Sunday, January 8, 2017

To-Be-Read {2017}




*Indicates books added in 2017

41 False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm
Alena by Rachel Pastan
*All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor
Americanah by Adichie.
Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg.
Aprons on a Clothesline by T. DePree
Arctic Dreams
by Barry Lopez
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
*At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story as Told by Jody M. Roy, Ph.D.
*Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy 
Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal M. Omar (reviewed at Bookworm's Dinner)
Bastards by Mary Anna King
*Becoming Curious by Casey Tygrett
Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain
The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
Behind the Burqa by Sulima and Hala (reviewed by Semicolon)
Bellman and Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield.
*Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Blood of Flowers
by A. Amirrezvani
Blood Work
by M Connelly
Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior.
Book of a Thousand Days by S. Hale
Book of Lost Things by J. Connelly
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Bootletter’s Daughter by M. Maron
Born on a Blue Day by D. Tammet
*Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
*The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
China Dolls by Lisa See
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. 
Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eye Ward
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry
Commoner by J.B. Schwarz
Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
A Country Doctor’s Casebook by R. MacDonald
*The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Dawning of the Day: A Jerusalem Tale by Haim Sabato
Departed, The by K. Mackel
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by D. Gregory
Dough: A Memoir by Mort Zachter (reviewed by Lisa at 5 Minutes for Books)
Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (The World As Home) by Janisse Ray.
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (Reviewed at S. Krishna's Books)
Executioner's Song by Mailer
Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad by Waris Darie (reviewed at Maw Books)
Far to Go by Alison Pick (Reviewed by Kristina at The Book Keeper)
Family Nobody Wanted by Doss
Fatal Vision by J. McGinnis
Father, Mother, God: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse
*Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah
First Wife by Emily Barr (recommended by Fleur Fisher)
Flowers by D. Gilb
Fortune Cookie Chronicles by J. Lee
Franklin and Lucy by Joseph Persico
Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith (reviewed by Leah at Good Reads)
Ghost Map
by S. Jackson
Ghost Moth by Michele Forbes 
Ghost Writer, The by J. Harwood
*Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
The Girl in the Italian Bakery by Kenneth Tingle
The Girls by Lori Lansens
Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton
Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Hava: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (reviewed by Gautami at Reading Room)
High House, The
by James Stoddard
*Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
Hiroshima
by John Hershey
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan C. Bartoletti (reviewed by Natasha at Maw Books)
Hot Zone by R. Preston (reviewed by Semicolon)
The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons
*The House We Grew Up in by  Lisa Jewell
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen (mentioned by The Magic Lasso)
Human Cargo by C. Moorehead
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams.
*The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty
I Am Scout by Charles J. Shields (reviewed by Becky)
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab 
*Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh
The Invention of Wings by  Sue Monk Kidd
Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas
Ishmael
by E. Southwark
Keeping the House by E. Baker
*The Known World
*The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (reviewed by Bookeywookey)
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger (reviewed at Thoughts of Joy)
Last Storyteller by D. Noble
Leave it to Claire
by T. Bateman
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan (reviewed by Literary Feline)
Left To Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza (reviewed at Maw Books and Just a Reading Fool)
Liar’s Diary by P. Francis (reviewed by Semicolon)
Life Among Savages
by Shirley Jackson (reviewed at Dwell in Possibility)
Life Is So Good
by R. Glaubman
* The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian. 
Lila by Marianne Robinson
Little Altars Everywhere by R. Wells
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by Rod Dreher
Living End by L. Samson
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (reviewed at The Lost Entwife)
Lost Children of Wilder by N. Bernstein
Loving Frank by N. Horan
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Mad Girls in Love by M. West
Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
Many Sleepless Nights
by Lee Gutkind
Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy 
Mariner's Compass by E. Fowler
The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Mercy Falls by WK Krueger
*Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Minding the South by J. Reed
*Mink River by Brian Doyle
Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills
Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway (Reviewed at The Bluestocking Society)
Murder in the Name of Honor by Rana Husseini (Reviewed at Reading Through Life)
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (Reviewed by Reading to Know)
* My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

