It’s that time of year again!
The holidays mean I finally get to reveal the ten books that I loved most this year. I’ve ready 80 books (and counting) this year, so picking just ten out of the list was quite difficult. There were some obvious ones for me (Harry Potter, anyone?) but a few of these book really surprised me.
Now the usual rules apply: to be on the list, the book had to be published within the year and my list covers all genres. Okay, all set? Let’s go!
10- City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
I feel like I waited half my life to finally be able to read this book. In reality, it was only a few years between The Twelve and The City of Mirrors. It felt like forever though, because Cronin’s characters lived on inside me. I didn’t just read the story in The Passage and The Twelve. I breathed it in.
Was it worth the wait? God, yes! It fulfilled every dream and every hope of Justin Cronin’s epic vampire trilogy. It even surpassed my expectations of what would happen and what Cronin could do. I hoped that the novel would be good, that it would be an epic ending to a trilogy that had me enthralled.
I was not disappointed. Does Amy save the world? Do all of the people we know and love survive? You’ll have to read it to find out. In the meantime, here’s the review that I wrote:
9- The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace
I’m always amazed at how Smailes can make the ordinary extraordinary. Writing under the name of Caroline Wallace, Carline has penned what is quite simply a piece of magic upon the page.
It’s 1976 and Martha Lost is a foundling with no idea of how her story begins. She has never left Lime Street Station and has no idea what the world outside the walls of the station are like. However, when someone starts writing her letters, it slowly brings her out of her shell so that she can finally spread her wings.
Smailes is known for creating characters that are so real they live off of the page and in our hearts. I was moved many times while reading this book (three times: once in hardcover, once in ebook and a third in audio) and I urge everyone to tall under the spell of Martha.
8- Life in the ‘Cosm by Cait Gordon
This isn’t your typical boy meets girl story.
Virj Ofreesin is writing a fantasy novel. In it, the girl he loves is in love with him but can’t have him. In reality, she is actually part of the Dwa species, two sharing one body, able to spend eternity with their soul mate.
Though everyone from his gay dads to his sentient daisy Sonny and his Ovum, Splot, tells him that it will never happen, Virj isn’t one to give up on his hearts desire. He had loved Frayda for three years. He won’t stop loving her just because everyone else is telling him that it can’t happen. The heart knows no limitations.
Then he meets Noola. She’s annoying, constantly chipper, a total klutz and dresses in eye watering sparkly clothing. She is also living in the same complex as Virg and happens to be the new editor at his office. Virj wonders how his life could get any worse.
When he learns that the Dwa Frayda and Jobie are ill, he agrees to fly to a planet in the middle of a war zone to retrieve a mystical plant that only grows upon its soil. He is congratulating himself on his bravery…until Noola says that she is going with him.
Armed with his tablet and his thirst for sweets, Virj is a man on a mission.
Life in the ‘Cosm is an intergalactic joyride of epic proportions. Laugh out loud hilarious, touching, endearing and wonderful don’t do it enough justice. The book was a joy to read from start to finish. The characters were awesome and had so much depth to them. Yes, this is a sci-fi novel but one with heart, verve and warmth. I loved this book so very much and can’t wait for Virj and Noola’s next adventure!
7- A Walk in the Sun by Michelle Zink
I am constantly awed by Michelle Zink’s work. She has the ability to create a fantasy world that you want to live in, to make us believe in the power of magic, even pull us into the high stakes of con artists. It doesn’t matter what she writes, I am never disappointed. Her characters are so real, so life like, that they live within us.
In A Walk in the Sun, we are given the story of Rose Darrow. After her mother passes away, the running of their family farm falls to them as her father is too grief stricken to do much of anything. Normally full of life, Rose is feeling the effects of her mothers absence. She is lost within herself. She had plans, ideas of what she wanted to do with her life, but now she is aimless and lost.
Then she meets Bhodi Lowell, a man also trying to escape his life, but in a different way. He changed his name to leave his past behind, but the past has a way of catching up with us when we least expect it.
When the two of them meet, there are sparks and those sparks turn into fireworks. But can the two of them trust each other, and themselves?
I loved this book so much. It filled me with hope for the human spirit and left me with warm fuzzies. Simply gorgeous!
6- The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alex Brown
Alex Brown has created the most lovely town of Tindledale. All the books in this series have been so well written, it’s as if you can go there and walk along its streets, go into its shops, stop into the Duck and Puddle for a pint. The town of Tindledale is as much a character as the people who live there.
After her husband passed away from Motor Neurone disease, April is at her wits and is unsure of what to do with herself. Her step daughter Nancy gives her the push to start living again. When April receives a birthday card from her great aunt Eddie who lives in Tindledale, April gives Nancy the push she needs to get out of her house and into her life.
There is a mystery around town, however. Eddie keeps referring to April as Winnie. The gossip around Tindledale is that Winnie ran off during the Second World War and had a baby with a married man. She was an officer with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, or FANY.
April decides to delve further into the mystery surrounding Eddies Orchard Cottage. What she doesn’t count is learning a bit about herself…
I wanted to hug this book. I’ve read it twice so far this year and will gladly and happily read it again as it’s a book you want to climb into and live within it.
5- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling
Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love Harry Potter. So it’s really no surprise that this book ended up on my Best Books list.
