Thursday, May 31, 2018

MAY I interest y’all in some good summer reading? (See what I did there?!)

I definitely am reading more than 50 pages a day. Or at least averaging better than that. This month was 6 books at 2,868 pages. Here we go!

The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty (440 pages). Ellen is a hypnotherapist in Sydney. She loves her job and is really good at it. The only thing that has been missing from her life is someone to share it with. And then she meets Patrick. He’s perfect for her- a loving man, a widower with a young son, a ready made family. Then Patrick tells her that he’s got a stalker- an ex girlfriend named Saskia. Turns out Ellen is actually pretty familiar with her. She’s one of Ellen’s patients!   Ellen runs the gamut of emotions during her whirlwind romance- feeling like she’ll never measure up to the dead wife, understanding Saskia’s obsession, fear about her future with a man she loves. Everything culminates in one evening at their house. It was a typically enjoyable Moriarty novel.  I finished in 5 days. 

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (541 pages). The final novel in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy. Loved the first one, didn’t like the second, this one was somewhere in the middle. Nick and Rachel are happily married and living in NY, despite his estrangement from his beloved grandmother. In fact, everyone in the family seems to be doing well. Then grandmother Su Yi has a heart attack. Family members begin descending on Tyersall Park, the amazing family estate in the heart of Singapore. The family dynamics of this massively wealthy family is amazing. The outer ring characters, with their wealth and their desire to rise in the social ranks, are fascinating. And the ending was quite satisfying. Who will inherit Tyersall?  And what can be done with such a massive and historically significant estate anyway?  I finished in 5 days. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (564 pages). This book was amazing!  Sisters Vianne and Isabelle have lived very different lives from the moment their mother passed away. Their father came home from WWI a different man. And the loss of his wife decimates him. He sends the girls off to be raised at a school. With 10 years between them, they drift apart. Vianne falls in love and gets married, Isabelle flounders. Then WWII happens. The sisters find their own ways to make a difference in the war. This book mentioned several events from other books I’ve read- the Vel d’Hiv roundup, Ravenbruck. All heartbreaking stories of events from WWII. I found myself in tears for the entire last chapter. I loved loved loved it!  Turns out Hannah was inspired by the actions of women during WWII and used them as inspiration for the sisters. As Vianne said, “men tell stories. Women get on with it...We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”  A gorgeous book about the unspoken heroes of wars- the women. I finished in 7 days. 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (458 pages). Possibly one of the simplest stories I’ve read from Picoult.  But one of the most chock full ones as well. Ruth is a labor and delivery nurse with 20 years of experience. One day she comes in to work and goes to help with a newborn. Whose parents are white supremacists. They demand that Ruth, who is black, not be allowed to touch their son. But when Ruth is left alone in the nursery and the baby goes into cardiac arrest, what is she supposed to do- what she’s trained to do or what she’s been told to do?  When the baby dies, she is charged with murder. This is one of the most racially charged novels I have ever read. But it unpacks it in such a way that I found fascinating. The story, in typical Picoult fashion, is told from 3 perspectives- Ruth’s, Kennedy’s (the white public defender on Ruth’s case) and Turk’s (the white supremacist). I could not put this book down. Between the courtroom drama and the amazing story of love, hate, and race, it was beyond a page turner. Of course, sitting by the pool and lots of rain probably helped with having the time to read it quickly.... I finished in 3 days. 

Sis, Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki (438 pages). The sequel to An Accidental Empress. This historical fiction (yes, I went back to my absolute favorite) is the second half of Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungry life story. Better known as Sisi, she never had the disposition to be a ruler. She found court life constricting and found every excuse to travel the world. She also was a woman with profound loss in her life. She lost her eldest daughter when the child was a toddler. Her son, the crown prince, was lost to her from childhood but eventually died in a murder-suicide pact with his mistress. Her cousin, Mad King Ludwig, also committed suicide. After her son’s death, her nephew Franz Ferdinand became the heir apparent. Yes, the Franz Ferdinand who’s assassination led to WWI. And Sisi herself was assassinated. As the author said, it sounds like a soap opera.  But it was all real. As always, I did additional research on my own. What a life the Fairy Queen lived!  I finished in 7 days. 

