Archive for December 2012

2012: The Year In Review


Well, today marks the end of 2012. What a year it has been! When I started this blog as a way to hold myself accountable for reading one book each week, I never could imagine how much it would grow. A Book A Week has evolved from a simple review site to a community of readers. Thanks to everyone who has supported me, offered comments, criticisms, and recommendations. Without your help, this blog would fail to exist.

I'm sure that faithful followers of this site have noticed that I did not complete my goal of reading 52 books this year. Despite maintaining a strict reading schedule and managing my time, I was simply unable to fit 52 books into my year. A part of me is a bit disappointed by this, but I also am extremely proud of what I was able to accomplish this year. As some followers may know, I recently completed my final semester of school and now carry a music degree! As I'm sure you can imagine, the push towards graduation took a toll on my reading time. (Actually, I read a lot of textbooks, but I'm sure you wouldn't want to read my reviews of those!) Although I failed to reach my goal, I was able to read a staggering 47 books this year. For more details on how I achieved this feat, check out this article written in the Hartford Examiner where I describe my process.

Out of those 47 books, here are 5 of my favorite books of 2012 listed alphabetically:
Note: The selected books were not all published in 2012, rather, they are my favorite books that I read this year. 

Banned for Life by D.R. Haney

A kind of Outsiders for adults, Banned For Life is the coming of age story of an outcast punk rocker struggling to find his way in life. Haney writes with a real grit and clarity that is truly refreshing. With all the sex, drugs and rock and roll that a novel like this requires, Banned for Life perfectly captures all of the triumph and heartache of being an artist and growing up.

Read the full review
Bleed For Me by Michael Robotham
Not only was this my favorite mystery/thiller novel of the year, but it was also one of the most vividly real portrayals of a character's attempt to regain control of his life. The protagonist, Joe O'Loughlin, a psychiatrist who assists in police investigations, tries to battle Parkinson's disease, patch his marriage together, and reconnect with his daughter, all while trying to solve the most difficult case of his career. In Bleed for me, Robotham provides readers with wonderful characters and a first-rate thriller.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

What more can be said about this novel. The commercial and critical hype surrounding this novel over the years was well deserved. The story of of maids and their bosses during civil rights era America captured the hearts of audiences with its witty prose and meaningful message. If you, like me, waited to read this novel, wait no more! You certainly won't be disappointed.

Read the full review

The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow

Don Winslow made waves with Savages, his exceptional novel about young California drug entrepreneurs and their run in with the Mexican Cartel. In The Kings of Cool, a prequel to Savages, Winslow surpasses his best providing a tightly woven insight into the beginning of the young drug runners' operation. The edgy content and bare prose make this novel the coolest book of the year. 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

In what is perhaps the most charming and magical novel of the year, debut author Eowyn Ivey combines her knowledge of an Alaskan fairy tale with her obvious writing skill into this fantastic novel. The story of a couple who, out of loneliness craft a child made of snow and by their love for each other bring that child to life, rings with a timeless sense of fantasy that is sure to capture the imagination of anyone who reads it. 

Well, there they are, my favorite books of 2012. As we enter into the new year, I look forward to reading more fantastic books, providing fun giveaways, and interacting with all of you. As always, feel free to contact me by either leaving a comment or using the info located in the contact page. Whether you have a book recommendation, giveaway offer, criticism, or just want to say hi, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks again for supporting this blog. Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore

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Throughout his career, author Christopher Moore has garnered critical and commercial success for his novels. His inherent wit and ability to create rich characters within fantastic stories has captured the attention of many readers. Although I had never read anything by Moore, I was intrigued by the premise of his latest effort, Sacre Bleu, in which he set out to write a novel about the color blue.

The year is 1890, and the news of infamous painter Vincent van Gogh's death has quickly spread throughout Paris. Lucien Lessard, a baker turned painter, can hardly believe the news. He has been part of the French art scene for years, and has experienced, first-hand, the brilliance and madness of the late artist. No stranger to depression himself, Lucien feels sadness for the loss of a great artist, and recalls the sadness he felt when his beloved Juliette left to London without any further contact with him.

As Lucien discusses Vincent's death with his friend, painter Henri Fantin Latour, he surprised to see a familiar face. Juliette, the woman who inspired him to paint only to break his heart, has returned from London. Despite his shock and bitterness, the relationship quickly picks up where it left off. Soon Juliette is posing as Lucien paints what is sure to be his masterpiece. For this painting, he acquires a special blue, Sare Bleu, or the color of the Virgin Mary, from the mysterious Colorman. When Lucien uses the paint, time seems to stand still and he is riddled with a strange loss of memory. Henri begins to worry about his friend and recalls his own experience with similar time and memory altering instances. All of which occurred while painting his own lover and using the mysterious Sacre Bleu. As the novel progresses, Lucien and Henri discover the prominence of blue paint and peculiar behaviors in the lives of many famous artists. It quickly becomes apparent that The Colorman and his paint have malicious intentions and could even have been responsible for the death of some of art's most prominent figures. Now Lucien and Henri must try to stop The Colorman before they too become the victims of this vicious Sacre Bleu.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. Moore obviously researched this novel, but took lots of liberty with the facts to turn what could have been a stuffy art lesson into a highly entertaining story. There is a lot going on in this story, but every aspect is presented in a way that eventually brings clarity to the events. The story does take a bit of time to get off the ground, probably because I was trying to figure out what the point of the book really was, but the action kicks into high gear after about a hundred pages. Overall, this novel will probably divide readers, but anyone looking for a definitely "out of the box" story should give this one a try.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(week 52, book 47)

