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!