.

.

April 29, 2016

Looking Back - I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.




I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Nonfiction - Autobiography
1993 Bantam Books (First published in 1969)
Finished on March 15, 1996
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)



 
Publisher's Blurb:

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local "powhitetrash." At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors ("I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare") will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.

My Original Notes:

Very, very good! An enlightening autobiography. I'd like to read more of her works now. What a survivor. Glad I tried it again, as I couldn't get into it the first time.

My Current Thoughts:

Well, for a book that I claimed to be very, very good, I sure don't have any recollection of the subject matter. I no longer own it, so it must not have been something I wanted to read a second time.

April 26, 2016

Wildflower


Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
Nonfiction - Memoir
2015 Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Read by the author
Finished on January 20, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Award-winning actress Drew Barrymore shares funny, insightful, and profound stories from her past and present told from the place of happiness she's achieved today.

Born into Hollywood royalty, the granddaughter of the great John Barrymore, Drew Barrymore became one of the biggest stars of her generation. Despite an unconventional childhood, her life went on an incredible trajectory (in both good and difficult ways) after starring in E.T. at the age of six. She became an emancipated adult at the age of fourteen and built a life and career of her own that millions of fans admire. Growing up wasn't always easy for Drew, but through patience, hard work, and great friendships, she did it. And now she's writing about it.

Wildflower is a portrait of Drew's life in stories as she looks back on the adventures, challenges, and incredible experiences she's had throughout her life. It includes tales of living in her first apartment as a teenager (and how laundry may have saved her life), getting stuck under a gas station overhang on a cross-country road trip, saying good-bye to her father in a way only he could have understood, and many more adventures and lessons that have led her to the life she has today.

And that life, as readers will learn, couldn't be more happy or successful. As an actress, producer, entrepreneur, and mother to daughters Olive and Frankie, Drew has found a happiness, balance, and peace that is truly inspirational. From fans who love her work to anyone who has ever had to struggle to become an adult on his or her own terms, this is a book that will inspire, delight, and show the true meaning of family, happiness, and love.

I rarely read celebrity memoirs, but this one caught my eye and I decided to give the audio a try. I was recently disappointed with a couple of celebrity audio books, which were read by the authors (Carole King and Billy Crystal's), so I wasn't entirely sure the audio was the way to go with Drew's new book, Wildflower. And yet, other than a few times in which she literally screamed or exclaimed something like, "OH MY GOD, NO!!!!" (which was pretty annoying, since the sudden change in volume was enough to make me pull my headphones away from my ears), I was pleased with the memoir and enjoyed learning about Drew's life as a child star (I loved her in E.T., The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates), a wife and a mother.



Wildflower is more of a collection of vignettes about parenthood, work, pets, and friendships rather than a chronological account of her life. I appreciated the conversational tone and the absence of name-dropping, which only occurred when it was obviously necessary in recounting a story or event. When she shared stories about Steven Spielberg, Adam Sandler and Cameron Diaz, they were expressed with genuine honesty and I never got the sense that she was bragging about her superstar life as an actress. Drew comes across as a very down to earth woman, who like all of us, faces her own insecurities, heartaches and fears. In addition to her enthusiastic recounting of fun and exciting events in her life, she also shared more tender and heartfelt stories, which she read with great emotion and on a few occasions, with a catch in her voice. I'll admit that I found myself getting choked up a couple of times. And, this was all before she and her husband announced their divorce.

Final Thoughts:

Wildflower is an entertaining peek into Drew Barrymore's life and with the exception of the overly enthusiastic "performance," I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to fans of this sort of memoir, as well as those who like inspirational reads.

From Wikipedia:

Barrymore was named an Ambassador Against Hunger for the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Since then, she has donated over US$1 million to the program. In 2007, she became both CoverGirl's newest model and spokeswoman for the cosmetic and the face for Gucci's newest jewelry line. In 2010, she won the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Television Film for her portrayal of Little Edie in Grey Gardens.

April 22, 2016

Looking Back - The Color Purple


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Fiction
1982 Washington Square Press
Finished on March 8, 1996
Rating: 5/5 (Superb!)
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 1983
National Book Award for Fiction 1983




Publisher's Blurb:

Published to unprecedented acclaim, The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. This is the story of two sisters—one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South—who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.

