In no particular order….o.k. they are entirely in the order I like them…so here goes the best books I’ve read this year, according to, yes, me. If you don’t agree that’s cool, start your own damn blog. But really, I think you’ll like these books.

To read my full review see the posting for the month as noted.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (November)

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (October)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (December)

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman (August)

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson (July)

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (September)

Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich (September)

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (January)

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie (February)


December 2013

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
Teddi Overman actually does what I’d love to do. She owns a furniture store turning other people’s junk into beautifully restored antiques. But hellooo it’s a novel and things can’t be that perfect! Through-out the book Hoffman gives us snippets of Teddi’s childhood and the story of her brother – who disappeared. My only complaint is the book ended too abruptly. ♥♥♥

Wash by Margaret Wrinkle
In early 1800s Tennessee, slavery is everywhere. Washington, a young slave is set to work as a breeding sire. Wash, the first member of his family to be born into slavery, struggles to hold onto the memory of his African mother. This book could have easily been half the length and twice as interesting.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I couldn’t understand how Wild would be an interesting story, but I picked it up since it was getting a lot of press. At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed’s mother passes away. Not knowing how to hold her life together, she destroys her marriage and slips into drugs. Four years later, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California, Oregon up to Washington State -- alone. This is a true story, and being made into a movie as we speak. Great, great book. ♥♥♥♥

November 2013

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area and ends up taking young Henry under his wing. In my opinion this book had the potential to be great historical fiction but it fell flat again and again. However it won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction so what do I know?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Young Theo Decker miraculously survives a horrible accident that kills his mother. His father long gone, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He clings to the one thing that reminds him of his mother -- a small painting that he ‘borrows’ from the museum where the accident took place. After his father re-appears his life takes a turn and we watch Theo grow up and try to do the right thing. Through it all the painting holds his life together. Until it doesn’t. Fabulous story line, awesome characters who you love so much you want to reach inside the pages and stop them from self-destruction.


October 2013

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
A book of epic time-line, following the Whittaker family through much of the 18th and 19th centuries. From enterprising Henry Whittaker, who was born poor-but makes a fortune in the South American quinine trade, to the main character -- his brilliant daughter, Alma who becomes a gifted botanist. She researches the mysteries of evolution, falls in love, travels the world and invites us in to a fantastic world of missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, and geniuses. We also get to ride along exploring London, Peru, Philadelphia, Tahiti and Amsterdam. An all-time favorite!! ♥♥♥♥

The First Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
Tenzing Norbu is an ex-monk and soon-to-be ex-cop – a sort of spiritual warrior who gets his first PI case in The First Rule of Ten. Set in modern-day Los Angeles. Easy fun read with some life lessons and mystery thrown in.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb
After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie Oh has fallen in love with another woman -- Viveca, her Manhattan art dealer. An inspired and heart-warming portrait of modern relationships, and the connections that hold a family together, no matter what. Set in present day America, Lamb explores class, changing social mores, racial violence, creativity and art.

September 2013

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Between 1854 and 1929, orphan trains ran from the cities of the East Coast to the farmlands of the Midwest. Mind boggling as it seems, thousands of abandoned children were shipped West on these trains to be adopted by a kind and loving family, or face a childhood of hard labor and servitude. It was a roll of the dice. Young Irish immigrant, Vivian Daly was one such child, sent by rail from New York City to an uncertain future. Now an elderly widow, she hires young Molly Ayers to clean out her attic – which brings Vivian’s past to life, and helps Molly discover hers. ♥♥♥

Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich
Joe Bastianich is one of the most successful restaurateurs in America. This is the story of an Italian boy from Queens who makes it big in stocks, then turns his passion for food and wine into an empire. Of course it doesn’t hurt that your Mother is superstar chef Lidia Bastianich. The book was fabulous and made me want to visit his newest place in NYC called Eataly, which I did in October. A four-star look inside the restaurant business -- delicious!! ♥♥♥♥

The Husbands’ Secret by Linde Moriarty
Cecilia married one of the fabulous Fitzpatrick boys. But while he’s away on a business trip, she finds a letter “to be opened in the event of his death.” His fabulousness erodes as she comes to grips with the secrets within the letter. The question is, can she keep them, or will she willingly destroy her perfect world? ♥♥

