Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Best Books of the Year.

RHYS: A newspaper called me to ask me which were my favorite books of 2014. Needless to say there were Reds among my recommendations, but also Louise Penny's The Long Way Home. and Jacqueline Winspear's The Care and Management of Lies. I felt it was a good year for the sort of books I enjoy--great sense of time and place, strong likable characters.

So which books did you particularly enjoy?
And my second question: which books are on your holiday list?
I have a couple (one was given to me early as a present by Barbara Peters. It's a Hundred Special places for a woman to visit in France..., and the other I've suggested my husband might want to order for me. It's called Lisette's List by Sophie Vreeland, and is about Impressionist art, hidden from the Nazi's in WWII I love books that are set in France/span generations/have an element of mystery/and are about Impressionist art. So I can't wait to read it.

How about you? What books are on your wish list?

LUCY BURDETTE: Books are all I tell family members if they ask what I want for Christmas. This year, my choices seem to be all about food (natch!) and France. I jumped the gun and bought myself David Lebovitz's new cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. But I'm also dying for Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi, and Anne Willen's One Souffle at a Time.

It has been a great year for Red books, of course--have adored reading the latest from Hank, and Susan, and Debs, and Rhys--and can't wait for you all to get your hands on Hallie's new one, Night, Night, Sleep Tight! And I just ordered Mary Kennedy's NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, and Sherry Harris's debut, TAGGED FOR MURDER. Yay, you'll hear more about her next week!

HALLIE EPHRON: #1 on my wish list is "The World of Raymond Chandler: In His Own Words" edited by Barry Day. Chandler was such a thoughtful writer, one of the reviews quotes him on writing "The Long Goodbye, Chandler": “I watched my wife die by half inches and I wrote the best book in my agony of that knowledge . . . I was as hollow as the places between the stars.” He's a prose poet. I love reading great writers talk about writing.

And my recent favorite to recommend is a wonderful collection of short stories, "In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon," edited by Leslie Klinger an Laurie R. King. Michael Connelly writes one where Harry Bosch meets a medical examiner who's earned the nickname Sherlock. In one by Michael Sims, the Silver Blaze (the horse) is the narrator. Fun!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I have been reading like MAD as a judge for a contest, so I can't say anything. I am reading so much my eyes are hurting. (And yes, it was indeed a wonderful year for Reds books. Quite extraordinary.)  I did give in and buy a book for myself,which I could not resist, and it's called WHAT IF. I hoped it as a book of mystery ideas (As if!) but it turned out to be a wonderful book of serious answers to hilarious hypothetical questions. Like: What If: everyone in the world went to the same place, and then jumped up and down at the same time? And: Could you make  rocket ship out of a whole lot of hairdryers?

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Yes, a very good year for REDs, wasn't it. Now if we could just all manage to get in the same calendar year, we'd have a sweep:-) Now I'm struggling to remember what else I've read...  (One of these days I swear I really am going to keep up a book journal. 2015???) Just finished Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch, which I loved. I discovered author Mark Pryor when I did a panel with him on book tour. I've started with the first in the series, The Bookseller, and am now on the second, The Crypt Thief. Loved Karin Salvalaggio's Bone Dust White. Loved Louise Penny's The Long Way Home. And, this is cheating a bit because it's not actually out until January, but I LOVED A Fine Summer's Day, the new Charles Todd Rutledge novel.

I have so many books I need to read that I haven't thought of asking for any for Christmas, just for fun, but now I want the books on Hallie's list! And Lizette's List from Rhys's list.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: A GREAT year for Reds! Woo-hoo! I'm reading galleys for an award, so I'm a little bombarded (in a good way) with fiction, so I'm hoping for some non-fic — DRINKING WITH MEN by Rosie Shiap (my Brooklyn neighbor!), THE GRAMERCY TAVERN COOKBOOK, Amy Poehler's YES, PLEASE, and Alan Cumming's NOT MY FATHER'S SON.

I'm also obsessing over — get this — a wine scratch-and-sniff book. Yes, you read that correctly! It's called THE ESSENTIAL SCRATCH AND SNIFF GUIDE TO BECOMING A WINE EXPERT: TAKE A WHIFF OF THAT by Richard Betts. I mean, I haven't actually sniffed it yet, but... c'mon.... it sounds so fun!

RHYS: Some great suggestions here for Christmas presents, and if I might include a small plug here (since it's the last day of my week as host) If you have a child in your life and you are looking for a stocking stuffer, or you are seriously missing Harry Potter, please give my new children's book a try. It's called Dreamwalker--an adventure/fantasy novel set at a strange boarding school in Wales and it's available as a paperback and an e-book.

Now please share your favorite books of the year and your wishes for holiday gifts!


  1. Oh, so many books I've enjoyed reading. It pretty much goes without saying that I've read --- and enjoyed --- each of the Reds' books. Other particular favorites include The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber; ARk Storm by Linda Davies; The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly; Personal by Lee Child; Festive in Death by J. D. Robb; The Golem of Hollywood by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman. I've read several ARCs as well, but my to-be-read pile continues to teeter.

