Some Favorites from 2009

Compared to the voracious readers in this library, I complete a rather piddly number of books a year, especially since the recent addition of a couple little ones to my life. So this task of choosing my top books of the year had to be culled from a rather small population of choices. With that said, here you are – some favorite books of 2009:

Honestly Dearest, You’re Dead by Jack Fredrickson & September Society by Charles Finch

I list these two mysteries together because they are similarly well-written and interesting stories with engaging protaganists. The similarities end there as both the main characters (hard-boiled private detective vs. elegant amateur sleuth) and setting (modern day town near Chicago vs. Victorian era London and Oxford) couldn’t be more different.  But mystery lovers will enjoy giving both of them a try!      [Note: These are the second novels in series featuring both sleuths but are standalones.]

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

I’m not sure why, but I seem to be drawn toward novels that have a focus on the wonder and delight of good food. (New Year’s resolutions #1 and #2 – stop reading books about food and start working out…or maybe I should just read those books while working out…hmmm…) Anyway, it’s a treat of a novel about savoring life regardless of what life might dish out.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

After a horrible accident, Mia finds herself outside of her near lifeless body, able to see and hear those around her. As she watches the efforts of those trying to save her, she thinks back on her short but full life.  A life that will never be the same should she decide to stay in it. Don’t let the “young adult” label keep you from reading this thoughtful and moving book.

— Julie

My Favorite Books of 2009: All are Thrilling, But Not All are Thrillers

As I looked back over my 2009 reads, I realized that it would be hard to choose my top ten favorites, but here goes…..

 Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg is the true story of Pepperberg’s 30-year relationship with a gray parrot named Alex that will touch your heart as well as provide fascinating details of his astonishing abilities.

 Await Your Reply by local author Dan Chaon addresses the issue of identity and place as it tells the story of three people’s lives that intersect due to identity theft. Think literate thriller.

 Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan is a stunning work of noir fiction in which the editor of an Ann Arbor mystery magazine enlists the help of an associate to bury the body of a home intruder he accidently killed. Just when you think you know what is going on, Dolan throws in another twist.

 The Bellini Card by Jason Goodwin is a historical mystery set in 1860s Istanbul and Venice with a distinct Holmesian feel about it. What’s not to like?

 The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips is the sequel to The Rossetti Letter. Claire Donovan is now a fellow at Cambridge researching the diary of Hannah Devlin, physician to the king’s mistress in the 1670s. If you like Lauren Willig, give these books a try.

 The Help by Kathryn Stockett tells the story of three women working as maids for white families in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi and is probably my top favorite of the year. It is absolutely fabulous on audio!

 The Last Child by John Hart is a mystery about teenager Johnny Merrimon searching for his missing twin sister in rural North Carolina. If you like atmospheric settings and complex characters, this one is a sure bet.

 The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe tells the tale of a grad student who find a book of spells from a Salem witch in the ancestral family home. This book is part historical and part thriller, with a little magic and romance thrown in for good measure.

 Plea of Insanity by Jillian Hoffman is a legal thriller about an attorney who must confront her own past when defending a doctor accused of murdering his family. I guarantee that you’ll re-read the ending of this book at least twice.

 Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo is a “non-put-downable” thriller set in Ohio Amish country in which new sheriff Kate Burkholder tracks a serial killer who may have links to her past. So accurately written, it’s hard to believe that the author is from Texas.

Hope you enjoy these books as much as I did.                                  ~Evelyn

Fabulous Five of 2009


1. The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson is the book that has remained memorable above all others. It was originally published in 1965 but reissued in 2008. I did not know anything about this book before I read it which probably explains the big impression that it made. I am not revealing anything here, so go find this book and read it.

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is fabulous. I was hooked after reading the first page. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1965, The Help explores the relationships between the young, white housewives and the black maids they employ. Unforgettable.

3. Etta by Gerald Kolpano   Etta Place is the focus of Gerald Kolpano’s work of fiction. “Etta” is the girlfriend of the Sundance Kid. She becomes a member of the “Hole in the Wall Gang”. Her life story is interesting, poignant, unexpected, and adventurous.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a young adult book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The first book in a trilogy, it is set in post-apocalyptic America, now known as Panem. Panem is divided into 12 districts. Once a year each district chooses one boy and one girl to fight to the death in a televised game until there is only one person left – the champion. The second book, Catching Fire, is listed by Dori and Megan as one of their favorites for 2009.

5. The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano is a unique debut work of fiction. It is the story of a family that is forced into the Witness Protection Program with its lifelong adjustments. The story unfolds with a relaxed telling and it has just the right amount of twists and turns. The movie rights have been sold.

                                                                                                                                                                          — Janet

The Best of ’09?

