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Sarah’s Picks of 2009

Originally posted on Wed, Feb 10 2010 at ROPL.org.

A short list of books read and reviewed in 2009.


Chernobyl Murders by Michael Beres starts off on the eve of the Chernobyl meltdown in the Ukraine. Beres’ story follows Lazlo Horvath, a Kiev detective whose brother worked at the nuclear plant.Chernobyl Murders is, on one hand, a fictional tale of the meltdown, while on the other, it’s a vivid murder mystery. Horvath must try to solve a crime in a country where no one wants answers. This is Beres’ first Horvath novel. Read also: Traffyck

The Little  Stranger by Sarah Waters is a ghost story at heart. Set in Britain in the 1940s, The Little Stranger is told through the eyes of a country doctor. Dr. Faraday finds himself entangled with a family who live in a once beautiful, but now decaying home. Waters’ novel is a mix of traditional ghost story and love story, wrapped up in a shroud of mystery that Dr. Faraday doesn’t even quite understand. The novel is an excellent page-turner. Read also: Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is the first in a series of books called the Millenium trilogy. Larsson’s novel is more than just a traditional Scandinavian mystery. The main characters are disgraced journalist named Mikael Blomkvist and his accidental assistant, Lisbeth Salander. While Blomkvist is the detective of the novel, it’s really Salander who steals the show. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an engaging, disturbing and rewarding novel. Read also: The Girl who Played with Fire

Fathom by Cherie Priest is a ghost story, a tale of the end of the world and a murder. Priest’s writing is vivid, moving and extremely complex. Fathom follows the story of Nia, a young girl who witnesses a terrible murder. What ensues is a story of revenge and freedom told from varying points of view.Fathom is a horror novel, but at it’s core its a story of a world like our own, but where old gods still roam. Priest, as always, creates a world we love to read about, but never live in. Read also:Boneshaker

Young Adult

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco Stork is a novel about a teenage boy who suffers from autism. He’s forced into the real world by his father, who insists he leave the safety of his childhood in order to grow up. It’s a story about family relationships, about growing up and about love. Marcelo in the Real World is moving, beautifully written story.

Keeper by Mal Peet is the first in a series of books about the sport of soccer in a fictional South African country. Keeper is the story and memories of a famous goalkeeper, named El Gato. He tells his story to Paul Faustino, a reporter who shows up and plays an important role in all of Peet’s soccer-related novels. Keeper contains a little bit of sport, a little bit of fantasy and a lot of beautiful writing. Read also:The Penalty and Exposure

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford tells the story of how 15 year old Jeff ended up in hospital psychiatric ward. Ford’s novel is mixed with sexuality, confusion and humor. Jeff, a thoroughly unreliable narrator, guides us through is time in the hospital, which eventually leads to the real reason why he tried to kill himself. Suicide Notes is a quick read, told in an engaging fashion by a well written narrator.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith is a historical fiction novel about a young African American woman who dreams of flying. Set in World War II, Flygirl follows the life of Ida Mae Jones as she joins the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) in order to both fulfill her dreams and help with the war. Smith’s novel is a complex tale of race, gender and class, both within the ranks of the military and outside it.

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