Books 2008: Picking Up the Slack Review
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Though I dubbed 2008 “The Year of the Ho-Hums” in my year-end movie recap, the literary world offered a very different perspective. You see, the movies of 2008 were often good—but rarely great. On the other hand, throughout the year, I frequently found myself completely engrossed in a book that was highly entertaining…or thrilling…or beautifully written…or thought-provoking…or moving…or a combination of the above. From well-known favorites like Christopher Buckley to talented newcomers like Tom Rob Smith to little-known indie novelists—this year’s authors and their engaging stories often made up for the plethora of lackluster movies that I sat through.

Yet, for some reason, while the movie biz broke box-office records in 2008, many booksellers struggled to stay alive. Maybe people don’t think that they have the time (or the energy) to read anymore. Maybe they just don’t know what to read (if that’s the case, they really need to read our book reviews more often). But if you haven’t read a book in a while (or even if you have), I’d like you to do me (and yourself) a little favor: once you finish reading this article, get out your planner (or your PDA…or your BlackBerry) and schedule some time to visit your neighborhood bookstore. Once you’re there, get yourself a cup of coffee, browse through the aisles, and pick up one of the books on our list (or anything else that looks good—feel free to experiment). Then sit down for a while and enjoy your coffee…and your new book. Oh…and please tell them we sent you.

To recap the year in books, I called in fellow N& bookworm Margaret Marr. Here are our picks for the best books of 2008:

Kristin’s Picks:

The Fourth Watcher by Timothy Hallinan: “It’s filled with mystery and suspense—as well as a healthy dose of heart—and it’s artfully painted in varying shades of gray.”

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith: “The story packs a serious punch—so serious, in fact, that some moments will knock the wind right out of you.”

Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley: “It’s easily one of the funniest books I’ve read this year, but it’s also smart and wildly entertaining.”

Blood Captain (Vampirates: Book 3) by Justin Somper: Packed with action, adventure, moral dilemmas, and cliffhangers, this kids’ adventure is “a frantic (and highly addictive) read.”

Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer: “Seeing Me Naked is a sweet and clever novel that will definitely make you laugh—but it might just make you cry, too. It’s funny yet touching, and it’s surprisingly real.”

The Road Home by Rose Tremain: “This elegantly-written novel is a beautiful story of life, hope, determination, and love.”

LoveHampton by Sherri Rifkin: “Filled with twists and turns and plenty of glamorous and gossipy Hamptons drama, LoveHampton is a light and breezy summer read.”

My Name is Will by Jess Winfield: “Just as Winfield’s hilarious stage show, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), did for Shakespeare’s plays, so My Name is Will does for the playwright himself. It makes him accessible—like a guy you’d actually want at your table at the pub.”

Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott: “Packed with pop culture references and interesting historical connections to everyone from Jack the Ripper to Freud to old Hollywood legends, Vampyres of Hollywood is a deliciously witty and wildly creative read.”

The Blue Religion by Michael Connelly (Editor): “Though there are a few stand-out stories in this short story collection, I can’t say that there’s a single dud.”

Margaret’s Picks:

The Bourne Sanction by Eric Van Lustbader: “I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a more twisted plot…. And I loved every second of it.”

Immortal by Traci I. Slatton: “Immortal is such a wonderful novel that it’s hard to find the right words to describe how wonderful it truly is.”

Sorceress Star by Elaine Corvidae: “This powerful and deep fantasy will grab your heart and soul and drag you into a pulse-pounding saga of magic and betrayal, hate and compassion—and, most of all, a love that knows no defeat.”

The Pines by Robert Dunbar: “This story will scare the heck out of you.”

Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall: “On the surface, Sisters of Misery sounds like just another teen drama, but it has a very Gothic feel to it.”

Scream for Me by Karen Rose: “Scream for Me is one of Ms. Rose’s best to date—it’s an up-all-night read.”

The Chocolatier’s Wife by Cindy Lynn Speer: “Such delightful reads as The Chocolatier’s Wife are few and far between. It’s the kind of novel that you can’t wait to get back to—and can’t put down when you do.”

Addicted to Love by Lori Wilde: “Addicted to Love is one of the best romantic comedies I’ve read in a long time.”

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