January 28, 2011
The Age of Innocence begins in New York City in the 1870s, in a social strata so high I almost got a nosebleed. Newland Archer has everything he could want: social prominence; a private box at the Academy of Music in New York; a fine cigar in the family study every night after his work at a law firm; an almost certain union with pretty and affluent May Welland.
January 25, 2011
For the thirty-plus years of her married life, Sylvie Woodruff has carefully monitored her words and appearance in the glare of the unforgiving spotlight trained on her, the New York senator’s wife. She works unceasingly to keep the pounds off and to support her husband’s career; even though some, like her mother, disapprove of Sylvie’s unflinching devotion to Richard, Sylvie is happy with him and the life they have built with their two daughters.
January 21, 2011
The heroes of the book are met at the very beginning of humankind (at least, as the Bible claims it to be). Aziraphale is the angel of the East Gate of Eden, and Crawly (later re-named Crowley, because “Crawly” just wasn’t him) is the very serpent who tempted mankind out of paradise. The two of them meet for the first time just after the Lord has issued his judgment upon Adam and Eve and cast them out of the garden.
January 19, 2011
For the past ten years, Helen Adams has devoted her life to covering the Vietnam War.
When she first arrived in Vietnam in 1965, Helen’s only encounter with war had been her father’s tales of the Korean War and her brother’s letters home, and her only experience with photography was a high school class. Against all odds—and under the mentorship of the famed Sam Darrow—Helen begins to make a name for herself as the war’s first female photojournalist.
January 14, 2011
It’s bad enough when you find out your ex-boyfriend has died. It’s even worse when he names you the executrix of his estate. But for Oedipa Maas, things really start to get complicated when she discovers and begins to unravel an ancient worldwide conspiracy.
January 12, 2011
Karl Marlantes was a decorated Marine officer in the Vietnam War and, in his time there, he earned two purple hearts and more than a dozen medals. Marlantes draws on this experience to put together this intensely personal (but nonetheless fictional) account of the Vietnam War. Carefully crafted over many years, the book was no doubt painful to write.
January 5, 2011
R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy consists of The Darkness That Comes Before, The Warrior Prophet, and The Thousandfold Thought. These three epic fantasy books form a completed trilogy, although the series continues twenty years later with The Judging Eye (review coming soon).
January 3, 2011
The Bergsons, Swedish immigrants who have settled in Nebraska at the turn of the twentieth century, are determined to survive the wild prairie. Even as many of their friends and neighbors, such as Alexandra’s only friend Carl Linstrum, give up and move away, the Bergsons have become too invested in the rugged land to give up now.
December 29, 2010
Sixteen-year-old John Grady Cole has grown up on his grandfather’s ranch in San Angelo, West Texas. His connection to the land—and to its horses—runs deep in his blood; his family has raised and ridden horses for decades.
December 27, 2010
The theme of symmetry, of identical identity, is the prevalent them of the book. The relationships between the twins, their aunt and mother (who were also twins), and their neighbors take center stage.
December 22, 2010
Chef Michel Richard, owner of Citronelle restaurant in downtown D.C., is known for his savory yet unfussy cuisine. But he started out as a pastry chef, and he has returned to his roots in this book of elaborate-looking but surprisingly simple desserts.
December 20, 2010
This is probably the best nonfiction I’ve read in 2010. It doesn’t take long to be convinced that the author is someone we should listen to (this man is clearly OBSESSED!!), but more importantly, the book is extremely readable.
December 15, 2010
Joe Abercrombie’s inaugural work was The Blade Itself in 2006. He followed this up with Before They Are Hanged in 2007 and Last Argument of Kings in 2008. The three books form the First Law Trilogy.
December 13, 2010
This book gorgeously illustrates love, loneliness, and loss. Niffenegger’s approach to time travel is unique. She uses it to explore the miscommunication and sense of distance that can occur in any relationship, while also discussing the larger issue of what it would be like to live life completely out of order.
December 10, 2010
How to Read the Air is about failed relationships and imperfect people, and about the lasting effect of relationships on identities—for better or worse. Unfortunately, between the slow plot and the flat characterization, there was very little to draw me into this story, and even less to keep me hanging on. As a big fan of Mengestu’s first book, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, I was disappointed in this, his sophomore offering.
December 8, 2010
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears is a powerful story of loneliness and loss, but also of renewal and self-discovery. The spare, efficient prose is slow-moving at times, but that only showcases a narrative that is simultaneously rich and raw.