The Second World War by Antony Beevor


I have always been fascinated with any and all things to do with World War II. From the rise of Hitler, to the bombing of Hiroshima, this is perhaps the richest time in the history of the world. Due to the staggering scale of this time period, most books, both fiction and nonfiction, choose to focus on specific events or characters. In this hugely ambitious work, Antony Beevor attempts to provide a narrative overview of the entire war.

In the book, Beevor effectively introduces the early onsets of the war for each nation that was involved.  Spanning from the German invasion of Poland in 1939 to the end of the war in 45, Beevor manages to provide a research filled account without ever straying from his strong narrative flow. He finds a convincing balance between broad tellings of significant battles, military strategy, and intimate insights into the main personalities of the war. 

At nearly 900 pages, this book is no small undertaking. I'll admit, I read bits of the volume between other novels over the course of three months. Despite the length, I felt like Beevor never sacrificed the telling of the story in favor of dry facts, so the book maintained a consistency that easily places it above other historical works. Overall, WWII enthusiasts, history buffs, and any lover of large scale stories are sure to enjoy this book. 

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads

(week 51, book 46)

The Operative by Andrew Britton

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Like many other deceased authors, Michael Crichton and Sydney Sheldon immediately come to mind, author Andrew Britton's untimely death in 2008 has not halted the production of new novels under his name. Of course, this opens the whole debate about ghost writers and unreleased manuscripts that are passed off as new material from bestselling authors. Despite my growing dislike of this practice, the book jacket summary seemed promising enough that I decided to give The Operative a read.

After years as a counter terrorism operative, Ryan Kealey is finally adjusting to a more peaceful lifestyle. This newfound peace is quickly shattered when Kealey finds himself smack in the middle of a large-scale terror attack at a charity gala. With many deaths and injuries, the CIA fears that some of their units may be compromised. Now Kealey is the only man who is both trusted by the US Government and capable to discover the truth behind the attack. As he delves into the depts of the conspiracy, he discovers unimaginable secrets that could shatter the stability of the entire country.

There is nothing horribly wrong with this novel. The writing is serviceable, the characters do what they are intended to do, and the story comes to a solid, if a bit predictable, conclusion. To my taste, however, the pacing and structure of the story is too disjointed. The opening and build up to the main action takes entirely too much time. When Kealey is finally allowed to begin his investigation, the part that should be the most interesting, he blazes through to the conclusion without the intelligence and suspense that modern thriller readers have come to expect. Overall, the novel was a fine diversion, but ultimately not worth the time.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(week 50, book 45)

Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham

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Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading Bleed for Me, a novel by Michael Robotham, featuring crime-fighting psychologist Joseph O'Loughlin. After devouring the book, I was anxious to get my hands on more. Fortunately, this fall saw the release of the next installment in Robotham's series, and I was quick to acquire a copy of this one as well.

Three years ago, the small town of Bingham was rocked to its core when two local teenagers, Piper and Tash, disappeared. Originally thought to have run away, it is soon discovered that the girls were kidnapped. In the wake of incident, two families struggle to cope with the loss of their daughter while simultaneously being investigated for possible involvement. With little evidence to guide them, the police eventually assume the girls to be dead and the story of the girls' disappearance soon fades into the history of the town.

Clinical Psychologist and part time police advisor Joe O'Loughlin has problems of his own. On top of an increasingly severe battle with Parkinson's disease, he struggles to balance his career with his relationship with his estranged wife and daughters. As the holiday season approaches, Joe plans to spend more time with his fragile family and step away from the high profile investigations that he has previously been involved with.

All these plans come crashing down when he receives a call to investigate a murdered family at the house where one of the missing girl's, Tash, family used to live. The mentally unstable suspect in custody is convinced that he saw a girl running through the snow, being chased by a snowman. Could this girl be the missing Tash? And who is this mysterious snowman? Intrigued by the possibilities, Joe races against the clock to unlock the secrets of the man's mind and to re-open the investigation of the girls' disappearance.

Author Michael Robotham has stuck gold again. His characters, especially Joe, are crafted with a depth that keeps the reader highly invested into the story. I'll admit, this mystery lacked a bit of the urgency that I felt while reading Bleed for Me, but after a slow start, the novel really picks up into a suspenseful thrill ride that is sure to keep you guessing. This is the perfect novel for readers who enjoy well-written thrillers that go beyond the genre cliches. After reading two novels by Robotham, I am officially a fan!

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(week 49, book 44)

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