Last year I discovered goodreads.com which is an online site where you can keep track of the books you want to read, are currently reading, or have read in the past. I don’t want to sound dramatic but the discovery of this site was life changing for me because I was always finding books that I wanted to read or getting suggestions from friends and with my mild OCD tendencies I was feeling a need to be able to organize them so that I could reference these in a better way (I was trying to use note aps on my phone and spreadsheets unsuccessfully). After I found goodreads I learned that they do a personal reading challenge that will track your progress for you! I found the 2011 challenge in October or November and could hardly wait until 2012 came around so that I could start my own. I’m really competitive and even though this was just a personal challenge and I wouldn’t be competing with anyone but myself this kind of challenge was right up my alley!
I decided that my goal would be to read 40 books in 2012. I read a lot so I figured 3-4 books a month was completely reasonable. Here’s where the real challenge came in, I tend to re-read books that I love over and over again so I decided not to count any books that I’ve read before in my challenge. This would give me motivation to find and read new books instead of re-reading the books that I already owned.
Here is a list and short description/review of each of the 40 books that I read this year (in the order that I read them). It’s a little long and in hindsight I should have blogged these as I read them, but oh well:
1. Crossed by Ally Conde (Matched Series book 2) – The Matched series is about a dystopian society in which the government (the Society) matches you with your future husband or wife based on criteria about each citizen. The main character Cassia is mistakenly matched twice which leads to events that eventually leads to a Rising against the Society. In this second novel Cassia is on the run and looking to join the Rising. Great follow up to Matched!
2. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices book 1) – I had read the Mortal Instruments books and this series is a companion to that one but set in the 1800’s. The universe that Cassandra Clare created centers around demon hunting heroes called Shadowhunters. In this first Infernal Devices novel we are introduced to a mortal who is inexplicably connected to the Shadowhunter world and is drawn in to the madness of a man who is creating a clockwork animatronic army. This series is just as exciting as the Mortal Instruments and involves or references some of the same characters. With lots of action, mystery and romance, both these series are now among my favorites!
3. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices book 2) – see above description of Clockwork Angel
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Told from the perspective of Death, we follow the life of a young girl and the books that cross her path. Set during a time when books are forbidden she must procure and read these books in secret and each book marks an important time in her life. This book had a little bit of a slow start, it took me about 50 pages to really get in to it but once you do it’s a great!
5. Morning Ran Red by Stephen Bowman – This book is a fictional novel based on the real life story of the Villisca, Iowa axe murders. The story is good and it’s fun to speculate on what really happened but unfortunately the writing was awful and I couldn’t really look past that, especially the grammatical errors (seriously did no one edit this book?)
6. The Chronicle of Narnia by CS Lewis – Wonderful escape in to the fantasy world of Narnia! This actually has several books in one but I just counted it as one since I read it as an anthology in one large book.
7. What color is your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles – Self-help book designed to help you decided what your strengths are and what you should be doing in life. I always like to read books like this but somehow never discover anything new or life changing. I guess I already know myself pretty well J
8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – A story about a boy who discovers a parallel universe in which children with extraordinary abilities repeat the same day over and over again. Really fascinating and fast paced.
9. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder series book 1) – The Body Finder Series is about a teenage girl who is drawn to dead bodies and is pestered by their echos (last impressions) until she is able to help find who killed them. Nice, quick series the books are each about a different mystery that the main character, Violet, has to help solve.
10. Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder series Book 2) – see above description of The Body Finder
11. The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares – One of my new favorites, so sad but lovely. Ann Brashares (author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series) has a knack for getting you to really connect to her characters. This is a story of three childhood friends and the last summer that they spend together.
12. 3 Willows by Ann Brashares – A story about three childhood friends who as they grow in to middle school drift apart and the summer that makes them all remember the friendships they miss. Not as good as the Sisterhood series but a nice read about friendship.
13. The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder series Book 3) – see above description of The Body Finder
14. The Girls from Ames by Jeffery Zaslow – Real life story of 11 friends who have stayed in touch over their lifetime thus far. A nice story of friendship and fun to read things about Ames (since that’s where I’m from) but also a little sad. It makes you want to reach out to all your best friends since high school!
