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December 2, 2016

Looking Back - The Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind


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 Country Ahead of Us, The Country Behind by David Guterson
Fiction - Short Stories
1996 Vintage Books (first published in 1989)
Finished on January 6, 1997
Rating: 3/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Like his novel, Snow Falling On Cedars, for which he received the PEN/Faulkner Award, Guterson's beautifully observed and emotionally piercing short stories are set largely in the Pacific Northwest. In these vast landscapes, hunting, fishing, and sports are the givens of men's lives. With prose that stings like the scent of gunpowder, this is a collection of power.

My Original Notes (1997):

By the author of Snow Falling on Cedars. Good, but not great. Short stories. The last was the best ("The Flower Garden"). Guterson writes beautifully. I just wasn't interested in fishing and hunting themes.

My Current Thoughts:

I wrote about Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars here. I really enjoy Guterson's prose, but I'm not a huge fan of short stories. It would be fun to go back and reread The Flower Garden, but I have no interest in revisiting the entire collection.

November 23, 2016

Wordless Wednesday


Today is the day Annie came to live with us in 2007. Happy Adoption Day, sweet girl!

Click here to see last year's post with more photos.

November 18, 2016

Looking Back - A Literary Christmas


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.



A Literary Christmas Edited by Lilly Golden
Nonfiction
1992 Atlantic Monthly Press
Finished in January 1997
Rating: 3/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

The finest writers throughout the centuries have graced us with their literary visions of Christmas. Charles Dickens, O. Henry, Truman Capote immediately come to mind. Dozens of collections contain history's best. But what has been sorely missed on bookstore shelves is a collection of great contemporary Christmas stories by today's most gifted writers. Here, gathered in one volume, are twenty-seven stories that celebrate the spirit of Christmas present. In Ray Bradbury's tale an aging priest becomes reconciled with his past on Christmas Eve, while in Frank O'Connor's story a young boy's Christmas morning brings the end of innocence in the devastating knowledge that there is no Santa Claus. Paul Bowles tells the traumatic account of a small boy's Christmas that is overshadowed by his cruel father, while Ron Carlson offers an inspiring story in which a loving husband's unspoken Christmas wish is granted when his wife tells him she wants to have a baby. Though these stories share the subject of Christmas, whether as a central theme or as subtext, each explores a unique aspect of the holiday season and its psychological and emotional reverberations. And most important, in each of these marvelous stories, some uplifting, some deeply melancholy, we are given a Christmas tale of the highest literary order.

My Original Notes (1997):

So-so. So many of the short stories were depressing! I enjoyed these, though:

Bless Me, Father, for I Have Sinned by Ray Bradbury

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story by Paul Auster

Christmas for Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange

Christmas by Harper Lee

Where You'll Find Me by Ann Beattie

The Night of the Magi by Leo Rosten

The H Street Sledding Record by Ron Carlson

My Current Thoughts:

I no longer own this book, so I can't go back and re-read these stories. After 20 years I have absolutely no recollection of any of them!

November 14, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince



Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter, #6
Juvenile Fiction/Fantasy
2015 Audio Pottermore from J.K. Rowling (Originally published in 2005)
Read by Jim Dale
Finished on June 9, 2016
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The war against Voldemort is not going well: even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of The Daily Prophet looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. And yet …

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to apparate, and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Harry struggles to uncover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the past owner of a potions textbook he now possesses that is filled with ingenious, potentially deadly, spells. But Harry's life is suddenly changed forever when someone close to him is heinously murdered right before his eyes.

With Dumbledore's guidance, he seeks out the full, complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort, and thereby attempts to find what may be his only vulnerability.


There's really not much to say about this series that hasn't already been discussed. I thought this installment was better than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but not as good as the first two in the series. Jim Dale is a marvelous reader for the audios, so I was entertained. I was also very sad to learn that another beloved character had died. Yes, I lived under a rock, ignoring all the chatter about the details of this character's demise. ;)

November 11, 2016

Looking Back - The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street


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 Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
Nonfiction - Memoir
1995 Moyer Bell (First published in 1973)
Finished in December 1996
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb:

When she’s invited to London for the English publication of her wildly successful book, 84 Charing Cross Road—in which she shares two decades of correspondence with Frank Doel, a British bookseller who became a dear friend—New York writer Helene Hanff is thrilled to realize a lifelong dream. The trip will be bittersweet, because she can’t help wishing Frank was still alive, but she’s determined to capture every moment of the journey.