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (427 pages). Kind of Rear Window meets Girl on a Train.  Anna, a child psychologist who now suffers from crippling agoraphobia, lives alone in her NYC home after her husband left her and took their daughter with him. Anna now fills her days with online therapy sessions (she’s the doctor), online chess games, black and white movies, watching her neighbors through her camera lens, and meds and merlot. Long story short- she thinks she sees one of her neighbors being stabbed.  And of course, in my least favorite popular trope, she’s been drinking while on her meds. So what did she really see?  If I say anymore, I’m going to give away the whole story. I finished in 5 days (because that’s how many days I had left in the month!)

And this month’s favorite goes to......The Nightingale and Small Great Thins. They were both phenomenal. But in entirely different ways. I love something historical (or at least inspired by history) and I also love a novel that makes me think about current events. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

April’s readings are done

This month was just kind of average with the readings. 5 books. 1817 pages. I really only liked 2 of this month’s books. Which isn’t really good odds. 

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (465 pages). Netflix turned this book into a really good limited run series. I’d suggest partaking in both (because Netflix did a remarkably good job of staying faithful to the book). This novel is based on a true story- that of Grace Marks, a notorious Irish-Canadian murderess in the 1840’s. She was accused, and subsequently convicted, of conspiring to murder her boss and his housekeeper when she was just 16 years old. Her coconspirator, James McDermott, was hanged. But Grace’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. After nearly 30 years, she was pardoned and sent to the States. And those are the only facts known about her. Atwood does a masterful job of creating a riveting backstory for Grace. You are left wondering if Grace did conspire with McDermott, or if she was an innocent victim, or if she was just insane. I found myself liking her a lot. And wanting her to be an innocent victim. But there’s a part of me that thinks she was just a brilliant mastermind of a murderess. I finished in 8 days. 

Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (350 pages). I apparently bought this book for one pound when I lived in Cambridge. In 1997!  Why had I not read it prior to now?  I have no idea. Tess is an innocent farm girl whose mother didn’t warn her “there was danger in men-folk.”  She loses her innocence to the dastardly Alec d’Urberville, but manages to find it again in the love of her life, Angel Clare. But innocence, once lost, is impossible to truly regain. It is a sad tale. I think I expected to really love this book. And I only merely liked it. I will say that the final phase of the book was by far my favorite phase. This book plays a pivotal role in the Fifty Shades of Grey books. Heartbreaking that Anastasia sees herself as Tess and Christian as her Alec. Shouldn’t she know that Alec is the villain of the book?  I finished in 7 days. 

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella (412 pages). Dan and Sylvie have been together for a decade. Sylvie, the privileged only daughter of a wealthy family, sort of fell apart when her father was killed in a car accident. But Dan and Sylvie have gotten their lives back together. They have a seemingly perfect life, with their adorable twin daughters. But when a regular doctor’s visit reveals that they face 68 more years of marriage, they panic. So they come up with an idea- to give each other surprises. Sylvie uncovers a surprise that rocks her to her core. Can they make it through this life changing surprise?  I finished in 3 days. 

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki (307 pages). Lady Daniels is separated from her husband and living in their home in the Hollywood Hills with their 2 year old son Devin and her 18 year old mute son Seth. She hires S to be Devin’s nanny. S is strange character. She’s actually an artist, working on a strange art project. Lady and S get very close, as both of them are struggling with who they truly are. And oddly enough, both of them have a strange relationship with art- Lady was one of the subjects in her sister-in-law’s book of photography. It was a very strange book. Not unenjoyably strange. But strange nonetheless.  I finished in 6 days. 

Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire (283 pages). The story begins in Bavaria in 1808. And that’s about all I truly understood!  If you’ve ever seen The Nutcracker, you’ve seen Uncle Drosselmeier, he of the eye patch and maker of the Nutcracker he gifted to Clara. Well, this was his story. Dirk Drosselmeier was a foundling. He died in the Lost Forest,  it was brought back to life and given a gift. Of a knife that held the spirit of Pan and helped him make beautiful wooden figures. There’s a lot more than goes into the story. But I literally do not know how to recap it. It. Was. Weird. I keep giving Maguire chance after chance. But I think I’m done with this author. I just don’t find him enjoyable. I finished in 6 days. 

And this month’s favorite goes to......Alias Grace. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

I Marched right through the books this month

This month I did REALLY well. 9 books at 2,932 pages. Yes, that’s averaging nearly 100 pages a day. Which is way more than my New Years resolution. So yay me!  Here we go...

