2012: A Year in Reading

As 2013 draws ever more near, I thought I’d take a few minutes to review the past year. 2012 was a good year for me overall, but I have to admit it was quite challenging at times. Grad school always has its ups and downs, but I felt like I really started to come into my own this year. I published my first paper, and am an author on two more that are out for review. I also passed my qualifying examination, and am now a Ph.D. candidate! It was a rocky year in my personal life (to say the least), but I’m very fortunate to have good friends and family to support me through the tough times. And whatever good or bad comes throughout the year…one thing I always have is my love of reading.

I’m still in my first year as a blogger, but I’ve kept tabs on my reading habits for basically my whole (reading) life. I’m currently in the longest, contiguous set of reading stats I’ve ever kept: 6.5 years and counting! Prior to 2012, my best reading year was 2007, during which I read 36 books. My “worst” reading year was 2011, during which I read only 18 books (although I read both Vanity Fair and War and Peace that year…so I think those should count for 3-4 books a piece 😉 ). So without further ado, here are my reading stats for 2012!

Reading Stats for 2012:

Number of books read: 45

Number of paperback/hardcover: 29

Number of audiobooks: 16

Number of fiction: 34

Number of non-fiction: 11

Average Rating (out of 5 points): 3.61

Most books read in one month: 7 books in September

Longest book read: 11/22/63 by Stephen King at 894 pages

Longest Audio Book listened to: The Passage by Justin Cronin at 29 parts

Number of books from BBC Challenge list: 8

Overall I’m really pleased with my 2012 stats. I felt I had good variety in my reading this year–some fun books mixed with the more serious fiction and non-fiction. I also had some “surprisingly great” reads this year. I call them surprisingly great because I either 1) had low expectations going in (i.e. it was a book I was trying to complete for some kind of challenge) or 2) I happened to come across it, picked it up on a whim, and loved it. These are my favorite kinds of reading experiences–when you can pick up something unexpected and get carried away.

Finally, with some trepidation, I thought I’d list my favorite books of the year. I tried to just pick one from each category, but I just couldn’t. So instead I’ve picked a favorite, and some very close runners up.

Best Fiction Book: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Cold Mountain

I devoured this National Book Award Winner (1997) in a couple of days. With its cast of memorable characters and similarities to Homer’s The Odyssey, this was one of my surprise favorites of the year. I’m going to rent the movie soon!

Runners up: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Best Non-Fiction Book: This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman

9780061958328

Another surprise favorite! I loved this beautiful and haunting memoir.

Runner up: Rez Life by David Treuer

Best Audio Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One

If I hadn’t read so many rave reviews for this, I have to admit I wouldn’t have picked it up. I’m not an avid fan of video games, so I didn’t think I’d really be into a book where the protagonist lived most of his life in a game. Boy was I wrong–it was great! And it has lots of great 80’s nostalgia to boot. I think I listened to the whole book in about 24 hours!

Runner up: Bossypants by Tina Fey

***

What were your favorite reads from 2012?

Book Review: Thunderhead

Title: Thunderhead
Author: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Format: Audiobook
Reader: Scott Brick
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publication Date: August 3, 2010
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

Nora Kelly, a young archaeologist in Santa Fe, receives a letter written sixteen years ago, yet mysteriously mailed only recently. In it her father, long believed dead, hints at a fantastic discovery that will make him famous and rich—the lost city of an ancient civilization that suddenly vanished a thousand years ago. Now Nora is leading an expedition into a harsh, remote corner of Utah’s canyon country. Searching for her father and his glory, Nora begins to unravel the greatest riddle of American archeology. But what she unearths will be the newest of horrors..

–From Goodreads

My Thoughts:

When I was in high school I would devour thrillers like they were candy. My appetite for them was seemingly endless…until I went to college. Then it was time to read serious, important, thought-provoking literature (on top of my engineering textbooks) because that’s serious, studious students do. Right? Right. Needless to say, I thought my days of binging on thrillers were behind me. Then, I read Await Your Reply, which was a REALLY good book but was a brutally slow read (well “listen” since it was the audiobook) for me. After that I needed something lighter, something that would “sweep me away” (in a non-romance novel kind of way). Enter Thunderhead.

