Monday, December 30, 2013

Best of 2013 - Books

Because I'm a former English teacher and currently a school librarian, the question I am most often asked is "What should I read?" I'm always ready with an answer, and I've had years of success at taking kids who entered my class as non-readers into the life of avid readers by the time they move to the next grade. This is not only my job; it's my PASSION.

One of the men I've admired most in life is Andrew Carnegie, not necessarily because of the business he built, but because he gave his money away to build libraries. And that is my personal theme:


And I have. I've donated books to so many classrooms in Nebo School District that I have trouble keeping count anymore. I've sent books to friends, relatives, shelters, and public libraries. I spent this last summer reading through my eternal stack of books-to-be-read stored in a spare bedroom. Once read, those books were packed up to send to my niece or friends for their children, or to donate to the school library where I work, using the books to enrich our collection, or to give as gifts to students and faculty who enter the weekly drawings.

I completed 114 books this year according to my records on GoodReads. I won't list them all here, but I will tell you about some of the best, and give you a list of the others that made my Top of the List.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars
For thirty-five years I taught Romeo & Juliet, a play I fell in love with when I was in 9th grade and the Franco Zefferelli version starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey first hit the theater screen. Perhaps because Shakespeare is my cousin--thirty-four generations removed--I have deep respect for his work as an author. Add that to my love of Star Wars, and this book had the potential to either be a complete flop, or one of the best books ever written in my opinion. I LOVED IT! The author totally understood the rhythms and nuance of Shakespeare's work, while using A New Hope as his basis for the plot of this re-envisioned work. I've recommended this to many students who have also loved it.

The Fifth Assassin
Anyone who knows me well knows I am a political junkie who loves to read about conspiracy theories, and has an affinity toward learning about Abraham Lincoln. (Since I wrote a book about Lincoln and Joseph Smith three years ago that will be published in 2014, I've read a lot about the assassination of the former president.) Meltzer has developed the ultimate conspiracy theory in this fast-paced novel. What if John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and others were not lone wolves? What if all of the presidential assassinations were somehow linked? Ignore the critics, who are likely upset because President George W. Bush gave Meltzer access to inside information from the archives. As thrillers go, this one grabbed my attention fast and didn't let go until the very end. Something too many books have failed to do lately.

Clockwork Angel 
Another book which grabbed me a the beginning and didn't let go, I loved the steampunk feel of this series enough to carry me through both this novel and the sequel, Clockwork Prince, with the intention to finish the series next summer. Sometimes a little racy, making the books definitely YA or above, the trip into the dark streets and mysterious happenings of 1878 London held my attention to the point I forgot it was another vampire novel. I didn't care. Whoever decided to start with the more modern Mortal Instruments series made a huge mistake as far as movies go. This prequel Infernal Devices series is awesome, somewhat like the Robert Downey, Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes for paranormal fans. 

The Obituary Writer
I don't read much women's fiction, but this novel had the added elements of two significant historical events--the Great San Francisco Earthquake for 1906, and John F. Kennedy's inauguration--as well as the unusual writing career for one of the main characters to draw me in. I'd never thought before about the skills one must have to be an obituary writer, at least the kind of obituaries they used to publish in the newspaper. The crafting of this novel is beautiful, and although I had begun to sort out the mystery long before the moment the truth was revealed, I was still completely satisfied. I was so intrigued by Hood's storytelling that I also read The Knitting Circle and loved it just as much. She is an author I'll add to my list of those to watch for new releases. 

Longing for Home
Back in the day when the members of my critique group were all just getting started we had the luxury of reading entire novels before they were sent off to our publishers. No longer so. Deadlines and hectic publishing schedules mean we are only getting to read opening chapters and a few random chapters and have some plot discussions along the way before the completed manuscript is sent off, never to be seen by us again until the author brings us the published book. Such was the case with Longing for Home. I knew Katie and the struggles she had faced. I knew the two men she would be forced to choose between. What I didn't know was that each friendship would blossom into a relationship that would make the final decisions Katie had to make so evenly matched that I didn't want to insist that she decide. Can we have them both? No, of course that wouldn't be fair to anyone, but making the choice is a torturous thing! Now, when is the sequel coming out? 

Like with my Best Movies list yesterday, there is no way I can do write-ups for all of the other books that have made my list, but I will give you titles and authors. I'll even place them into target audiences to help you know a little more about them than just the titles will say. One of my goals is to do some reviews again throughout the coming year, but those are always going to be books of my choice here on the main blog. Occasionally I'm asked to review a book, but those will be on another linked blog, based on target audience. See the top of LuAnn's Library for those links. 

Middle Grade
13th Reality: The Void of Mist and Thunder -- James Dashner
Case File 13: Zombie Kid -- J. Scott Savage
Case File 13: Making the Team -- J. Scott Savage
Wonder -- RJ Palacio
Cragbridge Hall: The Inventor's Secret -- Chad Morris
Wednesdays in the Tower -- Jessica Day George
Vampire Plagues: Paris -- Sebastian Rook
Far World: Air Keep -- J. Scott Savage
The Runaway King - Jennifer Nielsen
Slob -- Ellen Potter
Michael Vey: Battle of the Ampere -- Richard Paul Evans

Young Adult
Going Dark novella -- Robison Wells
Blackout -- Robison Wells
The Eye of Minds -- James Dashner
Adult Novels
Band of Sisters: Coming Home -- Annette Lyon
Heart of the Ocean -- Heather Moore
Finding Sheba -- Heather Moore
Deadly Undertakings -- Gregg Luke
Agenda 21 -- Glenn Beck
The Aliso Creek novella series -- H. B. Moore
Edenbrooke -- Julianne Donaldson
Blackmoore -- Julianne Donaldson
Becoming a Lady novella -- Marie Higgins
Non-Fiction / Education
Book Love -- Penny Kittle

Hope you find something new here to enjoy in 2014! 


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