Helene’s time in London exceeds her wildest expectations. She visits landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle; explores Shakespeare’s favorite pub, Dickens’s house, and the Oxford University courtyard where John Donne used to walk; and makes a host of new friends from all walks of life, who take her to the theater, introduce her to institutions like Harrod’s, and share with her their favorite corners of countryside.

A love letter to England and its literary heritage, written by a Manhattanite who isn’t afraid to speak her mind (or tell a British barman how to make a real American martini), The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street is an endearing account of two wildly different worlds colliding; it’s an outsider’s witty, vibrant portrait of idiosyncratic British culture at its best, as well as a profound commentary about the written word’s power to sustain us, transport us, and unite us.

My Original Notes (1996):

Just as good as 84, Charing Cross Road. I would love to see it as a movie! A wonderful way to see London again [I had recently visited England]. Helene Hanff has a wonderful sense of humor. Both books would make a great gift set for anyone who loves England, books or romance! Should be read at least once a year.

My Current Thoughts:

Well, I must have loaned my copy out, because I can't locate it anywhere and I know I loved it. Darn it!

Highly recommend.

November 10, 2016

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter, #5
Juvenile Fiction/Fantasy
2015 Pottermore from J.K. Rowling (Originally published in 2003)
Read by Jim Dale
Finished on May 31, 2016
Rating: 2.5/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected...

Suspense, secrets and thrilling action from the pen of J.K. Rowling ensure an electrifying adventure that is impossible to put down.

Boring! I was really not interested in this installment at all, but decided to keep going since I wanted to finish the series. The book was ok, but I didn't love it like the first in the series. I did go on and read the remaining books, though. I had to see what happened next.

November 8, 2016

November 7, 2016

A Month in Summary - October 2016


This year is flying by so quickly! Wasn't it just summer? It still feels like it here in Nebraska. We've had a few chilly days (and a couple of frosty mornings), but for the most part it's been fairly mild, if not downright hot. The leaves are falling, but our grass is still green. I'm sure winter is just around the corner, so I'd better get my ice scraper and shovel in the car. {sigh}

October proved to be a decent month for audio books. I listened to three and read one book in print. I think I've been distracted by the election and have spent far too much time on social media. Hopefully, November will be a bit better. {fingers crossed...}

So here's what I read. I actually read My Name is Lucy Barton in the print format and then listened to it on audio, although I didn't finish listening until November. A good friend said it was one of her most favorite books, so after a ho-hum read, I thought maybe the audio would be better. You'll have to wait until November's recap to see what I thought about that. :)

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (borrowed) 3/5

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (borrowed - audio) 5/5

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (borrowed - audio) 4/5

The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Learner (borrowed - audio) 3.5/5

Stats:

Triple Dog Dare Challenge - This turned out to be the worst month for reading from my stacks. I was in such a reading slump that it was all I could do to read one book in print. The audio books saved me from a total fail. I did get rid of a few more unread ARCs, so there is still hope for a reduction in the number of books we'll have to move to Oregon next summer.
 

4 books
3 novels

1 nonfiction
1 thriller
1 memoir
1 science fiction 
3 new-to-me-authors 
1 print
3 audio
3 female
1 male
4 borrowed
0 from my stacks 

Favorite of the Month: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.


Reviews to follow

November 4, 2016

Looking Back - 84, Charing Cross Road


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.



84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Nonfiction
1990 Penguin Books (First published in 1970)
Finished in December 1996
Rating: 5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb: 

This charming classic, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go.

My Original Notes (1996):

One of my all-time favorite books ever read!! I loved it! I feel as if I know Helene and all her friends at Marks & Co. How heartbreaking that she never did meet Frank Doel. I saw the movie before reading the book and they were both equally wonderful. Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins play Helene and Frank. A wonderful romance. Now I want to go back to London!

