Showing posts with label scott hawkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scott hawkins. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

IT'S FAVORITES TIME!!!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. Day Four by Sarah Lotz
If you haven't read Lotz's The Three yet, do that first, and then do yourself a favor and read this book.  The Three was on my 2014 favorites list, and the sequel did not disappoint!

2. The Shore by Sara Taylor
Potentially the most unique novel I read this year.  I can't wait to see what else Taylor has in store.

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
One of the only 5-star reviews I gave all year.  This story is heart-wrenching and beautifully told.

4. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is still one of my favorite nonfiction writers.  He handles this delicate subject with the same objectivity and fastidiousness that is the trademark of his other works.

5. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
A truly awesome reading experience from cover to cover, made even more enjoyable because I did not originally expect so much from it!  I love it when a novel makes me bend my typical genre preferences.

6. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
This novel made me feel all the feelings.  Not the most uplifting choice on my list, but certainly one that continues to stay with me.

7. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Few nonfiction writers can bring their subjects to life the way Larson can.  These real-life events read with the suspense of a fiction novel, while still capturing all of the historical detail needed to make this an enlightening read.

8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
You had me at "post-apocalyptic literary fiction."

9. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
This is one of those books for which I did not write an especially amazing review, but due to the fact that I continue to mull it over and over, and hit my friends with random factoids from it all the time, it has still earned a spot on the favorites list for this year.

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Ughhhh, I feel so bandwagon-y and lemming-like putting this on here.  I mean, it's on every list EVER, right?  But I can't deny it was one of the top 10 books I read this year.  Fact.

That's a wrap!  What made YOUR best-read list for 2015?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December Minis: A Library, A Bazaar, and Earthquakes

Yup, it's that time again.  More mini-reviews!  I am enjoying this format for the time being, and I hope you all are too.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Crown, 2015
borrowed from the library

While this book doesn't seem to be super widely-known, several bloggers that I love and respect were singing its praises, so I had to check it out.  That said, I was a little nervous, because many reviews mentioned "magical realism" and "fantasy", two genres with which I haven't had much luck.  But, I gave it a go.

Quick synopsis: Carolyn and a dozen other children were "adopted" long ago by the mysterious Father.  Each child was taught one category of Father's knowledge over the years.  Now, it's 20 years later, and Father has disappeared.  Carolyn & co now have to fight to see who has the power (and the knowledge) to take Father's place.

You guys, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING.  Yup, it's full of fantasy and magical realism and things you would never believe in real life, but Hawkins wrote it so well that it DOES NOT MATTER.  It is horrifying and hilarious and mysterious at the same time.  The story unravels in such a way that there is always another piece of information you need, that you can't put down the book for, and as such you will indeed never put down the freaking book.  Full disclosure: I did not love the ending (it was less explosive than the rest of the novel, and as such felt unfitting), but I still recommend it.  Highly.  (As long as you can take some gore.  A lot of gore, actually.)

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Scribner, 2015
borrowed from the library

It's been a while since I ran out and read the latest King release, but I knew that a new collection of his short stories was a good excuse to do it.  My love of SK began with his short stories.  Where his novels, while often excellent, can enter the territory of being overly verbose, his short stories are more concise, hitting readers hard and fast right between the eyes.

This collection is no exception.  While not every story worked for me ("The Bone Church" was one--more of a poem, and an odd one at that), I was wow'ed by the majority of them.  I know many people hear Stephen King and immediately think horror, but that is not the overarching theme here.  (Though some are certainly horrific..."Mile 81" comes to mind immediately. Avoid if you're queasy, or if you dislike children in distress.)  Instead, I'd say there is a general sense of unease in each of these stories.  Questions of morality, of good conscience, of what it means to be just.  You are left feeling disturbed, rather than scared.  And if the stories aren't enough, the book is made even more amazing by the notes King has left before the start of each one, giving you the background on what inspired it and how he wrote it.  Is there anything better than a Stephen King introduction?  And now you get 21 of them.  Winner winner, chicken dinner.  A great read for die-hard King fans and newbie SK followers alike.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House, 2013
borrowed from the library
The latest pick for my MOMS Club book club.  Discussion is this Sunday, and I think it's fair to say there'll be a lot to discuss!  Basic premise: Kate and Vi are twins who were born with psychic abilities.  As they get older, Kate distances herself from these "senses", while Vi embraces and hones them over time.  Now in their 30's and living in St. Louis, Vi predicts very publicly that a disastrous earthquake will soon hit the city, throwing Vi, and Kate, into the spotlight.  Kate is forced to reconsider her own abilities, as well as her roles as sister, daughter, wife, and mother.

I am a Sittenfeld fan (Prep and American Wife are truly excellent reads, if you haven't gotten to them already).  That said, the novel started out very slowly for me, and I felt like the narrative was wordy and jumpy for no discernible reason.  Plus, I found Kate to be positively grating.  She's weak, whiny, impulsive, dispassionate, and seems to be just going through the motions in what boils down to a very comfortable life.  (It could also be that I hate the picture she portrays of stay-at-home moms.  She makes us look ridiculous.)

However, Kate finally does something so outrageously stupid that it makes the last quarter of the novel completely un-put-down-able.  I ATE IT UP.  So I'm not sure if I should love this book because I was so entirely enraptured by it for the second half, or if I should dislike it because the protagonist is godawful and it's her ridiculous godawful mistakes that make the second half of the book worth reading.  I don't know.  I guess I need to discuss that at book club.  :)

What did you read so far this month?
 
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