Fav Books from 2014

I know it's almost February, and maybe a bit late for a "2014 Favs" post, but New Year's Resolutions aren't gonna complete themselves, so here goes. Of the books I read last year, two stood out above the rest: American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett, and Bird Box, by Josh Malerman.

American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett

This was published in 2013, but I just got to it last year.

This is sort of a classic setting: a Leave-It-to-Beaver town where under the surface something isn't quite right. While seedy-underbelly stories are pretty common, the seediness in American Elsewhere is quite original.

What I liked about it
It's all about pacing. We start off with a ton of questions, and as each question is answered, three more take its place. Each answer is satisfying in its own right, but only really shows you how much you don't know. Throughout the 662 pages of the novel, we slowly piece together the story, bit by bit, so there's never a big info dump, until we finally have the complete picture in the end.

I have one complaint about the novel, but it's difficult to talk about without giving away too much. So in general, I'll just say that there was one scene where a character was introduced in a dire situation, and he is very relevant to the backstory, and the scene seems like it's going somewhere, but then he's never mentioned again. It doesn’t really ruin anything, the story doesn’t need the resolution of that character to feel complete, except that at the time, he felt so important that I was constantly wondering when we'd get back to him.

But that's a pretty small thing, and overall, the story was brilliant.

Bird Box, by Josh Malarian

One by one, town by town, people are going insane and killing each other, killing themselves. They're seeing something, something that human minds can’t comprehend. Now, the few survivors are locked in doors, blocking off windows, blindfolding themselves when they go outside, just trying to eek out a living.

What I liked about it
It's pretty genius to have a monster that the characters can’t look at. Not only is much of the story left up to your imagination, but it forces the author to tell the story through sounds and smells, and creates some terrifying scenarios, where people are cut off from the world, blindfolded, knowing they can't look, but needing to see. This was probably scariest thing I've read since Caitlin Kiernan's The Red Tree.

Runners Up

This year, I discovered Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black series and Kathleen Tierney's Siobhan Quinn series. They are pretty similar sets of books with similar writing styles, and the main characters (Miriam and Siobhan) are the primary reason to read them both. Great voices.