My Current Thoughts:

I've read this lovely gem of a book at least three times and it never fails to entertain and touch me. It's been ages since I watched the movie (which I'm sure I've seen at least twice), so maybe I'll add it to my Netflix queue and watch it later this winter.

Highly recommend to all lovers of books and bookstores!

I love the cover art for the different editions of this book. I've also included a couple of images from the movie. 





November 3, 2016

Her


Her by Harriet Lane
Fiction
2015 Little, Brown and Company
Finished on May 30, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

You don't remember her--but she remembers you.

On the face of it, Emma and Nina have very little in common. Isolated and exhausted by early motherhood, Emma finds her confidence fading fast. Nina--sophisticated, generous, effortlessly in control--seems to have all the answers.

It's easy to see why Emma is drawn to Nina. But what does Nina see in her?

A seemingly innocent friendship slowly develops into a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Nina eases her way into Emma's life. Soon it becomes clear that Nina wants something from the unwitting Emma--something that might just destroy her.


Now that five months have passed, I'm tempted to drop my rating to just three stars. I had to re-read the final chapter to refresh my memory of the details of the conclusion and why I was so irritated when I finished the book. As I said on Goodreads, I would have thrown this book across the room when I read the final page, had it not been 3 a.m. It was definitely not the ending I was expecting! However, I was sucked in from the opening pages and couldn't stop reading long into the subsequent nights.

Final Thoughts:

This page-turner is one that you'll either love or hate. It's been compared to The Girl on the Train, with its sinister, ambiguous finale, but I didn't care for it quite as much as Paula Hawkin's debut hit. It's a compulsively readable story and perfectly paced, but nonetheless, a disappointment. Maybe that's not fair, though. Maybe my distaste is in the individual's actions rather than the book itself. And thus, my 4/5 rating. Not a keeper, though.

Note: 

I did find some of the British vocabulary a bit confusing, resorting to Google for clarification. For example, plane leaves are sycamore leaves; E-numbers are European food additive codes.

October 31, 2016

Say What You Will


Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Teen/YA
2014 HarperCollins
Finished on May 27, 2016
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Publisher's Blurb:

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern's insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

It's been a long time since a book has grabbed my attention as quickly and as thoroughly as this one did! I gulped down the first half on the night I began reading and came very close to finishing the book the following night, but finally forced myself to put it down and get some sleep. Just as the blurb states, fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park (and I'll add Wonder by R.J. Palacio to the list) will enjoy this teen novel about the power of friendship and love. The author addresses the symptoms and challenges of Cerebral Palsy and OCD directly and informatively, educating her readers without becoming too technical or pedantic. There are also references to sexual awakenings, but none that involve any graphic situations.

On life with CP: 
That night she brought the magazine home with her. She even tore out the picture and stuck it in the frame of her full-length standing mirror so she could study it and compare herself. For a long time she stood with her walker to the side, and hung her head in the same way the model did. Her hair was prettier. Her good arm was good. Everything else, not so great. She couldn't will her bad arm to uncurl, couldn't loosen her fist or relax the tendons that stood out with the effort of holding her head up. Nor could she do the one thing that would have helped the most: soften her face so that it was pliable and capable of showing the expressions other people took for granted. Her face had only a handful of options: raised eyebrows (for surprise and joy); a closed-mouth O (for worry and concentration); and a wide-open mouth that filled in for everything else. She had no smile of approval, no soft frown of disapproval, nothing subtle. In every photograph of her, she wore one of these three expressions. The only exception was a picture taken when she was asleep, and then her face softened, like she didn't have CP at all. Why was that possible in her sleep but impossible awake? She couldn't say. Just as she couldn't say why her parents continued to purchase large sets of her school-picture packages, as an annual reminder of her inability to smile.
Final Thoughts:

I don't usually care for YA novels, as they tend to be filled with a lot of  teenage angst. I'm happy to report that Say What You Will does not fall in that category and I found that the situations and dialogue rang true. I also like that it wasn't predictable, another fault of many YA novels. Highly recommend!

October 28, 2016

Looking Back - Range of Motion


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.


Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg
Fiction
1995 Random House
Finished in December 1996
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

"I can tell you how it happened. It's easy to say how it happened. He walked past a building, and a huge chunk of ice fell of the roof, and it hit him in the head. This is Chaplinesque, right? This is kind of funny. People start to laugh when I tell them. I see the start of their hand to their mouth, their poor disguise. I laughed when I heard. I thought after the doctor told me what happened that Jay would get on the phone and say, 'Jeez, Lainey, come and get me. I've got a goose egg the size of the world. Come take me home.' Only what happened wasn't like Chaplin: Jay didn't land on his butt with his legs sticking out at chopstick angles, twitch his mustache, get back up and walk away. He landed on his side, and stayed there."

And so begins this exquisite new novel by Elizabeth Berg, one of America's most beloved fiction writers. As in her best-selling Talk Before Sleep, Berg creates in Range of Motion a deeply satisfying novel about the power of hope, the bonds of love, and the enduring balm of friendship.

As Jay lies in a coma, his young wife, Lainey, is the only one who believes he will ever recover. When his doctors try to reach him, Jay does not respond. Yet Lainey believes he knows when she is there, and is stimulated by the gifts of ordinary life she brings him: sweet-smelling flowers, his children's drawings, his own softly textured shirt. As Lainey struggles to keep believing and to keep the family going, she goes deeper into herself, looking for solace, for strength, and for understanding. Overburdened, distracted, depressed yet determined, she feels desperate only at those times when her faith falters.

It is then that she is sustained by her friendships. Alice, her next-door neighbor, is strong when Lainey cannot be, though she has problems and secret fears of her own. And the spirit of Evie, a woman from the1940s who used to live in Lainey's house, now takes up a kind of residence again, offering advice and philosophy from a simpler time.

A superb novel filled with beautiful writing and truth about life, Range of Motion is hard to put down, and impossible to forget.

My Original Notes (1996):

Very good, but not as good as Talk Before Sleep. Light entertainment with a happy ending. Interesting touch of conversations with a ghost. Somewhat mystical.

My Current Thoughts:

I have no recollection of this book, but I loved Elizabeth Berg's early novels and own well over a dozen. I look forward to reading this again. I wonder if I'll still think it's as good as I did 20 years ago.
 
Nine o'clock. Sarah is in her bed, bedside lamp on, engrossed in a new book that is lying against her raised knees. She won't break the spine of a book, even a cheap paperback. She cradles her books in her lap like she's found the Grail. I don't argue against such reverence. I think it's right. When I was her age and finished a book I liked, I used to pet it, stroke the front cover, then the back; and then I'd kiss it.

October 25, 2016

The Absolute Diary of a Part-Time Indian


The Absolute Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Ellen Fornay (illustrator)
Teen Fiction
2007 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Finished on May 17, 2016
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good!)

National Book Award for Young People's Literature (2007)
Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production (2009)
American Indian Library Association Award
South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2010)
Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Nominee (2008)
Florida Teens Read Nominee (2009)
American Indian Youth Literature Award for Best Young Adult Book (2008)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (2008)
The Inky Awards Nominee for Silver Inky (2009)
Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2011)
James Cook Book Award Nominee (2009)
The Inky Awards Shortlist for Silver Inky (2009)

Publisher's Blurb:

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written,
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.


I've always been curious about Sherman Alexie's novels, but until a customer practically thrust this book in my hands, telling me I had to read it, I've never stopped to try any of his works. I'm so glad I listened to my customer! It's an excellent book and one that I will recommend to others, as well. It's a fairly quick read and packed with lots to discuss, so this is one to add to your book club suggestions. Alexie deals with topics such as racism, poverty, alcoholism, grief, loyalty, and family and while it's touching, it's not overly sentimental or saccharine. By the end of the book, I was cheering for Junior.

Final Thoughts:

The Absolute Diary of a Part-Time Indian is on its way to becoming a classic. It was published almost a decade ago and remains very popular with both teens and adults. I know I plan to read it again and am anxious for my granddaughter to give it a try next summer. I'm eager to try another novel by Sherman Alexie. Any suggestions? 

Note: 

I understand that the hardcover includes a forward by Markus Zusak (author of The Book Thief), as well as interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney. I'm going to have to find a copy of this particular edition so I can read those "extras" and check out the four-color interior art. The paperback edition that I read only had line drawings.

