Tuesday Top Ten

topten2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten list of books that I’ve read so far in 2013 – I am just limiting myself to those for which I’ve written reviews, so these are actually my favorites since I started my blog in February (and in no particular order)!

  1. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – Funny and touching story set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950.
  2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – A fun and quirky adventure melding the ancient with the latest technology.
  3. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger – A mystery and a coming-of-age story set in 1960s small town Minnesota.
  4. With or Without You by Domenica RutaA searing memoir of the author’s relationship with her drug-addled and irresponsible mother and her own struggles with addiction.
  5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – A touching and endearing story of young love between two unique individuals.
  6. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – An amazing story of this founding father, a complex and fascinating man.
  7. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson Unique storytelling style combined with an up-close look at life in England during the two world wars.
  8. Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra – A difficult yet beautiful novel set during the wars in Chechnya.
  9. Screwed by Eoin Colfer – A well-told story – gritty, violent, and raunchy – but great characters and a lot of fun!
  10. Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman – Another installment in this wonderful detective series!
Advertisements

Tuesday Top Ten

toptentoughsubjects

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge is to create a list of the books that you have read that deal with tough subjects.  Interestingly, many of the books on my list ended up being young adult books, while there is plenty that is light and fluffy in the YA genre, teens also deal with a lot of tough issues and there are many books that are beautifully written yet address tremendously difficult subjects.

Young Adult Books:

  1. America by E.R. Frank – One of the most difficult books I have ever read, a boy named America ends up lost within the social service system for over 11 years, ending up in a treatment facility after trying to commit suicide.  The story of his life, the years when he fell between the cracks, is heart-wrenching, raw, and brands your heart.
  2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – No one is speaking to Melinda – she called the cops on an end-of-summer party – while she silently tries to come to terms with the fact that she was raped at the very same party.  Bullying, sexual violence, and depression all come together to remind one how awful the teenage years can be for some.
  3. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Laurie Halse Anderson writes some really tough teen literature, although she does so beautifully.  Wintergirls is another example and one that I found even more difficult to read than Speak.  Two best friends with terrifying eating disorders, one who dies, and the other who lives while continuing to starve herself and engage in self-mutilation while dealing with her guilt over her friend’s death.  Stark and real, very tough stuff.
  4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Hannah has committed suicide and sends cassette tapes to thirteen of her friends telling them why – and what part they played in her decision to end her life.  Clay Jensen receives one of these tapes and listens to it as he spends the night traveling through Hannah’s life.  A difficult story about guilt and the impact that seemingly small interactions can have on others.
  5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – This story of the Holocaust as told through the life of a young girl in Germany is heart-wrenching.  The characters are so well-developed and so beloved that I felt a greater sense of loss in this book than in any other I have read.
  6. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Another harrowing story set during World War II, but this time following a 15-year old Lithuanian, Lina, and her family as they are forcibly removed from their country by the Soviets and sent to Siberian work camps.

Adult Books:

  1. Unbroken by Laura HillebrandAs long as I’m talking about stories set during WWII…  This true story of Louis Zamperini had many hopeful moments, displaying the power of human resiliency, but the central parts of the story, during the war and when he was held captive, were horrifying.
  2. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta – Maybe it’s because I’m a mom and because I believe that being a mom is the most important role I will ever play in my life, but books about horrific parents and the impact on their children are always hard for me to read.  This memoir definitely fell into that category for me.
  3. The Dinner by Herman Koch – The disturbing actions of the children in this story, and their parents’ complete lack of moral fiber left me disgusted and disturbed.
  4. Defending Jacob by William Landay – I loved this book, but as a parent I found it very difficult to read.  As a parent, how blind can we be to our children’s faults?  And how far will we go to deny the truth and protect the one that we love more than ourselves?  Tough questions with no simple answers.

