Rather than going on and on about how awesome of a reader that I am (heh, heh) - let's just get to the books so you can start tossing them into your Goodreads.com queue.
By the way, these picks are in no particular order...
1984 by George Orwell
What's there to say? It's a fantastic book. Well-written. Thought-provoking. Derserving of it’s spot on Time’s Best 100 books of the past century. George Orwell had this unique vision that, strangely, seems to be popping up all around us--especially now, since the government is sticking their domes and drones into everything we're doing nowadays. In any event, this book is dark, depressing and terrifyingly terrific. One of the better horror stories I've come across in quite some time. Lots more to say, but I won't bore you to tears. Just read it. And if you already did, congrats!
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I love Neil Gaiman's imagination. This book felt like a one-off story of Gaiman's other work ... AMERICAN GODS. It felt like this story could have lived in that same exact world. Nice coming-of-age story that could be a bit creepy for young readers, but would mesmerize young adult readers and tweens. Like Coraline and The Graveyard Book, everyone will find something to relate to in this book as it pertains to being a kid. The innocence. The naivete. The inhibitions when it came to living life. Good book. Not the best I've read this year or in year's past, but definitely worth the read.And, if there ever was a film version, I could totally see the same sort of animation from Coraline-director and animator Henry Selick. They’re almost similar worlds. Almost.
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Fun, nicely written post-apocalyptic, science fiction book by Dashner, which caters to the teen readers (males?) but also serves up to an adult slant as well. Memories of ENDER'S GAME, THE CITY OF EMBER, Hugh Howey's WOOL and HUNGER GAMES will hit your mind in the novel realm. As well as CUBE, THE KILLING ROOM and SAW in the film realm. But don't let that dissuade you. Dashner creates a cool, interesting realm within a maze filled with kids who are pushed to their limits to try and escape. You're figuring out stuff as the main character is figuring it out, which isn't a new story-telling technique, but it always works for - especially if done the right way. Great dialogue and a great tone throughout. Like Rowling, King and Koontz, Dashner knows how to end a chapter that entices the reader to keep you reading. The only fault, and without giving too much away, I would have liked to see more 'things' in the maze. I don't know. Maybe it's my bloodlust. However, there may be a reason highlighted in the other books. That said, the last five or six chapters seal the deal as a great book and a possible great series. On to the next book!
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Great book. Highly recommended. Makes you take a step and think about your minuscule problems in a different light. Also, forces you into some personal introspection as well. The book follows the unbelievable story of Louis Zamperini, a problem child who transformed into an Olympic athlete and then was dropped headfirst into the WW2 conflict in the Pacific. The only thing I can say is read this book. It is a fantastic page turner that will make you think it's fiction. How could someone go through all of this? Amazing. And just a note about Hilldenbrand's writing, she definitely has a way with words and can paint landscapes, emotions and visuals into your mind. It makes me jealous how talented she is. Is that enough to get you to read this book?
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Good read. As a hiker, I can relate to Cheryl's trials and tribulations on the PCT. Although I haven't hiked 1,100 miles in one fail swoop, she really writes to the blood, sweat and mental tears that a tough trail can pull from you. She has a thoughtful, straight-forward, conversational writing style, almost like a travel writer for a major newspaper and can paint a beautiful picture with words. I loved the insight into her past and her reasons for taking this hike. Almost all journeys of this expanse are made out of a personal nature, but Strayed's runs deeper than a lot of hikers I've met on the trails. This book reminded me a lot of Bryson's A WALK IN THE WOODS, but on a personal level. It's nice to also get a woman's perspective. Nicely written book. Highly recommended. You can't do wrong by checking this out.