October 21, 2016

Looking Back - The English Patient


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 English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Fiction
1993 Vintage (first published in 1992)
Finished in December 1996
Rating: 1/5 (Poor)

Publisher's Blurb:

With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.

My Original Notes (1996):

What a struggle this was to read! I'm still not sure if I can even say that I liked it. It was a very strange story and I'm sure there was more to it than I got. I'd like to see the movie now. Maybe it will help clarify the book.

My Current Thoughts:

I did go on to watch the movie and was still just as confused as when I finished the novel! I haven't read anything else by Ondaatje and doubt I ever will, as none of his books appeal to me at all.

October 18, 2016

The Storyteller



The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Fiction
2013 Recorded Books
Read by Mozhan Marno, Jennifer Ikeda, Edoardo Ballerini, Suzanne Toren, and Fred Berman
Finished on May 13, 2016
Rating: 4.75/5 (Fantastic!)

Publisher's Blurb:

Jodi Picoult's poignant #1 New York Times best-selling novels about family and love tackle hot-button issues head on. In The Storyteller, Sage Singer befriends Josef Weber, a beloved Little League coach and retired teacher. But then Josef asks Sage for a favor she never could have imagined-to kill him. After Josef reveals the heinous act he committed, Sage feels he may deserve that fate. But would his death be murder or justice?

I love Jodi Picoult's books, but with alternating POVs and time periods, I should know better than to listen to them on audio. One time period in particular was so out of place, I found it disruptive to the flow of the story. In the print edition, varying fonts for each point-of-view, as well as chapter headings with a character's name, help make the transition between narratives much easier. Unfortunately, these cues are not available to the audio listener. However, all complaints aside, the further into the story I progressed, the more I realized that this book is well worth listening to. The chapters focusing on Minka's story were particularly moving and I found myself deliberately taking my time in order to savor the last section of the book.

As with many works of historical fiction, The Storyteller has inspired me to read more about the camps. There's a new book out by Sarah Helm called Ravensbruck: Life and Death in Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women. After listening to Minka's story in Picoult's novel, I felt drained and heartbroken for all those who suffered in the camps, so maybe reading about the actual accounts of the horrors that took place would be too sad and depressing. I'm also interested in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal. In an interview with The Washington Post, Picoult explains how she came to write The Storyteller:
It began with another book, “The Sunflower,” by Simon Wiesenthal, who was a concentration camp prisoner. He was called to the bedside of a dying Nazi officer who wanted to confess what he had done and be absolved by a Jew. There have been a lot of arguments and discussions by philosophical and religious leaders about whether Wiesenthal did the right thing, which was not to forgive this Nazi. He says: “It is not my place. I am not the one he committed the wrong against. Those people are dead, and he can’t ever be forgiven.” What if that same kind of request was made not during the Holocaust but 70 years later? I began to come up with this fictional account of a reclusive woman, Sage, who bonds with an elderly man in her home town, who is everyone’s favorite citizen. He’s been a teacher, a Little League coach. Then he confides his secret.

Final Thoughts:

In spite of my complaints about the flow of the audio version, I thought this was an outstanding novel. I like that it was a departure from the author's usual contemporary stories and believe it's her only work of historical fiction. This is one that was impossible to put down and which I won't soon forget. It is also one that I plan to read again. Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, and City of Thieves won't be disappointed.

October 14, 2016

Looking Back - Neanderthal


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.


Neanderthal by John Darnton
Fiction
1996 Random House
Finished on December 5, 1996
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Not since Jurassic Park has a novel so enthralled readers everywhere. Now, enter the world of Neanderthal...

The expedition of the century...uncovers the find of the millennium...Neanderthal.

In the remote mountains of central Asia, an eminent Harvard archeologist discovers something extraordinary. He sends a cryptic message to two colleagues. But then, he disappears.

Matt Mattison and Susan Arnot-- once lovers, now academic rivals-- are going where few humans have ever walked, looking for a relic band of creatures that have existed for over 40,000 years, that possess powers man can only imagine, and that are about to change the face of civilization forever.