The story opens with Nora Kelly, a young archeologist who receives a letter from her (deceased) father dated 16 years ago. In it, he details how he has found Quivira, the lost City of Gold. Nora, who is a struggling academic, puts together a team and heads to Utah’s Canyon Country to try to locate it. When they finally arrive at their destination, Nora and the team encounter obstacles, both internal and external, and what they find surprises them all (and me too).

After struggling through Await Your Reply, this novel was a much needed change of pace. The drama/suspense in the story hooked me right away, and I never found myself having those “oh get to the point already!!!” moments like I did with Await Your Reply. Although certain aspects of the story are somewhat predictable, there were a few surprising plot twists I didn’t see coming. Additionally, I have also always really loved the natural beauty of the American Southwest, and I really liked how the authors made liberal use of the setting. Finally, I also enjoyed learning about the history and the culture of the Anasazi people–I like feeling like I’m learning things while I’m reading fiction.

But as usual there were some things I didn’t really like…this is a “dreaded 3 star review” after all. The thing that bothered me the most was the characters–there are just too many of them. I seriously couldn’t keep them all straight!! I’m sure many, many people would be required for the type of archeological expedition outlined in this novel…but I’m not sure I needed to read about all of them. There were so many complicated back stories and people who seemed to have overlapping roles, and for the longest time I found myself asking “now who is he again?!”. Eventually I just gave up trying and went along for the ride. In addition to having too many characters, I  felt like the ones I could actually keep track of were pigeon-holed into stereotypical (and boringly predictable) roles. There was the young struggling academic, the rich girl with a chip on her shoulder and a lot to prove, the shrewd and cunning journalist, the wise financial backer who knows more than he lets on…you get the picture. I just wanted one of them to step out of their prescribed roles and surprise me, but sadly that never happened.

Overall, Thunderhead is an entertaining thriller that mixes history and archeology with some good ole fashioned suspense. While it’s not a great work of literature by any means, I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for something fun to read!

What Others Had To Say:

*Let me know if you have posted a review of this book that I missed!

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The unexpected plot twists and learning about history of the Anasazi people
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: I felt there were too many characters and that they were pigeon-holed into stereotypes.
  4. I would recommend this book for: People who like thrillers or books involving archeology/history

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

Book Review: Doctor Faustus

“Hell is just a frame of mind.” –Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Title: Doctor Faustus
Author: Christopher Marlowe
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Signet Classics
Publication Date: February 1, 2001
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

Faustus, a brilliant scholar, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for limitless knowledge and powerful black magic, yet remains unfulfilled. He considers repenting, but remains too proud to ask God for forgiveness. His indecision ultimately seals his fate.

Faustus’ story serves as a warning to those who would sacrifice righteous living for earthly gain. But Marlowe’s play is also a deeply symbolic analysis of the shift from the late medieval world to the early modern world—a time when the medieval view that the highest wisdom lay in the theologian’s contemplations of God was yielding to the Renaissance view that the highest wisdom lay in the scientist’s and statesman’s rational analysis of the world around them. Caught between these ideals, Faustus is both a tragic fool destroyed by his own ambition and a hero at the forefront of a changing society. In Doctor Faustus, Marlowe thoughtfully examines faith and enlightenment, nature and science—and the terrible cost of the objects of our desire.

–From Goodreads

My Thoughts:

Chances are you’ve probably heard the phrase “he sold himself to the devil” or “he made a Faustian bargain,” but have you ever wondered where that saying originated? If you don’t already know, it has its origins in the life of Dr. Johann Georg Faust, upon whom Historia von D. Johann Fausten (published 1587) is based. This work was translated from its original German to English in 1592 as The English Faust Book, and it is likely that Christopher Marlowe used this work as the basis for his famous play. Despite not appearing on “The Big Read” list, I have always been eager to read this work since it is referred to countless times in the literature and pop-culture alike (Damn Yankees anyone?!). I eagerly dove into my copy when I checked it out from the library and was not disappointed in what I found.