Is it wrong to pick favorites? Why only have one favorite color, favorite food, favorite friend? Is is just me or does everyone have trouble deciding? Well, that written, I am listing 10 books (in no particular order) that I loved reading this year. I am sure that I will find more books to read from 2009, and I will feel free to enjoy them just as much as the ones I have listed here.  Maybe you will enjoy some of my favorites too :

*Little Bee By Chris Cleave

*The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie By Alan Bradley

*The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane By Katherine Howe

*Baking Cakes in Kigali By Gaile Parkin

*Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict By Laura Rigler

*The Year of the Flood By Margaret Atwood

*The German Woman By Paul Griner

*Cutting for Stone By Abraham Verghese

*My Abandonment by Peter Rock

*The Help by Katheryn Stockett


Favorite Books of 2009

I read a lot of great  books in 2009, but the ones that I chose to share were books that made me think, made me feel and that have stuck with me. Here goes…

1. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan – a retelling of a fairy tale, this stunning book about the power of the human spirit has continued to resonate with me.
2. Brooklyn by Colm Toibin – a quietly moving book about one of the most courageous things a person can do – begin their life over in another country.
3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – this book celebrates both the small and large acts that people do to bring them closer to one another and closer to their own spirits.
4. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – a series of stories that revolve around a woman who is both difficult and generous.
5. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – a fictional autobiography narrated by a poor lower caste Indian boy transformed by murder into a modern Indian businessman.
6. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon – three seemingly separate narratives join surprisingly at the end to form a book about relationships and identity.
7. Little Bee by Chris Cleave – a heartbreaking story of modern political realities, personal courage and and our responsibilities to our fellow men (and women).
8. Field of Blood by Denise Mina – the first of a series that I just discovered; the gritty setting and smart, working class heroine are perfectly captured.
9. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – another young adult title, and second in a series, this book about a future United States that is on the verge of revolution leaves you yearning for the finale.
10. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – okay, I really haven’t finished this yet, but so far it’s a fascinating look at the reign of Henry VIII through the eyes of  whip smart and efficient Thomas Cromwell. The writing is just so intelligent and funny. I’m predicting it will make my top ten of 2009… 

~ Dori

Fond memories from 2009

Well, I managed to squeak in some reading this year (which I admit, I am having trouble believing is ending) and there are a few good books that stick in my mind… 

This book completely swept me away from the very first page. What a story! Told from the perspective of a Nigerian orphan we first meet while she is detained in a British immigration facility, this novel will have you laughing, crying and waiting on the edge of your seat for the details of the life-changing event of Little Bee. 

Although a longer read than I normally pick up, this book captured and kept my interest with its “insider” look into the secretive and elite world of Ivy League college admissions. Woven together with the story of a troubled boy’s quest to find a place to fit in, the private and professional life of Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan reveals what it takes to make the decisions that affect the lives of many college hopefuls. 

  • Heroic Measures by Jill Climent

This was a quirky little book that I ended up liking a lot! It follows the pursuits of Alex and Ruth, an elderly couple in Manhattan, who are hoping to move out of their five-flight walkup into a highly desirable (albeit highly expensive) “elevator” building in the city. Mingled with the storyline of their apartment hunting/open houses is the subject of their precious little dachshund Dorothy who suddenly loses the ability to walk, the fact that a possible terrorist is loose in the city, and the couple’s mixed feelings about their impending move. All of these things make for a book that you (for some unexplained reason) can’t put down! 

  • Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

A book that will definitely give you a chance to walk a mile in another person’s shoes and see the power of animal companions.  In this moving memoir the author describes the tragic accident that left her husband with TBI (traumatic brain injury) and changed the course of their lives together forever. Though the material seems like it would be too overwhelmingly sad, Thomas gives glimpses into who her husband was and now is through little stories and humorous anecdotes that will touch your heart and show you the power of true love. 

One of the best books I read in 2009 and boy did I finish it in no time! It was fascinating, with its vivid descriptions of pre civil-rights movement society and intimate stories of how “the help” was really being treated in white households in the south. The writing was fantastic, the characters were perfectly created and the story was one I won’t forget. 

Yet another book that was beautifully written and tells an interesting story. Philomena (Pip) Ash turns out to be a superstar swimmer and future Olympian who is discovered at the tender age of just 9 months when her parents take her to a mom-and-me swim class and watch her naturally take to the water. Things are not always rosy in life for Pip, however, despite her Olympic gold medals, and she must learn who she is and how to survive outside the pool as well.


Stars of 2009

This year most of my favorite books are nonfiction titles. I loved reading Good Poems edited by Garrison Keillor. As with any poetry anthology, the poems can be read over the course of one snowy day, or they can be savored one at a time over a month of Sundays. The anthology contains so many of my much-loved poets:  Billy Collins, Robert Frost, Robert Bly, Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, and Denise Levertov.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford has just been listed in the NYT Book Review’s 100 Notable Books of 2009. Crawford holds a PhD in political philosophy, is a fellow at the University of Virginia, and owns his own motorcycle repair shop. Crawford suggests that our modern world has disconnected us from truly understanding the material world. To reconnect, he proposes that we become able to make and repair things, not just to save money, but for the satisfaction of becoming the “master of one’s own stuff.”

