Thursday, January 03, 2008

Favorite Reads of 2007

Last night I took a look at all the books I read for 2007. I don't think there were more than one or two books on the entire list that were ho hum. Most of them were fun reads and quite a few were memorably so. It was pretty straightforward to pick out my favorite books. They were the ones that had me wanting to tell everyone I knew about them, wanting to hand them the book and say "You gotta read this!" Or had me thinking about the book for weeks and months after I finished it.

Since I read mulitple books in a series by some authors this year, I decided if a series made my favorite list, I'd select just one book in that series for the honor to leave space for other authors. Most of the books that didn't make my Top Favorites were still books I'd highly recommend. The books that made the list did so only because they were exceptionally moving or enjoyable, either through their own literary merit, or through a serendipitous match of chemistry and timing for me. Or maybe both.

I didn't count, just started listing and discovered I had an even dozen that made the A List. If we throw most of the remaining books in a B List, three books wavered somewhere in between, that B+ sort of thing. I'll mention those as well. And now, in no particular order...

Blame It on ParisBlame it On Paris by Laura Florand - I heard about this book at the end of 2006 in an interview over on Joshilyn's blog. Having become an overnight Francophile, the title caught my interest and I actually had to work at finding the book. I wanted to see it in person before I bought it because I was a little uncertain about it being a "romance" - I'm not a huge romance fan. Okay, I'm pretty much NOT a romance fan. But I took a chance and really loved the book. It is a romance, true, but more than that it's a story about family and change and the humor of life in all it's glorious imperfections. Although it's published as a novel, it's actually the true story of how the author (hi Laura!) met and married (four times!) her true love. The most telling of all is probably the fact that my husband, the book skimmer, not reader, read it all the way through and loved it too. Don't be put off by the "chick lit" look of it - it's endearing and heartwarming and worth the read.

Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - The movie Stardust brought Neil Gaiman to the attention of a much larger fan base this year but I discovered him years ago with one of my other favorite of his titles, Neverwhere. Anansi Boys stole the favorite book crown by this author this year. It was really a masterpiece of comedy, both dark and light, blended with the truths hidden deep inside all mythology. I hadn't even finished reading the book when I was already looking foward to reading it again. There's a cornucopia of great characters to enjoy.

Storm Front (Dresden Files (Series))Storm Front by Jim Butcher - The Dresden Files series was already on my list of books to try when Dresden Files the television show premiered last year on the Sci Fi Channel. The show immediately became a not-to-be-missed weekly favorite and I decided to read the first book before I got too far along in the episode's seasons in case they were using the books for plot lines. The only reason I hadn't tried reading it before, other than the fact that my TBR (To Be Read) List is larger than the population of some smaller countries, is because I was told it had a sort of film noir style to it and I translated that to mean a certain sort of male story telling perspective that I haven't particularly enjoyed in the past. I finished the first book realizing I had a completely false impression of what to expect. Yes, I can see where they'd try to label it film noir, but it wouldn't be hard to consider including Harry Dresden in my top favorite characters of all time. Storm Front is the first book in the series, so I selected that book as my favorite although the books only get better and better as the series continues.

WintersmithWintersmith by Terry Pratchett - this book makes not only this year's favorites list, but also my list of favorite books ever. Really I mean the entire Tiffany Aching trilogy, Wintersmith being the last of the three titles. I love the characters in this book. And by love I don't mean love like "I love peach ice cream." I mean love like "I love my friend Kathy." Like I care for, would cry for, laugh with, travel to visit these lovely characters. Sadly, this year brought the news that Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's. I'm a big fan of Pratchett's adult Discworld series but his young adult books, including this one, are the ones I cherish most.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly CloseExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer - I found this book while waiting for a plane at JFK International Airport. As we'd just had the pleasure of our first trip to "the city", the story, about a boy searching through the boroughs of New York for the lock that fit a mysterious key, sounded like it would be interesting. I was expecting an small, entertaining, adventure story. What I got was a story of such profound love and loss that I read the entire book with my heart in my throat. Sometimes I had to stop and weep. But despite that, the book was also funny at times and heartwarming always. Be forewarned, the author breaks ever rule of writing ever decreed. You'll either hate that about it or find it as much a work of visual art as it is a literary one.

The Secret Life of BeesThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd - this book has made a lot of buzz in the literary world already so I won't say too much about it. I think it touched people and made people talk for a lot of the same reasons that The Da Vinci Code did (although I think it's a more beautiful piece of writing than Dan Brown's more adventure driven story). It made people consider the world and how they see it in a whole new way. For me, I didn't love this book because it opened my eyes to something new. I loved it because I recognized in it the world as I've seen it for as long as I can remember. Although I didn't live a tragic childhood like the protagonist Lily, I can identify with Lily as she discovers her own truths in the people and the life of the earth all around her.

Murder with Peacocks (A Meg Langslow Mystery)Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews - this is the first in a cozy mystery series I tried on the recommendation of a fellow blogger Diana who listed her favorites in a comment on my Favorite Cozies post last year. It didn't really have a theme or location that would have made it stand out for me on the bookshelf but I checked it out because of Diana's recommendation and I'm so glad she made the effort to do so because it was one of the best laugh out loud, fun reads I've had in a long time. I liked it so much I immediately went in search of the rest of the series.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling - what can I say, we're very devoted Harry Potter readers in this house. The book came out while I was away from home and busy with crowds of people and it was nightmarish trying to steal time to read and, most importantly, finish it before any spoilers ruined what was almost a decade of working my way through the story of Harry and all his compatriots. I'd reread the other six books in the year prior to prepare for this last book in the series and I hope to reread the seventh book again in this coming year now that I can relax and read it at a more leisurely pace. I was pretty pleased with the way Rowling wrapped up her saga. I had, in fact, guessed a key part of the ending (which seemed obvious to me once I thought of it, but which quite a few fellow readers I knew hadn't worked out), it pleased me to be right about that, but there were also plenty of surprises.

