Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012

 So we are getting closer to Christmas and it shows in the Top Ten topics as well. Last week, we listed the books we wished Santa to bring us and this week, we’re looking back on 2012 and listing the best new-to-us authors we’ve read this year. Looking back over the year, I think I’ve read some really excellent  books, I have read some not so good – and I’ve read books by authors, I haven’t read before or even in some cases, haven’t heard of before. So it was relatively easy for me to put together this list. As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Yiyun Li. The Vagrants was the first book I finished in 2012 and it was amazing. I just looooooved it. It was a wonderful book and it made me feel so sad. Both people and animals are hurt in it but it’s so worth reading. Yiyun Li is definitely an author that I will keep an eye out for.
  2. Lionel Shriver. We Need To Talk About Kevin freaked me out. It’s one of those books where you stay up reading it because you have to know what happens, you have to finish it – even though you have to get up early in the morning. It was such a nasty read but also very much worth reading.
  3. Dan Simmons. After finishing Drood, I knew I wanted to read more books by Simmons – especially The Terror because he mentions the story in Drood, and it sounds so fascinating.
  4. Wilkie Collins. Like Simmons, Collins was part of my Dickens-and-Drood reading this year. I grew to really like both Dickens, Simmons and Collins. The Woman in White is such a good book, I just sat there and read and read and read to finish it and find out what happened and I’m so looking forward to  reading The Moonstone.
  5. Jonathan Carroll. Almost all Carroll’s books sounds amazing. I enjoyed The Ghost in Love so much and I just want to read more, more, more. I think Carroll might end up on my favorite authors list some day in the future!
  6. Jonathan Safran Foer. Before reading it, I was convinced that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close would be good, but I had no idea how good. I already own Everything is Illuminated, which is supposed to be even better, and Eating Animals so I hope to get around to reading these next year.
  7. Mark Helprin. I had never even heard of Mark Helprin before finding Winter’s Tale in a secondhand bookstore. I bought it – and loved it. It’s an incredibly journey you take when you read this novel and the love story and the characters just stay with you afterwards. It’s a huge novel but amazing.
  8. Ken Follett. Of course I had heard of Ken Follett before. Over and over and over. And I really had no desire to read anything by him but a friend had gifted me The Pillars of the Earth years ago so this year, I challenged myself to actually read it. And guess what, I loved it! Despite a weak ending, the novel was so so good and I’m hoping on Santa bringing me World Without End this year.
  9. Iris Murdoch. A friend challenged me to read Murdoch’s The Message to the Planet – and I liked it quite a bit. It’s a novel that makes you think and challenges you and I think some of Murdoch’s other novels will do so even more. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more by her.
  10. Victor Hugo. Les Misérables is one of those classic novels which are rather intimidating. But I had challenged myself to reading it this year and it was an amazing book. It’s huuuuuge but the story of the two lost souls at the center of the book is just beautiful. Hugo can write about sewers in a way that makes you think it the most pretty poetry. Sometimes you feel he has completely lost it but he always manages to bring it all together. And he’s even funny at times.

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March 2012 – Monthly Wrap Up

In March I continued with my Charles Dickens and Edwin Drood obsession by reading Wilkie Collins The Woman in White and Matthew Pearl The Last Dickens. I also read 3 contemporary fiction novels. It has been quite a nice month with some decent reads. I had planned on reading most of these books and I rarely plan that much ahead with my reading so this was an interesting experience and I kind of liked it.

I had hoped to read 6 books this month but towards the end, I didn’t have the time to really sit down and read. So another month with 5 books. Still – I’m 3 books ahead of my reading challenge goal of 52 books so that’s really great!

  1. Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White. A mystery involving a woman running from an insane asylum. I was so well entertained for most of this book – couldn’t put it down. 5 stars.
  2. Marisha Pessl: Special Topics in Calamity Physics. This was supposed to be somewhat similar to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I think there’s potential in this book but I was not too impressed with it. 3 stars.
  3. Jonathan Carroll: The Ghost in Love. A humorous take on what happens when people stop dying. I really liked this book – it was just too short! I’ll definitely be reading more from this author. 4 stars.
  4. Matthew Pearl: The Last Dickens. What happened when Dickens died? Did he finish his last book or did he die in the middle? His American publisher sets out for England to find out. Some interesting things – but not as good as Dan Simmons’ Drood. 3 stars.
  5. John Irving: The Water-Method Man. I love John Irving’s novels – this was his second and it was so interesting to see how a lot of his familiar themes are already present in this early novel. A great read – but not as good as some of his later novels. 3 stars.

I’ve read 2265 pages this month – but no e-books. The longest book was Wilkie Collins The Woman in White  (672 pages) – this was also this month’s only 5 stars read.

