The last two months have certainly had a lot of excitement for my family, but I still made plenty of time for reading! So, let’s jump right in with my recommendations. I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions as well.
Books I Loved
I read some outrageously incredible books this time. The first one that stands out is…
The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan. The author wove together three stories of survival and endurance with compassion and beauty. This is the story of a hospice nurse helping others to die with dignity, while wrestling with her own demons. Beautifully done.
I had no expectations for Black River by S.M. Hulse, the story of a former prison guard who returns to the small town where he worked. This is an exquisite read about one man trying to overcome the trauma of his past. Hard to believe the author is a young woman.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra is a very difficult read about Chechnya and the lives of those living through hell and war. It was beautifully written, but definitely requires a fluffy read afterwards.
A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton is a look at three generations of African-American families. It was a quiet, heart-wrenching read; well worth it.
Switching gears, Letters from Paris by Juliet Blackwell was the sweet, endearing story of one woman who leaves everything she knows in search of herself in Paris.
Were I to be more of an art enthusiast, A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline would have been even more powerful. But even as art-illiterate as I am, I loved this book. It traces one family in Maine and gives an historical fiction account of the creation of one of Andrew Wyeth’s most famous paintings. Very nicely done.
Reading one of Cathy Lamb’s books is like reuniting with a good friend. If you’ve never read anything by her, I’d probably recommend starting with Julia’s Chocolates, but There’s No Place I’d Rather Be was a lovely read. Her book transported me to a cozy cabin in Montana and to the world of chefs while also raising questions about self, family and history.
If you haven’t read any of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s books, here is your treat for the day. Her books look at a snapshot of someone’s life and typically involve a struggle the main character has and how he works through it with the people around him. They are lovely books, and I put The Wake Up into this category. This was an unusual story about a cattle rancher who wakes up to himself one day after years of self-numbing to realize that he is leading a life he can no longer endure.
Books I Liked
The Stars are Fire Anita Shreve is the kind of book you can curl up with and you’ll feel satisfied when you’ve finished. It’s the story of a woman in a loveless marriage who gets separated by her husband during a major fire. When the unexpected happens, she has to decide what she can endure and how far she will go for herself and her children.
For a quick read The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Helpworth was a nice story. Nothing dramatic or particularly powerful here, but an interesting look at three generations of midwives and the lives they lead together.
If you’re looking for a quick read that always has many turns and surprises, then Kate Morton will always satisfy. The Lake House was enjoyable. Nothing sparkling or unusual – just a long journey that entertains.
Books That Were Just Plain Silly or Weird
I was really looking forward to Sourdough by Robin Sloan. Now, I know this author has an imagination, but he went off a bit too much into outer space this time. The book started promising with a young programmer realizing that her life wasn’t as fulfilling as she wished and finding her mojo with a sourdough starter. Then her mojo turned weird. Enough said.
I also thought that A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner would be interesting. I loved her book A Fall of Marigolds. But boy was this one weird. Take a woman who sees ghosts and a ship filled with them, and stretch our suspension of disbelief just a wee too far.
I love books about unexpected heroes who go on quests ala The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen by Hendrik Groen was supposed to be about an 83 year old man who turns his old age home upside down and adds some life to it. But I got to 35% before they did anything but complain…and there was no excitement in sight. I gave up.
I was really surprised by Karolina’s Twins by Ronald H. Balson. I remember enjoying his book Once We Were Brothers, but this felt like a detective story trying too hard to be a dramatic WWII piece. The dialogue was laugh out loud bad and the Holocaust story lacked all depth. Who has been giving this book its high Goodreads ratings?
Books I Disliked
I didn’t have all the time in the world for All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell. It promised to be an interesting book about the life of a nanny who has to take over when the mother of the house is suddenly killed. Instead, it was just about the life of the nanny, how many socks she packed in the stroller, how she raced from one location to another with the kids, etc. I read about 35%, then went back to the reviews to see if I was crazy, and told the book that I had no more time for it. The end.
I wanted to really enjoy The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller as a fluffy post-holiday read, but I simply could not get into it. I gave up at around 30%.
I’m currently reading The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg. I’ve been looking forward to this book for ages. I also picked up Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig which is a cute story of a boy and his summer adventures in Montana.
Here’s to great books in 2018 and a Happy New Year to everyone!