top 10 reads of 2012

Last January, I challenged myself—via Goodreads—to read 52 books during the upcoming calendar year. I ended four books shy of my goal, reading a total of 48 books in 2012. I’ll take it.

At an average of 349 pages per book, I read a total of 16,775 pages in 365 days. Need a further breakdown? I read an average of 47 pages per day.

When I mentioned I read a lot, I wasn’t exaggerating. Nor did I embellish my inclination to re-read my books. Of the 48 books I read last year, 12 of them were not my first go-around. Similar to how others re-watch their favorite movies—or engage in movie marathons to catch up on first installments before their sequels premiere in theatres (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.)—I do the same with books. Insurgent is about to be published? Time to re-read Divergent. A new addition to my favorite-of-all-time-Dean-Koontz Odd Thomas series? Time to re-read the first four Odd books.

And so on and so forth.

Due to the speed with which I fly thru books, I often have friends come to me with questions of what book they should read next. Which brings me to one 0f my favorite posts I wrote last year: 2011 in books.

I’m doing it again this year. Looking for some new books to read? Need a few recommendations? Here is my Top Ten List of my favorite books I read in 2012. Just keep in mind the following books are merely ones I read in 2012, not necessarily published in 2012. There were a lot of great books last year, which makes it hard to narrow it down to ten. So, I’m beginning my list with two honorable mentions.

HM #2 – I’d Know You Anywhere, by Laura Lippman
This book reminded me too much of my #9 read this year to be able to include it in my top ten. Though, I did really enjoy this book and it made me want to look up Lippman’s other novels.

HM #3 – Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson
I picked up this book when I heard Steven Spielberg had optioned it for the big screen. I’m an avid supporter of read the book before the movie. Based on the synopsis and cover, I thought I’d be reading a variation of Terminator or I, Robot. I was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case.

#10 Book of 2012 – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
I know I’m late to the bandwagon on this book, as it seems everyone and their mother has already read it. It’s your classic coming-of-age story, which many compare to The Catcher in the Rye. I also picked this one up due to it’s movie counterpart recently being released. While the main character, Charlie, experiences all the familiar high school rituals, Chbosky keeps the narrative from turning into a cliche. Thoughtful, though sometimes dark, Chbosky has written a character with whom it’s easy to find common ground. Quick, easy read.

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#9 Book of 2012 – Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
I remember seeing this book cover a few years ago, when it was first published. It drew me to the shelf and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. Flynn had me hooked from the first page.

I have a meanness in me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It’s the Day blood.

Flynn’s beautiful writing paints a picture on every page, switching between chilling flashbacks and present day narratives to weave the mystery of Libby Day, a sole survivor of a family massacre perpetrated by her brother, Ben. While Libby’s story is disturbing and at times painful to read, you find yourself eager to turn the page. It stays with you even after you close the book and has turned me into an official Gillian Flynn fangirl.

#8 Book of 2012 – Machine Man, by Max Barry
The first book I ever read by Max Barry was Jennifer Government, solely because the cover design reminded me of an old television show I used to watch, called Dark Angel. I’ve been hooked on Max Barry ever since. Barry began Machine Man as an online serial, posting one page a day. Though Machine Man skews slightly darker than Barry’s usual corporate satire (Jennifer Government, Syrup, The Company), it’s equally as funny and eccentric. I’ve never closed one of Barry’s novels without laughing.

#7 Book of 2012 – The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta
This was another book I picked up solely based on the cover design (see a pattern?). The Leftovers picks up three years after a Rapture-like event. Instead of focusing on the possible reasons behind such a widespread disappearance, the story deals more with how people cope in the aftermath of such an unexpected tragedy as it follows the reactions of the Garvey family—Kevin, Laurie, Tom and Jill. Without getting preachy, Perrotta has a drafted a great character driven narrative that feels real and truthful, leaving it up to the reader to make their own mind up about the origin of the rapture-like disappearance.

