I know I am always looking for good book recommendations, and my friends are as well.  So I've decided to reorganize how I present the books I've been reading into three categories:  (1) Must Read books are fantastic; (2) Lazy Weekend are the books that are easy to read, entertaining, and make perfect companions on a beach or lounging in bed on the weekend; and (3) Skip This books are ones you shouldn't even waste your time reading.  So here's how I've "shortened my enormous stack" of virtual books these past two months (I haven't picked up an actual book off my actual stack in months!  I love my iPad!).

UPDATE: Apparently this is a very popular post, but it's not my only reading related post.  Check out my Book Review page for the complete list with links.

Must Read

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall

One of the reasons I like to follow a favorite blog - Eat, Live, Run - is because she often times has some great book recommendations.  This is a recent one she posted.  Set during the Civil War, the main character is sent away to an insane asylum by her plantation owning husband because she disagreed with him and carried out an unforgivably defiant act, even though it was the right thing to do.  This was not acceptable to him and very uncommon in society for a woman to speak out or embarrass her husband, so he had her committed.  Of course, he was generous and sent her to a top notch asylum located on an island off the Florida coast.   It was there that she met and fell in love with a Confederate soldier recovering from the effects of his war experience.  As she is unable to convince the doctor of her sanity, she knows the only way off the island is to escape, but not without the one man she cares about the most.  Even the best laid plans have their glitches, though!
Lazy Weekend

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich

Though the cover says nineteen, this is actually the 23rd book in her popular Stephanie Plum series.  It's not one of the best of the bunch, but was consistently entertaining with the same cast of characters and the same triangle of Stephanie-Morelli-Ranger.

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison

I saw the cover and the cupcake lover in me knew I had to pick this one up to read.  It's set in Washington D.C., so I enjoyed recognizing familiar places. The story is predictable, but you still are invested in the characters and rooting for Gemma to stumble upon the right guy.

Good in Bed and The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

I first read Good in Bed, which is not a 100% fun and happy novel.  It starts out with the main character's ex-boyfriend writing a magazine article about her skills in bed and falling in love with her, despite her being overweight.  What follows was unexpected, but inspiring.  The Next Best Thing describes the ups and downs of making it in Hollywood as a screenwriter, and how perseverance pays off in the end.  Not as good as the first one, but good enough.  

Skip This (consider yourself warned!)

A Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling 

Oh boy, where do I start.  The word that keeps coming to my mind is indulgent.  Here she is, a hugely successful author of the inimitable Harry Potter series.  She knows she has the green light to do whatever it is she wants to do for her first non-HP book, and she spits out this piece of garbage and dupes devoted readers into paying top dollar the day it comes out.  The story was pointless and confusing at times, as well as overcrowded with characters that you neither love nor hate - complete indifference.  They are weak, annoying, unoriginal, and predictably broken in their own way.  I am unfortunately compelled to read probably 98% of the books I start, so I forced myself to skim more than 3/4 of this book just to see if it ever went anywhere.  Let me tell you a secret...it doesn't.  Don't believe me?  Here's what the professional critics had to say:
  • Instead of an exhilarating sense of the mythic possibilities of storytelling, we are left with a numbing understanding of the difficulty of turning a dozen or so people's tales into a story with genuine emotional resonance. - New York Times
  • More than 500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature - The Daily Mail
  • "The Casual Vacancy," which one bookseller breathlessly predicted would be the biggest novel of the year, isn't dreadful.  It's just dull." - NY Daily News
  • Rowling clearly knows how to create a universe that's compelling, consuming even, but Pagford is no such place.  Rather, it is little more than a backdrop, a stage set, its lack of depth an emblem of Rowling's inability to engage us, to invest us sufficiently in her characters, young or otherwise, to reckon with the contrivances of her fictional world. - LA Times
  • This book would be a little better if everyone were carrying wands. - Washington Post
I think last quote is the best!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn  

I picked this book because it made GoodReads' top books of 2012 list.  Having read it now, I now must question the people who are contributing ratings to GoodReads.  The first third of the book isn't bad.  A married couple has moved back to the husband's hometown in the midwest after both got laid off from their journalist positions in NYC and after his mother was diagnosed with cancer.  The story alternates between the present day, when the husband comes home to find his wife missing and the aftermath, and the wife's journal of their life as a couple.  The journal hints at a growing emotional distance between the two, so you obviously want to suspect the husband of foul play, but something else isn't right (I actually had already figured it out).  Where the novel goes wrong is in the 2nd third of the book, then takes a nosedive into a big pile of awful in the last section when it seems like the author misplaced the last cards on her storyboard and a 5-year-old made up the ending.  "And they all lived happily ever after...THE END."  Save your money on this book!   Use it on Blue Asylum or The Night Circus or Let's Pretend This Never Happened. Seriously!