Top 10 reads of 2011

Hosted by A Life Bound By Books, Rachel from Fiktshun & Jaime, Patricia from Two Chicks on Books & Confessions of a Bookaholic.

Check this out for more information.

So here’s my list of top 10 books I have read in 2011.

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The Versatile and Creative Blogger Award!

Woohoo! I have just received two awards- Versatile Blogger Award and Creative Blogger Award! I am so delighted. I have been a blogger for less than a month and I have got these awards. This is really encouraging. I thank Renee for bestowing the Versatile award on me and I thank Laura for the Creative Award. I am really grateful. You must check out their awesome blogs here and here.

Just simple rules on how to nominate and get awarded:

1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post .
2. Share 7 things about yourself .
3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

7 things about me

1. Apart from being a voracious reader and a recent blogger, I write poetry and short stories. And someday, I hope to write a book!

2. Though I may come across as a girl who loves to read everything except textbooks (which I do incidentally 😉 ), I am a Clinical Psychologist by occupation currently applying for a Doctorate.

3. I also love to cook, especially bake. I bake cakes, cookies, pizza etc. My secret dream is to open a bakery shop someday.

4. I love to travel and I have almost covered my country (which is huge by the way- India) and seen Singapore and Malaysia. But there are thousand other places on my list.

5. I love adventure sports, sadly I have only done river rafting till now. But well, I am just 24 you know, I will get to do everything else (bungee jumping, scuba diving etc.).

6. I am a classical trained singer (3 years of training, 5 more to go, I will complete it someday, hopefully). 🙂

7. I love to learn languages and hope to learn French, Spanish etc. someday. Will you be my partner in learning? I would like to start today but can’t find someone to converse with me. 😦

Now, passing this award along to 13 recently discovered blogs I enjoy reading (in random order).

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I only love 13, so that’s it!

My next review is coming up soon. 🙂

Enjoy the upcoming New Year!

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Goodreads Summary: One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure — her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift. This is a simple tale about the rewards of unselfish love.

My views: I have read this story long back. But decided to go for a re-read, this time an audio book (only about 17 minutes long). This is one of those cute stories which make you want to fall in love. Either that or have a really close friend who gives it all up for you. This story is about love, selflessness and sacrifice for the one you love. It is a heart-warming little tale that makes you want to hug both Della and Jim, the characters of the story. Even my Mom loves it (and mind you, she doesn’t read many books, forget raving about them). Recommended read for everyone out there who is still existing without having read this story.

Love Lifted Me (A Songbird Novel) by Sara Evans, Rachel Hauck

Goodreads Summary: Jade never knew happily-ever-after would be this messy, loud . . . delicious.

Jade Benson embraces unexpected motherhood when her husband Max gains custody of his young son. As she and Max work out their newly formed family, an invitation to coach Texas high school football sends them on a journey.

Then a stranger reveals a painful secret, and Jade faces her hardest challenge yet. When she surrenders her heart to God and to her husband, Jade discovers the joy of love lifting her above her fears.

My view: Well, this book is about Faith. A little too much, may be. It has a plot, yes but it is usual and predictable. Nothing new to boast of. Jade, a strong lady who has been through a lot has still so much to suffer. Max who overcomes every obstacle with his faith in God. And how they together make a life.
The book is a drag, really. I read on just in order to get it over with. If not for the review requested from me, I would have abandoned this book long ago. It’s just not worth it. Too much of Faith in there, but its talked about rather than shown. I prefer seeing God’s way rather than talking about it all the time. It seems so superficial. The football parts were lost on me. I love football as a game, really. But I love watching not reading about it.

In all, the book leaves you with nothing. Even if it had been a simple story, it would have worked. But it isn’t and so it doesn’t.

