Showing posts with label ml stedman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ml stedman. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

IT'S FAVORITES TIME!!!

It is time to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2015!

As I always disclaim with this list: you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. Day Four by Sarah Lotz
If you haven't read Lotz's The Three yet, do that first, and then do yourself a favor and read this book.  The Three was on my 2014 favorites list, and the sequel did not disappoint!

2. The Shore by Sara Taylor
Potentially the most unique novel I read this year.  I can't wait to see what else Taylor has in store.

3. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
One of the only 5-star reviews I gave all year.  This story is heart-wrenching and beautifully told.

4. Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Jon Krakauer is still one of my favorite nonfiction writers.  He handles this delicate subject with the same objectivity and fastidiousness that is the trademark of his other works.

5. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
A truly awesome reading experience from cover to cover, made even more enjoyable because I did not originally expect so much from it!  I love it when a novel makes me bend my typical genre preferences.

6. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
This novel made me feel all the feelings.  Not the most uplifting choice on my list, but certainly one that continues to stay with me.

7. Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Few nonfiction writers can bring their subjects to life the way Larson can.  These real-life events read with the suspense of a fiction novel, while still capturing all of the historical detail needed to make this an enlightening read.

8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
You had me at "post-apocalyptic literary fiction."

9. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
This is one of those books for which I did not write an especially amazing review, but due to the fact that I continue to mull it over and over, and hit my friends with random factoids from it all the time, it has still earned a spot on the favorites list for this year.

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Ughhhh, I feel so bandwagon-y and lemming-like putting this on here.  I mean, it's on every list EVER, right?  But I can't deny it was one of the top 10 books I read this year.  Fact.

That's a wrap!  What made YOUR best-read list for 2015?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

5 Star Review! The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Source: received as a gift from Cornelia at Small Hour Books

Summary from Goodreads

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.


My Review:

This book is AMAZING.  It is also really, really, really (really really) sad.  If you want to be completely absorbed by a beautifully-written, thought-provoking, thrilling novel, while also crying giant alligator tears, then do I have the book for you!

The absolute best thing about The Light Between Oceans is the moral ambiguity of each character's actions.  Tom and Isabel make a startling choice when the boat washes up at their home on Janus Rock.  Taken at face value, it's a choice that is illegal and unjust.  But as Tom and Isabel each explain their actions in their own way, readers can't help but see the possible good in what they've done.  Right and wrong are certainly not easily separable in this novel--not just for Tom and Isabel, but for many of the other characters that are brought into their complicated web.  As things begin to spiral out of their control, the couple must constantly re-evaluate their intentions, and what "right" really means.

That said...you're always waiting to see when that other shoe is going to drop, hence the nail-biting suspense.  This is a very emotional, heart-wrenching book, but Stedman writes it in a way that allows you to appreciate the writing, while simultaneously scrambling to get to the next chapter and see what's to come.  I find that many of the books I read with particularly beautiful prose are usually not also page-turners (in terms of plot action), but The Light Between Oceans bridges that gap.

I can't end this review without giving a thumbs-up to Stedman's use of setting, which plays a huge role in the atmosphere of this novel: both post-war Australia in general, and Janus Rock/the lighthouses in particular.  I've read very few books set in Australia, but this one combined the physical location with a rich history that really submerged me into the story.  Plus, the isolation of Tom and Isabel's life on Janus Rock was a key element to many of the major plot points, and that sense of remoteness was palpable in their everyday lives.

Five stars on Goodreads, and going on the favorites list.  I haven't been able to say that in a while!  This book was so much more than I expected, and I'll definitely be picking it up for re-reads in the future.

What was your last 5 star read?  Have you read any other good novels set in Australia?  (This is not a setting that I've visited in my fiction very often!)
 
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