Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reading Wrap-Up 2010: Part 1

Yes, I know we are 1/12th of the way through 2011, but I needed a good chunk of time to compose my wrap-ups of the reading challenges that I did last year. This was my first foray into the world of reading challenges, and I loved both the requirements of the challenges I chose and the books that I was exposed to because of it. Without further ado, here are my notes on the books I read for the first challenge of the two that I completed last year. Want more reading updates? Friend me on GoodReads (username: nicolegas) or Twitter (@Colie025) for the latest scoops on my reading life.

The first reading challenge I signed up for over a year ago was the 2010 reading challenge. The premise of this challenge was simple: read 10 books published in 2010. I have to say that this was probably my favorite of the two reading challenges, because it exposed me to some great new books by authors I had never read before. Here's what I read:

1) Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert- I expected to love this book, all about the institution of marriage and full of definitions of marriage by people from around the globe. However, my affection for this book was tarnished by Gilbert's grouchy attitude. Her whining about having to get married got tiresome after awhile, and I didn't find her thoughts totally genuine. Overall, kind of meh.

2) Imperfect Birds: A novel by Anne Lamott- I LOVE Anne Lamott and can't recommend her books enough. This book was no exception. The writing and characters were quietly gorgeous and lovely, the plot kept me engaged, and the powerful bittersweet themes of mistakes, redemption, drug use, and aging really packed a punch. Love, love, love Anne Lamott and this book.

3)The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson- The Millenium trilogy was one of the few sets of books that Kev and I agree on. i was less than impressed with the amount of graphic battle in the first two books, but the treachery and deceit in this book, plus the closure inherent in the book itself, made it my favorite of the three. I'm a sucker for secret government plots, and so this was right up my alley.

4) Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman- After reading this book, I really wanted to take Kerman out for a drink and chat her up. Her narration of prison life was breezy enough to make this feel like a vacation read, but there was enough emotional depth to make it academically engaging. I do wish that Kerman had talked a little more about what led to her imprisonment in the first place. Everyone likes hearing good girl gone bad tales.

5) House Rules by Jodi Piccoult- I am a sucker for Piccoult's books. Yes, I know they are a bit fluffy, and her writing is not the greatest, but the themes she writes about keep me coming back every time. This book, about an autistic boy accused of a crime was a good brain candy read, although her books are so stinking predictable it's ridiculous. Flew through it when I needed a brain break, and it served its purpose well.

6) The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michelle Young-Stone- This book got a lot of hype by my web pal Rebecca, and rightfully so. It was my hands down favorite book I read for either of my challenges last year. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, and I have begged my bookish friends to read it, too. One of those rare books that I picked up and could not put down. Go get it. Please.

7) Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris- This book was awful. I forced myself to finish it out of respect for how much I love Sedaris normally but the unnecessary violence and sarcastic animal characters did nothing for me. I have no idea what purpose Sedaris was trying to achieve, but it didn't do it for me. Did I miss something here? Yikes.

8) The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer- I received this book as part of LibraryThing's early reviewer program, and it was wonderful. I love a plot that twists and turns, and I love even more tales of complicated loves and mysterious losses. Lovely, heart wrenching writing and characters that were gloriously real and alive with faults, this was a great read.

9) Room by Emma Donoghue-There has been a lot of hype about this book. While I hated the phony narration of the main character, watching his mother's fight to keep them alive inside while locked in their own world was enough to make me read this entire book in one afternoon. I got sucked into this book the same way Law and Order: SVU always grabs me. How are there people in the world that would really do such things? How do victims cope? This one haunted me for a long time. Sidenote: Kev read it and never finished it. His hatred of this book was cause for some extremely spirited debate between us for quite some time.

10) The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobsen- If it hadn't been December and this book hadn't also been an award winner, which allowed me to double-dip with my other challenge, I would have never finished this book. I'm all for obnoxious book characters, but the main character in this book was so irritating that I found myself rooting against him. The book was overly long, tried too hard to have poetic language, and had characters who dragged the book down. Yikes.

Well, friends, there you have it. Look for upcoming posts about my second reading challenge of 2010, as well as the three (yes, 3) challenges I'm participating in this year. Happy reading!

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