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#6 Book of 2012 – The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker
I bought this book from a Barnes & Noble e-mail, for their Discover Great New Writers recommendation series. Walker’s debut novel received a lot of buzz prior to its publication, in addition to its movie rights being optioned early on by River Road Entertainment. Though some refer to it as a general coming-of-age story, its premise is rather unique. 11-year-old Julia and her family wake to breaking news on the television—the Earth’s rotation has suddenly begun to slow, causing the days and nights to grow longer, affecting gravity, which leads to other environmental concerns. Similar to Perrotta’s The Leftovers, Walker focuses on Julia’s story rather than delving into the physics of this sudden catastrophe, beautifully capturing what it feels like to be a teenager. First loves, friendship struggles, the uncertainty of growing up, this novel covers it all. Worth all the buzz? I’m going to say yes.

#5 Book of 2012 – Lucy, by Laurence Gonzales
Home to another high-concept premise, I’ve had this book on the to-read shelf since hearing about it from LaineyGossip in the summer of 2010. As Lainey says, Lucy is:

addictive, uncomfortable, heartbreaking, even if it’s not entirely plausible, there’s a message here that feels too true.

Couldn’t say it better myself, so I won’t.

#4 Book of 2012 – Room, by Emma Donoghue
Room is another recommendation from LaineyGossip. It’s told from the limited point of view of 5-year-old Jack, who’s spent his entire life in—you guessed it—a room. Having been held captive there with his mother by the man who kidnapped her seven years ago, Room is Jack’s world. It’s all he’s ever known. While the story itself is disturbing and often uncomfortable, it unfolds slowly until you’re left with the most brilliantly written child narrator I’ve ever read. This book haunts you, lingering long after you’ve read it. It’s imaginative, painful. And yet, lovely.

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#3 Book of 2012 – The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
Let’s not sugarcoat it. This book will make you cry. The narrator is 16-year-old Hazel with stage IV thyroid cancer who begins attending a support group for teens with cancer at the unwelcome encouragement of her mother. It’s witty and clever and I highly recommend reading it in the privacy of your own home, unless you don’t mind sobbing in public. But, seriously, John Green really is brilliant.

#2 Book of 2012 – Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley
An award-winning debut for John Corey Whaley, I happened upon this novel after seeing someone tweet about it. Hands down, best Twitter recommendation ever. Another character driven story, I fell in love with 17-year-old narrator, Cullen Witter and his fictional small town of Lily, Arkansas. The dialogue is so natural and real, you almost forget you’re reading fiction. Plus, Whaley ties all the loose ends together for one of the best endings I’ve read in a while. It’s a magnificent debut and I can’t wait to read what Whaley writes next.

#1 Book of 2012 – Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
I’ve heard so many people recommend this book. I’ve recommended this book more times than I can count. I’ve seen Gone Girl listed on nearly every Top Ten list this year. I loved it so much I searched out Gillian Flynn’s previous two books just to get more of her brilliant storytelling (see #9). It really is that good. Flynn is a MASTER of suspense in this tale of a marriage gone terribly awry. She weaves expertly back and forth from present day to flashbacks, keeping you guessing until the end. One revelation literally had my mouth hanging open. To keep from spoiling anything, all I’m going to say is, read this book.

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I’ve set a new goal for 2013 to read another 52 books, so wish me luck I can at least pass the 48-mark this year. I’ve just joined my friend’s book club, which takes care of 12 books. I need 40 more. Have a favorite book of your own from last year that’s not on this list? I’m always looking for recommendations, so please share.

Regardless, I’ll be back here next January with another Top 10 list. Until then, happy reading.

– lindsey archer

2011 in books

I read a lot. I hate libraries. Not exactly 1 + 1 = 2, am I right?

I know. Much like for my hatred of chocolate, most people think I’m crazy for this. Except, I know myself. I have a talent for racking up late fees due to my inability to return anything on time. I can’t tell you how many Redbox DVDs I own because I simply never got around to taking them back. In case you’re curious, an un-returned DVD from Redbox will cost you $24. And yes, I do know how sad it is that I can recite this little piece of trivia.

