Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Best Books of 2011 List (part 2)...

This is part deux. You can read part one here.

It's that time of year when we are inundated with "best of the year" lists. I'm gonna toss yet another one your way. BookPage has published their Readers' Choice Best Books of 2011 list. I like this list because it is the result of votes of "real people." Not from sales numbers or professional book reviewers (although some of 2,500+ voters may be. Who knows?). So, without further ado, here goes.

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Genre: fiction- crime/mystery fiction
 “Hearts are broken,” Lillian Dyson carefully underlined in a book. “Sweet relationships are dead.”
But now Lillian herself is dead. Found among the bleeding hearts and lilacs of Clara Morrow's garden in Three Pines, shattering the celebrations of Clara's solo show at the famed Musée in Montreal. Chief Inspector Gamache, the head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, is called to the tiny Quebec village and there he finds the art world gathered, and with it a world of shading and nuance, a world of shadow and light.  Where nothing is as it seems.  Behind every smile there lurks a sneer. Inside every sweet relationship there hides a broken heart.  And even when facts are slowly exposed, it is no longer clear to Gamache and his team if what they've found is the truth, or simply a trick of the light.
For 18 years, Louise worked a journalist and radio host for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, specializing in hard news and current affairs before she began writing her wildly popular crime fiction novels. She lives with her husband in Montreal.

In 2009, Penny helped launch a new award for aspiring Canadian mystery writers, The Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Novel.

A Trick of Light is book #7 in Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series. The series is set in the Canadian province of Quebec. She has posted a handy pronunciation guide for the French words that appear in her novels, on her website.

The other books in the series are:
  1. Still Life (2005)
  2. Dead Cold (aka A Fatal Grace) (2006)
  3. The Cruellest Month (2007)
  4. The Murder Stone (aka A Rule Against Mother) (2008)
  5. The Brutal Telling (2009)
  6. Bury Your Dead (2010)

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Genre: science fiction
On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.
A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.
It has been a busy year for Mr. King. He was chosen as the recipient of the prestigious Mason Award at the 2011 Fall for the Book Festival. During his acceptance speech he read from Dr. Sleep, the sequel to The Shining that he's working on. The speech is about an hour long, but man, it's worth it. Man is funny!
Stephen included an excerpt for 11/22/63 in his short story, Mile 81, which was released as an ebook in September.
The Stand has been chosen as one of the give-away books for World Book Night 2012.

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Genre: fiction- psychological thriller
Due to a catastrophic accident in her mid-twenties, Christine, now a forty-seven-year-old writer, is incapable of forming and maintaining new memories for more than a day. Trapped in an existence in which she wakes every day believing herself to be single and with a whole lifetime of choice ahead of her she discovers instead that she lives with her husband, Ben, with most decisions already made. Through her meetings with a doctor who is helping her to recover her memory, Christine's story begins to emerge, setting in motion a series of events that trigger startling consequences for her and all who love her, leading her to question whether the truth is sometimes better left forgotten.
S. J. Watson makes his powerful debut with this compelling, fast-paced psychological thriller, reminiscent of Shutter Island and Memento, in which an amnesiac who, following a mysterious accident, cannot remember her past or form new memories, desperately tries to uncover the truth about who she is—and who she can trust.

Here's the book trailer I dug up from YouTube. To change the subject from the book for a moment. YouTube. Baby Girl, along with every other teenager in America - no, make that the world, spends a lot of time perusing some of the craziest stuff there. Many of her conversations start, "I saw this video on YouTube..." I'd make it her nickname if it wasn't so long. "Hey Mom, did you see the video of the sneezing panda? It's freaking hilarious." or, "Hey Mom, you HAVE to see this video of a farting manatee..." But, I was thankful when she showed me the video of Sulic and Hauser, two AMAZING cellists. I am in awe.

Oh, yeah. The trailer:

S J Watson, an English writer, was born in Stourbridge, in the West Midlands. He studied Physics at the University of Birmingham and then he moved to London where he worked in the National Health Service specializing in the diagnostic and treatment of hearing-impaired children. In the evenings he wrote. In 2009 Watson was accepted into the first Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ Course, a program that covers all aspects of the novel-writing process. Before I Go to Sleep is the result. 

Now sold in over 30 languages around the world, Before I Go To Sleep has been also been acquired for film by Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free, with Rowan Joffe to direct. Filming is scheduled to begin in 2011. 

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Genre: fiction
The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.
The novel was originally published in Japan as a trilogy in three hardcover volumes by Shinchosha. Book 1 and 2 were both published on May 29, 2009. Book 3 was published on April 16, 2010.

In English translation, Knopf published the novel in the United States in a single volume on October 25, 2011. The cover for the Knopf edition, featuring a transparent dust jacket, was created by Chip Kidd. 1Q84 was also picked by BookPage as having one of the 25 best book jackets of the year.

In the United Kingdom the novel was published by Harvill Secker in two volumes. The first volume, containing  Books 1 and 2, was published on October 18, 2011, followed by the second volume, containing book 3, published on October 25, 2011.

Murakami was born in Kyoto to parents who both taught Japanese literature, but since childhood, has been heavily influenced by Western literature. He met his wife, Yoko, at University  and they opened "Peter Cat" a coffeehouse by day and jazz bar by night which they ran from 1974-1981.

Murakami wrote his first fiction, Hear the Wind Song, when he was 29. He was inspired while watching a baseball game.

He continued to write and in 1986 Murakami left Japan, traveled through Europe and settled in the US. He donated his winnings from the 2011 Catalunya prize to the victims of the March 11, earthquake and tsunami, and those affected by the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Genre: historical/literary fiction

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.
Author Paula McLain had a rough start in life. She was born in Fresno, CA in 1965. But after her parents abandoned her and her two sisters, they became wards of the State - shuffled in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years.  

She wanted to and discovered that she could write. She put herself through school while working her butt off. And has become a success. The Paris Wife is her fifth book, and by far the best-selling.

All for now. Talk to you soon.

Happy reading,

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