Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I MAY have gotten some good reading done this month.....

So this month was actually pretty good.  5 books.  A total of 2,204 pages.  I did better than my average this month .  So on to the recaps!

Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies (591 pages).  Another historical fiction for this reader!  This one was probably a little more fiction than historical, but I enjoyed it all the same.  Arabella Godwin is the daughter of a wealthy businessman in New York in the 1800's.  When her mother dies of consumption and her father immediately commits suicide, she and her younger brother are sent to live with family on a farm in upstate New York.  This proves to be a decision that sends Belle down a path on which she never imagined herself.  Between falling in love, being raped, and needing to save her brother from jail, Belle finds herself in the unfortunate position of having to become a prostitute.  But Belle had more gumption than most.  She eventually became a successful madam, both in New York and in San Francisco.  When her long-time lover, Charles Cora, is accused of murder, Belle tries everything to get him acquitted.  It doesn't work and she is left a widow.  Meanwhile, other characters from her past come back into her life.  She is able to create a new life for herself, even after being the notorious Belle Cora.  The book is told as a narrative, which made it very enjoyable.  And, in true NotSoPlainJane fashion, I did a little research on Belle to learn what was fact and what was fiction (at least in regards to this book).  I finished it in 7 days.

Cousin Bette by Honore de Balzac (462 pages).  I've had this classic on my shelf for years.  It's always baffling to me when I haven't read a classic just so that I can read some modern piece of crap (I'm looking at you, Fifty Shades).  Slowly but surely, I need to rectify that situation.  Maybe at least one classic a month?  Because the modern crap is a lot of fun!  Anyway, this one was just wow.  Sooo scandalous.  A little bit confusing too.  Cousin Bette lives in a misery of her own design.  She is jealous of her beautiful cousin, with her marriage to the Baron and her children.  So she decides to take advantage of the Baron's proclivity to cheat and encourages a beautiful neighbor Valerie to begin an affair with him.  Valerie, along with the mistresses of his past, drives the Baron into financial ruin.  Cousin Bette, when thwarted in her own passion for a young artist when he falls for her young cousin, encourages Valerie to go after him as well.  Basically it's a vengeance story the likes of which I have never seen.  Cousin Bette will not rest until her entire family is brought to ruin.  In the midst of it all, she tries for her own chance at happiness.  Turns out karma isn't kind.  No one truly turns out happy in this story except for the younger generation.  There was so much double crossing that I got rather confused by some of the connections.  There were also several titles assigned to each character, which is always confusing.  Other than that, it was an okay book.  I can see why it was banned.  For petes sake, Valerie is having affairs with four different men, all while trying to convince her husband that the baby she is about to have is his!  Scandalous for the time, to be sure!  I finished it in 6 days (yay for pool time)

Little Face by Sophie Hannah (310 pages).  Alice Fancourt is a new mom.  She, her husband David and their newborn Florence live with David's mother Vivienne and David's son Felix (Felix's mother had been murdered a few years prior) in Vivienne's home, the Elms.  Alice left Florence at home with David for the first time since giving birth.  When she returns home from her errands, she finds the front door open, her husband napping, and a strange child in her daughter's bed.  But for some reason, no one believes her when she says that the baby isn't Florence.  A week later, both Alice and Not Florence have disappeared.  As the detectives delve deeper into the case, they learn that things at the Elms, and those who are connected to the Elms, are not always what they appear.  The book got more and more fascinating as I read it (yay for flying).

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (311 pages).  I decided I wanted to read this book when they started showing previews for it on Hulu.  But I have so many books at my house that I was going to hold off buying it.  But when you are in Nashville and get the opportunity to shop at a local bookstore, you buy the book!  The story takes place some time in the future in the new nation of Gilead.  The world is very different now.  In some ways, it's more puritanical.  In others, it's not.  Women are divided into groups- the Wives (in blue), the Daughters (in white), the domestic Marthas (in green), the Aunts (in brown), the poorer women (in multi-colored) and the Handmaids (in red).  Handmaids have one purpose- to provide a child to a childless couple.  By having sex with the husband (while laying between the Wife's legs).  Creepy.  Our narrator, Offred (literally the handmaid Of Commander Fred), isn't really content with the way life is.  She remembers life before Gilead.  She thinks about her past (her husband and daughter).  She thinks about her future (if she can't have a child, she will be sent off to the Colonies). And she worries about her present.  Her Commander wants more than just a once a month interaction for the sole purpose of siring a child.  Meanwhile, the Wife is so desperate for a child that she convinces Offred to begin an affair with Nick, the chauffeur.  She becomes friends with one of the other Handmaids, who is involved with an underground resistance.  It was a fascinating book.  And I really wish I had Hulu because I would love to watch the show!  I finished it in 3 days (yay for layovers).