*The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls
Not without My Daughter
by B. Mahmoody
*The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
* The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley
Perfect Example by John Porcellino (reviewed at The Hidden Side of the Leaf)
The Plague of Doves  by Louise Erdrich.
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin (reviewed at Reader Buzz)
A Pool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.
Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert
A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor
Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon (reviewed at Missy's Book Nook)
Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett
Property by Valerie Martin (reviewed by The Magic Lasso)
Quaker Summer
by Lisa Samson
Quilter’s Apprentice
by J. Chiaverini
A Quilt for Christmas  by Sandra Dallas
The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas
Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah
Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson
Reading Lolita in Tehran by
Azar Nafisi
Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson (Reviewed at Reading to Know)
The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson
The Rest of the Story by Phan Thi Kim Phuc.
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Rises the Night
by C. Gleason
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books by Lynne Schwartz (reviewed on Shelf Life)
Rumspringa
by Shactman
Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens
Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (reviewed by Just a Reading Fool)
Same Kind of Different As Me
by Ron Hall and Denver Moore (recommended by Stray Thoughts)
*Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford
Saving Levi Left to Die
by Lisa Bently
 The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (Reviewed by Word Lily)
Seven Loves by Trueblood
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
*The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
*Sisters One, Two, Three by Nancy Star
Slaves, Women andHomosexuals by William J. Webb
 So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy (reviewed at Polishing Mud Balls)
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf (reviewed at Maw Books)
Some Girls by Jillian Lauren (reviewed by Book Club Classics)
Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi
Song Yet Sung
by James McBride
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture by Donna Partow
*The Spy by Paolo Coehlo
Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner:
Stillwater by William Weld
Stoner
by John Williams (suggested by JoAnn at Every Day Matters)
*The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump by Sandra Hempel
Summer Crossing by Truman Capote (reviewed by CaribousMom)
Summerland
by M. Cabon
Teahouse Fire, The
by Ellis Avery
Stones Cry Out
by M Szymusiak
*Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Testament of Youth
by Vera Brittain (recommended at Musings)
There Are No Children Here
by A. Kotlowitz
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
by Alan Alda
Thousand Years of Good Prayers
by Yiyun Li
The Threadbare Heart
by Jenny Nash (reviewed at Maw Books)
Three Cups of Tea
by G. Mortenson
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver
*Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Time Between by Mary Duenas
To My Senses by A. Weis (reviewed by J. Kaye)
Tomorrow, the River by D. Gray
Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
by D. Hari (reviewed by CaribousMom and Maw Books)
Trauma and Ghost Town by P. McGrath
*Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Unbearable Lightness of Being by Kundera
* Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott

Uprising by Margaret Haddix (reviewed by Semicolon)
Undress me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman (reviewed by Book Zombie)
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Well and the Mine, The by Gin Phillips (reviewed by Semicolon)
Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
What I Though I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen
What Is What by D. Eggers (reviewed at Maw Books)
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
What Peace There May Be by Susanna Brarlow
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Reviewed at Big A, Little A)
When I Lay My Isaac Down by C. Kent
When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewalt
Wherever you Go by Joan Leegant (reviewed by Bibliophiliac)
Whistling in the Dark by L. Kagen
Who Killed My Daughter by Lois Duncan (Reviewed at Nonfiction Lover)
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
*Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
Winter Seeking by V. Wright
Winter Walk
by L. Cox
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (recommended at Rebecca Reads)
Women of the Silk by G. Tsuriyama
Year of Living Biblically
by AJ Jacobs (reviewed by Andi Lit)
Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes  

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 in Review

I read 48 books in 2016—17 more than I did in 2015! I feel like I'm back on track with my reading. This was a terrific year in books. I probably have way more than 10 favorites, but I'll try to narrow the list down:

Top 10 Books Read in 2016

All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)
Inside the O'Briens (Lisa Genova)*****
Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (Rachel Joyce)
Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman)
Nightingale, The (Kristen Hannah)
Ordinary Grace (William Kent Krueger)
Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce)
Burgess Boys (Elizabeth Strout)
Commonwealth (Ann Patchett)

I'm having a lot of trouble picking my favorite book of the year, but I think I'm going to have to go with All the Light We Cannot See. But really, all the books in my Top 10 were incredible!

