Favorite reads in 2012

This year I made a lofty goal of reading 175 books.  I’m cutting it a little close to the wire (damn kidney stone- forgive me but profanity is the only correct way of talking about these things.)  However, if I recover quickly from my upcoming surgery, I should be able to reach it.

Out of the 174 books I’ve read thus far, here are a few of my favorites.

1- The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Louise Penny.  These are smart murder mystery novels set in Canada, usually in the small and charming village of Three Pines.  The first book in the series is called Still Life and it’s a solidly good book.  However, each book in the series gets better and better, although they should be read in order to get maximum enjoyment out of them.

The best part of all these books is the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache himself, who goes around solving all the murders.  Inspector Gamache reminds me of Cary Grant- even though Gamache wears a police uniform, is French-Canadian, and he doesn’t dance.  But trust me, there are similarities nonetheless.

2- The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.  This book (and the rest in the Spellman series) is hilarious.  Full of one liners and quippy comebacks, this is what you read when you need to be entertained.  The writing is well crafted and the wonderful characters make this book one of my favorites.

3- Chocolat by Joanne Harris.  This book reminded me strangely of Mary Poppins.  It has a magical woman brought to a small French town by “the wind” who changes the people around her for the better by unlocking their potential.

Of course you have chocolate, amazing, decadent chocolate and you also have the message that a little self-indulgence is a good thing (a philosophy which the British Mary Poppins might not agree with.)  So imagine a French Mary Poppins who, with an earthy sensuality and a penchant for chocolate making, does battle with the hypocritical, arrogant, corrupt clergy to free the local people from a puritanical and dull existence.

4- One for the Money by Janet Evanovich.  I will admit that this book was one of my guilty pleasures this year.  Picture “Jersey Shore” with a little smidge of  “Law and Order” thrown in and you begin to have an idea of what this novel is about.  Fun, sexy, and entertaining.

5- The Quarter-Acre Farm by Spring Warren.  Part memoir and part recipe book, The Quarter-Acre Farm follows a year in the life of the author as she tries to produce enough food in her home garden to supply over 75% of her diet.  I found it interesting and compelling.

6-  The Kate Daniel series by Ilona Andrews.  Again, guilty pleasure time.  These books are part supernatural fantasy and part dystopian, post-Apocalypse.  The writing is good, the characters are gritty and a little sexy, and best of all there is no cliched love triangle.  (And the people all said, AMEN.)  Warning: the first book, Magic Bites, is solid, but the later installments are even better since the characters get fleshed out more.

7- On Writing by Stephen King.  I have loved Stephen King since junior high.  While I realize he’s not for everyone, I think it’s universally accepted that he’s a gifted author (or at least it should be universally accepted.)  This book is half biography and half writing instruction, all of which oddly creates a great story.  If you have any aspirations to writing, this should be something you read.

8-  Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  Haunting, chilling, and provocative.  Those are the three words that best describe this book geared toward young adults (and I’m young at heart, so it works.)  This book dealing with the suicide of a teenage student will stay in your head, percolating for a long time after you read it.  I think it should be required reading for every student and teacher in high school.

9- The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell.  This book was complex, deep, and devastating.  Never was I more thankful to be a woman in the modern age with my rights safely guarded, than after I read this story of a girl locked away in an mental institute against her will.  Told from three different points of view, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is an intricate tale pieced together bit by bit by bit.

So here are some of my top reading picks in 2012.  What good books have you read this year?

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