(Which means I read them in 2012, not necessarily that they were published in 2012.)
Listed in alphabetical order.
Beautiful Ruins – An engrossing novel that spans continents and decades. It’s a love story, a war story, a fictional Hollywood tell-all and a satiric look at modern society that wants what it wants when it wants it, regardless of the consequences. The book is elaborately plotted and a fictionalized Richard Burton is a key player, who miraculous ties all the characters together. I don’t know how the author was able to make it work so extraordinarily. Genius!
I Love the 80’s – Probably one of my favorite, good-time books of the year. I just loved this story, but I’ve always – since the 1980’s – had some kind of crush on a variety of rock stars! This book fueled that schoolgirl part of me and further entertained me by taking place in my favorite decade. Jenna & Tommy made me laugh and swoon! Great for a rainy weekend.
I’ve Got Your Number – I loved the premise of this book, with its clever plot. We all, unfortunately, can relate to the desperation and panic we feel when we lose our phones! Add to that, Gen Y’s tendency to court with e-mail and text and Kinsella’s ability to create a heroine who is charming, smart, funny and a bit fragile, combined with a dashing, debonair Englishman and you’ve got romantic comedy gold.
Me Before You – The best love story I read this year, and by far the book that cost me the most in Kleenex. This story of a quadriplegic and his caregiver captured me from the beginning. Moyes is a gifted storyteller who somehow made a hopelessly sad situation heart-stoppingly engaging. I couldn’t put it down and remained hopeful till the bittersweet end.
On the Island – Biggest surprise of the year. A book with a trifecta of buzz kills: plane crash, cancer, and an awkward and untraditional May-December romance that had me turning the page faster than I could read. Shocking, but I loved it! It was a debut, self-published novel that took the publishing world by storm. A star was born and I cannot wait for her sophomore effort.
The Ex-Debutante – I adored this book, which has family, legal, social, and love story drama. As if that weren’t enough, it’s set in the Texan world of Junior Leagues and debutante balls where everyone has money, and lots of it. The characters are so funny and audacious; I laughed so much and personally fell for the charming hero. Best character names, too: Racine, Ridgley, Carlisle, India – so drama!
The First Husband – Laura Dave writes sophisticated, smart woman’s fiction. Her writing is beautiful and had me feeling as though I was living in the story. The initial meeting of the two romantic leads was my favorite of the year. Their chemistry sizzled on the page and I couldn’t wait to see where they would end up. Also, the book features one of my favorite supporting characters of the year, the first husband’s brother, who is technically a genius, but oh so clueless when it came to his personal life.
The Good Woman – One of my favorite authors wrote a mesmerizing story about Meg, a woman who makes one gigantic mistake. Only Jane Porter could create a character with a vulnerable combination of good and bad qualities that made me love Meg, despite her what she did. I found myself making excuses for her moral failings. In addition to introducing us to Meg, Porter gave her a family full of complex, flawed characters, who I can’t wait to get to know better. Book two of this series comes out in February 2012.
The Next Best Thing – Jennifer Wiener has the unique ability to write extraordinary and compelling stories and each one is different from the next. I don’t know how she does it. TNBT is about a young Hollywood show runner, who has both physical and psychological scars. It’s a true Cinderella story, but without the princess makeover. It. Is. Amazing. There’s a truly unique love story, but that’s not the best part. I enjoyed all the wheeling, dealing and sacrificing that goes into getting a script – a writer’s baby – sold and then produced into a show. I had no idea what was involved. Careful what you wish for…having your dream come true can be a real bitch.
The Paris Wife – by Paula McLain. A fictional retelling of the love story between Ernest Hemmingway and his first wife Hadley. It takes place during the absinthe-soaked decade of 1920’s Paris, where the Hemingways hung out with Gertrude Stein, F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald and other literary elite. Poor Hadley had her husband stolen right out from under her by a close friend. It was awful, but I couldn’t stop reading – but I swear, I’ll never read anything by that dog Ernest, again.
The Underside of Joy – by Sere Prince Halverson. The book is beautifully written with lyrical prose. Oh, how I wish I could write like that! A story about grief, it’s basically a downer for much of the book, but the author wrote characters who were so human that I couldn’t leave them. I just wanted them to get better and be happy again. There’s a heart wrenching custody battle that is high stakes and I really had no idea where the author was going to take everyone. I couldn’t put the book down until I knew that Annie and Jake (the children) would be happy and safe.
The Violets of March – by Sarah Jio. This is a book with two stories. First there’s the newly divorced Emily who her Greta Aunt on Bainbridge Island, in order to get over her heartbreak. While there, she finds a diary from 1942. The diary is another story of heartbreak, this one about Ester, who gave up on her true love by marrying the “safe choice,” only to regret it for a lifetime. There are many parallels in the two stories and the diary ultimately helps Emily heal…but not before she solves the mystery of who Ester was and what ultimately happened to her.
