Yesterday was New Year’s Eve – the last day of 2013 and my dating anniversary with my long-time boyfriend. With so much going on over the last year from the discovery of new authors to my first time vacationing in New England to losing my job of 8 years, it’s been quite the year. I thought it’d be a good idea to look back at all the book reviews I’ve done over the last year. While I’ve read over 12 books in the last year and reviewed them, I’ve only read from 12 different authors. So below, in no particular order, are the books we’ve explored together from 12 different authors.
In the late 60’s the city of San Francisco was overrun with young people. These young people had absolute opinions on how society should work, how the government should run and how they should be living. They risked their safety, security and even their freedom to stand up for those rights. While the movement, known as the Hippie Movement, eventually became corrupted and collapsed, the impact these young people have had our societies around the world are still felt today.
In Love & Haight Tracey Madeley brings us the colorful, enriching and naïve story of Solomon, an Irish Catholic exchange student, and his experiences in San Francisco during the late 1960’s that would lead him to return to the UK and build and run a commune called Peaceful Meadows in Wales.
Deborah Reed’s new book, Things We Set on Fire looks at the relationship between sisters Elin and Kate, who are as different from each other as two sisters can be. Growing up in Orlando, FL wasn’t easy for Elin and Kate especially after their father was killed in a freak hunting accident. They haven’t gotten along since that day and eventually Elin moved across the country to escape her family. The strangeness of that day and the things that Elin saw before they were informed of her father’s death will haunt the family for years to come.
The book begins when Kate’s mother receives a call to come pick up her grandchildren as Kate was hospitalized. Not knowing what to do with the kids, she calls Elin who lives in Oregon to come down and help care for two girls. When Elin arrives, we find out that Kate left her husband and has been raising her two girls alone while coping with ALS. Now Kate has progressed to the point where she’s ready to pass away and her two girls need someone to take care of them after Kate is gone.
You ever feel like you’ve just won the battle only to face a war? Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) picks up with Katniss and Peeta on their victory tour. After a trip to District 11 in which the crowd gets riled up, it’s obvious that The Capitol is barely holding off another rebellion from the Districts of Panem.
At the same time, the Quarter Quell, a Hunger Games that comes around every 25 years and includes a sinister twist, is on the horizon. This year President Snow has decided to have past Victors from the 12 districts come back and compete against one another. Katniss and Peeta are headed back to the arena and they are up against some more formidable opponents this year.
Soon it becomes clear that the object of the game is to break out of the arena rather than try and be the last man standing. The problem is, not everyone will get out alive.
Michael Murphy is a genius in his book Goodbye Emily. Sparky Ellington is an aging hippie. A retired professor, he’s facing a new milestone in his life. His wife has died, his daughter may move away for her job and his friends won’t be around for much longer. The stress that comes from facing these problems head-on each day and keeping his emotions bottled up inside has turned Sparky into a recluse with heart problems.
When Sparky decides to face these issues head on, what ensues is one of the best hippie stories I’ve read thus far. Not only do we get to learn how Sparky met his wife, Emily, at Woodstock in 1969, we get to witness his personal pilgrimage back to Yasgur’s Farm, the site of Woodstock, to spread Emily’s ashes in the place that not only brought them together, but helped define the people that they would become.
Not for Glory, a Historical Novel of Scotland (The Black Douglas Trilogy) is the third and final installment of The Black Douglas Trilogy that follows A Kingdom’s Cost and Countenance of War. It covers the Scottish War of Independence from 1314 to 1329. During this time England and Scotland lapse from peace into war time over and over again. James, our beloved Black Douglas, has been wed and his son is born. The king is reunited with his family and his wife bares him a few more children before dying in childbirth and the Scottish court is built and stabilized. All the while, James is anxious for war. He wants to beat the English foe once and for all, but knows better than to go against the king’s wishes.
James, once again is evolving in this book, much like he did the last. We seem in The Kingdom’s Cost as a lad, swearing his allegiance to the rebel king of Scots and full of zeal for the cause. By Countenance of War, James has lost much and becomes calloused and brutal. Now getting older and becoming a father and falling in love again, James shows a softer side. He spares the English foes that would bring him ransom and contemplates the training and raising of his son and the king’s grandson. He also begins to look to the aging king as even more of a father figure and James takes on the role that adults today know all too well – taking care of a stubbornly independent elder while living in denial of their own mortality.
I absolutely love a good murder mystery and Robert Galbraith does not disappoint with The Cuckoo’s Calling. Comoran Strike, the bastard son of a rock legend, is a struggling private eye in the city. He is commissioned by the brother of a supermodel who recently committed suicide to investigate further to see if she hadn’t actually been murdered. The suspect list is long and each of them has their faults. They each see a different side to the model than the others and it’s only by talking to each one of Lula’s friends, neighbors and colleagues that Comoran is able to determine exactly who this woman is and what she has been up to in the last few days of her life. In the end Comoran comes to a conclusion that is both surprising and satisfying.
