Here are a few of the books that I have really enjoyed the first 4 months of the year. Several of them were on my most anticipated books of the year, always a good thing, but there were a few surprises too.
1. The Invention Of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This is an excellent historical novel told through the eyes of two Charleston, South Carolina women in the early 1800s - one white and one black. Loosely based on the life of Sarah Grimke, an abolitionist and proponent of women's rights. At the age of 11, she was presented with Hetty, a slave of about the same age and this book follows their life together and separately over the next several decades. One of the things that I really liked about it was that Sarah is not a likable character at the beginning of the book, but over the years becomes more sympathetic, even if not ever becoming totally likable. A moving, beautifully written book.
2. The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore. An excellent sequel to "The Fool", one of Moore's very best books. Here the author brings the Fool from "King Lear" into a mash-up of "The Merchant of Venice", "Othello", and "The Cask of Amontillado" to an absolutely hilarious end. It shouldn't work, but it does. It is bawdy, laugh out loud funny, and a great adventure story.
3. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. Emma Donoghue's "Room" was on of my favorite books of 2010. Surprisingly, this historical novel is even better! It is based on an actual murder of an eccentric woman in 1876 San Francisco, The book is at times brutal, but the story is fascinating and I cared deeply for the characters. Donoghue uses songs of the era to give the book an authentic feel and I found the information at the end of the book about these songs very interesting. This is an outstanding book, my favorite so far in 2014.
4. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. This is an absolutely bizarre young adult book that I loved reading. Two teenage boys in Iowa set loose a biological agent that creates 6 foot tall praying mantises that only want to eat (preferably humans) and reproduce. Austin knows he is in love with his girlfriend, but is worried that he may be in love with his best friend Robby too. The interaction between Austin and Robby is great and rings true. The book is hard to describe but well worth reading.
5. Closed Doors by Lisa O'Donnell. An excellent new novel by Lisa O'Donnell, author of "The Death of Bees", which was my favorite book in 2013. Michael is an 11 year old boy living in a remote Scottish village. After an attack on a family member, he must keep a secret that no child should have to. Michael is a great character and has a wonderful voice. I didn't always believe in what some of the actions that the adults took, but Michael always rang true.
6. Tigerman by Nick Harkaway. Fascinating look at how a costumed superhero might work in the real world. A semi-retired British sergeant is assigned as consul to an island nation that may be destroyed in a natural disaster at any moment. He becomes Tigerman in order to try and keep order on the island. Harkaway is an amazing writer, and while "The Gone-Away World" is still my favorite of his books, this one is a fantastic read!