As mentioned in the synopsis, the play opens with Faustus’s search for a profession worthy of his talent (and ambition). After rejecting the traditional options (law, medicine, philosophy), he chooses instead to become a magician and learns to practice black magic. One of the first spells he casts is a summoning charm, which he uses to summon the devil Mephastophilis. Using Mephastophilis as a proxy, Faustus makes a bargin with Lucifier in which he (Faustus) will receive 24 years of service from Mephastophilis in exchange for his (Faustus’s) soul. Faustus eagerly agrees–during those 24 years he imagines he will be a god among men.  From here the story follows Faustus’s aimless wanderings throughout his remaining 24 years, which include his repeated opportunities and attempts to repent. At the climax of the story, he finally accepts his fate.

You know I can actually emphasize with Faustus to a certain extent. He was a bright, thoughtful scholar who wasn’t born with silver spoon in hand. Faustus knew he was a man who would have to make his own luck. But instead of choosing an honorable profession, he chooses to take the easy way out. His is the ultimate case of “selling out,” and similarly the pays the ultimate price. The worst part is that he has several chances to redeem himself, but he is never quite able to. To me, Faustus is the embodiment of the divided nature of man–he is constantly battling the good and evil forces in the outside world and within himself.

The big question I walked away with was: is it REALLY worth it? Once Faustus has ultimate power at his fingertips he doesn’t really DO anything with it. Sure, he learns a few bits of knowledge from Mephastophilis and plays practical jokes on kings…but his lofty ambitions go right out the window the moment he comes into power. He’s like politicians who make big promises during election season and back out on them after being elected into office. They say absolute power corrupts, and in this case I’d have to agree. I’ve often wondered since I finished this play how I’d react in a similar situation…assuming I was offered ultimate power and didn’t have to sell my soul for it of course. I hope I wouldn’t rest on my laurels, but I guess you never really know how you will react in a situation until you are in it.

Overall I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this classic play. Despite it’s dark subject matter, it actually has plenty of lighthearted moments and is a very quick read. For those of you who like to do a little extra research on the books you are reading, I highly recommend checking out the very controversial history of this work as well. I actually felt like I learned more by reading up on Christopher Marlowe and the two surviving versions of the play than I did by reading the play itself.

What Others Had To Say:

*Let me know if you have a review published and I’ll add a link to it!

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 4/5 stars
  2. What I liked: Reading this classic play, and learning more about its controversial history
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: Trying to pick the best version to read…the market is saturated with options.
  4. I would recommend this book for: People who want to read the original “sold his soul to the devil” story

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

Book Review: Await Your Reply

“At a certain point, you must be able to slip loose. At a certain point, you found that you had been set free. You could be anyone, he thought. You could be anyone.” –Dan Chaon, Await Your Reply

Title: Await Your Reply
Author: Dan Chaon
Format: Audiobook
Reader: Kirby Heyborne
Publisher: Playaway
Publication Date: November 1, 2009
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways–and with unexpected consequences–in acclaimed author Dan Chaon’s gripping, brilliantly written new novel. Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed.

A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy.

My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself–through unconventional and precarious means.

Await Your Reply is a literary masterwork with the momentum of a thriller, an unforgettable novel in which pasts are invented and reinvented and the future is both seductively uncharted and perilously unmoored.

–From the Hardcover edition

My Thoughts:

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten one of those spam emails from a person who claims to be from a foreign country asking you to help them recover their lost fortune in America (i.e. “If you give me your bank account number I will have the money deposited in your account”)? Are we all raising our hands now? In these emails the sender usually indicates that they “await your reply,” however most of us know that if we DO reply there is a good chance our money and even our very identity will probably be stolen. We also know that the sender of this email is likely not a down-on-their-luck foreigner from a third world country but a scam artist who could live anywhere in the world.  This fluidity of identity in the Internet age is the basic premise of Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply.

