The Good Book Fairy’s Best of 2013

The Good Book Fairy’s 
Best of 2013

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

My Review: 4.5 stars
Honestly, this book is like a tall drink of water when you didn’t even know you were thirsty. NO pun intended about the water. I love Wally Lamb and although this book is lengthy, there isn’t a word that’s wasted. He is the master at character development and links plots and subplots together seamlessly. Flawed characters, some likeable and some horrifically not, find their way into your world like old friends. Water is symbolized all over the place but it never gets old. The ocean, the flood, the rain, the well, the tears all work so well in this book. This book would be a psychologist or social worker’s dream to analyze these characters. We are the sum of our parts but this book focuses on how your experience growing up and your parentage affect so many choices we make both consciously and subconsciously. Part mystery, part romance, part family histories, part secrets with a sad helping of atrocious abuse, this book is a real winner. Well done Wally!

  The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

My Review: 4.5 stars
First three words to describe this book: funny, quirky, Big Bang Theory. I adored this protagonist. He was rigid, ordered, socially inept, brilliant, humorous, spirited and fascinating. I learned so much about time, the waste of it, the words that are necessary in our language and the ones we can/should live without. His friendships with Gene and Claudia were endearing and oh so critical to the outcome of the romance. Readers with kids/partners/friends under the autism-aspergers umbrella please know this man is just ONE example of falling into spectrum and any somewhat educated reader will understand that.  
I read this in a day and had a smile on my face for the entirety of it. Highly recommend and would make an excellent discussion book.

                        Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

My Review: 5 stars
I adored this book. And I am firmly convinced that sometimes books are read at either the wrong time or better yet, at just the right time. I initially received this ARC back in October 2012 and when I began reading it I was reminded so much of the Academy Award nominated movie The Intouchables (for best Foreign film) that I had to stop reading. I had just seen the movie and I was convinced the book was a similar story just because they both had a Quadriplegic and a caregiver in them. I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t just let this book sit in a pile of TBR’s and that I had the foresight to pick it up again as this is a gem of book. Likable and relatable characters, twists in the plot, quality of life decisions, family values and romance were at the heart of the story. Highly recommend.

Margot by Jillian Cantor

My Review: 4.5 stars
This is a welcome addition to the world of fictionalized Anne Frank novels and revisionist historical books. I adored The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank by Ellen Feldman and I enjoyed this one equally if not more. This story focused on survivors and how they melded into society while bearing their tattoos, hiding their constant fear and most likely dealing with PTSD. Margot’s personal experiences mixed with the publishing of Anne Frank’s diary and motion picture debut questions her own memories and beliefs of her relationships with both her infamous sister and with Peter. This book is an easy and quick read that offers history, a sprinkle of romance and a dollop of insecurity as Margot deals with her identity of today, not of the past.
I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more from this author.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

My Review: 5 stars
Not only is this author mentored by one of my very faves, Geraldine Brooks, but also the subject is based on real events, which makes this a “true” work of historical fiction.  I adored this book. As bleak and tragic as the story may seem, the plot was riveting. This author writes simply yet the words seem dense with abundant symbolism. Ravens, stones and fire are mentioned repeatedly in different ways. Agnes could seem like an unreliable narrator, but she’s written in a way that makes you trust her and wholly believe in her. There were many scenes that were very gorily described, especially the lamb slaughter. Holy smokes, I was smelling iron from blood and seeing skulls all night. There is no waste on a farm in Iceland and I did like learning about their way of life. I found myself Googling some of the words such as badstofa to see where they spent so much of their time. I loved the juxtaposition of the two sisters at the farmhouse and would love to read more about them. If I had three words to describe this book they would be cold, unjust and dark, yet this is a must read for 2013.

