1. Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold
To write this book, the author read through letters between Charles Dickens and his wife. This book is fictional, in that some characters and all the names are changed. But it is based on real people, the Dickens family. I didn’t know anything about Dickens when I started, except that you have to read his book in high school English classes. If this book is any indication, he is not a very nice man. He kicked his wife out of the house twenty years into their marriage and would not let her see any of her children. He blamed her for continuing to have babies, even though it takes two to make that work. At the end of his life, the majority of his family distrusts him but they all still want to win his approval. This includes his wife, who he hasn’t spoken to in 10 years. She is still very much in love with him. The way Arnold tells the story, it is easy to see why. Although he is not always compassionate, this author is very charismatic and charming, not to mention being one of the greatest authors of all time. The book is a bit long and wordy (much like the author whose life the book is based on) but the story is interesting. And it made me really mad, which is good. Getting emotionally involved is important, in my opinion, to reading.
2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Wow. I picked up the book because everyone was telling me how great it was. Needless to say, I kind of expected to be disappointed. That always happens to me when there is a huge amount of hype around something, I see it or read it and I am less than impressed (coughAvatarcough). But this stood up to its reputation. Bonus: one of the main characters is a journalist! Always love that. I thought all the characters were interesting, the story was well written and kept me on the edge of my seat, and I sincerely cared what happened. What’s better, it is a whodunnit of sorts, but I definitely did not know what was going to happen. I only wish I could read it in its original native language. I have a feeling it would only be more powerful.
3. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I saw the movie, I hoped the book would be better. It was. Of course, the image of Stanley Tucci as a rapist/serial killer still haunts me to this day, but the movie was just not great. This book was though. Although it is a bout a brutal murder, it is not a mystery. You know the protagonist is dead from the first sentence. And it’s not long after that you discover who murdered her. It is more a story of how her family coped with her leaving, as she watches from her perfect heaven. The novel takes place over the course of ten years, so you watch the family grow and change as they accept little Susie’s death more and more. It was pretty heartbreaking. But in a good way.
4. Paper Towns by John Green
One of my dear friends talked about this book a lot when it came out, so when I saw it on the shelf at the library, I picked it up. It was pretty good. It was a quick read. It is about a girl who decides Orlando, the place she lives, is really just a paper town. Everything is fake and superficial, she says, so she runs away. She leaves little clues about where she went for her next door neighbor, who she was best friends with as a kid. He is also in love with her, so he sacrifices his perfect attendance during the last couple weeks of his senior year so he can try to track her down, the whole time thinking she has killed herself. You try to stay one step ahead of him as he is solving all the clues, but he reached all of the conclusions before I did. Pick this one up if you want to have a quick-moving mind game.