Books I Read in 2014

  1. gracelingCashore, Kristin.  Graceling.  After doing well with The Hunger Games series (see below), I asked my friend, Joa, the kids’ librarian at our public library, for more of the same.  She recommended this fun story—a yummy mix of tyrannical lords, secret societies, and gracelings—odd-balls born with special gifts.  Gracelings might be clairvoyant, or master chefs, or good at math, but the heroine, Katsa, is a killing machine and started her life as an assassin at age 8.  Written well with interesting characters and a rolling plot, this was a good choice.  Thanks, Joa.
  2. Collins, Suzanne.  The Hunger Games.  After watching the third movie, Mockingjay, Part One, I came out of the theater bewildered.  Obviously, I’d missed something.  Maybe the books told more of the story.  So, I started in on the series.  I understand why teens love these books.  jennifer-lawrenceDystopias are great for sticking it to the authority figures (grown ups), and Katniss is a great surly teen.  I liked her and Peeta.  I thought her obsession with food was understandable, since most of the time she and her family are starving, but the same attention to fashion seemed dopey.  Fun for teens?  Anyway, it was an easy read, which was reason enough for me to finish the books.
  3. Collins, Suzanne.  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Ditto.  I really liked the way Collins develops Katniss’ ambivalence about Peeta and Gale.  She loves them both.  How will that play out?  Now I want to know.  Whether or not the Capitol gets overthrown is secondary to me.  Of course it will, and people will die, but who will Katniss finally pick?  That’s the question on all teen-girls’ minds, I’m sure.
  4. Collins, Suzanne.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.  Now I’m ready for the final movie without so much head-scratching.  I love Jennifer Lawrence, so I’d go no matter what.
    kings
  5. Irving, John.  The Cider House Rules.  It’s weird that I’ve never read John Irving.  As a bookstore manager all through the ’80s, I midwifed three of his bestsellers during Christmas rushes and bagged his backlist regularly.  I always meant to read him.  So, when I watched the movie version of Cider House for the umpteenth time, crying over Michael Caine’s performance and loving Toby Maguire as Homer Wells, I became resolved to try.  I’m still daunted by “good” books because of my ECT-induced reading disability.  But, I think my brain is healing.  Cider House is the best story I’ve read in years, fried brain or no fried brain.  I ached for every character—they were all so clear and real—and fell completely under Wilber Larch’s spell.  I will be checking out more John Irving from the library this year.
  6. Kaàberbol, Lene.  The Shamer’s Daughter.  Dina’s mother is a Shamer—someone who can look a person in the eye and see all their shame.  It’s a cool trait for solving disputes and bringing the guilty to justice, but makes for a lonely life.  When the Shamer is called to convict a murderer, and she knows he’s innocent, things go bad for her and her daughter.  It’s a good, solid story with a spunky heroine.  I would have loved this Young Adult book when I was ten, and I liked it just fine as someone a bit older than that.
  7. King, Stephen.  Doctor Sleep.  The story catches us up with Danny Torrence, the little boy from The Shining.  A definite PTSD survivor and son of an alcoholic, the kid’s got a lot stacked against him.  Steve would know, being a recovered drug addict and alcoholic himself.  He’s told how he wrote most of The Shining stoned, and now writes of Dan’s struggles and many demons with authenticity.  In truth, Dan’s internal demons are much more interesting that the actual bad guys of the novel, but, as always, Steve provides a great yarn.Stephen-King-Dr-Sleep
  8. King, Stephen,  Joyland.  I found this paperback by accident.  I thought I needed a book to take on the plane to England with me, looked in the grocery store, and found my best friend waiting for me.  Clean liven’, baby!  Joyland is part of Titan Publishing’s Hard Case Crime series, which immediately tickled my fancy.  I thought this one might harken back to Steve’s Richard Bachman stories.  That and more.  Think Green Mile, think Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.  Poignant, nostalgic, scary in a real way.  A Thousand Stars.
