I had a bit more time to read this year I think but I find that perhaps I am getting a wee bit choosy about my books as the years go on? It seems harder and harder to make it on to my list of “I really liked you” but there were at least a few I can say were definite contenders…
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
A great “tween” read for anyone, regardless of age. Tells the story of Rose Howard, a fifth grader with Asperger’s Syndrome who gets by in life with the help of her sincere love of homonyms (Rain, Reign), her uncle Weldon who understands her, and her rescued dog, Rain. Reminiscent of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. A story of courage and overcoming obstacles.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Who knew a group of moms could be so interesting and full of secrets? A real page-turner that grabs you and holds on. Being a mom, I could relate to a lot of the small details which made the book all that more believable. Madeline, Celeste and Jane are characters that jump off the page. A fast read!
The Bear by Claire Cameron
Not for the squeamish, this book is one of those rare gems written in a very unique style that is perfectly suited to the story it is telling. After a bear attacks their campsite in rural Ontario’s Algonquin Park, five-year-old Anna must help her two-year-old brother survive in the wilderness alone. Told in Anna’s child voice, the story packs a lot of punch in very few pages. Needless to say, I won’t be camping in the Algonquin Park any time soon.
The Untold by Courtney Collins
A fictionalized account of Jessie Hickman, a real-life livestock wrangler in the mountains of Australia, this debut novel tells the remarkable story of Jessie from the perspective of the child she buried: her neglected childhood, her circus days, and finally her outlaw days following the murder of her abusive husband, Fitz. I really enjoyed this book. The story unfolds slowly but you really get to know Jessie and the descriptive language is beautiful.
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
Ok, let me begin by saying that it seems you will either really like Herman Koch’s books or you will really hate them. I haven’t found too many people in the middle on that one. I happen to like them, even though I hate all the characters while reading his books. I didn’t say it had to make sense! Koch just has a way with evil-ness and twisted storylines…it is his gift. His newest book revolves around a doctor who, shall we say, is a bit lacking in the ethics department. Dr. Marc Schlosser doesn’t much care for being a doctor, and doesn’t really want to help people. But he does, here and there, enjoy the perks of his profession, one of which is crossing paths with the rich and famous. In Summer House with Swimming Pool, Dr. Marc ends up befriending a movie star but both of their lives will change in ways even he couldn’t foresee. Sinister!
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot
Told in alternating chapters, this novel follows the lives of Esther, a Ugandan teenager kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Jane, an American journalist, who has traveled to Africa to delve deeper into stories like Esther’s. Both of the characters have struggles and as Minot interweaves their stories, you discover more about who each character really is. Based on true life events of girls kidnapped in boarding schools and enslaved or married off, this book came out before the events that are now unfolding in Nigeria with Boko Haram and so is very timely.
Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer
Another timely book…this one mainly covering the subject of death with dignity, Five Days Left tells the stories of two individuals, Scott and Mara, and how each is dealing with the limited time they have left with their loved ones, both for different reasons. Mara, once a powerful and successful attorney, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and is planning how to end her life to save her loved ones the embarrassment and stress of coping for her. Scott, a teacher with a first baby on the way, is coping with having only a limited time left with a foster child he has become very attached to. An interesting take on death with dignity, from a character living with having made up her mind.
Three Bargains by Tania Malik
Madan is growing up poor in India with a father that could take him or leave him (and would probably rather leave him). After his father makes a horrible mistake and costs his little sister her entire future, Madan makes a deal with his father’s employer, Avtaar Singh, the most powerful man in town, to bring her home and protect her. The bargain costs Madan his own future, as he becomes a mentee to Avtaar and learns the ropes of his many business dealings, but in the end, who will have the power? An involved story with a lot of descriptive detail of life in India.
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
When 12-year-old Eva is dumped on her estranged and recently widowed father’s doorstep by her mother, she is thrown into a whole new world with a whole new dynamic. There she meets her older half-sister and film star want-to-be, Iris. Together, brainy and thoughtful Eva and daring and beautiful Iris decide to pursue Iris’ dream and run away to Hollywood. After a scandal drives them out of town, Eva and Iris end up crossing the country with a cast of characters (and family) in tow. An entertaining read about some crazy family relationships.
Caribou by Charles Wright
Tennessee native Charles Wright has written poetry for over 20 years and was named Poet Laureate of the United States this year. He often focuses on nature themes and the human condition in his works, trying to inform the reader and make them think and reflect about their position and effect in the world. While his latest collection, Caribou, is a slender volume, it still delivers quite the punch, addressing themes such as aging, death, saying goodbye, redemption, and regret. I am amazed by the feeling Wright can evoke in so few words; most of the poems take up less than one small page. A wonderful, lyrical short read that will leave you pondering life’s big mysteries for a long time to come.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
Book 6 in the Flavia de Luce mystery series was another speedy and enjoyable read as usual. This one was a bit more melancholy as Flavia’s life is becoming complicated by the fact that Buckshaw, her beloved home, may be in jeopardy of being sold. Flavia is growing up but still has the spunk and determination we have come to love her for. A great series! Book 7 due out January 6!!
The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
Together, my son and I finished all 5 books in this series this year: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian. It was a wonderful adventure following Percy, first as he discovered his demigod status, and later as he battles monsters and fellow evil demigods to save Olympus. A series worth visiting, with or without a 10-year-old son!