Murder in the Marais (Aimee Leduc Investigation)Murder in the Marais by Cara Black - looking for stories set in Paris, I found this series. It stood out as one of the few stories that weren't another romance book so I looked for it. It's a UK publisher, so I had a hard time finding it on the shelves of even large chain bookstores and I ended up ordering it from Amazon.com. I am totally loving this series. Each one is titled Murder in the ..... and takes place in a different arrondissement (neighborhood/district) of Paris. It's exactly what I was looking for to learn more about my new favorite city. They each stand alone as wonderfully fast paced, tightly plotted, "keep you guessing until the end" murder mysteries but what I like most about them is that each book is a treasure chest full of historical, cultural, and political vignettes about the many faces of Paris. I like that the stories take place from the point of view of a resident and not a tourist always visiting the best places. The characters are complex and the author weaves a nice network of touch points in the many social classes and lifestyles of the city.

Tithe by Holly Black - I'd seen this book at the larger bookstores, picked it up, set it back down because I have too many books already waiting to be read. But then I discovered that the author was a guest at Faerieworlds while we were there - or maybe she was supposed to be there but got sick or something - but her books were there. So then I was curious enough to buy it. I have to admit I spent the first part of the book wondering if I even liked it at all. It wasn't your typical fairy tale, that's for sure! It's dark and frightening and the characters aren't necessarily great people. Honestly, what kept me reading was the same sort of thing that keeps people tuned in watching news coverage of people trapped on the roof during a flood or rubbernecking at the scene of a car accident. You want to know how it all turns out. By the end of the book I was glad I'd stuck around to find out. I liked how she didn't smooth out the rough edges of her interpretation and gave us a new, raw version of the world of the fae.

A Writers Paris: A Guided Journey For The Creative SoulA Writer's Paris by Eric Maisel - For such a little book, it was expensive. It's a good thing I bought it on impulse because if I'd thought it through I probably would have talked myself out of it. I'm so glad I didn't. The premise is that the reader should find a way to go to Paris and write. It's full of small vignettes that are part pleasurable little "trips" in and of themselves and part inspiration. I carried this book around in my purse for months, reading a chapter to myself while waiting for William to come out of football practice, reading a chapter outloud to Jeff over lunch at the coffee shop. It will probably find itself back in my purse again this spring as some consolation for postponing our trip to Paris until next year.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - another book that I saw featured at all the big bookstores. It looked intriguing but it wasn't until Deb reviewed it on her blog that I decided to give it a try. I read it in October as part of a month of "spooky" themed books. It grabbed me from the first page and although there might have been one or two small sections that moved more slowly, I couldn't wait to get back between the pages of it each night. What I liked best about it was the feeling of being transported back to my young adolescent days when I was tucked up in my bedroom reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. It had fantastic "mood". The plot itself was low action but had an intriguing, quietly maintained suspense. I found the subplot about the main character's relationship with her mother interesting.

Three more books worth mentioning:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Although I didn't find myself wanting to add them to my top list, they all stand out as books I found myself mentioning to others and thinking about long after I finished them.

I'd planned on posting this after midnight tonight for tomorrow's post but outside a storm is raging. Winds gusting so strongly I insisted hubby take the banging screen door off its hinges and store it away safely. The snow isn't falling so much as it's being tossed and thrown and whipped sideways, down, UP, and round and round in circles. My daughter, her fiance, and the grandkids are trying to drive through it on their way to Seattle!!!! It's probably the worst place in the country to be trying to to travel at the moment. I've got the weather channel on the television but the power keeps going on and off. I'm checking the road conditions online every half hour or so but of course, ditto, we keep losing cable (although laptop battery power, I'm still typing away). And as bad as it is, the worst of it hasn't even arrived yet, it's due late tonight. So I think I'll post this now in case we lose power for a longer period as the storm moves through.

I hope you're save and snug in your home whether a storm is raging outside where you live or not, and I hope you have a big pot of tea and a tall stack of books to sustain you with or without a power outage. I've got my books ready. I've got tea - and hubby just informed me a big cup of coffee is on it's way to me from the kitchen - nice hubby. We live in the mountains so our oil lamps and flashlights are already ready and waiting. And oh, I just realized - hmmm, hubby might not be so nice after I mention this fact - power outage will mean no gas heater. It's getting dark. Time to go convince hubby to split some kindling and coerce teen into helping bring in enough wood to make it through the night if necessary. Ah, winter fun for the entire family!

2 Comments:

Blogger Deb R said...

Some of your favorites are also favorites of mine (either from '07 or '06) while others I'd never heard of until they made your list, so now you've given me some ideas of titles I need to find! :-)

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Laura F. said...

THANK YOU!

You made my week. :)

I'm rooting for Terry Pratchett. As he says, "I aten't dead yet!" And I absolutely agree with you about those characters--I think you were the one that let me know about the Tiffany Aching books.

8:31 AM  

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