Friday, January 16, 2015

A Year in Books, 2014 Edition (Part 1)

Many people take their reading pretty seriously, so far as to make a list of the books they are projecting to read in the following months. Now, I'm not that organized, nor am I able to make up my mind so far in advance. Instead, I select what I'll read next pretty much on a whim from one of the many piles of books I have lying everywhere, or from the increasingly unmanageable list of digital books hiding in my iPad. I do, however, set a numeric goal for each year: At least one more book than the previous year but at least one less than what I actually wanna read. Say, last year's goal as I set it in Goodreads was 16 books, then I read 17. Now the new goal is 18, but I really want to read at least 19. Yes, I know, silly. Oh, but the feeling of surpassing your determined goals!!

Anyway, as part of this little reading challenge of mine (and Goodreads), I shoot to read one book in French and at least one in Spanish, and I always share with my blogger friends a short review of my year in books. So, to keep up with the habit, you have here my 2014 in books.

*Note: Because I don't want to bore you to death, I'll make this a two-part endeavor. The second and last part will be up next Friday. Hope you enjoy it!

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier - A classic story of betrayal, insecurities, and skeletons hidden in dark closets, I found the story of Rebecca too rambling and way too slow. I fell in love with Du Maurier's prose, however, and it was the beauty of her style that kept me reading 'till the very end. The opening sequence, in particular, is an example of superb writing. I also understand that I came to the story expecting a modern thriller and so, the outdated world views of the characters were bound to annoy me. Don't misunderstand me, Rebecca is a great story, you just have to remember it was written decades ago.

Blurb: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderey again." So begins Mrs. Maxim de Winter's long road down memory lane. From her humble beginnings in Montecarlo as lady companion, to her rise by marriage to one of the richest estates in the Cornish coast. Married to a man she barely knew, the young bride arrived at the grey stone manse known as Manderley only to be drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten. Her suite of rooms untouched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant, the sinister Mrs. Danvers, still loyal. Obsessed with unraveling Maderley's secretes, the second Mrs. de Winter soon began a search for Rebecca's real fate... and changed the course of her life forever.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King - The sequel to one of King's most well-known books, The Shinning, was hailed everywhere as a return to the author's old scary style. I jumped into this book happily awaiting the horrors that would make me keep the lights on at night, and I was disappointed, but only in that sense. Doctor Sleep is a great book, agile and, contrary to King's standards, short and to the point. Yes, I'm aware the book is 500 pages long, but coming from the man who wrote a 1100-pages-long opus, 500 is really not that much. I don't know if decades of reading and watching horror fiction have hardened me, but nothing really scared me in this book. I still enjoyed it like a school-girl, though, and if you are a fan of the man, you will too.

Blurb: In Doctor Sleep, the now middle aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist on The Shinning), a recovering alcoholic who has spent his life running away from his gift, finds himself the unlikely protector of young Abra, a girl with unparalleled abilities that have caught the attention of a band of murderous paranormals.

Cry for the Strangers by John Saul - One of the books I read in Spanish in 2014, I remembered Cry for Strangers like a thoroughly disturbing story. I had read it for the first time more than twenty years ago. Once again I found that the younger me was more easily impressed than the present me is. I detested this book. It is way too long, boring, and for hundreds of pages at the time, nothing happens. In the end it is all for nought as the conclusion is far from providing any answers or resolution. Reader beware... not all the books you remember fondly should be read again.

Blurb: Clark's Harbor was the perfect coastal heaven, a miracle worker that seems to liberate a small boy, an outsider, of a life-long frenzy. But now his sister is haunted by fearful visions. One by one, in violent and mysterious ways, people are dying. But never the townspeople. Only the strangers. There's a howling that comes from the sea, a deadly cry, a Cry for the Strangers...

Boy's Life by Robert McCammon - This is easily my pick of the year. A fantastic story full of memorable characters, evocative prose, and a tantalizing premise that delivers. If you haven't read McCammon before, let Boy's Life be the story that'll turn you into a life-long fan.

Blurb: Zephyr, Alabama is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson. A place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake. A desperate rescue attempt brings his father face to face with a terrible, haunting vision of death. As Cory struggles to understand his father's pain, his eyes are slowly opened to the forces of good and evil that surround him. From an ancient mystic who can hear the dead and bewitch the living, to a violent clan of moonshiners, Cory must confront the secrets that hide in the shadows of his hometown, for his father's sanity and his own life hand in the balance...

Hooked: Write Fiction that Grabs Readers - I'm not usually into self-help/autodidactic books, but I won this book years ago (I can't remember where or why for the life of me) and so I decided to give it a try. Well, I'll be damned, I actually learned a lot! The author goes through hoops to explain and exemplify his points, which allows the reader to really absorb the teaching. I'll be applying these lessons forever. 

Patriarch Run by Benjamin Dancer - A self-pub book, the author asked me to review the book not because of the genre (this is a thriller a la Jason Bourne), but because some of the characters have a strong Mexican identity. I have to say, Dancer did a great job. The story is told out of sequence and from different POVs, which keeps the reader completely focused and trying to guess how the present piece will fit in the general picture. In light of all the hacking going around in the last few months, the digital threat at the heart of the plot will make you tremble. If you like your stories full of action, complex characters, and realistic plot twists, this one is for you.  

Blurb: Billy discovers that his father might be a traitor, that he was deployed to safeguard the United States from a cyberattack on it military networks. After that mission, his father disappeared along with the Chinese technology he was ordered to steal--a weapon powerful enough to sabotage the digital infrastructure of the modern age and force the human population into collapse.

So what do you think? Next week I'll finish up with my list and reviews but in the mean time, do share your own list of 2014 books. Was there one book you particularly enjoyed? One that you hated? Recommendations are always welcomed!


Lexa Cain said...

Can you believe I haven't read most of these and haven't even ever seen the movie "Rebecca"? I tried Dr. Sleep, but couldn't connect with it. The bad guys seemed cartoonish. McCammon is an under-appreciated writer. I almost always enjoy his books. I'm looking forward to your next post. Keep on reading, and let us know what's good and what isn't! :)

Crystal Collier said...

I LOVED Hooked. I've heard mixed things about Rebecca, although it's on the list.

Way to go, setting a new goal and aiming for better than last year. I'm downgrading this year because of life changes. It's going to be a year of easy reading for me. =)

Georgina Morales said...

Thanks Lexa! I haven't seen Hitchcock's Rebecca, but I've hear it is a completely--but equally deserving--beast. I guess I should look for it!

Hi Crystal! I think the most important is to realize that reading is just one more thing to do with the very limited amount of free time we all have, as much as we love it. About 2 years ago I failed to take that into account and set a goal waaay out there. Needless to say, I failed, and it broke my heart. So good for you for knowing your limits and downgrading this year. Priorities, priorities! ;-)

Nicki Elson said...

Nice job beating your goals. I think your method for winning the challenge is brilliant. I'm also very impressed that you can read in three languages! Is there one there one that you prefer to read in?

I don't usually like to read self-help type books either -- so the recommendation from a fellow skeptic means a lot. Thanks for the tip!

Georgina Morales said...

Hi Nicki! I have the hardest time reading in French, but either English or Spanish are pretty much the same for my mind. I have reached a point where (in reading exclusively) I'm as fast understanding and moving along a story in both languages. One day, I hope I'll feel the same way about French. One day far, far away... =)

Thanks for commenting!