And the Mountains Echoed: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini is a story about family. It starts out with two siblings, Abdullah and Pari, who live in a small Afghanistan village and are as close as a brother and sister can be. When Pari is 3 years old she is sold to a family in Kabul that her uncle works for. Abdullah leaves his home shortley after this and never recovers the from the loss of his sister. Through these two characters, we are linked to other characters that are presented in the book including a Greek plastic surgeon, a Afghani investor, a Parisian boyfriend and a second-generation American immigrant.
This story is a series of fragmented stories that eventually overlap with one another through connections between the main characters of each story. Some of the main characters of the stories are left hanging. For instance, we don’t know what happens to the son of the drug lord or the plastic surgeon’s childhood friend. Some stories don’t seem to fit at first, but keep reading because eventually you’ll see the connection. It’s a complex story, but what family isn’t a little complicated?
In Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) we meet a boy with no identity. He is an orphan, named after a martyr of North Korea as all orphans are. He begins to invent for himself a life – he is not an orphan, but the son of the orphan master. His mother died tragically and so it’s just the two of them. This gets him through his childhood as one by one he sees the other boys in his home die, starve or be taken for labor purposes.
Upon his adulthood he is forced into military service where the government gives him, not only assignments, but identities. He becomes a kidnapper, a sailor and fisherman, a spy, a diplomat and a prisoner before he assumes the identity of high-ranking officer who is personal friends with Kim Jong-il. It’s when he finds the strength and courage to defy this leader and steal his love that he finds true freedom in one of the most oppressed nations in the modern world.
The Prophecy (The Spirit Keeper), a sequel to The Spirit Keeper, the group of teenagers in The Prophecy by Melissa Garrett may have wanted to be your average group of kids, but they are destined to be set aside for something so much more.
Sarah must face her biggest challenge yet as she visits the Katori tribe and proclaims herself a guardian over the people that shunned her as an infant due to her mixed bloodline. Charlie begins giving warnings start to come true as a member of Sarah’s father’s tribe has begun actively tailing her after school. This tribe is bad news for the Katori people and Sarah’s father is already responsible for one death in the community. Also, Adrian’s father Victor has been in contact with Adrian again. The last time Victor was in town he tried to kill both Sarah and Adrian.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Life of Pi is a simple story. An Indian boy and his family pack up their zoo and ship out to Canada. While in the Pacific they hit weather and the ship sinks. Pi is lucky enough to land in a lifeboat, but unlucky enough to be sharing it with some of his zoo animals including a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
One by one the animals are consumed by the tiger until it’s only Richard Parker and Pi left on the boat. Pi uses his knowledge of animals to keep the tiger at bay and eventually forms a relationship with him by supplying him with the only fresh water and food to be had. Eventually, they land on a beach in Mexico and Richard Parker leaves Pi on the beach to be rescued by some locals.
When Pi recounts his tale to the Japanese owners of the ship they don’t believe his story. So Pi tells another, more plausible story. The real question is, is either story true?
Mike Well’s newest attraction is the suspense thriller Passion, Power & Sin
releases earlier this spring. Once again Well’s leading character is a female force to be reckoned with and the 5 book series is mercifully long-lasting and action-packed.
The story begins with Heather Bancroft, a young publications professional working in New York City. Right out of college, she’s at the bottom of the PR totem pole and is paying her dues by also playing personal assistant to her two pushy bosses at a prestigious PR firm.
Through a bizarre series of events it leads Heather to the French Riviera where she’s going undercover to thwart a con artist and thief.
The Merlin Chronicles: Revelations by Daniel Diehl
You would think that this story has been done or overplayed. And perhaps Daniel Diehl would agree with you in regards to Merlin’s relationship with King Arthur. But in his latest series, Revelations: The Merlin Chronicles, he’s focusing on another one of Merlin’s relationships from the time of Arthur – the one between him and Morgan LeFey, the daughter of Uther, who never saw the throne thanks to the appearance of her half-brother.
Morgan is best known for poisoning her father so she could return home after being ostracized from the kingdom upon the appearance of Arthur and take over as ruler of the kingdom. But Arthur took the crown and became king instead once again casting Morgan out into the darkness to find a home away from the kingdom. Here is where Diehl takes a little of a left turn from other authors and historians.
1500 years later a young archaeology student digs up a glass orb from a “shit hole” in the back of an ancient castle in Western Europe. While it’s the find of a lifetime for him and his aging professor, what the glass orb holds will be Jason’s undoing – Merlin. Can Merlin turn the up-tight, nerdy archaeology student into his next Arthur? Will Merlin ever discover the way in which to defeat Morgan?
What was your favorite read of 2013? Did it make my list?