  9. flight behaviorKingsolver, Barbara.  Flight Behavior.  Once upon a time, Kingsolver was one of my favorite authors.  But after electroshock, it was her book Lacuna that made me realize something was very wrong.  So I wondered whether the hex was still on her works for me, if it was the syntax, or subject matter, or even the font size that made my brain foam at the mouth.  But, the brain is more resilient that medical science first believed.  I fell in love all over again with Kingsolver’s turn of phrase, her humor, her complicated and contradictory characters.  And there’s fascinating ecological information, too, about why the monarch butterflies that winter in Mexico chose to roost in Delarobia Turnbow’s Appalachian pine forest.  Score on so many levels.
  10. Lamb, Wally.  She’s Come Undone.  My friend Michelle at The Green Study and TGS Zen Garden recommended this one.  It’s a wonderful/horrible story about a girl’s life growing up traumatized and obese with a wicked tongue and killer sense of humor.  I loved the characters, cheered the protagonist, and had no idea where the story would take me.  I love being surprised by a new (to me) author.  I’ll go back for more of Wally Lamb.
  11. wallyLamb, Wally.  We Are Water.  My second dip into Wally-World, and the water’s fine.  He’s still exploring trauma and the way it warps and lingers in family dynamics, in communities, in history.  This story is told through the voices of the characters, principly Annie Oh, the angry assemblage artist; Orion, her psychologist husband;  and their grown children.  But there are others on the fringe that connect the Ohs to an outsider artist who died on their property.  Other voices fill in the gaps that the main characters can’t or won’t.  This is a real gift of a story.
  12. Lamb, Wally.  I Know This Much Is True.  The third book I’ve read from this author.  They just keep getting better and better.  This story takes identical twin brothers—one schizophrenic and one coping with the real world—and twines in generations of anger, abuse, lies, secrets and redemption.  An amazing blend of culture, history, psychology and pain.  Cripes, I love this guy.
  13. Pratchett, Terry.  Snuff.  I love Pratchett’s Disk World series—British humor with lots of poking fun at British stereotypes and tropes.  This is one of the Night Watch stories with Commander Sam Vimes, a crusty soldier married to a Lady and at a loss in refined society.  All he needs is a good murder or some thievery to make him feel at home.  Completely satisfying.
  14. florida quoteScott-Maxwell, Florida.  The Measure of My Days.  A gift from blog-buddy David Kanigan, this lovely, little book explores the author’s thoughts on life and death from an 80-something perspective.  It’s a call to mindfulness for anyone with any perceived loss of function or status in life.  It’s one of those books you have to look up from once in a while to ponder what you just read.  Beautiful.
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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. David Kanigan
    Dec 31, 2014 @ 11:51:16

    Great list Sandy. Particularly like Wally Lamb. Happy New Year.

    Reply

  2. stuffthatneedssaying
    Dec 31, 2014 @ 17:57:00

    The Hunger Games trilogy was on my reading list last year. My top 5 recommendations out of what I read this year is here: http://stuffthatneedssaying.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/top-reads-of-2014/

    Reply

  3. pegoleg
    Jan 02, 2015 @ 13:06:07

    Thanks for the list, Sandy. I am somewhat reluctant to try new authors, so I just keep rereading the old ones, over and over. I’ve never read Cider House Rules, either, so I’m putting it on the list.

    Hope this is a great year for you!

    Reply

    • Sandy Sue
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 05:51:42

      I know what you mean about trying new authors. Now days, I give them about a chapter to hook me, that way I don’t feel so let down when they stink.

      Reply

  4. Servetus
    Jan 02, 2015 @ 19:56:57

    I haven’t been able to read Kingsolver since that mean-spirited novel about the missionaries. I appreciate the suggestion of the book about the Shamer, though — great concept!

    Authors I recommend to everyone lately — Hilary Mantel and Kate Atkinson.

    Reply

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