Tuesday, December 11, 2007

best of 2007: fiction

And now it's time for my favorite novels of 2007! Just a few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were originally published in 2007, but since that’s when I first read them, they belong on this list.
  • Aside from the first three, these aren’t in preferential order.
  • Your mileage, as always, may vary.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: Was the final book worth the wait? Oh yes, and then some. This is a beautifully woven tapestry with some dark, genuinely tearjerking moments leavened by hope and humor. Finishing this book was truly bittersweet.

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: This novel covers the last thirty years in Afghanistan, and starts out focusing on Mariam, the illegitimate daughter of a maid. Mariam is forced into an arranged marriage with an abusive man who eventually takes a beautiful teenage girl as his second wife. The two women start out at odds with each other, but eventually they form a friendship that is put to the test. With this heartbreaking, beautifully written novel, Hosseini proves that The Kite Runner was no fluke.

3. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta: Ruth, a human sexuality teacher, creates a firestorm of controversy when she tells her class that some people enjoy oral sex. Tim is her daughter's soccer coach, a former drug addict who found religion. This sharp, funny satire is about what happens when the two butt heads.

4. Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim: A disturbing novel about two teenage boys who share the same childhood secret. One of them believes that he was abducted by aliens because of an incident where he woke up bleeding and unable to remember the previous five hours, but the other one knows exactly what happened. It's beautifully written, but be warned that it gets pretty damn dark between those covers.

5. Smart Girls Like Me by Diane Vadino: In this funny, bittersweet novel, set in 1999, a young woman prepares for Y2K and her best friend's wedding while trying to figure out what she wants for herself, and if she should even bother trying to find happiness when the world might be coming to an end. My only real complaint about this book is that it wasn't longer.

6. The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark: In 1700's England, a young pregnant woman named Eliza is forced into seclusion, working as a maid for a mysterious man who wants to prove that frightening a woman during her pregnancy will result in the birth of a monster. When his experiments on Eliza fail, he turns his attention to Mary, a mentally challenged woman, and Eliza is determined to save Mary and her unborn child. Beautifully written, although unnerving and bleak at times; I couldn't put it down.

7. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin: In medieval England, the butchered bodies of four children are discovered, and because one of the bodies was found on the front lawn of a Jewish citizen, the Jewish population is in danger. The king, fearing a riot, calls on an Italian doctor (the "mistress of the art of death") to investigate the crime. One of the reviews quoted on the back calls this novel "CSI meets The Canterbury Tales", which perfectly describes this very satisfying book.

8. T Is for Trespass by Sue Grafton: When Kinsey Millhone's elderly neighbor Gus is injured, his niece hires a private nurse named Solana Rojas to look after him. Kinsey doesn't like the nurse, and when she finds out that Solana is a sociopath who's stolen a former coworker's identity, she must try to stop Solana before Gus falls victim to her scheme. By far Grafton's most disturbing book, and (in my opinion) also her best.

9. The Unquiet by John Connolly: Private investigator Charlie Parker is hired by a woman who's being stalked by a man who wants to know where her father is. When Charlie starts digging into the case, he finds some truly nasty shit. I was pretty disappointed by Connolly's last couple of books, so I didn't have high hopes for this one, but I'm glad to report that he's got his groove back. My one complaint is that there's not enough Louis and Angel, but for me, there never is.

10. Heartsick by Chelsea Cain: Oh my god, this was so fucking creepy. It's a thriller about a cop who was kidnapped by Gretchen Lowell, a beautiful female serial killer who tortured him to the brink of death and then inexplicably turned herself in. Years later, he's trying to find a new serial killer who's preying on teenage girls, but he can't seem to break free of Gretchen's spell. It's a little derivative of Silence of the Lambs in some parts, but overall, it's fantastic. Warning: not for those of tender constitutions.


Losing It by Lindsay Faith Rech. Color me critical, but I found it really hard to get into a book where the main character was disappointed to find out she didn't have cancer. That's the main reason, but not the only reason, why this book about a lonely overweight woman sucked big sweaty German shepherd balls. I was tempted to throw it in the dumpster when I was finished, but I put it in the library's donation bin instead so that somebody else can "enjoy" it.