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Very entertaining read. Feels like King is at the top of his game in terms of writing. Plus, I'm just proud that I made it through the 1,074 pages. I feel like a stud. It seems so effortless and conversational like he's been doing it for year. Oh, I guess he has. In any event, although a bit on the long side, I really enjoyed this 'humans in a terrarium' idea. What would happen if a dome was put over a small town? Could people breathe? How would they survive? When, exactly, would people start to go crazy? Answers to all of these questions and more in this book, which is more character study and less horror, blood and gore - although it's in there fine readers, do not worry about that. Great cast of characters, both good and bad, including Big Jim and Junior, among others. As always, great dialogue that made me snicker a couple of times. You can tell King is just having fun with this grandiose idea. Without giving too much away. Very entertaining book and it's highly recommend. Don't watch the TV series until you read it first. Check 'er out
Replay by Ken Grimwood
A good book sticks with you days, months, years after you read it - and this is one of them. If we're talking movies, I would say this book is a mix of GROUNDHOG DAY meets BACK TO THE FUTURE meets PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED. It follows the adventures/tortures of a man who keeps reliving his life over and over again - all the way up to his heart attack in 1988. Very interesting too see how he plays his life out over and over - and how he makes money, which is also cool. In any event, I don't want to give too much away, but this was a very quick, very interesting, very well-written book. Highly recommended. With a fantastic ending as solid as the rest of the book - that did not disappoint. Very motivating as well that hits home the fact that you only have so long in this world. In some instances, we take this fantastic miracle of life for granted. Let's get out and enjoy it people!
The Twelve (The Passage #2) by Justin Cronin
Great follow-up to one of my favorite reads last year, The Passage - Cronin's lengthy vampire/disease infestation tale. After reading a number of reviews, I was concerned that Cronin was pumping out a novel with editor's breathing down his neck. If I recall, actually this book was postponed a couple times, so I surmised this was not the case. In any event, I had no trouble following the new characters, old characters or story arcs. I loved the journey that the author navigates us through. Once again from the outbreak, to the heroes and anti-heroes to a small Iowa town that's transformed into hell on earth and...well...I'll let you read it and experience it first-hand. A lot of meticulous thinking took place in putting together all the pieces of this elaborate puzzle. Once again, Cronin's writing, in particular character dialogue, truly stands out. He has created a real world. Now I know that comparisons to THE STAND and other good vs. evil tomes will come into play here. But, it didn't really bother me at all. For a second, I thought Cronin decided to complete the trilogy with this book and call it day. Not the case. I'm very curious where he takes us after this impressive outing. Be warned, this is not a book for the faint of heart. And, I'm almost certain that you need to read The Passage to put all the pieces together. Lengthy book, yes. But well worth the trip.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
You know, in all honesty, I really wasn't going to read this book. Then, I got to thinking. I need to read this book. I need to know how some of the most popular and innovative machines of my generation came to fruition. From the Macintosh, which I wrote my first term papers in college all the way to the iPhone, which I reluctantly (much like this book) picked up and started to use six months ago, I think it's important to know this stuff and to know the man behind the machine. But I digress, the book is almost written like an adventure book. A fun, entertaining, sometimes tragic ride of a man who yearned for simplicity in technology. I pulled many things from this book, but the one thing that is constantly sticking that I'm always asking myself in my day-to-day work and personal life is "Is there a simpler way?" If a book, and a person, can change your way of thinking, your way of life, for the better - then how can I not recommend this book and give it the most stars possible? Kudos to Jobs for allowing a warts-all biography to be released for public consumption. It just shows that even the greatest have had major failures that, eventually, turned into positives. That is, if you learn from your mistakes. I would be remiss to also mention that this book is great for people in the creative field in particular marketing and advertising. You could learn a lot from this book. Check er out!
PenPal by Dathan Auerbach
Wow. Very, very dark, disturbing interesting book. Like Pulp Fiction in terms of mixed time lapses. This is one of the first books that I actually felt a little leery reading at night. Very creepy. Auerbach can definitely write some suspense. Very well written. Very creepy. One small bit of criticism, he always mentions kindergarten, but I'm thinking he should have made the kindergarten scenes closer to third or fourth grade. Not sure how many parents would let their children roam around in a forest for hours on end at the age of five. However, times have changed that's for sure. Would like people to pick up this book and offer their feedback as well. Curious what other people think of this eerie, yet fascinating book. I couldn't put it down.