Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
2014 was a good reading year for me, but these novels are the non-series standouts that I loved so much I know I’ll be rereading them. In no particular order:
Station Eleven--A troupe of Shakespearean actors and orchestra musicians travels between widely scattered settlements of survivors in a dangerous, gritty, post-technological world decimated by flu but not without beauty, art, love, hope and a sense of community. Left me speechless.
The Home Place--A beautifully written novel that hooked me with its haunting opening pages sample before I ever had the book in my hands. Alma had escaped as far away from her Montana home as possible but when her troubled younger sister dies in questionable circumstances she returns to the family ranch house to take care of her niece and investigate. With the austere beauty of its Big Sky Midwestern setting this book has a strong sense of place.
The Possibilities--Normally I avoid stories about children abducted or killed, but there’s an approachability to main character Sarah St. John that drew me into this novel. Sarah’s son Cully was twenty-two when he was killed in an avalanche near their Colorado hometown, and now a few months later Sarah is overwhelmed but no longer crushed by sorrow and loss. I appreciate that this book took on a difficult topic without providing formulaic answers, over simplifying, wallowing in tragedy and doom, or tying everything up too neatly and sweetly. The setting is so thoroughly integrated into the story that crisp, cold, clear mountain air practically blows off the pages. Written by the author of The Descendants.
Pioneer Girl--Featuring book-nerdy Lee Lien who’s forced to straddle the contrasting cultures and conflicting expectations of modern America, where she was born, and traditional pre-war Vietnam, where her strong-willed mother and gracious grandfather spent the earlier parts of their lives. With her academic career is on hold she becomes so obsessed by a book related incident that may connect her family’s former Saigon restaurant to the author(s) of the Little House on the Prairie series that she chases clues across the country. A book-lover’s delight.
Anyone But You--An almost magical Romeo and Juliet update with rivaling Italian restaurant families in Chicago. The authors have also written wonderful modern versions of The Tempest and Macbeth.
Northanger Abbey--Forget Darcy, Henry Tilney is now my favorite Austen hero. Plus Jane lets her wicked humor loose in this book, poking gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) fun at just about everyone’s poses, pretensions, and delusions--but as silly as Austen makes novel-drama-obsessed Catherine she still allows her to be artlessly charming and a lively joy to spend time with.
Middlemarch--Before starting Middlemarch I mistakenly thought it was a depressing novel of thwarted love and ambition, but that’s far from the case though it does address serious issues that include marriage, religion, political reform, the expectations of society, and the status of women. What I maybe treasure most about the novel is how sympathetically it is written. There are villains of a sort, vapid selfish Rosamund, mean spirited Mr. Casaubon and hypocritical Mr Bulstrode, and there are certainly characters that make very bad decisions, like Lydgate and Dorothea, but George Eliot writes with such level-headed sensibility and understanding that their troubles touched me and I couldn’t condemn or belittle any of them.