You’ve probably all read it by now, but a quick recap: we rejoin Harry et all ten years later. Harry’s son Albus is sorted into Slytherin and sets off a chain of events no one is prepared for. With Harry struggling to keep the past in the past and Albus trying to figure out where he belongs, will everyone find their right place in the end?
Though it is the official eighth story and is considered canon, there was a lot of naysayers about this book. It’s the script for the play, so we’re not seeing everything as it would be on stage. We’re missing a crucial element that we’re used to: the magic.
However, it’s still Harry Potter. I can’t tell you what it was like being back in Hogwarts and following a new generation as they try to find their way in a world that’s so familiar and yet so unknown. It was like learning to breathe again.
I read this book (gleefully) three times and am currently reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (for the 1000th time). I will happily read The Cursed Child when I’m done.
4- End of Watch by Stephen King
What’s not to love about this book? End of Watch is the third and final book in the Bill Hodges trilogy (following Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers). I wondered how King was going to end this trilogy but I needn’t have worried.
Brady Hartsfield is in the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. He is a vegetable after the events of Mr. Mercedes and the blow to the head delivered by Holly Gibney, Bill Hodges erstwhile partner in Finders Keepers where they work as private detectives.
Yet, strange things are happening. Hartsfield is on a new medication that seems to have woken up part of his brain, the part that remains unused by a lot of people and allows Brady to do some amazing things.
Then people start to die and it’s up to Bill and Holly to stop Brady Hartfield before its too late…
I wasn’t sure about this book at first. Rather than stay with the detective genre like Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, End of Watch combines the thriller with what King is known for, the supernatural.
In short, the book left me breathless and somehow, it just works so incredibly well. All I can say is Read. This. Book.
3- Faithful by Alice Hoffman
This book was a surprise for me. I love Hoffman’s work and have for years. However, I wasn’t expecting to connect with this book so much, to end up loving every word as if it were my journey. The book gets into you.
Shelby is a teenager when something terrible happens and she loses her best friend. Blaming herself for the accident, Shelby shuts herself away. She punishes herself for the light that got snuffed out too soon by snuffing out her own.
Yet Shelby has an angel looking out for her. Periodically throughout her life, she receives postcards with no return address. Do something, one says. Trust someone, says another. Little by little, Shelby works towards finding herself and becomes the person she was mean to be.
I want to hug this book. I reacted to it in such a personal way. It moves me and evoked emotions I thought had been locked away. It had magic of a different sort; that of a woman putting her life back together and finding herself in the process, something I’m sure that everyone can relate to.
Simply a beautiful, wonderful book about living and choosing to live, despite all else.
2- Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
What would happen if you could relive your life over again? If you had access to the multiple universes that sit on top of ours where every choice, right or wrong, creates a different world? What would happen if the life you lived was taken from you?
Jason is fairly happy in his life. He’s a college professor, has a son and wife he loves. Life is good. No, he’s not winning awards or changing the world like he once thought of doing, but he’s happy, or so he tells himself.
Then one night, the life he knew is taken from him. A man wearing a mask kidnaps him and he’s injected with a drug. When he wakes up, he’s in a world that is not his own…but everything is familiar. Here, he is not a college professor, but a scientific genius. Here, his house is his house, but it is all different. Here, he is not married to the woman he loves and they have no son.
And there are people after him.
I’m doing a poor job of giving a rundown to this book but there’s no way I could go into it more without ruining the book. Suffice it to say that Dark Matter blew my mind. I finished it in two days and just finished again in one day. It’s like candy for the brain. I loved this book and can only hope that it’s made into a movie. Dark Matter freaking rocks!
I was left spellbound by Crouch’s ability to make the scientific understandable, to make such far out there ideas seem plausible and to make the outcome of some horrible decisions seem very real indeed.
Pair that with a lightning fast pace, characters you root for and enough plot twists to always keep you guessing and you’ve got a real winner!
1- The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
I flat out adore this book. It was another surprise for me. I love Ami McKay’s books. They are grounded in history and the fantastical elements of reality. Imagine my surprise when I delved into The Witches of New York and found actual magic.
The year is 1880. Eleanor St. Clair and Adelaide Thom run a shop in New York called Tea and Sympathy. Eleanor provides the tea that will cure anything that ails you and Adelaide provides Tarot readings to those that are seeking a connection to the world beyond theirs.
They become a trio when Beatrice arrives, answering an ad that Eleanor placed looking for a shop girl. Eleanor and Adelaide sense magic within her and know that she is a sister of sort. Like them, Beatrice is a Witch.
Beatrice has a peculiar gift: She can actively communicate with the dead and sees spirits. She doesn’t need cards or trinkets to talk to the dead; she can see them readily as they move around us.
Eleanor wants to go slow with Beatrice as they encourage her to strengthen her gift. Adelaide has other ideas, however. She puts Beatrice and her gifts into the public eye and soon Beatrice attracts the attention of someone who wishes to do her harm.
When Beatrice goes missing, Adelaide and Eleanor will have to rely on all their magic to find her…
This is perhaps one of the best books I’ve ever read. I finished it off in a day and a half and am itching to read The Witches of New York once more. It holds mystery and magic within its pages. Add to that wonderfully drawn characters and a historical novel that reads at a fast pace and you’ve got a winner.
I can’t wait to fall under its spell once more.