Week 3 – 2018

I’m going to jump right into this one. Week 3 covers January 15 – 21. As always, feedback is encouraged.

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This is dystopian fiction. It imagines a world that has dried up. The title refers to the things that previously caused people to move to Southern California. Now the people are trying to leave or exist on what was left behind. The “Mohavs” are prevented from entering the better parts of the country and the main characters have no way to legally enter the government controlled areas. The story is about their relationship and their struggle to exist and find a better life for themselves and the child that ends up in their care. I thought it was good. I’m giving it 4 stars.

 

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This is a Christmas story and I have managed to read it late. The author is a master of storytelling. This is the story of a man who has squandered away his family without realizing that he would think it was important later. Then he meets a little girl that has an enormous impact on him. But the little girl is dying. What he does as a result will stay with the reader (at least this one) for a long time. It was too short, however, and I am only giving it 3 stars mainly for that reason.

 

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. Someone was complaining about this being an epistolary novel on Litsy, so I immediately had to read it. I love epistolary novels. I even love the word epistolary. The characters live on a fictional island where the originator of “a quick brown dog jumps over the lazy fox” came from. The sentence is famous for containing all the letters of the alphabet. When the letters start falling off the town’s monument, the town council decides that means they are meant to stop using those letters and anyone that does is subject to punishment. It’s a satire on the power of government and also the way that superstition can cause people to behave in irrational ways. I thought it was really clever. I’m giving it 4 stars.

 

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon – I acquired this as an actual book via PageHabit. They were offering a free mystery book. It is a mystery, but it is also a dystopia. In this, the death of the printed word has finally come about. People are so attached to their digital devices, they are actually getting them implanted. When Anana (French for pineapple btw) realizes that her father is missing in the midst of all of this, she must find him and eventually comes to realize that the devices that everyone is completely reliant on are actually killing them. Literally. I thought this was an interesting concept and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It made me not want to be quite so reliant on my digital devices. Just kidding. I’m actually more likely to be the person that doesn’t carry a phone or a tablet everywhere. I enjoy watching people and interacting with them. I’m sure that I have mentioned this before. Anyway, I do definitely recommend this book. I am giving it 4 stars.

And that is it I’m afraid. Let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions for me. Clearly I enjoy dystopian fiction, but I’ll read just about anything in all honesty.

 

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Week 2 – 2018

I’m never going to get caught up if I don’t actually post anything. I beg for your forgiveness if I have actually forgotten some of these. I read a lot, quickly, and some books are more memorable than others. As always, your feedback is encouraged, whatever it might be. Week 2 covers January 8 – 14.

Death in Veracruz by Héctor Aguilar Camín – I received this as an actual book in a Goodreads giveaway. This was pretty good. I learned a lot about the political climate and culture of Mexico during the 1970s. It tells the story of a group of friends. One is a reporter. One is a politician. And one is a wife. It’s about how their lives are intertwined and how one thing that happens to one of them affects the others. Sort of. I may not be doing this much justice. It’s interesting. Especially not knowing anything about Mexico in the 1970s. Also, I took this book on so many airplanes in the hope that I would actually be forced to read it. It went to Iceland, Denmark, and Baltimore. And finally, I started it in Maryland. I’m giving it 3 stars.

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. I definitely liked this, but I had it figured out too early. I kept hoping that I was wrong. I still genuinely liked this book, however. It is set up as a novel within a novel. The main character is a novelist, writing a romantic suspense novel, which is a murder mystery with sex scenes, in case you are unfamiliar with this genre. The author is struggling to write a new novel while her private life is in a bit of turmoil. The fictional character has just had a baby and has stumbled upon her husband having an affair. The stories run weirdly parallel and it is almost easy to forget which character is narrating. I’m sure that was done on purpose, though I thought it sort of ruined the big reveal in the author’s story. And that probably is a spoiler, but there you go. I’m giving it 3 stars.

Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Nicolas Barreau – I received this as an actual book in a Goodreads giveaway. This was a really cute story. Rosalie is an artist and the owner of a postcard store in Paris. Max, a celebrated children’s book author, asks her to illustrate his last book. After it is published, an American, Robert, wanders past her store, sees the book, and threatens to sue. This is definitely chick-lit. If that’s your thing, I definitely recommend this. I’m giving this one 4 stars.

