Following good stories wherever they lead
It’s the start of a new year — a good time to look back on past reads and reflect on the highlights. It’s devastatingly cold here in the Northeast, so it’s an added bonus to be able to reflect on warmer days (nothing like reading on a lazy summer afternoon in the grass). So here they are, in no particular order:
The Goldfinch — Donna Tartt is one of my author loves; the kind where you hear news of their next book and it triggers an anxious glee, because “yes, it’s another book!” but “what if I don’t like it as much???” I enjoyed both The Secret History and The Little Friend deeply, but I think The Goldfinch may actually be my favorite.
Her prose is seductive, her characters are a complex joy to delve into (oh, Boris), and in this one, she manages to say so much about the problem of life itself — in a way that hits hard and deep, into the bone. It had a slow start, but the finish was exquisite.
One of my cherished memories of this summer is sitting on the camp porch overlooking the lake in the early morning, leaf-shadows dappling the pages as I glided through the final chapters. This is definitely going on the re-reading list.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue — by another author love, Maggie Stiefvater, who invokes a similar joyful terror when it comes to this series…because I do love the Raven Cycle. You can find my review of the book here, but suffice to say it deepens and complicates the story wonderfully. And Blue is simply fantastic, though I have to say Adam might be my favorite character of all.
The Name of the Wind — a fantasy recommendation by a friend, in which a hero of legend gets to tell his own story, in his own way. I am so glad I picked up this book a second time and stuck with it.
Initially, the slow pace and frame-within-a-frame structure put me off, but the next time I picked up the book I was more receptive to it. (Has anyone had that happen — a book that you don’t click with the first time, but on the second read you really connect with it?)
Once the action gets going, the interest does too. However, I’m still not the biggest fan of the protagonist; I’m more in love with his storytelling. I’m on the second book now, The Wise Man’s Fear, so we’ll see how that bears up.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters — for pure heartbreak, this series has few equals. It starts with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which you should pick up right now, because it has demons and angels and an artistic girl with blue hair at the center of it all, in Prague.
But ignore everything you think this is going to be, because it’s not. It’s an epic of war and betrayal and shattered souls and loss — and a guttering flame of hope — that is so beautifully drawn that you cannot help but fall in. Karou and Akiva will make you cry, and laugh, and marvel, and want to stay with them until the end.
Red Rising — a sharp-edged science-fiction surprise, this story follows Darrow, a Red of Mars and therefore the lowest drudge of society, condemned to work in the mines for his entire life. Until a conspiracy is discovered, the government wreaks a devastating punishment, and Darrow is cast into a web of revolutionaries that fights for the future of an entire people. Darrow now must live among his deadliest enemies, seeking to destroy the oppressors he hates from within.
Often compared to The Hunger Games, this book has the same totalitarian tones and whip-crack action, but with its own planetary scope and flavor — there are strong overtones of Roman empire, and the culture clash between Reds and Golds is rich ground for exploration. I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment, and I’m looking forward to picking up Golden Son.
Those are my top picks of 2014 reads! What were yours? If you read any of the above, what did you think of them?
Best wishes for a rich reading year in 2015.