Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best Books of 2010

This was quite a year with so many change in my life.  That being said, things are good and I am grateful.  I was especially blessed with the books that I read as 17 of them made my 'Best of 2010" list (yes, I counted The Book Thief as even though I read it more than 4 years ago, reading it again made me realize what a fabulous book it is).  With more than one "Best of" book a month it was difficult to narrow it down to my top 5, but, here they are:

and without a doubt, my #1 must read Best Book of 2010 would be Shantaram.  Before you read any further, make sure you can say you have read the above 5 books (especially Shantaram!). 

If you are still lookiing for additional books, check out the other books on my "Best of" list for 2010 as well as my "Must Read" list.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I very rarely ever re-read a book.  The Book ThiefWhen this book was picked by my bookclub, I knew I wanted to re-read it as I enjoyed it so much the first time (4 years ago!)  Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen (definitely not for anyone too young) and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative and I am SO glad that I picked it up again.

Recommend: 4.8 Definite Recommend!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

This is a wonderfully told story of 1930s Budapest and starts out just as a young Hungarian Jew, Andras Lévi, departs for the École Spéciale d'Architecture in Paris. He hones his talent for design, works backstage in a theater, and allies with other Jewish students in defiance of rising Nazi influence. And then he meets Klara, a captivating Hungarian ballet instructor nine years his senior with a painful past and a willful teenage daughter.

The Invisible Bridge
The historic presentation of the book is as forceful and gripping as it is chilling and haunting.  Orringer's ability to translate into words the shattering horror of the Jewish experience of the Holocaust and World War II is masterful storytelling of wrenching emotional intensity.

The first 1/3rd is light and builds the reltionships between Andras, his brothers, his college friends and his lover, before it switches to be more focused on the horrific experiences of WWII.  I learned a lot of historic events from this is a beautifully researched old fashioned love story.  They could have been a bit more judicious in the editing but, other than that, this is a wonderful book.

Rating: 4.6 Recommend

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier

Falling Angels: A Novel
This story takes place in London at the turn of the 19th century and centers around two young girls of the same age, whose family plots are situated side-by-side in a cemetery.  The families end up being neighbors in life as well and the two mothers are as different as night and day.  We watch the lives of the Coleman and Waterhouse families unfold over the course of a decade, starting with the death of Queen Victoria.

Although the point of view shifts between many characters the story flows effortlessly with each character picking up in the story where the last left off.  I found one of the little girls to be very annoying but, so did the other characters in the book so, it helped to know I wasn't alone.  At times, the children seemed much older than their ages but, some of that could have been the era in England.  This proved to be a very interesting commentary on English womanhood during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, taking age, class, and educational differences into account.

Rating: 4.0 Good

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)
I finally succumbed to see what all the fuss was about with this book.  This is a portrait of a Midwestern family, Patty and Walter Berglund, who find each other early: a pretty jock, and a budding lawyer. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other.  I had a difficult time of getting in to this story or caring about the characters and just could not see what all the fuss was about.  It felt very mundane and did not live up to the hype.

Rating: 1 Do NOT Recommend

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bellwether by Connie Willis

A sociologist who studies fads and a chaos theorist are brought together by a strange misdelivered package. Employed by the HiTek company, Sandra Foster is trying to develop a theory that can predict how and why fads and trends begin. But her attempts to computerize her data (mostly in the form of magazine and newspaper clippings) are constantly frustrated by the awful Flip, the erratic, forgetful, careless interdepartmental assistant. The humor that comes from the chaos of the hiring of an assistant for Flip, who is (gasp) a SMOKER, and Management's efficiency meetings is so clever and really rings true.  This book has a witty, geeky love story that is about trends and sheep and is thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: 4.4 Good

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Tyler Miller was a socially invisible nerd ("Your average piece of drywall who spent too much time playing computer games") before he sprayed some attention-getting graffiti and became a legend. Sentenced to a summer of physical labor, he enters his senior year with new muscles that attract popular Bethany Millbury, whose father is Tyler's dad's boss. On probation for his graffiti stunt, Tyler struggles to balance his consuming crush with pressure that comes from schoolwork and his explosive father.  While this was mildly entertaining it also felt very immature and was definitely no where near on par with Anderson's Wintergirls.

Rating: 3 Just OK