Launch of The Lighkeeper's Daughters

Launch of The Lighkeeper's Daughters
by Jean Pendziwol

Elvis the Mountie Dog Steals the Show at the Book Signing

Elvis the Mountie Dog Steals the Show at the Book Signing
Elvis, Joan M. Baril, customer poet Rob Lem

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Favourite Books of 2012 by Joan Baril


Unlike almost the entire planet, I did not read Fifty Shades of Gray.  However, I am not knocking it.  The loot from that series plus other best sellers allowed Random House US to give every employee a five thou Christmas bonus.  And some say the book biz is dead.  I think not! 

 I read a neat one hundred books this year.  Here are my favourites.

 1. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel Another Booker to follow Wolf Hall.  The intense scrutiny of Tutor life, the deep character analysis of all the main players in the Boleyn story, the snappy and clever dialogue creates the feeling of being drawn into another world.  It occurs to me that a good historical is like a good science fiction in this respect. 
 
 2.The Patrick Melrose series by Edmund St Aubyn. St Aubyn writes the life of his protagonist with lasar precision, starting with the young Patrick’s  destruction by his rapist alcoholic father and continuing with the young man’s slide into multi addictions and finally into his marriage and his own fatherhood. The sharpness of the writing and the character insights are a language lover’s delight.
 
3. Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer. Autistic husband and autistic child, a bald wife and generally upset people in a story of an astronaut on his way to the moon and his wife at home hugely pregnant.  A life affirming book very well written. Structured with many flashbacks that work well.  This is the sort of book one can read again, and that is saying a lot.

4. Coventry by Helen Humphries.  A thin book but a good one. I read it in a day and a half.  Great story, strong characters and the burning, blazing city during the nazi bombing raid. This book sent my out to get more Humphries.

5.Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon A very well written and clever book about the daughter of Aristotle.  A perfect ending.

6. A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.  A terrific book in every respect: great writing with excellent metaphoric usage, memorable characters, and a peppy cluster of plots.  The pivotal scene is given to the local doctor and town council member who erupts into anger when the council wants to close down the drug clinic as worthless but, the doctor reminds the president, “Haven’t you used the health system to pay for your heart by-pass due to your eating addiction and your refusal to moderate it.”  Lovely moment.  The various plots follow the lives of several people, adults and teens, and ends with a death as these books must.  A clash of class in a small English village. It is mystery to me why the reviewers were so dismissive.  Unbelievably, a New York Times reviewer opined that novels should not deal with social problems.  At that point, I thought I heard a giant rumble as Dickens revolved in his grave. But discerning readers voted with their bucks and the book hugs the best seller list.

7.Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich. A great read, the kind you whistle through in two days.  All the major characters are there and the dialogue, especially between peppy Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter, and her two hot hunks, Morelli and Ranger, adds plenty of spice to a fast moving story.  

8. The Winter World by Ken Follett. Okay, so we know that Follett hires a team of historical researchers to get background for his door stoppers.  True, there will be lots of history and the characters will always be, coincidentally, in the thick of the action. But, this is a Mitchner-type book; you dive in and stay submerged until the final page. Starting in the Great Depression and ending with the Cold War, four families, one each from the U.S, Britain, Germany and Russia, experience the major events of the times.  The final page when the little German child, the product of the Russian rape of Berlin, blows out the candle after the family sings Silent Night, grabs at the heart.
 
 9 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Pulitzer Prize winner. Wonderful linked short stories about a woman, Olive, and the town of Crosby, Maine.  Olive is a memorable character: a Hagar Shipley type, prickly, difficult, quick to anger and to take offense and yet insightful too.
 
10. Come Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant A delight, a one of a kind, simply a bubble all the way through.  She gives the tortoise a point of view, thereby solving that problem of how to deal with facts that the reader has to know but the main character does not.  We accept this conceit with nary a qualm and read on.

11    The Marriage Plot by Jeff Eugenides.  The three main characters, Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchel, are young graduates starting out in life.  Leonard’s life is shadowed by mental illness, Madeleine’s by her work on her thesis which concerns the marriage plot in literature, and Michael’s by his spiritual quest including a stint at Mother Teresa’s hospital in India. I began to care about each of them as they tackle the big questions that surround them.

 

 

 

 

 

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