You live…you learn. I’ve learned it’s easier to just buy my books. If you caught a glimpse of my bank statement from 2011, you’d see more transactions from Barnes & Noble than from anywhere else. So, yeah. I buy a lot of books because I read a lot of books. I have my own personal library that many of my friends take advantage of, constantly perusing my bookshelves for selections they can borrow—without the late fees. And, since I often share my favorite titles with them, I thought, why not share them here, with you?

When I tried to narrow down a list of my favorite books from 2011, I aimed for my top ten. Aimed is the key word. After some additional narrowing and cutting, I managed to get it down to 12 (if we’re going to be technical, this list actually contains 16 books). Also, keep in mind these are merely books I read in 2011. That doesn’t mean they were published in 2011.

So, here you go…in no particular order: my favorites of 2011 in books (all links will take you to each book’s Barnes & Noble page):

Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson
Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins (technically 3 books: Hunger Games, Catching Fire & Mockingjay)
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson
Stolen, by Lucy Christopher
On Writing, by Stephen King
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
Matched, by Ally Condie (plus its sequel I’m currently reading: Crossed)
The Scent of Rain and Lightning, by Nancy Pickard
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Where She Went, by Gayle Foreman (this is a sequel to If I Stay, which I technically read in 2010, but still highly recommend)

As you can see, I tend to read in clumps of the same genre. A couple of years ago, this list would have contained nearly all historical fiction. As it happens, this year I read a lot of young adult fiction, which is definitely not only for young adults. There are a lot of great books coming out of that genre, including many that were VERY close to making this list.

And while we’re on the subject of favorites from 2011, here are two more of my favorites:

That would be my current library/reading room in my new house (which is flanked by a wall of windows + double doors leading out to our expansive back deck) and the ornament my mom had custom made for me for Christmas this year. I love them both so much.

Now, back to the subject of I read a lot. To kick off 2012, I currently have a To Read pile at least 10 books thick that seems to grow exponentially by the week. I just set a goal to read 52 books this year, which I’ll keep track of thru my Goodreads account (something new I discovered in 2011 thanks to my friend Christine). If you’re on goodreads, or to follow my progress, you can go here. Also, if you have any favorite book recommendations that I may not have read, I want to know!

I can’t wait to have even more trouble narrowing down my list of favorite books from 2012 for you here, this time next year. Happy New Year!

– lindsey archer

i don’t mean to brag

…but then again, yeah I do. Seeing my work out there—for REAL, not just in my portfolio or on my computer screen—makes me so excited, I decided I had to write up a short post to let you all know. Literally, my face is stuck in a huge grin right now. The kind where if someone were to slap me on the back at this very moment…it just might stay there.

Now that I have you writhing on the floor in suspense, I’ll get to my point. I recently designed my second book cover for Bert Johnston and the book launched today! It’s called Sunrise in the Cloud Forest and here’s the full cover for you to ogle:

I’m really proud of it and book cover design has easily become my favorite freelance work. So, if you’re an author or publisher in need of a freelance artist for a cover design, let me know! I’m ready and willing. Plus, Sunrise is a great read, so everyone go out and get your copy today. Bert’s writing gets better with each book and I will keep designing his covers for as long as he lets me.

It’s also my birthday on Sunday, making it a nice little present to have this book launch this weekend. That and the fact my sister and I may have found THE ONE, the perfect house, that has everything we both want. I’m not going to lie, I was starting to think such a house didn’t exist. We’re supposed to find out on Saturday if we get it, so keep your fingers crossed for us! So, yeah, it’s shaping up to be a pretty great weekend. As an additional present to myself, I’m making plans to get out of the house sometime over the next two days and hide away at my favorite coffee shop in Midtown to get some writing done. I’ve been on a roll, so expect an exciting, full writing update late Sunday or Monday.

And finally, I’m celebrating my lovely birthday on Saturday with some friends, so feel free to stop by Celtic Crossing and buy me a birthday drink. Or a couple if you’re feeling really generous 🙂

– lindsey archer

what would you do for a writing credit?

