Sunday, December 28, 2014

Heather's Best Reads of 2014

My reading lists each year are generally nothing to brag about to because I don’t read the kind of books that the intellectual cool kats are reading. Let's just say that few of the books I like ever make it onto the New York Times Book Review section.

I read trashy romance. There! I said it.

I love it. It’s my bread and butter. After a long day of writing and hanging out with the kiddo and husband, I just want… Well, what I want in a book kind of changes all the time. Because what I really want is for my socks to be blown off. I don’t want cheap escapism. I don’t want a cookie cutout of a hero and heroine. I really want psychological complexity and depth and to be put through the ringer and an ending that feels earned. Basically, I wish I could have Outlander or The Bronze Horsemen or… hmm, what are my other gold standards for amazing? Haha, I’m too knee-deep in historical fiction to have any other reference points of books that ripped out my guts like those two (both of which I read last year, funnily enough).  

In the meantime, I read everything else, and I try to be pretty unabashed and unashamed about it, because f*** that s*** about shaming smart chicks even when we like to read books that don’t *seem* intellectual enough or whatever crap people like to label ‘romance’ book readers with (to all of those people, I want to say, hey a-hole, I read Derrida and I understood him!... okay, well, I *mostly* understood him...!). The books I will list below may have their problems and I’m sure my fellow feminists and I could get into some heated arguments about them, but it can’t be denied that the authors want to f*** with your emotions, in some cases exploring the dark and taboo, which I think secretly fascinates us all. And they sure took me on one hell of a ride.

Also note, books on the first 3/4ths of this list are pretty much exclusively self-published books, which I went on a tear with this year. It wasn't me trying to say FU to the publishing industry or anything. These books were just telling some crazy a** interesting stories. They aren't the self-pub of even 5 years ago. These are well edited and stories the mainstream publishers aren't touching, probably why I was like, wow, this isn't anything I've ever read before (often very dark reads).

Pepper Winters: Tears of Tess; Quintessentially Q; Destroyed


Pam Godwin: Deliver; Beneath the Burn

Tabitha McGowan: The Tied Man

Tillie Cole: It Ain't Me Babe; Sweet Home; Sweet Rome; Sweet Fall

 Laurelin Paige: Fixed On You Trilogy
Mia Sheridan: Archer's Voice; Leo; Stinger (especially Archer's Voice)

A. E. Muphy: Broken; Connected

Shay Savage: Surviving Raine; Transcendence

Also, I barely read anything in YA, and mostly just friends' or acquaintances' books, but of what I did, there were a few stand outs, this amazing series:

Juliann Rich: Caught in the Crossfire; Searching for Grace

and this book was great too, I feel like I want to suck out the author's brains to figure out and understand how she wrote a dude's voice so naturally since I'm trying to write from a guy's POV in my newest book. Men are an alien race of unfathomable shallows and crannies. Her book illustrates this perfectly.

Carrie Mesrobian: Sex & Violence

Then the later part of the year, I got into the genre I swore would never interest me, literary fiction. Stop the presses, I'm as shocked as you. Because GUYS, I found some that was readable and had PLOT! And characters I could dig into! And that hit me in the guts, which is all I really want from a book. Please, just please, books, cut me up inside but then put me back together a little bit at the end!!! I'm not sure how long this will last or if I just stumbled onto a few really good ones.

So here are some of the more literary finds,  probably more of the upmarket variety and not deep into the heavy folds of literary fiction, but I dig what I dig.

Carson McCullers: The Member of the Wedding
Anthony Marra: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Chris Bohjalian: The Light in the Ruins

Then there were these two installments, where I met Karl Ove in deep and intimate detail and couldn't look away for about a thousand pages. Like anyone who reads them, I can't imagine them leaving my thoughts any time soon.

Karl Ove Knausgård: My Struggle Book 1 & 2

And to end with, the book that blew me to pieces, and not just because of the 'choice' which I kinda knew about from pop culture, and not even because of the language usage in the writing, but because of the VOICE Styron masterfully captures-- through which there are all the things the reader can see in the immensely complex Sophie and Nathan that the 22-year-old Stingo is too young and naive to comprehend (yet with overtones of his older self seeing as he retells the story). To show your reader something your protagonist isn't seeing, when your protagonist is sort of the narrator (though occasionally his much older self jumps in with foreshadowy things) - are you getting how difficult that is to do as a writer? Wicked hard, but Styron navigates it so naturally.

God, there's just a mastery to the writing in that way. It's not about beautiful language, but it's the epitome of what they're talking about when the say voice. It was like a master class. So I'm watching all of that happen with a writer's eye and then being drawn into the tragedy of the narrative, which is almost Shakespearean as it unfolds. I felt like any keen reader can see where it's heading long before it arrives and like Romeo and Juliet, you are on the ride for the headlong rush toward disaster and you Cannot. Look. Away.

William Styron: Sophie's Choice

So, 2014, another year down, nice knowing you. 288 books read.  It's strange as hell where the rabbit trails of reading interests lead. Lets see where 2015 takes us.

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