The Drowning Guard by Linda Lafferty
Each morning before dawn, a boat leaves the harbor and a man dies. The Ottoman princess Esma Sultan seduces a different Christian lover each night, and then has him drowned in the morning. The Drowning Guard explores the complexities of Esma - who is a murderer AND a liberator of women. This historical fiction is set in 1826 Istanbul.♥♥

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Hosseini’s third novel follows a close-knit Afghan family. Not close enough to forgo selling off the youngest daughter – but I regress. The story opens in 1952 in a village outside of Kabul. Kaboor sells little Pari to the wealthy poet Nila Wahdati and her husband. There is a nagging voice inside that tells Pari she doesn’t really belong to these people. Many characters tell the tale, but Pari is the heart and soul of the novel. We see Pari grow up, leave Kabul and eventually comes to knows the truth. Confusing at times, with page after page of un-necessary descriptions, but a wonderful book over-all. ♥♥♥

August 2013

David and Goliath by Malcom Gladwell
Gladwell (previous books include The Tipping PointBlink, and What the Dog Saw) has the unique gift to take ordinary concepts and make them interesting and challenge us to think differently. His latest book -- a fresh perspective on what it means to be discriminated against, cope with a disability, lose a parent, or suffer from other setbacks.

Paris Was the Place by Susan Conley
Willie Pears teaches at a center for immigrant girls who are all hoping for French asylum. We get an inside peek of the hardship faced by people hoping for a better life, and what they have to go through to find it. Combine that with Willies own issues and you’ve got a pretty good read.♥♥

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
Georgia and Graham Quillian along with their son Frankie move to Coral Gables hoping for a fresh start. Graham’s got a sleep disorder, Frankie doesn’t talk, but thank goodness Georgia finds a cool job shuttling supplies to an artist who lives in a tiny house on stilts (!) off the coast in a community appropriately enough called Stiltsville. Eventually Georgia and Frankie find peace, thanks to the ocean, the artist…and the damn hard truth.♥♥

The End of the Affair by Graham Green
"This is a record of hate far more than of love." The first passage of this book really got to me. After all, when love turns sour it often turns to hate. The very English gentleman, Maurice Bendrix writes down the account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles. Sarah has since died and he is trying to discover how love turned to hate. Originally published in 1951, The End of the Affair was a Kindle Audible book (cheap!) - so I bought it to ease the drive from Portland to Boise. It was narrated by Colin Firth and made the drive fly by! ♥♥

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman
Natalie is beautiful and sullen. Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, both fall under the spell of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber – who paints the family in a series of portraits. Fast forward several decades --Bayber, now a world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters. He hires a history professor, and a young art authenticator to sell the painting, but first they are required to find the sisters who seem to have vanished. ♥♥♥


July 2013

Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff
On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane crashed into the Greenland ice cap. Four days later, a B-17 became lost in a blinding storm and also crashed. Miraculously, all nine men on the B-17 survived. The U.S. military launched a second daring rescue operation, but the Grumman Duck amphibious plane sent to find the men flew into a severe storm and vanished. Those stories alone would be spellbinding to read, but Zuckoff joins the U.S. Coast Guard and North South Polar—a company who worked for years to solve the mystery of the Duck’s last flight—on a dangerous expedition (2012) to recover the remains of the lost plane’s crew. ♥♥♥

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
How best to explain this book? Literary puzzle slash mind-twister comes to mind. In 1910 Ursula Todd is born but dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same night, Ursula Todd is born, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. As she grows, she also dies again and again. Incredibly inventive. ♥♥♥

June 2013

A Borgia Daughter Dies by Maryann Philip
The story of the Borgia’s is intertwined with the live of Leonardo da Vinci. Historically accurate, this murder-mystery is set in Renaissance Rome and Milan. There is an illegitimate daughter and bewitching ex-mistress who solve three murders with help from da Vinci and Lucrezia Borgia.