As indicated in the synopsis, this story is told primarily through the view point of three individuals separated by distance (and perhaps even time): Miles, Ryan, and Lucy. I quickly identified with Ryan (I mean he did go to Northwestern and all) and his feelings of  “not-fitting in” during his teenage years (I think we all feel this to a certain extent during this tender time).  He’s naive and optimistic, yet strangely jaded and passive with regards to his own life. Ryan’s story is by far the most strange, mysterious, and action-packed of the book. Honestly it was his story that really kept me interested while reading this longish and very dark book.

It’s not that Lucy and Miles’s stories were boring by any means…they were just slow. Really slow. I especially felt this during Miles’s passages. The prose would go on and on (and on) and never really go anywhere. I felt like I would listen to his story for 30 minutes and NOTHING would happen. Lucy’s story was similarly slow but also had the added element of unbelievability, which I think can be attributed to the fact that Chaon is a middle aged man writing about an 18 year woman. Lucy, as created by Chaon, is equal parts wise and naive. She is maddeningly blind to obvious things right in front of her, yet also possesses the cynicism and world-weariness of someone 15-20 years her senior. Overall, it was a combination that just didn’t ring true for me.

Despite my dissatisfaction with the character development and pace of the novel, I really enjoyed the exploration of identity. There is a school of thought out there that the “self” is immutable, that who you are and what you believe is ingrained within you. Chaon challenges that idea in this novel, and explores how The Internet Age can facilitate rapid changes in identity. It has certainly given me a lot to think about even though it has been several months since I finished the book.

On another note, I thought the narration by Kirby Heyborne was excellent. His voice was well suited to the male characters, and he did a good job with the female characters as well.

Overall, I would recommend this book to others with the caveat that it is a bit slow and has few light-hearted moments. The exploration of identity was very interesting, and the story has stayed with all these months since I finished it. I know I haven’t given this book a glowing review, but I am glad I read it.

What Others Had To Say:

*Let me know if you have a review posted and I’ll post a link to it

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The rich character development and the exploration of identity
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: The extremely slow pacing
  4. I would recommend this book for: People interested in issues such as identity theft and what constitutes a “self”

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

Book Review: Night

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” –Elie Wiesel, Night

Title: Night
Author: Elie Wiesel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hill and Wang
Publication Date: January 16, 2006
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family…the death of his innocence…and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

–Adapted from Goodreads

My Thoughts:

This is another one of those classic books that I somehow made it out of my primary/secondary school years without reading. I always meant to pick it up and read it, but just never got around to it until this spring. When I tried to check it out from the library I was shocked that there was a waiting list. This book was originally published in English 1960…I never expected it to still be this popular in 2012. If nothing else, I felt like this was a fitting testament to the quality of this work and the importance of Wiesel’s story.

From the beginning, I was drawn into Wiesel’s narrative. The story is told very matter-of-factly and in plain, simple language, which is part of what makes it such a great read for primary and secondary school students. At the beginning of the book we meet Eliezer, a devout Orthodox Jewish teenager who simply wants to uncover the mysteries of his faith and live his life in peace. Quickly, his world is turned upside down as he is forced from his home to a tightly-controlled ghetto, and then finally to a concentration camp.

I think the most surprising and poignant aspect of this story (and I had several of these moments during while reading this book) actually occurred for me at the beginning of the book when Moshe the Beadle tries to warn the Jews of Sighet (where Eliezer lives) of the Nazi death camps. He tells them of his flight from death and urges them to flee the country, but the population dismisses his claims and simply does not want to listen. I don’t doubt that his story was difficult to believe (I mean who wants to think that humans can be that cruel to each other), but I found their stubborn refusal to believe his story (even in the face of increasing evidence that he spoke the truth) particularly tragic and heartbreaking. In my mind this highlights an underlying (and in this case dangerous) tenant of human nature–our faith in one another’s humanity. Acts such as the Holocaust go against the natural order of things, so the denial of it by the Jews of Sighet is understandable even as it’s heartrendingly tragic.