 

 

Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This is Dark Iceland #1. I put this on hold back in October when I was getting ready for my trip to Iceland. I have no idea why it takes so long to get books from the BPL these days. Are people actually reading more than they used to, or are they hoarding books that they’ll never finish within the 14 day loan period? I would really like to know. Maybe we have non-Massachusetts residents using our library system because we have better stuff. If you come here and pay sales tax, that’s cool, but otherwise, it’s kind of a jerk move. How is that for going off on a rant and not actually talking about the book? I really liked this book. I would read more of them, even if I had to wait on hold for several months to get a copy. I’m giving it 4 stars.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. This book was amazing. It tells the story of Frances Marion and Mary Pickford at the beginning of the silent film era. It tells of their struggles, not just personally, but as women in a male dominated industry back in an era when it was uncommon for women to work outside the home. This is particularly timely due to the circumstances that have come to light about the treatment of women in the current film industry. This was well written and I definitely learned a lot about the early film industry. I highly recommend this one. I’m giving it 5 stars.

And that’s it. Another week with 5 books. Can you tell that I hibernate in the winter? Let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions about what I should read next.

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Week 1 – 2018

I’m just starting 2018. And it’s already March. I am so far behind. Week 1 covers January 1 – 7. As always, your feedback is greatly encouraged.

The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This was a book club pick. One of the book club members was interested in reading local authors and this one was on her list. I thought it was cute. It’s fantasy. All of the women in a family have special gifts. One can tell if you’re lying, one can see your dreams, and the youngest can tell how you will die. They are powerful gifts and sometimes they aren’t terribly helpful. One is hurt by omissions, another spends her life with someone that didn’t actually dream, and the last sees a horrible death and tries to stop it, causing a loved one to be suspected of a crime. I feel like I’m giving too much away. It was interesting. I enjoyed it. I’m giving it 4 stars.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This is a collection of essays. It is mostly previously published pieces that were reworked into a collection. I really liked it. She talks about adopting a dog and her relationships with spouses and friends and about opening a book shop despite people trying to talk her out of it. This was a Reese’s Book Club pick. It made me interested in actually reading one of her novels. They always seem to be on my library wish list but I never get around to actually reading one. They have very long hold queues and sometimes I am just looking for instant gratification. Although it does speak volumes that she is such a popular author. I’m giving this 5 stars.

The Seed Woman by Petra Durst-Benning – I received this as an e-book in a Goodreads giveaway. This is The Seed Traders’ Saga #1. I thought this was really interesting. It tells the tale of Hannah who travels to Gottingen to marry the father (Helmut. I love that name.) of her child, who happens to be engaged to a local girl (Seraphine), but Helmut chooses Hannah which doesn’t go over terribly well, especially since Hannah is an outsider. If this sounds like a lot of drama, it really isn’t. The book is about searching for your dreams and not focusing on the impossible (and thereby wasting your life). It is also historical fiction, telling the tale of the traveling salesmen (and women) of the era, so seed merchants. I’m describing this really poorly. If you can find this fairly obscure treasure, I definitely recommend that you read it. I’m giving it 4 stars.

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. I thought this was exceptional. The story sucked me in completely and I read the entire book over the course of a weekend. This is historical fiction, but the premise is speculation as to what caused Andrew Carnegie to write a letter to himself reminding him of the need to give back to the community and not get lost in all of the money. And then set up all of those Carnegie Libraries, many of which still exist (there is one on the Syracuse University campus). The author came up with a scenario whereby Carnegie meets an extraordinary young woman working as his mother’s maid. She makes him want to be a better person and then disappears from his life. (The book opens with the fact that she’s gone, so not a spoiler.) It’s a quick read and it’s well written. I definitely recommend it. I’m giving it 4 stars.

The Real Inspector Hound and Other Plays by Tom Stoppard – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. If you’ve never read Stoppard, this is not where you should start. Try reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. But only if you have read Hamlet. This is very British and very Monty Python. It reminds me of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life in which they return to previous skits and somehow it all works together in the end. Also, it continues to get better as it goes along, so I definitely recommend not bailing if one of the plays is boring or if you’re totally confused. You’re supposed to be a bit confused I think. Either you’re a fan or you’re not. I liked it. I’m giving it 4 stars.