        The Mouse-Proof Kitchen by Saira Shah

My Review: 4.5 stars
If you’re a gardener, a cook or simply a mother, this book will resonate with you in numerous ways. I adored this book mostly because of the blunt and caustic honesty that made me flinch when I read certain passages; but at the same time I understood and identified with the emotions and feelings behind those words.  This author is a documentary filmmaker and first time novelist, yet the general topic of the book is loosely based on her own life as a mother to a severely disabled child. I believe that because the author truly lives through the trials (and triumphs) of having a mentally disabled child, she can use her dark humor in a way that otherwise would’ve been misunderstood by the reader. I loved these characters and how nature played such a huge role in their individual lives as well as those around them. There are metaphors at play throughout the book and descriptions that had me touching wisteria and smelling all the ingredients for good compost. This is excellent writing and a very real, touching story. Well done.

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

My Review: 4.5 stars
I can’t thank my friend Terri enough for recommending this book to me. I’d heard about this title but never wanted to delve into a book heavy on religion and the politics between Jews and Muslims. This book offered so much more; at its heart it’s a love story between child and adult, between man and his religion, between the written word and it’s true intent and finally between friends, both Muslim and Muslim AND Muslim and Jew. I learned so much from this story and was quite enlightened. The author writes at a great pace and truly grasps the emotions of the characters he writes about. I highly suggest this book for a Book Club choice, as there is so much to discuss.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

My Review:  4.5 stars
This book hits hard. You will be sucked into this story from the start and completely rooting for our protagonist, Max Walker, a 15-year-old golden boy. This English author, at a mere 25 years old, deftly took a challenging, complex and misunderstood topic and brought it to the masses in a fascinating and often troubling story. There is much discussion about intersex, what it means and the variations of being intersex. This book challenges parents on making decisions for their kids and how much to share with them. It hits on being different, feeling shame, keeping secrets and trust. The story works well being told by the different characters and their feelings and observations about Max. Although this is being marketed to YA in some areas due the main character’s age, I suggest it only for an older YA or one who can deal with some of the grittiness in the details. Keep your eye on this author!

     The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

My Review: 5 stars
I read this book a few weeks ago and couldn’t stop to review it as my head was swimming inside this fabulous story while analyzing the power of the written word. This book should be a must read for all high school students!  Mr. Wright did a phenomenal job of bringing real life people into a fictional story that was as heart wrenching to read, as it was incredibly beautiful. The main character was a superhero of her time with an incredible spirit. She never lost her sense of humor or let her truths about the life she lives bring her down. This book and its message clearly carry hope and truly bring forth the idiom that someone else’s trash is another person’s treasure!

    The Woman At The Light by Joanna Brady

My Review: 5 stars
This book took me just where I needed to go right now. Far away to distant Key West, in the 19th century among family, romance, tenacity, slavery, Indian raids, courage and perseverance. Emily’s story was unusual and breathtaking as she was swept into the arms of a runaway slave, which was highly illegal. As it was, women had little more than a slave’s status in the mid 1800’s. The historical detail was evident and the author, a Key West native, thankfully shared which facts were and were not true in an epilogue. Emily, the protagonist, is a character to cheer for and certainly keep the turning the pages for.
                Wonder by P.J. Palacio

My Review: 5 stars
Although this book is truly a YA book, meaning 4th grade and up, I loved it. This book brings empathy, kindness and beauty into question and understanding as we look into the lives of Auggie and all the supporting characters lives. I understand that this book is being read aloud in one of our local school district’s 5th grade classes and I wish it were required for every 5th grade class everywhere! This book hit home for me as reminder of why kindness is so important at every age and every stage of life. Highly recommend.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

