Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Favorite Books, 2009

The holidays feel less rushed this year due to my retirement. There is more time for family, friends, baking and decorating. But in one area of my life, there is still a lack of time. I can't seem to catch up on my reading! Serving on the TLA Lariat Book Award committee means that I am always knee deep in novels. Because I had to stay away from memoirs, this year's list of favorites features only fiction, and since I've written posts about most of these titles during the year, I'll keep my comments short.

Sworn to Silence (Minotaur Books) by Linda Castillo. A whodunit starring a female, formerly Amish police chief. Hard to put down.

Prayers for Sale (St. Martins Press) by Sandra Dallas. The friendship between two women in a Colorado mountain town during the Great Depression. Homespun appeal.

A Reliable Wife ( Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) by Robert Goolrick. A mail order bride is not what she appears to be. Suspenseful, passionate historical fiction.

The Walking People (Houghton Mifflin) by Mary Beth Keane. Three Irish folk make their way in America, hiding a common secret between them. In my eyes, a literary masterpiece.

Border Songs (Knopf) by Jim Lynch. When an ungainly bird watcher/outsider named Brandon Vanderkool becomes a Border Policeman on the Canadian/U.S. border, no one expects him to succeed, but indeed he does. Quirky, zany, funny.

The Forgotten Garden (Atria) by Kate Morton. An orphan and her surprising history, set in Australia and England. A rewarding maze of family secrets, full of stories within stories.

Short Girls (Viking Press) by Bich Minh Nguyen. Two Vietnamese-American sisters finally get to know each other as adults returned home for their father's U.S. citizenship party. This first novel has both humor and heart.

Baking Cakes in Kigali (Delacorte Press) by Gaile Parkin. A Tanzania grandmother, her cake baking business and nurturing ways with customers and neighbors. A delightful read comparable to the Number One Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith.

Half Broke Horses: a True-Life Novel (Scribner) by Jeanette Walls. Featuring the unforgettable Lily Casey Smith, a teacher, rancher, bootlegger and horse wrangler. Based on the life of the author's grandmother, this book has true spunk.

A Happy Marriage (Scribner) by Rafael Yglesias. A husband looks back at his less than perfect married life as his wife lays dying of cancer. Profound, challenging, disturbing, and at times neurotic, but clearly a masterpiece.

Until next year, then -- best wishes and happy reading!

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