Posts Tagged ‘books read in 2012’

29th July
written by Steph
Well, I still do that from time to time, though I've been very bad about keeping S&TI! readers up-to-date on that front. I full-on admit that the past two months have not been as relaxing and full of reading as I would have liked (rather, they have been filled with stressful moves and mad-dash planning as we prepare to head off for Japan... just 1.5 weeks to go at this point!), but I have managed to keep up a steady stream of reviews for BookPage (and plan to continue to review for them while we are on our big trip... though I will be taking the month of August from professional reviewing as I adjust to life on the road in Asia!). As we finish up the tail end of our time here in North America, I am hoping to rediscover the joys of personal pleasure reading (need to get back into the swing of it before our 12 hour flight to Tokyo on Aug 8...), but for now, I'll bring you up to speed with my BP reviews for the months of June & July.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Maybe it's a hold over from the days when I had summer holidays, but for me, the summer is the perfect time to indulge in books that are unadulterated fun to read. We all know I have the tendency to gravitate towards highbrow literature, but sometimes you just want a book that will entertain and thrill you. If you find yourself on holiday this summer and need a book that you can read for hours by the pool and late into the night, then I highly recommend that you check out my review of debut author, Elizabeth Haynes' novel Into the Darkest Corner. It is the ultimate "relationship gone wrong" story, and despite its length, this was a book I stayed up reading even when it was far past my bedtime. I particularly enjoyed the attention Haynes paid to the psychological trauma that can result following an abusive relationship, which I personally felt helped set this book apart from your standard run of the mill thrillers. Terrifying and utterly absorbing, this is a book that will hold you rapt from beginning to end.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

If massive doorstops are your preferred beach reading material, then you could do no better than the second installment in Deborah Harkness's wildly popular "All Souls Trilogy", Shadow of Night. This book hardly needs a review given that it is the hotly anticipated sequel to A Discovery of Witches, which readers have been breathlessly waiting for since 2011, myself being no exception! Shadow of Night sees Diana & Matthew traveling back to the 1590s in order to give Diana a chance to master her burgeoning magical powers and also give our favorite vampire-witch duo the opportunity to intercept the elusive Ashmole 782 before it is enchanted. Fans of the first book will know that Harkness is not afraid to tell her story on an epic scale, and Shadow of Night is no different. Even the most voracious readers will likely need a few days to fully digest this massive story, which manages to address many of the pressing questions that were left dangling at the end of the first volume while still setting up a set of new questions for the final book in the series. I'm not normally a fan of historical fiction, but this book is just so much fun! You can read my full review here.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

I also had the extreme pleasure of reviewing a stunning debut novel, Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I have no idea why this book is not getting more buzz, because quite honestly, it had me in tears within the first 10 pages. I was not exaggerating in my review when I said that "Tell the Wolves I’m Home is not only one of the best debuts of 2012, it’s one of the best books of the year, plain and simple." It really, truly is. It manages to be moving without being maudlin, not an easy feat when you've got a teenager as your narrator, and was just such a lovely, heartbreaking novel. One of those books you hardly want to write about because you feel your own words can't do it justice. As much as all of these books I've reviewed are fantastic, if I could only pick one of them to read again, it would easily be Tell the Wolves I'm Home. Do not miss this book, or you will feel like a complete fool!

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Finally, although the August issue of BookPage isn't out for a few more days, I figured my loyal readers deserved a treat for bearing with me over these past few months, so here is a sneak peak of my review of Tana French's latest Murder Squad novel, Broken Harbor. Like many fans of the series, I was dubious about Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy taking the reins in this book, but: OH. MY. GOD. So deliciously creepy and twisted. This may be French's best book yet: Kennedy winds up being a wonderfully nuanced character (hardly surprising given her track record) and his fate at the novel's end is honestly like a swift kick to the gut. Perhaps the most compelling thing about the book is how terrifically atmospheric it was, the ghostly tendrils of the Brianstown housing estate deftly entangled themselves around my brainstem. This novel haunted me both during and after reading it, so make sure to clear your reading schedule to make room for this one! So although 2012 continues to be something of a reading drought for me, I can't complain about the quality of the books I've been reading thus far. All of these books would likely make it onto my "best books of the year" list, even if I were plowing through double the number of books, so they're definitely well worth your while! But, please tell me: what book(s) have you read in the past 2 -3 months that you think is absolutely unmissable? I'm definitely looking for something to kick-start my personal reading engine and need suggestions! I feel like all of my trip planning has thrown me squarely out of the book blogging loop!
12th May
written by Steph
Hallelujah! Months of programming experiments, running experiments, analyzing data, reading papers, writing and re-wring have finally paid off. On Thursday morning, I did one last proof read through my dissertation and then I attached a PDF version of it to an email and sent it off to my committee! (For those interested, the final page count was 102 pages). In two weeks, I'll give a public presentation of my dissertation experiments, and then I'll undergo my final graduate school oral defense, and I will finally be Dr. Steph! It's hard to believe that after years of ups and downs, that my time as a student is finally drawing to a close. I haven't quite parsed the enormity of that just yet, but I've found through this whole process that I'm best off just focusing on getting through one day at a time, so that's what I'll keep doing.