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (530 pages).  This one is hard to describe.  It takes place before, during and after World War II.  Marie-Laure is a blind 12 year old living in Paris with her father when the war breaks out.  They are sent to Saint-Malo with what might be the most famous jewel from the museum where her father had been employed.  Werner is a teenaged orphan living with his sister in Germany.  He is extremely gifted with radios and other electronics.  During the war, their paths, briefly, intersect.  But the war rages on.  At first it was a little too much bouncing around between the characters' stories and the different decades.  Once I got into the flow of the novel, and the true meat of the story, it won me over.  I finished it in 6 days (yep, pool time strikes again).

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April showers got my last book of the month finished!

Despite the fact that I didn't get quite as much pool time this month as I would've liked (only 4 days over 2 weekend), I still managed to get some good reading done. It certainly helped that the last day of the month was rainy, so I could just switch my poolside reading indoors. I finished 6 books at 2,191 pages.

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian (305 pages). Another author I've always enjoyed. This one was different than his typical novel,  it just as enjoyable. In 1955, Francesca Rosita is the last of her immediate family to die. Her husband and two children were killed in 1944 during WWII. But she's the first of her extended family to be murdered and have her heart removed from her chest. At first, the murder seems, while clearly vindictive, aimed solely at Francesca. But when her mother in law, Beatrice, is also killed in the same way, detectives Serafina and Paulo quickly realize someone has a vendetta against the surviving Rositas. Serafina remembers her connection to the Rosita family- she was a young partisan during the war and their property saved her life. The story told during 1944 is so horrific- the atrocities the Rositas had already faced were devastating. But who hates them so much that they won't simply leave them alone with their memories and their suffering?  Serafina rushes to learn the truth before the entire family is wiped out. I couldn't put it down. I finished it in two days (yes, it's pool time again!)

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain (522 pages). In 1977, 16 year old CeeCee falls head over heels in love with 22 year old Tim Gleason. When Tim asks her to help him and his brother kidnap the governor's wife so that their sister's death sentence can be commuted, she agrees. But their "well-laid" plans completely fall apart when the wife dies, leaving behind a newborn baby girl. A baby girl that CeeCee I now solely responsible for. She starts a new life, with a new name. But running through the back of her mind at all times is, will she get caught. When Tim is eventually charged with, and convicted of, the murder of the governor's wife, CeeCee has to decide whether to let him take the fall for her or tell the truth about what happened that night. It was a GREAT novel!!  I finished it in 10 days.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (359 pages).  Sarah Grimke is 11 years old when her parents "gift" her with her own ladies' maid, Hetty (aka Handful). Even at a young age, Sarah knows she's different than other girls and even different than her family. She hates slavery and everything it stands for. She has ambitions and desires. Eventually, she realizes that she doesn't fit into Charleston society and makes her way to Philadelphia. There, she becomes a Quaker. And eventually her younger sister Nina joins her. Together, they become famous (and infamous) abolitionists. Meanwhile, Handful is facing her own battles. She has never allowed herself to be a slave in her own mind and she is willing to do whatever it takes to free her body from slavery as well. The two women remain friends and confidantes, no matter the distance. I had NO idea that Sarah Grimke was a real person until I picked up this novel. She was one of the first famous abolitionists. Literally, she paved the way for many of the famous abolitionists who came later. She spoke out for rights for slaves AND for women. She was quite a woman!  I finished it in 3 days (hurrah for pool time!)

Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte & Sherri Browning Erwin (391 pages). Yep, this book was exactly what the title implied- a combination of Jane Eyre and a vampire slayer. As Jane Eyre is a great favorite of mine, I thought this would be fun. And it was!  The Reeds are vampyres, the Lowood Institution creates zombies, the first Mrs Rochester is a werewolf, and Jane herself, as her last name implies, is a Slayre. It runs in her blood. The writing was very true to Bronte (honestly, Erwin simply changed a few things to make it a monster novel). Not everyone likes this type of novel. But if you do like a classic novel with a vampire twist, this one's great. As good as Pride & Prejudice & Zombies or The Last American Vampire, in my opinion!  I finished it in 6 days.

