Tag Archives: best of the year

Notable Reads of 2014

I decided I had to call this post “notable reads” of the year because I so rarely catch a book on the year it’s released, and “best of 2014” seemed to have a different connotation in my head. Without further ado, here are my standout reads of 2014.

076Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. I loved this book. And I really wasn’t sure when I started it that I would! By the end, it had pulled me in, heart and soul. It made a big splash the year it was published (2012), and Nancy Pearl recommended it as a best-of-the-year that year, so in all likelihood you’ve already heard about it, so I’ll be brief. It’s the story of an English spy captured by the Nazis in World War II — but really it’s a story about friendship, love and friendship. I cried so hard as I finished reading it that my pajama sleeves no longer sufficed as stand-ins for kleenex and I had to get out of bed (twice) for the real thing to mop up all my tears. (I can be real here about crying while reading in bed and the lengths to which I will go not to leave the warm cocoon, right?) It was the sort of book that, immediately upon finishing, I wanted to call a friend and cry about together.

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. I’ll be honest: unlike the rest of the world, I did not love this book. So why is it in my notable reads of 2014?  It was a great story — it was a fresh perspective on World War II (told from a non-Nazi perspective inside Germany) — I’m not likely to forget it in a hurry.

A FUNNY STORY ABOUT MY READING OF THE BOOK THIEF:

  • I started it in January.
  • This summer I begged a friend “JUST TELL ME WHO DIES! I KNOW SOMEONE MUST DIE!”
  • She told me who died.
  • When I picked the book up again, quite literally the next page held the same information (who was going to die).
  • I finished it on New Year’s Eve, shut in the bathroom at my parents’ house, holding tissues to my eyes.

So, yes, this book essentially took me all year to read, off and on. My biggest objections were the writing style and the really heavy-handed foreshadowing (which somehow still didn’t prepare me for the ending — which was likely the author’s intent). More than anything else, the constant narratorial interjection of bullet lists (I tried to be clever and imitate it above) felt very “interrupted” and choppy. By the end, I’d decided it was its own kind of lyricism, but perhaps not exactly to my taste and better suited to an oratory style of storytelling than a written one. In spite of those small issues I had with the book: such a beautiful, sad story.

thewheelspinsThe Wheel Spins, by Ethel Lina White. Did you catch The Lady Vanishes on PBS a while back? This is the book that movie was based on, and it was every bit as stylish, and had every ounce of the period glamour and romance, and — what’s more — stronger characterization and excellent writing. I have great admiration for authors who can give a complete sense of character with just a few lines, like this: “Their formal bow, when Iris squeezed by them, was conditional recognition before the final fade-out. ‘We’ll speak to you during the journey,’ it seemed to say, ‘but at Victoria we become strangers.'” In case you aren’t familiar with the TV movie, this psychological thriller follows Iris, a young socialite, as she travels home from Europe to England on the train. She is helped by a kind stranger who suddenly disappears, leaving no trace and whom everyone denies having seen.

Also on my list of notable reads for 2014 are Never Have I Ever, by Katie Heaney, and The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley. I’ve already talked about both of them, but they’re definitely worth checking out if they pique your interest.

And now it’s your turn! What stands out from your 2014 reading? Please share! I’m always looking for books to add to my To-Be-Read pile!

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This Year in Reading 2013

I’m probably not the only book blogger who ends up reading many more books than she actually blogs about, at least I hope I’m not. Most often it’s because I don’t always anything to say that I think the Internet wants to read after I finish a book. Partly because of that, and partly because I thought it would be fun, I thought I might wrap up this year in reading in the perennial tradition of the internet and the end of the year: with a best-of list.

Best Discoveries:

cover image via Goodreads

cover image via Goodreads

I am always looking for authors whose writing style echoes Mary Stewart, and this year, I found someone who actually comes really close! Susanna Kearsley writes delightful books: history, mystery, and romance combine with light paranormal elements to make for really enjoyable reading. I started with The Shadowy Horses (my favorite so far), and I still daydream about Eyemouth, Scotland. If light paranormal elements (clairvoyance, etc.) aren’t your cup of tea, you might try Every Secret Thing, which was published under a pseudonym (Emma Cole) – every bit as good as her other books, but without the fantastical elements that may not be to everyone’s taste.

cover image via Goodreads

cover image via Goodreads

I’ve yet to outgrow my liking for books where the right girl meets the right guy and then after going through a few requisite troubles and misunderstandings, they’re well on their way to the proverbial happy-ever-after. There are times when, frankly, nothing else will do but that sort of story, but it’s harder than you might think to find a story like that that isn’t plagued by shoddy writing or besmirched by either the trappings of the romance novel (“bodice ripping”) or extensive bad language, or both. Which is why, when I discovered Hester Browne’s books this year, I was overjoyed. I started with The Runaway Princess, but Swept Off Her Feet is my favorite so far.

Best Reads of the Year:

jane_prudence

via Goodreads

Jane and Prudence, by Barbara Pym. Oh, how I love Barbara Pym! I’m not sure anyone does social satire better than she does. Who else delivers us such gems like this one, about an awkward social visit: “She had been feeling that things were pretty desperate if one found oneself talking about and almost quoting Matthew Arnold to comparative strangers, though anything was better than having to pretend you had winter and summer curtains when you had just curtains.” Jane and Prudence is another example of Barbara Pym at her best. I loved it fiercely.

The Tortoise and the Hare, by Elizabeth Jenkins. I wrote about this book months ago, but I’m still thinking about it, and it was truly some of the finest writing and characterization I’ve read all year. Highly recommended, in spite of its bleakness.

The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker. I’ve also already written about this one, and recently, but…have you read it yet? You should really read it.

Best Surprise: Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey. This was my best – and biggest – surprise read of the year, because it wasn’t a book I thought I’d enjoy as much as I did, and I certainly didn’t expect to connect with or care about the characters as much as I did.

Greatest Reading Feat: Middlemarch. Enough said.

Best generally bookish thing(s): Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing tops the list, followed closely by Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Henry V in the BBC’s Hollow Crown miniseries. If you didn’t see it when it aired on PBS in the US, well, stream it on Amazon as instantly as possible. Both of these were too good to miss.

So tell me: what tops your list of best books and/or best general bookishness for 2013?