Wednesday, December 30, 2015

* Top Ten (2015)

Top Ten Books of Past Years:

2015 was an interesting year for me!  I started the year taking two different literature library courses for grad school - LIS 642: Reading Interests for Adults and LIS 631: Young Adult Literature.  I really enjoyed both of these courses, but LIS 642 was by far my favorite!  Each week we explored a different genre of adult fiction and I was able to be introduced to lot of different types of books that I normally don't read.  I also discovered a lot of amazing books - many of which made this list - such as Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.  Even though I was on maternity leave during most of the semester, having to read at least 3 books a week for school pretty much took up the majority of my free reading time until the middle of May.

The first month after my daughter Isabelle was born at the end of January was a bit overwelming, but after she was about a month old I was able to work in some reading with her and it quickly became part of our daily routine. The first book I read to her was 'Goodnight Moon' by Margaret Wise Brown and a lot of children's book soon began to appear on my reading list!  

Isabelle with our copy of 'Goodnight Moon'

A couple month later I signed up her for the '1000 Books Before Kindergarten' program at the Waukesha library.  We finished the program at the end of last month and I am planning on trying to read 1000 new books this next year.  I started keeping track of our book that we read together on a separate goodreads page and have been making a list of our favorite books each month on our blog.  Since she always wanted be on the go now, we read a lot of simple picture books and board books - which she loves to pick up herself! - but when she was really little, I read to her a lot of longer children's books such as The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh, Beatrix Potter: Complete Tales, Little House in the Big Woods, and a few collections of fairy-tales.  It was so much fun to go back and read some of the classic books that I grew up with and I can't wait to keep introducing her to more this year! 

Isabelle's Graduation form the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten 
at the Waukesha Public Library

This summer also brought about a lot of changes - a new job, moving to Lomira, WI, and completing my internship at the Germantown library - but I was able to slowly get back into reading for fun again.  Luckily, Isabelle has been an extremely good sleeper at night so I am usually able to find in a little time to read every night after she goes to sleep!  I was able to keep up with the new books by some of my favorite authors like Kristin Hannah, Jodi Picoult, Alice Hoffman, Kate Morton, and Philppa Gregory and discovered some great new authors such as Jennifer McMahon and Liane Moriarty.

In September I was offered a wonderful opportunity and started working at the Germantown Community Library as an administrative assistant and adult service librarian.  I worked for the first few month working at the circulation, children's, and references desks and managing the large print collection and started full-time this December when I took over the administrative tasks and the adult fiction collection.  I now get to select, catalog, and process all of the large print and adult fiction books and love being able come across so many great books and authors.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect job where I get to deal with and talk about books everyday and cannot wait to continue my work at the library - it also means that my 'to-read' list continues to grow bigger my the day!!!

In 2015 I was able to - somehow - read 70 books, including a lot of audio books on my now half-hour commute and chapter books and story collections that I read with Isabelle.  I have been doing pretty well keeping up with my goodreads lis and blog, but would love to put everything together on my facebook page which I recently started to keep track of library, book, and author updates.  Next year, I am hoping to continue to become introduced to new authors - especially ones that I popular with the library patrons that I have not read yet - and read all of the books on my physical bookshelf that I haven't read yet (somewhere between 8 and 10 at the moment).  I am hoping to get to reading the books I got for Christmas this year - specifically 'Outlander' which I started twice already - and finish a few longer books that I have started with Isabelle including 'Anne of Green Gables' and 'The Complete Brother's Grimm Fairy-Tales.'  

And, lastly, I would love to get back into being in a book club.  I really miss being able to discuss books in a little bit of a more formal setting and also being encouraged to read some titles that I normally wouldn't pick up on my own.  I am planning on going to the month book group at the Germantown library starting in January - we will see if I am able to fit that into my schedule between all of the craziness of working full-time and being a wife/mom!  Oh, and I would LOVE to be able to finish grad school by the end of this year, but time will tell if that is going to be able to happen as well!

Happy 2015 everyone!!!  And, last but not least, here is my top ten list of books I read this year.  Happy reading!

10. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The novel is a combination of text and images that creates a truly unique and magical story.  The intriguing plot draws readings in from the very first page and the author reveals small details to allow for thrilling journey through Hugo’s adventures and the history of film. I brought this book with me while my husband and I were staying in the hospital a few days after our daughter was born and read it in one sitting. I thought all of the illustrations were extremely well done and did a wonderful job of complementing the text.

9. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I listed to this as an audio book and really enjoyed it.  I felt that it took a different path than Picoult's usual style, but still kept many of the same characteristics of her as an author.  The book focused a lot on mother/daughter relationships that was incorporated with elephant behavior.  I found the parts about elephants really interested and gained a new perspective of animal behavior in general.   I'm still not sure how I felt about the ending.  I didn't see it coming at all and it was a little to unrealistic for me (at best), but I still loved the book.

8. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Part history/thriller/horror/mystery - this novel has everything needed for wonderfully engrossing page-turner that I couldn't put down.  Luckily my husband was up north hunting all weekend and my daughter went to bed early so I was able to stay up way-to-late finishing it!  The writing was beautiful and brilliant and I loved the historical aspects.  

7. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This was a book about books and love and loss. And people that fall into your life at the most unexpected times and change you in the most unexpected ways.  This was one of those books that I couldn't put down.  I read the first pages and fell in love with the story from the very beginning.  It was one of those books that seemed to have a little bit of everything in it - mystery, romance, literature.  And I loved the incorporation of short stories at the beginning of each chapter.

6. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

'All the Light We Cannot See' is a beautiful story of two children who grow up during the war.  Two children that grow up during unspeakable times having to make unspeakable decisions way beyond their years. The novel alternates between the two characters in very short chapters, making the almost 600-page novel go by much faster than expected.  The imagery was wonderful and was, essentially, what makes this book such a masterpiece.  Breathtakingly beautiful, but a little hard to follow throughout an entire novel.  Especially since the chapters were so short and the development of each character's story was woven to intricately with the other.

5. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

This was an incredible book and I'm so glad that I picked it up!  The book is essentially a love song to life - to friendships, to family, to love, to forgiveness, and to small-town rural Wisconsin.  Shotgun Lovesongs is a truly remarkable book and a tribute to American live and is filled with rich storytelling and finding hope against all odds.

4. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

This post-apocalyptic novel focuses on the character of Snowman, previously known as Jimmy, as he begins to cope with the idea that he may be the last human on earth.  I really enjoyed this book.  It was very engaging and had a perfect mix of technology and interaction between the characters.  I loved how the author used flashbacks to slowly reveal to readers how the events unfolded.  The second and third books of the trilogy didn't exactly live up to my expectations, but enjoyed them no-the-less.

3. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

I usually am not super into reading this type of book, but I was hooked from the very first page.  The writing was wonderful and witty and the plot left me wanting to turn the pages faster than I could read them.  The dialogue and dynamics of the novel is pure brilliant.  And I absolutely loved the interaction not only between the characters but the inner dialog that was the driving point of the story.  Was this book perfect?  Not at all.  The characters were more-often-than-not superficial and there were way too many coinsidances to make this story at all believable.  But, all that aside, I thought the novel was extremely well done and I couldn't put it down.  Very creative and thought-provoking and not at all what I was expecting.

2. The Lake House by Kate Morton

This one took me a little while to get into, - there was a lot of things going on in the beginning that took sometime to come together - but after a few chapters, I was hooked.  Kate Morton has the wonderful ability to connect story
1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I have always been a fan of Kristin Hannah, but she became one of my all-time favorite authors with her first historical novel, The Winter Garden, a few years ago.  I couldn't wait to read her new novel and it was so worth the wait!  It was beautifully written and is one of the best books that I have read in a long time.  The story is essentially was 'war-time' story of Nazi occupied France during World War II.    It is a story of family and love and war and sacrifice and takes readers on a indescribable journey from the very first page to the last.
 lines in both the past and the present with seamless effort.  Her fairy-tale like description of her settings are beautiful and captivating and this novel was not exception.  And the characterization is spot on - by the middle of her novels, I feel so absorbed in the characters and, as much as I can't stop reading the book, there is always a huge part of me that doesn't want it to end because I will inevitably have to leave the characters behind.

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