Archives for December 21, 2013

My Books of 2013 – Part 2

My last post summarized the books I read for book club.  Today I’d like to share the books I have read of my own accord.  They range from fantasy to historical fiction to crime and suspense novels!

A Cavern of Black Ice, J.V. Jones (fantasy)

My favorite genre is fantasy and this book came highly recommended by my cousin John (also a fantasy reader).   A Cavern of Black Ice is the first in the Sword of Shadows series.  It is the story of Ash Marsh and Raif Severance two young adults who must use their powers and abilities to defeat an ancient prophesy and defeat pure evil.  I realize that this doesn’t give you much and that it could be a synopsis of most any fantasy series, but I need to keep this short! While I enjoyed the book, I just couldn’t bring myself to start another series.  Perhaps I will pick up the next book in 2014.

 

A Memory of Light, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (fantasy)

Speaking of another series, A Memory of Light is the 14th and final, yes I said FINAL book in the Wheel of Time Series!  The first book was written by Robert Jordan in 1990.  Unfortunately Robert Jordan died before he finished the series.  However, prior to his death he worked with Brandon Sanderson and shared his vision for the story.  Sanderson took over the final 3 books of the series and brought it to a close in an exciting, believable (for fantasy), and satisfying manner.  I don’t know if I liked this book or not, as it was mostly battle scenes, but I was happy to get through it and complete the series.  Anyone who has lumbered through A Wheel of Time will know exactly what I mean!

 

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (fiction)

As I’m sure many of you did, I read this book back in High School.  All I remembered was the big glasses on the billboard and that I liked the book, and so I wanted to reread it before the movie came out.  As I’m sure everyone has either read the book and/or seen one of the movies, I will skip the synopsis.  I will just say that I enjoyed The Great Gatsby.  I truly enjoy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing (unlike that of his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway) and may reread some of his (Fitzgerald’s) other novels in the coming year.  A quick note about the movie — it was very true to the book, right down to the exact dialogue.  And while Leonardo DiCaprio was very good, Robert Redford will always be Gatsby!

 

Call Me Zelda, Erika Robuck (historical fiction)

While I was on a Great Gatsby/F. Scott Fitzgerald path, I picked up Call Me Zelda (actually I downloaded it).  This is the story of Zelda Fitzgerald and her struggle with being in her famous husband’s shadow and with her own sanity.  The story is told through the voice of Anna Howard, Zelda’s psychiatric nurse and friend.  Anna lives with the Fitzgeralds and experiences the tumultuous relationship as well as the intense love between Zelda and Scott.  Zelda shares with Anna her aspirations and fears, and leaves Anna, and the reader, wondering who the greater artistic genius actually was — Scott or Zelda.  This was a magnificent story.  I was sad to have it come to a close.

In One Person, John Irving (fiction)

John Irving is one of my favorite authors.  I have read most all of his books and his latest, In One Person didn’t disappoint.  In this book, Irving explores sexual roles and prejudices.  The main character Billy is a bisexual man who falls in love with a transgendered woman during his teen years in the 60’s.  The story follows Billy’s life to the present and his quest to come to understand “having crushes on the wrong people”.   I thoroughly enjoy John Irving’s writing style, and his development of his characters.  I often find myself laughing out loud while I’m reading his books, and I think this is one of John Irving’s best novels, right up there with A Prayer for Owen Meany!

 

Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins (fiction)

I originally read this book when it was first published in 1984.  Throughout all my moves since then, (5) I kept this book with me as I remembered that I loved it and couldn’t put it down.  Jitterbug Perfume is set in ancient India, medieval Paris, New Orleans, Seattle, and a myriad of times and places in between.  It is the story of Alobar, an ancient beet farmer and king, his wife, Pan, a Parisian perfume maker, and a down on her luck waitress.  They all are on a quest to find the perfect ingredient to complete a magnificent, life changing perfume.  The story is creative, intriguing, funny, thought provoking and more!  It is a GREAT book.  

 

Flight Behavior Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)

Barbara Kingsolver is another of my favorite authors.  She has a way of  drawing me into her stories and I feel that I truly develop a relationship with her characters.  Flight Behavior is the story of a young wife and mother in present day Appalachia.  She makes a remarkable discovery that not only changes her life, but also the lives of her family and community.  As with most of Kingsolver’s novels, this book has a strong environmental message that she delivers through a poignant story.  I enjoyed Flight Behavior very much.

