Friday, December 1, 2017

Mo(reading)vember for this girl!

I did some good reading this month, both in terms of amount and quality. Honestly, not a bad book in the bunch. And a nice variety. Thriller, historical fiction, western, chick lit, YA. All in all, 8 books at 2,395 pages. Go me!

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (308 pages). At first glance, it was a strange combination of Truly, Madly, Guilty and Little Face (two books I’ve read already and really enjoyed). But it was actually very different. Anne and Marco left their 6 month old daughter at home to have dinner with their next door neighbors one night. They checked on her every thirty minutes. And had a monitor. But when they left dinner, the front door was open and Cora was gone. Without a trace of evidence. About halfway through the book, the kidnapper is revealed. But it’s not as simple as it appears, as everyone has secrets. Anne, Marco, the neighbors, Anne’s wealthy parents. The whole thing starts to go awry. And then, that ending!  Suffice it to say, addictive read. I clearly read more than 50 pages a day because I didn’t want to put it down!  I finished it in 4 days. 

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (241 pages). Years ago, I bought the entire series that follows up The Giver. But I never got around to reading them so I decided to do just that. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was a sequel though. So thank goodness it had been a while since I read The Giver (like I had to google the plot to remember it). Kira is crippled and orphaned in a society that doesn’t see value in either. When some of the women of her village take her before the Council of Guardians to ask for her death, Kira expects the worst. But the Guardians know about her gift, her artistry with tapestry. So she is brought into the Council Edifice to live and work. After befriending another artist, a young woodcarver named Thomas, she begins to learn some truths about the world she has always lived in.  Her only other true friend, a young boy named Matt, helps her as well, by finding another village that exists past the Forest that surrounds them. I finished it in 3 days. 

Messenger by Lois Lowry (169 pages). Book 3 in the series. Matty (yes, the same Matt from the previous book) has found a new home in a new village. He lives with the blind Seer in a village that appreciates differences and flaws. It’s a safe haven amongst the other villages. The Leader of the village, a man who arrived on a sled one winter day (hello Jonas from The Giver) has rules. But they are things like “no secrets” and a barter system and “everyone is special.”  Matty happily spends his time in the village with Seer and going back to visit Kira, who happens to be Seer’s daughter. He even has a job- he’s the messenger for Leader. But selfishness and something else sinister start to invade their happy village. Something brought about when the Trademaster comes to town. And decisions are made that will affect not only the village, but the surrounding world. Matty learns that he too has a gift. And his gift is his greatest strength. The book was heartbreaking and so powerful. I finished it in 2 days. 

Son by Lois Lowry (393 pages). The final book in the series.  Claire is a Birth Mother in her village. When her first birthing goes wrong, she is sent to another job. Suddenly the contentment she’d always felt seems gone. Then, at that year’s Ceremony, a shocking event happened. Young Jonas is selected to be the Receiver (wait, did we just come full circle to The Giver?!). She also learns that her son survived the difficult birth. Yep, you guessed it- Baby Gabriel who escapes with Jonas!  When Claire hears the alarm that Jonas and Gabe have escaped, she flees to a boat that’s from Elsewhere. And then wakes up in a new village with no memory of her prior life.  When her memories start coming back, she decides it’s time to find her son. That’s when she meets Trademaster. And finds her way to the village where Gabe has been living with Jonas this whole time. Seriously, this series was phenomenal. Every once in a while, I read a YA book that makes me think and feel.  And one that every child AND adult should read. This series was one of them. I finished it in 5 days. 

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella (345 pages). The 8th in the Shopaholic series. I decided to head back to a little mindless and fun chick lit. This one picks up where Shopaholic to the Stars left off, with Rebecca’s father and Suze’s husband off to Vegas to “right an old wrong.”  Rebecca, Luke, their daughter Minnie, Suze, Alicia Bitch Longlegs, Rebecca’s Mom Jane and Jane’s best friend Janice are in aN RV, heading across the Southwest in search of their lost men. Turns out, there’s a big secret Rebecca’s dad has been hiding. For years. And nothing will stop Rebecca from fixing the problem, Ocean’s Eleven style!  It was a lot of fun and an easy read. I finished it in 4 days. 