15. Insurgent (Divergent series book 2) by Veronica Roth – Exciting follow up to Divergent, a story of a dystopian Chicago divided in to five factions in which on an appointed day every year all sixteen year olds must select which faction to join for the rest of their life. After reading The Hunger Games I looked for similar dystopian society stories and this one is a good one, if you have to choose between the Matched series or Divergent, pick Divergent. But if you only have one option for dystopian young adult fiction choose The Hunger Games J
16. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments Series book 5) – The fifth book in a modern day story about the Shadowhunters similar to the description above for Clockwork Angel, follows Clary as she embarks on adventure after adventure with her Shadowhunter friends and downworlders like vampires and warlocks. Excellent series with lots and lots of twists and turns.
17. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright (book club book)- In the spring I started a book club at work and this was our first choice. It’s a short read about a family that gains insight in to their history with the letters that their recently deceased parents had written to each other every Wednesday of their lives together. Sounds like a sweet premise and it is, but not one of my favorite books. A little predictable and could be written better.
18. Sister by Rosamund Lupton – I almost forgot about this book until I started writing this and then I remembered, it’s amazing! About a woman who’s sister is found murdered and her involvement with the investigation, crazy twist ending!
19. PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern – I had seen this movie way back when and loved it. I figured enough time had passed that I could read the book and not judge it against the movie. Well, I found out that the movie strayed from the book just a little. Great book about love and loss and friendship, can get a little frustrating at times. I might just be insensitive but it felt to me that much more time had passed as I was reading and found myself more and more annoyed that this woman wasn’t just getting over it already. But that’s just me J
20. Love Rosie by Cecelia Ahern – I really did like PS I Love you, so I decided to read another novel by Cecelia Ahern, this one is written as letters/emails/Christmas cards, etc. between two childhood friends who at various times fall in love with each other but can never get the timing right, I read this fast because I wanted to see if they finally made it work!
21. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (book club book) – Another book club read, this classic novel about a dystopian society that forbids reading and burns all books confiscated from its citizens, follows a firefighter who has a revelation about the precious content of books. A little slow and then bam! Lots of action in the end!
22. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (book club book) – This book was long and has no plot. It’s about a man who happens to move to Venice just after the major Fenice fire in 1996 and his interactions with the people there. We thought it was going to be more focused on the fire itself and the mystery behind it, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. The writing is really great, but I didn’t love that there was no plot or anything to really tie things together.
23. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – This is one of my boyfriend’s favorite books from growing up and he insisted that I read it and now that I have I would definitely recommend it. About a boy destined to lead in the defense against a hostile alien race and the training he must endure to save Earth.
24. The Likeness by Tana French – A story about a detective who is drawn in to an undercover operation due to the likeness she shares with a murder victim. I’ve read one other book by Tana French and I just love her books, they are gripping and suspenseful and I couldn’t put it down.
25. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson book 1) – Great series following Percy Jackson, the demi-god son of Poseidon and the adventures he shares with his demi-god and mythological being friends. Excellent series, thank you Rick Riordan for giving me 5 great books to read this year!
26. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson book 2) – see above description of Percy Jackson novels.
27. The Titans Curse by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson book 3) - see above description of Percy Jackson novels.
28. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche (book club book) – Newlywed Rachel, finds after she moves to Chicago to be with her new husband that she doesn’t have the kind of friendships she wants and needs and she embarks on a year-long journey of 52 friend dates. Great story, reminiscent of The Happiness Project which is also an excellent book. Everyone in book club agreed that this sweet, light book about friendship was a good read!
29. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson book 4) - see above description of Percy Jackson novels.
30. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson book 5) - see above description of Percy Jackson novels.
31. The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore (I am Number 4 book 3) – Third book in the I am Number Four series in which nine survivors of the planet Lorien are sent to earth to grow, train and become strong enough to defeat the alien race that took over their planet. Pretty good series, fast paced and has interesting back story, not exactly a literary masterpiece though.
32. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – My one exception to the “no re-reads” rule. I had read this book in high school but not since and I remember it always as one of my favorite books of all time. When our book club decided to read this one I got to experience it again as an adult and wasn’t disappointed, still one of the best books I’ve ever read.
33. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – I wanted to read something spooky for Halloween so I picked this one and the next on the list. This one is written by the same author as Coraline (now a film by Tim Burton) and is about a boy named Nobody who after escaping the murderer of his whole family as a baby grows up in the graveyard with the spirits there to protect him.
34. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King – I’ve never read a Stephen King book so I thought this reading challenge and the fact that I was looking for a good scary Halloween book was the perfect time to try. First, I thought Stephen King was supposed to be scary… the beginning wasn’t scary, then there is a brief period in the middle that kind of got me, but as soon as you find out what’s happening it’s not scary anymore. Second, that book was about 200 pages too long. He’s very descriptive which is nice, but it could have been wrapped up a heck of a lot quicker and I wouldn’t have missed all the description.
35. 365 Thank You’s by John Kralik – In the spirit of the holiday season I chose this book because I thought it would be a cute book about being thankful. Instead, I got a story about a man who was deeply depressed and going through hard times and how he tried to turn it around by writing 365 thank you notes to people over the course of a year. Sounds okay, but somehow it was still depressing. Oh well.
36. Reached by Ally Condie (Matched series book 3) – See description of Crossed above, in this third and final installation we find our main characters living through the ramifications of poorly executed plan by the Rising. I enjoyed this book but it’s not as good as Matched or Crossed so that was a little bit of a disappointment.
37. I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson (book club book) – A compilation of short columns written by Bill Bryson for a British audience about life in American after moving back from England after 20 years. The description said this book was hilarious, I’d say amusing.
38. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – I wanted to read this book before seeing the movie because I love the Lord of the Rings movie series, I had however tried to read the LOTR books before and found the first one incredibly dense so I was happy to hear that The Hobbit was written for a younger audience and therefore much more readable. I wasn’t disappointed, JRR Tolkien was really a crazy person to have created this whole universe but it turned out to be a masterpiece!
39. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – This book was actually recommended to me by goodreads, it had been on my list all year and I happened upon it at the book store so I grabbed it up. This is a story of a ghost hunter who follows a lead to a ghost called Anna Dressed in Blood, but things don’t go as smoothly as they usually do for him. Pretty sure there will be a follow up to this book, it is left pretty open ended.
40. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – So, so depressing and sadly I can’t say that I would recommend this book to anyone. I’m a Harry Potter fan and when I saw that Emma Watson was in the movie adaptation of this book I was kind of excited to see what our little Hermione was doing next. After reading this book, I don’t really want to see it come to life. Charlie, a boy who has some serious emotional and social issues (and with the many disturbing revelations that come out throughout the story these issues are completely understandable). This story is written as letters to an anonymous friend from Charlie and is very personal from his perspective. Just very sad, there’s a brief part of happier times near the end and then I don’t want to spoil it but it takes a bad turn. I guess it says something about the writing that days after I finished I was still thinking about it. I guess.
And because I can’t help myself, I also re-read The Hunger Games before the movie came out in March but I didn’t count it toward the 40:
41. The Hunger Games (re-read – if you haven’t read it, read it.)
I also started a few books that I didn’t care to finish, I had to be responsible with my time if I wanted to fit all 40 in so if a book didn’t appeal to me within 100 or so pages I had to make myself move on, most notably and the one I tried the hardest to read was The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. I really tried to read this book and unfortunately I just wasn’t in to it. I love the Harry Potter series and was excited to read JK Rowling’s first adult novel, I might revisit this next year but it was taking me ages to get through because I wasn’t motivated to continue reading so for the time being I set this one aside. I did make it about 150 pages in though.
And finally, since I finished the 40 books with 2 week to spare, I’m currently reading this book and
will likely finish by the end of the year:
42. Extreme Measures by Vince Flynn
So, here I am at the end of 2012 with 40+ books read and am looking forward to a new challenge to work toward in 2013!