I definitely didn’t read all of these in their entirety in a week. Carnegie’s Maid definitely, but I think I was pretty well into all of the others. Let me know what you think. I love to hear from all of you.

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Week 52 – 2017

I am finally going to finish 2017! Week 52 covers December 25 – 31. As always, your feedback is encouraged.

Farthing by Jo Walton – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This is Small Change #1. This is speculative fiction in which Britain negotiated peace with Hitler and World War 2 never happened. They just sort of let Hitler do his thing while they stuck their heads in the sand and became more like them over time. Lucy and David (Jewish) are invited to a country party by her parents where a prominent politician is murdered and David is framed for the murder. The Scotland Yard inspector believes in them and has his own reasons to get to the bottom of the case. Once the politician is murdered, the other house guests more or less take over the government and push through legislation that takes rights away from the population.  Though this was published in 2010, it has parallels in out current political situation. I’m giving it 5 stars.

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. This is Kendra Donovan #2. Kendra is still stuck in 1815. But a woman has been murdered and her benefactor’s nephew is the prime suspect, so obviously they need to solve this latest mystery. This was better than the last one because it doesn’t center so much on the time travel stuff. As a historical fiction mystery novel, this is definitely one that I would recommend. Maybe skip the first one. I am curious about what the 3rd will be like. I’m giving this 4 stars.

 

 

Looking for Alaska by John Green – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. John Green is sort of the master of sad YA fiction. His characters have to deal with the worst things sometimes. I think these are good topics for young adults. In this one, the kids are at a boarding school and they all misbehave. Pudge falls for the girl down the hall, Alaska. Her moods are all over the map. Her behavior is destructive. Her home life isn’t the best. Her boyfriend is not that attentive (he’s off touring with his band or something). And her mother is dead. Then she gets in a car crash in the middle of the night. And then the rest of the book is about how all of the other students deal with that in their own ways. I’m giving it 4 stars.

And I am finally done with 2017. Yay! Whether you disagree with my opinions or not, I would love to hear from you.

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Week 51 – 2017

I’m determined to finish 2017 (and fix my NetGalley percentage). Week 51 covers December 18 – 24. We’re almost at the end. As always, your feedback is appreciated. I’m going to bounce right in.

The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger by Lucy Banks – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is Dr Ribero’s Agency of the Supernatural #2. I thought this was really fun. The agency works to solve supernatural mysteries. In this one, elderly people in Lyme Regis are dying unexpectedly after seeing a mirror image of themselves. There are too many to be a mere coincidence, so the government hires Dr. Ribero’s agency to hopefully stop the murders and solve the case. It was really clever. The author has clearly done the research into local lore. The plot moves at a great pace and the characters are very likable. I would definitely recommend this to mystery lovers. I’m giving this 4 stars.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This was the January book club pick for Boston Bookworms. We picked it because it was absurdly short. Because we knew we’d be busy. This claims to be a novel, but there aren’t any characters, despite having a plot. The author has a message. A message that you should hear. I thought this was an extremely timely read. Prejudice is a powerful thing and we need to make sure we don’t let people get carried away. The idea that your neighbors could quietly disappear and end up in internment camps is slightly horrifying to me. But what do you do if they don’t speak up? I’m not sure what would have happened if they had. I’m giving this 3 stars.

Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth – I received this as an actual book from Goodreads. This is an interesting story of living in Australia in the 1880s. After a long drought and the hardships that result when there is no water or food for cattle, there is a rain storm. Two boys go to a nearby swimming spot and come back to find their family slaughtered. Their powerful neighbor convinces them to blame the natives and they go off in search of revenge. The younger boy, Tommy, begins to question everything about the situation and especially the motives of this powerful man that they have aligned themselves with. I thought this was an interesting perspective on a bit of history that I am not overly familiar with. I recommend this to anyone that likes a good story or who likes to learn about other cultures and a bit of history.

As an aside, this book went to Maryland with me for the holiday and did not make its way back. I’m curious about who will read it next, but I will probably never know (unless my aunt happens to read it). I’m giving it 4 stars.

That’s it. Just one more week left for 2017. Let me know what you think.