When I mentioned to an acquaintance that I had begun to read Night he stated that he wasn’t sure why this particular work had received so much attention in the Holocaust literature genre. He wasn’t trying to say that he didn’t think this story (or Holocaust literature in general) was unimportant, he merely felt that this account was not a great work of literature (i.e. “it’s sort of a listing of historical facts”). To a certain extent I can see where he might be coming from–there are certainly no big words or fancy metaphors in Night. But I think it is precisely the plain language and stoic telling of the story that give it power and staying quality. Wiesel doesn’t philosophize or even really pass judgement on his tormentors, he merely relates the events as they occur. This allows a general audience to grasp and understand his message without getting caught up in complicated literary devices.

Overall, I think my thoughts on this book can be summarized by the first sentence of the most popular review of Night on Amazon.com: “this may be the best and worst book I have ever read.” It is a tragic, heartbreaking, and deeply moving memoir that explores one of the darkest sides of human nature, and is a book I think everyone should read.

What Others Had To Say:

*Let me know if you’ve posted a review of this book and I’ll add a link to it!

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 5/5 stars
  2. What I liked: Honest and brave telling of his horrific experience
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: The only thing I would ask for is “more.” I think an epilogue (or something of that nature) that gives some details about his life after liberation would be useful for most readers (or at least this reader).
  4. I would recommend this book for: Everyone

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

Book Review: This Life is in Your Hands

“The very nature of paradise is that it will be lost.” –Melissa Coleman, This Life is in Your Hands

Title: This Life is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone
Author: Melissa Coleman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: April 12, 2011
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

Set on a rugged coastal homestead during the 1970s, “This Life Is in Your Hands” introduces a superb young writer driven by the need to uncover the truth of a childhood tragedy and connect anew with the beauty and vitality of the back-to-the-land ideal that shaped her early years.

In the fall of 1968, Melissa Coleman’s parents, Eliot and Sue—a handsome, idealistic young couple from well-to-do families—pack a few essentials into their VW truck and abandon the complications of modern reality to carve a farm from the woods. They move to a remote peninsula on the coast of Maine and become disciples of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible “Living the Good Life”. On sixty acres of sandy, intractable land, Eliot and Sue begin to forge a new existence, subsisting on the crops they grow and building a home with their own hands.

While they establish a happy family and achieve their visionary goals, the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price. Winters are long and lean, summers frenetic with the work of the harvest, and the distraction of the many young farm apprentices threatens the Colemans’ marriage. In the wake of a tragic accident, ideals give way to human frailty, divorce, and a mother’s breakdown—and ultimately young Melissa is abandoned to the care of neighbors. What really happened, and who, if anyone, is to blame?

“This Life Is in Your Hands” is the search to understand a complicated past; a true story, both tragic and redemptive, it tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.

–Modified from Amazon.com

My Thoughts:

This isn’t the type of book I probably would have picked up on my own, but Amused by Books gave it such a glowing review that I ran right out to the library to check it out. It’s not that I don’t care about the environment or am not interested in more wholesome and sustainable ways of living, I’m just not sure I would have run across this book if it hadn’t been for her (but I guess this exposure is one of the great things about reading all your lovely blogs). My interest in sustainable living and design has grown over the past several years, and reading about the beginnings of this movement through one young girl’s eyes was fascinating.

As mentioned in the synopsis, Melissa Coleman’s parents were well-educated and from financially secure families, but instead of taking the easier (expected) route they choose to follow a dream of living a simpler life. With a handshake and a couple thousand dollars, the Colemans set out to “live the good life.” For awhile it does seem to live up to their expectations despite all of the hard work, and their family blossoms and grows. However, as their notoriety increases and Eliot (Melissa’s father) becomes more passionate about organic farming rather than homesteading, trouble begins to brew.

From the beginning I was hooked by this beautiful, tragic, and ultimately haunting memoir. The prose is lyrical and beautiful, and quickly drew me in. I loved reading about the beginnings of the farm, and the transitions the family undergoes as they adjust to their new lifestyle. Additionally, as the Colemans become more well known (thanks to an article in The Wall Street Journal), their farm becomes populated with a fascinating cast of characters who I also liked reading about. Another aspect of the memoir I enjoyed was the way the author included the events that were happening in the outside world as sort of a backdrop for her counterculture narrative.