Home by Toni Morrison

Of course, immediately after submitting my dissertation, I began to show signs of a horrible cold. I have felt awful for the past two days, and while I am definitely on the mend now, I am still not back in full fighting form. But I am well enough that I can finally write my monthly BookPage post, where I tell you about what I've reviewed in the latest issue. In the May issue of BookPage, I had the great good fortune to review Toni Morrison's latest masterpiece, Home. I'm a huge Morrison fan, so it was a huge honor to review one of her books in a professional capacity. It also didn't hurt that Home is her shortest book to date; in a time when my pleasure reading time has been severely limited (and I've had essentially no attention span), it was nice to have a book that needed my attention but didn't need a huge time investment. If, like me, you've been eagerly awaiting Morrison's latest slice of literary greatness, you can read my full review here. Obviously, I'll still have dissertation brain for the next few weeks, but despite being super ill, I've felt a lightness come over me this past week that has long been absent, and I'm optimistic that I'll soon recapture my full book-blogging mojo. In truth, writing this dissertation hasn't been nearly as awful as I thought it would be (though I'm totally fine with never doing this ever again), but I am still so looking forward to reclaiming my life. For at least a month, that is, since Tony and I are officially leaving Nashville at the end of June. We'll be moving up to Toronto for a couple of weeks to get our dogs settled in with my parents, and then we'll be heading off on our big world tour! (Don't worry though, we're bringing our e-readers so we'll have plenty to read on the myriad planes, trains, and buses we'll be taking!) So life will be busy for the foreseeable future, but with one of the biggest stressors finally stripped away, I am looking forward to refocusing on those things that enrich me and nourish my spirit.
1st May
written by Steph

The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman

[Note: this review is also posted at travel blog, Twenty Years Hence. Sorry for the cross-post for those of you who are subscribed to both (but thanks for supporting all our endeavors!).]
For me, the very best books, regardless of genre, are the ones that whisk me away from my own life and allow me to see and understand the world in a way I hadn’t before. If there’s one type of book with an innate affinity to do this very thing, surely it is the travel memoir! The very best of their kind aren’t just about traveling around in strange lands, encountering odd social customs and nibbling on questionable foods—though those anecdotes are fascinating in their own ways)—but are about the personal transformation that occurs when we venture out of our homes and leave the safety and security of the familiar behind.
As my own big trip looms larger with each passing day, it’s no surprise that I’ve been increasingly drawn to travel writing these past few months. Maybe I’m hoping to pick up tips and tricks along the way to ensure my trip is more successful, or maybe I’m hoping for inspiration… deep down, I think I just want reassurance that Tony and I aren’t alone in this dream and that leaving our current life to travel will turn out ok. I know that even in the pages of books, happy endings aren’t guaranteed, but I still can’t help but search for them nevertheless. To this end, I’ve been really gratified to find that the Nashville Public Library system has an awesome digitial travel collection, the irony being that now I can travel the world without even leaving the comfort of my home, not even to get a book! If that’s not the best of both worlds, then I don’t know what is. Anyway, NPL has a pretty bitchin’ selection of titles, ranging from actual travel guides to help you plan your stay, to memoirs and pieces of writing to inspire you to get off your lazy butt and actually go somewhere. This is how I stumbled across The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost (known as TGGG henceforth). (more…)
14th April
written by Steph
Guys! The dissertation! It is killing me! BUT. It is also kind of almost done! I don't want to jinx myself (despite being a scientist, sometimes I am oddly superstitious), but I now have about 75% of my thesis written! While there will surely be plenty of edits to occupy me, the bulk of the writing that remains at this juncture is the intro and discussion for my final experimental chapter, and then my final, general discussion chapter. That's it! Somedays I wake up thinking I am never going to slay this beast (it's like the Hydra... I never seem to have a chapter completely finished and put to bed), but I know I've been working hard and so long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other (or I guess, one word in front of the other), I'll eventually win out. I've read somewhere that writing a dissertation is largely an exercise is perseverance rather than brilliance, so luckily I have stubbornness in spades. Right now I'm hoping/planning/fearing defending sometime mid-May, and once I have, then I'll finally be freeeeeeee! And I can fling myself black into blogging's sweet sweet embrace. So yes, I'm sorry that I pretty much only update once per month around these parts when I have a new review up at BookPage, but if ya'll can give me just another month, hopefully my rag-tag blogging will be at an end as I'll have the mental real estate to properly devote to this space. Tony and I have also been making some headway on planning our big trip, and I keep saying, "Oh, I should write about this! This would be helpful/useful." And then I don't. But again, once I'm no longer writing a 100+ page document that culminates my academic career, I will also be more revealing on the trip front as well. Mostly, I want to thank all of you who commented with words of support and offered up ideas and suggestions. Right now we're just taking things one day at a time, but the earliest we'd be setting out is late August, so there's still plenty of time to get all the tips and low-downs before we head out to parts unknown!

