Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018, I’m coming in strong

When I looked at the number of books I read this month, I felt a little discouraged. Then I looked at the number of pages and realized I did really well!  So here goes. 4 books, 1993 pages. 

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1232 pages). This is it. This is the year I tackle this beast. It’s only been sitting on my bookshelf since the movie came out. Over 5 years ago.....  Anyway, Hugo is one long winded fellow. And boy, can he go off on a tangent. There was a lot more military history than I really wanted.  And information about the Paris sewers. And convents. It reminded me of Moby Dick in a way. The musical does a much better job of leaving out the truly unimportant stuff. However, I did find it fascinating to get much more background information about the characters, instead of just some brief history via lines in a song!  It was cool to learn that Eponine wasn’t an only child. She had 4 younger siblings and Gavroche was actually her little brother!  Or that Thenardier fought at Waterloo and was connected to Marius’s father. I did find myself singing songs at the appropriate time, even though very few words of the songs are actually from the novel. I finished in 21 days. 

And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle (238 pages). This was very different from A Wrinkle in Time. There was no time/space travel, no mystical ladies. But it was a wonderful novel. Philippa Hunter, better known as Flip, lost her mother a year ago. She adores her father, an artist, but is sent off to boarding school in Switzerland because he can’t keep her with him while he travels for work.  Flip is tall for her age and awkward. She immediately hates school and feels uncomfortable around the other girls, most of whom are European and many of whom survived the War. But then she meets Paul, a boy who lives nearby with his father and dog. Flip’s friendship with Paul helps her become more comfortable at school. She also learns that there is a mystery from Paulo’s past. As she helps him learn about himself, she begins to learn about herself. It was a very sweet book. One that I wish I’d read as a young girl. I finished in 4 days. 

The Chance by Karen Kingsbury (315 pages). Kingsbury is a Christian author. Christian fiction can sometimes be a little much for me. But this one was pretty perfect. Ellie and Nolan are best friends. At 15, their worlds are ripped apart when Ellie’s dad, in a fit of anger at Ellie’s mom, moves Ellie across the country from Savannah to San Diego. Ellie and Nolan write each other letters, bury thyme, and promise to dig them up in exactly 11 years. Those 11 years are hard for everyone- Ellie, her parents, and Nolan. Nolan has become basketball’s Tim Tebow. And Ellie has abandoned her faith. But as her young daughter says, some people take longer to find their happy-ever-after in Jesus. Can prayer help these two high school sweethearts find each other again? And can faith truly help with forgiveness?  I finished in 2 days. 

The Heart of Dixie- Southern Rebels, Renegades and Heroes by Frye Gaillard (208 pages).  The author is a newspaperman who wrote for the Charlotte Observer for many years, primarily as the Southern Editor. He was born in the 1940’s in Alabama, which meant he came of age in the South during a highly charged civil rights era. This was actually a collection of essays written by him about race relations in the South. It was poignant. And very enjoyable. I’m not a huge fan of essay collections. But I found this one quite fascinating. Maybe because I am Southern. Maybe because of the highly charged racial atmosphere that seems to be permeating our country again today. Either way, it was a great read. And I learned a lot. Some of the figures I already knew about- Martin Luther King Jr, Billy Graham, George Wallace. Others were new to me- Dorothy Counts, Will Campbell, Bill Groseclose. In reading about the situations of the past, we really are experiencing them again. And I hate that. I look at what people went through in the past and I’m sad that we are there again in a lot of ways. I finished in 4 days. 

This month’s favorite books goes to (drum roll please)- And Both Were Young. It hit all the buttons for me.  But I did learn a lot from The Heart of Dixie. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cheers, 2017! It was nice reading you!