The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (292 pages). I wanted a little classic chick lit. And this one was GREAT!  Kate is 35, about to get married and has a slight Facebook addiction. She spends a little too much time crafting the perfect picture and status every time she posts. She obsesses about her Facebook friends' lives and how her own measures up. At her rehearsal dinner, her fiancé Max decides to tell her that he cannot marry her. Because he is in love with her coworker and good friend. Kate is justifiably devastated. But when she goes on Facebook to bemoan her situation, she realizes that her status updates become true. When given the opportunity to go back and change everything, can you really change it?  For a chick lit book, this one really made me think. No one's Facebook status is a full picture of their life. And have we become so dependent on technology that we have forgotten how to interact with actual people?  Expect more in person interaction from me after reading this. I can't promise there will be less Facebooking though.  I finished it in 6 days.

The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener (322 pages). Mercy Heron has never left Crooked Top Mountain. And even though she has dreams, deep down she knows she never will. Her overly religious grandfather and slightly eccentric grandmother have raised her since her young mother died giving birth to her under a tree. The summer after she graduates from high school, everything changes. Mercy meets Trout, a mater migrant who opens her heart to the world. As Mercy becomes more aware of herself and her family, she becomes more of the woman she was always meant to be. I enjoyed it, even though there were some parts I found myself a little confused by. I finished it in 4 days. Because I had to (there were only 4 days left in the month!)

Friday, March 31, 2017

March is done. Here are my readings

This month, I did a great job of sticking to my resolution to read at least 50 pages a day. So this month, it was 4 books, totally 1,663 pages. And an interesting mixture of genres this time. Despite only reading 4 books.....

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah (400 pages). I've read one book by this author before (shocking when I realize how many books she's written). So I was excited to add another one to the list. Not sure I was excited by the time I finished it. The story bounces back and forth between 2010 and the past. Tully and Katie have been best friends since they were young. When Katie dies, she asks Tully to watch out for her husband and kids. The bad news is that Tully can barely watch out for herself. The family shatters at the death of Katie. But when another tragedy strikes, they find themselves inexplicably coming back together. It took me quite a while to get into the rhythm of the book. As a result, I wasn't the biggest fan. It took me eight days to read.

Life Mask by Emma Donoghue (639 pages). Another very fictional historical fiction. Which is usually a hit with me. This one takes place in London, from 1787 to 1797. Eliza Farren is a famous actress who has long been wooed by Lord Derby, he of horse race fame. As long as Derby's wife is alive, Eliza refuses to allow their courtship to advance beyond friendship. But Derby is hellbent on having her in his world. To that end, he introduces to her many of his friends, including Anne Damer, a widow and a sculptress.   Anne had long had Sapphic rumors swirling around her. Rumors she adamantly denied.   Which made her friendship with Eliza quite scandalous. But after 16 years of courtship, Derby's wife finally dies, freeing him to marry Eliza. And Anne realizes that sometimes rumors are frequently true. Amongst the cast of characters, there was also a world of political upheaval occurring. The author herself stated it's the slowest paced of all of her novels. This was my third one by her, but I have to agree. If I weren't the type who finishes a book no matter what, I might have stopped after day one. Which would've been my loss, as all of this history was fascinating!  It took me twelve days to read.

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious (372 pages). I recently started the Gilmore Guys podcast while traveling for work.  They were discussing obscure references in one of the episodes and Peyton Place came up. So I decided to give it a read. I'm pretty sure the reference was to the tv show from the 1960's, and not the book from the 1950's, but ultimately it's the same thing. This book was super scandalous when it first came out. Like 50 Shade of Gray levels of scandalous!  Not, however, 50 Shades levels of insanity in the story. The book opens in 1937 in the bucolic seeming Peyton Place, New England. But just like every idyllic small town, this one has so many scandals. Incest, illegitimate children, affairs, suicides, crises of faith, secrets, lies, murder, you name it and it's happening in this town. I couldn't put it down. Amusingly, not as salacious  in today's society as it was in the 1950's. But definitely a page turner.  I was reading it while I was getting my nails done. When the nail tech asked what I was reading and I told her, the older woman next to me perked up a little bit at the title. She'd watched it in the 1960's and acknowledged how risqué it was at the time. It took me five days to read.

Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore (252 pages). I literally picked this book because I knew I needed a 250 page book to finish out the month. And shockingly it was another scandalous book from the 1950's. Clearly an inadvertent, but enjoyable, theme this month. The story opens with 15 year old Courtney, who is at boarding school on the East Coast because her divorced parents aren't sure what else to do with her. Her mother is an actress in Hollywood. Her father is an executive in New York. But Courtney is her own person. She develops a slight crush on one of her (female) teachers.  She leaves school and moves to Hollywood, where she loses her virginity to a bisexual actor who is over a decade older than her. Eventually, she and her mother move to New York, where she is reunited with her wild child boarding school roommate, Janet, a fixture on the young New York party scene. Eventually a tragedy causes Courtney to reevaluate her life and her desires. The book was pretty good (I've read better). But then I googled the author. She was 18 when this book was published. And it was a best seller!  She delved into great detail of young adult sexuality and hedonism in a most shocking way. It was sad to me that she committed suicide at 26, 9 months after giving birth. Makes me wonder if she could have survived if postpartum were acknowledged then like it is now. It took me five days to read, just as anticipated.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fabulous February

This month was very successful. I finished 5 books at 1696 pages. Not too shabby!  So here we go

The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho (245 pages). This is my seventh Coelho novel. And so far, I haven't experienced a bad one.  I have always thought of Coelho as more of a spiritual author than a religious one, but religion does play an important role in almost all of his writing. For anyone who knows their Bible, they know the story of Elijah. After he told Ahab and Jezebel that no rain would fall while the land worshipped Baal, he flees to the brook, where ravens keep him fed. The LORD then tells Elijah to go to Zarephath, where a widow woman will care for him.  After three years of drought, Elijah returns to confront Ahab. This story covers those three years with the widow woman (obviously it does go into the background that leads him to Zarephath). According to the widow, who was not a Christian, Baal and the other gods lived on the Fifth Mountain (hence the name of the book). While Coelho liberally uses verses from the Bible, the rest of the story isn't even remotely Biblical. Kind of like The Red Tent. Sure, it's based on a story from the Bible. But it's so loosely based.  To the point that I found myself a little sad that Elijah's story was so changed. And his faith so weak. This might have been the first Coelho novel that I wasn't a super fan of. His writing is still phenomenal. But the story bothered me. It took 5 days to read.

The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon (319 pages). The story centers around the Tower Motel in London, Vermont. It covers three generations of a family and their friends. In the 19060's, sisters Sylvie and Rose are nothing alike. Their family runs the Tower Motel, which is quickly falling into disrepair now that the new highway has taken most of the traffic away. Rose is convinced that her sister has a big secret. Little does Rose know that she herself is the one with the secret. In the 1980's, Rose's granddaughter Amy and her friends, sisters Piper and Margot, investigate some of the secrets of the Motel. What they learn drives a wedge between the friends. In 2013, Piper comes home to London when Margot tells her that Amy killed her husband, son and self, leaving only her daughter Lou alive. But Amy left a cryptic note for the sisters. As Piper starts investigating what really happens, she uncovers a secret about Amy's family that changes everything. The book was AMAZING!  Dark, scary, intriguing. I absolutely loved it!  It took 6 days to read.

The Shining by Stephen King (659 pages). Seemed like a natural progression- one creepy hotel into another. I've seen two movie versions of this book. Stanley Kubrick's (which King apparently didn't like) and a made for tv (which King did like, probably because he penned the screenplay). So I was excited to finally read the book. Creepy. That's the only word I can think of to describe the book. I knew it was going to be creepy before I picked it up. My mom commented that when she read it, she hide in the corner of the den, as far away from the windows as she could get!  In the book, Danny is only 5. He's very precocious, thanks to the shining. His dad is just a normal guy with a major alcohol problem.  And his mom is NOT Shelley Duvall. She's a little more plucky than that!  There are no twins. There is no maze. There was no "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" or "here's Johnny". Tony doesn't speak through Danny. He just speaks to Danny. Heck, the ending isn't even the same. Which is a little weird to me.  But the Overlook itself was all the craziness that I wanted it to be. It was literally its own entity, taking over Jack's mind and driving him to a desperate attack on his family. The made for TV movie was much more faithful to the book, just as an FYI. I definitely see why King wasn't thrilled with Kubrick's version, however amazing and creepy that version was. It took 10 days to read (yes, I read more than 50 pages a day again).