What are these "books" of which you speak?

Anyway, back to books (like back to basics, but better). In the April issue of BookPage (which has been out for TWO weeks now... April, why you gotta go so quickly?!), I review Kiwi author Alex Adam's first installment in a post-apocalyptic thriller, White Horse. Fiction editor (and good friend), Trisha, was really surprised that this is what I chose to go with, but y'all know I need at least one dystopian fic per year. Plus, when you're writing your thesis up, it feels like the end of the world, so apocalypse lit just seemed right. I'm no stranger to "the world is dying but I must sally forth in order to survive" type novels, and to some extent, this is well trod ground, but Adams manages to make it all fresh. It was incredibly harrowing to read, and the writing was rather sublime in parts, so if you've got a hard-as-nails  constitution that can stand books that get rather explicit in their gore, then I recommend it. Check out my full review here and let me know what you think!
1st March
written by Steph
By now apologies about sporadic postings here seem to be rule rather than the exception, which I truly am sorry about. It was really exciting to hear from so many of you regarding my last post where I outlined our plans for our RTW trip (and I promise I will respond to all of your comments and will certainly be emailing some of you too!), so even though reading has been somewhat sketchy around these parts of late, I am definitely hoping to cobble together some more pre-trip posts where I go into more detail about the various countries we plan hope to visit, as well as keep you all abreast of the less theoretical/research-based elements of trip planning as well. But of course, I know all of your are book-lovers at heart, so when I do have bookish content to post, I certainly will do that too! Now, is one such instance, because even though I have hardly read anything in the past three months, my gig reviewing things over at BookPage has made it so that I still read at least one book a month. In the case of March's issue, two books were simply irresistible to me, so I pulled double duty and covered something for both the fiction and the non-fiction section (a first for me!).

Look! A book! And I read it!

On the fiction front, I read and wrote about Heidi Julavits' trippy new novel called The Vanishers, which you can read here. This was my first Julavits novel, and boy was it weird! Given that I knew it revolved around psychics and astral adventures, I don't know why I ever would have thought otherwise, but this book really did surprise me at every turn. I think I really hit the proverbial nail on its head when I compared this book to the films of David Lynch, so if unusual, mindbending stories that question the limits of reality are your thing, this is the book for you.

I read this one too!

The Vanishers was a very good book, but my other read, I absolutely loved. I absolutely use nepotism to my advantage and put in a personal plea to the non-fiction editor to let me cover Jeanette Winterson's memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and I have absolutely no regrets on that front. At a time where reading has often felt like a chore, this is a book I could not stop reading. Even though I was reading a completely unfancy galley copy of this book, I would cradle it like it was the most precious thing whenever I picked it up because there were times when I felt like I was staring into the very contents of someone's soul (perhaps my own?) as I read it. I seriously cannot say enough positive things about this book (if I could have its babies, I would!), but if you want to read some of my adulatory thoughts on it, you can check those out here. Ultimately, I may not read very many books this year, but I kind of think 2012 will be known as the year I read this book no matter how many other books I wind up finishing, so there is that. Hurrah for books! I'm desperately trying out many different books on a daily basis hoping to find one that sticks, so fingers crossed that one of these days you see me posting about something that I read for personal, not professional, reasons!