Book Club Review

One of the books on my Top 10 list was a book club book (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry), and four of them were books that didn't make this year's book club list! Other book club reads this year were:
Day the World Came to Town (Jim DeFede)***
Death at Wentwater Court (Carola Dunn)*
Geography of Genius (Eric Weiner)****
Lake House (Kate Morton)****
Learning to Swim (Sarah Henry)***
Me Before You (JoJo Moyes)****
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley)**
War That Saved My Life (Kimberly Bradley(***)
Wild (Cheryl Strayed)****
World War Z (Max Brooks)**


TBR List 
I apparently only crossed off 11 books on my TBR list… although I probably didn't add very many this year. I've been adding more in Goodreads and forgetting to add to my blog's TBR. I also pin a lot of new titles on my "I Cannot Live Without Books" board on Pinterest. I have a huge stack of books that I bought over Christmas break at used book stores/thrift stores, but I've mostly been reading on my Kindle whatever TBR books are available on the E-Reads program from our library.


Goals
I liked how I reviewed books each month in 2016 rather than reviewing each book. I felt less stressed about getting reviews done. I set a goal of reading 50 books this year, and I'd like to add a few more nonfiction titles in this year. I think I only read a couple of nonfiction last year.

The Whole List
Below are all the books I read this year. My star-ranking system is as follows: 5 stars--absolutely must read; 4 stars--highly recommended; 3 stars--enjoyable; 2 stars--ick; 1 star--no, no, no.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Books Read in December


Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
The story: This is Strayed's memoir about "finding herself" on the Pacific Coast Trail. Strayed was a recently divorced woman in her mid-20s whose mother/best friend had died a few year earlier, completely unhinging Strayed. She found herself in a dangerous cycle of sex and drugs and decided to free herself by backpacking the trail. The memoir details her life before the trail and then her hike itself, including the cast of characters she meets along the trail.
Me: I've had this on my reading list forever and am grateful that it was picked as one of my book club's alternate reads for this year. I really loved it. Strayed wasn't exactly a likeable or even necessarily relatable person to my 50-year-old self, although I am sure my mid-20s self would have said something entirely different. Regardless, I am totally jealous of Strayed and her amazing journey. To think that she set out on this journey with so little knowledge of the how-to's of backpacking, without ever even taking a practice hike-- that just amazes me. I'm so proud of myself when I finish an 8-mile hike! She has utterly inspired me to set some major hiking goals and to really test my own abilities. Also, she's a great writer. I loved her anecdotes and her candid, no-holding-back style. Highly recommended, although there is a lot of language and sex.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.
The story: A nurse trained by Florence Nightingale herself is hired to be part of a 24-hour watch on a young girl who might just a the newest miracle in her tiny Irish village. Anna is a wonder, and people are coming from far to pay her homage. She hasn't eaten in 4 months, existing only on "manna from Heaven." Nurse Libby Wright's job is to verify that Anna indeed isn't eating: is someone sneaking food to her, or is she truly one of God's chosen?
Me: Donoghue's Room was absolutely stunning, so I was super excited to read The Wonder. I was initially surprised by how utterly different this novel was from Room—the subject matter, the setting, the characters. The first part of the novel was extremely slow moving and even rather repetitive. I honestly was a little confused by what was happening, but I think  that had to do mostly with my lack of focus and initial interest in the topic. But the second part of the book picked up and I was excited about reading it as the characters became more fleshed out. I ended up enjoying the novel but it definitely wasn't a favorite of the year.