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (347 pages). I knew I had 7 days left in February, so needed to find a 350 page book. This one was perfect!  The book is basically two stories- that of Sookie, a 59 year old married mother of 4 in Alabama, and of Fritzi, a young WASP during the War from Wisconsin. Skokie finds out some family history that completely changes her life. Fritzi, on the other hand, lived a fantastical life. She was a wing walker and pilot, ran her father's Phillips 66 with only her three sisters during the War (hence the nationally famous All Girls Filling Station), and lived an extraordinary life. The family connections were strong in this book. And the history lesson about the WASPs, the all female pilots who ferried planes during the War, was amazing. What made this book even more amazing for me is that we have a family friend who was a WASP. To know what she did- training pilots, ferrying planes, all to help the War effort. And then to have their efforts be stricken from the history books. To not be given the GI bill benefits. To not be given veteran's benefits to the families of the 39 women who died. Heartbreaking. Heartbreaking and awe inspiring. I finished the book in only 5 days (I planned poorly).

Forest Acres by Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D (126 pages). Only two days left in the month and I didn't want to start a long book. I've had this on the shelf for years. As someone who grew up FA adjacent, but has been living in FA proper for nearly 15 years, I thought it was high time to read a little about my town's history. It was a ridiculously easy read- not a lot of reading, a LOT of photos!  I found it quite interesting that my high school and my town are both connected to the James H Hammond family. Just not the same James H. It was so interesting to learn about my town, and to see some of the things I remember. I read it over 2 days. So boom- month done!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New year, new readings

I made a  New Years Eve resolution to read at least 50 pages a day, every day. I stuck to it, and actually did better than planned. 5 books and 2064 pages. Good job me!  So let's get to it.

Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (334 pages). A slammerkin is an old word, used to define a loose gown or a loose woman. I was eager to learn which one the author was referencing, as it seems like the protagonist, a prostitute, also was a bit of a clothes horse. It's the late 1700's in London. Mary Saunders is 14 when she falls in love. With a red ribbon. The peddler takes advantage of Mary's innocence and she soon finds herself pregnant. When her mother kicks her out, she befriends Doll, a local prostitute, and quickly learns to make her way in Doll's world. She becomes infatuated with the colorful clothes and immune to the touch of a man. But after a few months in the Magdalen, a reformation home from prostitutes, she returns to a world she doesn't want anymore. So she escapes to her mother's hometown of Monmouth, where she goes to work for the Jones, her mother's childhood best friend. She becomes a respectable maid/apprentice seamstress. She becomes engaged. But you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Mary's true, darker nature comes out when she realizes how badly she wants to return to London, but as a wealthy lady this time. So she goes back to her old "job."  And here's where fiction becomes fact- Mary murders Mrs. Jones. And is hanged for her crime.  I liked this book more than I thought I would, but less than I wanted to. I'm not even sure that makes sense. It took me 7 days to read (only five days of actual reading time)

Beach Music by Pat Conroy (628 pages). I've yet to read a Conroy that I didn't enjoy. Which always makes me scared to read another one. Even my favorite authors have made (at least to me) an occasional misstep. And I'm always worried that the next Conroy I pick up is going to be the bad one. Fortunately, this one wasn't the bad one!  Jack McCall left Charleston in his rear view when his wife committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. He took their daughter and fled to Rome. For five years, he had almost no contact with the South. Then, his old life tracked him down. In the form of his sister in law, his best friends, and his family. Suddenly, he must return home to South Carolina and face years of secrets that have long been buried. Betrayals, deaths, the Vietnam War, love and loss all come crashing back as four former best friends try to come to terms with the paths their lives have gone down.  I laughed, I cried.  Darn you, Pat Conroy. Darn you and your literary acumen. I decided that I needed to stick to my (jokingly made) New Years resolution of reading at least 50 pages a day. So it took me 12 days to read this one.