    Dreanwalker is already wrapped to go under the tree; I'm looking forward to reading the new Reds' books in the new year . . . .

  2. I just added another stack of books to my TBR pile from all of your suggestions. And thank you, Lucy for mentioning Tagged for Death!

  3. Martin Walker, Resistance Man; Ann Cleeves, Dead Water; Laura Lippman, After I'm Gone; Donna Leon, By Its Cover; Daniel Silva, The Heist; Elly Griffiths, Outcast Dead. Enjoyed them all!

  4. Yes, indeed, a banner year for Reds! Lovely to see how you all have each others' backs--the encouragement, the cheering, the nudges to keep going. And, of course, the great new authors you bring along to meet the rest of us. So many books this year, I can't single out a title--maybe I should start a book diary, too.

    And I can see from your suggestions here that there will be a surfeit of reading to take me into the new year. Thanks, Reds!

    Oh, what is it about Wales, Rhys, that sets fire to the imagination? I am thinking of that other set of books set there--by Susan Cooper. Can't wait to read Dreamwalker!

  5. A banner year for Reds - YES! I have enjoyed all of them.

    And I have a lengthy list of favorites, which I'll be posting at my Meanderings and Muses, but the stars included novels by friends, and I always love that. Margaret Maron's DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS, Louise Penny's THE LONG WAY HOME and THE HOLLOW GIRL by Reed Farrel Coleman.

    Others include THE STORED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin, SNICKER OF MAGIC by Natalie Lloyd, BITTERSWEET BY Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhard. and SMALL BLESSINGS by Martha Woodroof.

    The two cookbooks I'm raving about this year are Sara Midda's A BOWL OF OLIVES: ON FOOD AND MEMORIES. If you're familiar with Sara's work, you know what to expect - beautiful little gems scattered throughout, including some of her fabulous watercolors. And Rachel Khoo's THE LITTLE PARIS KITCHEN which includes some quite beautiful photograpy.

    Being a lover of lists, the end of year lists are a treat for me!

  6. Almost all of the above. Plus:

    My Notorious Life, by Kate Manning

    Circle of Influence, by Annette Dashofy (promising new series)

    Then Again, by Diane Keaton (nonfiction, and wonderful)

    Really looking forward to listening to Alan Cumming's, book, too. What a story he has.

  7. So many wonderful books mentioned here, and some are on my 2014 favorite list. I certainly agree that the Reds hit it out of the park in 2014. Lucy's Murder with Ganache and Death with All the Trimmings, my favorite Key West treats; Jen J. Danna's A Flame in the Wind of Death and Two Parts Bloody Murder (great anthropological forensics series, with Two Parts Bloody Murder, #4, coming out in March 2015); Rhys' Molly Murphy set in Paris, City of Darkness and Light followed by the always fun Georgie, Queen of Hearts; Alan Bradley's The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (I just love Flavia de Luce); Anne Cleeland's Murder in Retribution (new series by Ann and just amazing); Debs' fascination trip through yet another part of London, To Dwell in Darkness; Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (Zevin's YA book Elsewhere is one of my favorite reads of all, too); Elly Griffith's The Outcast Dead (Ruth Galloway series, now reading her new stand alone The Zig Zag Girl not out in U.S. until next year); Hank's latest fantastic Jane Ryland, Truth Be Told; Catriona McPherson's The Day She Died and her latest Dandy Gilver, A Deadly Measure of Brimstone; Anna Loan-Wilsey's A Sense of Entitlement (main character is a traveling secretary in the 1890s who seems to find herself solving a murder wherever she goes); Karen Salvalaggio's Bone Dust White (great new debut author and book); Hannah Dennison's Murder at Honeychurch Hall (first in an English mystery series that promises to be full of fun and murder); Sharon (S.J.) Bolton's A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacy Flint amazing series); E.Lockhart's We Were Liars, a book that I passed on to my daughter and granddaughter so that we could all groan together at the end; Peter May's The Lewis Trilogy (The Chess Men wasn't available until this year in the states, but I had ordered the last two from Book Depositor early); Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm (the transition to writing crime/mystery seems to be working well for Rowling); Diana Gabladon's Written in My Own Heart's Blood (a bonus year for Outlander fans with the book and the new Starz TV series); Louise Penny's The Long Way Home, another spectacular Armand Gamache book; Elizabeth Elo's North of Boston; and Val McDermid's latest thriller, The Skeleton Road. I haven't been lucky enough to read Hallie's upcoming Night, Night, Sleep Tight, but I am so looking forward to it. I'll probably round out the year with Tess Gerritsen's new Rizzoli and Isles, Die Again and Mary Kennedy's Nightmares Can Be Murder (on its way to me now).

