Allison here: Because I’m traveling most of this week, I asked Toni Linenberger, a huge reader and friend of mine, to blog for me, specifically about some of her favorite books so far this year. So let us both know: What’s your favorite book of 2014? It could be a new book or a new-to-you book. And please … give a big MSW welcome to Toni!
Books Not to Miss!
Not long ago when I was gushing my love for Notorious, Allison suggested that I do a blog recommending a few good books. Before I had thought it all the way through I said yes. After I got over the giddiness of being asked to blog at one of my favorite places the hard part began. Of all the wonderful books I’ve read recently what did I really want to recommend to others? Did I want to focus it on romantic suspense or just pick the best? What really rose to the level of outstanding?
After a lot of thought, and maybe a glass of wine or two, here’s what I came up with (with some bonus entries thrown in along the way):
1. Notorious by Allison Brennan. (You knew that was coming, right?) I loved Max and the mystery aspect of this novel. It falls into the mystery category more than romantic suspense, but that seems fitting for this set of characters. The character depth and interactions elevate it into a great book. These characters have many stories to tell and are definitely the makings of a long running series. I’m excited to see more of for Max and am interested to see where we go from here. I’m also hopeful the more straight mystery aspect brings new readers to Brennan’s work.
2. Zero Day by David Baldacci. This is the first in Baldacci’s John Puller series. I read it when it first came out and it is still one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. I’m a Baldacci fan to begin with, so this was an auto-buy for me. I was expecting a typical good Baldacci story. I got far more. The characters are well-developed and the action moves quickly. There are interesting references to cold war nuclear activities. I recommended this one to a friend at work. Every time he buys another Baldacci book he lets me know it is all-my-fault. A close second on my list of favorite Baldacci books is The Whole Truth. Both bring to light the question of whether or not truth is stranger than fiction. Much like Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, there will long be questions as to the validity of both these tales.
If you’ve never read Baldacci’s The Christmas Train, add it to your TBR list/pile. Though very different from his thrillers it is a wonderful holiday story.
3. Fifty-to-One by Charles Aradi. This is the 50th novel Hard Case Crime published. For those that aren’t familiar, HCC returns to the tradition of the pulps; complete with amazing covers. They are republishing pulp classics while also printing new work in the same style. Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid and Joyland were both published by HCC. It was a sad day when they had to change publishers and moved to the trade size format. In my opinion pulps should be mass market paperback size similar to the original publications.
Originally released in 2008, I’ve been carrying this one around for a while; it has been a purse book that I just haven’t quite gotten to. (There is something about pulps that make them perfect purse books.) On a recent flight back from DC, I finished the book I had been reading and my carry-on with a back-up was sitting in first class (I was not): purse book to the rescue. This book is a love-letter to the old pulps and the writers that created them. It uses the titles from the original 50 books as the chapter headings; the original edition also includes an insert with color covers of each book. The humor is dry, but the story is really fun. There are wonderful cameos by Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block. The idea is wonderfully conceived and beautifully executed. My only disappointment was that it spent so long as a purse book. I should have picked this one up much sooner.
4. I Never Thought I’d See You Again, by Lou Aronica, ed. I originally bought this analogy because of Allison’s 36 Hours. I have always enjoyed short stories as a counter to novels. Often I will pick up something short when I am between books and don’t know what I’m in the mood for next. Of late, I’ve started keeping a short story collection in my desk drawer to read at lunch. (All my best lunch buddies have retired leaving me to my own devices.) This collection has a wide variety of stories and perception. I never would have picked up many of these on their own, but was glad I had the chance to enjoy them. I loved the idea of starting with the phrase: I never thought I’d see you again. The authors each bring a different perspective to that idea and the results are as varied as each of the authors. This one has a place on the keeper shelf right next to Love is Murder, Killer Year, and SEAL of My Dreams, other fabulous collections of short stories.
5. Making it Last by Ruthie Knox. This novella is part of Knox’s Camelot series. It picks up fourteen years after How To Misbehave and reunites us with Amber and Tony. It is gritty and raw and not always easy to read. There is honesty and reality tied up in Knox signature writing style. While most romance takes on the initial HEA, in this book Knox chooses to show us what happens after. Marriage is not easy and there will always be ups and downs. She never breaks the vital rule of romance that and HEA is forever, but she certainly reminds us that just because a couple has reached that magical point doesn’t mean it is all hearts and flowers going forward. Mary Ann Rivers’s The Story Guy and Molly O’Keefe’s Wild Child are similar reads.
While not always escapism, I’m rather enjoying some of these authors choosing to write outside the box. Life isn’t always hearts and flowers so fiction shouldn’t be either.
That being said, I’m completely on board with Jayne Ann Krentz when she says life is too short to read books that don’t end well.
Not surprisingly my TBR list continues to grow and take over my house. Here are some others I’m looking forward to: Do or Die by Suzanne Brockman; Far Gone by Laura Griffin; The Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins; The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly; King and Maxwell by David Baldacci; Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts; Charlie Davidson Six and Seven by Darynda Jones; and many, many more!
Thanks again, Allison for having me here today.
Anytime, Toni! So tells us both … what is your favorite book so far of 2014? What are you looking forward to? Any surprises out there?