I love to read and I love to write. Unfortunately, life often gets in the way and I don’t spend enough time on the things I love to do. I set a goal for myself around Christmastime 2011 to make sure, despite my work obligations, motherly goings-on and wifely duties, to finish reading at least one book each month throughout 2012. Additionally, I have begun brainstorming the best course of action for the summer when I have more free time to write. At bare minimum, I need a few hours a week to devote to writing query letters, posting blogs, researching, and finishing my young adult novel. I may attempt an hour a day, or chunk it into one 6-7 hour Starbucks sitting on a Sunday, depending on my husband’s flexibility. Either way, I have promised myself not to set unrealistic goals, but to carve out some time to do things that are just for me.
I am proud to say that I did complete my goal thus far. I haven’t even flipped the calendar page to June and I’ve already read five books (well, sort of… one I didn’t finish entirely. But I’ll get to that). In addition, I am happy to report that each of the books I read is in fact a book I would recommend to another reader. This is huge for me because often times, I do not get the hype surrounding books people around me seem to love, or I choose a book that seems interesting but slowly bores me to death and I end up putting down.
So, here is a rundown of my first five Good Reads of 2012:
JANUARY: By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
PROS: Because I teach high school English, I often gravitate toward young adult fiction. I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon this book, but I could not put it down. It is a quick and easy read. I adore books written in first person and this story made me feel like I knew Daelyn Rice and understood her struggles.
CONS: I have not yet recommended it to any of my students because I believe the subject matter–an insecure teenager who has attempted suicide unsuccessfully multiple times and now consults a cyber support group to help her end her life–is quite mature and emotional.
FAVORITE QUOTE: “I’m sorry you don’t get it, Mom. Sometimes I don’t get why I do the things I do. I just know I wake up every morning and wish I was dead.”
This quote broke my heart. I think it was the first time I realized that my son may go through things in life that I can’t save him from, that I can’t prevent him from facing. But like this girl, I hope there are some people in my son’s life who will show him there is always a way out.
FEBRUARY: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
PROS: I had been following a few mommy blogs and saw someone post a review of this book. I am not an outdoorsy person by any means, but my husband and I have often discussed that we want to make sure our son actively participates in life rather than standing on the sidelines as a spectator. I take my son for walks, we go outside in the rain to play barefoot in puddles, and I hope we make many more memories (sans spiders, I hope) in the great outdoors. This book not only encourages people to get outside, but also proves that a lack of interaction with nature can cause physical, emotional and mental trauma to a person. Louv even argues that the resurgence in mental illness is directly connected to the increase in sedentary behavior in more technologically advanced nations. A real eye-opener.
CONS: I’m not a fan of nonfiction. I admit it. I did not finish this entire book. I read quite a bit, then began skimming chapters and highlighting key points. It started to feel like a school research book because of all the statistics and percentages and citations and that’s not my style.
FAVORITE QUOTE: “Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses.”
MARCH: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
PROS: A former student recommended this book to me. If I have a student who likes to read and enjoys a book, I’m all about it. It is another young adult fiction tale with a female protagonist, but it is incredibly unique. The author intertwines the personalities, motivations, hopes and tragedies of two characters–Kate Connelly and Sean Kendrick–while describing the island of Thisby, where men ride on man-eating water horses to entertain tourists and win money. I adore the characters, setting, and plot. Even the connections the characters made with the horses, the constant imagery of the sea and the sky, and the tales of magic were intriguing. A must-read.
CONS: There really aren’t any cons to this book except my only personal issues. For some reason, it took me a few tries to really delve into this book. I firmly believe that there is a time for everything, even reading. I picked this book up in December, found the beginning to be somewhat dry, and put it down. Picked it up again in January, and put it down. In March, I was hooked. Give it time.
FAVORITE QUOTES (I have many… I loved this main character):
1. “I’m quite happy for that smile, because Dad told me once you should be grateful for the gifts that are the rarest.”
2. “It’s easy to convince men to love you… All you have to do is be a mountain they have to climb or a poem they don’t understand.”
3. “Boys,” she says, “just aren’t very good at being afraid.”
APRIL: The Night Circus by Eric Morganstern
PROS: A friend recommended this to me and I’m so so SO glad she did. This is the most descriptive, most creative work of fiction I have ever read. Two magicians (and I use that term loosely because they were so much more than that) train students to battle each other in a vague challenge surrounding a black-and-white mysterious circus that operates internationally from sundown to sunrise. The types of illusions created in this novel–ice gardens, a boat made of pages floating on a sea of ink–are ones I couldn’t have even dreamed–and I dream some strange dreams. It appeals to all the senses and pulls on the heartstrings, as well.
CONS: It may get difficult to keep the dates and characters in check because the book shifts around a lot. I actually didn’t realize the dates were going ahead in time and then back in time until I was already a little confused.
FAVORITE QUOTE: “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words.”
MAY: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
PROS: decided I needed a shorter, lighter read for May because I was running out of time to complete my goal of one book a month. The Old Man and the Sea is a classic, and I love classic literature. Additionally, our school approved this novella as one of the summer reading selections for freshman English students. I decided I should get ahead on the game and read it before the students.
The Old Man and the Sea is quintessential Ernest Hemingway. It’s simple. It’s straight to the point. It’s not flowery. And although it is in every way the polar opposite of The Night Circus, I still enjoyed it. It is a tale of strength, optimism, and courage. An old fisherman battles an 18-foot marlin for three days after an 84-day dry spell with no good fishing. Sounds boring, but it was a worthwhile quick read if you are able to absorb the symbolism and moral surrounding the story.
CONS: Really, if you’re not into simplicity, that’ll be the sticky point for you. There’s really no lead-up, no follow-up, no real character analysis to be done. It’s a simple tale that teaches a universal lesson. No real cons, just maybe not for everyone.
FAVORITE QUOTE: “But a man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
There you have it! 5 books in 5 months, all of which I would recommend!