3 favorites from 2010

You can see a full listing of my favorite books for 2010 on my Amazon Listmania list. Here are three books that stand out as the best ones I read in 2010.

These reviews originally appeared on my Amazon Reviewer page, excerpted here:

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Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman

Arcadia Falls

This is a beautifully written story. It's written in first person point-of-view and in present tense, so it has a very immediate feel to it. It's one of those books that are written so well that you say to yourself while reading it, I wish I could write like this.

There is also an undercurrent of slowly creeping dread from the very beginning of the story - it reminded me a little of the gothic stories I read when I was younger. You have the feeling that anything could happen and anyone can be hurt. All of this is under the fa├žade of the mysterious school in Arcadia Falls.

This is a story of a widow named Meg and her daughter Sally moving to a tiny cottage on the outskirts of a private school that Meg will teach at while Sally attends. There is a huge crack in the relationship between mother and daughter that festers while at the school. It also follows twin mysteries between a death immediately after the founding of the school and a present-day death shortly after Meg and Sally arrive. The question lingering with both is: was it an accident? Goodman keeps you guessing until the last page.

This book gripped me from page one. Between the gothic feel, the suspense, the hidden diary that tells a long ago story, and the fairy tales told as part of Meg's folklore class, I was completely hooked. I highly recommend this book - I would read it again so it has gained keeper status on my shelf.

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel

I was initially intrigued by the title of this book as well as the premise, that little Rose, at nearly nine years old, finds that she can taste the quiet desperation and sadness of her mother in a bite of her homemade lemon cake. Over time, she can taste more in the food people make - for example, her friend Eliza brings sandwiches to school and all Rose can taste is happiness and love. Throughout her life, she adjusts to being able to taste the emotions of people who create the food she eats. She even goes so far as to try the restaurants in her area so that she can find the blissful happiness and enjoyment that only a joyful cooks can bring to the food.

This story is really about way more than Rose's ability to taste emotions. It is also a well-told family story that revolves around her two parents, Rose, and her brother Joseph, who has a gift of his own.

There are times that I laughed out loud over a line, times that I thought the prose was so beautiful that I wanted to write the way Bender does, and times that were achingly sad. If you like a nice tight happy ending, this is not the book for you. The resolution is satisfying, yet very sad. if you want to be swept away by beautifully written prose and a story that will pull you in, then this is the book for you. It has earned keeper status on my shelf.
 
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The Rebellion of Jane Clarke: A Novel by Sally Gunning

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke: A Novel

I am not normally a fan of historical fiction. However, I am a fan of anything related to the Revolutionary War. The Rebellion of Jane Clarke: A Novel captivated me at first glance, due mainly to the period that the story was told in - right in the midst of the first stirrings of our forefathers and a time period where the first seeds of rebellion were being sewn.

Jane Clarke is an intelligent young woman living in a time where women were not expected to think and feel anything related to politics or current events. When she defies her domineering father by refusing to marry a man of her father's choosing, she is sent away to care for an ill aunt who lives in Boston, the center of rebellion just prior to the Boston Massacre. She witnesses shifting politics, meets and gets to know John Adams, develops strong friendships, and unwittingly is drawn into events just prior to the massacre as well as the aftermath.

Sally Gunning serves up a well-researched story that presents both sides of the conflict as seen through the eyes of Jane Clarke and, in so doing, she gives us a crystal-clear view into the past. Her characters are well-developed and we begin to care, not just about what happened in history, but what happened to Jane, the fictional main character.

I enjoyed this story so thoroughly that I sought out other titles by the same author and found that this is one of three historical stories. I ordered one that is clearly intertwined with this one. I highly recommend this book to, well, just about anyone. As I said, I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction, but loved this book. It leaves an impression in your mind for many days after you turn the last page.

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