Tuesday Top Ten

historical fiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the top ten books in a specific genre.  I chose historical fiction since it’s a genre that I never thought I really liked until it quickly became one of my favorites over the past couple of years.

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The most touching book I have ever read, it takes place during WWII in Germany and provides unique perspective and an even more unique narrator.
  2. The Son by Philipp Meyer – The history of Texas, from 1836 through the present day, from the attack of Native Americans through the rollercoaster of the oil industry.
  3. Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies – From early-1800s New York City to the farms of upstate NY to San Francisco during the Gold Rush this is the story of a woman and her life.
  4. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – A coming of age story in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950.
  5. Codename Verity by Elizabeth Wein – The story of two women, two friends, a pilot and a spy, during WWII.
  6. Brewster by Mark Slouka – A beautifully written story of friends growing up in upstate New York in 1968.
  7. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – The last public beheading to take place in Iceland in the early 1800s.  A devastatingly beautiful story.
  8. A Good American by Alex George – The story of immigrants to America in 1904 and their lives, and the lives of their descendants, as told by their grandson.
  9. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Ursula’s story allows you to travel through various scenarios throughout the early to mid-1900s as she is born and dies again and again.
  10. Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – Epic in scope, from the mid-1700s through most of the 1800s, this story also travels the globe, from England and American and Amsterdam to Tahiti and the jungles of the world.

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The Son

sonThe Son is a sweeping multi-generational saga tracing the McColloughs through history as they create a Texan ranch and oil dynasty, accumulating massive wealth and power.  Spanning the history of Texas from 1836 until 2012, the story is told by rotating through three different characters, each with a unique voice and a striking story.

The story of Eli McCoullough (The Colonel), the patriarch of the McCoullough dynasty, is told in the first person.  As a thirteen year old boy, Eli is kidnapped by the Comanches after watching them slaughter his family.  Eventually he becomes a member of the tribe and embraces their lifestyle, only leaving them after a smallpox epidemic decimates the tribe.  From there he will move through life – a Confederate soldier, a Texas Ranger, the husband of a judge’s daughter, a rancher, and an oil baron.  He is also merciless – a thief, a philanderer, and a murderer.  The Colonel is a rough character, firm in his beliefs and willing to do whatever he deems necessary.  Ruthless, he was still my favorite voice, brutal and honest and interesting.

“It had become clear to me that the lives of the rich and famous were not so differ from the lies of the Comanches: you did what you pleased and answered to no one.” 

The story of Peter McCoullough, the Colonel’s son, is told through his diaries.  Peter has a conscience and a sense of morality that his father lacks, and feels burdened by the choices his father has made in pursuit of power.  Unfortunately, Peter is too weak to really do anything about it.  Caught in the crossfire in a volatile time between Texans and Mexicans, Peter wants to do the right thing but seems incapable.  Stuck with an overbearing and disappointed father, a disconnected and unsupportive society wife and children who do not care, Peter tries to make peace with his situation.  Honestly, Peter was my least favorite voice – too whiny and depressed and annoying with too little strength and action.

That leaves the final story – that of Jeannie McCollough, Peter’s granddaughter, as told in the third person as she lies on the floor, dying at an old age, and reflecting on the pivotal moments of her life and her struggles.  Jeannie has spent much of her life struggling to be independent and succeed in the man’s world of cattle and oil while trying to also be loved – a woman, a wife, and a mother.

 ”Of course you wanted your children to have it better than you had. But at what point was it not better at all? People needed something to worry about or they would destroy themselves, and she thought of her grandchildren and all the grandchildren yet to come.”

As a warning, this book is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish.  If you are bothered by graphic violence, sex, foul language, murder and mayhem – you should probably read something else.  My favorite pieces of the book were the stories from Eli about the time spent with the Comanches. But I found the entire book to be fascinating, in the development of the characters and their stories, in the history, and in the intertwining of the lives and fates of the Native Americans, the McCoulloughs, and the Mexicans.

“No land was ever acquired honestly in the history of the earth.” 

Title: The Son
Author: Phillip Meyer
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 576
Publication: Ecco, May 2013

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Tuesday Top Ten

top ten sequels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to list the ten best sequels.  There are plenty of series that I have highly enjoyed, but it is often difficult to pick out the best in series, the sequel that is truly the highlight, and most times I can’t even remember what happened in which book, but I’ll give it a try!

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – It may be the only time that the final book in a series didn’t let me down in some way…  The only let down was that it was over.
  2. Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny – A heartbreakingly beautiful novel, far more about the characters than the mystery, although that is fascinating as well.
  3. How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny – The sequel that I have most anticipated (OK – after the Harry Potter series!) and it did not disappoint!
  4. Son by Lois Lowry – This sequel to The Giver brought together the three previous novels beautifully and answered a lot of questions within an engrossing story.
  5. Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls – This story of the author’s grandmother is gripping and a wonderful sequel to her memoir The Glass Castle.
  6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth – Maybe it’s just because I am anxiously awaiting the final book in the series, but this novel did not disappoint as so many middle books in a trilogy often do.
  7. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larrson – As raw and gripping as the first!
  8. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith – While I have enjoyed all of the books in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, finding the language and cadence of the stories like a mini-vacation, this one has always been one of my favorites.
  9. The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer – This is when some of the first indications appear that Artemis Fowl may actually have emotions…
  10. Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman – One of my favorites of the Moe Prager series, gritty and sad.