The Husband's Secret by Leane Moriarty
The story: One morning Cecilia Fitzpatrick, owner of a perfect life, finds a letter from her husband to be read after his death. She can't get the letter out of her mind but promises her husband she won't read it. In another household, Tess is blindsided by her husband and her best friend/cousin by the announcement that they have fallen in love with each other. She takes her little boy and heads to her mom's, enrolling her son in the same school where Cecelia's own children go. And Rachel is an older woman who had the unthinkable happen to her nearly 30 years ago: her teenage daughter was murdered and the killer never found. Their stories all come together ultimately in a way I didn't see coming at all.
Me: I loved this book! I read it over the course of a day (yay for holidays!) and was completely satisfied upon finishing it. The characters are wonderfully rich and relatable; their stories were compelling enough on their own, but put together—wow! I was completely wrapped up in the novel and really hardly came up for air. It's not a happy book but so worth reading. Highly recommended.

Books Read in November


 The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
The story: Beatrice's father has recently passed away, leaving her—a well-educated, well-traveled young woman— to fend for herself in pre-World War I England. She is hired as the first woman teacher in a village school and taken under the wing of the Kents, an influential family in the village. In her first year there she experiences successes and losses as the country heads into war and refugees pour into the village. A self-proclaimed spinster, Beatrice also discovers that perhaps she isn't destined for a life of loneliness without her father.
Me: I liked this novel. I didn't love it nearly as much as Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Simonson's debut novel, but I did really enjoy it. There is a mixture of innocence and a quest for knowledge in Beatrice, who is on the cusp of an old world, ready for the new one. And I love the historical context of the novel. Recommended.


The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.
The story: This is the sequel to Simsion's The Rosie Project, the story of Don Tillman's "scientific" attempt to find a wife who fulfills his 16-page questionnaire. Don and Rosie have moved to NYC and are completely enjoying their new life together— until a series of misunderstandings and surprises nearly destroys their marriage.
Me: I liked this OK, although it didn't hold a candle to The Rosie Project. I think most of that has to do with the sheer enjoyment and surprise of Don's character in the first novel; by the sequel, we know Don and aren't as intrigued by his quirks. Still, this is a must-read if you loved The Rosie Project, and everyone should love The Rosie Project.


The Good Earth by Pearl Buck.
This is a multiple re-read for me. I teach this whenever I teach World Literature, and I re-read whatever books I'm teaching right along with my students. I love this one—but it's never one of the students' favorites.


Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.
The story: An uninvited guest shows up at a christening party, and nothing will ever be the same again in the lives of the Keating family or the Cousins family. This novel spans fifty years, exploring the intertwined lives of the two families who are bound by blood, marriage, secrets, tragedies, and, most of all, the stories behind everything.
Me: Well, Ann Patchett is incredible. State of Wonder — wow! The Magician's Assistant and Bel Canto? AMAZING!! Patchett is consistently a powerful storyteller. How in the world does she come up with these incredibly diverse storylines? I have no idea—I'm just happy she does. Highly recommended!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Books Read in October



 Guests on Earth by Lee Smith.
The story: Age 13 and newly orphaned, Evalina is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, NC, as a mental patient—although she is certainly not mentally ill. Highland becomes her home, nonetheless. Evalina meets a cast of interesting characters during her many years in Highland, including Zelda Fitzgerald. While Zelda makes only brief appearances in the novel, she adds an interesting and realistic touch to it. The novel also provides a glimpse into psychiatric practices—lobotomies, shock treatment, insulin injections— of the early-to-mid 20th century.
Me: I liked this novel, although it's definitely not a stand out for me. It seemed a bit contrived and rambling, but it was a good story—and I always love Zelda appearances. A couple of years ago, I took my American literature class on a field trip to Asheville, and we drove by what used to be the Highland Hospital, so that was a great connection.

Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya. This is a multiple re-read for me. I teach this as part of my World literature class. Click on title link for my review.

