I really enjoyed looking back at the books I read in 2016, so I thought I’d finish the year with another book roundup. Without further ado (and without spoilers!), here are the titles I’ve read since November 8:
- The Gardener, S.A. Bodeen. This was a book I read for the middle school book club in which Tyler and I participate. It was a compact, well-written adventure story with just enough of a sci-fi element to appeal to most middle schoolers.
- Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett. I felt like this book bit off more than it could chew – a lot of characters, a lot of plot, a lot of different time periods. I had a hard time mustering the energy to engage with the whole cast. And, ultimately, I didn’t really like, or care about, any of them. I’ve felt this way about several books I read this year – they were well-written, but ultimately felt empty.
- Magical Thinking, Augusten Burroughs. I read this on the recommendation of a friend. First, Mr. Burroughs is a very sharp, funny storyteller. Second, Mr. Burroughs seems like kind of an asshole. I’m not sure when “being inappropriate,” in and of itself, became such a laudable trait. Saying something inappropriate is very funny when it’s occasionally deployed by someone who otherwise plays by society’s rules. It’s tedious when it’s your only trick.
- Glory Over Everything, Kathleen Grissom. So, if I’m in the car, I will use Siri to dictate texts. When I returned this book to the friend from whom I borrowed it, I let her know by a text. When I finally looked at it later, it made me laugh so hard I cried. It said, “I just dropped glory over everything in your mailbox.” Because Siri didn’t catch on that it was a book title, it looked like I had done something potentially obscene to my friend’s mailbox. Oops. ANYWAY, I enjoyed this book but didn’t love it. I felt the same way about this book’s prequel, The Kitchen House. Some of the conflicts were a little too contrived, and some of the “lucky breaks” seemed a little too lucky. And in this book, it seemed that just when you started to get a feel for a character, he or she would die. That was inconvenient.
- Ninety Miles to Havana, Enrique Flores-Galbis. This was another middle school book club book, and I felt it did a good job of exposing the 12-14-year-old set to a glimpse of post-Revolution Cuba without veering into the nitty-gritty or trying to make a big political statement. As a native Floridian, a story about Cuban refugees is always appealing, but this would be a good tale for any middle schooler looking for an introduction to this part of history.
- Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor. This was the best series I read all year, and I saved this particular book for Thanksgiving break….and then stayed up until 1:00 a.m. to finish it. It was outstanding. The author managed to create a whole world with light brushstrokes. There is not a lot of ink wasted on detailing the minutiae of the realm, and the relationships between various races of creatures, and all that. She gives you enough information to make the story believable, and then gets back to moving the story along.
- Panic, Sharon M. Draper. This was lent to me by the middle school librarian, to see what I thought of it. My first thought was, I can’t believe this is a book for middle school kids!! It deals with the abduction and brutal sexual assault of a teenage dancer, and it is difficult to read. If your middle schooler is exceptionally mature, he or she may be able to see past that to the beautiful parts of the book (the missing girl’s dance friends cope with her loss by….dancing). One thing that bothered me about this book is that the dialog is almost entirely in teen slang, and it already feels a little dated.
- The Martian, Andy Weir. This book grabbed me by the throat on page one and didn’t let go until the very end. The narrator, Mark Watley, is one of the best-executed characters I met all year. Immediately upon finishing the book, I made Jason read it. I don’t do that often.
- The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George. A friend let me borrow this book, and I selected it for my book club’s January meeting. On the one hand, I love books about books, and books about bookshops, so I really enjoyed those parts. On the other hand, I get very aggravated by Manic Pixie Dream Girls, and I felt like this book featured a particularly egregious example of the type, so I got very twitchy at those parts. Overall, I liked the book and look forward to talking about it with my book club.
- Dead to the World, Charlaine Harris. Like all the Sookie Stackhouse novels, this book was fun fluff. I find them adorable.