Mary Poppins collection (Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary Poppins Opens the Door, and Mary Poppins in the Park) by PL Travers (1024 pages). Yes, I bought almost all of the Mary Poppins books in one book!  They were delightful!  Different than the movie, but just as enjoyable. Did you know that Jane and Michael had twin younger siblings, John and Barbara, and a baby sister, Annabel?  Or that some of their adventures with Mary Poppins actually were just Mary Poppins and Bert?  Or without Bert?  Or adventures that were only in the book?  Or only the movie?  The movie does a great job of condensing some things (Bert just has one job in the book and there are other characters with his other jobs) and adding depth to others (their mom isn’t a suffragette in the book). But all in all, a good time. Mary Poppins is a little sharper than in the movie and far more vain. But still the most delicious nanny ever. And the other books were great too. I always wanted to know what happened to the Banks after Mary Poppins left the Banks, and what happened when she came back. Now I know!  I’m also super excited for the new Mary Poppins movie!!!  I finished in 7 days. 

China Rich Girlfiend by Kevin Kwan (479 pages). When I found out that the book Crazy Rich Asians was the first in a trilogy, I knew I had to read the rest of them. Sadly, BAM only had the second of the trilogy when I went to my Happy Place the other day. I mean, sure, it’s because the third one hasn’t been released in paperback yet.  But that’s beside the point. The third one must be ordered!  In this book, Nick and Rachel are still together and engaged. Then Rachel gets the best wedding gift ever- the identity of her birth father!  She and Nick go to Shanghai for the summer to spend time with her new family. And Rachel learns, again, that there’s rich. And there’s China rich. Where dropping several hundred million on antique art is commonplace. So much excitement, so much drama amongst the elite of the elite. Nick’s family still isn’t thrilled about his marriage, but some of them have their own issues going on. We got to revisit old friends and meet some new ones. I really enjoyed it (as evidenced by the speed with which I read it). I can’t wait for May and the third one to arrive!  I finished in 5 days. 

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty (356 pages). Atypical Moriarty. No mystery, no starting at the end and going back to the beginning (well, sort of, but not the normal way she does it). Cat, Lyn and Gemma Kettle are triplets. Their thirty-third year of life is nuts. Cat is married and happily employed doing PR for a chocolate company. Lyn is married, with a daughter and stepdaughter, and happily running her own business. Gemma is a free spirit. They are quite an interesting threesome. It’s hard to say much about the plot without giving most of it away. But suffice it to say, there’s marriage troubles, children troubles, job troubles, family troubles and triplet troubles. This would have been a great pool read. Instead, it was a court read. I finished in 2 days. 

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (302 pages). “Tanya Dubois” knows that her current life is over when she finds her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs. She has to go on the run. And not for the first time in her life. She roams around the country, changing names and backstories frequently. Along the way, she befriends Blue, another woman with a hidden past, and Dominic, a local sheriff. As her past begins to close in on her, she decides to return home, the place where it all began. And the secrets that are uncovered are shocking!  There were so many little twists in each section of her life. So many little stories. Honestly, I didn’t like the first 50 pages/day 1 of reading. But after that, I could barely put it down. Hence the finishing it quickly. I just wanted to know what had happened to force her to be on the run!  I finished in 3 days. 

Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire (563 pages). I didn’t know there was a fourth and final volume in the Wicked novels. So of course I had to buy it!  Conveniently forgetting that sometimes, I don’t like Maguire’s writing. He can be a little convoluted. This was the story of Rain, granddaughter of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West for those of you not in the know). She interacts with Glinda, Brrr (the Cowardly Lion), Dorothy, and a host of other characters. It was nice to revisit some of Maguire’s characters. But on the whole, I didn’t enjoy it. Especially the ending. The ending PISSED. ME. OFF. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. I finished in 11 days. 

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (208 pages). The (fictional) island nation of Nollop lies off the coast of South Carolina (what what!). The island is named for native son Nevis Nollop, creator of the famous sentence “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  As the letters of this sentence slowly fall from Nollop’s statute, the Council decides that Nollop is speaking to them from the grave and no longer wants them to use those letters. But as more letters disappear, the people wonder how they will manage and when is enough enough.  It’s told through letters between Ella and her family and friends. And looks at the ridiculousness of rules and what people can do when they decide to stand up to the powers that be. It was so creative, such a fun way to look at words. And wondering if I could be creative with words if my use of certain letters was limited. I mean, the author stops using the letters when the characters have to!  Hilarity with words ensued, at least for me. Or should I say “phor me.”  I finished in 3 days. 