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan.
The story: One day 18-year-old Kim doesn't show up for work. Kim's a responsible girl, a typical teenager. She has all kinds of secrets from her parents, but she's dependable and definitely not runaway material. Her boyfriend and her best friend are perplexed, and they join her parents and younger sister in a search that is supported by the whole community—for a while. But eventually the leads grow cold, and Kim's friends go off to college and try to make new lives for themselves. Her younger sister becomes "that girl" in her school—the one whose sister is missing. And her parents struggle with finding the balance between living and searching.
Me: I have no idea how I happened to pick up two missing-daughter novels in consecutive months (Tim Johnston's Descent was the other)! These are terrible books to read when one has a teen daughter! But both were well written and fascinating. I liked Johnston's better. Descent was more of a plot read and psychological thriller, whereas O'Nan's was more raw and desolate. That has nothing to do with the writing: both were truly excellent. O'Nan's is missing, well, a happy ending.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.
The story: Trudy is a middle-aged history professor who has little sense of familial obligation. Caring for her mother, Anna, is a side duty for her. She visits her on proper holidays and leaves as soon as she can. Their relationship, built on hears of silence, has always been strained. But Anna has a reason for her silence: her past is too painful to disclose. During World War II, Anna was forced to be a Nazi officer's mistress in order to keep herself and, more importantly, little Trudy alive. Adult Trudy knows none of her story, and, in fact, she is disdainful of what she thinks she knows about her mother's life. Anna's story is revealed in alternating chapters, which are much more interesting than the chapters devoted to Trudy.
Me: Anna's story was heartbreaking and mesmerizing. Sometimes it was a bit too graphic, but I tend to be a fairly sensitive reader. I've read dozens of WWII era novels, yet somehow, this presents still another perspective—that of a young German woman who does what she has to in order to survive. I didn't love the chapters with Trudy, but I understand that this was a mechanism to tell her mother's story in flashback. Still, Anna's story is powerful and absolutely worth reading.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman.
The story: Seven-year-old Elsa is a genius. When her grandmother, who was her best friend, dies, Elsa is left with the task of taking care of various people by delivering letters of apology to them. The people nearly all live in her grandmother's apartment building, and they all were somehow rescued by her grandmother. Ultimately, they all come together to save Elsa—and themselves.
Me: I wanted to like this book. I loved A Man Called Ove. Really loved it. But–I didn't get this one. It could have been because I was traveling to and around Austria during the time I was reading it. It could have been jet lag. But I was glad when the book was over, and I felt confused after reading it. Amazon reviewers say it's fantastic, involving, charming, and funny, but I missed most of that. I was just perplexed and felt like I didn't get the joke.

Home Front by Kristen Hannah.
The story: Jolene is an eternally optimistic, upbeat helicopter pilot; her husband, Michael, is a lawyer who is anti-military and disgruntled with their life. Their marriage is falling apart, but Jolene is too optimistic to confront him. One night Michael finally tells her that he doesn't love her anymore, and, before she can figure out what to do with the information, she is deployed. Michael has to step up to the plate and take care of their two young daughters while she's at war. Midway through her deployment, she is injured and comes home as a different person—one that they all have to figure out how to live with.
Me: I loved Hannah's The Nightingale. It will probably be in my Top 10 best books of this year. And so.... I was terribly disappointed in this novel. There was so much about it that just didn't make sense. Why was the husband such a jerk? Why didn't she confront him about being a jerk? Why did he marry her if she was career military and he was anti-military? Why did he keep buying her wine if she had a drinking problem? Why does the little girl always want to play patty-cake? Why was he surprised that he was a "military family"? I just didn't love this book. It was formulaic and felt so contrived. But The Nightingale? Please, read that one!!


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Books Read in September


The Lake House by Kate Morton.
The story: Flashing between the past and the present, Morton presents the mystery of a little boy lost and the subsequent disintegration of his family. Baby Theo, beloved only son of the Edevane family, disappeared one night without a trace. 75 years later, his older sisters are the only ones left in the family. They moved away from the beloved lake house soon after his disappearance. Enter Detective Sadie Sparrow, who's on forced leave from the department because of a case gone bad. While visiting her grandfather, she discovers an abandoned estate and an unsolved mystery from 75 years ago.
Me: Kate Morton is one of my favorite contemporary writers. She is kinda magical. Her stories are mesmerizing and her language simply beautiful. I've read and reviewed The Forgotten GardenThe House at Riverton, and The Distant Hours. I also read The Secret Keeper but apparently didn't review it. I love all of them! Out of all, this one was probably the least riveting to me, but it was still absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend anything and everything by Kate Morton.

