Friday, December 5, 2014

Goodreads Choice Awards, 2014 ed.

The winners of the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards were announced and I thought I'd share the winners for best Historical Fiction and best History and Biography. I may or may not have read these. I haven't read these

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, winner of the Historical Fiction award with a 4.19/5 rating and 37,972 ratings. 

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall. 

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure. 

Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

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This novel sounds great. I particularly enjoy (regrettably) stories of how the Germans swooped in and entirely took over Paris. I voluntarily wrote a 20 page paper in college about this very subject for a measly one extra credit because I thought it would be fun and you know, the first three pages really were.

Other nominees in order of first loser to last: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd; Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy, #3) by Ken Follett; The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg; The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton; The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman; China Dolls by Lisa See; The King's Curse (The Cousins' War, #6) by Philippa Gregory; The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters; Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal; A King's Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman; Wayfaring Stranger (Weldon Holland, #1) by James Lee Burke; Euphoria by Lily King; Some Luck by Jane Smiley; The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams; A Burnable Book (John Gower, #1) by Bruce Holsinger; Frog Music by Emma Donahue; The Narrow Road to the Deep North: a novel by Richard Flanagan; My Name is Resolute by Nancy F. Turner; I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport, winner of the History & Biography award with a 3.83/5 rating and 1,662 ratings.

They were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle. 

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it. 

The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I, and the Russian Revolution. Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados.

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I've never heard of the Romanov sisters, but I LOVE early 20th century Russian history because although it was unbelievably nuts (to put it lightly), the plight (to put it lightly) of the common folk didn't make international news. Russia kept all the shitty stuff they did very tight-lipped. This sounds interesting.

Other nominees in order of first loser to last: Liar Temptress Soldier Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott; Josh Whedon: The Biography by Amy Pascale; Killing Patton: The Strange Death of WWII's Most Audacious General by Bill O'Reilly; The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney - so so so good if you like HBICs; Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr; In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides; Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby; The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Neward for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs; The Kidd: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr.; Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery; Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke; A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre; The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird; Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark; The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills; Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman; Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis by Tim Townsend; Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman by Robert L. O'Connell; Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris

If you didn't have a colon in your book title, I don't think you were considered for this nomination.

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