Aaaand here we are! Part dos. Looking through both lists, I’m going to say part one was way better in terms of 2014 releases, but this part has some pretty fantastic pre-2014 novels I read! To see what books I loved earlier in the year, head over to part one.
ONE PLUS ONE | JOJO MOYES + my review
With four Jojo novels under my belt I think it’s safe to say I’ve found an author I would follow to the moon and back. One Plus One follows a single mother, her children: a loner son and math whiz daughter, one slobbery dog, and a stranger they meet on the way to a math competition. As with all of her novels, Jojo takes these characters and breathes life into them and I have yet to make it through one of her novels dry-eyed!
DEAR DAUGHTER | ELIZABETH LITTLE + my review
An It Girl had been found guilty of her socialite mother’s death. Ten years later, she’s released on a technicality and it’s a media frenzy: everyone wants a piece of Janie – especially those who believe she’s getting away with murder. To be honest, Janie has no idea if she really killed her mother or not but she knows the answers all lie in one tiny South Dakota town. Dear Daughter was a fantastic mystery/thriller! My favorite part? After each chapter there are texts or recordings or blog entries that give just a little peak into what’s going on.
THE AWAKENING OF MISS PRIM | NATALIA SANMARTIN FENOLLERA + my review
The best words to describe Miss Prim are quirky, charming, whimsical. In my review I dubbed this book The Sound of Music-meets-The Village. Totally insane, right? BUT IT WORKS. A woman applies for a position as personal librarian for a wealthy man – never named, always called The Man in the Wingchair – and discovers all the secrets this sleepy French town holds. Miss Prim takes place in the present day, but could EASILY be an old-timey novel set centuries ago. There’s a dream-like quality to it that I loved and I’m so disheartened there wasn’t more buzz around this delightful little story!
BROWN GIRL DREAMING | JACQUELINE WOODSON + my review
Read this memoir and you won’t be at all surprised by the awards/attention it’s receiving! Woodson tells the tale of her childhood, growing up in the still-segregated South, moving up North with her political activist mother. Death, race, and religion are all discussed openly and honestly and I was both shocked and heartbroken by what her daily life consisted of. Because its written in verse, brown girl dreaming can be read in an hour so there’s really no excuse here. This novel was beautiful and powerful.
2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS | MARIE-HELENE BERTINO + my review
Another novel that somehow slipped under the radar. Cat’s Pajamas is a story told in 24 hours and follows the owner of a jazz club, an elementary school teacher, and hands-down the sassiest little girl I’ve ever come across. On Christmas Eve their lives intersect and the short journey was lovely. This is yet another novel that seems to hang in limbo as far as the time period. Were it not for a throwaway line toward the end about a cell phone, I would have been completely convinced this story took place in the 30s or 40s.
THE TRAITOR’S WIFE | ALLISON PATAKI + my review
Pataki is a completely new-to-me author but I’ve fallen hard for her stories. The Traitor’s Wife is her debut and follows Peggy Shippen, socialite who married Benedict Arnold and had a rather large role in the Revolution. I had originally borrowed this from my library, but the second I finished I had ordered a copy to own – it’s that good! Pataki puts a mind-boggling amount of research into her novels and I truly felt as though I was right there in the colonies. The true mark of a great historical fiction novel is whether or not I’m intrigued enough to do further reading/research on my own. Luckily for me, Pataki includes a fantastic list of novels/biographies! You’ll be seeing her again later in the post (making her the only author to be featured here twice!
VISIONS (CAINSVILLE #2) | KELLEY ARMSTRONG + my review
I don’t read much urban fiction, so to see one included on this list is saying a lot! While on vacation I read Visions (along with the first in the series, Omens) and absolutely adored it. Olivia is living the high life: she’s the heir to a department store chain and her fiance has his sights set on running for office. Everything changes the day she discovers that, not only is she adopted, but her biological parents are the infamous Larsens, a couple who had gone on a serial-killing spree. Olivia’s search for answers opens up a new world steeped in mythology and superstitions. And you’re going to want to brush up on your Welsh!
THE SILENT SISTER | DIANE CHAMBERLAIN + my review
Sometimes I need a good kick in the pants for dragging my feet so long when it comes to certain authors. Chamberlain always felt like a writer for a much older audience, I have no idea why! So because of that I kept putting her off and avoiding her novels. When I received a copy of The Silent Sister I was a little hesitant, but went for it and, my goodness I’ve got some catching up to do!! This book seriously has it all: a beloved oldest daughter committed suicide – or, at least that was what Riley had always believed. When she cleans out her father’s house she begins to wonder just what went on that night twenty years ago and could her sister possibly still be alive? Multiple narratives are my jam and I loved seeing the story through Lisa’s eyes and I won’t spoil it but I’ll just say in my review I compared this novel to a Lifetime movie. And not in a bad way.
ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE (FINISHING SCHOOL #1) | GAIL CARRIGER + my review
Okay, technically this could be for both the first novel and its sequel, Curtsies & Conspiracies, which I read immediately after (NEVER happens). A steampunk YA series where finishing school is taken literally. These high society girls are taught the art of knife-fighting, poisoning, fainting just so…everything a young intelligencer needs to know. There are vampires and werewolves as well and everything came together so beautifully – Sophronia’s sass, this new world, good Lord the CHARACTER NAMES – that I devoured both books in record time. I love that each book ages with the girls and eagerly look forward to reading the latest, Waistcoats & Weaponry! ALSO! Carriger’s adult series seems to feature some of the same characters, so y’all know I’ll be reading those!
GLOW | JESSICA MARIA TUCCELLI + my review
Sometimes books find me, rather than the other way around. Or, in this case, I suppose it was GoodReads who discovered it. In a new feature, I took a look at novels GR recommends and this was one that instantly caught my eye. Southern fiction at its finest, Glow is a family saga spanning a century, from just before the Civil War to the 1940s. An attack leaves a mother frightened for her child and she puts her on a bus headed for her family’s hometown. When the girl doesn’t show up, however, we see just how deep the family’s roots have grown. The entire time I was reading this one I was so entranced and kept thinking back to Steal the North (one of my ALL-TIME favs and a top pick from part one!). Glow is one of those novels that is so skillfully crafted that I struggle to find just the right words to say. This is a novel to revisit time and time again.
WEST OF SUNSET | STEWART O’NAN
For someone who’s such a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald (oh, hello, perhaps you’ve noticed this blog’s name?) I have to admit I don’t know a whole lot about his later life. West of Sunset is an extremely well-researched look into Fitzgerald’s final three years, years he spent as a struggling screenwriter in Hollywood. Gone are the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age, here we see an alcoholic man in his 40s, unable to keep a job or pay his bills. Although this was a heartbreaking novel, I still enjoyed it immensely and there are so many great figures gracing its pages: Humphrey Bogart, Dorothy Parker, my boy Papa Hemingway.
THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS | ALLISON PATAKI
Ms. Pataki shines just as much in her sophomore novel as she did in The Traitor’s Wife. This time, instead of Revolutionary-era America, the story takes place in the 1850s in the Hapsburg Court. I fell head over heels for these characters, although I spoiled myself a little bit – I DIDN’T MEAN TO! I only meant to read more about some of the royals and ended up reading all about their fates. Let’s just say it doesn’t end happily for anyone involved. Even still I ADORED this book and have been on a Hapsburg kick for a good month now because of it! If you’re a fan of historical fiction, Allison Pataki is a name you NEED to know.