The Storyteller by Jody Picoult
Sage Singer and Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group strike up an unlikely friendship. One day Josef confesses a shameful secret and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. ♥♥♥

May 2013

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
When soldiers arrive in his Cambodian hometown, Arn Chorn-Pond is just a little boy. But the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside where he is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp. Every day he sees children dying. One day, the soldiers ask if anyone can play a musical instrument and although he’s never played a note in his life, he volunteers. Based on the true story. ♥♥

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A glorious mixture of fiction supported by incredible vintage photography! Sixteen-year-old Jacob visits a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It seems deserted but the longer he explores the more real they become –and they may still be alive!  ♥♥♥♥

April 2013

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
An Alaskan, homestead, in 1920 is wonderfully haunting setting for this adult fairy-tale. Jack and Mabel build a child out of snow but the next morning the snow child is gone. Later, they see a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. The story follows her life and the couple’s desire to take care of the little child of the wilderness.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
It seems like short stories but then you realize they are woven together through Yunior, a young Dominican man who seems to love and lose in equal measure. The losing part entirely of his own making.

March 2013

Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden
North Korea’s political prison camps are notorious, and no one born and raised in these camps has ever escaped. That changes as we meet Shin Dong-hyuk and learn about his true story of how he survived the horrible conditions and his amazing escape. ♥♥

 Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
A short battle with Iraqi insurgents transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. During a US media tour to reinvigorate support for the war, Billy deals with flash-backs, questions about the war, his survival and the knowledge that he has to go back to Iraq.  ♥♥

February 2013

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
The Dalai Lama’s life as experienced from the eyes of his fabulous cat, Mousie-Tung. True story, although you can never fully trust a cat – even an enlightened one. One of my favorite books ever. ♥♥♥♥

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
by Anne Fadiman
The true story of a refugee family from Laos, seeking help for their daughter, Lia Lee, at a small county hospital in California. Lia Lee has severe epilepsy and although the parents and her doctors both want what was best for her, cultures and languages collide.

January 2013

Amazing Gracie by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff
Pretty good doggie story. ♥♥

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman
I really enjoyed this collection of short stories that make you weep and rejoice at the fragility and clumsiness of humans. ♥♥♥

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity 
by Andrew Solomon
Holy crap this book was like a reading a mildly interesting text book. All in all, the normality shake-up I was expecting did not happen.

Sam Cruz’s Infallible Guide to Getting Girls by Tellulah Darling
This smart little book is yes, about sex. Sex between teens which, as a Mom of such an animal I was shy to read. But it’s so damn funny and true that I couldn’t help laughing out loud. Between Sam and his best friend Ally you get inside a teen’s head and let me tell you, it’s a funny, sometimes sad, but interesting place to be. ♥♥♥

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Awesome. Read it. ♥♥♥♥


December means...Best Books of 2012 List!

Quite a difficult task, but here it is....the list of the best books I read during 2012. Following the title is the month to find the entire review. So, pick a book and enjoy!

The Round House (Nov)
The Fault in Our Stars (Nov)
Cutting For Stone (Oct)
Sutton (Sept)
Seven Patients (August)
Gone Girl (July)
The Tragedy of Arthur (June)
Moon-walking With Einstein (Feb)
The Hare With Amber Eyes (Jan)


November Books ROCK

Behind the Beautiful Forever’s by Katherine Boo
Since 1991, 3,000 people have been squatting on a half-acre of land owned by the Sahar International Airport known as Annawadi. Most residents earn money through recycling bits and pieces of trash. We’re talking tiny kids working 10 hour days for pennies. This true story follows several residents and not all of them make it to the end of the book. Boo writes for the New Yorker and has a Pulitzer Prize – so the book is well written to say the least.

Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach
Put a six-foot high school quarterback inside a mansion owned by a world famous rock star and his equally famous ballerina wife. Kill off the quarterback’s parents, add a few love affairs and what do you have? Hugely great read that’s what. ♥♥♥♥

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This may be my favorite book from Erdrich! It's the story of Antone Bazil Coutts, aka Joe -- an Indian boy faced with making sense of a horrific situation and how he struggles to come to terms with how things really work on the res. After a little detective work he makes a stunning discovery that will force him to decide what is right and wrong regardless of whether it is written in the Handbook of Federal Indian Law. ♥♥♥♥

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Hazel and Gus have cancer. Should they fall in love even though they only have months to live? If you are 16 and never been kissed then hell yes you do. They make the short time they have together count and work out a few of the BIG Questions. Young adult book but I enjoyed it SO much! ♥♥♥♥

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
One of the New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of 2012, and in my opinion destined to become a classic. Besides incredible insight into war and the measure of friendship; this book also has my all-time favorite first line: "The war tried to kill us in the spring." Just read it. ♥♥♥