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas.
Long-time favorite that I teach in my high school World Lit class. Reviewed here.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens.
The story: Joe worked hard to get to college. His childhood was tough with an alcoholic mother and an autistic younger brother. An English class assignment requires that he interview an older person and write that person's biography. He heads to the nursing home and is given the only person there without Alzheimer's: a dying convict. Throughout the book, Joe discovers that there is a lot more to Carl than his murder conviction. He is determined to find the truth about Carl's story before Carl dies of cancer—but the real story turns out to be a dangerous one still. While searching for resolution, Joe's mother abandons his brother, and Joe has to deal with childhood demons of his own.
Me: First, I loved the main character, Joe, and his brother Jeremy. Joe's just a good guy who takes incredibly good care of his brother. I loved the story of Carl, too. The book got a little far-fetched when Joe meets up with the murder victim's family, but that's OK. The writing was great and the story really compelling. A great read.

Descent by Tim Johnston.
The story: A family heads from Wisconsin to Colorado for one last family vacation before Caitlin heads off to college. Caitlin is a runner, and she and her younger brother, Sean, head up to the mountains first thing in the morning for a run/bike. And then the impossible happens: Sean is hit by a car, and Caitlin hitches a ride down the mountain, she thinks for help. Big mistake. The rest of the novel follows each character:  Grant and Angela (the parents) and Sean as the navigate the search for Caitlin and the aftermath—the years without her.
Me: This book was seriously hard-pounding. I could not stop reading it, practically ignoring everything and everyone else in my life for a couple of days. And this is not just a gripping plot read: Johnston is a terrific writer. He's refined. Sharp. Introspective. I cannot even believe that he doesn't have 5 other novels for me to read. He needs to get busy on his next novel.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Books Read in August

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman.
The story: Ove is the definition of grumpy old man. He's bitter, cranky, judgmental, and rude. He sees the world in absolute black and white. He's the guy in the neighborhood who makes sure no one breaks any rules and no one has any fun. He's mad, and he wants everyone else to be mad, too. And then new neighbors move in next door, and Parvaneh, the wife, just keeps loving him, no matter how prickly and exasperating he is.
Me: I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! I feel like, between Ove and Harold Fry, I've seen the redemption of two wonderful old men this summer. This is a novel of tremendous tenderness, sadness, and joy. You can't help but feel utter hope in the human race upon reading this book. It reaffirms what we all know: that beyond a bitter exterior can rest a heart of pure gold. Highly recommended.

The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner.
The story: Many years ago in the Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner set out to find the happiest places on Earth. In his newest travelogue of sorts, Weiner looks for the smartest places in the world. Why were places like Athens, Florence, Edinburgh, Calcutta, Vienna, and the Silicon Valley hotbeds of creativity? Why did geniuses seem flourish there? Are geniuses born or made? What are the attributes of a creative place? Weiner takes us on a tour of eight different places, studying the characteristics of that city and its geniuses. It's a historical text, sociological study, and travelogue all together.
Me: So, I was off my usual 4-5 books this month because this book took me a little over three weeks to get through. Three weeks! There are so many great questions raised and interesting fodder for discussion, such as:
• Is creativity contagious?
• Are we more creative in crowds?
• Is chaos an essential ingredient to creativity?
• Does it take a city to raise a genius?
• Why do pockets of geniuses seem to flourish and then fade away?
I love the idea that “what is honored in a country will be cultivated there." What are we stifling in America by boxing in our future geniuses? It's a sad thought. This was our book club pick for September, and it was a fascinating read. I took copious notes and look forward to discussing a variety of topics with my fellow book club members.