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs (424 pages). Yes, an old standby- historical fiction!!  And historical fiction about my favorite musical (that I haven’t seen yet)?  Double win. I had done some research on my own after becoming obsessed with Hamilton after hearing the musical. So I knew a lot about him.  But reading anything bout him and his wife is fascinating to me. Cheating scandal aside, if I could find a love like the Hamiltons had, I would be ecstatic!  Yes, he was very focused on starting our government (almost to the point of ignoring his family), but his love for Eliza never faltered. And her devotion to him for the last several decades of her life without him was astonishing. I finished it in 8 days. 

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (291 pages). I picked this one because there were only 6 days left in the month, so I knew I had to pick something I could finish!  Hey, I embrace my nerdiness. This one started with, wow. The very first chapter sets the events of the entire novel into motion, which isn’t something you see in every novel. It occurs over a 24 hour period. Helen Knightly is a middle aged woman. She’s given everything she has to everyone in her life- her children, her ex-husband, her father, but especially her emotionally and mentally ill mother. It all comes to a head one day. Helen makes an emotional decision. And holy crap- does it change everything!!  It was eerie and haunting and soooo strange. I finished it in 2 days. I’m a hopeless nerd

True Grit by Charles Portis (224 pages). 4 days left in the month called for another short book to finish. Seeing as I did a bang up job of blowing through the previous one a leeeeetle faster than I thought I would. Just as enjoyable as the movie, maybe even more so. 14 year old Mattie Ross engages the services of US Marshall Rooster Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf to help her track down the man who murdered her father in cold blood. For some reason, despite the fact that it’s a pretty basic story, it’s really really good!  I finished it in 4 days. 

This month's favorite read goes to (drum roll please)- The Giver series. It was amazing!!  I seriously couldn’t pick just one favorite out of the three. They each just added to each other

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October’s readings could’ve gone better......

This month, I only read 5 books. At a total of 2,014 pages. Technically, I started book 6. But started isn’t the same as finished. So we’ll talk about that one in November. So here goes!

The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide by Chris Colfer (434 pages). This is the final book of the series. And I’ve enjoyed every single one. In this one, the Literary Army assembled by the Evil Emperors is set to invade our world. And they have Alex under a curse that makes her more powerful than even she could imagine. The fairytale world is almost in ruins. But Connor has gathered his own army of HIS literary creations. And the two armies face down in New York City in an ultimate battle of good versus evil. Armies can always be defeated. But can the most powerful curse ever created be broken and can Alex be saved?  Will anyone get their happily ever after?  This series was very creative and full of imagination. I finished it in 4 days. 

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews (385 pages).  I decided to just start reading my books in alphabetical order. I might switch back and forth between paperback and hardback. I haven’t decided yet. But I’ve got to start putting a dent in the books that I sometimes seem not interested in. This one was cute. Total chick lit romance. Which might not have been the smartest decision immediately post-breakup. But it’s the one I grabbed. Regina Foxton has a local cooking show in Atlanta, where she specializes in southern dishes with healthy, fresh ingredients. Tate Moody has his own show, a kill it and grill it one. Both of them are up for a new southern cooking show on The Cooking Channel. A Food Fight is planned and it’s a fight to the finish when the two hosts face off in three challenges that will test their cooking skills. The book made me hungry. Hungry and a little heartbroken.  But that’s just a personal thing. This summer, by the pool, it’d have been perfect. A little too romantical for a girl who’d just gone through a breakup. I finished it in 4 days. 

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (374 pages). After reading The Handmaid’s Tale not that long ago, I realized I’d purchased a trilogy by Atwood that I’d never even cracked open. So I decided the MaddAddam trilogy would be next. Dystopian society?  Check. New terminology for a new world?  Check. Otherwise, nothing like Handmaid’s. In this, Snowman is scared he is the only human left after a plague wipes out humankind. Genetic testing and mutations created “animals” and “humans,” but none like Snowman. No real humans. So he decides to search for others and returns to his former home, where the destruction of mankind originated. His story is told in memories of his life before, with his best friend Crake (who engineered the hybrid “humans”) and his crush Oryx, and what led him to this point in the world as it remains and how the world got into this state. Other than the genetically mutated humans (aka Children of Crake or Crakers), are there other humans out there for Snowman to find? And who is this MaddAddam character that the trilogy is named for (hint, it’s not just one person)?  It took me a while to get into it. But once I did, I rather enjoyed it. I finished it in 7 days. 

