One of my favorite posts each year is to share what books I've read and find out what some of your favorite titles were as well. Looking back over the past year I felt like my fiction choices were not as stellar as past years. Many of them I can't say I loved, however, after reading them I found value in them. Whether it was the story or the actual writing, very few of my fiction reads actually made it to four stars. Maybe I'm just growing more critical or hard to please.
Each book is rated using my personal rating system:
* Mediocre ** Good *** Very Good **** Excellent
With no more ado . . . what I read in 2013.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake** I could not get into this book. It was a lackluster tale. I felt like it strove to be greater than it was. Not one I'd recommend.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling** (audiobook) After so many people raving about Harry Potter I decided to give him a try. The narrator, Jim Dale, is almost worth listening to on his own merit. I enjoyed the book, but was by no means "hooked." I'm listening to book 2 now. We'll see if this series takes off for me.
Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio*** I didn't enjoy this book as much as The Violets of March, but it was completely enjoyable, although certainly sad too. I enjoy how Jio always writes a story that has two narratives going on, one in the past one in present day, and how those stories end up colliding. It was certainly heartbreaking, as it involves the kidnap of a woman's son. But I was captivated.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton*** One of my favorite reads of the year, I was happy to finally read a Wharton novel! Yes, how did I earn an English degree without reading one of her novels, I have no idea?! I definitely want to read more of her work. I was surprised how modern and even relevant her novel is even today. The end was just brilliant!
Submerged, Shattered, and Stranded by Dani Pettrey*** I met author Dani Pettrey at a local library author day and later interviewed her for Ungrind. The Alaskan Courage books are fast-paced adventure mystery romances. They involve a group of siblings and each book centers on one of the siblings and how they get involved in a mystery.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom*** In no way could I say I enjoyed this book. From the first chapter a knot formed in the pit of my stomach and it only grew from there. I almost didn't want to finish it. But when I was finished I found that I was thankful I read it. The end had a twist I in no way expected. This book is not for the faint of heart. I recommend it only if you have an interest in the subject matter of slavery and women in the pre-Civil War south.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins*** Collins has long been a favorite of mine when it comes to Victorian Literature. This book was a little more dense than I remembered from my first reading of it, but completely enjoyable. It involves swapped identities, the diabolical villain Fosco, and the delightful heroine Marion who never gives up on her sister.
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova*** (audiobook) At first I didn't like this book at all, but it grew on me. It is about Sarah, an overachieving career woman and mom to three who has a car accident. The result is an injury to the brain that causes, in layman's terms, "left neglect." Written by a neuroscientist, the novel is poignant as it follows the changes Sarah must make not only physically, but emotionally.
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks*** (audiobook) Geraldine Brooks can write. Some of the images from her novel will always be in my mind. This was a fascinating novel that dealt with the fictionalization of true events when an English village decided to quarantine themselves when it is discovered the villagers have contracted the plague. It was a great book and gave insight to that time period, however, the end was really bizarre and hurried.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett** I think everyone liked this book in my book club except me. I found the science totally far-fetched. So far-fetched it kept me from enjoying the book. I never felt emotionally connected to any of the characters and felt they were rather one-dimensional.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain*** I wanted to like this book. So many people loved it. But I think my distaste for Earnest Hemingway got in the way. I did enjoy "getting to know" Hadley and learning more about such an interesting time in literary history that existed in Paris in that period. The triumph of this novel is how masterfully the author was able to retell the true facts of their lives in such an authentic way.
A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy**** I LOVED this novel. Both the story and the writing were something I could just sink into. I loved the characters and how they all interwove together. This is a novel about character development, how people change and grow. If you love that sort of story set in Ireland, then pour up some tea and enjoy.
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons** This novel doesn't live up to Downton Abbey or Kate Morton's novels, like the cover claims. While there were many plot elements I liked, I didn't find one of the major relationships compelling.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery**** (audiobook) I'm glad I listened to this book on audiobook or I might not have gotten through it. There were a few times, even listening to it I wasn't sure if I could keep going. But part of the joy in listening to this novel was how the readers absolutely added to the book. Tony Award–winning actress Barbara Rosenblat positively embodies the concierge, Renée Michel, who is one of the main protagonists in the story. It is a novel unlike any I've ever read, and contains more words I've never seen in my life all in one place (and not all French, either). The novel is very philosophical which is one of the things that make it so one-of-a-kind. And can I just say I adored the Anna Karenina references?? It is a novel that stayed with me and although I was unsure about it, lodged itself in my heart. I ended up caring greatly for the characters and crying my eyes out at the end.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows**** A delightful reread for me. I love Juliet and Guernsey and hope it will finally get made into a movie soon!
So to recap, my favorite fiction of the year was The Age of Innocence, A Week in Winter, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
How about you? What was your favorite fiction from 2013?