My Original Notes:

Superb! I couldn't put it down. Saw the movie when it first came out (1984) and liked it. Some of it [the book] made me think of Beloved by Toni Morrison. I rented the video to watch again, since it's been 12 years. Highly recommend!

My Current Thoughts:

Well, I thought I still had a copy of this book, but I can't locate it anywhere, so maybe I decided it wasn't one I was going to read again. Actually, I think I did read it a second time, but it must have been prior to the creation of this blog. I sure don’t remember much about this book, though, and only have a vague recollection of the movie.

I haven't read anything else by Alice Walker, but I'm open to recommendations.

April 21, 2016

The Invention of Wings



The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Historical Fiction
2014 Penguin Audio
Read by Jemma Lamia and Adepero Oduye
Finished on January 8, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees: a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimkes’ daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Sue Monk Kidd’s sweeping new novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday in 1803, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her waiting maid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement, and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in search for something better, and Charlotte’s lover, Denmark Vesey, a charismatic free black man who is planning insurrection.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at one of the most devastating wounds in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.


The Invention of Wings has been extremely popular with readers and book clubs for the past two years. When it was first published, I decided not to read it since, with the exception of The Secret Life of Bees (which I read twice), I wasn't impressed with the author's previous works. The Mermaid Chair was a major letdown after The Secret Life of Bees and Traveling with Pomegranates was only mildly interesting on audio. I was also reluctant to read another novel about slavery, the subject matter for so many novels in recent years (i.e., Mudbound, The Help, The Kitchen House, Wench, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, etc.). However, a few of my friends wrote glowing reviews for the audiobook of The Invention of Wings, which made me a little more tempted to give it a try, in spite of my reservations. Unfortunately, the audiobook was only available on from my library on compact discs and I've ceased to use that format, opting only for downloadable content. It wasn't until I received a membership to Audible.com from my daughter that I was finally able to get this book on audio. And, I can say it was well worth the wait!

I am so glad I decided to go with the audio, rather than reading the print edition, as it was absolutely outstanding. As with the audio of The Help, listening to The Invention of Wings was more like listening to a live performance, as opposed to just listening to a narration of the book. I loved both readers, but I especially enjoyed listening to Jemma Lamia, who reads the part of Sarah Grimke. Lamia is also the reader for Wiley Cash's This Dark Road to Mercy, The Secret Life of Bees, Saving Ceecee Honeycutt and The Help. With a perfect Southern voice, reminiscent of Catherine Taber (reader of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake), Jemma Lamia is quickly becoming one of my favorite audiobook readers.

The Invention of Wings is filled with beautiful language, lush with metaphors. I love this little gem of a sentence:
She was a woman the winds and tides obeyed, but in that moment, she was gentle with me.
One of the things I love about historical fiction is that it inspires me to do further reading of the subject matter. As soon as I finished this book, I hopped on the Internet, searching for photographs of story quilts such as those depicted in Monk's novel. You can view some examples here.

Final Thoughts:

While not quite as good as The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Invention of Wings is an informative and engaging story that held my interest from start to finish. I can see how it  would be an excellent choice for book clubs, or for that matter, an American Literature course, perhaps combined with The Help or Toni Morrison's classic Beloved. I'm so glad I decided not to dismiss this book!

April 18, 2016

Library Loot!



With the exception of audio books, I've been reading almost exclusively from my own bookshelves since the beginning of the year. Yesterday, while out running errands, I decided to pop into the library and look for a cookbook I'd been perusing at work this past week. The book was checked out, so I decided to see what was available in the new release displays. Then I wandered through the stacks, leisurely perusing the titles. Once my arms were full, I decided it was time to quit! Many of these books are titles I've been meaning to read, based almost entirely upon recommendations from fellow bloggers, coworkers and customers. I haven't been this excited to dive into a stack of books in a long, long time. It's been great reading from my own TBR stacks, but there's something thrilling about getting my hands on some of these gems. 

So, which shall I start with? Have you read any of these?

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins

The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

Becoming Grandma by Lesley Stahl

April 15, 2016

Looking Back - At Paradise Gate



Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.




At Paradise Gate by Jane Smiley
Fiction
1993 Touchstone Books (first published in 1981)
Finished on March 7, 1996
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)




From Amazon:

In this brilliant novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author Jane Smiley delves into the domestic drama of the Robison family. While seventy-seven-year-old Ike Robison is dying in his bedroom upstairs, his wife defends the citadel of their marriage against an ill-considered, albeit loving, invasion by their three middle-aged daughters and their twenty-three-year-old granddaughter. Amply fulfilling the expectations raised by Smiley's other celebrated works, At Paradise Gate is a compelling, gracefully wrought portrait of intergenerational strife and family survival.