On most of my challenges, I’m doing really well. I haven’t started working on the Haruki Murakami or Neil Gaiman challenges yet but I’ve read 10 out of 25 for my Mount TBR Reading Challenge, I’ve read 5 out of 6 chunksters for the Chunkster Challenge (as well as some extra chunksters that didn’t count). I’m also doing okay with the challenge I’ve set for myself – I’ve read 6 books out of the 25 titles I have planned to read this year and 15 out of a year goal of 52 books. My to-read shelf has 177 books on it – I’m working on getting less books on this shelf and it’s not going very quickly because I’ve bought a few books and read some books from the library, but it’s getting lower at least.

And then there’s Clarissa … Oh yeah. I will post a Clarissa post for March later but for now I’ll just say that although I started March full of enthusiasm and really looking forward to reading a lot of Clarissa, I have been struggling a lot this month. I’m not quite on track but almost and I will get there!

I haven’t all that much planned for April. I plan on reading the books mentioned in my post about my 9-11 theme (I’ve already started with Jonathan Safran Foer Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close which I love – the other two are Don DeLillo Falling Man and Amy Waldman The Submission). I’m not sure what else I’m going to read – whatever I feel like afterwards, I guess. On a somewhat book related note, I plan on watching The Hunger Games tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to that!

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Jonathan Carroll: The Ghost in Love (review)

I’ve had this novel on my shelves for a bit more than a year and I’ve been looking forward to reading it. I’ve read about several of Jonathan Carroll’s novels and they all sound amazing. In fact, they sound like I might have found a new favorite author. So this book was the test of this hypothesis – is Jonathan Carroll really as good as he sounds?

From the beginning, I was intrigued. Who wouldn’t be when a book starts with a conversation between a ghost and a dog, a conversation taking place while the ghost is cooking a meal for the woman it’s in love with – even though she can never see the meal?

This is a novel about a man who falls on an icy street one day and suffers a fatal blow to the head – only he doesn’t die. This man, Benjamin Gould, is in love with a woman, German Landis. Together they have a dog, Pilot. These – and the ghost, Ling, are our main characters. Even though Ben and German are madly in love and both believe they have found the one, something happens between them and now, they’re are barely on speaking terms. If it wasn’t for Pilot, they would never speak to each other – but they have ‘joined custody’ over Pilot and so, they need to speak and meet. Ben is changed since the accident and he’s trying to find out why and what it is that has happened to him. Turns out, he’s not the only one something has happened to. Something similar happened to a woman named Danielle Voyles. Ben knows this because he somehow enters Danielle’s mind on occasions and experience what she’s experiencing.

But why don’t people die when they suffer accidents that were supposed to kill them? Why is there a ghost around, sort of babysitting Ben? Who is the man that stabs The Angel of Death?

I don’t want to say a lot about the plot since it all connects and since reading it and slowly getting to understand more and more about what has happened, is part of this novel’s main attraction.

There are some amazing parts in this novel. I love that The Angel of Death manifests himself as someone’s finished meal of bacon and eggs. And that all ghosts have Chinese names because a Chinese farmer invented the idea of ghosts three thousands years ago to explain to his grandson what happens to people after they die, and since God thought it was such a useful idea, he had his angels make the concept real and now, all ghosts have Chinese names to honor the inventor. I also love the idea of ofi. Ofi was Ben’s childhood friend’s magical meal only for him. Ofi is ‘/…/ love and magic; it’s a kid’s imagination made real.’ (p. 87). The whole story of Ben and Gina reminds me of my daughter Ronja and her best friend, Kaiser, and the very special bond they have between them.

I loved that this book had so much focus on animals. Of course Pilot is one of the main characters, but Carroll uses animals so well in this book. Dogs can all talk with each other and when a dog needs it, it can summon a guide to help it find it’s way. Dogs can see ghosts and when needed, animals can work together even though they despise each other if one animal formally issue a call for ‘universal peace to overcome chaos’. This happens very rarely and when it does, cats, rats and dogs can help each other out. This also means that all animals can communicate – they are able to speak both with their own species and with all other types of animals. I thought his way of integrating this into the storyline was excellent and I really enjoyed it.

This novel makes you think. It touches on topics like personal identity, identity through time, the ontology of time, life and death and love and what it all means. It has some rather different views on these issues but in the end, it all comes down to behaving decently towards other people and staying true to yourself – rather simply put – as well as realizing that your past is a part of your present and influences the decisions you make on a everyday basis.

What this novel did was to make me want to check out more novels by Jonathan Carroll. This was a good novel, although a bit too short for my taste. I read it over two days and I prefer my novels to last a little longer. But this was a really good short read so Jonathan Carroll is definitely still on my list of potential favorite authors.

  • Title: The Ghost in Love
  • Author: Jonathan Carroll
  • Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Year: 2008
  • Pages: 308 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5