Here, in no particular order, are the books I enjoyed the most this year.
The Searcher by Tana French
I’ve been stanning Tana French since reading her first book, In the Woods, although her last, The Witch Elm, wasn’t to my taste. I was worried that I might not love The Searcher either given that it too is apart from her wildly brilliant Dublin Murder Squad books. My fear was for naught. The Searcher is a meditative tale about Cal Hooper, an American cop who impulsively retires to a small Irish village and becomes entangled in a missing person case. French’s writing has never been better–even the rooks who haunt Cal’s yard have more personality than the leads of many a lesser book. The plot is a slow burn tour de force and you’ll […]
Given the phenomenal interest in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, we thought it would be fun to republish this!
originally published on March 2, 2015
Welcome to our new column, Winsome or Loathsome. (I was rooting for Dreamgirl or Disaster but was outvoted.) Like its counterpart, Dreamboat or Douchebag, this column will look at well-known heroines and ask the pointed question: Winsome or Loathsome? We will reserve our critique for heroines who are not universally loved or who are known for behaving badly at some point in their stories. […]
It’s the first day of 2021 and, really, it’s not a moment too soon. Worst year ever? No. That goes to 1348 when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. It’s not even the worst year in my lifetime–that has to be 2001, the year of 9/11. Still, it’s been a dumpster fire of an annum!
2021 has to be better.
For my part, I have made some resolutions I hope will make the year shine. Here are those that focus on reading.
Every year, for almost 20 years, the Literary Review has awarded a Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Here’s the criteria (we will not discuss that this award doesn’t consider romance novels):
Since 1993, the Bad Sex in Fiction Award has honoured the year’s most outstandingly awful scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. Drawing attention to the poorly written, redundant, or downright cringeworthy passages of sexual description in modern fiction, the prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature. The Award was established by Rhoda Koenig, a literary critic, and Auberon Waugh, at that time editor of Literary Review.
It’s always an experience to read Vintage AAR. This article by Paula Detmer Riggs on writing taboo subjects is especially thought-provoking. She wrote about the hero of her book, Her Secret, His Child, a book she published in 1995 and we gave a DIK to in 1998.
Years ago, her hero–and he is her hero–date-raped the heroine. Riggs writes:
The hero I love is imperfect in some terrible way. He’s an all too-human soul who’s driven by inner demons far more deadly and cruel than any serial killer or evil empire or double-agent. A man, who, because of a mistake in judgment or action, had done a terrible wrong to an innocent victim, and if that victim is our heroine, so much the better.
She knows her choice is controversial. To her critics, she replies:
Why was it written? […]
We’re coming up on the holiday stretch: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year. (Let me know if I’ve missed one you celebrate, please.) This constraints of this year–which I think of as the year which must not be named–means many of us will not spend these in the ways that we traditionally have. […]
It’s that time of year again when readers are thrilled, startled, and irritated at the picks for what is now the biggest reader poll in the world: The Goodreads Choice Awards. This year, the choices for best romance are diverse and, in some cases, puzzling.
So, let’s give it a whirl! Out of these choices, which would you pick? […]