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (431 pages). Book 2 in the MaddAddam trilogy. I figured if I’d started it, I might as well complete the whole trilogy now!  Toby and Ren are both former members of God’s Gardeners, a weird semi-religious, semi-earth mother, semi-political group founded by Adam One that was very active prior to the plague outbreak (or the Waterless Flood as they called it).  Toby finds herself trapped in the swanky spa where she had been working when the plague hits. Ren is also trapped in her place of employment, an upscale sex club. Again, the story is told primarily in memories of life prior to the Flood, from both women’s perspectives. One of the fellow Gardeners, Zeb, is nicknamed Mad Adam (hmmmm, is that a clue about how MaddAddam came into being?  Yep). And there was some interesting overlap of characters- Ren goes to high school with Crake and Snowman (her first love) and her best friend during her God’s Gardeners years ends up dating Snowman after college (events Snowman had reflected upon in the first book). Things get even more interesting when other survivors start to surface and reunite. I finished it in 7 days. 

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (390 pages). The last book in the trilogy. Now that most of our main characters have been reunited, things really got good.  The Crakers have joined forces with the God’s Gardeners/MaddAddamites. The group is trying to get Snowman healthy, find Adam One (very interesting connection to Zeb), and basically start a new civilization. It was told through multiple eyes- Zeb telling Toby his backstory and how God’s Gardeners came into being, Toby telling what was happening in the moments and also telling stories to the Crakers (which they loved) and one of the young Crakers telling stories. There was excitement and happiness and sorrow and even the humans working with some really smart pig hybrids. It might have been my favorite of the three.  I finished it in 7 days. 

This month's favorite read goes to (drum roll please)- Land of Stories. It was a satisfactory final book to a series I’d long been reading. I did find the MaddAddam series pretty fascinating once it got going and I became accustomed to the terminology and characters. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September, a glorious month to read

So this month, I went on a week’s vacation. Between airports and NOT having access to my TiVo, I got a lot of reading done. Had I not chosen to tackle another GOT novel, I’d have read more books this month. Although not necessarily more pages. As it is, I read 5 books at 2529 pages. So here we go!

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (516 pages). This. Novel. Was. Weird. But also really good. Narrator was a successful, attractive, drug addicted porn star/pornographer until he was in a horrendous car accident that leaves him burned beyond recognition. While recovering in the burn unit, he meets Marianne Engel, an artist who sculpts grotesques. Marianne tells him that they were lovers in medieval Germany. She had been a postulant and scribe at the Benedictine abbey at Engelthal. He had been a mercenary. As she recounts the story of their life together, he wonders if she's crazy or telling the truth. The novel was surprisingly spiritual and romantic and crazy. I finished in 8 days. 

Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone with the Wind by Marianne Walker (518 pages plus a 20 page preface). I love, love, LOVE GwtW. Seen the movie more times than I can even tell. Read the book twice (the first time in fifth grade). Kind of want to read it again. So this autobiography was a no brainer. Even though I've been to the Margaret Mitchell house (aka The Dump) and know so much about the novel. I didn't really know a lot about Peggy and John. She truly would never have written GwtW without him. Amazing love story. And a very well written book. Full of great stories of the couple, told to this author by their family members. I finished in 4 days (hooray for vacation!)

Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye (198 pages). The back of the book said it was  Children of the Corn meets the Brothers Grimm. So I was excited for some scary. It was not scary, just weird. It takes place in a small German town. The novel is told by several of the children, each from their own perspective. The townspeople believed in curses and omens and ghosts. There were murders and incest and cheating and lies. I didn't really enjoy it but I finished in 1 day (seriously, vacay rules!)

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle (299 pages). Who doesn't love Pride and Prejudice?!  Ok, fine, some people might not. But I bet those people aren't reading my blog!  As everyone knows, there were 5 Bennet girls- Jane who married Bingley, Lizzie who married Darcy, Mary, Kitty, and headstrong Lydia who married Wickham. Mary was always just kind of there in P&P. Not as smart as her older sisters, not as vivacious as her younger ones. Typically middle daughter. But in this novel, Mary is given some personality and story. She is resigned to her lot in life- she will most likely never marry. But then, during a visit to Jane and Bingley, she allows herself to imagine when she meets Henry Walsh. Amidst more Lydia drama, Mary must decide what she wants and who she loves. I finished in 2 days (vacay AND travel). 

