My quest to find new authors and be swept away in their creative stories lead me to many great reads this year. All said, I read over 100 books! I most enjoyed reading the ones mentioned below, although some of them were published in prior years. These had powerful stories that stayed with me, had fantastic writing, and included believable characters I wanted to follow. If you only read one book a month, I highly recommend these twelve:
1. Finding Rebecca: From the first page, Finding Rebecca was a powerful novel. The intelligent writing articulated the fears of both Germans and Jews on the eve of World War II. This multi-layered novel was so much more than just a forbidden love story set against World War II. Instead, it became a story about, lost love, true love, survival, morality, humanity… I could go on and on.
2. Room: I loved the captivating story of two people struggling to break free from captivity. The narration by five year old Jack was quirky and made the tense situation of his mother’s kidnapping, and his subsequent birth, humorous and endearing. From the first page to the last, I was absolutely engaged with everything about this story.
3. Labor Day: A beautiful love story that intertwined a women hiding an escaped prisoner and a young boy learning about life. The narration of young Henry gave the heavy topics endearing qualities that made the book very enjoyable. This was an epic love story that moved me.
4. Sybil: A compelling and compassionate tale of Sybil, a woman who, as a defense mechanism created sixteen different personalities, each of whom materialized at times when Sybil couldn’t deal with her life. The writing was strong and the story unfolded very well through the first hand account of Sybil’s therapist. Sybil was a riveting story that kept me glued to the pages. If you are even slightly interested in the many facets of the mind, then this book would be perfect.
5. The Girl You Left Behind: The passion and strength displayed by the women at the heart of this novel gave life to the sought after painting lost after World War I. The flowing and intricate language breathed life into the stories of young Sophie trying to survive in a town overrun with Germans, and of Liv trying to med her broken heart in the present.
6. The Paris Architect: This was a book rich with intense plot developments that tested each character’s morality while they tried to survive in France during World War II. The author created a beautiful tapestry of conflicting motives and damaged characters that blended into each other with ease. This was a thought provoking story.
7. Notorious: I was swept away with Axie, the spunky character who narrated the story of her tumultuous life growing up poor in New York. The author used the life of a real woman who assisted women with reproductive issues in the 1880’s when information was limited by archaic and prudent law. I loved the legal aspect that provided a foundation for this fascinating story.
8. Another Piece Of My Heart: A beautiful and intense look at love in all forms. The story followed Andi, a woman who struggled to find happiness a midst the antics of her step-daughter. The pure emotions made this book read like a memoir. This was a great story with a heavier plot worth the read.
9. The Tulip Eaters: I loved the dark and emotional story of Nora, who struggled to make sense of her mother’s murder and find her kidnapped daughter while uncovering secrets from World War II. The excellent writing and quick pace kept me glued to the pages as Nora unraveled mysteries in New York and the Netherlands.
10. The Lightkeeper’s Wife: The strong women who carried this novel were determine to live a life free from the constraints pushed upon them by a puritanical society. The descriptions allowed me to venture to the sea ruled by the pirate Blue and the shores protected by Hannah. A deeply moving story of love and trust, the author showed how beautiful life can be by embracing the road less traveled.
11. The Vanishing: The eerie atmosphere that hung over Julie as she was lead into hiding by a mysterious and rich benefactor gave this book a spooky aura. Strong writing, complex character descriptions, and relaistic interactions made me eager to uncover the secrets of the ancient mansion and why Julia looked like the portrait of the woman hanging in an abandoned room.
12. Saving Max: I enjoyed following a strong and smart attorney attempting to discover if her son was a murderer. This legal thriller was excellent and I can’t wait to read more by this author.
Books that just missed the list:
The Blonde: A stunning and creative new twist on the love affair between Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy. The writing evoked classic noir tales while maintaining the integrity of the the 1940’s and 1950’s. I will never think about Marilyn Monroe the same way again!
Suspicion: In the same rich storytelling as Hitchcock’s movie by the same name, Suspicion was a rare masterpiece of cat-and-mouse intrigue, secrets, lies, and murder. The unwitting protagonist who was forced into becoming a nark was very enjoyable to follow.
Escape: The more I read about Carolyn Jessop’s harrowing experience as a fourth wife in the FLDS, the more impressed I became that she dared to escape the torture and oppressive environment she subscribed to for more than thirty years of her life. Slowly, her faith in polygamy waned, and gave way to a mother determined to save her eight children.