Should you really buy that book enshrined on the top titles of 2013 table at mega bookstores’r’us? Is it more of a checker-outer book? Or, can it safely be avoided altogether? Here are some sound bite opinions on a few more noteworthy titles of 2013 that I read, but did not review in a full spread.
Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was a book club darling back when it was released in 2009. Since his impressive debut, Ford’s fans have been clapping and cheering for an encore. Also historical and set in Seattle with a Chinese American angle, Songs of Willow Frost is a worthy successor to Hotel. Critics have given Ford flack for the comparative harsh realism with which he tints this second novel. This realism, however, lends greater power to the emotional edge of Ford’s writing and his careful, compelling historical storytelling.
Cinder was the superb start to a fascinating sci-fi fairytale series. In Scarlet, Meyer demonstrates greater confidence as a writer and stronger direction in her plotting and character development. I enjoyed Scarlet because it delves into the tangled web that lies behind the revelations that seemed almost too simple in Cinder. I hope book three, Cress, continues in the positive direction charted by Scarlet.
A memoir from a first time author, Rapture Practice has not received the press it deserves. Hartzler tackles his childhood growing up in a Christian fundamentalist family and community where everyone is waiting for the rapture. Well-written and humorous, Rapture Practice is a great read for those interested in religion and in tales about coming to terms with one’s sexual identity. At the same time, it has the broad appeal of a more classic “growing up” saga. And, it’s funny.
Two mythical creatures stumble across one another on the streets of early 1900s New York. It sounds like the punch line of an interesting joke, but really it’s the premise of a fascinating semi-historical, semi-religio-mythical fantasy novel by debut author Helene Wecker. Her MFA background shows through in her scrumptious prose, dialogue, and description. A must-read for fantasy fans, The Golem and the Jinni gets points for a unique premise that carries reader interest through slow patches that plague the middle of the book.
Belfoure brings something fresh to the WWII European historical fiction market. The hero, a French architect, is offered an account building German factories near Paris. The job, however, has a catch. It will pay him enough to keep his family fed, but he will also have to design a secret hideaway for a Jewish friend of the factory owner. Belfoure’s strength resides in his architectural expertise, general knowledge of 1940s Paris, and the dramatic morality play of this story. He struggles, however, with the interior monologue of his hero, character development, and the tenor of conversations in 1940s Paris. Paris Architect will please those looking for a lighter historical fiction book with a more commercial writing style. I would not recommend it for those with a deep knowledge of the historical time period or the French language.
Working girls in a man’s world. Jazz age glamour. Unreliable narrator. A mysterious murder. The lush prose of a literature Ph.D. student. The Other Typist was a book I bought based on the recommendation of top literary fiction lists for 2013. I later regretted my purchase. It sounded so fantastic, which made its fall from grace all the more disappointing. The author ran into difficulties with plot pacing and development issues that left the beginning boggy and the ending with a dramatic, but illogical, twist. Throw in prose that grew a great deal too florid and significant over-forshadowing, and the troubles are weighty enough to snuff the thrill out of any mystery.
As someone who is smack dab in the target audience range, I had high hopes for Adulting. It seemed like a cute premise. I breezed through the thin book in one evening, and the experience left me feeling fearful for my generation. Most of Brown’s advice seemed like painfully common sense. The entries were flimsy and not really that entertaining. If you need very basic adult life advice because you have not had to boil water before, read the Adulting blog that birthed this book.
Now, on to some exciting new 2014 titles!