So this blog entry, the last of 2017, is a wrap up of my monthly readings AND my yearly totals. So let’s get into this months readings. I read 5 books at 1,892 pages. 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (400 pages). The fourth in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series begun by Stieg Larsson. I’ve loved this series from day one. Loved the movies too (the Swedish version was far superior). This one kicks off with the murder of a brilliant scientist. Lisabeth and Blomkvist must join forces to solve the murder and save the scientist’s autistic savant young son. Honestly, if a different author’s name weren’t on the cover, I wouldn’t have realized it wasn’t written by Larsson. It was great- the world of hacking is at its peak in this one. And some of Lisabeth’s ghosts come back into the picture. I’m hoping this is just the first of many books to expand this series. I finished in 7 days. 

The Circle by Dave Eggers (497 pages). I watched the movie several months ago and found it both fascinating and terrifying. So I decided to read it (I had heard that there are some major differences, so were those changes good or bad?). Mae gets a dream job with The Circle, a company that’s part Google, part Apple, part Facebook, part Amazon, all cult. She becomes completely involved and wrapped up in this new world. It’s invasive, all consuming, and actually amazing in some ways. It’s a truly fascinating look at how technology is taking over our world and changing the way we live, including the way we interact with actual human beings!  Some of the inventions are genius, but most are so terrifying. The idea of no privacy anywhere anymore is frightening. The biggest change was the ending. Which left me disappointed in Mae and frightened for the future. I finished in 9 days. 

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (365 pages). In 1791, 7 year old orphaned Irish immigrant Lavinia is brought to Tall Oaks as an indentured servant. She is placed in the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter who runs the kitchen house. Lavinia considers herself part of Belle’s family for most of her young life, not realizing that her skin color will always set her apart from them. She tries to straddle the delicate balance between the big house and the slave quarters, with a naïveté that is both endearing and frightening. The story is bookended with a shocking murder, the story behind it unfolding during the novel itself. I found myself in tears by the end, and at many times throughout. Reading about families being torn apart by heartless and vindictive masters, about families who love each other to distraction (regardless of skin color), about strength and love in any situation. I finished in 5 days. 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (483 pages). Historical fiction (you know I’m a sucker for it) and amazing!  The story is about 3 women- Caroline Ferriday (real life woman), Herta Oberheuser (real life woman), and Kasia Kuzmerick (fictional teenager). Caroline is an American, a former Broadway actress and a liaison to the French consulate. Herta is a German doctor who finds herself at Ravensbrück concentration camp. Kasia is a Polish girl who gets involved in the underground resistance and finds herself sent to Ravensbrück. The atrocities committed at Ravensbrück are horrendous. They conducted brutal “experiments” on 74 Polish political prisoners, eventually known as the Ravensbrück Rabbits. And I cannot believe I knew nothing about this place or the two women who are the central characters in this novel. As always, I ended up doing some research on my own. Just fascinating. And heartbreaking. Google Ravensbrück Rabbits for an idea. Or Caroline Ferriday. Or Herta Oberheuser. I find myself forgetting how many people Hitler had tortured and killed in addition to the Jewish people.  I finished it in 7 days. 

A Shoe Addict’s Christmas by Beth Harbison (147 pages). Three days left in the month, so just enough time to finish one last book this year!  And a Christmas gift book at that!  The story was cute. Noelle works at a high end department store. On Christmas Eve, she inadvertently gets locked in overnight. And meets her guardian angel, Charlie. Charlie uses different shoes in the store to recreate Noelle’s memories  of the holidays. And see if her life would’ve been different if she’d made different choices. It was kind of a fashionista’s version of A Christmas Carol. And I liked it a lot!  I finished in 3 days. 

This month's favorite read goes to (drum roll please)- story wise, it was Girl in the Spider’s Web. Knowledge wise, it was Lilac Girls. 

This year, I made a resolution to read at least 50 pages a day, which would have totally 18,250 pages. In fact, I read 66 books. A total of 25,272 pages. Yep, I read at least 69 pages a day and 7022 pages over my goal!  I plan to keep it up for next year too (at least the 50 pages a day commitment anyway)!  Happy reading!

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.