A Feast of Crows by George RR Martin (978 pages). I decided to head back to GOT, knowing there won't be another new episode for 2 years!  I've got 2 more books to finish, so why not. Honestly though, I've reached the point where I just like the show better. Martin has never met an edit he likes (apparently). While it's definitely nice to get additional story that the show just doesn't have time for, I found that this book dragged a little bit. He only focused on a few characters in the whole novel. So I found myself wondering about the rest of the cast of character. Turns out, they'll be the subjects of book 5. And then I'll be all caught up to what he's actually published. They also changed some of the character names from the book to the show, so I had to occasionally remind myself who this character is. And there were some great characters who aren’t even in the show. Like Lady Stoneheart aka Lady Catelyn reincarnated. Honestly though I just kind of powered through to get it read. I finished in 16 days. 

This month's favorite read goes to (drum roll please) Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh’s love story. The Gargoyle came in second

Thursday, August 31, 2017

August readings went well

Now that I've made a comitment to read at least 50 pages a day, I'm doing much better getting a good amount of books read each month. This month, it was 6 books at 2,288 pages. So let's get to it.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop (413 pages). Another polygamy book. Yes, I get it. I have a slight obsession. It's fine, it's fine. There's a 12 step program, right?!  Anyway, Carolyn Blackmore is 18 when she becomes 50 year old Merrill Jessop's fourth wife. More wives follow. And she goes on to have 8 children with Merrill. But life in the FLDS compound is intolerable to her. When finally given an opportunity to escape, she takes it. And takes all 8 of her children with her. This autobiography focused a lot more of Carolyn's miserable existence in her husband's home and the abuses she faced. Upon her escape, she managed to create a new life with her children. And finally find love. Y'all know I love a polygamy book. I finished it in 7 days.

When All the World Was Young by Barbara Holland (310 pages). So August is shaping up to be autobiography month.  Barbara grew up in the 40's and 50's in DC. Her stepfather was distant, her mother was an atypical one, and her siblings were friends and enemies. Because it was D.C., her life was a little different than others. She never really fit in at school. But finally found her footing when she became an author of modest success. It was an easy read.  I finished it in 6 days.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (517 pages). This is my fourth Moriarty novel. And of course, I loved it. She's a genius. Erika and Clementine have been friends since elementary school, although it has never been a good friendship. One afternoon, Erika and her husband invite Clementine, her husband and their two daughters for tea. A last minute invitation to next door neighbors Vid and Tiffany's for a barbecue takes their afternoon down a different path. One moment, on an ordinary day, changes everything. The book bounces back and forth between the day of the barbecue and two months later. I couldn't put it down. Every time I'd hit my 50 pages, I'd think "one more chapter. Oh, that was a short one. How about one more?"  I finished it in 5 days.

Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger (225 pages). This was 5 stories, none of which were connected. Some took place in India, others in Thailand. Literally, the fact that the stories all took place in Asia was their only connection. One was about a widow who couldn't leave India after his death, despite the fact that her husband's family did not like her. Another was about a couple on the edge of divorce who were visiting their daughter while she was working at an AIDS orphanage. One was about a girl who returned home to visit her father, who was suffering from Alzheimer's. Another about an SAT tutor who falls for a student. The final one was a girl's essay for a college application and the truths it revealed. I did not like it at all. But I always feel the need to finish a book. So I did. I finished it in 3 days. It's called powering through, people

The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares (306 pages). The novel actually spans a year, from one summer to another. Growing up, sisters Riley and Alice were best friends with Paul, the boy next door. As they grew up, they always stayed close. And younger sister Alice and Paul finally realized that they loved each other. But a family emergency forced them apart. Could their longtime love for each other and Riley help them find their way back to each other or force them apart forever?   I finished it in 3 days.

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall (517 pages). The story takes place in Juncow, China, in 1928. Young Russian immigrant Lydia Ivanovo and her mother Valentina are struggling to make ends meet in the International Settlement. When the Bolsheviks took over Russia, Valentina manages to escape with her daughter, leaving her husband behind. Once they make it to China, Lydia quickly learns how to pickpocket. One day, outside the safety of the walls of the International Settlement, she meets Chinese Communist Chang An Lo. The fire between them quickly grows as forces in China threaten everything. It wasn't my favorite book of the month. But it was pretty interesting. Especially when the opium peddling Chinese triad gangs got involved. I still have absolutely no idea why the novel was titled The Russian Concubine. No one involved was a Russian Concubine. There were Russians. And there were concubines. But no one who was both. I hate it when titles have no connection to the book and are in fact somewhat misleading.  I finished it in 9 days and conveniently on the last day of the month.

