Monday, January 7, 2013

Favourite Adult Books Read in 2012

Okay, as promised here is my top 10 list of books written for adults in 2012. I find the "Best Books of 2012" lists published in magazines, newspapers and online very frustrating when they only include adult books (if they actually read some YA or Middle Grade and decided they weren't good enough that would be one thing but you know they only mean books for adults)....So I make two lists - that lets me pick more books!

Not in order. Unlike with my YA choices I'm taking the easy route and am not adding descriptions.

1. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
2. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
3. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
4. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
5. At Home by Bill Bryson
6. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
7. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
9. Y by Marjorie Celona
10. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

It's interesting to look at my list and see 7/10 are female authors. 2/10 are non-fiction. I definitely read women's book-club-type fiction - no Man Booker winners on my list!

I read 80 books this year - if anyone is interested in what else I read check out my profile on goodreads.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Really? I Never Ever Want to Hear the Term Sick-Lit Again.

Apparently everyone is reacting online to this article from the UK Daily Mail. I admit to being a fan of the Daily Mail - it's like the National Enquirer, but British. I don't take much of what they say seriously but it is good fun and a great site for keeping up to date with UK celebrity gossip.

So, as far as this article about "sick-lit" goes:

here's what I have to say:

Chill people. Kids and teens have been reading this kind of book FOREVER. It just seems that every once in a while people notice what kids or teens are reading and become morally outraged.  I worked for almost 7 years as a bookseller specializing in books for kids and teens - kids have always been drawn towards books where someone is suffering - cancer, the Holocaust, slavery, sudden blindness, suicide, kidnapping. One of my favourites as an 11 year old was called Five Were Missing by Lois Duncan (also published under the title Ransom) - it didn't cause me to be afraid of school buses or kidnapping or turn me into a kidnapper.

Reading books on these topics is away for kids to think "wow, how would I handle a situation like that?" or "I thought my life sucked, I guess it isn't so bad" - it isn't about being maudlin or having a death wish or glorifying suicide. Admittedly there have been girls who have used teen novels about anorexia as guide books - those are rare cases. People don't develop serious mental health issues from reading books. Parents if your kids suddenly starts cutting themselves after reading a book about cutting I'd say take a look closely at your family life - not just the books your kid is reading.

And let's be glad they're reading books. My kids barely read anything - disappointing to me as a person working in publishing, but it's true. So if all a teen reads wants to read is Lurlene McDaniel I say go for it, they'll eventually move on.

"Children's Book Expert" Amanda Craig refuses to review certain books, believes publishers have a cavalier attitude towards these issues, etc. I completely disagree with her. I've worked with many publishers over the years and I just think she's wrong. If she only wants to read books that teach a lesson or have a moral - good luck with that. I'm not talking about themes, I'm talking about morals and lessons. Don't even get me started.

Parents, talk to your kids about what they're reading. You'd be surprised how many parents bought their kids The Hunger Games or Twilight without knowing the basic plot lines. If a particular subject isn't right for your kid, pick another. Or consider that maybe you are wrong. Shocking but it might be true. Also consider just because someone is called a "Children's Book Expert" it doesn't mean that her opinions are relevant to your child.

As for The Fault in Our Stars - about Hazel who has cancer, mentioned in the original article from the Daily Mail. One of the best books I've ever read! I loved it, it has received I think 7 Starred Reviews and just recently my mom who is a retired school teacher (aged 77) read it and loved it. So eff off gatekeepers.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Favourite YA books of 2012

This list kills me every year. It's like picking which of my kids I like best. Some books have to be left behind. As always I try not to include the books on the Canadian list for the publisher I'm working at - does that make sense? Because if I like one of those books I feel I have to like them all (whether I do or not) and that makes my list not 100% genuine. So it's easier to this year not include any Penguin Young Readers titles published by Penguin Canada in 2012. Sorry folks. You know your books rock. So my list of top 10 YA books read by me (not necessarily published in 2012) in this past year (not in order remember!) are:

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (duh, whose list isn't this on? It's one of the best YA books EVER) - especially awesome for those who like awesome friendships, snappy dialogue and some tears.

2. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein - the excitement I felt when I finished this book still resonates with me today. I HAD to talk to someone about it and luckily many of my friends were finishing it/had just finished it/were willing to start it right away! To me this could have been published as an adult book. It stands up there with The Book Thief as an incredible read for adults and teens. I will re-read this one (and I rarely if ever re-read).

3. Gilt by Katherine Longshore - this is the Tudors meets Survivor. In King Henry VIII's court you have to outwit, outsmart, outlast in order to survive. And this isn't the handsome Jonathan RhysMeyers Henry, this is the gross turkey leg eating, bloated Henry and to make matters worse he has a festering leg wound. In the end it's an amazing story of one girl learning that sometimes friendship can come at a great cost.

4. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. I've often compared this to Game of Thrones - don't get too attached to any characters - no one is safe. The world created here is amazing (there's a map!), the characters are memorable and the action intense. I couldn't put it down and can't wait for the next book.

5. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. We read this one recently for book club and I loved it. Some people have said they don't like books about dragons but really the dragons are in human form for much of the book. It was suspenseful ,thought-provoking and lovely. And I kind of want to marry Kiggs.

6. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor - there was so much excitement about this book  when it came out and I hear mostly great things but the cover put me off a bit. So reading it for our bookclub (the best bookclub ever) was a great way for me to finally crack the cover. So good! Karou now stands with other kick-ass female heroines for me like Katsa and Katniss. The book is set in Prague and now I don't even need to go because it was so richly described I feel like I've already been.

7. Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass - this book falls under the delightful category I've coined as "Am I  Losing My Marbles?" about teenage girls not knowing if they're crazy or the world around them is....Two girls who each dream of each others lives when they're asleep - eventually we start to realize one is real, the other is only a dream or a delusion - but which is which. The truth isn't revealed until the end.

8. Across the Universe/A Million Suns/Shades of Earth by Beth Revis - this is a bit of a cheat because I have read the third book and technically it isn't out until January 2013 but whatever this is my list. People say the first chapter of Across the Universe is one of the best/most chilling/awesome opening chapters ever and it's true - read it and you're hooked. Such an exciting series about a girl who agrees to be cryogenically frozen with her parents to wake up 300 years in the future on a distant planet but something goes wrong and she is woken early. SO AMAZING.

9. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy - isn't technically YA - it's more like slightly older middle grade but it is wonderful so I'm including it. Set in London (who doesn't love books set in London?!) during the Cold War an American girl and a British boy get caught up in a spy adventure complete with a book full of awesome apothecary potions some which they must use.

10. Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner - I dare anyone who reads this not to love Standish Treadwell - he's an unforgettable narrator with a unique voice. Living in a harsh regime where the Motherland is planning a moon landing Standish, his sly-fox grandfather and some local friends end up challenging their oppressors.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Top 10 YA Books of 2011

This is a much harder list for me to make than the one I did for books for adults. I am always worried that I'm hurting peoples feelings by not including them. But here goes. My top 10 YA books read in 2011, not in any order. Please note I read Divergent in 2010 or it would totally make this list (although I didn't include advance reading copies on last years list so it has fallen through the cracks of my inconsistent rules).

1. The Big Crunch by Pete Hautmann - gorgeous book of a teen relationship.
2. Annexed by Sharon Dogar - basically a fictionalized story of Peter van Pels who with his family hid in the annex with Anne Frank and her family. Thought provoking.
3. Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi - a book that made me feel empowered, like I could join an underground resistance and kick an army's ass! Also new book boyfriend - need I say more?
4. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley - this book felt like a classic the moment I read it - and I mean that in a good way. It was like Holes plus A Separate Peace plus the best of John Green plus The Catcher in the Rye all put together - and yet completely original (Vikki -that comment is for you)
5. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman. A must read for teens and adults -if you've ever been in a relationship you have to read this book. Especially if you've suffered teen heartbreak. I am dying for more people to read it so that we can talk about it!
6. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. Lisa D had been urging me to read this for ages and when I finally did I was hooked! Such an excellent world Fisher has created - there is a prison called Incarceron, and then their is "outside" which is the future (from today) yet they act like its the 1800s or something crazy like that. Like some sort of crazypants steampunk reversal world!
7. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. - my favourite Sarah Dessen book featuring my favourite character - Monica. Love her. And of course Wes.
8.  The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I accidentally bought this book twice - I do this a lot - I think I don't own it so I buy it then when I finally read it I realize I have two copies. Loved this book -poor Lennie is so messed up and makes bad decisions and it all felt so real!
9. This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel - An amazing story of young Victor Frankenstein, his brother and the girl they both loved. Exciting and swoon-worthy!
10. Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier - again I resisted this for some crazy reason. So amazing. Time travel, intrigue and romance. I can't wait for the next one!