My Review: 4.5 stars
I’m shocked. I gave up on Jodi Picoult after so many of her books became far too much of a formula for me to continue reading. This one literally came to me as a surprise. My son, the new driver in the house, picked it up for me at the library and left it in my bed as a surprise. I got all comfy that snowy afternoon, saw a book under the covers and assumed it was the one I was in the middle of, but to my surprise, it was The Storyteller. The perfect combo of lazy and cozy led me to crack it open and I’m so happy I did. Not moving from my bed, I became entirely engrossed in this story about Sage, who although I found annoyingly self-effacing, was still swept up into her life and most importantly, into her history. This book is not for the faint of heart, as the memories from her grandmother Minka of the Holocaust were quite vividly described. Minka’s section was on the long side but I felt it worked as it mirrored the length of the war.
The story of the Upior peppered throughout the book ends up having a huge meaning in the story and acted as a character on its own. I liked that a lot. The sisters I felt were unnecessary to the story and their names, more spices, were terribly cliche. This book offers discussions of all types to forgiveness, guilt, support groups, affairs, religion, atheism, survivors, love and baking.
This story reads quickly and will hopefully, as it did for me, remind us to tell our stories to those we love, share our pasts and don’t let this type of history repeat itself. Be your own storyteller.
SPOILER:  Warning, only continue reading this if you’ve read the book! Hurray! This book did not follow the author’s past formulaic style of writing where most all of her books end up in a courtroom after struggling with a moral dilemma. However, did any of you find the bones of this book similar to My Sister’s Keeper, also by Jodi Picoult? Every chapter was a different character’s voice and then the end had that twist that no one saw coming. I guess that is why this book lost .5 of a star from me. Not because the bones matched another book, but because the twist seemed unrealistic that in all the places in the world, let alone the U.S., that this guy could go to, he ended up in small town New Hampshire. Maybe then, as readers, we’re supposed to believe that he planned it and was stalking Minka? Who knows? Thoughts?

The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg

My Review: 4.5 stars
What a gem of a book. This a beautiful story about sisters, their diverging paths and even more so about the multiple generations living together in the predominantly Jewish town of Boyle Heights. This author seamlessly took us from past to present and was very rich in the detail so much that I could smell the pickles as she passed by the deli on her street. The secrets people hold and the obstacle of both sisters loving the same person were at the heart of this book. The message that every sibling grows up in a different household was clearly told in this story and it rang so true to me. We all remember things differently and have very subjective views upon which we place those memories. Birth order, the economy and whether we were at war are all things that could make growing up experiences very different. This author is a born storyteller and I am so happy I happened upon this book.

    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

My Review: 5 stars
It feels like the largest juxtaposition on the planet to be so utterly moved by the beauty of this book and it’s ugly subject matter. Seriously who wants to curl up on the couch on a cold, dreary day and read about kids with cancer who fall in love? I know that even the Good Book Fairy was keeping this book on the sidelines, as I knew I’d be drained from reading it. Admittedly, at the beginning I was only able to read a few chapters at a time as I got to know the main players, but soon after, I couldn’t get enough of Hazel and Augustus. No spoilers, but I was able to predict the ending pretty soon into the book so that did help me get through the story, because I knew there’d be no way to sugar coat an ending with this subject matter.  These kids were unique to say the least and the existential questions they posed each other I found fascinating. They were wise, funny and aged before their time. The subplot of the Dutch Tulip man was an added bonus. I think this is Green’s best work to date. Truly beautiful writing.

    The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry
My Review: 4 stars 
Wow. This book is one of a kind. Don’t pick up if you can’t handle the darkness that comes along with it. Darkness in humanity vs. the fight for good. Seriously, this book is a classic example of good vs. evil. It’s the marrying (figuratively and literally) of religion and faith. It’s the cruelty of the truth. It’s fairness and fault. It’s a heavy amount of guilt with a spoonful of hope. This may be one of the hardest books to review as so much is dependent on spoilers which I won’t include. I disliked the title but overall, well written, well researched and would make an excellent book to discuss.
            Honorable Mentions Definitely Worth Reading
reviews available at
  Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes
  Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
 Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller
  Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok
 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  Together Tea by Marjan Kamali
  Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer
  The Sisters Weiss by Naomi Ragen
Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by Minka Pradelski