Looking back, over the year, I find that I’ve read only 27 books to date.
Strangely for me, there were more books. I just didn’t complete them…or even get very far into them.
First, let me just say that I’m a dolt. I picked up and attempted to read both The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Pulitzer Prize winner in 2013) and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (winner of the Man Booker Prize). I am sorry to say that neither of these books resonated with me. Whilst I tortured myself for being a dolt, I wasted good time that could have been spent reading other books.
Near the end of this year–last week, as a matter of fact–I did finish an opus of a novel that wasn’t torture to read. Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See absolutely thrilled and amazed. Perhaps it was the two underdog teenagers at the heart of the book. Or the rich historical detail, so well-researched and also new to me. A good part of it was Doerr’s lyrical prose and how he was able to make the reader feel everything Marie-Laure touched, heard, smelled. This book was absolutely my top read for 2014.
However, being a complete addict for delicious, dark crime fiction-mystery-suspense, I must plug Tana French’s most recent in her Dublin Murder Squad series, The Secret Place. The mystery is solved in 24 laborious, intense hours wherein detective Stephen Moran and lead detective Antoinette Conway rummage through the psyches of eight teenage girls trying to figure out who killed a 16-year-old boy on a private school campus the previous year. It’s a scary neighborhood. Readers first met detective Moran in French’s Faithful Place published in 2010. Though that remains her best work to date, The Secret Place is a close second. French’s depiction of the teen girls reveals their secrets, insecurities, and lies, which the detectives finally manage to use against them to get to the bottom of the murder. It’s dark and psychological, the way I like ’em!
Harry Dolan’s third mystery, The Last Dead Girl, is his best so far. This author is HOT, and yet regrettably still relatively unknown. I love his character Dave Loogan, his sensibilities, and his flat-out wonderful plots set in and around the Ann Arbor, Michigan region. In this glimpse into Loogan’s mysterious past we follow a twisted trail to solve the murder of a woman Loogan had known for only eight days–who she was and why she was killed.
Another author I follow, Alan Bradley, writes the clever and often hilarious Flavia de Luce series set in rural England in a crumbling manor house. His heroine is a pre-teen chemistry savant with a devious mind like no other. In his most recent novel, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, Flavia finally learns and comes to terms with what happened to her mother, who disappeared when Flavia was a toddler. While this book closes many doors, it brings closure as it opens a whole slew of new ones. There’s also a murder and a fortune on the line. (I am waiting eagerly to read a Flavia mini-update in the just-released novella The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse.) If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you waiting for? It’s the best fun out there!
In my book group we love to share our favorite recent reads with each other. Please let me know, in the comments section below, your top choices for 2014.
(To be continued.)