Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Books I Read in 2013

The following is a compilation of the books I read and liked best in 2013.

A Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦½):  This book is a heart pounding adrenaline ride and the best novel among the first four books in the series. This book is part exposé and overall a terrifying account of the horrors experienced by Jews during the Holocaust and the guilt and the sense of abandonment of the survivors who in many cases didn’t know how to keep on living.

Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦½): It starts already in the middle of the action and what follows is not only a great detective story but a tale of betrayals, rebellions, murders and double-crosses. Despite being an adrenaline ride is not as intense as it should be given the topic. Still, Silva knows his history and makes ample use of it to deliver a very convincing case against Arafat and company.

The Messenger by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦½): Nail-biting suspense and international intrigue of the highest order are the hallmarks of The Messenger.

The Secret Servant by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦): This is no doubt a work of fiction, but unlike its predecessors it has become at least in part a fulfilled prophecy. One of the points in the story is the uneasy alliance between the Egyptian’s governments from the 1970s till this date with the radical factions of Islam. It was pointed out in the book that someday Mubarak’s regime would be removed and replaced by an Islamic republic and that became a reality not long ago. What is uncanny is that Silva spoke about the Muslim Brotherhood as potential successors for Mubarak, among many others no doubt, and that also became true…

Sacré Bleu: A Comedy D’Art by Christopher Moore (♦♦♦♦): It is an absorbing, fascinating account of the use of the color blue in paintings up to the height of the Impressionism… Sacré Bleu is utterly funny but an odd story the like of which I’d never read. I laughed out loud but also drove me slightly to obsession…

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (♦♦♦♦): I really liked this book. The narrative is easy flowing with an abundance of beautiful literary images that convey the story without sounding stuffy or dated. The Great Gatsby is at its core a romantic story with a twist because it is about a man with big dreams, one of which eventually costs him the ultimate price.

The Life Before her Eyes by Laura Kasischke (♦♦♦♦): is a poignant story that begins with a violent act in school and ends with, well, what happens as a result of that act. Beautifully written this book is not unforgettable but it is very powerful nonetheless.

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦): This is a taut thriller, darker in tone and attitude than any of its predecessors in the series. Moscow Rules along with the The Defector are the two most accomplished books in the whole series in my opinion, and the topic as always, current and the dangers way too real.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (♦♦♦♦½): You may or may not believe in heaven, or God, but philosophically speaking we all need to feel that our lives have had meaning and that’s the greatest lesson to take from this book.

El Reino de Este Mundo by Alejo Carpentier (♦♦♦♦): It is at its core, a fable that describes the repetitive cycles of tyrannies brought on by social revolutions… El Reino de Este Mundo is a fast read. It was written in 1948 and its message is as current as it was back then. Steeped in magical realism and voodoo rites, El Reino de Este Mundo requires a big leap of imagination to make sense of the story but it’s worth it.

La Quinta Montaña (The Fifth Mountain) by Paulo Coelho (♦♦♦♦): If you ever asked questions to the void such as “why did this happen to me?”, this book can provide the answers you’re looking for. Based on a Bible passage, La Quinta Montaña may be appreciated by those with deep religious roots and even those with more secular life views. Its message is as universal as it is eternal.

Heartbroken by Lisa Unger (♦♦♦♦): I think this story would make a very creepy suspenseful movie because there are Hollywood-esque elements very prominently featured such as a stormy night in the middle of nowhere, a group of females cutoff from civilization, a robbery gone wrong, restless ghosts and deeply buried secrets from a generation ago.  It is a very suspenseful read with very successful plot twists. I strongly recommend it.

Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger (♦♦♦♦½): It is gritty, thrilling and very, very suspenseful and dark. The plot is very atmospheric; it sucks you in practically from the opening pages and doesn’t let you go until the end. I’ve come to realize, since this is the second book I’ve read by Unger, that in her stories bad weather is a central element of the plot; in Darkness, My Old Friend so is the paranormal.

The English Girl by Daniel Silva (♦♦♦♦): It breaks the mold when compared to its counterparts in the Gabriel Allon series, but it keeps its essence by delivering great and complex international intrigue and a roller coaster ride of emotions. Can’t be missed!

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe (♦♦♦♦♦): It is grisly but so absorbing that I just couldn’t stop reading from beginning to end. The characters are very well developed and there’s always a sense of dread for the investigation doesn’t progress at the speed one would like as a reader. In any case, the book is anything but slow and a pure adrenaline ride but I have to remark that it’s not for the faint of heart; it is a hard-core murder mystery and the active word here is murder.

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand (♦♦♦♦): I read Summerland very slowly because of its difficult topics; grief, loss, and depression are ever present in the story and at the end there are no real answers except saying that tragedies happen and fortunately people sometimes emerge stronger after the loss. I liked that message because the book in the end was hopeful but very realistic and dark at the same time.

Declan’s Cross by Carla Neggers (♦♦♦♦): Declan’s Cross is part of a series and though there are references to past adventures and misfortunes involving main characters Emma and Colin, this book can very well be a stand-alone novel considering that Carla Neggers describes characters—who are already regulars in the series—and events in their lives as if you were encountering them for the first time.

Eye of The Needle by Ken Follett (♦♦♦♦):  It is pulse pounding suspense. In the first 145 pages or so, not much was happening and suddenly Hitler had a hunch--that would have changed the course of history had he followed through (thank God he didn't!)-- during a meeting with his most senior military staff, and the book suddenly became incendiary, hot stuff really. I was agonizing during the last few chapters because even though I was able to anticipate what was going to happen I was dying seeing it unfolding in my mind's eye; I thought that was quite special.

Rebelión en la Granja (Animal Farm) by George Orwell (♦♦♦♦½): At first glance Animal Farm is just a fable describing how “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, but it’s so much more. Animal Farm is a political satire that not only describes a specific political system, in this case socialism or communism, but can be extended to totalitarianism since the salient features of the former are definitely present in the latter regardless of the side of the spectrum the government is from.

2 comments:

  1. I read The Five People You Meet in Heaven years ago, but I remember it being very moving. Great list. Happy New Year!

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    Replies
    1. Anna, Thanks for stopping by.
      Yes, as you say the book is really moving; it brought lots of tears to my eyes.

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