All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. What to say? I have read winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction that I felt did not deserve such an accolade, but I totally agree with the committee on this year's selection! It is a beautifully composed and strategized book. Doerr is obviously a master of so many 'writerly' tools and skills, yet the story contained within these pages is absolutely delightful, spell-binding, poignant, and enthralling. To say "it flows" is a vast understatement, in my opinion! Additionally, Mr. Doerr is superb at creating and sustaining suspense--to rival any suspense/mystery/thriller writer I have read... Again, I have yet to compose and post a thorough review on my blog, but I believe Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J's review to be one of the very best I have read--a simple yet accurate summary!
Ah...Gennifer Choldenko! I am so very grateful to have discovered her! You may recognize the title of the first book in her kids series, Al Capone Does My Shirts. Followed by Al Capone Shines My Shoes and Al Capone Does My Homework. The three books in this series are amazing! Yes, I realize I am an adult, but I am still more than capable of enjoying children's literature, as evidenced by the fact that Bex of An Armchair by the Sea and I are cohosting a Little House Read-Along throughout 2016 and the fact that I completed Reeder Reads' Green Gables Read-Along this year! Choldenko's research is thorough and the atmosphere she creates in these books is chilling and eerie at times, just as you would expect! I had never considered what it might be like to live on an island with the country's "worst," most dangerous criminals, especially as a child! Yikes! Great historical fiction!
Back to adult fiction with Celeste Ng! Oh, what a wonderful read Everything I Never Told You is! Heartrending and yet so hopeful in the end. This book depicts many reasons why parents should NOT be so desperate as to mold their children into a specific person they want them to be... I believe it is a parent's duty to provide children with a foundation from which to grow and develop into the person they want to become; it is not our duty to tell them who they will become. Lydia never gets to be her own person until she decides to do so and tragedy occurs as a result. Ng's writing style is definitely one of my favorites, reminiscent of Jhumpa Lahiri, similar to Maeve Binchy--these characters reach out and grab you! (At least they did that for me!)
A harrowing journey into historical fiction: Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett. This is a fascinating perspective of the founding of the first female-run African American newspaper in the U.S. In Kansas City just as lynchings and race riots broke out in the Midwestern U.S.! One unique aspect of this recounting is the inclusion of Muslim refugees/immigrants and the horrid treatment they and anyone else who wasn't WASP endured! So many lives lost and ruined...and to what end? Though Barnett depicts how peaceful protest was practiced among the persecuted! I cried when Ivoe saw the many people lining the sidewalks outside the jail. Definitely worth a read! Not only informative but insightful and so poignant!
Louise Erdrich. I had never read one of her books until this past year when I read The Round House for the University Book Club. Oh, my. What an intense and thought-provoking read! This was such a mixture of folklore, details of U.S./Native American law, and...adolescent angst! It is definitely NOT a light read, but in my opinion, a very rewarding one! I have two more of her books and look forward to reading her work in the future!
Another writer I first read in 2015 and loved is Marie Bostwick! My Borders Book Club read her first book in the Cobbled Court Quilt series, A Single Thread. I forged ahead and read the other five books in the series, as well as the prequel, Between Heaven and Texas. I admit I was a bit put off by the first book as it was a bit 'heavy' on religion, in my opinion. However, I did not feel that way about the other books in the series. I love Ms. Bostwick's characterization. I just felt as if each of these women was a personal close friend of mine, and that is high praise from me since characterization is of the utmost importance to me! Give 'em a try!
And now for a mystery writer whom I first read in 2015 and loved...there were two!
Crooked River by Valerie Geary was an absolute winner for me! I contacted Valerie to let her know I loved her debut mystery and would appreciate the opportunity to post an author interview and not only did she complete the interview, she even offered a free book to one of my readers! Now how cool is that?!? :) I trust we will have another one of her books to read soon!
Meanwhile, "back at the ranch," so to speak, my Borders Book Club read Carolyn Brown's The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee, the first book in her Cadillac, Texas trilogy! What a hoot! And yet certainly not all fun and games! Plenty of fodder for discussion! Ms. Brown even granted me an author interview! And I now follow her blog, A Little Sweet Tea and Sass! Although I've not met her in person, I believe she is quite personable, kind, and generous! I followed this read with the second book, Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off and the third book in this trilogy, The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop. I am anxious to read The Wedding Pearls which releases December 15th!
A new author I recently discovered and love: Jacqueline Woodson! I listed to the audiobook version of Brown Girl Dreaming and loved it! To me, her rather quiet yet strong voice of a low timbre was a perfect match for her writing which was concise and poignant with no self-pity or excuses. I am anxious to now read this book and then compose a review for the blog. Plus, I think her other books look to be great reads and I'm anxious to read them, then pass them on to my grandchildren. This book has won more awards! And in my opinion, all well deserved! :)
By my count I am now at 13 authors. You can't say I short-changed you on this Top "Ten" Tuesday post! (Well, you could, but you'd be lying! :))
Just quickly, six more new-to-me authors I discovered and loved this past year:
Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I absolutely adored! So much so that I had to split my review into two postings: Part 1 and Part 2. There was just so much I wanted to say about this book! I still break out in smiles just thinking about it. I also own The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy but have yet to read it. Too many books and too little time! :)
You might not immediately recognize the name Graeme Simsion, but you should. He wrote The Rosie Project which has been hyped by many reviewers and readers, and for good reasons! I also loved the sequel, The Rosie Effect, but have yet to complete a blog posting for it! If you haven't read this one yet, I strongly recommend it! Don is so genuine and sincere!
Amy Tan is an author I read for the first time this year. I just completed The Kitchen God's Wife for the Literary Wives online book discussion group and am halfway through The Joy Luck Club and loving it. Tan depicts the plight of females in China with intensity and gut-wrenching (for me, at least) situations. She makes me much more appreciative for my own life as a female in the U.S. in this time period.
An aptly named book club read--The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe was one of our selections for the Borders Book Club this year and I loved this book! I felt as if I knew each character personally, as a super-close friend! Not many writers make me feel that way and I love it when one does! What I really loved was the fact that one of our members felt we should read it because when she read it she was reminded of how our own book club reflected the same path of development--from strangers to very close friends! Awww... :)
A surprise for me was All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg! I truly loved this book, and perhaps even more so as time passes from when I read it. In what I've read and heard of Mr. Greenberg, I also really like him as a person. I first became familiar with him when I read My Father's Wives for the Literary Wives online book discussion group. I could relate to Johnathan's feelings of not having truly known his father and admired him for trying to gather as much information as he could from the man's wives. That was a brave and courageous thing to do, in my opinion! Although I really liked this book, I believe I preferred AYCAF a bit more...
The final new-to-me author for 2015 I'll mention is Jane Green. She has written many books, but so far I have read only one, Saving Grace. I was also fortunate enough to meet and speak with her this past spring. She is such a talented person! Not only is she a prolific and beloved author, she is also a professionally trained chef! Saving Grace was not especially my kind of book, though I felt Green did a good job with it and I like her writing style. I am anxious to read some of her other books, of which I own a few! I am especially interested in The Beach House which she claims is her own favorite!