Happy New Year! The Girl and I wish you all the best in 2015!
I read 80 books last year, which was an amazing feat given how busy/stressful last year was for my family. I’m still finding it hard to find time to read/blog/read blogs, but I’ve given up trying to plan it all out; I’m just going with the flow these days. Despite all the chaos, I did manage to finish all of my reading challenges, so YAY ME! Here’s my list of favorite books from 2014, keeping in mind that all of them were read last year but not necessarily published last year.
My Top 10 of 2014
The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff
(from my review) Jenoff unflinchingly details the struggles of living in an occupied country, the atrocities committed by the Nazis as they liquidated Jewish neighborhoods, and the danger of ignoring what’s happening in your own backyard. She deftly balances the excitement of taking action with the horrors and loss inevitable in war, and she makes a story that happened decades ago relevant in the present day. The Winter Guest is about the bonds between sisters and twins, the destructive nature of secrets, loyalty and betrayal, and the need to preserve wartime stories of courage and resistance before those who know exactly what happened are gone.
Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James
(from my review) Jane Austen’s First Love is a satisfying novel that gives Jane the love story that many of us imagine she had. But more than that, it’s a portrait of a young woman who was ahead of her time in many ways, whose brilliantly composed stories and characters have stood the test of time. James shows Jane Austen as a normal teenager, with a desire to act older than her age, an impulsiveness that prompts her to make poor decisions, and a romantic nature that ensured she truly felt the things she wrote about. The few letters that survived provide the only glimpse we’ll ever really have of the real Jane, but James does such a fantastic job creating a believable inner narrative, I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t actually inside Jane’s head reading her thoughts.
First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
(from my review) It can be difficult for authors juggling a dual narrative to make them equally appealing to readers, but Lovett had me hanging onto every word of both stories from the very first page. I thought it was creative how Lovett puts Jane Austen at the center of a mystery that takes a sinister turn. The friendship between Jane and Rev. Mansfield is beautifully portrayed, and Lovett even makes Sophie’s story, though wild and over-the-top, completely believable. Despite the darkness of the mystery, there are light, heartwarming moments throughout the book, from the scenes where Uncle Bertram passes on a love of books and reading to Sophie to the scenes where Jane shares her writing with Rev. Mansfield.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
(from my review) Looking at the world through the eyes of a girl who is facing the end before she’s really had a chance to live makes you ponder what it means to be truly alive and to fall in love. The Fault in Our Stars makes you appreciate the little things and think about what it means to remember and be remembered. I didn’t expect these characters and their love story to affect me so deeply, but it’s definitely a novel that will stay with me for a long time.
The Annotated Persuasion by Jane Austen, annotated and edited by David M. Shapard
(from my review) The Annotated Persuasion is the perfect book for Austen fans or readers who simply want to delve deeper into the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Shapard covers so many topics that it’s impossible to list them all, but it’s obvious he has done his homework in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of the novel. Most of all, I loved revisiting one of my favorite novels, and I loved it ever more the second time around.
The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson
(from my review) The Sea Garden brings to life the ordinary people who did extraordinary things during the war, from the young women who proved they could hold their own as secret agents to the farmers who allowed Allied planes to land in their fields. Lawrenson captures the desperation of wireless operators running from the Gestapo and those who spent years trying to find out why their loved ones disappeared during the war, as well as the blurred lines between hero and traitor. I found myself lost in this story from the very beginning, with rich descriptions of the various landscapes and plenty of mystery to keep me guessing.
Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan
(from my review) I loved everything about this book, but most especially I loved that it was more than just cover images. Sullivan definitely did her homework, and it’s obvious how much she enjoyed this project. I learned a lot about how books were made in Austen’s time and how much the process has changed, and I had a few laughs as well, particularly at a cover of Persuasion that portrays “the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy Captain Wentworth as the commander of a 1960s-era New England schooner” looking “like he fell off an Old Spice bottle.”
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin
(from my review) For Such a Time was the first book in a long time that I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to read, and for that alone it deserves 5 stars. It was an enjoyable novel (or as enjoyable as a novel about the Holocaust can be), and it read like a thriller toward the end. I just got lost in the story and followed the characters through times of despair, hope, bravery, sorrow, and joy. Even if I couldn’t believe the outcome, I wanted to, and I applaud Breslin for taking a chance and telling a story about hardship and courage, love and faith, and a fight for freedom.
Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson
(from my review) Somewhere in France is at its core a wartime romance, but it is so much more than that. Robson brings to life the battles at home and abroad and shines a light on the women who got their hands dirty and put their lives on the line for the war effort. Robson keeps the narrative off the actual battlefield, but the descriptions of the ambulance runs and the casualty clearing stations are just as powerful as stories told from the trenches. Once I started this novel, I couldn’t stop and read its nearly 400 pages in one sitting. I fell in love with the characters and was captivated by the atmosphere Robson created, and while I haven’t read too many World War I novels, Somewhere in France ranks among the best I’ve read so far.
Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion by Alyson Richman, Jenna Blum, Sarah McCoy, Melanie Benjamin, Sarah Jio, Erika Robuck, Kristina McMorris, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, and Karen White
(from my review) Grand Central seems to perfectly capture the postwar atmosphere in a big city, with the chaos in the train station and the roller coaster of emotions within each character. The changes in society, especially in regards to women and their romantic relationships and career aspirations, also feature prominently in some of these stories. I was impressed not only by the character development in these stories but also by the ways in which the characters crossed paths with one another, which emphasizes how well this collection is structured. If you love novels set during World War II or have loved novels by these authors in the past, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on a copy.
Despite having a busy year that involved graduating from 8th grade, applying to high schools, and starting her freshman year, she still managed to read 25 books (not including her in-class assignments)! Of course, she hasn’t had time to write reviews (or start the blog she had been working on), but here are her top picks for 2014.
The Girl’s Favorite Books of 2014
What were your favorite books of 2014? If you’ve posted a “best of” list, please feel free to link to it in the comments so I can check it out!
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