If I didn’t learn that WRITERS need to READ, then I did not learn ANYTHING at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR) Workshop in June 2010. With that in mind, I decided to include a list of titles I have either read or listened to.
- THE RED QUEEN* by Phillippa Gregory: Good heavens! I can’t remember the last time I read/listened to a novel wherein I disliked the main character as much as I disliked Margaret, Queen Mother of Henry VII. She was one self-righteous stinker, an original “SanctiMommy”, if you will. Sometimes it was rather hard to stomach her “godliness.” Regardless of the liberties Ms. Gregory takes with history, however, I better understood how monarchs – or mothers of monarchs – understood divine will: “Whatever I want, God wants!”
THE COLD DISH* by Craig Johnson: It’s been a little while since I’ve read a western novel, and I must say I chose a WINNER. I’ve read Louis L’Amour and Tony Hillerman, but have to say Craig Johnson is my new favorite western writer. I fell in love with the main character Walt Longmire. He’s my age (60-something) and a renaissance cowboy sheriff in modern Wyoming. He and the supporting cast of characters make readers laugh out loud, but that does NOT remove the edginess from the suspenseful plots. While Walt watches his language, some of his buddies don’t. Just a warning.
- A BREACH OF PROMISE* by Anne Perry: This is the first time I’ve listened one of Perry’s Victorian mysteries, and while I quite enjoyed it, I felt like this novel was 3 in 1. Of course, the author tied all the seemingly independent story lines together into a neat little package, but she had me going there for awhile. You have to be patient throughout the web-weaving, AND some repetitive details. Most frustrating, however, was the ending. Although Monk and Hester figure things out, the reader doesn’t get to witness the murderer get his/her comeuppance. When I have time to kill, I’m going to write my one final chapter where that happens, dang it.
- THE CHRISTOPHER KILLER by Alane Ferguson: See “Year of My Utah Writers.”
- THE CREATION OF EVE* by Lynn Cullen: First of all Lynn is NOT one of THE Cullens, but she is the author of a wonderful book of historical fiction that I was sad to finish. First of all it is about the 16th century Spanish royalty, but more importantly, the main character is Sofonisba Anguissola, a renown female artist who studied under Michelangelo. Her story takes her to Spain to serve as an art instructor and lady-in-waiting to Elisabeth of Valois, 14-year-old queen of King Filipe. The descriptive writing, the art world, and the court intrigues kept me riveted. Make this a must on your to-read list. (P.S. Lynn is the YA author of I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter.)
- THE DARK DIVINE by Bree DeSpain: Fun romp through a paranormal romance that EXcludes vampires but embraces a certain werewolf who descends from a line of hounds who were protectors of humans vs. their enemies. But like many good things, they often go awry. Nevertheless, through grace and sacrifice, the main character is a Savior to one of those.
- THE BOOK OF LOVE* by Kathleen McGowan: If you are interested in the Mary Magdalen theory that she was the wife of Jesus, you’ll enjoy this book of historical fiction. McGowan presents a dozen or more beliefs touted by a society who also claims the two wrote their own versions of Christ’s ministry and teachings. Fascinating.
- ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr: While this novel had heart-wrenching drama, it was also a hopeful book. The tragedy of a young kidnapped teen serves as the backdrop for more than one family in crisis. I enjoyed reading this novel more than I thought I would because I expected pervasive sadness. Instead I worked through doubts and confusion with Samara feeling that everything really would be okay. READ IT!
- THE LOSER’S GUIDE TO LIFE AND LOVE by A.E. Cannon: Boy, did I need this novel. Fun, clever, endearing. Ed/Sergio made me audibly laugh, also known as LOL. Sweet plot about figuring out who you are and who you are NOT. Just loved it!
- THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner: Really didn’t think I’d like this dystopian novel as much as I did. It was GREAT. Feels like a “boy” book, but this ol’ lady enjoyed the premise, the twists and turns (forgive the pun), and the characters. Great to read while waiting for MOCKINGJAY to arrive!
- EVERYTHING IS FINE by Ann Dee Ellis: We are all affected indirectly when tragedy strikes – even when we read about it in the newspaper or see the story on television. If it happens in our family, neighborhood, city, or state, it usually touches us in some way. Even so, we hang around the periphery, safe from the really deep hurt. Until we pick up a book like Ann Dee’s.
- SARAH’S KEY by Tatiana DeRosnay: I know you may wonder if I ever read a book I don’t like, I do. But this is yet another book I could NOT put down. I finished it in just a few days – fast for me. It is painful as it deals with the Holocaust, and it introduced me a historical incident I didn’t know about – the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundups of Jewish citizens by FRENCH police. So so good.
- GOSSAMER by Lois Lowry*: I haven’t read anything by Lois for quite a while, and I was so touched by this realistic fantasy about an “angry” 8-year-old boy, a lonely spinster, a troubled young mother, and the dream-makers who worked their magic to keep the nightmares away. Such a tender story.
- THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams: Oh my HOLY! WoW! This little book was a major PAGE-TURNER. I’ve read only one other book about polygamy (In My Father’s House: A Memoir of Polygamy by Dorothy Allred Solomon) and that piece of non-fiction was haunting. This fictional account was so disturbing but SO good! I have many questions that I’m dying to ask the author. READ THIS BOOK!
