Showing posts with label diane cook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label diane cook. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

The time has come!  Favorites must be declared!

Today, Month of Favorites participants are jumping in with the Top Ten Tuesday topic over at Broke and the Bookish: Top 10 Favorite Books of the Year.  In keeping with that, I figured there was no better day for me to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

If you are a careful reader of my blog (and who isn't, RIGHT?), 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. The Three by Sarah Lotz
I know I said this list is in no particular order, but there might be a reason why this was the first one I threw on here.  I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK.

2. Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
I haven't read a collection of short stories this good in a very, very long time.  I find myself thinking about them a LOT.

3. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Is anyone surprised by me putting a Jodi Picoult novel on this list?  Noooooooooooope.

4. What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell
An intricately-woven family drama that explores the many complicated facets of relationships.  Cornwell's ability to smoothly blend several different story angles together still impresses me.

5. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
If there was ever a bitch that got shit done without caring what anyone else thought, it was Scarlett O'Hara.

6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I know, jump on the bandwagon about a year late, right?  But it's just so, so good.  A major time commitment, but an epic in every sense of the word.

7. Above by Isla Morley
This book is excellent, but it earned a special bump onto this list because it has the distinction of being the book that I have successfully recommended to the most people after reading it.  "Successfully" meaning they raved about it afterwards, too.

8. The One & Only by Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin is pretty much always a winner for me.  I adore her ability to make readers sympathetic to what would normally be the undesirable side of a situation.  Such is the case with The One & Only.

9. The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson
To quote my own review: "complex characters, surprising twists, and intriguing relationships."  Plus beautiful writing to top it all off.

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
I read several good YA fiction novels this year, but Wintergirls has the distinction of being the best.  Anderson's writing is beautiful and poignant, and her handling of the topic of eating disorders is equal parts careful and impactful.

That does it for 2014!  In going over everything I read this year, I realized how many excellent books I enjoyed in the last 12 months.  A truly fantastic year for reading!

What made YOUR best-read list for 2014?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: Man V. Nature by Diane Cook

Title:   Man V. Nature
Author: Diane Cook
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world.

Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our struggle to not only thrive, but survive. In “Girl on Girl,” a high school freshman goes to disturbing lengths to help an old friend. An insatiable temptress pursues the one man she can’t have in “Meteorologist Dave Santana.” And in the title story, a long fraught friendship comes undone when three buddies get impossibly lost on a lake it is impossible to get lost on. In Diane Cook’s perilous worlds, the quotidian surface conceals an unexpected surreality that illuminates different facets of our curious, troubling, and bewildering behavior.

Other stories explore situations pulled directly from the wild, imposing on human lives the danger, tension, and precariousness of the natural world: a pack of not-needed boys take refuge in a murky forest and compete against each other for their next meal; an alpha male is pursued through city streets by murderous rivals and desirous women; helpless newborns are snatched by a man who stalks them from their suburban yards. Through these characters Cook asks: What is at the root of our most heartless, selfish impulses? Why are people drawn together in such messy, complicated, needful ways? When the unexpected intrudes upon the routine, what do we discover about ourselves? 

As entertaining as it is dangerous, this accomplished collection explores the boundary between the wild and the civilized, where nature acts as a catalyst for human drama and lays bare our vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.

My Review:

Potentially the best book I'll read in 2014.  Just wanted to state that up front.

When was the last time I read a collection of short stories?  (That question was going to be rhetorical, but I just looked it up, and it was This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, which I also loved.  Why am I not reading more short stories??)  Anyway, it's been too long, because Diane Cook has reminded me how amazing shorter works can be.

Each of the stories in this book tackle a different aspect of human nature.  How do social status and power affect our animal instinct to survive?  What is the stronger human desire, monogamy or strong offspring?  If we come into good fortune, is it our obligation to share that with those less fortunate?  The list goes on and on.  (That's not an exaggeration, I will gladly show you the excessively long note on my iPhone that I created while reading and mulling everything over.)  No matter what the focus, every story sucked me in immediately, and had my wheels turning all the way to the very end.
What makes these tales exceptional is that they are concisely written (no long, boring passages to pull you out of the action), but are still crafted in such a way that the "moral of the story" is not always obvious.  You will most definitely be contemplating this book long after you put it down.  (Or, you can do what I did, and start a Facebook message with another reader (Hi, Monika from Lovely Bookshelf!) to discuss all your philosophies and WTF moments along the way.  This would be an amazing book club book for the discussion possibilities!)

If I had a choose a favorite story from the collection, one that is sure to stick with me, it's "Somebody's Baby."  In it, new mothers are left in constant fear as an unknown man camps out in their yards and threatens to steal their babies.  If I have ever read anything that better encompasses the intense worry that women have as mothers, I'm sure I don't remember it.  "She felt shot at every day of her life since she'd begun having children."  Yes, every bit of that one resonated with me.  And even if that doesn't sound like it would be your particular favorite, I'm sure there's one in this collection that will touch you just as deeply.

I'm all done gushing.  If you have any doubts left about my opinion on this book, I'd be amazed.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Diane Cook on Twitter.

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