While I had planned on getting a large chunk of writing done last night, my nephew had other ideas. And when an adorable, blonde 3-yr-old looks up at you with his big, bright blue eyes with a “Linsy, you want to come up to Mimi’s room and watch my show with me and we can watch it together?” while jumping up and down in excited anticipation…well, how can you possibly refuse that? Even heartless me who doesn’t want children, I am putty in my nephew’s tiny hands.

So, what, might you wonder, is his show? Oh, just the entire programming agenda for Nick, Jr. or whatever it’s called—“Linsy, channel 252!!”—which happened to be tuned into Dora the Explorer at that particular moment, with a short interruption from Blue’s Clues.

I’m sorry…have you ever actually watched an episode for either of those shows? I’m not talking about having it set up as background noise while it puts your children into a trance so they stop screaming at each other long enough for you to capture one sliver of peace in your hectic schedule. I mean, have you ever really sat down and actually paid attention to the dialogue?

I lasted about 10 seconds before I wished myself deaf.

I know it’s supposed to stimulate a child’s brain or something like that and my nephew was plenty stimulated—talking and dancing along throughout the entire show. I just…I really don’t remember shows being that annoying when I was little. I remember shows like Power Rangers, TMNT, Animaniacs, Fraggle Rock, Super Mario Bros., Bobby’s World, Tom and Jerry…shows that I would still tune into if I happened upon one of them now. I wouldn’t even be embarrassed. I totally own the fact that I still love the Power Rangers. Animaniacs? That shit was funny! What happened to shows like that? Shows like Beetlejuice? Bugs Bunny? Darkwing Duck? Rescue Rangers? Is anything like that still around?

Well, it wasn’t last night. I was stuck with Blue and Dora. But, you know what I found fascinating? The writing credits. If you asked me to hypothetically picture the writers’ room for Dora or Blue’s Clues or whatever else shows they have on that network, you know what first comes to mind? A group of college undergrads high on everything from weed to crack cocaine in a room full of hazy bong smoke and empty liquor bottles, laughing their asses off all the way to the bank where they cash their writing paychecks that each probably amount to more money than I make in a year.

I mean, really. They must be high on something, right? Seriously…how do parents watch that crap? Am I insensitive? Am I missing some obvious point? Momma, if you’re reading this and if you ever had to watch something like that while raising us, well, I’m sorry. So, so, sorry.

I had planned on recapping my recent girls night, but seriously, you try and concentrate with Dora in the background singing, “Backpack, Backpack, Backpack, Backpack. I’m the Backpack loaded up with things and knick knacks too. Backpack, Backpack. Backpack, Backpack. YEA!” (I did not make up that quote. That is a real quote pulled from the IMDb page for Dora the Explorer)

Now I will never be able to look at a backpack without breaking into song. Thank-you, Dora. From the bottom of my heart, thank-you.

Now, before I end my little rant, let’s play a quick game. It’s called would you rather. It’s a fun game I picked up from my favorite gossip blogger, Lainey. You have to pick one option, you can’t just say neither one. Also, “I’d rather die” is not an option, either. So, here it goes:

Would you rather…

…never be published

…or have your first writing credit be from an entire season of Blue’s Clues?

– lindsey archer

reading list update – Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion was amazing. I devoured it.

it all ends

If you don’t already know what this post is about—just from the tittle, alone—then I’m sorry. Have you been living under a rock?

I’ll give you a hint: July 15th. It. All. Ends.

Have you guessed it, yet?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (if you’re not a fan, keep reading…I promise there’s some non-HP-related stuff, too)! After 7 incredible books and 7 incredible movies, we have one final piece until it’s over. Two weeks from now, I’ll be sitting at Studio on the Square, taking in the midnight showing, along with 8 to 10 of my friends. I’m so excited it’s ridiculous. And, yes. I’ve already bought my ticket (Okay, so reading those few sentence back, I do in fact realize how much of a 13 year old I sound like…but I’m completely okay with that, because seriously? It’s Harry Potter! Free pass).

