Books! Books! Books!

My Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011

Paula Walters - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011



I have already wrote about some of my favorite books.  State of Wonder, The Crying Tree and Strangers at the Feast are certainly on my list of favorites. The other seven are:

Wench, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Radley’s,  Every Last One, My Name is Mary Sutter, The Memory Palace, and The Magician’s Assistant.


Wench is the first novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.  It takes place before the Civil War and is the story of four women. Each summer these women are brought to a resort in Ohio the Tawana House.  These women are the black enslaved mistresses of  Southern plantation owners. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are regulars.  They have become friends over the years and enjoy visiting  with each other during this summer vacation.  This summer there is a new woman which they befriend and she begins talking about freedom and running away. This puts a whole new twist on the women’s summer vacation.


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is an enjoyable book about the retired Major Pettigrew.  He lives in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside.  I love books that take place in England.  He lives a quiet life but then becomes friends with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper.  They both love literature and they are both lonely as their spouses have died.  They have a nice relationship which is possibly growing into something more but then of course in this small village the rumors start flying. Like Wench this is also the authors first novel.


The Radley’s by Matt Haig was a pleasant surprise. This takes place in England.  Peter works at a medical clinic Helen is a homemaker.  They have two teenagers, Rowen and Clara,  your average British family.  Well not quite, they have a secret, Peter and Helen are vampires.  They have resisted their temptations for years so that their children can have normal lives.  But then the unthinkable happens and their lives change.  This was actually a delightful book .


Every Last One by Anna Quinlan is an amazing novel.  The reader learns early in the novel that something tragic is going to happen to the Latham family.  Mary Beth and Glen have three teenage children, their daughter Ruby and twin sons.  Alex and Max are not identical twins.  Alex is popular and good at sports, Max is a geek.  Throughout the story I am wondering what the tragic event will be.  About the first two thirds of the story the author is acquainting the reader with all of the characters. We learn a lot about their personalities and their life as a family.  Then finally the tragic event happens and oh my goodness!!  Although I had been trying to guess what is was I was not prepared.  I actually had to close the book to get away from it for a bit.  I cannot remember the last time I had such a reaction to a book.  It is beautifully written and well worth your time to read.


My Name is Mary Sutter takes place during the Civil War.  This is Robin Oliveira’s first novel.  Mary Sutter is a young midwife who lives in Albany.  She wants to study to become a doctor.  Because she is a women she had been refused by the medical college and by the town surgeon.  She runs away to Washington so that she can help the wounded soldiers.  She works with a doctor in extremely unsanitary conditions.  This novel also takes the reader right onto the battle field.  I like books about the Civil War.  This is a whole different take on the war.  A very good read!!


The Memory Palace is a memoir by Mira Bartok.  Mira’s mother, Norma Herr was a piano prodigy.  She was also schizophrenic.  Mira and her sister eventually had to change their names and cut off contact with their mother for their own safety.  Unlike her older sister, Mira keeps in touch with her mother through mail.  At the age of forty Mira receives words from the homeless shelter where her mother has been staying that she is dying.  She and her sister go to the hospital to be with their mother.  Although this is a sad story it is beautifully written.  


Like Bel Canto and State of Wonder The Magician’s Assistant was hard to put down.  It is full of interesting characters.  Sabine, the magician’s assistant, has been in love with Parsifal since her early twenties, when she became his assistant.  The first line of the novel tells us that“Parsifal is Dead”.  There are many surprises in this story.  Parsifal told Sabine that he had no family but after his death she learns that he has a mother and two sisters in Nebraska.  Most of the story takes place in Nebraska and Sabine learns some amazing things about Parsifal’s life.

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