Diane Ackerman’s Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day would make a perfect Christmas gift for the nature lover on your list. Her writing is thought-provoking, lyrical, and beautiful.  There are underlying themes of change and suffering, but her focus is truly joy. Joy in being alive. Joy in being a part of this immense universe.

Of the two fiction books that have topped my reading list, one is purely fun and the other is serious with themes of duty and honor. Dog on It: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn is the start of a great new series. Chet is the canine narrator of the mystery and is partnered with Bernie, a private investigator. Chet and Bernie have each other’s backs as they hunt for a missing teenage girl. The story is very humorous, but readers will be in suspense until the very end as they worry about Chet’s fate.

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd is also the beginning of a series. Charles Todd is the pen name for this mother/son writing team best known for their Ian Rutledge mystery series. Bess Crawford is their new heroine. She is serving England as a nurse during the Great War. As she tends to a dying soldier, he asks her to take a message to his family. After Bess is rebuffed by the family, she begins to probe into the family’s history only to discover a hidden and devastating betrayal. Readers will be fascinated by this brooding and evocative mystery.

~Merry Christmas from Rosemary

My Favorite Reads of 2009!

Have I mentioned before how much we like to talk about books here at Rocky River Public Library? (Once or twice maybe?) Need more convincing? Then this week will do the trick for sure! We’re all going to be treating you to lists of our favorite books from the past year. We decided it would only be fair to keep the list at ten or less (I’m sure we could have all gone a little crazy without that limit!) and the books could have any publishing date but must have been read in 2009 (because there shouldn’t be a time limit on finding a new favorite book!)

With those ground rules in mind, I thought I would try to focus my list a bit. I decided to pick books that I enjoyed so much that I know I’ll be rereading them for years to come! So, in alphabetical order by author (hello? I am a librarian!) , here are some of my favorite reads in 2009:

1. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
This book isn’t coming out until March of 2010 but I was given the chance to review it for Library Journal -and I loved it! (You can put it on hold anytime as it’s in our catalog now! Hurray!)
2. The Moral Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
All three of these books were so much fun to read and they make a good next selection for Twilight fans.
3. Bellfield Hall by Anna Dean.
Also a lucky find, courtesy of Library Journal. This is the start of what promises to be an amazing series. I’m totally rooting for Miss Dido Kent!
4. Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford.
Book three (out of the five on this list) to come from … LJ! (Can I take a moment here to say, “Thank You!!” to Library Journal for sending me such quality books to review?) Jane Austen as a vampire should have made for a bad, bad book but this was so fun to read! And it was a good mystery story to boot!
5. Hunger by Michael Grant.
This is the second book in the Gone series. It’s just as creepy and engaging as the first book.
6. Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey.
Soooo good! Can a book be gritty and charming? Yes, this book has both in spades! Really, do yourself a favor and read this book!!
7. Dog on it by Spencer Quinn.
The story is told by Bernie, the dog. I was surprised at how much I liked seeing things from the dog’s point of view. It was smart *and* funny.
8. Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn.
Ah, Lady Julia Grey… This is the third in the series and they just keep getting better!
9. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams.
An interesting story about polygamy; filled with fascinating characters.
10. The Betrayal of the Bloody Lily by Lauren Willig.
The latest book in the Pink Carnation series, but it’s surely not the last. (Thank goodness!) You can read this book on its own, but I’m guessing you’ll wind up reading them all in the end!

So, there you go. That’s ten of the books that I loved reading over the past year and I hope that you’re interested enough to give some of them a chance to make it to your list of favorites! Enjoy!


P.S. If you want to know the other two titles provided by Library Journal… come on in and we’ll talk!

Loved it-2009

What a challenge! I read and listened to so many books this year that I could make a Top 20 list. So, I am going to cheat a tiny bit and include entire series in my top ten list.  In no particular order I give you my 21 favorites of 2009.

• Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. This sequel to The Hunger Games is even better than the first book.

• Gone and Hunger by Michael Grant. What happens when everyone over the age of 15 disappears? Find out in this new series that is modern-day Lord of the Flies with a supernatural twist. I can’t wait for book three in 2010.

City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. Fans of Harry Potter and Twilight will love this action packed series about demon hunters. It has everything-villans, heroes, romance, vampires, magic, and some incredible battles!

Lightning Thief,  Sea of Monsters, Titan’s Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. I listened to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series on audiobook. Let me tell you, I had a lot of “driveway moments” with these books! The Greek gods are alive and well in modern-day New York and it is up to Percy, a half-blood to save Olympus from the Titans. Read these now before the movie comes out in February 2010.

So far I have mentioned 4 incredible young adult series, but this post is getting quite long, so I think I will wrap it up. Before I go I absolutely have to tell you that I also loved Wake and Fade from The Dream Catcher series by Lisa McMann, The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter,  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockheart, and The Immortals Series by Alyson Noel. Finally, in the adult fiction category(I do read some of that too!), I read and loved  Twenties Girl by Sophia Kinsella, and Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Phew! That’s a lot of books. For more details see the Reading Room or me!