Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

"We realized that we were the only ones, and that we alone had the story to tell."

"We had a reason to go forward and much to protect.  We were still in this world, the one we knew, the one we clung to though it was filled with sorrow, the world our fathers had created."

Alice Hoffman Video - The author discusses her latest novel.

Author Website - Includes a reader's guide, glossary, and gallery of the fortress at Masada.

This book was #2 on my top ten list of 2013.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

"God may promise not to destroy creation, but it is not a promise humankind made -  to our peril."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

* Top Ten (2012)

Last January I moved back home after I finished my undergraduate degree at UW-Whitewater.  I wasn’t sure where I was going to graduate school yet and, unfortunately, both of my library jobs ended when I graduated so, I figured I’d save some money and live with my parents for awhile until I figured out what I was going to do.
I ended up living at home for about eight months before I accepted a senior library assistant position at the University Library in Whitewater.  Going from living in a college town (and being extremely busy everyday with school, work, friends, and campus organizations…) to having hardly anything to do all day was a really big adjustment for me.
Looking back on this now, I wish I would have taken advantage of having so much free time…but, it did give me the opportunity to read A LOT of really great books.  Here is a list of some of my favorites from 2012:
#10: The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey)
This novel expands on the traditional story of “The Snow Maiden.”  It is set in the 1920s in the Alaskan wilderness and begins when a childless couple, Mabel and Jack, build a snow child during the first snow fall of the winter.  To their surprise, the snow child is gone the next morning, but a young girl starts to appear everyday near their house.  As the girl becomes like a daughter to them, Jack and Mabel are left to wonder where the girl came from and how to keep her save.
I loved the mysterious and “fairy-tale” like atmosphere that appeared throughout the book.  I kept going back and forth between thinking that the girl was real and being something that the lonely couple imagined.  Even after finishing to novel, I’m not quite sure I knew who the girl was.
#9: Blankets (Craig Thompson)
This graphic novels tell the coming-of-age story of a boy named Craig growing up in Wisconsin.  Throughout the book, he struggles with family, religion, belonging, and his first love.
I normally don’t read too many graphic novels, but this was chosen for a book club and I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Many of the themes of the story are the the same ones that young adults struggle with on a daily basis.  It was very realistic and I loved the drawings.
#8: The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides)
It’s the late 1980s and college student Madeleine is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot and the “marriage plot” that is the basis for all great English novels.  Suddenly she finds herself caught in a modern-day marriage plot of her own and is forced to make decisions that will decide how her life will play out.
I read Eugenides “Middlesex” many years ago and was couldn’t wait to read his new novel!  I really enjoyed how the author intertwines ideas of old English literature into a completely new and easy to relate to story.
04book  "Out of Oz" by Gregory Maguire
#7: Out of Oz (Gregory Maguire)
This is the fourth and final volume of Gregory Maquire’s “The Wicked Years,” an interesting twist on L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” children’s book serious.  The first volume tells the tale of Elphaba, who eventually becomes known as the wicked witch of the west.  ”Out of Oz” is the story of Rain, Elphaba’s grand-daughter, in the mist of a great civil war in Oz.
These books are one of the best series I have read!  I love Gregory Maguires unique storytelling abilities to capture a world reads already know and turn them into something else entirely.  The second and third volumes took me a little longer to get through then the first (which I’ve read at least three times already), but reading the final volume made it completely worth it!
Lady of the Rivers
#6: Lady of the Rivers (Philippa Gregory)
This is Philippa Gregory’s third novel in the Cousins’ War books.  The serious centers around women in the England’s War of the Roses and this book tells the story of Jacquette, Duchess of Luxembourg.
Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite historical fiction authors.  I first fell in love with her wonderful story telling of the Tudor court when I read “The Other Boleyn Girl” and have been reading her looks religiously ever since.  I love her ability to bring history to life and center on many of history’s lesser known female characters.  The Cousins’ War series tells of a not as popular, but still just as exciting and scandalous time in England’s royal history.
#5: A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)
This epic fantasy novel is the first book in the A Song of Fire and Ice serious.  Set in a world where anything can happen, winter is coming and everything the characters know and love is about to change.  When the king dies unexpectedly, a battle for the iron throne begins.
I have always really enjoyed fantasy books (especially in my pre-teenage years), but I haven’t started a fantasy serious for a long time.  Maybe because I have so many other books to read and multi-volume sets take so much time!  I wanted to read it before I watched the serious on HBO, so I figured I would give it a try.  Anyways, I really enjoyed this book!  I loved all of the complex characters and seeing their lives intertwine throughout the story.  This is the only volume of the series that I have read so far, but I’m almost done with the third season of the HBO show and it’s amazing…I can’t wait catch up on the show and read the rest of the books!
#4: Girls in White Dresses (Jennifer Close)
This book tells the story of three women venturing out into the “adult world” and growing up after college graduation.  Struggling with careers, family, and new love these women must endure all of this while suffering through endless rounds of wedding and bridal showers when “everyone they know” is moving on with their lives and getting married.
I don’t read too many “chick-lit” novels, they’re usually a little too romantic and on the predictable side for me, but it’s a good change every once and a while.  That being said, I LOVED this book!  The writing was hilarious (my mom had to ask me more then once why I was laughing…) and extremely relatable.  It was the perfect novel to read at that time in your life when everyone you know seems to have it all figured out and you’re just hoping to make it through the week!
#3: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Set in 1920s Paris, the novel tells the story of Hadley Richardson, the first (out of four) wife of novelist Ernest Hemingway.  Hadley has “all but given up on love” when she meets Hemingway and is swept off to Paris.  Even though they are madly in love, the couple gets more then they bargained for when Hemingway finds himself swept up in the jazz age surrounded by drinking, women, and questionable morals.
Ever since I went o Paris a few years ago, I’ve loved the idea of “Paris in the 20s.”  This novel captured everything I loved about the era and more.   The author does a wonderful job of tying in characters of the “Lost Generation” such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and the Fitzgeralds.  I loved the character of Hadley and felt for her as she struggled to fit into a new lifestyle.
#2: The Forgotten Garden (Kate Morton)
After Cassandra loses her beloved grandmother, Nell, she is thrown into a unexpected journey to discover who her grandmother really was.  Starting with an old book of fairy tales, Cassandra is able to trace the footsteps of her grandmother.  Going back and forth between present day and the 1930s, the novel reveals many unexpected twists and Cassandra begins to understand the  dark secrets of her family’s past.
This book was wonderful!  I loved everything about it, especially the focus on an old book of fairy tales…some of which were actually included in the novel.  The story kept me reading late into the night and I have since read all of Kate Morton’s other three books.  I really enjoyed her other books, all of which go back and forth between the past and present, but this one was by far my favorite.
#1: The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
Set in the world of a magical circus, this novel tells the story of Celia and Marco.  To bystanders, the circus is simply a world of entertainment and wonder, but it sets the stage for a competition between the two who have been trained since childhood.  As they get to know one another and eventually fall in love, they it becomes evident that only one of them is meant to be left standing at the end.
I can’t say enough about this book and it is by far one of the best books I have read.  It had a wonderfully mysterious story and the description was breathtaking.  I loved the whole thing, but my favorite parts were the amazing descriptions of all of the magical and unique circus tents…I read them over and over again.  I really liked how the author used the different characters through out the novel to reveal tiny bits and pieces of the story.  I can’t wait for Erin Morgenstern’s next book to come out!!!