- THE WAY HE LIVED by Emily Wing Smith: I met Emily before I read her novel, and she is so charming that I knew I would never say anything bad about her book whether or not I liked it. But I have to tell you, it is a winner! Not only did I enjoy each of the seven characters and their relationship with the “absent” main character, Joel; I couldn’t help but think of how I’d love sharing these stories with students in a classroom. I love the book, Emily!!!
- THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie: I heard about this book last fall when attending a creative writing class at Southern Utah University. I won the book at a WIFYR book drawing. Why did it take me so long to pick it up? It educates and entertains in a painful way. I’m glad that so many teens are reading it. Adults need to pick it up, too. Wonderful.
- THE HERETIC’S DAUGHTER* by Kathleen Kent: It’s hard to read about a historical event as tragic as the witch trials of Salem, but this novel is rich with beautiful language and poignant insights into the events surrounding that terrible time. I LOVE this book and HIGHLY recommend it!
- PRINCESS of the MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George: A retold fairy tale that was SO fun to read. The hero was a knitter! Seriously!
Books read or listened to between May 2009 and May 2010 ~
- THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman: This Newbery Award winner begins with an intense murder of nearly an entire family. My 11-year-old grand daughter was quite distraught over that. I reassured her that the graveyard relationships soon warm up the most hesitant reader. I was as sad as Nobody Owens to leave that cemetery!
- ECHOES by Maeve Binchy: Finished this novel by the author of CIRCLE OF FRIENDS. Set in Castlebay, Ireland in the 1950s, the author combines my two favorites – a tender sense of time and place. Loved each descriptive sentence and MOST of the characters.
- THE RELIABLE WIFE* by Robert Goolrick: Not for everyone as this novel smolders with gothic sensuality, but a story of redemption lies in the middle of all that smoldering, and the writing is breath-taking.
- HONOR IN SPIES* by W.E.B. Griffin: Mammoth work about Nazis in Argentina during WWII. It’s filled with LOTS of very cocky characters.
- CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins: Second book in the HUNGER GAMES series is ALMOST the page-turner its predecessor is. I found out that Suzanne saved the WOW for the frustrating ending that’s NOT really an ending, but rather a cliffhanger!
- THE LAST BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE by Rodman Philbrick: Yes, ANOTHER futuristic novel. Not as gripping as HG or UNWIND, but it still holds my attention!
- HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: Have to say this novel lived up to the hype all the way through. Couldn’t put it down!
- THE HELP by Kathryn Sockett: Loved EVERY page of Kathryn’s first novel! One of my very best reads!
THE ASSOCIATE* by John Grisham: I am listening to this audio book because I needed something less heavy after wading through MR. DARWIN. : )
UNWIND by Neal Schusterman: Thriller with a most disturbing premise! It’s a nailbiter that examines several moral issues of the day!
THE RELUCTANT MR. DARWIN* by David Quamman: I so enjoyed learning about this amazing scientist, but the content made me THINK so hard that I developed a migraine. Seriously.
NEVERWHERE* by Neil Gaiman: First time I’ve ever read this author and WOW! C.R.A.Z.Y! But this wild fantasy – not for youngsters – is enthralling.
THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY: MURDER, MAGIC, AND MADNESS IN THE FAIR THAT CHANGED AMERICA* by Erik Larson: Fascinating non-fiction that details the frustration of building Chicago’s “white city” while exposing the horrors of the city’s notorious serial killer.
THE GIVEN DAY* by Dennis Lehayne: DEFINITELY for adults only – HARSH language but amazing historical fiction about post-WWI Boston.
GRAVEN IMAGES* by Paul Fleischman: 3 short stories that explore the eerie conditions of 3 different sculptures. Excellent!
ANTHEM* by Ayn Rand: Intrigued with this amazing classic that challenges the collective “we.” I also found it interesting that she revised it AFTER the book was published.
PRISONER BY BIRTH* by Jeffrey Archer: a fun re-telling of The Count of Monte Cristo – not the best written novel around, but a good page-turner.
TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Lewis Stevenson: Finished this classic and have to admit I really enjoyed this FATHER of ALL pirate stories!
The BOURNE SANCTION* by Eric Van Lustbader: NOT Robert Ludlum in any way – never read so many thriller clichés in my life.
KIDNAPPED by Robert Lewis Stephenson: Starts fast, bogs way down as David and Alan tramp through the bogs and Highlands of Scotland.
MASTER AND COMMANDER Series* by Patrick O’Brien: I finished listening to the entire 19-book series. I’ll miss Jack and Stephen!
THE OTHER QUEEN* by Phillipe Gregory: About Mary Queen of Scots, this book is more than Excellent. Still doesn’t match up to my favorite Gregory favorite, THE CONSTANT PRINCESS.
THE BROKER* by John Grisham: First Grisham novel I’ve read in ages; loved the setting in Barcelona; liked the suspense, tolerated the main character.
AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green: LOL Printz honor book. : D Loved it!
SWEETHEARTS by Sara Zarr: a fabulous author from Utah writes a bitter-sweet story about old friends and sensitive memories.
WINTER’S TALE* by Mark Helprin: a beautiful, L.O.N.G, realistic fantasy that grows on you over time. And I mean time!
GODLESS by Pete Hautman: well-written story about questioning religious beliefs, but main character was hard to like.
STORY OF A GIRL by Sara Zarr: a quick but somber read that touched me deeply.