Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Our Best Reads of 2014 (Part I)

Are you looking for something great to read? The contributors here at What Women Write have some recommendations for you. So many recommendations, in fact, that we are dividing them into two posts. Kim, Joan and Pamela share their top reads of 2014 today. Stop back next Friday to check out Susan, Elizabeth and Julie's picks.


As always, I include books the year I read them, not the year they actually released. One pick for this year, for example, actually came out back in 2006 and another in 2012. For the second year in a row I have included a novel based on the ARC, but which has not yet been officially released. I should have learned my lesson when I wrote an obvious 2014 title on this list (cough, TheMoon Sisters by Therese Walsh, cough) only to have to remove it. At this time next year I’ll probably be cursing under my breath yet again when I scratch off the last title on today’s list.

I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira – Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas, Belle Époque Paris, Oliveira’s stunning prose…sigh. The number of stickers in my copy should say it all, though you can check out my full review as well. Oliveira’s debut novel, My Name is Mary Sutter, is also phenomenal.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I initially picked this one up for my daughter, but since it was about a young female spy in the clutches of the Gestapo, I decided I had best read it before handing it over. Glad I did. This fantastic book is filled with strong, brave young women, but parts of it are (necessarily) hard to stomach. See my full review here.

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion – Ten bestselling authors, several among my favorite writers, banded together to write this anthology of short stories all set at Grand Central Station on the same day shortly after the end of WWII. The resulting anthology is nothing short of amazing. (See my full review here.) A bonus: I met two of the authors, Alyson Richman and Erika Robuck, this year!

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft – My teenage daughter is a serious dancer, and I try to read as much as I can about the world she will face outside of the sheltered environment of her current ballet company. This is a heartbreaking story of a dancer at war with her own body, in pursuit of a perfection her genes will never allow her to attain. Not a novel I would hand over to an impressionable thirteen-year-old, but one I won’t forget any time soon. Craft did an amazing job of making secondary characters like Angela and Kandelbaum as compelling as Penelope Sparrow without having them overshadow her.

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman – I savor every sentence Alyson Richman writes, often re-reading passages because they are just so beautiful. I didn’t think it was possible to write a more perfect book than The Lost Wife, but she just may have done it with The Garden of Letters. This story set in WWII Italy made my heart swell and break in equal measure. Read my full review here. A highlight of my year was meeting and interviewing Alyson back in October.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry – This literary thriller kept me up well past my bedtime the last couple of nights. I’m still a bit shaken by the story of Towner Whitney, whom I couldn’t help but love despite that she declared herself to be both “a liar” and “a crazy woman” on the first page. I also loved that the town of Salem, Massachusetts, was in itself a character. Having just visited there, reading this made me feel as though I were reunited with an old friend, albeit one with a dark side.

Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb - Hmmm…an artist-muse story set in Belle Époque Paris? The tale of a talented female sculptor obsessed with and overshadowed by a male sculptor of greater fame? It’s safe to say that I would have snatched this book off the shelf and bought it based solely on the title and the gorgeous cover. I was blessed to get an ARC of this one, which won’t officially release until January 27th. Check back on the 23rd for my review.

I’m a sucker for historical fiction, especially war stories with so much at stake. Like Kim, I thought Code Name Verity was masterfully done. I also loved these:

Wake by Anna Hope: Lovely and tender WWI drama about three very different British women and the effects of war on their lives: unrequited love, grief, memory, forgiveness and misunderstanding.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This unique WWII drama is gorgeously told from the perspective of a blind French girl and a young German, brilliantly delivered with tension and tragedy leading to their eventual meeting. 

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole: Epistolary novel spanning two wars, featuring heartbreaking and humorous letters which begin when David, an American post-graduate, sends a fan letter to Elspeth, a married Scottish poet.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton: Not a war story, but steeped in atmosphere and history. In 17th-century Amsterdam, Nella’s new husband, a wealthy merchant with secrets and enemies, gives her a cabinet-sized replica of her home. In furnishing it with miniatures, she is thrown into a world of mystery, obsession, love and sorrow.

I do venture to other genres now and again, and I am so glad I did:

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, a monumental saga touching many characters and genres, past and future. It’s time-bending and mind-altering, witty and wry, heartbreaking and cruel. See the author read from the book here. I first read Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a straight historical, but also masterfully written. 

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: Present day Australian tale about a woman who wakes up in the gym after a fall off a bike and realizes she’s not expecting her first child with the man she loves but is the mother of three, and in the middle of a nasty divorce.


Thanks to my friends on this blog, my sister and my book clubs, I'm never without a list and a stack of books to read. This year was no exception.

In one of my book clubs, we picked up a second Liane Moriarty book after last year reading What Alice Forgot. We read The Husband's Secret, which led me to immediately order her newest title, Big Little Lies. Moriarty is a master at voice and story and succinctly captures the nuances of women's lives and the stories they tell to themselves and others. I love finding an author, devouring her list and not being disappointed.

Also a book club selection, Defending Jacob by William Landay, was a suspenseful story about a young boy accused of killing a classmate. That his father is an assistant district attorney only blurred the line of whether Jacob could have done it or whether his father was an unreliable narrator to the story. Good stuff!

My sister sent me Kelly Corrigan's Glitter and Glue and I quickly became a fan of Corrigan's, watching her TEDTalk more than once and consuming her other titles: The Middle Place and LIFT. Corrigan's wit and honesty always keep me turning pages.

I also finally read Tell the Wolves I'm Home (even though my dog ate the cover and tore the first chapter up a bit) by Carol Rifka Brunt and loved reading it even more than he loved eating it, I believe. And this year I reread The Giver by Lois Lowry, which proves great stories, well-told, never get old!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...