What Alice Forgot – by Liane Moriarty. The book was fascinating to me. The plot wasn’t original, given that I read three amnesia themed books this year, but Alice is an unforgettable heroine. She wakes up in the hospital with the last ten years of her life gone, finding herself the mother of three children whom she doesn’t remember. She’s also getting a divorce from the man she was madly in love with (in her mind) only the day before. What in the world happened? Alice’s reactions to the chaos of a house full of rambunctious children is priceless. I was laughing so hard, I had to put the book down. It’s a great story about one woman’s quest to find out how life changed her for the worse and how she can get back to the Alice everyone else has forgotten.
Where We Belong – By Emily Giffin. This is the story of Marion and Kirby (and Kirby is one of my favorite fiction characters of last year). At eighteen, Marian got pregnant and gave her baby up for adoption. Eighteen years later Marion’s baby, Kirby, comes looking for answers. Their reunion is awkward, but it kicks off a tentative friendship between the two as they hunt for Kirby’s biological father, which in and of itself, is quite complicated! The story also encompasses Marion’s parents and Kirby’s adoptive family and everyone has a stake in this story. Giffin provides everyone’s point of view and no one is portrayed as a bad guy. It’s up to the reader to decide whose side they’re on…I for one couldn’t decide.
Wife 22 – by Melanie Gideon. This book has a unique spin on a plot that isn’t original. Alice and William have been married for a long time (they’re in their forties) and both are contemplating the age old question, “Is this all there is?” Rather than turn to each other, they each deal with their midlife crisis separately. William quits his job and Alice turns to the internet, where she signs up to take a marriage survey and is designated as “Wife 22.” As she answers questions about her marriage, things get very interesting! We learn how Alice and William met and about the dreams they had when they were young. Just when it seems Alice has remembered what she loved about William, she falls for the researcher. Alice has to decide if her future is her past or her present.
Bitter is the New Black – by Jen Lancaster. The original Jen Lancaster memoir was written after she was laid off from a very lucrative job, in the wake of 9-11. Her unemployment lasted for a couple years, and she was forced into temp work and almost ended up on the streets (or living with her parents). It was during this time she started blogging bitterly. The book is funny, realistic, heartfelt, ironic and bitter. Loved it. It all ends well, so that’s even better. This book, although published almost a decade ago, is still relevant today, given the state of our economy the last few years. Sadly, many people would be able to relate.
– Tina Fey. A funny and sassy read. Fey is hilarious and her writing style is breezy and fun, yet I still felt like I was learning something. She loves her family, husband, daughter, friends and coworkers and writes lovingly and humorously about all of them. She’s a feminist who stands up for female comedians…you go girl! Her biting zings at the Hollywood machine are priceless and I appreciated the additional insight into what made her “Sarah Palin” tick. Then there was “A Mother’s Prayer for her Daughter,” which made me cry and laugh at the same time.
Jeneration X – Jen Lancaster. Her latest memoir is a hilarious take on her own realization that she’s grown up (so to speak). Now a homeowner and responsible adult who buys china and makes appointments for mammograms, she muses that her generation (which is also mine) is the most prepared for adulthood. Her arguments are funny and sure made a lot of sense to me. Go Gen X! The book is full of hilarious stories about things that could only happen to Jen. Her dumpster diving tale is priceless and her references to Generation X pop culture will make you nostalgic.
Rod Stewart – by Rod Stewart. This page-turner is full of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, as well as details of encounters, parties and affairs with the beautiful people of 1960’s London, 1970’s Hollywood and the modeling world of the 1980’s! Rod Stewart’s career spans 50 years and he was in more bands that I can recall, even after finishing the book, but it’s a “who’s who” of both British and American rock scenes. A talented and humble man who has lived quite a fascinating life, Stewart writes with humor and self-deprecation about being a son, brother, father and finally husband. Stewart is a fantastic performer (I can vouch for this, having seen him live and having an incredible time), and after reading about all his songwriting, album recordings and concert hijinks, I spent a fortune buying his old albums on iTunes.
Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson. Fascinating, disturbing, enlightening and quite frankly at times, heartbreaking. I fluctuated between disgust and awe. There’s not a lot to like about the man, but there is no denying his legacy. His story is legendary and quite frankly lives up to the hype. We’ve all benefited from his visionary nature, but I can’t say the same for those who loved him. He could be cruel, heartless and cold, yet almost everyone around him seemed to worship him. Still, I dare you not to cry when, dying from cancer, he has to turn in his resignation to Apple’s Board of Directors