I read 28 books this first quarter. I reread The Hunger Games trilogy because of the movie and loved it even more the second time around. I'm not saying it's great literature, but it's damn good storytelling and I cared about every one of the characters. That's about how I feel about the Song of Fire and Ice books -- that's Game of Thrones, if you've seen the HBO show -- in which I'm currently engrossed.
A lot of the rest of the books were less than great, so I'm not going to go through all of them.
What I'd recommend
Faith, Jennifer Haigh: Best of the quarter. This is the second of Haigh's books I've read and both have left me thinking about them for months afterward. The first one, The Condition, I didn't even particularly like, yet I couldn't get it out of my head. This one I really loved. It's about a Boston priest accused of pedophilia and how his siblings deal with the fall out.
Devil in Pew No. 7, Rebecca Nichols Alonzo: This is a memoir of growing up as a preacher's daughter. The wrinkle is that someone is trying to kill the preacher.
When She Woke, Hillary Jordan: I didn't like this novel, a dystopian retelling of The Scarlett Letter, as much as Jordan's debut, however, she's a good storyteller. Her writing feels very real, though in this case, I think because of the device of the plot, some of the characters seemed more like caricatures.
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh: Kind of generic chick-lit, but the writing was nice.
Devil All the Time, Donald Ray Pollock: This is one of the most disturbing books I've ever read -- and I've read American Psycho. If you're squeamish, don't read this. But if you've got a tolerance for gore, this book is tightly written and haunting. As a bonus, the author's story is interesting: he's a laid-off factory worker turned author.
False Friend, Myla Goldberg: I don't know if this was good so much as it was interesting. The whole book explores what you remember versus what other people remember and what really happened.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson: This love story about older people is very sweet. The humor is very dry. It makes for a nice mix.
Meh for me -- but maybe you'll like it
The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure: I had such high hopes for this memoir about trying to track down the "real" Little House sites. I loved the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I used to act out my favorite parts of the books. I want to travel to the home sites just like this author did. But the thing is, the author's not very likable and the writing isn't that great and the whole thing just left me wondering if I could've done it better.
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty, Joshilyn Jackson: The basic story and characters were good here, but it's nothing deep and a stupid and unnecessary plot device -- trouble coming to the women in the family every 15 years -- just irked me.
Elegy for Eddie, Jacqueline Winspear: This is a novel about Maisie Dobbs, a woman detective in WWI and post-war England. It's one of the later books in the series, and perhaps Maisie is more sympathetic in the war years, when her story begins. In this one, she's sort of a controlling prig, and that ruined the book for me despite a decent mystery.
Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, Stephanie McAfee: This one has a great back story: Author self-publishes an ebook and has such a great response, a publisher picks up the book. It's a so-so book. This is not literature that stands the test of time; there are too many pop culture references and silly plot twists. But it is a satisfying little beach read.
A Stolen Life, Jaycee Duggard: I read this in a couple hours because I couldn't resist. It's disturbing, not so much in the details, but in how detached she is from the horrors she survived.
Flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesy: Oh, here's another set of high hopes crushed -- or at least deflated. This is a retelling of Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favorite books, by an author I've enjoyed in the past. This is just so-so. The plot doesn't translate well to modern times, I don't think, what with the age difference between Jane (Gemma here) and Mr. Rochester and the whole locked-in-the-attic wife.
Object of Beauty, Steve Martin: I hesitated on where to put this book. Usually, I find Martin's books too slow and this one was no exception. But I really enjoyed the subject matter -- the world of art dealers -- about which I know nothing and didn't care to learn before reading this. I still don't want to learn about it, but it was interesting while I was in the book.
What are you reading these days?