The Light Between Oceans, M. L. Stedman  (fiction)

Wow, what a story!  The story takes place on a lighthouse 3 hours off the coast of Australia.  It is about the light house keeper, his wife and a baby they find washed up on the coast.  Their decision to keep the baby as their own  brings them both joy and heartache.  The story is poignant, riveting and bittersweet.  I have recommended this book to several friends throughout the year, and they too enjoyed it. 

 

Inferno, Dan Brown (fiction/action)

Dan Brown’s latest novel is set in the birthplace of Dante Alighieri–Florence, Italy.  In this book, Harvard professor of symbology is involved in solving a harrowing mystery to prevent massive annihilation of  life.  To solve the case, he must interpret symbols from Dante’s inferno.  I won’t give away if he makes it or not!

The book is fast paced and very exciting, and I had to force myself to read it slowly so I didn’t miss any of the clues.  For me, this is Dan Brown’s best book.

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (fantasy)

I love the quirky style of Neil Gaiman, and this story is indeed quirky!  I really can’t begin to describe the story and so I will quote a description from amazon:

Forty years ago, our narrator, who was then a seven-year-old boy, unwittingly discovered a neighboring family’s supernatural secret. What happens next is an imaginative romp through otherwordly adventure that could only come from Gaiman’s magical mind. Childhood innocence is tested and transcended as we see what getting between ancient, mystic forces can cost, as well as what can be gained from the power of true friendship. The result is a captivating tale that is equal parts sweet, sad, and spooky. —Robin A. Rothman

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith, a.k.a J.K. Rowling (mystery)

J.K. Rowling is a great author, and once again she has proven that she is more than just an author of the  Harry Potter series.  In this mystery, detective Cormoran Strike is hired by a man to discover the identity of the murderer of his famous sister whose death had been ruled a suicide.  The story is full of twists and turns and keeps the reader’s interest to the very end!

 

Harvard Yard, William Martin (historical fiction)

In a previous post I mentioned that I read William Martin’s first novel, Back Bay for my book club.  I enjoyed it so much that I picked up his latest, Harvard Yard.  This story begins with William Shakespeare presenting an original manuscript to the family of John Harvard, and Harvard’s gift of this only copy to the College which was named for him.     In Harvard Yard, our historian, Peter Fallon is hired by the Wedge family whose ancestors were given the task of protecting the manuscript, to discover if the play survived its through puritanism, fire, witch trials, war and more.   I enjoyed the story and learning about the history of Harvard University and I will definitely be reading more of William Martin’s books.

 

American Gods, Neil Gaiman (fantasy)

Another quirky Neil Gaiman book that I thoroughly enjoyed and c:an’t begin to describe and so again I will quote the synopsis from Amazon:

“The intriguing premise of Gaiman’s tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: “gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can’t turn around without bumping into a minor divinity.”

This is a really good story!

 

Live By Night, Dennis Lehane (fiction/crime)

This book was recommended to me by two very different people, and so I wanted to give it a try.   Dennis Lehane also wrote Mystic River and Shutter Island, and this story continued in that vein.

Live By Night is about a petty gangster in Boston turned mob boss in Tampa, Florida.  It was a very good story, and it kept me interested from start to finish, but I found its violence a bit graphic.

The Firebird, Susanna Kearsley (historical fiction)

Susanna Kearsley brings history to life with her novels.  She uses a technique whereby she has a  present day main character who literally gets into the heart and mind of the historical character and tells both a current and an historical story.  The reader ends up falling in love with both characters and learns a lot of history along the way!  In this story, we are transported to the life of Scottish Jacobites living in Czarist Russia.  This story picks up where The Winter Sea leaves off.  Although it isn’t a sequel per se, I think that having read (actually listened to The Winter Sea) was helpful to understanding this story.

The Firebird is a beautifully written book.  I enjoyed it very much, and I will be reading more of Kearsley’s novels as well as reading up on the Jacobites of history.

 

WOW, I didn’t realize that I read so many books this year!  In my next post I will be reviewing the stories I listened to.