I just realized I have enough Middle Grade books to do a Top 10 Middle Grade list - will do that tomorrow.

My Top 10 Books of 2011 - Books for Adults

Why hasn't everyone read this?
This year I have a list of 63 books that I've read  - however I don't always count manuscripts or advance reading copies - especially if the book isn't coming out in the year I'm reading it. So here are my Top Ten Books for Adults that I've read this year. That doesn't mean they were published this year, just that this is the year I read them.

(not in any order)
1. Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield. The chapter on Hall & Oates had me in hysterics.
2. Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (published in 1965) - an amazing mystery novel. It took forever to make international long-distance phone calls back then, read this book and you'll understand!
3. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - this book broke my heart.
4. Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson - for some reason I read this book before reading the books that came after Case Histories (which I read ages ago) but it worked out fine.
5. The Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent - this non-fiction about a midwife in California - it made me appreciate how completely midwives give themselves to their patients. So many amazing stories of births - mostly happy, but some sad.
6. Bossypants by Tina Fey - I keep finding myself referring to this book. Like "Remember in Bossypants when Tina Fey did this....or said that...." it's like the new Seinfeld for me - every situation somehow leads back to Bossypants.
7. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. I have to admit I did not read this book, I listened to it on audio, unabridged. It was awesome! I could never have done the voices in my head the way the narrator did. I would get home from the car, grab my ipod and then go listen to more in my room because I didn't want to have to wait til the drive to work the next morning to find out what happened next!
8. The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy - this should be a huge bestseller. People LOVE stories of forbidden love - Romeo & Juliet, Edward & Bella, this has that! It's like Water For Elephants meets The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society meets Summer of My German Soldier. So good.
9.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese - I had this on my shelf for so long before I finally cracked it open to read it. What on earth made me wait so long?! I will never forget the characters. I tried to find a comparison but the best I can come up with is The Poisonwood Bible meets A Fine Balance.
10. Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie - I'm still reading this right now. It is like an amazing soap opera and every day I'm so excited to find out what happens next. I have very little knowledge of Russian history so honestly I don't know how it all ends!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hall & Oates and The Guy in the Blue Pantsuit

Last night Leanne's dreams came true: we saw Hall & Oates in concert at Casino Rama. They were fantastic performers - Daryl Hall still has a great voice, although he modifies songs to avoid some of the falsetto notes that an aging voice might find troublesome. John Oates (sans mustache) does all the harmonizing, barking, ooh-yeahs as always. There was a saxophonist with long hair and a royal blue pantsuit that had more solos than I ever dreamed possible and a guitarist who did lots of that intense playing of guitar high notes that people other than me find impressive. 
Leanne & I found ourselves in people-watching heaven. Oh the mom jeans, dad jeans, velour pants, leopard prints, matchy-matchy couples, fishnets with cut-offs, rats tails and lots of age inappropriate outfits. 

My favourite was an woman who might have been in her 60s who had a orangey-brown tight perm with a bow right in the middle of it like Nancy, Sluggo's friend. She was wearing a cardigan with cats & mice, lots of glittery stuff and had white stirrup-type leggings on with high heels. Her purse looked somewhat like Duran Duran's Rio album cover. She approached me and asked if I had an extra concert ticket to sell. Clearly my city clothes marked me as a "scalper". Fun!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Needed something sweet today

I've been feeling kind of stressed out lately. So I went to Indigo today and bought myself two picture books. And they helped.

I had read The Quiet Book before and knew I loved it so it was a no-brainer when I slipped that one into my pile. Then I found a table of picture books and picked up A Sick Day for Amos McGee. After it's Caldecott win and all the great reviews I knew I'd love it too.

Back at the office I sat and read them both. Felt much better.