It's hard to believe 2014 is half over. That means it's time to think about the top ten books for the first half of the year. When I went back over my log, it's an interesting list. There are only a couple mysteries on it. But, that may change with the second half since some of my favorite mystery authors have books coming out: Louise Penny, Linda Castillo, Kelli Stanley, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Jeffrey Siger. I'm sure some of the books on this first half list will be knocked off by forthcoming books. In fact, I'll be a little disappointed if they're not. That would mean the second half of the year didn't measure up to expectations.
Did you read any of these books? Did they become favorites of the first half of the year? The books are in the order I read them, not in a #1 through #10 format.
Playing with Fire by J.J. Cook is the second mystery featuring Fire Chief Stella Griffin who lives in the cabin in Sweet Pepper, Tennessee that was built by a former chief who died in a fire, Eric Gamlyn. Stella took the job temporarily to train the Sweet Pepper Volunteer Fire Department. But, she's dragging her feet about returning home to Chicago. She feels connected to the community, and she has one more mystery to solve involving the sexy former chief who haunts the cabin. Terrific characters, a little romance, the ongoing excitement of fire runs, and, of course, mystery.
I would say that Teri Wilson's Unleashing Mr. Darcy is my guilty pleasure on the list. But, since I wholeheartedly agree that you should "Never apologize for your reading taste", I won't say that. Wilson's homage to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice puts the story in the middle of the world of dog shows, first in the U.S. where Elizabeth Scott and Donovan Darcy meet, and then in England. She's showing her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and he's the judge. Unleashing Mr. Darcy is respectful, humorous, and sexy, a perfect addition to the tributes to Pride and Prejudice. (And, it includes wonderful dogs.)
Natalie Lloyd's debut juvenile novel is the only juvenile book on my list, and it's there because it makes my heart sing. A Snicker of Magic is just "splendiferous". Once upon a time, Midnight Gulch, Tennessee was a place where magic lived. "The people who lived there had magic in their veins." But, by the time Felicity Pickle moved there with her mother and sister, the magic had drained, almost disappeared because of a duel between brothers. The sixth grader, though, was desperate to find a place to feel at home, and a boy with "know-how" who knew what people needed, became her friend. Felicity uses her gift of words, a love of the magic of words, to bring magic back to the town, so her family, and those of Midnight Gulch, can once again be content with their homes. This is a story in the best tradition of our magical storytellers. It's filled with magic and music, love and loss, loneliness and friendship, and stories. It's just perfect.
Any Other Name, Craig Johnson's latest Walt Longmire mystery, is a riveting story. The Wyoming sheriff should be in Philadelphia, awaiting the birth of his first grandchild. Instead, he's investigating a case in a neighboring county, asked by his former boss, Lucian Connally, who owes a dead man. Gerald Holman was investigating cold cases for the Campbell County sheriff's department when he committed suicide. But, the man's widow won't accept that, and Lucian drags Longmire into the search for answers. Why would a man who never broke rules kill himself? And, once Longmire is on a case, he won't give up. Johnson's books always have memorable characters, dry cop humor, and beautiful writing. Any Other Name is a gripping story, with hints of future trouble. I have the feeling this mystery will still be on my favorites list at the end of the year.
It must be something about bookstores with me. Goodnight June by Sarah Jio is the second bookstore novel on my list. When June Andersen, a driven New York City banker, inherits Bluebird Books, a children's bookstore in Seattle, she knows she'll sell it. But, she didn't count on discovering the letters between her great-aunt, Ruby, and children's author Margaret Wise Brown. She also didn't count on her remembered love for that bookstore, and memories of her childhood. June's own life unfolds, and Margaret Wise Brown and Ruby reveal their lives in enchanting letters in this wonderful book. It's a novel filled with passion for books, for children's books. It's filled with secrets about love, friendship, sisters, and what is important in life. Goodnight June, in the end, is as comforting for a book lover as Brown's own classic, Goodnight Moon.
Let's face it. I read for entertainment. These books may not make a "Best of..." list, but I've read ninety books so far, and these are my favorites of 2014.