    Of course, there are books I've read this year that I've loved that were published earlier. They include Anna Quindlen's Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Sujata Massey's The Sleeping Dictionary, Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park, Jamie Ford's Songs of Willow Frost, Alan Brennert's Palisades Park, Bee Ridgway's The River of No Return, and Lyndsay Faye's Seven for a Secret.

    Upcoming are a ton of exciting titles, and with January and sometimes February being my series catch-up months, I am most excited about reading the Reds' wonderful Susan's Maggie Hope series. It's my designated first destination for January. I also plan on finally delving into the Shetland Island series from Ann Cleeves and my first Margaret Maron. Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters is coming up soon, as are the following: Jacqueline Winspear's The Care and Management of Lies, Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Sena Jeter Naslund's The Fountain of St. James Court, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, Peter May's Easter Island, Katherine Howe's Conversion, Emily St. John Madel's Station Eleven, G.M. Malliet's A Demon Summer; Mary Higgins Clark's and Alafair Burke's The Cinderella Murder, Lisa Unger's In the Blood, Hannah Reed's Off Kilter, and William Kent Krueger's Ordinary Grace.

  8. I finally did it. I typed too much for it to be posted, so I will finish my comments here.

    I just wanted to say to Debs that I used to keep a written book journal, but I gave into technology and now use the Goodreads Challenge every year to keep track books read and reviews. If you want to see an example, my link is

  9. If I tried to list all the books I read and loved this past year, I'd have the same problem with space as Kathy Reel. In addition to books by our own Reds, I've read and enjoyed the two crime novels written by Rowling as Robert Galbraith. I was on the edge of my seat as I read each of them and after finishing each one I really missed the characters.

    Since I have just come into some Christmas money, I plan to get myself to the bookstore (any minute now!) and purchase the latest books by our Reds. I can't exactly figure out where I'll put them when I'm finished, as my stacks of books are getting higher and higher and teetering away, but I'll manage somehow!

  10. Oh, and I should have mentioned that Dreamwalker is waiting on my Kindle for a read very soon, and I plan on buying the print copy for my older granddaughter for Christmas. You rock, Rhys!

    And, maybe I would be allowed to include Julia's latest, Through the Evil Days, even though I read it at the end of 2013. After all, it was up for the Anthony this year, along with Truth Be Told.

  11. Of course, I recommend anything by a Jungle Red writer. :)

    I am currently enjoying the very first Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid mystery. I have read some of the more recent ones, and decided I should really start at the beginning.

    Charles Finch's newest was quite good. The Laws of Murder.

    Also enjoyed That Summer by Lauren Willig.

    If you don't mind darker thrillers, Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder Amish mysteries are good--especially her latest, The Dead Will Tell.

    The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander

  12. I can't possibly pick a favorite and will not even try, as I love each storyteller in my life. What else do we have to share but our stories. One day I might like this son better than that. No, probably not. And the next day I might want to turn all our sons into daughters. Probably not either although more of a temptation. What else have we done in our existing but live out our stories and talk about them. I love them all. Thank you.

  13. I've been keeping a book of what I've read since 1999. I love the reading memories when I thumb through it. I don't have it with me at present but I know I'm around 110 books read for the year so far. (I'm just a fast-ish reader and not intentionally trying to speed through them).
    My first love in crime fiction is historical mysteries. My favorite read this year was CJ Sansom's LAMENTATION. Published in October in the UK and in February here. Next, CS Harris' WHY KINGS CONFESS. And in contemporary, Louise Penny's THE LONG WAY HOME.
    Also in 2014, I reconnected with my enjoyment of space opera. I like stories set in space but only with humans, no aliens please! Yes, I'm weird. And for the past couple years I've set a goal of reading one nonfiction book a month. I'm a little behind in that but recently finished John Cleese's SO ANYWAY....
    With the new year a short ways away, I have to plan my first book to finish. For some reason, I place great importance for the coming on that first one.
    I'm caught up now on Charles Todd's series so I'm looking forward to that one coming out the first week of January.

  14. I don't put books on my own wish list because I won't get them. This year I've enjoyed Mark Pryor's The Blood Promise; Terry Shames' A Killing at Cotton Hill, The Last Death of Jack Harbin, and Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek; Karin Fossum's The Water's Edge; Reavis Wortham's The Rock Hole and The Right Side of Wrong; Deborah Crombie's No Mark Upon Her; and Minerva Koenig's Nine Days. For some reason, I'm happiest working on the backlist. I won't receive gift books because there are so many cluttering up the house and my Kindle now.

  15. Book titles comprise my whole holiday wish list. :-) Throw in a little chocolate and ... Nirvana! I loved The Long Way Home by Louise Penny.

  16. I'm going to buy some books from Amazon for my Christmas presents: Stolen Remains by Christine Trent, Snow White Red Handed by Maia Chance, Treacherous Tart by Ellie Grant, and Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams. I also might get The Game's Afoot, a Sherlock Holmes anthology by David Stuart Davies and Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd. These are cozies and historical mysteries.