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert (416 pages). Each and every time I picked up this book to begin my daily reading, I found myself singing. If you don't know the 1962 song of the same title, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. "You'll never know how great a kiss can feel when you stop at the top of a Ferris wheel, when I fell in love, down at Palisades Park." Anyway, back to the book. It was actually a lot more historical fiction than I realized it would be (which never bothers this reader in the slightest!). It opens in 1922 in New Jersey. Eleven year old Eddie Stopka and his family go to Palisades Park, for the first and only time in his young life. And, as expected, he has the best time he's ever had- a saltwater wave pool, rides, food, everything a young boy would love!  Fast forward eight years. Eddie has returned to New Jersey, after several years on the carnival circuit. He finds a new life working at the Park- a new job, a new home, even a wife. He and Adele work concessions and have two children, Antoinette and Jack. The family experiences so much- WWII, new owners of the Park, a fire that wipes out the Park, segregation at the saltwater pool, the Korean War, love, loss, you name it. While spending time in the family's French fry stand, Toni watches the acts that come through the Park and has dreams of becoming a high diver. Each family member has their own dreams- Eddie wants to open a tiki bar in New Jersey (so the locals can get a taste of Hawaii), Adele wants to be on the stage, and Jack wants to be a comic book illustrator. But can ever member of the family happily live their dream without sacrificing something?  I really enjoyed the story- mixing fictional characters (the Stopkas) in with real ones (most of the others) and real places is always a great read to me!  It took me 5 days to read (for those math geniuses, yes, I averaged more than 50 pages a day on this one)

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser (442 pages). A few years ago, I took a girls' trip to Atlanta. And we paid a visit to the Swan House (or President Snow's House, for fans of the Hunger Games movies). It's such a beautiful home!  So I decided to give the book a read. The back of the book gave no indication that the story was taking place in 1962. Mary Swan Middleton has just finished her sophomore year in high school. Everything in her life seems to be perfect- she lives in Buckhead with her loving parents and little brother, she has been chosen for a prestigious honor at her prep school- to be the Raven and solve a dare handed down by the senior girls. Then, the Orly Crash of Air France Flight 007 occurs (look it up, it's real. And heartbreaking). While both of the Middletons were booked on the flight, JJ decided he should take a later flight. But nonetheless, Swannee's life turns upside down over night. She also comes face to face, literally, with the racial divide in the city she loves. A racial divide of which she had been completely unaware.  She also works on solving the Raven Dare, which happens to be a mystery involving a painting of her mother's that had disappeared a year before the crash. Turns out the story is also a Christian lit book. Which aren't always my favorites. This one was much better than most. The story was poignant- love, death, tears, awareness, grief, faith.  I found myself in tears at multiple times, both tears of overwhelming sadness and of great joy. Sadly, this book also made me keenly aware of how our education system has changed (and failed). Swannee and her friends can quote poems that they actually LEARNED in school. And they know about art work and history. I'm going to guess most of today's rising juniors barely know what poetry is.  It took me 6 days to finish the book (yes, again, more than 50 pages a day).

My Antonia by Willa Cather (244 pages). I am slightly embarrassed that, as an English major, I had never read this book. It's the story of a young Bohemian girl named Antonia who finds herself and her family in Nebraska in the (presumably) 1800's.  She quickly befriends her nearest neighbor, Jim. Antonia's family lives through some tough times. Eventually Antonia moves into town and finds new friends. But Jim is always dear to her. And Jim remains in love with Antonia throughout the years. He goes away to college and eventually becomes a lawyer in New York. But Antonia is always in the back of his mind. When he finally goes through Nebraska and stops to see Antonia, he finds her happy, with a large family, and still the same girl he's always loved. It was a beautiful book. I'm so glad I read it, even if it should've been read long ago!  I'm not really sure what I expected this book to be. But I really liked it. The characters were colorful and full. It took me 4 days to finish. And I finished it on the last day of the month!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Cheers to 2016- here's to good reading in 2017

December was a bit of a bust, reading wise. I've been  lot more focused on binge watching documentaries and old TV shows. I only got one book read. Sad. But it was really good. As far as 2016 goes, I read 35 books at 13,870 pages. Makes for 38 pages a day. If only I actually read that much every day. Maybe I should. 2017 resolution- read 50 pages a day every day. I could get a LOT of books read that way!  Anyway, here is the last of 2016's readings. Cheers!

