Check out the books we loved in 2016.
This is a heart-wrenching story of love, family and the hypocrisy of wealth, told over decades as the lives of lovers Fern and Edgar intersect and separate throughout time. Told with elegant prose and biting humor, The Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty begins in the middle of Fern and Edgar's story, at the exact moment that they discover the small fortune given to them in the early days of their marriage has finally been exhausted. What follows is the absolute collapse of marriage and home as each desperately grasps for self-assurance in the absence of the other. In the midst of their troubles, and mostly unnoticed by her parents, their daughter grows quickly from newborn to young woman, often picking up the slack for the family while her parents are away. What began as a seemingly perfect, young relationship rapidly dissolves in response to the unexpected responsibility of providing for a family. Ignoring any potential for loss, Fern and Edgar recklessly set about forging a destructive path to their family's future.
I think we can all agree that 2016 was a doozy. So when it came time to pick our best books of the year, the first thing that jumped to mind wasn't something serious -- it was this sweet, funny kids' picture book! Interstellar Cinderella is a retelling with a twist -- Cinderella is a skilled mechanic, who fixes the Prince's spaceship when it breaks down during his Royal Space Parade. The "happily ever after" is not quite what you'd expect -- but once you read it, I think you'll agree it's perfect for our brilliant heroine. And, the icing on the cake is that this story is told in rhyme! "Once upon a planetoid, amid her tools and sprockets, a girl named Cinderella dreamed of fixing fancy rockets." A must read for independently-minded girls and their adults.
I loved LabGirl - loved her voice and her description of what it takes to do science - especially for a woman. And, her perspective on plant life...WOW!!...so interesting and unique.
Kate R's Choice
Magnificent book! I absolutely loved this fascinating, well written novel. The time is 1870 and the place is an unstable, largely ungoverned Texas. When a 72 year old man agrees to return a 10 year old girl, captured by Indians 4 years earlier, to her nearest relatives, he finds he has his hands full. She has lost all memory of her early life and language and sees herself as his captive.
The book explores many themes: the "taming" of the West, culture clashes, human flaws and decency, toughness, kindness and the role of luck, to name just a few. Very highly recommended.
This classic of Japanese literature chronicles the lives of four sisters – two married, two unmarried – living in pre-World War II Osaka. Japan is on the brink of war, natural disasters strike, but the Makioka sisters’ dedication to convention and tradition never wavers. A perfect novel for anyone fascinated by social logistics and the endless, exhaustive conflicts that arise within rigid social structures. A quiet, restrained read -- that nevertheless GRIPPED me.
Kate S's Choice
The story unfolds on a family farm in Iowa. Land and memory shape a timeless tale that had me entranced. I was left saying: “Jane Smiley. I can’t believe she went there.”
This is a fun book based on a real but little-known female sheriff.
Threatened by a silk merchant and his cronies, Constance Kopp won't sit still and wait for some man to take care of the problem. She jumps in despite threats to her and her sisters. I enjoyed it immensely.
Information about dam construction in the U.S. (without thought to environmental impacts) is interspersed within this fast-paced story. Glen Canyon Dam engineers race against time to save the dam following record-breaking snow melts and flooding. Meanwhile, river rafting daredevils take advantage of this “once in a lifetime” river flow to ride the Colorado River as it was when it was first discovered. Great Read!