Dissociation in Traumatized Children and Adolescents edited By Sandra Wieland

Goodreads Summary: Over the last decade, the literature on therapy addressing trauma in children has expanded considerably, as has the literature on dissociation. Unfortunately, very little of this literature has addressed the issue of dissociation in children. At the same time, therapists working with children and adolescents have become increasingly aware of the occurrence of trauma and dissociation in their clients.

Dissociation in Traumatized Children and Adolescents is a groundbreaking text for the study of dissociation in young people. In eight unique and compelling case studies, the authors lay out detailed narratives that illustrate both the therapy’s progression as well as the therapist’s reactions and thought process during case development. These case studies present many aspects of working with traumatized children who dissociate—trauma processing, attachment work, work with the family, interactions with the community—and give frank analysis of the difficulties clinicians encounter in various therapeutic situations and how and why they arrived at particular therapeutic decisions. While the book includes intensive analysis of each author’s theoretical framework as well as that of dissociation in general, it also shows clinicians, in the most practical terms, how to translate the theories of dissociation into action. No clinician interested in trauma and dissociation in children will want to be without this text.

My views: This was an absolutely amazing book! First textbook I finished in flat 5 days along with all the work I have been doing. I was hooked on to it like a novel. Very interesting, informative and educational. A must read for all psychologists, trauma counselors and mental health practitioners out there. It gives a view into the mind state of a dissociated child/adolescent and the different approaches by different professionals to treat them and the difficulties that come up in the treatment. The various case studies give a wide variety of clinical material to help understand the various theories and applications of therapy in each context. I am going for a re-read soon and will keep coming back to this book for clinical help.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan

Summary: “I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

My views: A very- very cute book and a good read for holidays/ Christmas season. Dash and Lily’s book of dares is a small and light book, fluffy (as someone mentioned it). It has a new theme, a plot. The characters are very well developed and I could identify with both Dash and Lily, I smiled with them, felt sad. Although, the book tends to have lots of BIG words, I would recommend the book for teenagers. Not only is the book fun and playful, but it also has quite a depth to it. Some of the quotes and lines make one think about life and its deeper meaning, not bad for a seemingly YA read.

I loved Lily, her carelessness and how she was different from everyone else. I love Dash, his love for OED (Oxford English Dictionary, unabridged). I also loved Boomer, his stupid acts and words create a hilarious scenario although in real life, they may be termed irritating. And above all, I absolutely loved Great-aunt Ida, what a lady! I wish I had such a fun aunt.

The concept of a dare book is lovely and enticing, if I wasn’t this 24 year old lady (engaged to be married), I would have loved to try it. What an adventure it would be! But what if it wasn’t a young guy but an old pervert who found the book of dare, risky proposition to be taken up in real life. Books are another world entirely.

In all, a great read. Recommended for teenagers and YA readers. Must-read in holiday season.

4/5 stars

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Goodreads Summary: When the student Raskolnikov puts his philosophical theory to the ultimate test of murder, a tragic tale of suffering and redemption unfolds in the dismal setting of the slums of czarist, prerevolutionary St. Petersburg. While Jennings’s adept repertoire of British accents works to demonstrate the varying classes of characters, it occasionally distracts the listener from the Russian setting. However, Dostoyevsky’s rendering of 18th-century Russia emerges unscathed, bringing the dark pathos (such as wretched poverty and rampant suffering) to life.

Through the story of the brilliant but conflicted young Raskolnikov and the murder he commits, Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the theme of redemption through suffering. Crime and Punishment put Dostoevsky at the forefront of Russian writers when it appeared in 1866 and is now one of the most famous and influential novels in world literature.

The poverty-stricken Raskolnikov, a talented student, devises a theory about extraordinary men being above the law, since in their brilliance they think “new thoughts” and so contribute to society. He then sets out to prove his theory by murdering a vile, cynical old pawnbroker and her sister. The act brings Raskolnikov into contact with his own buried conscience and with two characters — the deeply religious Sonia, who has endured great suffering, and Porfiry, the intelligent and discerning official who is charged with investigating the murder — both of whom compel Raskolnikov to feel the split in his nature. Dostoevsky provides readers with a suspenseful, penetrating psychological analysis that goes beyond the crime — which in the course of the novel demands drastic punishment — to reveal something about the human condition: The more we intellectualize, the more imprisoned we become

This book is read as a part of

(Click on the image to know more.)