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki (478 pages). After some rereads last month, I decided to revisit a favorite genre- historical fiction. This is the story of Elisabeth, wife of choice of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. In 1853, fifteen year old Sisi, her mother, and her older sister Helene traveled to meet their cousin, the young emperor and her sister's intended. But from the moment Franz Joseph laid eyes on Sisi, his heart was hers. Sisi was the second daughter of a minor Bavarian duke, ill-equipped for this new life.  Ill-equipped, but strong willed. As she came into her own in this new life, she became invaluable to her new empire. Especially as her country faced defeat during battles and wars fought against prior allies. It was due to her that Austria and Hungary formed an alliance and created the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Of course, me being me, I did a little research on Empress Sisi as well. Boy- was she even more of a character than I realized. At 5'8" and 110 pounds, she was also obsessed with staying young and thin. Like, frighteningly so. I always love historical fiction and this was no exception!  It took me six days to read (only five days of actual reading time)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Not a bad November


Sometimes, when I count up my actual reading days, I realize I don't read nearly as much as I thought I did. But then I also realize I get a lot of pages read in not a lot of days. 9 days of actual reading time, 4 books, 1344 pages. That's an average of 150 pages a day. If I could read that much every day, dang, I'd read a LOT! Like 12+ books a week. Oh well. Here we go with this month's reading. 

Love Comes First by Emily Giffin (380 pages). I decided to return to my roots and read a little chick lit. And it had definitely been a while since I'd read any Giffin (like 4 years or so). It's days before Christmas when the Garland family's lives are forever changed by the death of oldest child, Daniel. Fifteen years later, their lives are still wrecked. Middle child Josie isn't where she thought she'd be- she's single and currently a teacher with her ex's daughter in her class. Youngest child Meredith also isn't where she thought she'd be- she's unhappily married to her brother's best friend, has a daughter she loves, and is a lawyer rather than the actress she wanted to be. As the sisters try to repair what remains of their family, deep truths are revealed. I really liked this book- it was a little deeper than typical chick lit. It took me three days to finish it (only 2 days of actual reading time)

Ape House by Sara Gruen (303 pages).  John Thigpen is a reporter, sent to cover a human interest story about the language skills of bonobos at the Great Ape Language Lab. He quickly becomes fascinated with them and the scientist in charge of them, Isabel Duncan. When an explosion blasts the lab, it changes Isabel's life and her family of the apes. She must go up against great odds to rescue her apes from their new torturous life. With the help of John and several others, she travels to New Mexico to save her apes. It was a very fascinating and intriguing story. Knowing the true language abilities of apes, it was very interesting to read (an albeit fictional) account of their abilities. And their personalities. Now I want to go to a bonobo sanctuary and actually interact with them!  It took me four days to finish it (only 2 days of actual reading time). 

A Woman Named Damaris by Janette Oke (219 pages). This was actually a reread for me. I've read pretty much every book written by Janette Oke and loved them all. I'm currently reading Acts and there is a verse about a woman named Damaris who believed. Which reminded me of this book, so I decided to pull it out and reread it. Damaris is barely 15 when her mother plants a seed in her mind- that she doesn't have to live her mother's life with her abusive, alcoholic father. So she runs away and joins a wagon train. She finds a new life in a small town. She also learns that family can be created, all men aren't alcoholics, and God is good. Oke is a Christian author, so all of her books focus on faith. Which I love. And most of her books take place in the Wild West. Or at least the time of wagon trains and tough living. I had actually forgotten some of the story, so was thrilled to read it again. It only took me one afternoon to read it

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (442 pages). The movie has been on Netflix and I just read an article that it's not going to be streaming after this month. So I rewatched it. And after watching it, remembered that the book was so much better. So I decided to reread it. It's been at least a decade since I've read it.  And it was sooooo much better than the movie. Why in the world they completely butchered the movie by changing the ending, I will never understand. The book opens in New York City in 1945. Twenty year old Anne Welles has just moved there to start a life far away from her Puritan hometown. She quickly befriends seventeen year old Neely O'Hara, a vaudeville kid with big talent, and twenty something year old Jennifer North, a gorgeous girl with no talent. Their friendships span nearly twenty years of success, failure, love, heartbreak, and more dolls than you could shake a stick at!  The dolls (or pills) help you sleep, help you diet, help you have energy, anything you need. I get that it's hard to condense a nearly 450 page book into a good movie. But boy, did they mess up the story. Oh well. It took me seven days to finish it (only 4 days of actual reading time).