Though I started my blog several months into 2013, I still managed to read a lot of books. Some I liked. Some I didn't like. In the various titles I was able to read throughout last year, I had a few that I would deem my favorites. Here's the list I liked the best from the books I reviewed in 2013 (in no particular order).
The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Gifted with a mind that continues to impress the elders in his village,
Ichmad Hamid struggles with knowing that he can do nothing to save his
friends and family. Living on occupied land, his entire village operates
in fear of losing their homes, jobs, and belongings. But more
importantly, they fear losing each other.
On Ichmad's twelfth birthday, that fear becomes reality.
his father imprisoned, his family's home and possessions confiscated,
and his siblings quickly succumbing to hatred in the face of conflict,
Ichmad begins an inspiring journey using his intellect to save his poor
and dying family. In doing so he reclaims a love for others that was
lost through a childhood rife with violence and loss, and discovers a
new hope for the future. Reminiscent of The Kite Runner and One Thousand Splendid Suns, this is an uplifting read, which conveys a message of optimism and hope.
Why I liked it:
Though the story centered around two clashing cultures in the Middle East, the underlying themes of prejudice, fear, and misunderstanding can be seen in any part of the world. How a person chooses to address them depends upon a number of factors. In the book, two people from the same family are presented with the same challenges and yet they go down very different paths. The level of intimacy the book creates between the characters and the reader stayed with me long after I finished reading.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in
an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a
suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects
otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s
life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her
father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas
Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.
For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family
dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written
about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about
the man himself. Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for
the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and
deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world. The last time he
got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his
career. This time he might lose even more.
Why I liked it:
Marisha Pessl took a long time between the release of her first book in order to create a world that sucks a reader in from the start of the first chapter. The time and attention to detail pays off. I was amazed at how thorough the creation of her world was. From the websites to the documents to the lingering questions after the last word has been read, this book had a grip on me. I definitely would be a Cordovite. Who knows? Maybe I really am.
Pandemic: A Novel (Infected #3) by Scott Sigler
The alien intelligence
that unleashed two horrific assaults on humanity has been destroyed. But
before it was brought down in flames, it launched one last payload-a
tiny soda-can-sized canister filled with germs engineered to wreak new
forms of havoc on the human race. That harmless-looking canister has
languished under thousands of feet of water for years, undisturbed and
Days after the new disease is unleashed, a
quarter of the human race is infected. Entire countries have fallen. And
our planet's fate now rests on a small group of unlikely heroes, racing
to find a cure before the enemies surrounding them can close in.
Why I liked it:
As I have said before, I'm a longtime fan of Scott Sigler. Even if I hadn't been, the unique way in which the world is nearly destroyed by the alien virus, coupled with humanity's response, would have been enough for me to pick up a copy anyway. The series tears at your heart while feeding the insatiable part of the brain that craves action and violence. This book is a brilliant conclusion to the series that celebrates the best and the worst this planet has to offer.
Last Train to Omaha by Ann Whitely-Gillen
James Milligan, the solitary and impenetrable chief architect at one of
Chicago’s leading design firms, has never recovered from the gruesome
death of his best friend nearly two decades before. He’s learned that a
distant heart is the only way to shut out the nagging guilt and pain
that threatens to capsize him at any moment. Only the dying veterans at
the Aaron Milligan Palliative Care Center know the depth of the
overwhelming compassion that James harbors within himself, and he is
determined never to let anyone else into his heart — or his future —
However, when caring and patient palliative care nurse
Rebecca Doyle enters his world, his hardened exterior begins to crack
against his will. Will Martin Diggs, the charismatic and perplexing
Vietnam War veteran convince James that it’s not too late to reclaim his
Why I liked it:
When a person goes off to war, they come back a changed person. There's so much that they cannot talk about that it's hard for them to slip into their roles as civilians. It's somewhat similar when a person suffers a traumatic experience. Both avenues are explored in this book in such a way that it shines light on the state of help for both categories of people suffering. By reading and talking about the difficulties, awareness is spread so that we may help others before things get out of hand. Not to mention, the bonds between the characters are so strong that they draw the reader further into a net of compassion and leave the reader reaching for the tissues.
Buck: A Memoir by M.K. Asante
MK Asante was born in
Zimbabwe to American parents: a mother who led the new nation’s dance
company and a father who would soon become a revered pioneer in black
studies. But things fell apart, and a decade later MK was in America, a
teenager lost in a fog of drugs, sex, and violence on the streets of
North Philadelphia. Now he was alone—his mother in a mental hospital,
his father gone, his older brother locked up in a prison on the other
side of the country—and forced to find his own way to survive
physically, mentally, and spiritually, by any means necessary.
is a powerful memoir of how a precocious kid educated himself through
the most unconventional teachers—outlaws and eccentrics, rappers and
mystic strangers, ghetto philosophers and strippers, and, eventually, an
alternative school that transformed his life with a single blank sheet
of paper. It’s a one-of-a-kind story about finding your purpose in life,
and an inspiring tribute to the power of education, art, and love to
heal and redeem us.
Why I liked it:
Not your average memoir, this book was full of the cold truth of life on the streets. The author threw caution to the wind, wrote honestly and openly about what he and others went through during that period of time. Yet for all the differences between his world and mine, there were the underlying human needs that connected us - acceptance, survival and love. These are true for anyone any place in the world but the author displayed his faults and flaws as well. Both a survival and coming-of-age story, this book spoke volumes about us as both individuals and as a society when we let our children down.
Where We Belong by Catherine Ryan Hyde
and her mom are poised at the edge of homelessness… again. The problem
is her little sister, Sophie. Sophie has an autism-like disorder, and a
tendency to shriek. No matter where they live, home never seems to last long. Until they move in with Aunt Vi, across the fence from a
huge black Great Dane who changes everything. Sophie falls in love
immediately, and begins to imitate the “inside of the dog,” which,
fortunately, is a calm place. The shrieking stops. Everybody begins to
breathe again. Until Paul Inverness, the dog’s grumpy, socially isolated
owner, moves to the mountains, and it all begins again.
Angie’s humiliation, when they’re thrown out of Aunt Vi’s house, Angie’s
mom moves the family to the mountains after Paul and his dog. There,
despite a fifty-year difference in their ages, Angie and Paul form a
deep friendship, the only close friendship either has known. Angie is
able to talk to him about growing up gay, and Paul trusts Angie with his
greatest secret, his one dream. When the opportunity arrives, Angie
decides to risk everything to help Paul’s dream come true, even their
friendship and her one chance at a real home—the only thing she’s
dreamed of since her father was killed. A place she can never be thrown
out. A place she can feel she belongs.
Why I liked it:
Part of the reason this book resonated with me is the fact that mirrors part of my own past. I was Angie for a number of years growing up and having to care for two younger brothers. Only one was diagnosed with Lupus at a young age but all the thoughts that we see Angie having were in my own mind at times. Though I also had both of my parents for support, there were times when it felt as though I didn't. To see someone in a similar situation made it easy to empathize with the characters but the essence of the story stayed with me long after reading. A very touching story, it reaches into the reader's heart and makes a small place there.
What books made your list for 2013?
Leave me some examples in the comments as well as any suggestions for books to look for in 2014.
Until next time,