My views: Well, this one took a long time to read but then classics make you read slowly and ponder, unlike the others you breeze through. It is a book about crime and punishment, as the title says. But it is much more than just that. The book tells about human nature, its individuality, giving one a lot to think about.

The book not merely narrates but gives you a view inside the individual, into his mind, his thought process, his working style.

There are so many characters in this book – each well developed, having a distinctness of one’s own, their different style of handling a similar thing/event.

The crime has been committed. Is the punishment necessary? What classifies as a crime? What goes on in the mind of a criminal? Two people who commit the same crime can be so different from one another, with completely different outlook and manner of responding. The book delves into each theme in detail.

Non- Russian speakers (like me) may have some difficulty differentiating between similar-looking/sounding names and they are all the more difficult to pronounce. But that is something one can overlook when reading a classic as this.

Recommended for deep thinkers, analysts who have a lot of time on their hands and a free mind to think away.

3/5 stars – I liked it.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Summary: Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words – and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green’s arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

My view: Wow wow wow! You know what took me so long to finish this book? I wanted to read it till it finished because it was so good but that was also the reason why I didn’t want to finish it (because it was SO good). Ah, the irony! I went looking for nothing and found everything in this book.

This is my first audio book and my, my, what a great start. I don’t think I’m letting go of audio books now, not after this! The edition I listened to was narrated by John Green himself and it was great. I have been told Will Grayson is the best but well, I have no idea about that.

There isn’t a single flaw with this book, except may be a long latter half, but that isn’t a flaw actually. I enjoyed that too.

And oh, I love Alaska! I wish she was my friend. The characters are so well developed that you know them inside out, you are there with them, they are your best friends. (It could also be an adverse effect of an audio book, though. 😉 )

The plot is innovative and amazing. I like the characteristics of the characters in there, so special, making each one the hero of the story. Colonel with his remembering of the capitals of states, Pudge with remembering last words. Ah, beautiful.

The story moves from fun to sadness in the latter half and to tell the truth, I was shattered. I just couldn’t believe it. I was mourning with the others. Alas, there was nothing anyone could do about it (except for John Green). But the book was engaging from page 1 till the very end.

In a long, long time has come a book like this. No wonder this is my favorite book of the year 2011. What a great finish to the year with this book. Amazing! Can’t wait to see the movie (but I know I would be disappointed, movies never do justice to books, except P.S. I love you, may be).

This book is recommended for everyone. Give this as a gift to yourself this Christmas, if you haven’t read it already. And my advice is get the audio book version.

5/5 stars – amazing book. Must read!

Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman

Summary: It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other.

Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

My view: I wanted to read this book ever since it won the GR YA fiction award. It must be good if it has won an award and everyone’s raving about it, right? Wrong.

This book was a disappointment. A part of it may be because I don’t listen to rock music and bands of the kind. But it would be a very small part. I can adjust a few things if others are perfect. But they weren’t.

The book is supposed to be this sort of romantic-drama-thriller where you should speculate about where she went and why. The romance part seems OK. The drama I didn’t like. And a thriller based merely on that point makes no story to me. A good thing is that the book is short which encouraged me to just finish it up rather than abandon it midway.

I don’t like books where nothing happens and a person just keeps speculating about what happened. That should be a part of the plot, not the whole plot. The book seems baseless when there’s nothing to look forward to except where she went. How long can you keep driving around without reaching your destination? Even 122 pages seem long because there’s nothing happening in the book.

I know others have adored this book but personally it didn’t appeal to me for its lack of plot. The reason that was told in the end was not satisfactory enough and even bizarre to some extent.