This month’s favorite was ......Ella Minnow Pea, simply for the creativeness of the story. It was also a very easy read (at least until the letters really started disappearing and I found myself having to sound words out because of how they were being spelled!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February readings- short month, lots of pages

This month was a good month. I read 5 books, at 1896 pages. Not too shabby I’d say!  So here we go. 

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (465 pages). It’s the 1960’s and Dolores Price’s world has been ripped apart. Her parents have divorced (after years of drama and an affair), her mother is sent to a mental asylum and Dolores herself feels completely lost. Then the unthinkable happens. In order to cope, Dolores finds herself gorging on junk food (provided by her mother) and camping out in front of the television. Fast forward several years. Nothing has changed but Dolores’ weight. Which has ballooned to 257 pounds. Another devastating loss happens and Dolores eventually finds herself in a mental asylum. She manages to lose a great deal of weight and tries to start her life over again. It seems like mistake after mistake happens to her. Until finally, finally, she is able to create a life that she loves. Dolores was a frustratingly fascinating character. I found myself loving her and becoming frustrated with her, all at the same time. But I did find myself sad to leave her when I finished the book. So that’s a good review of the book, isn’t it?  I finished in 9 days. 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (340 pages). This book was so good- I literally couldn’t put it down!  Laura Blacklock is a travel journalist in London. When her boss goes out on maternity leave, Lo gets an amazing career opportunity- to cover a five day trip on a small cruise ship owned by the international businessman, Richard Bullmar and his wife Anne. Upon arrival on the ship, Lo asks the woman in the cabin next to her if she can borrow some mascara. She doesn’t see the woman at dinner and is awakened in the middle of the night to a scream and a splash coming from cabin 10. This begins a fantastic mystery novel. I can’t go into more detail about the plot without giving away major twists. But it was fantastic!  I wish I could read it for the first time again.  Literally, the only complaint was that, much like Girl on a Train, Lo was drunk, hungover, or medicated a lot. Which made her recollections seem questionable to everyone, including me sometimes. I finished in 2 days. 

I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott (439 pages). Another month, another Hamilton novel. This one was from Eliza’s perspective, which I loved. Thanks to my absolutely love of the musical (well, I haven’t seen it but I’m obsessed with it), I wanted to learn more about the real Hamilton, not the Broadway version. Eliza was 97 when she passed away. She and Alexander were married for 24 years before his murder. She buried 2 children of the 9 she birthed. She was quite a woman. In a time when being a widow basically meant the end of your life, she didn’t allow the loss of the love of her life to end her life. She was quite admirable. Actually, that’s an understatement. She was extraordinary!  I finished in 8 days. 

Still Me by Jojo Moyes (388 pages). It’s always a joy to revisit Louisa Clark. Lou has accepted a job as a personal assistant to a wealthy couple in New York. Unfortunately, it means leaving behind her family and her boyfriend Sam. Lou, in typical Lou fashion, immediately becomes friends with her employer, a second wife from Poland who has her own secrets and struggles. Life in New York doesn’t go exactly as planned. But somehow along the way, Lou’s remembers Will’s words of wisdom about life and finds out who she really is. While I don’t think I’ve liked the sequels as much as the first, I’ve certainly enjoyed them. And this one I liked even more than the second one. I finished in 4 days. 

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer (264 pages). PBS currently has a great show in its second season- Victoria. She’s definitely one of the British monarchs I knew of, but didn’t know about (it’s hard not to know OF her when an entire era is named after her). So when I spotted this book, I decided to grab it up. And it was the perfect number of pages to finish out the month with another book read.  The PBS series is a lot more enjoyable. I didn’t like the writing style at all. It’s written first person as Victoria. But in the style of a child when she is a child.  Very weird. And I just didn’t like it.  The author used the Queen’s diaries for the novel, but I find it hard to believe that, in the mid-1800’s, a queen to be would have written in such an infantile manner.     Underlining things, using all caps, etc. But apparently, she did. Who knew?!  Her story is quite amazing- she actually wanted to reign alone, a la Queen Elizabeth I. Then she laid eyes on Prince Albert again at age 20 and it was all over for her!  Their fights were legendary. And they had issues (just like Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip). But they were mad about each other. Which was rather sweet. She lived another 30+ years after being widowed and never quit mourning him. I finished in 5 days. 

This month’s favorite books goes to (drum roll please)- Still Me. I just LOVE Louisa Clark. She’s warms my heart. 

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