It’s no secret that I love reading. I read extremely fast and I read a lot. With that in mind, I’m slightly ashamed to admit I joined the Harry Potter bandwagon a little late. While I’ve always been a fan of the movies, it was only last summer that I first cracked open one of J.K. Rowling’s books. Last year at the midnight screening of HP7, pt. 1, my friends continued to be surprised that of all people, I had yet to read them. But, see, it’s this thing I have about movies and their book versions—I have trouble reading the book after I’ve seen the movie. I have no problem seeing a movie after I’ve read the book. But when it’s the other way around, there’s just something about it that grates on me.

As a reader, I love reading about characters and conjuring up in my head how I imagine them to look like, sound like. Yes, the writer provides the details, but as a reader, you get to fill in all the holes.  I like to be able to picture the clothes they’re wearing and the places they see and visit, the secondary people they interact with. I like to play the part of producer, set designer, art director, etc. Even when I watch a movie after reading its book counterpart, I enjoy being able to compare that vision to my own. I love to see the fruits of someone else’s imagination, to see how they interpreted the same story and details I read, but in their own, unique way.

But if I experience the movie first, that’s what I see when I read the book. It takes away from my experience. I’m no longer imagining my own settings and wardrobes…I’m seeing the picture that was already created for me. I’m seeing the actors as the characters I read, instead of imagining the characters on my own. Also, I’m a firm believer that in the majority of the case, the books are better than the movies. And I like reading the better version, with all the details, before diving into a movie where, inevitably, some things must be left out.

So why did I finally cave and read Harry Potter? Well, honestly, I was kind of sick of my friends bugging the shit out of me to stop being lazy and read the books because I was so missing out, blah, blah. My verdict? Thank God they bugged me. J.K. Rowling is a genius. The books are So. Ridiculously. Amazing. Also, due to the depth Rowling went to in her writing, there were still some parts here and there that hadn’t made their way into the movies, so I was able to add in my own bits and pieces of imagination. It took me barely 2 weeks to get thru all 7 books—4,100 pages (that’s close to 300 pages a day for those who don’t do math).

So with two weeks to go until the last movie, I’ve been extremely tempted to re-read the entire series to brush up on everything before It. All. Ends. It’s obviously possible since I’ve done it before. But last year, during those two weeks, I literally ate, breathed and slept Harry Potter. I was completely engrossed in the magical little world J.K. Rowling had created. This year, I simply don’t have the time to devote to getting through all 4,100 pages again in a mere 14 days. I’ll have to be satisfied with simply re-watching movies 1 thru 7 (1 thru 4 down, 5,6 & 7 to go).

Besides, I have a LONG reading list at the moment. Due to the fact I plan on having my own personal library room in my house someday, I buy all my books. Lately? I’ve bought a lot of books that I haven’t quite had the chance to read. One of the greatest pieces of advice for writers I’ve ever seen came from Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, where he talks about how important it is for aspiring writers to read everything they can get their hands on. With how busy I’ve been recently, I haven’t had time to read any of the everything I can get my hands on. It’s starting to pile up:

(Yes, that is my cat, Mulligan, photo-bombing my picture) I’m currently reading Dean Koontz’s What the Night Knows, but it’s taking me unusually forever. I have less than 100 pages left and then it’s on to Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion and Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, the two I’m most excited about on my list. Really, I’m excited about all of them and am hoping to get more than half of them knocked out by the end of July. You can check back at the top right of this blog to see which book I’m on or head on over to my profile on Goodreads (a great site my friend Christine told me about to help you organize things you’re reading, as well as your wish list of everything you want to read).

So, all in all, this month is going to be pretty busy. I’ve got my job, Harry Potter, a long reading list, apartment hunting with my sister and finishing my novel. Oh, and a blog post here and there 🙂

– lindsey archer

Next up – a short re-cap of my recent girls night and how my two best friends were disappointed with my response to a flirtatious #25 from the Nashville Sounds

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