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Week 50 – 2017

I get further and further behind schedule. This is going to be quick. Your feedback, as always, is encouraged. Week 50 covers December 11 – 17.

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is Flavia de Luce #9. I thought this was great. I love Flavia (and Dogger obviously). This is #9 in the series and it isn’t getting stale or boring. I love that she uses science to solve mysteries and would definitely recommend this to any young adult reader. They are also pretty fun and entertaining for adults as well. In this one, the girls are on holiday with Dogger when Flavia fishes a dead body out of the river. Of course they must stay and find out what happened. The sisters seem to become closer as they age, which I really like. They have been through some interesting endeavors over the years and this change seems obvious, but perhaps it is Flavia’s perception that has changed. I think this may call for a re-read. (Though she does start the first book locked inside a closet or something.) I’m giving it 4 stars.

F Is for France by Piu Eatwell – I received this as an e-book from the publisher via Netgalley. This was a fun, quick read. The author clearly did quite a bit of research. The book hits on many aspects of French culture and serves as sort of an intro to some of the more quirky aspects. Knowing a lot about French culture going in, I’m not really sure I learned anything truly new, but I would recommend it for people that are less familiar with the country. I’m giving it 3 stars.

 

 

The Collector by John Fowles – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This is definitely a classic. I first heard about it on an episode of Criminla Minds. The first narrator is Frederick. He collects butterflies and takes photographs. When he wins the lottery, he buys a house in a remote area and converts the basement into a dungeon of sorts. And then he kidnaps the object of his affection and tries to make her love him which he is convinced she will eventually do. The second narrator is Miranda and she tells all of this from her perspective. It is so creepy. But it is so good at the same time. I’m giving it 4 stars.

 

That’s it. I told you it was going to be quick. Read the Flavia series. Read The Collector if you haven’t (it came out in 1963, so I’m a little late to the party on this one). And there you have it.

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Week 49 – 2017

I’m getting closer! I should just do the rest of December as one post. Kidding! That would just take way too long to do in one sitting. Week 49 covers December 4 – 10. As always, your feedback is encouraged. Let me know what you think.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris – I borrowed this as an e-book from the Boston Public Library. This is Sookie Stackhouse #13. It took me an absolutely absurd amount of time to pick this up and read this final book in the series. It’s almost as if I completely lost interest in these at some point, or this came out after I read the last one or something. I have since devoured almost every other Charlaine Harris book in the meantime, so it isn’t the author. In this one, the big thing is that you learn who Sookie will end up with (romantically). There was a lot of speculation about this when it was first published and I think a lot of the readers weren’t happy about the ending. I think that it wraps up nicely and that you can imagine this will be the best course for Sookie. I’m not sure if Sookie will be back, but I think that might be okay. I’m giving this 3 stars.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – I have an actual book in this case. It came in the October MyPageHabit mystery box. The book is annotated by the authors. Liv Constantine is the pseudonym of a pair of sisters that write together. I thought this book was excellent. The first narrator is Amber and she has plans to take over another woman’s life and husband. She’s the worst. You aren’t supposed to like her. But you need to stick with this because it gets even better when the narrative turns to Daphne. Because you never know what’s really going on in another person’s marriage. And also, be careful what you wish for. I really enjoyed this. I’m leaning more and more toward this psychological thriller genre as being my favorite. Historical fiction may be losing it’s crown. I’m giving this 4 stars.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – I borrowed this as an e-book from the BPL. I really like this author. Most of her books follow a similar outline, which I like (the outline itself, not that they’re the same). It starts out with a puzzle that works its way out in the end. In this, there is an accident. A little girl falls into a fountain during a party. Everyone present feels like they are to blame for the incident. And all of them are sort of guilty of their part in the event. Some are distracted, some have left the area near the fountain, some have drunk too much, some are doing the distracting, and someone does something they shouldn’t have. When the elderly neighbor turns out to have died when no one has noticed, things slowly fall into place and everyone finds a way to move on with their lives. It’s like the movie Clue, where they all turn out to have been guilty of something, but with less murder and not nearly as funny. I really liked this book. I’m giving it 4 stars.

And that’s it for Week 49. There should only be 3 more weeks and then 2017 will be wrapped. It’s sort of nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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