I've decided to add a new twist each month and will pick my favorite read. This month's was Truly Madly Guilty.

Monday, July 31, 2017

July wasn't the best month, reading-wise. But it wasn't a total bust. I did start one last book that I only  read for the last 2 days of the month and obviously couldn't finish (as it was over 400 pages). But all in all, not bad.  5 books at 1,767 pages. So here we go!

Testimony by Anita Shreve (305 pages). Avery Academy, a private boarding/day school in Vermont, is rocked by a scandal one winter. A videotape is given to the headmaster that shows 3 male students engaging in sexual activities with a female student. A female student who is only 14. The attempt to keep it an internal affair backfires and the lives of several people (students, teachers, parents, even the townsfolk) are forever altered. I finished it in 3 days (weekend, holiday, yada yada).

City of Women by David R Gillham (426 pages). Berlin in 1943 truly is a city of women. Most of the men are at war. Sigrid is living with her mother-in-law while her husband serves in the army. She becomes involved with a resistance group who is attempting to save anyone who is considered an enemy of Germany. On the surface, she seems like a model German citizen. But her affair with a Jewish man forever changes how she feels towards her country and other people. It was a good book. I finished it in 7 days.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon (340 pages). In 1968, widowed Martha opens the door on a rainy night to find white, developmental disabled Lynnie and black, deaf Homan. They have escaped from the Pennsylvania School for the Incurable and Feebleminded. And they have a newborn baby girl in their arms. When officials from the school show up to take them back, Homan escapes while Lynnie uses the few words she knows to ask Martha to take care of her daughter. The novel covers the 43 intervening years- of Lynnie learning to communicate, of Martha and the baby creating a life, and of Homan making his way in the world without Beautiful Girl (Lynnie) and Little One. I was in tears by the end, absolute tears. It was a beautiful story about the humanity and goodness of people. I finished it in 7 days.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (285 pages). Despite the fact that i have read Phenomenal Woman, I had never read any of Angelou's other works. So decided to start with her first. Which turned out to be autobiographical (I had no idea). Maya and her older brother Bailey grow up primarily in Stamps, Arkansas, with their grandmother. They do spend some time in St Louis with their mother. But while there, their mother's boyfriend rapes 8 year old Maya.  So they are sent back to the relative safety of Stamps for a few years. Eventually they go to California to live with their mother (and sometimes their father). Maya experiences a lot, including living as a homeless girl (by choice) and getting pregnant (and still finishing high school) at 16. I finished it in 6 days.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Stories by F Scott Fitzgerald (411 pages). I don't think I've read a collection of short stories in several years prior to picking this up. It was rather enjoyable. There were 20 short stories in the collection. Some of them were fun, others sad, some very quirky and only a few were just not enjoyable. Oddly, Benjamin Button was NOT the first story in the book (the title would suppose otherwise). I finished it in 6 days.

Friday, June 30, 2017

I'm pretty proud of my June readings

I did pretty good this month.  Not necessarily a new personal best, but now that I am committed to reading at least 50 pages a day, I'm making some progress on emptying out the bookcase next to my bed.  All so that I can refill it with the massive list of books to buy that I keep on my iPhone.  What?  That's totally normal.  Right?  Anyway, this month I read 7 books at a total of 2,569 pages.  So let's get to it!

