Tuesday, December 31, 2013

* Top Ten (2013)

Top Ten Books of Past Years:

The year 2013 was a very busy year for me!  While working full-time at the Andersen Library in UW-Whiteater, I also completed two more semesters of grad school at UW-Madison through the library and information studies program.  This summer I took a continuing education course called Reading by the Lake where we spend the weekend talking about books and book discussions.  In January, I started a book club with some of my friends from college and read a couple of books from my mom's book club in Germantown.

At the end of the summer I started listening to audio books on the way to and from work and while walking my dog, Hannah.  I wasn't sure if I'd like them or now, but they're starting to grow on me and they make the 2-hour drive each day go my much faster!  I also started a crafting blog this year, sold greeting cards and candy gifts at craft fairs this fall, and held a monthly card making workshop the retirement community where my friend works as a life enrichment assistant.

This year, I read 38 books - 13 of them being audio books.  You can check out my list on the left hand side of my blog or on my goodreads page.  Here's a list of my top ten:

(The links of the book title will take you to the full review on my blog)

#10: Night Road (Kristen Hannah)

I've enjoyed Kristin Hannah's novels in the past, but this was one by far my favorite and the most moving.  The story begins with a young teenager named Lexi.  After a hard childhood living with a drug-addicted mother and many foster parents, she finally settles in with her great-aunt Eva.  On the first day of high school, Lexi becomes friends with Mia Farraday and the two become inseparable throughout high school.  Lexi and Mia's twin brother eventually fall in love, but one bad decision leads to a night that will change their lives forever.  In the years that follow, Lexi and the Farraday family are torn apart and must find away to put their lives back together.  It was beautifully written story about love, friendship, and family.

#9: The Shoemaker's Wife (Adriana Trigiani)

This boy-meets-girl love story takes place at the turn of the century in the Alps of Italy.  After love at first site, both Enza and Ciro are forced to leave their village.  Unknown to one another, they both travel to America where they begin new lives for themselves.  On their journey's to make a home in America, fate intervenes and they find each other once again - but just as Ciro is leaving to fight in World War I.  As stated in the review: "The Shoemaker's Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk."

#8: The Street Sweeper (Elliot Perlman)

It is an epic novel that intertwines a survivor's account of the holocaust with modern-day characters and story-lines and a wonderful testimony to the importance of oral and first-hand accounts of history.  Elliot Perlman's portrayal of the Nazi death camps and gas chambers were the most graphic I have ever read.  The author gave a great amount of detail on the procedures of death camps.  The descriptive and graphic language brought the horrifying experiences that the characters went through in prospective and intertwined the past with the present.

#7: Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)

Libby Day was seven years old when her mother and two sisters were murdered. Libby was the only one to escaped and later testified that her 15-year-old brother Ben was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Libby is a troubled and lonely adult and her brother still sits in prison.  The novel alternates between Libby's story in the present and her mom's and Ben's the day the murders happened.  I couldn't wait to find out what happened and was really surprised by the ending. The pieces fit so perfectly together and it was an insightful and intriguing story of the affect that tragedy has on  it's victims.  I enjoyed Gillian's Flynn best-selling novel, Gone Girl, as well - but this one really stuck with me!

#6: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

This young adult novel mixes fiction and photography for a unique and intriguing reading experience.  Looking for family secrets, 16-year-old Jacob travels to a remote island and discovers the ruins for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  As he searches through the home and discovers photographs, he begins to understand that these children might have been held at the home for a reason - and that they are still living there.

#5: Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)

This is the first book in the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel.  The books are essentially the story of cavemen - the first people to walk the earth about 25,000 years ago.  The first book in the series tells the story of a young Cro-Magnon girl who is orphaned when the rest of her people are killed by an earth quake.  She is discovered by Iza, the medicine women of a clan of Neanderthals who call themselves the clan of the cave bear and must adapt to the ways of their people.  I started listening to this series as audio books on the way to work and am currently on the third volume.  My favorite part of the book was not only the complex character interactions, but Auel's description of life thousands of years ago.    Auel brought up interesting concepts regarding the mind and physical characteristics of the clan how it resulted in little change of the  people over hundreds of thousands of years. 

#4: Kitchen House (Kathleen Grissom)

This novel is set in the late 1700s and is told from two very different point of views: Lavinia, a young orphan from Ireland and Belle, the illegitimate daughter of the owner of the plantation.  After her parents die on a ship heading to America, she is taken in to live and work on a tobacco plantation.  Lavinia is eventually welcomed into the family of these working at the Big House.  As Lavinia grows up, she is torn between her adopted African-American family and her expected role as a young white women in society.  When she is forced to make a choice between the two worlds, everything she knows is put into question.

#3: The Sandcastle Girls (Chris Bohjalian)

The Sandcastle Girls is the first novel I have read by Chris Bohjalian and I loved it!  Deeply moving and unforgettable, the book centers around the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and tells the story of Elizabeth, a young girl from American and an Armenian soldier named Armen.  Throughout the next year, they write each other letters and begin to fall in love.  Many years later, Elizabeth's grand-daughter, Laura, researchers the story of her grandparents and learns of the tragedies and secrets that they both overcame.

#2: The Dovekeepers (Alice Hoffman)

This tragic novel tells the story over 2,000 years old when nine-hundred Jews held the Romans on Masada in the Judean desert.  In the end, only two women and five children survive.  Told from the point-of-view of four very different women, they arrive at the siege from very different background.  As they work together as the dovekeepers, their stories are mingled together to create a beautiful story.

#1: 11/22/63 (Stephen King)

The basic premise of the novel is a teacher named Jack Epping who travels through time to 1958 where he tries to stop the John F. Kennedy assassination. But changing the past is a lot hard then he thinks. And to top it off, he realizes that he really likes living in the late 1950s / early 1960s. And, of course, he falls in love.  This novel includes a little bit of everything - historical fiction, mystery, time-travel, suspense, romance...by far the best book I read this year.  I can't recommend this enough!

1 comment:

  1. Just popping in to your 'book site' to say WOW! Your reading selections are quite intriguing. Ever since I started card-making (and blog surfing!), my novel reading has drastically dwindled, which is something I plan to change this year. I'm a fan of mysteries, specifically Louise Penny, a Canadian novelist, who was just recently awarded the Order of Canada). Her Inspector Gamache series are wonderful; the two most recent have received significant awards in mystery literature circles. I'm also reading cc benison's newest release - Ten Lords A-Leaping - the third in what will be 12 mysteries (you can guess the two previous titles...yep, he's doing a full series based on the 12 Days of Christmas), featuring his main character Father Tom Christmas, a recently widowed pastor of a quirky UK town. They are, in a word, charming. Anyway, hope you don't mind that I'm stepped in here to say you've inspired me get some reading done, in and amongst the crafting!!