Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Best Books of 2014 (so far)

As is my habit, here are mini reviews of the books which have made the strongest impression on me for the first half of the year. They are all novels but one, though quite varied in settings and topics.

someone else'sSomeone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

If I hadn’t needed to get up to go somewhere the next day, I’d have stayed up all night to finish this novel. It’s filled with eccentric characters who have unusual lives and relationships. The meeting of three of them during a convenience store robbery sets the tone of people dealing with their reactions to extreme situations and how that ripples out to others in their lives. Shandi, a single mom traveling with her son feels a deep connection to William, who appears heroic, but is struggling mightily with the loss of his wife and child. Running through the story are themes of love, loss and miracles with some surprising events as things unfold. My only quibble is that part of the ending did not seem true to life, but I could also see why the author chose it. The book has great depth and one of the most powerful description of death that I’ve ever read.
William Morrow 2013 320 pp. ISBN-13:978-0062105653

fat girls & lawn chairsFat Girls and Lawn Chairs by Cheryl Peck

A series of writings that are autobiographical, but not in a linear way. Growing up in a Michigan suburb in a large, noisy family with siblings nicknamed “The Wee One” and “Least Wee”, this unconventional memoir is full of humor and pathos. The author’s eccentric personality masks a deep understanding of human emotion and connections that are often startling. A few poems are sprinkled throughout, including one about the loss of her mother which feels almost too intimate to read.
Grand Central Publishing 2004 256 pp. ISBN-13:978-0446692298

Catfish Alley CoverCatfish Alley by Lynne Bryant

Roxanne Reeves, a member of the Clarksville, Mississippi Junior League, acts on the suggestion that they host tours of some of the important African-American landmarks around their city. As she does research for it, she meets some prominent black citizens and learns about a parallel side of history in their town that she never knew about. Friendships deepen and secrets are uncovered that have unexpected effects. Comparisons to The Help are probably inevitable, but this story differs in that the main characters are all educated professionals, such as nurses and teachers, and thus more independent, though still restricted by prejudicial laws. The characters are well drawn and the situations realistic, which makes for a memorable novel.
NAL Trade 2011 336 pp. ISBN-13:978-0451232281

patron-saint-of-lost-dogsThe Patron Saint of Lost Dogs and Dog Gone, Back Soon by Nick Trout

The first two books in a series about a veterinarian Dr. Cyrus Mills who, after his estranged father dies, returns to the small town where he grew up. His intention is to stabilize his father’s animal clinic, Bedside Manor, in order to sell the crumbling practice, possibly to the shiny new pet hospital across town. More comfortable looking through the lens of his microscope than at live animals, Cyrus unexpectedly gets caught up in the lives of his coworkers, neighbors and pet patients. He isn’t the warm James Herriot type, but the inner and outer conflicts makes for an appealing read, as do the animal encounters.
Hyperion 2013 and 2014 each aprox. 340 pp.

2 comments on “Best Books of 2014 (so far)

  1. Kirsty D
    June 16, 2014

    I think the cover of Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs is enough for me to buy it alone!

  2. Jackie
    June 16, 2014

    I thought that was a funny cover too, but couldn’t imagine a real cat putting up with wearing a “costume” like that, so i wondered if it was photoshopped. There are some amusing essays about her cat in the book as well.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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