My Original Notes (1996):

Should make a great movie! I had a little trouble getting into the book, but stuck with it. The last third was the most interesting and suspenseful. Reminded me a bit of Jurassic Park.

My Current Thoughts:

I only have a very vague recollection of this thriller, and since I no longer own a copy and it's not a title we carry in the store, I won't be able to thumb through it to refresh my memory. 

October 12, 2016

Wordless Wednesday








Click on photo for larger image.

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

October 10, 2016

Lydia's Party


Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins
Fiction
2014 Viking
Finished on May 5, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Lydia is having a party. She's hosting her midwinter bash, a Christmas party she threw a month late one year, which has now become an annual tradition. Her guests--six friends who bonded twenty years ago over their budding careers, their love of art and food, their romances, their dogs--think they know all there is to know about one another, but tonight Lydia prepares to shock them with a shattering announcement.

As we follow these friends through their party preparations, we meet seven remarkable women, each of whom is navigating the grocery-shopping hassles of daily chores while also meditating in stolen moments on messy relationships and dreams deferred--or, in the case of Norris, astounding success.

Later, over a feast, and with Lydia's huge dog, Maxine, warming their feet, the friends swap stories, laugh uproariously, air a few grievances. All are pondering their lives, wondering "what's next?" now that the anticipation of new love or a new job no longer seems life altering. Yet as this particular evening unfolds, these friends discover a bond that does indeed alter all their lives.

Exquisitely written, profoundly moving, and filled with aha moments, Lydia's Party is sure to appeal to fans of Anne Tyler, Anna Quindlen, and Helen Simonson. Here is a novel about friendship, and how the everyday foibles, deepest fears, and fiercest desires of seven women can illuminate the meaning of happiness, love, and live itself.

It's been quite some time since I've read a women's friendship novel. I used to love this type of book, but after a while they all tend to follow a similar pattern: one divorcee, one single involved with an unattainable man, one with a cancer diagnosis, yada-yada-yada.  The cover art for Lydia's Party caught my eye when the book was first published, but I held off, not really needing to buy another book, only to have it sit on one of my shelves for years. I came across the book while perusing the shelves at my library and decided to finally give into my curiosity about this novel.

Lydia's Party begins on the morning of Lydia's annual winter party, bringing to mind Virginia Woolf's classic Mrs. Dalloway. I enjoyed the domestic details as Lydia prepares for her guests, but the alternating points-of-view led to some confusion about which character was which and the overall tone of the story went from something light to a more negative read. I began to look forward to finishing in order to move on to my next book.

Final Thoughts:

I loved Five Fortunes (Beth Gutcheon) and Talk Before Sleep (Elizabeth Berg), but Lydia's Party was a disappointment. I love the cover art, but I can't even come up with a single favorite passage to share. I'm glad I didn't spend my money on the book and I'm sorry that I can't even recommend borrowing a copy from the library. Perhaps it's time to reread Mrs. Dalloway!

October 7, 2016

Looking Back - Where Love Goes


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.


Where Love Goes by Joyce Maynard
Fiction
1993 Vintage
Finished on November 20, 1996
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of To Die For comes this poignant, stirring, and occasionally hilarious story of a woman's attempt to remake her life after a searing divorce. Maynard's novel captures love as one approaches middle age in contemporary America.

My Original Notes (1996):

Very good, but depressing! I wonder how much of the details are autobiographical. I read Joyce Maynard's newsletter and a lot of what she's written (about her family and her divorce) sounds familiar in the plot of this book. I couldn't put the book down!

"A splendid, heartfelt novel... real enough to live in." ~ Pat Conroy

I could relate to a lot of what Maynard described, with regard to divorce and blended families.


My Current Thoughts:

I've written about Joyce Maynard here and here and loved both of those novels even more than this one. I still have an ARC of After Her on my TBR shelf and hope to get to it in the coming year or so. I no longer have a copy of Where Love Goes, but in spite of enjoying it so well in 1996, I doubt I'd read it again. Reading about divorce and step-parenting isn't high on my list at this point in my life. The book probably validated a lot of my own feelings 20 years ago, but I don't feel the need to seek out affirmation of those feelings or attitudes any longer.