My Original Notes:

Ok, but not great. Kind of depressing. Cranky old man (husband/father) in a loveless marriage with three grown daughters, who argue the entire time. Irritating plot.
 
My Current Thoughts:

I have absolutely no recollection of this book and I no longer own it (nor do we have it in stock at the bookstore), so I can't even flip through it to jog my memory. I read A Thousand Acres sometime prior to this, so that's probably why I went on to read this one. 

Have you read anything by Jane Smiley? Any recommendations? Her recent trilogy seems to be quite popular.

About the Author (from Knopf Doubleday):

Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and most recently, Some Luck and Early Warning, the first volumes of The Last Hundred Years trilogy. She is also the author of five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has also received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California.

April 13, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

Rudesheim am Rhein
October 2015


For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

April 11, 2016

What Comes Next and How to Like It


What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
Nonfiction - Memoir
2015 Scribner
Finished on January 4, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
Paperback edition available April 19, 2016

Dogs don't wake up on the wrong side of the bed. There is no wrong side of the bed for a dog.


Publisher's Blurb:

What comes next? Readers who loved Abigail Thomas's memoir A Three Dog Life have been wondering. Abigail herself has wondered. What comes after the devastating loss of her husband? What form does a lifelong friendship take after certain lines are crossed? How does a mother cope with her daughter's serious illness? Or the death of a beloved dog?

And how to like it? How to accept, appreciate, enjoy? How to find solace, and pleasure? What will we do for our most trusted, valuable companions?

What comes Next and How to Like It is an extraordinarily moving memoir about many things, but at the center is the friendship between Abigail Thomas and a man she met thirty-five years ago. Through marriages, child raising, and the vicissitudes and tragedies of life, this deep, rich bond has sustained her.

What Comes Next and How to Like It is the best work yet by a woman who has already done some of the best work in the field. It's about friendship, and the shocks friendship can endure when it's true and deep. It's about the rueful pleasures (not to mention the jarring pitfalls) of getting old, and about enduring tragedy, sickness, and loss. Thomas speaks of these big things by scattering the ordinary jewelry of everyday life: loving dogs (even when they chew your most precious possessions), Googling old boyfriends, making a killer macaroni and cheese. Small speaks for large here, in a calm voice that talks to the mind while it fills the heart. So much of this book's wisdom is between the lines and in the white spaces. It may only take you two days to read, but the impact will stay with you for a long, long time. Abigail Thomas fills memory with living breath. ~ Stephen King

It's been almost nine years since I read A Three Dog Life, a wonderful memoir which I loved and look forward to reading again. I was thrilled to get an ARC of Thomas's latest book last fall and saved it for the holiday season, since I knew it was the sort of book I could pick up here and there, maybe reading a few pages every night. I marked so many passages and have enjoyed flipping through the book a second time as I compose this review.

On Aging & Memory: 
I have a bad memory. I have been trying to remember being young, which is hard because I don't feel old until I try to get up from my chair. Or when I look at the photograph Jennifer took of me sitting on a stool next to her twins, and really, from the back, it looks as if I have an open umbrella concealed under my skirt. How did that happen? I think, but, oh well, I was young once and slender and pretty and I made the most of it. It's somebody else's turn now.
On Grief & Memory:
I don't worry about my husband, the worst that could happen to him already happened. He was hit by a car in April of 2000, and sustained permanent brain damage. Seven years later, January 1, 2007, he died. Grief is different from worry. I don't want to remember what it was like before, eating muffins and reading the paper together on the porch. I don't want to remember him planting the wild grasses that he loved, or the way he smiled at me, or his generous heart. I don't want to remember walking down Broadway holding hands. I am still shocked by what happened. I am used to never getting used to it. But grief overtakes me in the coffee aisle, or sweeping the porch, or smiling at the dogs, catching me unaware. Grief is not a pleasure, but it makes me remember, and I am grateful.
On Being an Old Lady:
All of which leads me to wonder what kind of old lady I will be. I'm already well past middle age unless I plan to live to 136, and a student recently described me as a "nice old lady with a tattoo," which startled me because I think of myself as not nice, not old, nor a lady. Didn't she see me smoking? and downing shots of tequila? Not to mention all the flirting that went on between me and that nice man to whom I took an instant liking? I don't feel like an old lady unless this is how an old lady feels.
On Forgetting:
I am becoming the kind of old lady who puts her lipstick on crooked and wears too much blush--of whom when she wakes in the morning and goes downstairs to make coffee, her daughter says, "Mom, you look crazy," and it's only partly because of her hair, which sticks up in bunches like feathers. The kind of old woman who can't remember the word "pastels" speaking of the chalk you draw with and forgets where she put her bag her keys her glasses her book but can remember Steve Buscemi's name and two of his movies: Con Air and Fargo.
On the Wrong Side of the Bed:
Here's what I love about dogs. They aren't careful not to disturb you. They don't overthink. They jump on the bed or the sofa or the chair and plop down. They come and they go. I'm not sure they love me exactly, but they count on me because I am a source of heat and food and pleasure and affection. If one of them is lying next to me and suddenly prefers the sofa, I don't take it personally. Dogs don't wake up on the wrong side of the bed. There is no wrong side of the bed for a dog.

