Monday, December 12, 2011

Best of 2011 Countdown: #13

Lucky Thirteen!  You know what's the best part of Gianna's day?  See, she emails me her portion of the blog post, and then she gets to sit there and imagine my reaction as I read through what horrible lies she's spreading about me now.  Best part of her day.  For example, there's today.  Not two minutes after participating in a seminar on the Random House social media policies, I received this post.  Sigh.


Catherine the Great
Robert K. Massie
Random House

Liz picked this for her list already and lest you think me a thief, please know that while Liz was reading this book (well after me by the way) she would call me at least four times a day in order to help her sound out big words such as illegitimate, sexuality, and Russia. [Lies. I know how to pronounce "illegitimate." I genuinely can't say "Mitsubishi," but that's neither here nor there. Oh, and I try not to mention the word "sexuality" around Gianna.]
Catherine and I (liz) even
have the same hips!

After reading Catherine the Great it became quite apparent to me why our little Lizzie stuck with this book, although it was clearly a struggle for her. Catherine is in many ways an idol for Liz. [...True.] She was smart, independent, a patron of the arts, and incredibly interesting. The cherry on the top (no pun intended) was that she also took many lovers.  Many, many lovers, but then not getting laid for nearly a decade can do that to you. Ask Paris Hilton (wait how long was Paris locked up for?).  Catherine would also give cash prizes or jobs for being her boy toy and you know what? Good for her. I wish every single time I was dumped someone handed me a check or a promotion. 
Robert K. Massie

I don’t read a lot of royal biographies since so many of them are, let's just say, not too good…it's hard to trust again.  Massie however is the best, and definitely good enough to restore my faith.


Jamrach's Menagerie
Carol Birch

I wasn't familiar with Carol Birch's writing, but when one of the Doubleday editors suggested that Jamrach's Menagerie could contend for the Man Booker Prize, my spidey sense tingled, if you know what I mean.  After reading the book I understood the editor's excitement, and indeed Jamrach's Menagerie made the short list for the Man Booker Prize.  

Why I love this book:

  1. Exotic animals play a large part in the story, from the tiger that almost eats the young hero Jaffy to the menagerie he tends for Jamrach and the dragon he travels around the world to capture.
  2. A great seafaring novel (or movie, for that matter) really can't be beaten. 
  3. Carol Birch creates characters that would make Dickens jealous.
  4. Whaling culture.  I love it.
  5. Carol Birch
  6. The 19th Century age of adventure and discovery--just imagine what it was like aboard the Beagle with Darwin.  The world is fresher than Gianna and full of natural wonder, with no boundaries (also like Gianna).
Following the urchin Jaffy from the jaws of a tiger to his work for Jamrach in England to his voyage on the high seas to secure a dragon for a wealthy collector, Carol Birch creates one of the most glorious historical novels in a long time.  I found Jamrach's Menagerie a pure delight and I can't wait to go back and discover Birch's earlier books. Why hadn't I heard of her sooner??  

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