Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
I put this book on hold because it had an intriguing title. The plot is fairly conventional in many of its devices (young teenager with somewhat absent parents learns about family secrets, messes things up, and becomes more mature in the end), but it was still a sweet story and I particularly liked the characters.
The Orchard by Krista Lynne Jensen
I thought I'd go ahead and read a few books that are likely to be Whitney contenders early, and Jensen was one author that I liked enough last year to try another of her books this year. Like her last book (Of Grace and Chocolate) I thought this one had potential but ended up falling short. There were some really good parts to the story; I particularly liked the beginning scenes and the way the misunderstanding and reconciliation of the main characters were handled. The end felt rushed and odd though--I later read that the author loves the novel Persuasion and was trying to re-write it in a way, and while that is one of my favorite books I felt that this attempt to remake it didn't really work. Generally I don't like remakes very much because they often have the problem that this book, did where the action ends up being forced in a direction that doesn't make sense with the characters or where you think the book is going to go. It also felt like there was enough going on in the story that it could have been quite a bit longer with much more depth to it.
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Normally I really like Kinsella's books, but this one wasn't my favorite. The chapters alternate between the main character and her sister, and I didn't like either of them very much. They crossed the line from charmingly manic to just plain shrill and the tone of the book was a little too frantic for me.
Final Exam by Pauline Chen
I picked up this non-fiction book about surgical training and medical ethics while I was looking for something else at the library. It was different from what I usually read and I thought the author was an excellent writer. It gave me much more to think about when it comes to dealing with illness, death, and dying.
Second Chances by Melanie Jacobsen
Jacobsen has been a Whitney finalist for two years in a row now, but I read all her books just because they are so much fun. This newest one was one of my favorites--there was a fun romance and a cute story, but also a lot of growth in the main character as she realized why she had been wrong in her judgements about people. I also felt that, compared to some of Jacobsen's other books, the male love interest was written with a bit more depth as well.
Through Cloud and Sunshine by Dean Hughes
I read the first book in this series and thought that the present-day story was much less interesting than the story set during the early days of the Church in Nauvoo; I noticed than in this book, more time was devoted to the historical storyline than the modern-day one and I wonder if that will continue to be a trend throughout the series. I've honestly never been that interested in early Church history, but Hughes has written some compelling, very human characters and doesn't shy away from the complexity and difficulties of the Church's time in Nauvoo (although interestingly he starts the book with a preface reminding readers that early Church leaders were not perfect, that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy, and so on).
Annoying by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman
This book had some interesting parts but it was unsatisfying overall. It is similar to books like Freakonomics where a bunch of scientific studies are boiled down into little anecdotes for easy digestion, but even with that in mind it still felt a little too lightweight and disjointed.
Familiar by J. Robert Lennon
The idea of this book was fascinating and I felt like the author had some interesting points to make about choices and dealing with the past. It felt like a much darker version of a story I've read a few times as romantic comedy--the waking up in another life similar to the one you can still remember living. But then the ending of the book really spoiled it for me--I thought things were going well and I was into the story, and then it just ended.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book, especially once I started the second chapter and realized that it is composed of independent stories that jump back and forth in space and time. However, Hosseini knows how to write gripping, detailed fiction and I kept going. Once I realized how everything was going to fit together I enjoyed reading the book as I put together the pieces of who was who and how they all belonged in the narrative. Some chapters were better than others (there is one that touches on the problem of 'disaster tourism' that still haunts me), but generally I liked this book.
Baked Alaska by Josi Kilpack
I really enjoyed the two mysteries by Kilpack that I read earlier this year and decide to check this one out to see how the story of Sadie Hoffmiller continued. I had a harder time reading this one--Sadie was once again anxious and agitated for much of the book, and while that is realistic, it gets tiring to read about after a while. There was also a lot going on in the book and the action felt very busy--eventually all the parts of the story came together, but there were a lot of people to keep track of and a lot of the action was actually just reported in conversations rather than witnessed by the readers.