My top reads of 2013

If you’ve followed me since inception, you know the routine, and you might need your head examined. For the rest of you, here’s the run-down.  Each year in December, I post the ten best books I’ve read all year, regardless of when the book first appeared in publication.  I consider ebooks, audio books and yes, paper books so long as I read them this calendar year.  And since a few days remain in 2013, I pledge I will only read crap the rest of the year so as to not ruin my list.

10. Flowertown by S.G. Redling — I had high expectations for this dystopian novel and this book met-if not surpassed- them. After a chemical disaster leaves an Iowa town in quarantine, the inhabitant yearn for freedom or at least answers. Ellie is a terrific anti-hero who must decide whether to continue a slow death or find a way to channel her rage at the true enemy.  As an FYI- There’s a lot of language in here – didn’t bother me but it may put off some readers and may explain why it hasn’t taken off like some other dystopian series aimed more at the young adult market.

9. If the Shoe Fits by Amber T. Smith — This updated Cinderella story features an evil ex-stepmother, a talking cat, a pair of memorable shoes, Mr. Charming and an even more charming heroine in Ella.    I love that Ella has a lot of self-confidence and can laugh at her own propensity for getting into awkward social situations. She is the type of gal who will make you laugh so hard to spit beer out your nose on girls night out.  There is a terrific sense of play in this book.  If you want serious literature, run the other direction.  This book is a light as air delightful bon-bon, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.

8. Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter — Jane Porter did something I never thought was possible – she made a type A perfectionist super Mom human. Part of the appeal for me in this book stems from how well it meshed with book #2 on my list.  The heroines surely ran into each other somewhere along the way with bile and hilarity ensuing.

7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett — this is one of those books that will fuel conversations for years.  It’s not a perfect book, but memorable with winning characters you think about long after you close the covers.

6. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea — I blogged about this book last week.  Click here to see why it made my best list.

5. The Time Between by Karen White — Not only is this a strange choice since it actually came out this year, but I haven’t met anyone else who has read it, which is weird and a shame.  I’ll be honest, if I’d seen it in a bookstore, I might have walked past it, but I received a complementary copy from the author at a writing conference and picked it up when a bunch of other books were in moving boxes.  I won’t spoil the mystery surrounding the great aunts, but will say if you enjoy Southern Fiction (it’s set in the Carolinas), or even stories that address familial guilt, pick up this book.  You can practically smell the sea breeze.

4. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim — Embrace your inner Nellie Olsen – Alison did, but this book is so much more. Part Hollywood memoir, part feminist manifest, part overcoming horrors, you’ll learn about humanity and laugh so hard you might pee your wetsuit. (See – that’s why you need to read the book).

3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker — Another young adult dystopian, but this one, I’d share with my 10 year old.  Unlike many dystopians that feature a world divided by have/have nots and marked by violence, this looks at transition time.  The earth’s rotation is slowing, the time between sunrise and sunset increases daily.  This almost poetic look at the banal during a life changing epoch reminds me of my fave nuclear holocaust film/series of the 1980’s Testament.

2. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple — freakin’ hilarious and I admire the untraditional storytelling.

1. The Fault in our Stars by John Green — I finished this several months ago and words still fail me when I try to communicate the elegant, unapologetic beauty of this story of about teens with childhood cancer

So that’s it – what should I read next?

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Review: Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

I’ve been a bad blogger lately, but as I prepared for my annual “best books I’ve read this year” list, my daughter threw me a curve ball.  Who out there guessed a book geared for ages 8-12 would throw my list into turmoil?  A Maud Hart Lovelace Nominee–which is some Minnesota thing– my daughter spent three months trying to get this book from the library.  Don’t waste your time on the wait list. BUY this book immediately, especially if you have school age children. Because of Mr. Terupt  by Rob Buyea is the type of book they will want to read again and again, and chances are, so will you.

I hardy know where to begin, except to say this is a masterful work.  As a writer myself, I am in awe of Buyea’s technique. Plenty of authors struggle to create two distinctive and believable narrators for their story. Buyea created seven unique fourth graders with heartbreaking authenticity.  By the time the reader gets partway through October, the point of view character is obvious, even without seeing the name.

Technique is nothing without heart and Buyea writes with plenty.  The seven fourth graders are part of Mr. Terupt’s class and the story follows them throughout the school year. Mr. Terupt is the type of teacher we all want our children to have — someone who inspires them and encourages them, alas to add conflict and drama, an accident occurs. It is only then, the characters truly understand what their teacher gave them.

My daughter handed the book to me and promised “you’ll cry because you’re laughing so hard and because you are sad.” Yup. I also loved how it opened communication between us.  With so many different types of characters, we had lots of conversations that started about the book, but ended with both of us learning more about each other.  Terrific writing entertains and builds empathy.  Mr. Buyea wrote one for the ages.  So whether you are a grade-schooler, the parent of a grade-schooler, a grade school teacher or someone who once had a memorable and wonderful teacher, do yourself a favor.  Get this book.

Because the cute photo didn’t want to work, here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Because-Mr-Terupt-Rob-Buyea/dp/0375858245/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387405374&sr=1-3&keywords=rob+buyea

And one for B&N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/because-of-mr-terupt-rob-buyea/1019626278?ean=9780375858246