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Monday, December 19, 2011

Books I Lost Sleep Over in 2011

I actually prepared this post before my 100 Followers Celebration Post but then I got 100 followers and the 100th follower stuck around so I thought it would be more appropriate to do a post acknowledging that and save this one for later.  As you know from reading the Woot, Woot!  100 Followers post, I asked for questions or blogging topics and a few people suggested a post on books I've read and liked.  For this post, I'm going to focus on books I read this year.

I read a lot of books this year.  Well, a lot considering everything else I've got going on in my life.  You can check out the entire list thus far on my website in the good books section.  Scroll all the way down.  I wanted to do some kind of recap of some of the best ones.  It's really hard to choose and I couldn't come up with what I felt was an appropriate ranking system.

Plus, some of the BEST books I read this year were by authors who are not published yet.  (J.C., Carrie, Jeff, Laila, Melodie and Michael you know who you are.)  In fact, a few of these writers don't even have agents yet.  But each one of them is an incredible writer and I am just as certain that their work will be on the shelves someday as I am certain that water is wet and the sky is blue. I just can't wait for other people to enjoy their books as much as I did.    Holy talented, Batman!

Anyway, so what I decided to do was make a list (in no particular order) of published books that I lost sleep over this year.  In other words, books that I could not put down.  Books that kept me reading well into the night when I should have been sleeping. 

So here are a few:

Homicide:  A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
Reporter spends 1 year embedded in Baltimore, Maryland's homicide department.  This book is about events that took place over 20 years ago and yet it doesn't feel dated one bit.  It's disturbing and gripping and riveting.  Not for the faint of heart.  I blogged about this book on my website in February.  You can read that discussion here


The Last Child by John Hart
This won an Edgar and I'm not the least bit surprised.  Actually I had no idea it was an Edgar Award Winner while I was reading it but I was thinking, "Wow, this reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe."  I say that because Hart builds suspense using imagery and setting, using both for effect much like Poe did.  The creepy-as-all-hell-make-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand-up effect.  It's about a thirteen year old boy searching for his sister who has been missing for a year.  This is also very disturbing at certain points but what I really loved about it was that it totally kept you guessing.  I mean at some point during the book I suspected almost every character of having had something to do with the sister's disappearance.  Incredibly well-written.  This is one I'll be reading over and over just to observe the ins and outs of the craft. I blogged about why I love John Hart so much on my website in March.  You can read that post here.

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner
The thing I loved most about this book was how tightly constructed it was from start to finish.  A young schoolteacher goes missing in a Boston neighborhood, leading police to suspect her husband had something to do with it.  Nothing is what it seems.  This too kept me guessing right up to the very end.  It was a whirlwind read that distracted me from every single thing going on in my life while I was reading it.  This is Gardner at the very top of her game.


Room by Emma Donoghue
This is told from the point of view of five year old Jack who has no idea that he is the product of an abduction and rape.  His mother was kidnapped several years ago and has been held captive as a sex slave, giving birth to little Jack and raising him in a 12 x 12 foot room.  If you can get used to the 5 year old voice, this book will knock your socks off.  It is so incredibly well-done.  I just think it is truly amazing what Donoghue has done in this book and she deserves every accolade she has received or will receive as a result of this book.  The premise is, unfortunately, one we're all too familiar with especially with the discovery of Jaycee Lee Dugard in 2009 but Donoghue's treatment of it is very, very original.  I blogged about this book on my website back in April.  You can read that discussion here


No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
A fourteen year old wakes up one morning and her entire family has vanished without a trace.  Twenty-five years later she does a TV interview hoping to stir up interest in the case again.  It works.  Strange things start happening leading Cynthia to believe her father may still be alive.  This book was an insane page-turner.  I could NOT figure out what the hell was going on right up to the very end and I totally did not see the end coming.  Pretty original.  This kept me up late at night.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter
So it's no secret that Karin Slaughter is my favorite writer.  This book will make a lot more sense and mean more if you've read all her previous books but it can totally be read as a stand-alone.  Georgia Bureau of Investigation officer Faith Mitchell goes to pick up her infant daughter at her mother's house to find that her mother has been kidnapped.  I've blogged about it here.  This is the best book Slaughter has written so far which is saying a lot.  I think this is an amazing read. 


A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
In 1991 Jaycee was abducted at the bus stop down the road from her house by Philip and Nancy Garrido and held by them for 18 years as Philip Garrido's sex slave.  Jaycee gave birth to two of Garrido's children in captivity.  She was found almost by accident in 2009.  This is HER story.  Her recounting of those years.  I blogged about her here.  You'll never read anything like this.  What was most fascinating and poignant about this book is how she was so young when these things happened to her that she didn't even have language for some of the things that were done to her.  She was so young that she didn't even fully understand what was happening to her.  Yet, she came out on the other side as a kind, generous, intelligent woman and a fiercely protective mother.  She's just an amazing and courageous person. 


The Help by Kathryn Stockett
In the early 1960s, a white woman starts writing a book about her Alabama town's black maids.  I didn't think I'd be into this book but so many people around me had read it and raved about it that I broke down and bought it.  I could not put this down.  It is well and passionately written.  Touching, infuriating and hilarious at times. 

Creep by Jennifer Hillier
Psychology professor, Dr. Sheila Tao breaks off an affair she's been having with one of her graduate assistants.  He doesn't take it well.  Creepy psychological suspense ensues.  This will definitely keep you turning the pages well into the night.  Sheila Tao is one of my favorite female protagonists of the year!  She is complex and imperfect yet extremely likeable.  Also the end of this book will leave you reeling.
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
So I don't read a lot of YA but my friend Nancy Thompson read this and recommended it and this is another one I simply could not put down.  High school junior Valerie Leftman's long-time boyfriend shoots up their high school, killing and wounding several people.  Valerie lives under a cloud of suspicion.  Was she complicit in the shooting or did she really have no idea what Nick was going to do?  This book is about the aftermath.  It is fascinating and honest and has a really fantastic message for everyone at its core.

By the way, can you tell I have a thing for abduction stories?  Mwah hah hah.

What books did you lose sleep over this year?

8 comments:

  1. Looks like my TBR pile just got larger. :)

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  2. Loved The Help and Creep. I've been scared to read Room, even though everyone says it's fantastic. I may have to put it on my list after all. Thanks for the great wrap up of books.

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  3. Creep was definitely my favorite, and that's not because we're friends. I just love that kind of book. Aberration is high on my list, as well. I, too, loved Room, The Help, and Hate List. But I also really liked Stolen, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Try Dying, and Still Missing. In non-fiction, I LOVED The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Plot & Structure.

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  4. Very nice list! I lost sleep over the 'The Hate List' too. Glad to have found your blog! :)

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  5. Holy cow, you do have a thing for abduction stories! You are much braver than I. I agree w/ you re: Lisa Gardner and Karin Slaughter's stuff, tho. When I can stomach the topic, those two are who I read. Another great bio you might like is Escape by Carolyn Jessop. She details her life as a multi-wife in FLDS and her escape from that. It is riveting.
    BTW, I just finished The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It was awesome, like I'm-going-to-buy-the-book awesome.

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  6. How do you find time to read so much? lol

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  7. D'aww... thanks for the mention! :)

    I loved CREEP, but I haven't stumbled across many of the others yet. (Although, I am on the hold list for THE HELP at the library. *grins*) Sounds like I have a few books to add to my TBR list!

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  8. I LOVED The Help. I have downloaded Room, but haven't read it yet. So many books, not enough time.

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