Fiction Reads of 2012

It was a good year in the fiction department for me! I discovered some delightful new authors. Here's what entertained, inspired, even let me down in 2012.

My personal rating system:

* Mediocre ** Good *** Very Good **** Excellent

The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald*** Amazingly, this was a book I never read in high school or in college. I contemplated reading it, then after seeing the Robert Redford film adaptation decided not to waste my time. I'm glad I finally did read it for the homeschool co-op literature class I helped co-teach. It was worth it! I see why it is now considered a classic. The story certainly worthy of a read as it follows one character's fascination with the mysterious Mr. Gatsby.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy Jeanne Birdsall** (audiobook) A cute children's story that I'd enjoy reading when my kids are older. Reminds me of the old-fashioned stories that I used to read as a kid. Nice to know there are still such children's stories written with such adventure and imagination.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon – Sarah Addison Allen*** (audiobook) Sarah Addison Allen was an author I fell in love with this year. Her novels are light and fluffy but completely delightful to me. The stories are small-town and southern in flavor with a bit of fairy-tale magic thrown in. Somehow they work. Her novels are simply delicious  and food always plays a fascinating part in her plots.

The Shell Seekers – Roseamunde Pilcher**** This sweeping saga of one woman's history was like eating a delicious meal. It was so satisfying. The book goes back and forth between Penelope's old-age present and her past during W.W. II. It's the story of what she decides to do with her famous father's painting, The Shell Seekers, and her sometimes tense relationship with her adult children. I loved Pilcher's writing style.

Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens**** (audiobook) I've never been a Dickens fan, but might have changed my mind with this novel. Listening on audiobook helped me get through the more tedious descriptions so famous of Dickens. However, I appreciated his unrelenting sarcasm in this novel that tells an awesome story while revealing the underbelly of Victorian London.

The Hunger Games Trilogy: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and The Mocking Jay – Suzanne Collins**** When I first heard about this trilogy I did not think it would be something I'd read. But I did read it and it was one of the highlights of the year. I've already written severalposts about this series, and no doubt, unless you've been living under a rock you already know something about the plot. These books haunted me long after I'd put them down. Their themes are universal and enduring, bringing up questions that are worthy of deep thought. I loved how Collins was inspired by both current events and Greek myths in her telling of this story. The reason these books are such a big deal is because they rise above normal teen literature. They are not just about a love triangle. They question how to remain true amidst corruption and how to survive after experiencing great suffering.

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James**** This creepy classic inspires more questions than answers and is not your typical ghost story. Short but superb, James' novel ends with a satisfying conclusion and the literary analysis of this novel is about as fascinating as the novel itself, it has sparked such controversies. I taught it for the homeschool literature class and it's a great one for a book discussion to see how people read it, because there are multiple ways to interpret it.

Jarrettsville: A Novel – Cornelia Nixon** While the local history in this novel based on a true story was fascinating, the actual story wasn't that fabulous. I had a hard time empathizing with either main character, and even their motives were hard to connect with. I had a hard time getting through it and wouldn't recommend. However, I did enjoy a visit to the actual graves of the main characters.

Where Lilacs Still Bloom– Jane Kirkpatrick*** (audiobook) I loved this novel and have already written about it at length. For gardening lovers, this novel would be especially of interest.

Romancing Miss BronteJuliet Gael**** This novel has inspired me to read more about Charlotte Bronte. Although a novel, I was amazed at how much factual information was wrapped up in it. Every time I doubted a detail and thought the author was sensationalizing, the detail proved true. Of course, the Bronte's were fascinating and their life was the stuff of novels. This novel focuses on how Charlotte's relationship with her husband grew. They were married very briefly but had known each other a long time and she had to defy her father in order to be married. This was one area of her life I was the least familiar and after reading the novel I now find it intriguing.

The Bungalow – Sarah Jio** While I enjoyed Jio's other novel, The Violets of March, this one was slow and I'd just skip it.

The Peach Keeper – Sarah Addison Allen*** Willa Jackson's family met financial ruin years ago, but the details surrounding that time now come when a skeleton is found under a peach tree on the property they once owned. Mystery and friendship surround this story that's a delightful as the smell of peaches.

Garden SpellsSarah Addison Allen** This was my least favorite Allen novel, although it was still interesting. Claire Waverley is a caterer who prepares meals with magical concoctions and who is reunited with her long-lost sister who returns home with a child.

The Sugar QueenSarah Addison Allen** Josey opens her closet door only discover a local waitress, Della Lee, huddled inside. This sparks the unraveling of a family mystery and a new life for Josey, who has always been looked down on by her mother.

September – Rosamunde Pilcher** I looked forward to this follow-up novel to The Shell Seekers, however, it gripped me much less. While the descriptions were just as lovely and English, the story just wasn't that interesting.

The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton*** I was so excited for Morton's newest novel, as I devoured her other three last year. Morton's novels are the perfect blend of gothic mystery and are always told in some form of flashbacks. This novel didn't disappoint, and although I did think it stalled a bit in the middle, her twist at the end was a shock I did not anticipate at all!

What was your favorite fiction find of 2012?