chapters he planned for ‘Answered Prayers.’ But that chapter would have been much longer than six pages, and it would have moved the narrative in a way that this piece, which is entirely self-contained, does not.”

I always think it’s so interesting when “lost” material is newly “found.” I have to wonder: was it really just found or is it something the NYPL has been knowingly sitting on for years?

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Review: The Art of Fielding

Recap: When college baseball player Mike Schwartz travels to South Dakota for an off-season game before his sophomore year, he doesn’t expect to meet the person who will forever change his life. But then again, he’s never met a person as unknowingly talented as Henry Skrimshander. Henry is a shortstop for the opposing team, and he moves with such a grace and ease before which Mike has never seen. He recruits Henry and works his magic to get him accepted to Westish College, where Mike plays ball. The two strike up not only a friendship, but also a mentor-mentee relationship that helps make Henry a great baseball player, not just a potentially great baseball player.

In just three years’ time, Henry’s skills as shortstop surpass Mike’s as catcher. Just when he’s about to break a record for most errorless games, Henry makes his very first error — a throw so bad, it hits his fellow teammate and roommate, Owen, in the face. That one throw changes the course of Henry’s baseball career, leaving him unable to play well for the remainder of the season. But it also steers the direction of Owen’s social life and reverberates throughout the lives of Mike, the Westish College president Guert Affenlight, and the president’s daughter, Pella.

The five of them becomes inexplicably intertwined, joined together by love for each other, for Westish College, and their own personal ambitions.

Analysis: The beauty of this book is its element of surprise as well as its depth and complexity. When I started the book, I expected it to be a story about Henry Skrimshander’s rise to fame and fortune as a talented baseball player. Ultimately, that is the main plot of the book. But as I got deeper into the story, and characters like Pella and Affenlight were introduced, I began to realize it was about much more than that. The book is about finding oneself. Affenlight, who’s in his 60’s, finds himself truly in love with another person for the first time in his life. His daughter, Pella — who does not have a good relationship with her father — also learns what it means to be in both a bad relationship and an ideal one. Mike and Henry are the lost souls of the book — fumbling around until they, too, learn what’s best for them.

This is a book about growing up and learning that often times, there are limitations to your ambitions; it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth it to fight for your dreams, despite the holdups. Or maybe your dreams are never what you really wanted in the first place.

MVP: Mike Schwartz. Though lost — and a bit of a substance abuser — he makes complete 180, realizing that what he always wanted wasn’t necessarily what was right for him. In the end, he’s in the right place at the right time with the right people, leaving both readers and the characters satisfied.

Get The Art of Fielding in paperback for $10.19.

Or get it on your Kindle for $7.99.

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New Books from Gillian Flynn

Thanks to her huge success with this year’s bestseller Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn is now set to publish two more books — one adult and one young adult novel.

According to The New York Times, Crown Publishers will publish the adult novel, which will be her fifth. This comes after her huge year with Gone Girl as one of 2012’s biggest hits, besides the Fifty Shades books.

A fourth book is also in the works and expected to be published in 2015. No dates have been set for Flynn’s fifth novel or the YA novel. Publishers are also keeping mum on plot details, saying only that the adult book “will be in the tradition of her darkly brilliant and gripping previous books.”

I loved Gone Girl, and can’t wait to read more from Gillian Flynn. What say you?

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‘Hunger Games’ Author To Publish Children’s Book

If the upcoming Hunger Games movies aren’t enough Suzanne Collins for you, have no fear. The famed author of The Hunger Games series is releasing another book; but this one is a little different from the last three.

Year of the Jungle will be an autobiographical children’s picture book. According to Entertainment Weekly, however, the book will still have some similarities to The Hunger Games; or rather the main character will share some of the same qualities as Katniss Everdeen. The story will focus on a young girl dealing with the harshness of war. It’s about a girl named Suzy whose father is overseas, fighting in the Vietnam War. It’s a story that comes from Collins’ own childhood memories, as she explained in the press release for her book.

For several years I had this little wicker basket next to my writing chair with the postcards my dad had sent me from Vietnam and photos of that year. But I could never quite find a way into the story. It has elements that can be scary for the audience and it would be easy for the art to reinforce those.  It could be really beautiful art but still be off-putting to a kid, which would defeat the point of doing the book.

My guess is it’ll be tough to top sales and the popularity of The Hunger Games series, but it could be good. Thoughts?

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