In all, I haven’t read the first book but since this was the most praised one, I don’t think I am reading the next if ever there is a next.

The only reason I’m giving it two stars is that it wasn’t completely wild or baseless to score a 1.

The Accidental Bride (A Big Sky Romance) by Denise Hunter

The Accidental Bride, aptly named, is a quick, fun read. At least in the beginning. The start is great, it lures you in, and you want to know more, fast. The characters are real and full-developed. The plot is not new but some of the twists and turns are. The first half is amazing, I didn’t feel like putting the book down. It’s fast and despite the common plot, pleasant to read through.

However, I struggled to finish the book. I felt the second half was unnecessary lengthy, with things (characters’ thoughts and acts) repeating themselves. I think the book could have been summed up nicely in say 200-250 pages, instead of the current 304. It would have made for a crisper book then.

This book is about Shay, a 34-year-old woman who lives in Moose Creek, Montana with her daughter, Olivia. This is the story of her struggles as a single mother and her relationship with Travis, her first love who deserted her on the day of their marriage after they eloped. It’s a usual story of how things come around.

I have always loved and been fascinated by Ranch life and I witnessed it in this book. It was a pleasure to read about the chores there, the livelihood, the neighbors, the Founders day ceremony. I applaud Denise Hunter for taking the time and hard work to spend sometime at the ranch in order to write a book about it.

In all, a pleasurable read, albeit a bit lengthy. Romance book lovers will enjoy the love story of Shay and Travis.

Persuasion: A Latter-day Tale by Rebecca H. Jamison

Well, where should I begin? I liked the fact that the book held me by its first line. Good for it because otherwise I wouldn’t have gone ahead with it unless someone pleaded with me to go past the first line. It’s an easy book, easy enough to keep me awake for the rest of the night wanting to finish it. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This is a book about Anne who was engaged for a day eight years back. Since then, she has been on dates but still hasn’t found the one. And guess who walks into her life? Neil, the guy she was once engaged to. He’s still single. Sounds familiar? Well then, the guy too finds a girlfriend and our poor Anne is still thirsting for him. The plot is not new, it’s a story told many times. It’s the way it is told that holds the charm, things seem different, you are not sure things will end all rosy. Add to it Anne’s crazy family and the fact that she’s always the doormat. You almost feel sorry for her.

In walks Will, a handsome guy who drives a Jaguar, sends red rose bouquets and takes her out to politico dinners and upgrade restaurants. Who won’t marry such a guy? But then all’s not how it looks. There’s a bad side to the guy (we knew that, didn’t we?). This is the point where the plot goes downhill. Will is transformed from a great guy to a stalker (a really serious one), this quite doesn’t match up. Even if he is bankrupt, why will he go after a girl who is less pretty than him, isn’t rich to speak of? Why, oh, why? Too much of stalking and it gets absurder by the minute. And why are Anne’s parents supporting Will? I know he got Anne’s dad a job but still, it doesn’t add up. I believe the story should have ended long back, this is just stretching it too far.

Finally, the end comes near, things sort themselves out, all ends hunky dory, as is the norm.

Another point that didn’t go down well with me was the religious angle. I am not a Christian and it was difficult and sometimes irritating for me to follow the Ward, the Mission, the blessings, the Gospel. Everything’s good in moderation, but it was too much in here. I understand the author’s religious inclination does tend to show up in writing but it is better not to show it too much in order to get a wider readership (including people with different religious inclinations).

Well, I haven’t read the original Persuasion by Jane Austen, so can’t comment on that. I will have to read it now (I was planning to, anyway). The story is told many times but there is something about the writing and its style that holds you. That wants you to keep reading on. This was a page turner until the point where Will turns stalker and then there’s some 20-30 pages you wish didn’t exist and finally you read the ending, which is good and happy.

This book makes for a good, light, romantic read. Teenagers would love it, also some of the YA’s. It’s a book that you would want to read on a travel when you are thinking of days gone by and the love that started.