There are so many other passages to share, but I don't want to reveal the entire book!

Photograph by Jennifer Waddell


Final Thoughts:

I loved this memoir! It can easily be read in a day, but I chose to take my time, savoring Thomas's honest views on life as a mother, wife, grandmother and friend. It was the perfect book to read during the holidays since some of the chapters are only a page, a paragraph, or even a sentence in length. I could read a few pages here and there and not let the distractions of life interfere with my enjoyment, as they might if I had been reading a novel. This is one to read over and over again!

Go here to read my review on A Three Dog Life.

April 8, 2016

Looking Back - Having Our Say


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years by Sarah & Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth
Nonfiction – Memoir
1994 Turtleback Books
Finished on March 5, 1996
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)




Publisher’s Blurb:

Warm, feisty, and intelligent, the Delany sisters speak their mind in a book that is at once a vital historical record and a moving portrait of two remarkable women who continued to love, laugh, and embrace life after over a hundred years of living side by side.

Their sharp memories show us the post-Reconstruction South and Booker T. Washington; Harlem's Golden Age and Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson. Bessie breaks barriers to become a dentist; Sadie quietly integrates the New York City system as a high school teacher. Their extraordinary story makes an important contribution to our nation's heritage—and an indelible impression on our lives.

My Original Notes:

Wonderful! Very heart-warming and insightful. I feel as if I know Sadie and Bessie after reading this. I think my grandmother would have enjoyed the book. They remind me of her in some ways. I highly recommend this memoir.

My Current Thoughts:

I don’t remember enough about this book to comment, and I no longer own a copy, but it must have been good. I read it in two days!

To read more about the books I read in 1996, click here.

April 7, 2016

Like Family


Like Family by Paolo Giordano
Fiction
2015 Pamela Dorman Books (Viking)
Translated by Anne Milano Appel
Finished on January 2, 2016
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher’s Blurb:

From the author of the international bestseller The Solitude of Prime Numbers, an exquisite portrait of marriage, adulthood, and the meaning of family.

Paolo Giordano’s prizewinning debut novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, catapulted the young Italian author into the literary spotlight. His new novel features his trademark character-driven narrative and intimate domestic setting that first made him an international sensation.

When a young married couple hires a middle-aged widow during the wife’s, Nora’s, difficult pregnancy, they don’t realize the dominant force she will become in their household. First as their maid and nanny, then their confidante, Signora A. quickly becomes the glue that holds their small family together. For both husband and wife, her benign influence allows them to negotiate the complexities of married life; for their young son, she becomes the shield who protects him from his parents’ expectations and disappointments.

But the family’s delicate fabric comes undone when Signora A. is diagnosed with cancer. Moving seamlessly between the past and present, highlighting the joys of youth and the fleeting nature of time, Giordano has created an exquisite portrait of adulthood and marriage. Elegiac, heartrending, and deeply personal, this is a jewel of a novel—short, intense, and unforgettable.

I received this lovely book for my birthday from my dear friend, Bellezza. It’s a small book, maybe 5x7, with just 146 pages in all. I fell in love with the stunning cover art as soon as I unwrapped my gift. It’s the sort of book one would leave out on a table, just for that beautiful image. And, there’s something about the compact size of small hardcovers, such as this one and a few others that are on my “keeper” shelves. They’re little works of art, each and every one of them.