If I had to make a critique of this book (and I did really enjoy it), it would be that the story tends to jump around. Sometimes it proceeds chronologically, but not always. Occasionally I would find myself flipping back and fourth between chapters to confirm dates and events, and I thought that detracted from the reading experience.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was fascinating to learn about the beginnings of the most recent “back-to-the-land” movement, and the history of organic farming in this country. I learned many interesting things about natural living, and even jotted down a recipe from the book to try. Even though this memoir is heavy on the organic/alternative lifestyle themes, I would still recommend it to a general audience because it is ultimately a book about dreams–how we work to achieve them and how we can be changed by them.

What Others Had To Say:

Amused by Books

*Let me know if you have a review of this book posted

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 4/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The author’s brave telling of her difficult family past, and the voyeuristic experience of reading about a life very different from my own
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: How it was difficult at times to follow the chronology of events.
  4. I would recommend this book for: People interested in the “back to the land” movement or organic farming

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

Book Review: One Day

“Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.”  –David Nicholls, One Day

Title: One Day
Author: David Nicholls
Format: Audiobook
Reader: Anna Bentinck
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

–From the Trade Paperback Edition

My Thoughts:

Question for the day: Does reading book reviews (that don’t contain spoilers) directly before embarking on the journey yourself bias your reading of a book? In this case, I’d have to at least say “maybe.” I put this book on my “to-read” list after seeing the previews for the movie when it came out a few years ago (I still haven’t seen it), and I read many positive reviews on Amazon.com and book blogs. However, a few days before I checked out this audiobook from the library I read Jamie’s “Reconsider or Release” post (where she debated whether or not to abandon several books) and One Day was one of the books was on her list. She asked for feedback on whether or not she should finish the books on her list, and for One Day the responses were lukewarm at best. So, this is the mindset with which I began reading.

Generally, I liked the premise of this book. Most novels  look at  either a short span of time (a few days to a year) or a long length of time, but skip significant portions of it in between. By examining the lives of Dex and Em on a single day for 20 years, the reader really gets to know and understand them. By the end of the novel, I felt like Dex and Em could be people I knew in real life. Thus, the character development is by far the strongest (and my favorite part) of this novel. Nicholls does an excellent job of creating very real and flawed characters, and although I didn’t always like Dex and Em I felt like I understood them.

Overall, my emotions ranged from mildly amused to annoyed while “reading” (i.e. listening) this book. At times, the story really seemed to drag on (I often found myself thinking “get on with it already!”), and the “funny bits” I read so much about were frankly few and far between. There were several times I put this book aside because it was just too depressing and predictable (more on that in a second), but I pressed on because I really hate to leave a book unfinished. By the time I got to the ending, I thought I knew what would happen but Nicholls threw me a curve ball…and not one that I liked. Yes, the final passages of the book were told beautifully but it wasn’t enough to erase the bad taste in mouth.

On another note, I really did not enjoy the narration in this audiobook. While Ms. Bentinck does a fine job of reading Dex’s role (it is a woman imitating a man’s voice after all), her voice really does not match what I expected for Em. I hesitate to say this, but her voice sounded a bit too old to be reading Em at 23 years of age (or even 43). At times, I was so distracted by this that I had to rewind the narration because I had missed 30 seconds to a minute of it. It’s not that Ms. Bentinck is incompetent as a narrator, I just think a different voice for this book might have increased my enjoyment of it.

In sum, I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t really like it either. It was slow, depressing, and has stayed with me only because of the bad feelings I have associated with it. If you are someone who enjoys in-depth character studies, you should read this book. The character development is really superb… just don’t expect it to uplift you.

What Others Had To Say:

Simply Gina

The Perpetual Page Turner

*Let me know if you have posted a review of this book that I missed!

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 2/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The intense and in-depth character development
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: The ending. Srsly Nicholls?!
  4. I would recommend this book for: People who like books that feature strong character development, or fans of the movie

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.

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