Wednesday, December 31, 2014

* Top Ten (2014)

Top Ten Books of Past Years:

Choosing my top ten books this year was a lot harder than I thought it would be!  This was the first year that I didn't automatically go right to my list of five-stared books.  I had twelve on my list, so that put me at two over as it was.  Looking back, I realized that just because I had rated a book as five stars didn't mean that it was worthy of making my top ten list!  Some of my 4 and 4 1/2 stars were really unique and interesting and I just had to add them to the list.

This year was busy for me - as usual.  I got engaged in February, married in August, and my husband and we are currently a little over a month away from our daughter being born!  Lots of big life changing events and I have a feeling my reading is about to have some picture-book additions in the near future :)

Combine all that with working and grad school and I wasn't able to find as much time to read as usual.  However, I did manage to read some really great books in the past twelve months!  I also continued to listen to audio books quite a bit on the way to and from work and at work as well.  I've become a lot more picky with them - some books are just so much better when actually read!  I started listening to audio books by a number of authors that I have enjoyed in the past - Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Chris Bohjalian to name a few.  I've started to use audio books as reading that I want to get through, but don't necessarily need to be 100% focused on.

This year, I read and listened to 56 books.  You can checkout my complete list on my goodreads page.  I almost made my goal of 60 books - maybe next year!

#10: The Kingmaker's Daughter (Philippa Gregory)

This is the fourth book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War trilogy.  In this novel, the story of the women of England's royalty before the Tutors is continued with Anne and Isabel Neville - daughters of the 'Kingmaker' and key components his ambitious goal to capture the throne for his family.  In traditional Philippa Gregory style, she captures all of the history and romance of 14th century England.

#9: The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien)

This isn't normally the type of book I usually read, but it has been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I finally got a chance to read it once my husband mentioned that it was one of the only books he has ever read and liked.  Told through many different, but connecting stories this very well-written and powerful collection shows the impact of the Vietnam was on several young men.

#8: Life After Life (Kate Atkinson)

This extremely unique and complex novels tells the story of a young women named Ursula who is born again and again into the same life during the span of the first and second world wars.  I wasn't sure I 'got' everything that this book had to offer, but it was a beautiful story.  More than anything else, this novel is about life and ow it is effected by the everyday choices that we make.

#7: The Smart One (Jennifer Close)

Much like Jennifer Close's first novel, this book seemed to catch me at just the right time and focused on three sisters and their struggles as they 'transition' to adulthood.  The book was funny, charming, and realistic and the author has an amazing knack for perfectly capturing those not-so-perfect but inevitable times.

#6: The Bookman's Tale (Charlie Lovett)

I am so glad that I came across this wonderful book by a new author that focused on so many great aspects - books, libraries, booksellers, romance, and Shakespeare.  It was charming and quirky and unbelievably sad and is the perfect book for book lovers and readers alike.  I preferred the parts of the book written in the past, but I loved the overall writing style and different storylines that were woven together.  I also loved the 'book preservation' scenes that captured the beauty of the book world perfectly.

This book was brilliant.  It is was the ultimate book for book lovers and I couldn't put it down!  It's about finding "the right book, at exactly the right time" and creating a world where print and technology can exist side by side.  Not only was it fascinating, but super fun to read.  I just loved it.  Robin Sloan got this one right.  

#4: The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)

I am so glad that I finally got to read this epic historical-fiction novel.  I swept through the 900-plus pages in a little over a week and loved every second of it.  This book had everything that I look for in a great historical fiction novel - lots of history and description, interesting characters, tons of emotion, and enough conflict to keep the story interesting.  I very much enjoyed the storyline, but my favorite part of the novel was the characters.  I was intrigued by each individual story, their relationships to one another, and how they each played a unique part in the building of the cathedral.

#3: The Winter Garden (Kristin Hannah)

I have been a huge fan of Kristen  Hannah (especially with Firefly Lane and Night Road) and was excited that she had ventured in the genre of historical fiction.  I absolutely loved this book!  I am a huge fan of anything World War II and this novel had an unique perspective of the Siege of Leningrad in Russia.  I really enjoyed learning about Anya's story as she told it to her daughters as a fairy tale (which I love) and seeing how it shaped their lives both as children and adults.  Hearing the story told this way made the novel extremely powerful and showed the importance of family and learning to live with the past.  I cried through the entire last hour or so on the way home from work.  This was an amazing book and one that I will remember for a long time!

#2: The Secret Keeper (Kate Morton)

In true Kate Morton fashion, the novel alternates between Laurel's search and her mother's past in war-torn London in the 1940s.  The book was very engaging, the characters were wonderfully developed, and I just loved the description of Laurel's mother and the people of her past.  I thought I had this book figure out so many times, but was pleasantly surprised by the ending.  Everything fit together so well and I was left in awe by the outcome.  I can't wait to get my hands on Morton's next novel!

#1: The Winter Sea (Susanna Kearsley)

I've read a lot of past/present historical fiction novels, and this is by far one of my favorites.  I loved the description and instantly was intrigued by the characters.  I usually have a tendency to like the parts in the past better, but this one was a dead tie.  This novel was extremely well-written and unique.  I knew it was going to be a 5-star from the very beginning and I loved the idea of using the writing of a historical-fiction novel as the contemporary story!  The research process was really interesting and I loved being able to learn more about it as the author did.  All-in-all and excellent book and a great new author to read! 

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