With or Without You : A Memoir

with or withoutWith or Without You arrived this week, the next book in my Indiespensables subscription (complete with my extra gifts!  Just like Christmas all over again!).  Most of what I’ve been reading lately has been pretty light – this memoir definitely is not.  This has been a hard review for me to sit down and write, although thoughts of the book fill my head, getting them out in some organized fashion has not been simple.

Nikki (the author’s nickname) grows up in a trash-filled rundown house with her wild, unpredictable, and drug-addled mother, Kathi, in Danvers, Massachusetts, north of Boston.  The memoir travels through Nikki’s childhood and early adulthood, jumping around chronologically, and focuses largely on her relationship with her mother and her own struggles with addiction.

While the story is dark and oftentimes disturbing – Kathi provides Nikki with Oxycotin for her headaches at a young age, leaves her with a known pedophile, encourages her to get pregnant in high school, and gives her high-quality pot for Christmas – it is not as depressing as it sounds.  Ruta’s telling of her story layers caustic humor with love and the beginnings of forgiveness.  There are times when Kathi does try to be a good mother, although her methods may be unconventional – selling coke to pay for Nikki’s schooling, working three jobs to buy her outlandish Christmas gifts, doing whatever is necessary to ensure Nikki can go to dance lessons, French lessons, and the symphony.

In spite of the horrors Kathi subjects her daughter to, there are moments of affection and love and spunkiness and don’t-mess-with-us attitude that make you smile, laugh, and actually hope for Kathi’s redemption, and for her own sake, not just for Nikki’s.  As Nikki struggles with recovering from her own addiction she ultimately needs to cut her mother out of her life in a quest for sobriety and sanity.

Ultimately, this memoir is about a complicated mother-daughter relationship, filled with codependency, anger, hate, and love.  Ruta indicates that this book is largely a letter to her mother and the dedication heartbreakingly reads simply “To Her”.  The ending is real, not fiction, so there is no tidy resolution, just an ongoing struggle and the possibility of hope.

Title: With or Without You 
Author: Domenica Ruta
Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir
Pages: 224
Publication: Spiegel & Grau, February 2013

Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR list!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge is to list the books that are on our “to-be-read” list for this spring.  My TBR list is always long, but I will try to pick out a good sampling of what I’m excited about.

  1. Inferno by Dan Brown – I’m sure everyone will be reading this, but I must admit to being a fan of Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code, so I am sure this will be one that I burn through in a weekend.
  2. Requiem by Lauren Conrad – The last book in a trilogy that I’ve been reading, one of those that I started when the first book was released and now, after two years, I will finally get to read the end of the story!  I hear mixed reviews, but I can’t NOT read it.
  3. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare – Another last book in a trilogy.  Another two years spent waiting for the end of the story…  Finally!  This is why I keep saying I’m not starting anymore trilogies until the last book is released!
  4. A Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans –  This is the fourth book in The Walk series, and while I did not love the third one, I need to follow through and finish the story.  Seeing a pattern here?  I’m not doing this to myself anymore!
  5. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz – I adore Odd Thomas!  This series is not one that I mind waiting for, each book has an actual non-cliffhanger ending even though you know the journey will continue.  With the quirky characters, these are must-reads for me!
  6. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta – My next book from my Indiespensables subscription!  It should be here in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait!
  7. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – I have seen a lot of pre-release press on this book and I enjoyed Started Early, Took My Dog so am looking forward to just plain old fiction, not part of a series, something different to contemplate.
  8. Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell – I hear such great things about this collection of short stories that I can’t ignore it any longer!  I’m hoping that they will be good short reads for those instances where I don’t have the time to get absorbed in something longer.
  9. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger – I have the ARC of this sitting on my shelf and I am looking forward to a chance to read it – small towns, suspense, coming of age, all story elements I tend to enjoy.
  10. The Wonderful World of Oz by Frank L. Baum – I recently treated myself to the new collector’s edition box set of all of the Oz books.  Since these are on my series-to-read list I am going to start reading them aloud to the kids next week!  It’s been too many years (we are not going to talk about how many!) since I’ve read the first book in the series, and I am looking forward to sharing it with the family.