Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Best of 2014: More multiple choice

Some of the many items [old and new] enjoyed by Burbank Public Library staff during 2014, recommended for your consideration:

Thank goodness for Goodreads, which helps me recall what I thought of the many books I read during the course of the year--but picking just one? Not going to happen! Here, therefore, is my list of favorites, categorized and (briefly) explained:


MAINSTREAM FICTION



The Painter, by Peter Heller
This book pairs thoughtful, in-depth musing about life's tragedies and how we react to them with breathless scenes of action worthy of the latest blockbuster thriller. If you imagined the perfect combination of literary and popular fiction, this would be it. And it's about a painter, which influenced my choice. 

The Gravity of Birds,
by Tracy Guzeman
This is a fairly simple story, and simply written, yet the complexity of human emotions and betrayals involved made it intricate and nuanced. And art is also a component in this book. 

I Love You More, by Jennifer Murphy
You could put this in mystery, but it seemed more like mainstream fiction to me, even though there's a murder. I especially loved the alternating narrative split between the detective, "the wives" as an entity (which could have been too precious but wasn't), and 11-year-old Picasso Lane. 



MYSTERIES



The Secret Place, by Tana French
In my opinion, Tana French's books are brilliant, thorough and intimate character studies, they are rife with a burgeoning sense of place, and the story-telling is riveting. (Can I say, though, that the cover on this one irritated me, since "the secret place" is a bulletin board?!)

The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
"Galbraith" pulls off another great mystery. The dynamic between Cormoran Strike and girl Friday Robin continues to grow and change, while their individual relationships shift; the missing person case morphs into something more deadly; and I didn't guess the solution until the author revealed it. I hear there are going to be five more books--goodie! 

To Dwell in Darkness, by Deborah Crombie

I love Crombie's books about Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Detective Sergeant Gemma James--the intertwined lives of all the regulars, and now the new people she is introducing with Duncan's move to a different police station. The mystery was riveting, and I didn't suspect the killer until well towards the end. A dynamic series. 

FANTASY


Far Far Away, by Tom McNeal
This is a weird little book. It has all the trappings of a fairy tale, set in the (sort of) modern day. It's not for everyone, but some will greatly appreciate its beautiful writing and storytelling. It's been billed as a middle-grade fantasy, but I think it's far too creepy and would instead call it an adult fantasy with a teen protagonist. 

Among Others, by Jo Walton

Another book that's not for everyone--but for those lucky few…wow. I don't wonder that it won the Hugo and Nebula awards. I put it in fantasy because of the faerie/magical elements, but you really have to love science fiction to love this book. Which I do. 



SCIENCE FICTION



Vicious, by V. E. Schwab
This was a confusing, frustrating, sensational book. The hero/protagonist has no redeeming qualities, and yet you root for him. The villain terms himself the hero, and you see his vulnerability and his delusion and want to like him, and yet you can't. On the surface, the plot is a comic book--ExtraOrdinary people (EOs) who have impossible abilities--but there the comparison ends, because they go around using their abilities, not for good, but for their own advantage and to others' detriment. A great exercise of "what if?"

More Than This, by Patrick Ness

This was the post-apocalyptic Matrix meets the Terminator, with some Ready Player One thrown in. I didn't love it, but I greatly admired its concept and philosophy.


YOUNG ADULT


I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
The relationships between brother and sister, parents and children, and love interests are all complex and filled with joy and pain, but told in such a fresh, smart, different way. This isn't a typical "teen angst" story--the adults have a place on the page too, and this enriches the story without taking it over. And the touches of magical realism give it an added quirky charm.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands,

by Chris Bohjalian
This is an immensely personal dystopian story about one girl--the daughter of a Vermont nuclear power plant engineer. He gets the blame for a meltdown that turns half of Vermont into a radioactive wasteland, and she experiences, pardon the pun, the fallout. It is realistic, it is present-day, and it is chilling on many levels, not the least of which is its portrayal of how young lives can fall through the cracks of our society, and no one notices or cares.

Sinner, by Maggie Stiefvater
This was the spin-off of Stiefvater's werewolves trilogy (Shiver, Linger, Forever) about Isabel and Cole, off in Los Angeles--Isabel trying to survive her toxic family while fitting in with the pretty people, and Cole recreating himself as a musician by getting clean and sober and booking himself on a reality TV show that follows him around while he cuts a new album. But his real reason for coming to Los Angeles, says Cole, is to reunite with Isabel. Wistful sigh.



Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonsky (LGBT)
Written from the viewpoint of a sixth grader, this book really reads like it's from the mind of a child who is struggling with his image of who he is. He's largely inarticulate about it, because that's how many children are. He comes to realizations through a combination of cues of self-awareness, flashes of insight handed to him from the reactions of others, and a little guidance, both voluntary and involuntary, from the adults in his life. The evolution is wonderful to watch, and the outcome is so satisfying. In my opinion, an important book.


(You can click on the link to each book to find out where you can find a copy at Burbank Public Library.)

Chosen by EMME, teen librarian


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