They are so aesthetically appealing and so much easier to hold than traditional hardcovers. (Note: I find it interesting that all of these, with the exception of Like Family, are nonfiction/memoirs.) But I digress.

I read this slim novel in just a few short hours. I liked Giordano’s spare prose, but I didn't really feel the intended emotional impact of the characters' loss. Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf), which is also a short novel about aging and loss, had a much more profound impact on me, as did Emily, Alone (Stewart O’Nan).

There really was a Mrs. A. in my life. She stayed in my house, shared life with my family for a few years, then she had to leave us. This book was inspired by her story. It was meant as a homage to her, a way to keep her with me a little longer. I’ve changed most of the names and I’ve changed several details, but not what I felt was the nature of Mrs. A. And, certainly, not what was my feeling toward her. ~ Paolo Giordano

Final Thoughts:

Like Family is a quiet narrative, easily read in a single day. Many readers have loved this novel, which in many ways reads like a memoir. Have you read it or Giordano’s previous work, The Solitude of Prime Numbers?

April 5, 2016

Tuesday's First Chapter, First Paragraph - Skating on the Sky


Each Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first part of a book that she is reading or thinking about reading. Since April is National Poetry Month, I've decided to share a poem from Skating On the Sky (Claudia Walters Reinhardt), which I received from the author a few months ago. I'm really enjoying this collection of poems!




CARDINAL IN APRIL

Caught in the clutches of a flowering crab tree,
a cardinal flutters like a wild bandana torn from
the throat of a farmer climbing into the soundproof
cell of his tractor. The green machine rumbles
over ridges of moist soil, dripping chemicals
between earth's parted lips. Along the fence row,
the redbird sings as if just this morning
he remembered the tune
to the color of spring.

Note to local readers:

Saturday, April 9th at 2 pm
Barnes and Noble, SouthPointe Pavilions
Lincoln, Nebraska
402.421.7979

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month with us as we welcome local poet Claudia Reinhardt to our store. Claudia will be reading selections from and signing her new book Skating on the Sky from 2:00 to 3:00PM. This book will make a great addition to your collection with each poem highlighted by inspiring quotations and beautiful color photographs taken by the author. 
 

Happy Tuesday, friends! Visit Bibliophile By the Sea for more introductions.

April 4, 2016

Mailbox Monday


Welcome to Mailbox Monday, a meme started by Marcia and now hosted on its own blog.

by Anna Quindlen
On sale April 5, 2016


Whooohooo! I'm a huge fan of Quindlen's books, both fiction and nonfiction, so I was thrilled to snag a copy of her upcoming release last week at work. JoAnn (of Lakeside Musing) says it's the best book she's read this year, so I was more than eager to start reading it on Saturday afternoon. I'm already on page 142 (past the halfway mark) and look forward to reading more later tonight. I don't know if it will be my favorite read for 2016, but so far it's very good.
Filled with the remarkable insight that is the hallmark of Anna Quindlen's beloved bestsellers, this extraordinary novel is about a woman coming of age as she unearths surprising secrets about her family, and unexpected truths about herself.

"No one ever leaves the town where they grew up, not really, even if they go," says Mimi Miller as she tells the story of her life, from the 1960s to the present, in a small American town on the verge of change. The Miller family has lived and farmed in Miller's Valley for generations, but Mimi sees change looming at the corners of her community and within the walls of her home. As she grows up and discovers sex, love, and ambition, what has seemed bound together begins to drift apart: Mimi's mother from her reclusive sister, Ruth; her damaged brother Tommy from his family and son; and the community itself, menaced by the lingering presence of government officials. As Mimi looks back on the past, she comes to understand that her family and her town itself may always have been destined to disappear.

Anna Quindlen's stunning new novel is a masterly study of family, memory, loss, and, ultimately, discovery and finding home. Miller's Valley reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too, but all will live on in your heart forever.

What arrived in your mailbox this week?

Click on the title for more information.

Find more Mailbox Monday posts here.

April 3, 2016

A Month in Summary - March 2016



Eight must be my lucky number! That makes three months in row that I've read that many books. I guess I'm on a roll, although I know a lot of bloggers who read twice as much in a single month. Not that I'm competitive or anything...

