2014 Staff Picks: Fiction Favorites

2014 was a great year for books and the Bellingham Public Library staff had an amazing time reading, discussing, and debating their favorite titles of the year.  We sincerely hope that you enjoy what you see here in the next couple of weeks and use it to find a book for you or for a loved one during this winter season.

We will be featuring our thoughts on all of our selections for the next two weeks here at Read More!  But, if you have impatient streak (like me!) and want the list immediately, please check out our online list in two parts, 2014 Staff Picks for Adults and 2014 Staff Picks for Children. Or you can visit any of our library locations for a handy paper list!

Now, without further ado, here are our favorite fiction titles:

California by Edan Lepucki

CaliforniaA couple leaves Los Angeles to live off the grid in a post-decline America. This survivalist, end of the world novel, has an interesting plot and gives insight into the unraveling of civilization. – Madeline




Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Fourth of July CreekPushcart Prize-Winner, Smith Henderson, has written a spectacular first novel.  Social worker, Pete Snow, serves the working poor of rural Montana; overworked and underpaid, Pete struggles with his client’s desperate lives while dealing with his own troubles.  He’s left his adulterous wife and angry teenage daughter to live in a remote cabin with no electricity.  His dedication to his job helps him ignore his own unraveling life.  “I take kids away from people like us,” he tells his ex one drunken night. Pete’s life intersects one day with an eleven year old boy whose father is a tyrannical survivalist awaiting the “End Times”; whose harsh life and treatment of his son reels Pete into their world. Full of complicated, sympathetic and realistic characters, Fourth of July Creek is a home run.  More please, Mr. Henderson. – Linda


Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Goblin EmperorLooking for a fantasy title free of horrifying bloodshed, vampires, or zombies?  The Goblin Emperor is the story of a half-goblin, half-elven prince; the result of a political marriage of the Elven Emperor to his despised fourth wife, a goblin princess.  Raised in seclusion away from the byzantine elvish court, Maia suddenly ascends the Emperor’s throne after an ‘accident’ kills the emperor and existing heirs.  Maia struggles to retain his crown in a hostile court where everyone wants something from him (no matter how formal and politely they may ask). Written from Maia’s perspective, I found him to be utterly likeable and charming.  And while there is some bloodshed, there is also a thread of hope throughout the book. – Deborah


If Not for This by Pete Fromm

If Not for ThisIf Not for This by Montana author, Pete Fromm, is an amazing, heartfelt love story filled with characters you cheer, laugh, and cry with. Maddy and Dalt meet as rafting guides on the Snake River, fall in love, marry, and lead and adventurous, active life together.  Economic realities force them to leave their beloved river and move to the suburbs of Ashland, Oregon.  There, Maddy’s dizzy spells and weakness morph in a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis – at the same time she learns that she is pregnant.  Written in Maddy’s voice, If Not for This, is filled with wit, poignancy and heart-breaking sadness.  Have the Kleenex handy. – Linda


Maid’s Version
 by Daniel Woodrell

Maid's VersionFrom the author of Winter’s Bone this short novel reflects on a mysterious explosion at a dance hall in Missouri in 1929. The author paints a vivid scene and uses capturing language to tell this non-linear story. – Madeline




One Kick
 by Chelsea Cain

One KickThis is from the book description on Amazon: Meet Kick Lannigan. She’s twenty-one. She can pick any lock. She knows five ways to kill you with a jacket. Get ready to fall in love.” Five ways to kill you with a jacket? I’m in! One Kick is the first book in a new series written by local author Chelsea Cain. I really like the Archie Sheridan series by Cain and I really like this one too, though there are parts that are difficult to read. But Compelling storyline, characters, and lots of action will keep you riveted. Kick Lannigan has been through a horrific childhood and she gets caught up in solving a case similar to her own. Warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. – Lesley


The Painter
 by Peter Heller

The PainterA story of loss, injustice, and morality – with splashes of love and beauty – as seen through the eyes of renowned, yet reclusive, artist and fisherman Jim Stegner. After fully absorbing the shock of the death of his teenage daughter and sinking in a mire of self-recrimination, alcoholism and impetuous action, Jim is on a path back to life when he encounters Dell Siminoe brutally beating a horse on a back road. His actions, right or wrong, set the pace for the rest of this emotional suspense story. A highly compelling book – it had me shaking my head and exclaiming “no, no, no,” over and over again.  – Jenni


The Queen of the Tearling
 by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the TearlingThe Queen of the Tearling was my favorite discovery of 2014. The main character, Kelsea, is complex and relatable and the book is full of interesting characters. There is lots of action and adventure. If you like Game of Thrones you will like this book! – Lesley


Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Winter PeopleA haunting ghost story set in early 19th century and present day Vermont. Creepy characters and an exciting plot make this a novel a beautifully written page turner. – Madeline




Check back on Wednesday for our 2014 nonfiction selections!


Staff Picks of 2013: Miscellaneous Favorites

Happy Friday! Thank you all for joining us for our week of 2013 Staff Picks. We hope you enjoyed reading about our picks as much as we enjoyed picking them! As a special Friday treat, here are our favorite movies, music, and graphic novels from 2013:

The East

The East directed by Zal Batmanglij
This movie is equal parts gripping and terrifying.  Watching Sarah infiltrate, and ultimately empathize with, an extreme activist collective is thrilling and makes for a movie that leaves you thinking long after it has ended. – Katie


The Massive

The Massive, Vol 1 by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson
Environmental activists struggling to find meaning in a post environmental crash world. Their sister ship is missing, governments have collapsed, new and old ways of life are the new norm. What does an activist do when they’ve failed in their mission? Expertly researched and written by Brian Wood, one of comics most talented and diverse writers. Smart and relevant. – Kelly



Amour directed by Michael Haneke
This is a deeply moving and beautifully acted film. This film depicts the harsh realities of illness, aloneness, and death for an elderly couple who are deeply in love. – Beth


The Underwater Welder

 The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
All at once a ghost story, on becoming a man, fathers and sons, and finding ones place in a sometimes very bleak and unforgiving world. This haunting tale of an expecting husband who spends his days alone underwater repairing an oil rig of the coast of Nova Scotia will stay with you long after the book is finished. Beautifully written and drawn by Jeff Lemire. One of the best graphic novels of the year. – Kelly


 We The Common

We The Common by Thao
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down  are known for their infectious, rollicking folk melodies that are heavily-tinged with sorrow and longing.  Their new album is no exception — making it the perfect sunny-day album to play on repeat. – Katie


 The Manhattan Projects

The Manhattan Projects, Vol 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra.
Science. Bad. This romp through an alternate history is all at once intriguing, hilarious, disturbing, and riveting. Join a very angry Einstein, a deranged Oppenheimer, FDR in a jar, and other historical figures shown in quite a different light. This ongoing series is a sciencedelic trip at the dawn of the Atomic Age, told through the eyes of a master story teller at the top of his game. – Kelly


You can get a print out of our full list of 2013 Staff Picks or you can stop by the Central Library to see our display!