1. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Shannon was heralded as the next J.K. Rowling, but her debut fell short of my expectations. The Bone Season is a dystopian novel set in 2059. Paige Mahoney possesses a rare talent- she is a dreamwalker, a very special sort of clairvoyant. Her "gift" is highly sought after, and soon Paige is captured and is forced to serve as a soldier in the Rephaim's army. Her training is supervised by her keeper and master, Warden. Here are my two main gripes with this book: 1) Shannon makes up words, but they aren't well-crafted nor do they add anything to the plot (she's no Shakespeare), and 2) the tale of the natural born enemies who fall in love feels old.
2. My Story by Elizabeth Smart
Smart was abducted from her Salt Lake City bedroom on June 5, 2002, at the age of fourteen. She spent eight months in the possession of two religious fanatics who subjected her to physical and emotional abuse. Unfortunately, this book lacks any real emotional depth, and I found myself becoming frustrated by Smart's inability to take matters into her own hands instead relying on her faith to eventually set things right.
3. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This historical novel is based on the lives of two sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who advocated for abolition and women's rights. Kidd allows you a peek inside the minds of two characters from very different walks of life: a strong-willed slave, Hetty, and her compassionate but discouraged owner, Sarah. Kidd's characters jump off of the page and thump you on the chest, and the story that she crafts is powerful. This book has universal appeal.
4. Tell Me by Lisa Jackson
This is the third book in the Savannah series, but it can be read as a standalone novel. Blondell O'Henry has just been exonerated after a twenty-year stint in the pen for murdering her daughter. Her son, Niall, a key eyewitness, has recanted his earlier testimony. Nikkie Gillette, reporter and childhood best friend of the victim, is determined to get the real scoop. There are a lot of characters in this thriller and, consequently, a lot of suspects. Of course, as it happens in many mysteries, the protagonist, Nikki Gillette, makes several questionable decisions that put her in tricky situations.
5. The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki
Each year, Kean University offers a popular course called Death in Perspective taught by Professor Norma Bowe. This nonfiction book follows the shocking stories of four students who have registered for this course. This is an interesting read, BUT the author loses her journalistic subjectivity as she builds a personal friendship with her subject, which, in some ways, takes away from this heartbreaking book.
6. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Krakauer gives us a firsthand account of the 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest. Eight people lost their lives in a two-day period on the tallest mountain in the world due to poor planning and a powerful blizzard that enveloped the area. I couldn't put this book down. Krakauer is like a less funny Bill Bryson....or perhaps there's just nothing amusing about killing yourself for bragging rights.
7. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Quick tells a unique love story that enfolds between two individuals who are dealing with mental illness. However, this is one of those rare books that you can skip if you've already seen the film.
8. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
A patron recommended, actually insisted that I read, this book. It's not something that I would normally pick up, but I'm glad that I did. What would you do if you bumped your head, lost memory of the ten most recent years of your life, and now you're getting divorced from the man you're crazy about and have three kids you don't recognize? This is a light read with some heavy questions.