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (Borrowed - Audio) 4/5

City of Thieves by David Benioff (Own) 5/5

The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg (Borrowed - Audio) 2/5

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Own) 4.5/5

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (Own - Audio) 4/5

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (Own) 3.5/5

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman (Own) 3/5

Skating on the Sky by Claudia Walters Reinhardt (Own) 4/5

Stats:

Triple Dog Dare Challenge - 6/8 books read from my own stacks (but 2 were library audio books, so I believe I stuck to my goal)

8 books
3 novels
1 science fiction
1 mysteries
1 memoirs
1 collection of poetry
1 childrens
4 new-to-me-authors 
5 print
3 audio
6 female
2 male 
1 reread
2 borrowed
6 from my stacks 

Favorite of the Month: City of Thieves by David Benioff

Reviews to follow 

April 2, 2016

Did You Ever Have a Family


Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
Fiction
2015 Simon & Schuster ebook
Finished on January 1, 2016
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)





LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD, MAN BOOKER PRIZE, PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE, AND ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Amazon • Library Journal • Booklist • NPR • Kirkus Reviews • Guardian • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Google Play • Kobo • Literary Hub • Powell’s

Publisher’s Blurb:

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancĂ©, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor.

Alone and directionless, June drives across the country, away from her small Connecticut town. In her wake, a community emerges, weaving a beautiful and surprising web of connections through shared heartbreak.

From the couple running a motel on the Pacific Ocean where June eventually settles into a quiet half-life, to the wedding’s caterer whose bill has been forgotten, to Luke’s mother, the shattered outcast of the town—everyone touched by the tragedy is changed as truths about their near and far histories finally come to light.

This debut novel got so much buzz when it was first released and I quickly downloaded a copy to my Nook, eager to read it on my flight to Oregon on Christmas Day. Not especially joyful reading, but one which I thought would grab my attention and keep me distracted until we landed in Portland. I think I read it mostly on the flight out, set it aside for the remainder of the week, and finished it on the flight home. I never connected with any of the characters and I found the alternating chapters, told from a different point-of-view (which read like separate vignettes), somewhat jarring. It wasn’t until the last quarter of the book that I finally came to care about what happened and the final outcome for those involved.

Final Thoughts:

I’m definitely in the minority on this one. Read it for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

April 1, 2016

Looking Back - The Hot Zone


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.



The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston
Nonfiction - Science
1994 Random House
Finished on March 3, 1996
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)




Publisher's Blurb:

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their "crashes" into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.

My Original Notes:

Excellent! Terrifying! Very suspenseful. I couldn't put it down. Made my stomach churn at times. Good detail without being too scientific.

My Current Thoughts:

This must have been quite the page-turner, as I read it in two days. I remember how much it frightened me, and when Ebola broke out in 2014, I was once again reminded of how terrified this book made me feel. I also read The Demon in the Freezer, another biological account by Preston, which had a similar impact on me.

How about you? Have you read either of these biological thrillers? They read like fiction, but they're even more disturbing because they're factual. Now that I’m older, I don’t care to read this sort of book. The world is already too frightening.

March 31, 2016

The Girl in the Spider's Web


The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium Series, #4) by David Lagercrantz
Fiction
2015 Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Read by Simon Vance
Finished on December 7, 2015
Rating: 3/5 (So-so)



Publisher’s Blurb:

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist return

She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .

The duo who captivated millions of readers in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest join forces again in this adrenaline-charged, uniquely of-the-moment thriller.

I have now read all four books in the Millennium series. I had a tough time getting interested in the first (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but wound up giving it a rating of 4/5. I enjoyed the next two installments much better (perhaps seeing the movie of TGwtDT helped) and gave them both ratings of 4.5/5. When this fourth installment was released, under a new authorship, I was a bit hesitant. Could Lagercrantz pull it off? Well… yes and no. I enjoyed the audio production (Simon Vance does an excellent job of reading and accents), but once it was all said and done, I’m not exactly sure what took place! It was just a tad bit convoluted. The good news is that I couldn’t see any difference between Larsson and Lagercrantz’s writing, and, the book was entertaining. Just confusing!

Final Thoughts:

I think the only reason I finished this book (and it took me almost an entire month!) is due to the excellent narration by Simon Vance. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have stuck with the print edition after a chapter or two. The Millennium series has been fun, but I don’t plan to read any more.

You can read my thoughts about Stiegg Larsson’s books (and movies) here.