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (290 pages).  Another historical fiction for this girl.  I always love it when I inadvertently pick up a book that turns out to be historical fiction- such a pleasant surprise.  With this one, the characters were fictional, the location was not.  Tawawa House was an antebellum resort in Ohio.  It stood out because Southern plantation owners would summer there.  Not with their families, but with their slave mistresses.  (Fact- this practice so disturbed the locals that the resort fell off in popularity and eventually became Wilberforce University, the oldest black college in the country.  And most likely some of the first students were the offspring of the slaves and masters who had summered there.)  Anyway, this story is about four slave women from different parts of the South who are at Tawawa House with their masters.  It goes into their back stories and covers the several summers they spend together.  Together in a free state, but without their children.  Children who are viewed as property rather than progeny by their masters/fathers.  I really found myself invested in the lives of the women, especially the main character Lizzie.  She is actually in love with her master, unlike some of the other women, and hopes that he will do right by his children.  I finished in 5 days.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (371 pages).  A-mazing!  I can't believe I am just now getting around to reading this.  It's the beautiful story of Amir and Hassan.  It begins in Afghanistan, which was a monarchy.  Amir, the son of a rich man, and Hassan, the son of Amir's family's servant, are inseparable growing up.  But when a shocking incident occurs when they are twelve, an incident that Amir does nothing to stop, it changes everything.  After that, the Russians invade and Amir and his father flee the country to America.  Decades later, after the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan, Amir is finally given the opportunity to atone for his guilt.  It was a heartachingly beautiful story of friendship, family, guilt, and forgiveness.  I finished it in 2 days (yay for pool time)

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley (447 pages).  The novel starts in modern day England.  Julia Forrester, world famous concert pianist, is reeling from the loss of her husband and son in a car accident.  She returns home and visits Wharton Park, the beautiful manor house where she spend time as a child with her grandparents (they both worked at the house).  When Julia finds a diary at Wharton, she learns an amazing truth about the family that has always called the place home.  She ends up on a journey that takes her from England to France to Thailand.  And a journey that ultimate leads her to finding true love.  I found myself in tears several times.  And there were several amazing twists.  It was so good that I couldn't put it down most days and read way more pages each day than I usually do.  I finished it in 4 days. 

The Memory Thief by Rachel Keener (365 pages).  This book was the story of two women whose lives intersected.  Hannah, the daughter of Holy Roller missionaries, breaks out of her parents' control for a brief moment and her life is forever affected.  Angel, the daughter of redneck criminals, burns down her childhood home in an effort to escape her past.  Both women do everything in their power to free themselves from their pasts.  But it's only when their stories intertwine that they can figure out what the future might hold for each of them.  It tends to not be my favorite trope for a novel to jump between characters and timelines without a little clarification.  So this wasn't my favorite book of the month.  I finished it in 4 days (hoorah for traveling)

The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser (332 pages).  When in doubt, give me historical fiction or something about polygamy.  Especially a real life story about polygamy!  This is the story of Rebecca Wall Jeffs Musser.  The 19th wife (out of over 60) of former FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs and former "stepmother" of the infamous Warren Jeffs.  If anyone remembers the raid on the YFZ Ranch, that would be Warren's doing.  Rebecca was married off to the Prophet at age 19 (which to me, knowing what I have heard about some FLDS churches, seemed rather old.  Especially when she was referred to as a child bride.  But I digress.)  After 7 years of marriage (that included psychological abuse and unwanted sexual interactions), Rulon finally died at age 92 (yep, he was 85 when they wed) and Warren took over as Prophet.  Rather than continue to subject herself to the FLDS Principle, Rebecca escaped.  And eventually helped the FBI take down the YFZ Ranch and testified against Warren.  Her story was fascinating.  I can't imagine growing up in the FLDS world- it's legit bonkers!  I finished it in 5 days.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (561 pages)  Andrew Marlow is a psychiatrist and an artist.  When he gets a new patient, he is fascinated by the man's story.  Robert Oliver, a renowned painter, has been sent to a psychiatric hospital after attempting to attack Thomas Gilbert's painting Leda and the Swan at the National Gallery of Art.  Robert refuses to speak to Marlow after his first day.  So Marlow begins to search for answers on his own.  Those questions lead him to Robert's ex-wife, his ex-mistress, his work and his passion- a mysterious woman he can't help but paint.  A mysterious woman with whose story even Marlow becomes obsessed.  And eventually Marlow discovers why Robert attacked the painting.  I wish I'd had longer stretches of time to read bigger chunks of the book.  I really liked it.  The artistic non-artist in my loved the fact that the novel had so much description of paintings in it.  I finished it in 9 days.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (203 pages).  I remember this news story- body of a rich, white young man found in the wilds of Alaska and how he allegedly got there.  I was in high school, after all.  But this was more background than I knew.  I was torn between pity and almost anger towards Alex- his wanderlust and attitude of invincibility were a lethal combination.  But when you are so convinced of your abilities that you do not take the time to learn and prepare, what is to be expected?!  I finished it in 4 days, because I had to in order to finish this month!

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).